Monday, December 5, 2011

Glider O-rides at Byron Airport

Reprinted on CAP's National Site - Volunteer Now - 12/28/2011.

Capt Noel Luneau
Deputy Commander and Mission Pilot
Amelia Earhart Senior Squadron 188
California Wing

C/CMSgt Ashley Miles ready for her flight
BYRON, CA - On Sunday, December 4’th, Cadets and Senior members from Squadrons 18 and 188 flew in gliders at Byron Airport.  This is a brand new Nevada Wing Glider Center of Excellence (COE) mission outreach program to provide Glider Orientation rides (O-rides) for Northern California cadets.  While Southern California has an active CAP Glider COE, Northern California has not had glider O-rides reasonably available to its cadets in many years.  Major Semans of the Nevada Wing Glider COE, has intermittently worked for the past three years to get a new CAP glider operational center established in the North.  We are very grateful for all of his work in the accomplishment of this important milestone.
Grob 103 getting ready for take-off

Taking advantage of the relationship established between CAP and the Soaring Society of America (SSA) more than a decade ago, Sunday’s Glider rides were flown using gliders from the non-profit club Northern California Soaring Association (NCSA).  The club is located at Byron Airport, 15 mi North-West of Tracy, and is an ideal airfield to conduct O-Rides for NorCal cadets due to its proximity and central location to the major population centers of Groups 2 and 5.  Specifically, the Bay Area, Sacramento, and the Central Valley.  NCSA has three 2-Seat Grob 103 sailplanes and uses a Bellanca Scout as the tow aircraft.  The tow aircraft pulls the engine-less glider up to 3,000 feet, where the glider releases and its occupants enjoy a 15 to 30 minute flight.
Grob 103 Cockpit

Gliders are heavier-than-air aircraft that generally do not have engines (some do but are purpose built for advanced soaring) and consequently must be pulled into the air by either a powered aircraft (tow plane), stationary winch, or pulled by a car (auto tow).  Once released, skilled glider pilots may use rising air currents to climb and either extend the flight time or fly cross-country.  Flying by the use of these air currents is called soaring and pilots will often call their craft sailplanes.

Rising air currents can be formed by solar heating called thermal Lift, air rising over a ridge or slope called ridge lift, or air rising after flowing over a mountain called Mountain Wave.  Thermal lift is generally the strongest during the summer months when the sun is higher in the sky.  Thermals are invisible bubbles of warm, rising air that form into columns, and are more easily formed when there is a trigger event, such as moderate wind.  At Byron, the best conditions for catching strong thermals are generally in the Fall and Spring.  Then skilled NCSA pilots can extend flight times to hours and cross-country flights to hundreds of miles.  During the winter, mountain wave forms on the downwind  side of Mount Diablo and can lift NCSA pilots over 14,000 feet.  More information about soaring can be found on the Soaring Society of America’s web site.
C/AB Novaes and Maj Bob Semans the O-ride pilot

For glider O-rides, the flights are generally shorter due to the need to fly multiple cadets in one day.  On Sunday, two cadets and three seniors received O-rides from our excellent O-ride pilot, Major Bob Semans.  Each of the flights lasted about 20 to 25 minutes and was flown in mostly smooth and stable air, as the day was cool, with calm winds, and low solar heating.

Receiving flights on Sunday, were C/CMSgt  Ashley Miles, C/AB Marc Novaes, Capt Doug Crawford, SQ18 Deputy Commander (CD); 1st Lt John Miles, SQ18; and Capt Noel Luneau, SQ188 CD.  Also in attendance was Capt  Paul Kubiak, SQ44 CD.  There were many smiles from the passengers as the conditions were great for gliding in clear and smooth air.

C/CMSgt  Ashley Miles, commented that "My first glider ride was not what I was expecting. I always thought that powered flight was where all the excitement was and I was completely wrong. It felt like you had to be more in tune with the glider than you are with a Powered Aircraft, and thats where half the excitement is. I learned many things from this amazing opportunity. And I hope that cadets from around the wing will take the opportunity of o-rides and utilize them to its full potential."

Glider O-rides are a fun, informative, and very cost effective way to introduce cadets to aviation.  We look forward to many more NorCal cadets receiving O-rides at Byron.

Event Multimedia
• Pictures of the O-ride day are located here.
• Videos from one of the O-rides are below or on YouTube in stunning 1080p HD here.

Grob 103 take-off at Byron
Grob 103 landing at Byron

Civil Air Patrol Glider Orientation Rides by Maj Mark Fridell

Capt Luneau is Squadron 188's Deputy Commander and is a qualified Mission Pilot

Images and video courtesy of Capt Noel Luneau and Capt Doug Crawford

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