Pictures at an Exhibition
A fine day for soaring
If a glider needs to be towed out to the line, just make sure
you're not standing between volunteers to drive the Ratzo
Retriever and the Ratzo Retriever itself. It's a blast to drive.
This little vehicle has eight, big, deep-cell, six-volt marine
batteries. It's quick and quiet and fun. These are our kids,
Chase and Ali, wishing they were old enough to drive it.
This picture shows the area in front of the hangar, with
the Twin and the Rallye sitting in the background. The
day begins and ends here, with frequent visits throughout.
This is the Cross Country Soaring hangar. That's a V-tail
Salto in the foreground, an aerobatic glider belonging to
Bob Wander. (You can view a nice aerobatic routine
performed by an identical Salto on the video page of this
site.) Bob has written over 20 books about gliding that
outsell all others, and he's recognized nationwide as the
instructor's instructor. We're very lucky to have a
resource like him around. Behind the camera is the real
hangar attraction - a Weber Grill, Cowboy charcoal,
fresh-brewed coffee, and a month's supply of popcorn!
And yes, that's a swing tied off to the side. Now THAT'S
a swing, mate! Don't leave without giving it a try.
Keep your wits about you as you explore the variety of
saiplanes in the hangar. Those long wings can sneak up
and smack you in the head if you walk looking down.
Heard the one about the extroverted engineer? When
he goes to a party, he looks at OTHER people's feet! We
have lots of engineers in our soaring ranks - I couldn't
resist. That's a Schweitzer 1-26 with a "sport canopy"
(a convertible!) in the foreground. 1-26's are a great
value in gliding. For less than $8K you can have so much
fun climbing in the weakest lift, doing loops and "designing
roller coasters". Cross country flight is a challenge in a
20:1 ship like this, but a local pilot has flown one nearly 500
miles, from here to Indiana! In the right hands, in the right weather, they can go. Next, toward the
door, is a beautiful DG-101 and then the Twin Grob and the 235 horse Rallye.
Another day at the office. :-) We operate off the grass
runways on most days. This picture shows where we stage
when the wind is southerly (RWY 20/02). This grass
runway is 2230 ft. long and 120 ft. wide. Gliders need only
about half that distance to launch and land. The hard
runway (RWY 30/12) is 4254 ft. long and 72 ft. wide. We
use this runway under certain conditions, but we prefer
the grass runway parallel to it, known as three-zero grass.
Faribault airport boasts an interesting mix of aircraft. If
you look closely you can see a red bi-plane in this picture.
Being a sailplane purist, I look only for towing capabilities
in powered aircraft. :-) This one looks like it has potential!
Kids love airplanes, open spaces, grass (with electric open-
air cars), popcorn, swings, and -most of all- seeing Mom
and Dad excited, with huge smiles on their faces. Don't feel
you have to leave them at home with a sitter if you are both
coming to fly. One of you will have to watch them while the
other is circling four thousand feet up in a thermal, wing-tip to
wing-tip with red-tailed hawks. I'm just saying that they will
seldom be bored. They are unlikely to self-launch, as our
daughter Ali is trying to do here. But the fun is in the trying.
A good tow plane has a powerful engine and a wing design
that is optimized for climb; it can fly slowly, has good
elevator authority, doesn't overheat doing multiple tows, or
shock cool during decent; plus it has good visibility and
is fun to fly (happy tow pilots are good tow pilots). We are
fortunate to have a plane designed for towing - a 235-hp
Socata Rallye 235E. It has leading-edge slats and Fowler
flaps (it climbs fast with a slow forward speed), a 540 cubic
inch, 6-cylinder Lycoming engine (yeah, I'd like to put one
in a Mini Cooper, too), and a constant-speed prop. Two of
our tow pilots fly for the airlines in their "regular job."
Pony-tailed Whitney, here, is one of them. This is actually a
rare sight. The airport tractor was in the shop, so they couldn't mow the grass for a week or so. I kinda
like the flowery look. But it's usually quite nicely groomed by our expert groundskeeper, John.
