Guide to Wave Flying
The following tips will be of use to you. However, they will never
be a substitute for flying with an experienced wave pilot and are a
guide and by no means exhaustive.
If you lose the lift, push into wind, you have probably drifted backwards.
If it's blue, fix a line between two ground features, mentally mark
the lift band and stay there.
If a classic wave bar exists, think of it as a hill/ridge and apply
the same rules of the air. if you get behind it you will go down. When
using the lift make your turns away from the cloud. Exercise extreme
caution near a bar, someone may be just around that cloud spur coming
the other way.
When jumping to the next wave bar, don't cross the large gap between
the lenticulars. Move to the ends and sneak around the extremities of
If you decide to ignore this advice, you must be high enough to clearly
see the ground in front of the next bar. If you can't then you probably
won't make it. Try and jump at a part of the bar which looks less solid
than the rest. If you jump at a crisp solid part, the sink immediately
behind the cloud will be amazing. 10-20 knots down is not unusual. (I
have ignored this rule and descended into the next bar having lost 10,000
in three miles, falling out into the rotor.)
If you get caught out above cloud when the gaps close, don't panic,
continue to soar, it may open up again.
If you are above cloud, don't turn downwind, the North Sea (cold and
wet) is only minutes away with a high ground speed. Downwind groundspeeds
of 100+ knots are easily achievable.
If you have to descend through cloud, pick the thinnest bit that you
can see. Aim for a trough in the cloud. Trim for a sensible speed (70kts
is good for most types) pointed into wind. Remember in a worst case
scenario it's better to hit the Pennines with a 20 knot groundspeed
than end up in the North Sea. Open the brakes and descend. Don't forget
to dangle the Dunlop before reaching terra firma.
If you enter cloud with a supercooled airframe you will pick up lots
of ice. Beware of frozen brakes etc.
Consider how long it will take you to descend, gently warming the gel
coat of your glider to make last landing time. Don't forget to include
TAS vs IAS in your calculation. TAS is 36% higher than IAS at 20,000ft.
Don't be fooled by abundent sunshine high up. It will be getting dark
low down, especially if there is significant cloud cover. The sun sets
half an hour later at 20,000ft.
Look out, there are lots of hard to spot gliders and other aircraft
up there with you.
Arrive back in the overhead with plenty of time for last landing, 40
gliders descending into the gloom of a gap with the prospect of a crowded
circuit is not pleasant. It's a big airfield, land long if you need
Wave flying can be very cold. Wrap up well. Wriggle your toes and fingers.
Beware hypoxia. it creeps up on you and is exacerbated by a lack of
sleep, or food, the cold conditions, and over indulgence in the bar.
CFI Cleveland GC
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