Soaring weather today developed better than predicted. The threatened showers did occur, but they stayed in the western corner of the Delémont basin and never reached the airfield. So, after some tinkering on the new DG 1001 double seater, which already has a crippling defect of the gear retracting mechanism I went for a late start With the highest performance ship I am currently allowed to fly, the ASW 28-18.
I made my way along the line Wälschgätterly, Vermes, finally finding some nice thermals on the second ridge at the north side of the Guldental. The west looked little promising, with wisps of clouds hanging at the borders of the valley; apparently there had been rain there earlier in the day. The east on the other hand looked very nice with about 2 octas Cu, just as the glider pilot's heart desires. Made may way east then along the first ridge, looking at potential turn points for future tasks. Passed south of Barmelweid, which always is a nice prominent turning point and flew up to Staffelegg, where I found the last beautiful Cu. By now I had selected Schupfart as the nearest airport; it displayed with a nice height reserve of more than 500 m.
The ground Crew at Dittingen had decided to dislocate the equipment form the start location down to the restaurant, as no more starts were to be expected. The radioed me their plans, and that there would be no contact with them for about 10 minutes.
During those 10 minutes I switched to the Schupfart frequency and listended in to their traffic. It was mostly rivet buckets (light motorized aircraft). I had always wanted to pay that airfield a visit, as I know some of the folks there, but decided against it as I am not yet too familiar with the ASW 28-18 and did not want to combine a landing with an unfamiliar airframe on an unfamiliar airstrip.
Flying north towards Schupfart to have a look at the field had lost me some height. I still had a lot of reserve for Schupfart, but Dittingen showed with a minus of about 50 m. I would need to make some height on the way back. Shouldn't be too difficult; the sky didn't look as nice as on the first ridge, but a few thermals should be usable for sure.
Turns out that I'd have to wait quite a bit for a really nice thermal. A few wisps here and there, but I sank constantly lower into the terrain. Unfortunately that also affected radio quality. When Fabienne tried to call me again we could hear each other, but barely. Sensible communication was definitely not possible.
I finally found a nice thermal north ow Bretzwil/ Nunningen and started to make some height. It was choppy, going up to 3.5 m on one side but into minus on the other. Clearly I had not centered it correctly. So I drew my circle tighter in order to better fit into the column of rising air. When I dropped out of it again at one corner again I pulled on the stick a wee bit too haughtily. The plane departed into a spin. Violently so. I have never experienced such a situation before. Spin training was controlled, coming out of horizontal flight, initiating the spin voluntarily. Stalling out of horizontal flight is also quite different. Even though there may be a tendency towards one side, the main movement is still pitch down. Counteraction is intuitive, at least with some experience under the belt: release the stick or slightly push it, and you immediately have control again.
This was different. The main movement was a violent roll. I had to gather my senses for a split second before I consciously could do the right thing, namely release the stick. The plane behaved beautifully, immediately giving me control again, but by now I was what felt vertical. Sloooowwwly pulled out to avoid falling right into the next stall; my heart pounded heavily.
After that I did not feel like flying much longer, even though the weather developed promisingly. Called Dittingen again (no problems now); turns out they had been quite worried because I was not reachable during the time I had switched to Schupfart.
On the positive side: The landing was one of the nicest I have ever placed on Dittingen's turf; I even got a compliment for it from our head flight instructor.
Lessons to take from today:
The higher performance gliders are none to docile; they need to be guided with a controlled hand.
Communicate! Only switch away from the home frequency when you can tell them.
The east has some nice spots as well. No need to always fly down west.
I regularly check for snakes on a heap of boulders in Reinacherheide where I once spotted one catching a few sunrays. Today one did me the favor of showing up on the dirt track about 20 m from that spot. It seemed to be hampered by the packed dirt; once it reached the grass it got away much quicker.
The pines smell deliciously in the noon sun.
Flying didn't happen on the last two weekends due to me being sick and weather.
But on Saturday I was finally there. Weather was not really good, but looked flyable. About 6/8 cu.
First the checkflight in the ASK 21 with an instructor. (mandatory at the begining of the new season, and should be the first flight for holders of a new license as me.)
It went so-so. Never an issue of safety, but there were a few style issues. And the nasty wind-shear that we often encounter at the beginning of our landing strip stole me 10 km/h there, so I came in rather short.
On the first flight in the LS4 I launched the aerotow a bit cocky. So after only 12 minutes I was grounded again.
Next time I towed a bit higher. 1 hr 24 minutes of real fun ensued. Then it was getting late and the thermals died down.
Weather on Sunday was marginal. Almost overcast, cold, a lot of Bise (our local cold nort-easterly wind). Only our most secure experts went cross country (all of them with the insurance of a motor stowed away in the fuselage.) So I pottered around the airfield. The first flight ended prematurely again. On the second one I was able to ride the choppy thermals summat better, it lasted 1 hr bang on the mark. Towards the end of the flight I served as the weather relay to the x-country fliers coming back; showers pulled through left and right of the airfield.
It feels good to be in the air again. Now desperately waiting for some flyable weather.
But first, tomorrow evening, the first winch-evening. Something we try the first time at our airfield. We don't usually have a lot of winch activity; our airfield is too short for sensible launch heights. But pilots flying from other airfields can use their winch-launch permit, and with our usual regime it was difficult to get and keep it. Now, with one winch event per month, this sould become easier.