Saturday, August 23, 2014

Maja flips for the WSPA Seminar

NCSA's Maja Djurisic spent a week at the 2014 WSPA Seminar, held in York, Ontario,and files this report:

I'm just back from a great week of flying at the Annual WSPA Seminar. This year, the Seminar was hosted by a fantastic York Soaring Association located in Arthur, Ontario, a small town in the middle of southern Ontario, surrounded by flat, manicured farmland in every direction. And while it is in the middle of farmland, water - and major water- is not far away in any direction, in the form of three of the five Great Lakes:  if you go east from Arthur, you hit Lake Ontario; heading south brings you to Lake Erie, while heading west, north, or even northeast takes you to Lake Huron.

I participated in the introductory glider acrobatics course. York Soaring has developed a serious and stringent acrobatics curriculum. With five or more acrobatic instructors available,York is becoming a great resource for glider pilots from all over the world.

York Soaring association is a club and offers one-day ($25) and one-week ($100) memberships, so it is relatively inexpensive to fly with them. They run quite a few programs over the summer (particularly for youth, cadets, and the handicapped, with Freedom Wings). They welcome temporary members. For their acrobatics program, the club uses a DG-500, an ASK-21, a Grob 103 Twin II Acro, and a Schweitzer 2-32.  The Schweitzer they use for spin training; it produces “Holy Mother of God!” spins. They have at least five acrobatic instructors with various levels of experience. During the WSPA week these five were joined by three acrobatic instructors from the Southern Ontario Soaring Association, about 30 mi away. There were only seven WSPA students in the "Acro Course" so it was no problem lining up an instructor or getting a glider. There was no cost for instruction; one flight with a 5,000 foot tow cost about $90.

This attitude appears to be... unusual

This also seems a bit odd somehow.
Starting as a newbie, I first worked on the "Unusual Attitudes/Elements": lines, wingovers, advanced stalls/spins, vertical recovery (push/pull), and inverted recovery. Then it was on to the “Elements” section: loop, sustained inverted flight, rolls to sustained inverted flight, inverted stalls and recovery, slow rolls. We attempted hammerheads, but that turned out to be too advanced for the beginners because of the importance of precise timing in executing it correctly (I fell out of it inverted twice ☺). The next part of the program "Combinations" would include Split S, 1/2 Cuban (and reverse), Immelman, 1/4 cloverleaf, and snap-rolls (no glider available to snap roll). The final section they offer is "Sequences": includes Basic, Sportsman, Free Style, and Contest Flying. I would have to go back for the Combinations and Sequences. With 2-3 flights a day, 5 days is just enough to get “proficient” (read: safe to recover if you mess up) in the “Unusual Attitudes” and “Elements” section.

Here is a look at my first Roll:


And here is my first Loop:

And for something really fun, here is a spin:

The acrobatics made me appreciate how little we think about the flight envelope of a glider during the normal flight. Once one starts to pay attention to the maneuvering airspeed and g-meter both in upright and inverted flight (yup – you get to read the instruments and watch for traffic while inverted – not easy), think ahead how much airspeed and G-pull is needed to finish an acrobatic maneuver and not break a glider at the same time, one starts to keep the flight-envelope graph in the head at all times.

Here I am with Manfred Radius (very famous acrobatic glider pilot - Google him!) and Kristin, another of the women of WSPA.

One of two hangars at York Soaring
York has a fantastic club setup: 2 large hangars, one for 9 or 10 club ships, one for private ships; beautiful new clubhouse with conference room/lounge for 20-30, full kitchen, bathrooms, office, and a large deck area (2 grills) with flight shack. In addition to the above gliders used for acro, there are two more Grob 103's, a few 2-33's, a couple of 1-34's and an LS4. There is a large campground – many members stay there in trailers through the summer -- cabins and various trailers are available for rent ($10 / person-night).
The York Soaring conference room

An added bonus of the Seminar was a ride in the open cockpit Slingsby T-21 owned by a club member who spent the week giving rides. What a hoot! I lost sunglasses and a helmet on tow because of the prop-wash (found them later), and got to cruise at 35 kts, and stick my head out of the cockpit to enjoy the scenery (that's the best part).
That's me in the right seat of the Slingsby T-21

I am very pleased I participated in an acrobatics course that is so well organized. Aerobatics is a challenge, but it makes one a better pilot. Most importantly, it is so much fun! I loved it!

I have to say that there are few flying organization like WSPA, that offer such varied and unique flying experiences to their member, as part of their organizational mission. For the next two years, the WSPA Seminars will again be focused on cross-country soaring, and will be held in two of the most enticing places: in 2015 the Seminar will be in Minden, Nevada (it is close to us, but WSPA members from Slovenia and Germany are already making their plans because it is one of the greatest places to soar); in 2016 we go to Northern Italy for some soaring in the Alps with the largest Italian Aero-Club.

WSPA is so awesome!


The WSPA Seminar Group Photo