Benalla Storm

Benalla Storm

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Canadian Nats - Practise Days 1 & 2

On tow with the Scheibe SF 27. Photo credit Kareem Shehata.
Well since you all now know that I caused damage to the glider I was meant to fly at the Nats, you are probably wondering what I was able to fly! Words cannot express how grateful I am to Bill Cole who was willing to lend me his glider for the duration of the contest, despite the off-field incident that had just happened. (As one friend pointed out to me, I didn't have a very good sales pitch when I called Bill. ¨Hi, Bill, can I borrow your glider, I just damaged another one...¨) 
With MX. Photo credit Martin Brassard.
Anyways, enough about awkward phone calls. Bill was incredibly generous to me! The day before the contest started I got a ride to the Toronto Soaring Club with Dave Cole (Bill's brother). There I was given some bonding time the Scheibe (gave her a good washing!) before heading out to the flight line to have some flights. The Scheibe is a beautiful ship! She is a delight to thermal, easily outclimbing other gliders. Her favourite days to fly are days with no wind and she will do well on any day with weak conditions (of which we had many during the contest). I also think that it is pretty cool that I can now say that I flew a vintage wooden glider at a National contest (ya, I'm old school). I also need to thank the Toronto Soaring Club for giving me free tows on this day and an old school TSC pull-over (donation to the Junior Team :p).

MX landing. Photo credit Kareem Shehata

The first practise day I took a few more flights at SOSA to practise some short-field landings. A task was set for all of the contestants. However, by the time I completed my short-field landings, the day was beginning to decay. Rather than risk an off-field landing I opted to stay local. This still gave me an excellent opportunity to make friends with the Scheibe, getting used to her flying characteristics, and enjoying her outstanding thermalling capabilities. As the day collapsed I decided to land as I was hearing more and more about off-field landings. After I tied down the Scheibe I went out on a retrieve for Pierre Gavillet! Although I had no clue who he was at the time, I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet someone new. This turned out to be a great idea as he is really a delightful pilot, and he even had cold beer for us to drink in his trunk after we finished de-rigging the Libelle. What a guy! It turned out that about 25 people landed off-field this day (including the 505 which landed out TWICE). Needless to say I was quite glad that I didn't opt to go cross-country.
On the grid. Photo credit Maria Szemplinska.
On the second practise day another task was set. We all pulled out to the grid. And we waited. And waited. And waited. Finally the day was scrubbed. I had a great adventure with Chris Gough and Jay Allardyce as we went to a beautiful waterfall in Hamilton to cool off with some blueberries and beer. Just think you guys, in thirty years...

Canadian Nationals 2011

The grid. Photo credit Martin Brassard
This year's Canadian Nationals was one of the biggest contests we have had for many years with 38 pilots registered! The field was divided into three classes: FAI Class (Open, 18m, & 15m ships), Club Class 1 (Standard and higher performing Club ships), and Club Class 2 (lower performing Club and World ships). There were also four Juniors competing at this year's Nationals, a huge improvement from previous years! Needless to say there was lots of action on the flight line with this big of a group, with people bustling about in pre-flight preparation and hanging out on the grid. There were also many good laughs shared by all with evening dinners (thanks to Virginia Thompson and Lynne Gough for organising these meals!), beers, and even a few campfires! I hope that everyone found it to be a positive environment, and next year we will have another huge competition!
Briefing tent. Photo credit Maria Szemplinska.

June Training

This year the Canadian Nationals were scheduled to be held at SOSA. This is one of the largest gliding clubs in Canada, and they fly full-time during the summer. For this reason I thought it would be a great idea to join this club this year so that I could get as much practise in before the start of the Nationals. 

Dave Springford was kind enough to make arrangements for me to borrow a Club Libelle from Craig Muir. Thank you so much to Dave for making this arrangement for me! And also a huge thanks for the generosity Craig showed me in being willing to lend me his glider for this preparatory period and for the duration of the Nationals!

I also made contact with another friend of mine, Luke Szczepaniak who very kindly allowed me to live in his trailer while I was at SOSA. He also lent me his bike. Very nice. 

Unfortunately the plan to fly lots during the month of June did not come to fruition. I was able to very quickly get my annual check-out and a few short training flights in the Libelle. Unfortunately, the weather was really truly quite disappointing. It seemed that rain was always in the forecast.

I did however manage one cross-country flight in the Club Libelle. Although the day was very slow to start, it soon turned into beautiful weather to the north. I enjoyed a delightful and fast run along several groups of cu's on the way up, and in no time at all found myself north past Arthur. However, I was very mindful of the fact that the days in this part of the world tend to end much earlier than in Alberta or Australia, and as such turned back towards the field around 3pm. It was at this point that a very fun flight turned into a great challenge. I had a relatively strong headwind (at least for a Libelle), and it seemed that all the good clouds that were taunting me were in restricted airspace! It was a slow grind back south. Unfortunately I was unable to make it back to SOSA. In one last attempt to get final glide I opted to try for lift over a plowed field. Unfortunately this field did not give me much of anything. I was forced to land off-field. This small decision turned very quickly in a big mistake. The field was not as flat as I had thought from the air, and in landing up-hill I hit a rock and caused some damage to the fuselage.

I learned several important lessons from this incident. First of all, I gained a new understanding of what it means to prepare for flying in an area with fewer land-out options. (In the Prairies and in Australia where I have done most of my cross-country flying most any field is a good option.) Solid pre-flight preparation in a new flying environment is key. I am very glad to have learned this important lesson before beginning my flying in Europe where off-field landing options are even more restrictive. Another big lesson I learned was not get tunnel-vision on a situation. I was intent on finding lift over this field and did not properly consider back-tracking to a better landing option. I was also so focused on the obstacles that were present around the field that I didn't take the time to look at the slope of the field. Safety in flying is the most important thing. I also learned some important things about filing an insurance claim!

I have decided to write about this incident so that others can hopefully learn from what I did and not repeat my mistakes! Fly safe!

A moment to thank my sponsors...

I would like to take a moment to sincerely thank the following sponsors:

Sears Optical West Edmonton Mall was kind enough to donate for me a pair of Ray Bans (Polarised). Thanks so much for helping have good sunnies to use for the contest!

WestJet donated two tickets for anywhere they fly through their ¨Caring for our Community¨ Program. These tickets were used as the grand prize for my raffle which was a huge success (tickets sold out!!). A huge thanks also to John Mulder for arranging for these tickets to be donated.

Stacey Camp was kind enough to donate two paintings which were used as the second prize for the raffle. Thanks so much Stacey! You are an amazing artiste! Check out her website at

Blacks Photo Southgate donated three 100 Print Cards. Thanks so much for your support boss!

And also a huge thanks to everyone who purchased raffle tickets or made personal donations. A huge part of me following this dream is a financial cost and I am so grateful to everyone who has given me support in this part of my adventure!