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 the bar.

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 to.

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.

Wally Grout
CFI Cleveland GC

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