Here, a couple of pilots chat before launching. Bob Wander
is in the front seat, and Leon Zeug is not quite yet in the back
seat. Leon had been preparing to take his "practical"
instructor's test for a few weeks at this point. To achieve a
rating as a gliding instructor is a very difficult challenge. The
exam, I've heard, is the most commonly failed exam of all in
aviation. On this day, he had a brilliant idea - fly with Bob,
the master, and get some feedback on his progress.
They agreed that Leon would act as the instructor and Bob
would be the student. When I took these pictures, I overheard
Bob tell Leon in a very firm tone that he (Bob) was going to
do exactly what Leon asked him to do. Leon paused, sensing
there might be some subtlety in that comment somewhere, but
it was time to launch. Tally-ho!
During initial ground roll, the pilot's job is to use the ailerons
to keep the wings level, use the rudder-pedals to keep the
nose of the glider pointed at the tail of the tow plane, and to
use the elevator to gently lift the nose wheel off the ground a
few inches. It's a game-player's game, where, in the beginning,
coordinating the three axes of flight is a real mental workout.
Later, like riding a bike, the routine becomes so automatic
you almost don't even think about it. When you feel the main
wheel gently bumping and lifting from the ground, everything
becomes quiet. You're flying...and at a speed where you might
be thinking about shifting into third if you were in your car.
Long wings are magic.
Once off the ground, you ease forward on the stick, keeping
the glider low and level with the tow plane. The glider wants
to climb! Once the tow plane is up to climb-speed - about 70
mph - it will start climbing more rapidly. You ease the stick
back an inch or two, and the glider follows right up behind it.
When the tow plane banks right or left, the glider pilot smoothly
matches the angle of bank, following the tow plane through
the turn. If the glider gets a little low, the pilot eases gently
back on the stick; a little high, gently forward. After about five
minutes of this, the glider pilot pulls the release knob - clack!
and the ropes snakes away, still attached to the tow plane.
Anyway, back to our instructor vs. instructor dual. As
soon as the glider became airborne, Bob was all over the
place! I heard later that when Leon would tell Bob, the
"student," to apply left or right stick or bring the nose up or
apply more rudder, Bob would slam it all the way (or as far
as was safe). Very quickly, Leon learned to communicate more
clearly: "Okay, okay - gently pressure the stick to the left a
few inches and hold!" I think I know who was having the most
fun on this flight. Maybe this is why the Air Force starts all its
jet-jocks out in gliders. You learn about true flight - yes. You
learn to feel what the air is doing around you. You learn that
the atmosphere is really a rocking-rolling place. You learn
what the wings are doing. Yes. But best of all, you can slam the controls all the way without blacking out.
Just off tow, the glider banks gracefully to the right. The tow
plane pilot can feel the glider release and banks to the left, so
we are well clear of each other. Everything gets quiet and
begins to smooth out. Now your job is to look down upon all
the creatures stuck to the planet and work on you evil laugh.
Ahh-ha-ha-haaaa! I'm pretty sure that's what Bob Wander is
doing in this picture. Laughing at gravity and its effects
brings us rather quickly to the art of searching for lift. If we
can find air that is rising at the rate we are descending, and
stay in that air, we can sustain our altitude. But we want
MORE. We want air that is rising many times faster than we
are descending, so we can climb! Those puffy white clouds
mean something to glider pilots - they are refueling stations!
In a nutshell, it works like this: The earth is heated unevenly
by the sun. Dark, dry terrain heats up faster than lush, green,
wet terrain. The heat builds up in these dark, dry areas (tilled
fields, parking lots, hilly areas) and eventually releases upward,
forming columns of rising air. When this rising air cools to its
dew-point, it makes a cloud. So...if you fly under a forming
cloud and turn to circle, up you go! It's a bit more of an art to
find lift on a "blue" (cloudless) day, but we do it all the time.
