My first outlanding PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by Bernie Sizer   
Wednesday, 18 February 2009 10:36


I was told once I went solo that, you are not a real glider pilot until you have at least one outlanding.

If flying in Tocumwal on a Tuesday was rare, being able to go twice in consecutive weeks was too much to miss out on.

The decision was made at approx 10.30pm Monday night & getting to sleep was difficult.


I arrived at the hanger at about 9.30am to find Ingo working away on the Condor IV. Like any built up model, it is difficult to see any progress in only one week.

The ASW15 was rigged in no time & I spent an hr or so learning how to use the flight computer. I had started reading the manual the day before & was only one or two pages in.

After some discussion with Ingo & Dieter (owner of the ASW15), I had programmed & declared a 300km task that would keep me within approx 65km of home.

There had been cirrus cloud overhead all morning & by 1pm it was only just starting to disperse. I had a long wait in the glider before take off during which time Ingo mentioned that cross-country might be difficult today. This offering didn t ring any bells with me at the time though.

Take-off was interesting as usual & the climb out was unusually smooth. By 3000ft I had not noticed any real lift & released at 3100ft deciding to go in search of it myself.

I scanned around & found a farmer ploughing his field. I was somewhat dismayed to find that he was only generating weak lift at best, still it was better then going back down & I managed to gain height slowly. I was down to 1800ft before finding the lift & could not get over 2400ft so I searched again. This time there was some slightly stronger lift over a small quarry, still it took me another 30 minutes to get back up to 3000ft. Next stop was over a grain silo north of town, this place has a large area of dark asphalt & usually provides good lift. I struggled up to 4000ft & was undecided as to whether I should head off on my task, well no guts no glory & off I went.

Away from the field the conditions improved & I was able to reach 6000ft in places. I had purchased a Wac chart the previous Sunday, I could follow this to my turn point which I had programmed into the flight computer.

I soon became aware of a discrepancy between my map & the flight computer. According to my map & logic, my TP was 15km dead ahead, but my flight computer was saying that I needed to fly SSE for another 50km. Perplexed I turned SSE & flew in this direction till I crossed the Murray river but I had not had lift for 5 or so minutes & all I could see in front of me were tree covered green fields, not conducive to thermals. I turned around & headed north, hoping to find lift as I was down to 2500ft ASL & starting to pick out fields to land in. The ground is at approx 400ft in this area. At 2100ft I radioed Toc base & gave my predicament & position. Weak lift was found at this point & I turned on it thinking that I had just got out of jail, however I was soon down to 1800ft & the air was very soft & mushie.

The paddocks looked big now & I decided that I would have to land in the first suitable field.

Heading north the fields on my left were rectangle & of reasonable size, the fields on my right were not. The first field I spotted was grey & clear, until I saw the power poles at each side of it. The next field was ploughed, the next very green, then a farm house, the next was covered in trees but the one after that looked good. This field was longer, grey, no lines or changes in colour, no poles, fences, tracks, channels, only two trees at one end & some stacked hay bales that left a clear runway down the middle. At this point I struck an 8kt thermal, just to add salt to the wound. I radioed my position again, just in case. I did my best ever turn onto final at 700ft AGL, popped the brakes out & flew down between the two trees for a good landing in the middle of the field.


Soon after I had alighted the aircraft & had stopped swearing to myself, three small dust devils made their way down the field with a hawk circling above, the swearing started again.

I had landed 66km East of Tocumwal, 12km NW of Corowa. I had no radio contact & no phone service. I had no way of knowing if the tug was on its way or if my message had gotten through & had been understood.

The field was long, but the glider was in the middle of it & I knew the tug would need as much room as possible to get over the trees at the west end, so I pushed the glider 200m back from whence it had come. This took some effort & time.

Time was starting to slip away, so I looked around for signs of life, nothing. The farmhouse I had flown past was approx 1.5 - 2km s away. I decided to climb one of the haystacks for a better view. The bales were large, approx 1m x 1m x 2.5m. The view was no better so I checked my phone for service, seemed silly at the time but what did I have to lose. One bar was all I needed to get out & that is exactly what I had. I rang Eddie & the tug was soon on its way with Ingo on board.

Thirty-five minutes later I herd the sound of an engine overhead, then the radio cracked into lift with Eddie s voice asking for final directions.

We used the tug to tow the glider back another 200m, a tad easier then pushing it. Ingo climbed in, we shut the canopy & jumped into the tug.

Looking west into a setting sun through a windscreen that has collided with a million bugs was not good, add to that, the nose is facing upwards & forward visibility is nil. But we had it easy, poor Ingo had to contend with this plus all the dust kicked up by the prop wash as well. Ingo has told me that he thinks he holds the record for the amount of outlandings he has made, so I guess he has had his share of tows out of dusty paddocks as well.

Approx 20km from Toc, Ingo released at 6100ft ASL & we continued on. I had to wait another hr for Ingo to land as he was having a good time in smooth lift.

While no one wants to outland, it costs heaps, I was glad it happened now while the training was still reasonably fresh in my mind. The next time it happens I will be able to draw on this episode for experience, I hope.

The reason for the turn point being out was a wrong co-ordinate, I had put in South 36 instead of South 35 . This makes a big difference in distance & I did a lot of stuffing around when not sure of what to do. I m confident that I could have stayed in lift & perhaps gotten around a lot further had the mistake not occurred.

I ve been told that I am now a real glider pilot ;)

A plus for this flight is that it may count towards my silver C as it was a declared flight & I managed more then 50km s in a straight line, time will tell.




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During the Second World War the town was the site of Royal Australian Air Force Station Tocumwal, which was a major Royal Australian Air Force training airfield and aircraft depot. Today, the airfield has grown to be a renowned gliding site.