Chief Tow Pilot Start of Season Briefing Notes

Posted 10 years, 8 months ago by Richard Small, Chief Tow Pilot    1 comment

[These notes were from Richard's talk at the 2008-2009 Start of Season briefing.]

I want to ramble around a few topics that cover things I have noticed over the last couple of years and also points of discussion that come up occasionally with glider pilots relating to towing and safety. Please consider the following factors as part of your situational awareness every time you fly.

1. Turning right after takeoff from 28 to get to the ridge.

We often get requests from glider pilots to turn right after takeoff from runway 28. Presumably the thought is that this will get them closer to the ridge on release. Sometimes it will, sometimes it won't. The difference is actually only about half a mile if things go well. Sometimes the tow pilot is happy to do this, other times not. Things that affect our decisions include: model aircraft activity, strength of the crosswind factor (many glider pilots comment that they dislike turning downwind at low level on tow), circuit traffic, overhead rejoin traffic, parachute activity, and the fact that a right turn is not the published circuit direction.

The tow pilot will make his decision based on his assessment of the conditions at the time. To put it bluntly, the wishes of the glider pilot in this instance are at the bottom of the priorities in the decision making process. Safety comes first.

2. Tow Speed

The normal tow speed is 80mph or 70kt. If your glider has water on board please make sure you inform the tow pilot and the tow speed will then be 75kt. If you have an issue with the tow speed please do not request a specific speed as the ASI in the tow plane will read up to 7kt different from the ASI in the glider on tow. Instead please ask to either increase or decrease the speed (as desired) by a certain amount eg 5kt.

3. Gliders rejoining the circuit to land

When you rejoin to land please consider your position if you are joining crosswind or from a standard overhead rejoin position. The SOP in this instance is to pass overhead the departure end of the active runway prior to entering downwind. If you fly the crosswind leg further out from the airfield you are flying directly across and in the path of departing aircraft including the tug with a glider on tow. I have discussed this with Bob and as a result of his actions there has been pleasing improvement in this aspect but it still happens occasionally.

With the increasing activity of GA and microlight traffic at Matamata I think it is an important safety aspect to fly how others (particularly power pilots) are trained to expect you to fly in the vicinity of the field. It can be difficult for others to spot you if they are looking for you in one place and you are nearly a mile away from where they expect to see you based on a standard circuit position report that you have just made.

4. Radio calls

We all get foot in mouth disease occasionally on the radio and make a mess of our calls. However it is helpful to all in the vicinity of the field if your calls are accurate, timely and concise. The tow pilots really appreciate being able to build an accurate picture of the traffic in the vicinity of the field. It helps us greatly with decision making and collision avoidance.

5. A hint for the ground crew.

Tow costs are dear to every glider pilot's heart. Every minute that the prop is turning on the Pawnee costs money. If the prop is turning while we are sitting on the ground waiting for a hookup then the fuel cost is not that much but the interval to the next scheduled maintenance is reducing for no real reason. We often sit there for a couple of minutes while waiting for ground crew to wander over from the caravan. This is a situation where simple awareness can have a positive effect on reducing costs without compromising safety.

Maintenance schedules are based on engine running time. FYI our average tow takes about seven minutes of aircraft operating time, so you can see that if we waste 2 minutes per tow sitting on the ground with the prop turning, this is about 25 percent of the engine running time! (not quite true because of run up time and a few other factors but it is significant).

This is not to be confused with rushing the glider pilot to complete his/her preparations. Under no circumstances should tug operating costs be a factor in the glider pilot completing preflight checks. If you are going to be a while, simply signal the tow pilot to shut down,

6. Factors affecting what a tow pilot does (or will not do).

We have ten individuals on the tow roster. We all want to do the job properly and professionally. We have vastly differing levels of experience and we all have our own personal operating minima based on the things we are comfortable with at the time.

You are unlikely to get "unusual" requests granted in the first couple of tows of the day. This is the time we use to get re-familiarised with the operation, get a feel for the weather/wind/thermal conditions, and get a feel for the other operations happening around the field.

You are also unlikely to get "unusual" requests granted later in the day. The tow pilot will be getting tired and will not want to explore the outer edges of his personal minima.

It might be your first or only flight for the day but imagine for a minute how you would be feeling on your 25th circuit for the day in a busy operating environment in hot and bumpy conditions with a 10kt crosswind for landing.

We also take into account the competence of the glider pilot on tow. If our previous experiences with you on tow are all warm and fuzzy then you are more likely to get what you want based on our assessment of the risk involved in granting your wishes. If, on the other hand you have a history of dragging us all over the sky then you can expect a thoroughly standard tow to the safest place for the tow pilot with no turns until we have a lot of air between us and the ground.