Instead of clouds, we look for circling hawks or turkey vultures,
corn husks whipping skyward in dust devils, haze-domes, or
other sailplanes. Or else we fly straight and level and wait for
our very sensitive vario instruments to tell us what the outside
air is doing. This is a picture of our airport. One of the first things we teach students is ground-reference
skills. Don't get lost. It's sooo embarrassing!
There is nothing quite like circling in a thermal with another
sailplane. On days where lift is tricky or scarce, and you find
a good thermal, other glider pilots watch you carefully from
a distance. Are you banking steeply? Is the gap between you
and the horizon getting wider? Are you getting smaller? Yes!
They push the stick forward and zoom over to join you. This
is a picture of Rodney Carey's Schweitzer 1-26. It's a climber,
so when he joins your thermal, you focus on coordination and
speed control so he doesn't climb right past you. If he does, you
have to make up a story for back at the hangar - like you
were busy eating a banana or something and didn't pay much
attention to maximizing your climb. You'll know he understands
when he agrees enthusiastically and begins describing the canopy-cover he was knitting or the micro-chip
he was designing.
This photo shows Bob in his V-tailed Salto. The Salto is
designed for aerobatics: loops, spins, rolls, inverted flight, etc.
(See the Salto video on our video page.) Bob has a reputation
for finding "streets" - areas of lift that are lined up so that you
can fly along them and never have to circle. Streets are easy to
identify in a sky full of cumulus clouds; just look for a long row
of clouds connected like sausages. These are drag strips to
glider pilots. On blue days it's tougher to find and follow along
them. It's like safe-cracking. I think that why Bob likes it. Many
pilots use GPS and moving maps for navigation, but they also
come in handy for relocating lift or staying in streets on blue days.
A lot of cool gadgetry is used in soaring, in both cross-country and
competition flying. Our Grob has $4000 worth of hi-tech fun ready to be installed for cross-country instruction.
Here, a visiting pilot from England takes to the skies over
Minnesota in our Grob Twin II. Tim Allen did a great job in
acquiring the feel for a glider he had not flown before, and I
thoroughly enjoyed flying and chatting with him. We swapped
some photos afterwards, via e-mail, and he writes:
"Thanks for the photos. They're a good reminder of a day I'll
never forget. I know that traveling 4000 miles for a day's
gliding might seem a little over the top, but it's the best day's
flying I've ever had in my 16 years of gliding. The views go on
for ever, the skies are clear, and the lift was so great, it seemed
harder to get down than stay up."
After landing, life slows down. Gliders are handled carefully
as they are fitted with tail dollies and towed at walking-speed
back to the hangar or to their trailers. Bugs are wiped off the
leading edges of the wings, canopies are cleaned, batteries
are plugged in for recharging. The flight review begins for
students; pilots download GPS flight recorders to their laptops
and replay their day's flight in 3-D on specialized software.
Logbooks are updated. A beer might eventually pop. Hey, it's
a tough job, but...
About ten private ships make their home at Faribault. Here,
Tom Chrisfield walks the wing of his DG-101 back to the
hangar at the end of the day.
Quite a few rare airplanes are hangared here, and it's
always fun to watch them emerge on sunny weekends
and take to the sky. A helicopter flight school is also
based here - Hummingbird Helicopters, LLC.
Whether you drop by for a ride, take instruction, or - having
purchased your own glider - show up for tow service on
good soaring days, you are welcome to join us for a BBQ at
the end of the day. We don't do this every day, but most of
us wish we could! It's a great time to talk about soaring or
about the work you do when you aren't soaring, or just to
meet other professionals from all walks of life and maybe
make some life-long friends. The mix of pilots changes all
the time, so please do feel comfortable sticking around for
burgers and a beverage!
This is a picture of our most recent addition: a 330HP Corvette engine-driven winch. It will launch a sailplane to 2000AGL in less than a minute! What a ride, too. 0-60 in less than 3 seconds, followed by a thrilling 45 degreee climb!
A lot in a little package
A pair of beautiful canopies made by Ray Pouquette.
One for the July heat and one for the October overcast.