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Post Solo - What Now?

You've gone solo? What next? Here are some activities to think about.

A purpose to every flight

While simply being in the air can be an end in itself, ideally every flight should have an objective and include some exercise to improve your skills. This could be anything from a simple handling exercise like doing steep turns, to a broader activity such as learning to use the Oudie and analyse the trace obtained from it. Work through the exercises from the list below1).

Adopting a structured approach to post-solo flying will help you to develop your skills more rapidly and identify any weaker areas. It may be useful to compare notes with someone who is at the same stage as you are, or even plan to go through the exercises together.

The purpose of the flight should be decided before you get to the glider, and should be discussed with an instructor. Always keep a good look-out.

See also: Preparation for Cross-Country

1. Using the Oudie or Zeus. Set a turning point and download your trace after your flight and analyse it. You can learn a lot about your flying from the trace!

2. Using the vario, radio, and Horis The manuals are here, or talk to an instructor/experienced pilot. The club gliders are fitted with excellent instruments - learn how to use them to help get the most from your flight.

3. Lookout Keep a count of all the aircraft you see while you are in the air. Try and spot as many as possible. You may even want to keep a note of the total and see if you can beat it on a later flight. Sounds a bit silly, but it is a way of forcing you to do what too many of us do poorly. Remember, there are always at least n + 1 aircraft in the sky: n that you know about, and 1 that you don't.

4. Straight-and-Level Flight. Something that the average pilot often does quite badly. Pick a landmark and fly straight at it, keeping the speed constant. Will help train you to detect small changes in angle of bank.

5. Slow Flying. How good is your speed-control? Fly as slowly as possible without hitting the pre-stall buffet. Note that the controls will not be as responsive at low speeds. And don’t do it near the ground.

6. Stalling. If you are nervous about this, as many people are, then start off gradually. Do a HASSELL check. Very slowly bring the glider back to the buffet, then relax the stick pressure. Keep on doing this over a number of flights until you build up the confidence to do fairly steep stalls. Note the precise speed at which the glider stalls with your weight in it.

7. Stalling Speeds in the Turn. Most pilots get nowhere near stalling speed when they are thermalling, but a few find themselves in a spin for reasons they don’t immediately understand. Extend the previous exercise by investigating the well-known fact that the glider will stall at a higher speed when it has a higher g-loading. It is obviously useful to know the speed at which the glider will stall when it is at a certain angle of bank. Establish this by doing a HASSELL check, rolling to the desired angle of bank, and then progressively moving the stick back until you reach the buffet. Recover by relaxing the back pressure on the stick.

8. Wing-drop Stalls. Many pilots are anxious about spinning on their own, and sometimes never spin between one annual check and the next. A way to ease yourself into a more confident mood is by the same sort of gradual approach used for straight stalls. Ask to be shown how to induce a wing-drop stall and recover from it before it develops into a spin. Bear in mind that most low-level unintentional spins start out in the same progressive insidious way. Go and practise it by yourself.

9. Spinning. Many of us do not practise solo spinning because of a lack of confidence. But would you rather practise recovering from an unintentional spin? You can build confidence by progressing through the various stalling exercises, particularly wing-drop stalls, until you are happy with solo spinning. It teaches you a lot about yourself and improves your handling skills no end.

10. Timed Turns. Bring some consistency to your flying by doing some turns at a constant angle of bank, and timing them to see how long it takes to do a full 360°. Experiment with different angles and see how much longer or shorter the time is for a whole circle. How much height will you lose doing a complete turn in still air? And in sink? Keep a good look-out!

11. Steep Turns. Test your speed control and co-ordination by doing much steeper turns than normal. Aim to pull about 2 g. Keep a good look-out!

12. Figures of Eight (Turn Reversals). It is surprisingly difficult to roll the glider from a well-banked turn in one direction to a well-banked turn in the other while keeping the string in the middle. Try it. But make sure you take a good look before you reverse the turn - there is a large blind-spot behind the upper wing.

13. Rolling on a Heading. Pick a landmark, or perhaps a cloud, and point straight towards it. Now practise rolling from side to side while keeping the nose pointing directly at the landmark. You want to keep the string in the middle, and the speed constant. It is not easy.

14. Rate of Roll. Do a HASSELL check. Fly to the buffet, or stall the glider, to determine the precise stalling speed. Trim to fly at 1.4 times this speed. Make a turn at 45° angle of bank. Apply full aileron and rudder in the opposite direction. Count how long it takes to reach a 45° angle of bank on the other side. Now you know your rate of roll.

15. Sideslipping. Ask for a demonstration and then try it on your own.

16. Spot Landings. It is essential to do these before you go cross-country. Get a good briefing before you try them, and find out what the real object of the exercise is (depositing a pile of shattered fibreglass as close to the airfield boundary as you can is not really what we are looking for).

17. Soaring. Most of us try to do this all the time, of course – but not many of us try timed climbs to see just how long it is taking to reach a certain height, nor do we compare this evidence with what the averager on the vario is telling us (Point 2, above). It is worth doing. Simply look at your watch and see how long it takes you to climb 1,000 ft. It is particularly instructive to find out how long you spend trying to wring the last 200 ft out of the top of a thermal.

18. Circuit without Altimeter. You have done it in a two-seater, try it in a single-seater!

19. Re-setting Altimeter to QNH/QFE. Simple enough. Find out how to do it, then try it in the air. Keep a good look-out!

20. Use of Radio Correct use of the radio is all too rare among glider pilots. Learn how to use it correctly.

21. Indicators of Wind Direction. When you fly cross-country you may lose any sense of which way the wind is blowing. Try looking around to see if there is any smoke, rippling of the crops, or some other sign that will give you a clue.

22. Field Appraisal. Pick a nearby field and note all the characteristics that might be important if you were considering landing in it. These will include: its size, slope, surface, whether or not it has any stock (animals) in it, any obstacles on the approaches to it (wires, trees, etc). Go and look at the field from the ground when you land. It is surprising how different it will seem…

23. Mini Task. Try a mini task! Details here.

Some more general ideas

In the air

  • Aerobatics training
  • Cross-country training
  • Preparation for Bronze
  • Two-seater training with experienced coach/instructor (flying from the back seat?)
  • Triangular tasks within gliding range of the airfield.
  • Flying different gliders: Discus, LS4, ask for a flight in the Capstan or Duo Discus
  • Flying at different clubs under supervision with home club approval
  • Inter club events with other juniors, spot landing competitions, mini ladder
  • Silver duration and height
  • Getting on the BGA ladder
  • Thermal training
  • Flying on a ridge with an instructor

On the ground

  • Attending lectures
  • Simulator training
  • Coaching sessions and reading about the sport
  • Social events
  • Promoting participation for other juniors
  • Ground handling
  • Duty pilot
  • Learning how to DI a glider
  • Working with other club members on how to maintain a glider
  • Training to drive club vehicles
  • Taking on responsibilities such as buddying up with other new members
  • Fund raising for such items as defibrillators
  • Links with education
  • D of E
  • Communication with committee, get fully involved with the club

Talk to an instructor or a committee member about anything on this page. Ask for extra training or volunteer!

Adapted from this CGU web page
ltf/post-solo-exercises.txt · Last modified: 2024/05/13 14:10 by tim