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Old Yesterday, 11:25 AM
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LI, New York, USA
Joined Mar 2003
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A path to becoming a better pilot

I purposely put this in the electric sailplane forum to reach the pilots who don't fly contests. Join in the discussion as it might open your eyes to some opportunities you may have not considered.

I do a lot of teaching and training. Contest flying is one of the best pilot improvement aids I know.

Not because I am the world beater of soaring pilots but because I know that, if I can help someone get a good start in soaring or if I can help them improve as a pilot they will enjoy the experience more. One of the ways I do that is to encourage the new pilots to fly in club contests. And I encourage them to ignore winning and losing and look for ways to learn and improve as a pilot.

Watch what the top pilots do in the contests when you KNOW they are trying to maximize their score flying in the same air, under the same conditions you are flying. What do they do? And more importantly why do they do it?

If you have not flown contests you will be amazed at how willing many of the competitors will be to help you. The very guys you are trying to beat will be there giving you tips, suggestions and may offer to help you tune and trim your glider. And if you beat them there will be a level of pride on their part that they helped you achieve that success.

When you launch with better pilots, watch where they go. Then, after the flight, ask them why they went that way. Sometimes they are just hunting but sometimes they saw or felt something you did not. They'll tell you.

How do they see the lift that you missed? How do they core it and how do they drift with it. They'll tell you.

Get one of them to time for you and to coach you. Usually they will be very pleased to do so. And they will make helpful suggestions during a flight, even in a contest, that will open your eyes to things you never saw.

So what if you don't win. You will become a better pilot. Isn't that winning all by itself? And, most of us would enjoy becoming better pilots.


But if you are not winning, how do you tell if you are improving? How do you, the new contest pilot, know if you are improving as a pilot?

Gauge your performance based on % of the winning pilot's score. Don't worry about where you finish or if you win, look at that %. It tells you how you did against the top pilot under the same conditions. Your raw score tells you nothing by itself. Even if you were dead last, where you 80% of the winning pilot's score? 90%? 95%. Where were you last year?

If you were scoring 50% of the winning pilot's score at the start of the season were you up to 80% of the winning pilot's score by the end of the season? That is HUGE progress. Fly lots of contests and look at your trend.

Too many look at won or lost, but miss this important measurement.

If you are flying a Radian at the start of the season and finishing at 40% of the winner, can you improve that to 75% of the winner with that Radian? Now you know it is you that is improving and not the result of some uber plane you bought.

And, BTW, part of piloting skills is knowing how you set-up your glider. Contest pilots will gladly share tips, and help you tune. Invite them to fly your glider. They will give you tips on balance and trim and how to work lift with the plane you have. You don't need an expensive glider to be a better pilot.

Give any poor pilot a better glider and likely his/her scores will improve just because the glider is better, but did they improve as a pilot? Maybe not.

Stay with the glider you have and learn it, work it and get to know how it flies and lands and you will be improving yourself. When I first started flying full house glides I could still score better on the landing tape with my Spirit because I knew it better. It took a while before I could land that full house glider better than I could land the Spirit.

So, consider contest flying as a path to becoming a better pilot. I think you will enjoy the experience and see your piloting skills improving too.

Let's hear your thoughts?

Agree?

Disagree?
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Last edited by aeajr; Yesterday at 11:41 AM.
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Old Yesterday, 11:43 AM
Turn down for what?
rdwoebke's Avatar
United States, IN, Indianapolis
Joined Feb 2004
14,414 Posts
I love contest flying. It is a lot of fun. I recommend it to everyone.

Ryan
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Old Yesterday, 01:18 PM
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I think this is really sound advice. It is important to have objectives in order to improve skills and develop continuing interest in our sport. Also from what I have experienced contest flyers are a good sort and more than willing to help fellow competitors. When I was competing it took me years to understand thermal flying not to mention the building and equipment installation so as to achieve reliability. Thats a good thing as it encourages longevity of our sport.
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Old Yesterday, 01:40 PM
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Joined Mar 2003
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I was flying in a contest a few weeks ago. I watched this one pilot pick up lift a very low levels and thermal the plane out. It was like magic and he did it several times.

I asked how he did it. He said he would launch to no more than 50 meters, about 150 feet, than work to keep the glider up. It forced him to be very observant of the low lift activity and how to work it.

I have done that with a DLG but I had never done that kind of drill with a 3.4M glider. Will have to try that.
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Old Yesterday, 01:54 PM
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Since you brought up finding thermals down low; I highly recommend this video clip even though the middle part doesn't actually show the plane and there's one word you might not to broadcast at work. The only real flight related dialogue simply tells us that he used crow to bring the plane back down so it's still pretty good with the sound off. It shows what a gifted pilot with a good sailplane can do by finding the base of a thermal on the ground. I've pulled the trick off twice myself in over 40 years but I'll never forget those two flights!

BTW. The NSFW word is immediately after the flight log pops up.

F5J/F3J Supra-E Competition, Hand Launch Thermalling (3 min 30 sec)
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Old Yesterday, 02:55 PM
WAA-08 THANK FRANK!
JimNM's Avatar
Las Cruces, New Mexico, United States
Joined Jun 2002
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Fly with pilots who exceed your skill level.

When you meet someone who needs help - offer it. I learn best when I have to explain something aloud to another person.

Fly often.

Quit while you are still having fun
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Old Yesterday, 03:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peterlngh View Post
Since you brought up finding thermals down low; I highly recommend this video clip even though the middle part doesn't actually show the plane and there's one word you might not to broadcast at work. The only real flight related dialogue simply tells us that he used crow to bring the plane back down so it's still pretty good with the sound off. It shows what a gifted pilot with a good sailplane can do by finding the base of a thermal on the ground. I've pulled the trick off twice myself in over 40 years but I'll never forget those two flights!

BTW. The NSFW word is immediately after the flight log pops up.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4BD3wQ3_qw

That is a great video and a great example of watching a talented pilot.

A couple of things to note.

1) that was not a random throw
2) He knew where the thermal was before he launched the glider
3) He might have been standing there 10 minutes, waiting for the right moment to throw
4) he has practiced that throw


That is someone I would like to fly with in a contest. He would beat me but I would learn so much from flying against him.
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Old Yesterday, 06:21 PM
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It would, indeed, be a pleasure to fly with him especially if he would search for the thermals and give an old fart like me a chance without running all over a field trying to get in front of a thermal! The two times I managed to spec out from a hand launch were when I could watch the dust devils form in a great big plowed field with enough time to get in front of them. It was easier when I was a kid out in the desert with chuck gliders but every time I got the timing right I lost another glider. One of the items on my wish list is a DLG that should give a mere mortal like me a better chance at finding those new born thermals.

Who knows? Maybe I'll get good at it and make a short bungee for my old Sagitta. It was always a great flier and with modern electronics and carbon wing joiners I could add spoilers and still reduce the old flying weight. But that won't happen till after the DLG, and either a light floater from a wood kit of a self-designed pod and boom 2 meter electric with foam core wings, and a new 3D plane and...
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