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!