7. Pilot in command

Please remember that from the time you hook up until the moment you release the tow pilot is the pilot in command. We have a lot of things on our mind during a tow. Firstly we are responsible for your safety as well as our own. We have all our own pre takeoff checks to do as well as monitoring all the usual in flight conditions including fuel, airspeed and engine instruments. The most stressful time for us is from the beginning of the takeoff roll until we are about 500ft AGL when we achieve a margin of safety if things go pear-shaped. We have to have one eye on the glider and one eye on where we are going. We need a third eye to monitor the instruments!

If you have a request then please go ahead and make it, but equally please respect the tow pilot's decision if he decides that what you want can't be accommodated.

The place to discuss any differences of opinion is on the ground and away from the aircraft. If you have any issues regarding towing or tow pilots then please feel free to contact me. I am always looking to do things better and I appreciate constructive dialogue.

Richard Small
Chief Tow Pilot


Reminder About Start of Season Briefing & Brunch

Posted 10 years, 8 months ago    1 comment

Don't forget, the start of season briefing & brunch is this Sunday, the 21st of September! Not to be missed for all members. Brunch starts at 9am, Briefing starts at 10am.

We've had some great flying days recently, the weather is finally coming right. Should be a great start of season. There will be normal club flying after the briefing, so could be a good opportunity to get current again.

If you can, let Jan know at wajvmace@ihug.co.nz if you will be turning up for brunch. There will be heaps of food so feel free to turn up even if you haven't said you'll be there.

More details can be found in the original announcement here. See you there!

Mmmmm brunch...
Mmmmm brunch...


New Webcam Setup

Posted 10 years, 8 months ago    0 comments

Getting ready for the new soaring season, we've set up a new webcam that can be found on the front page of the website. Hopefully this will give a clearer view of what the weather is like if you're planning on coming out.

It's set to update regularly on Sat, Sun and Wed mornings, with less frequent updates on other days.

The weather station is working again as well, although we don't have the full detailed statistics set up yet.

The first pics from the webcam turned out great, and caught an early morning circuit.

First snap ever. The early bird gets the first tow as they say.
First snap ever. The early bird gets the first tow as they say.

The blue hole over the airfield strikes again
The blue hole over the airfield strikes again


New Booking System Up and Running

Posted 10 years, 8 months ago    0 comments

Hi all, we've just launched the new booking system on the website. We've tried to make it super simple to use, here's what to do:

  1. Go to the front page of the website or the roster
  2. Click the "Book" button beside the day you want to book
  3. Choose what you want to book and fill in the details.

What can you book?

Anyone can book any of the following:

  • Any of the club gliders
  • A glider and instructor
  • Trial Flights & Voucher Flights
  • A tow (for private owners)

The main goals of the new bookings system

  • Give everyone an idea of how many people will be turning up on a day.
  • Make it easy for the public to book flights
  • Get contact details so we can contact you if the day is cancelled for any reason.
  • Make it easy to book the club gliders, and show if they are free.

Changing/Cancelling a booking

When you make a booking you will receive an email that has a link to cancel it. Click the link, then click the "Cancel booking" button.

To change a booking you'll need to cancel the first booking, then make a new booking.

If you have any trouble, or don't have internet access, contact Dennis or Tim, or email bookings@glidingmatamata.co.nz and we can make and cancel bookings for you.

No doubt there will be tweaks needed to how it works, so please any feedback is welcome.

We'll be giving a short demo of the booking system at the Start of season Briefing this sunday, see you then.


Start of Season Brunch & Briefing

Posted 10 years, 8 months ago by Tim    0 comments

The 2008 Start of Season Brunch & Briefing is just under 2 weeks away, on Sunday 21st September. Brunch starts 9am, with the briefing at 10am.

The briefing will cover lots of essential info for anyone intending to fly over summer including:

  • The new ELTs in the club gliders.
  • Upcoming airspace changes.
  • The new web based booking system.
  • XP flying requirements.

We would like to encourage everyone to come along, especially new club members. No doubt brunch will be delicious, and normal club flying will be available after the briefing.

The brunch will consist of; Juice, Muesli and Yoghurt, Bacon & Eggs, Hash Browns, Baked Beans, Toast with Jan's Home made Marmalade, Tea or Coffee all for $10.

Please let Jan know asap at wajvmace@ihug.co.nz if you will be there for brunch.

See you there!


July 2008 Flypaper

Posted 10 years, 9 months ago    0 comments

July 08 Flypaper Final.doc


Next Learn-to-fly course coming up

Posted 10 years, 10 months ago    0 comments

UPDATE this course has been postponed. Do contact us if you're interested in the next one and we'll let you know when it is.

Our next Learn-to-fly Gliding Course is coming up.

$350 plus flying costs (approx $150-$190 per flying day). Objective is to get to solo flight, but this is very dependant on the weather, individual ability and a number of other factors.

Continued tuition is available as a club member for just the launch costs. This course is limited to 4 participants, who have exclusive use of our 2 club fibreglass 2 seater gliders.

For more details phone Steven at 07 843 7654 or contact us here.



Shim