Answers To Questions From Participants


Schreder, Moffat, Smith, Moore, Lindsay

Question: How many hours in sailplanes will any of you fly this year in preparation for the Marfa Nationals?

Answerr: (Dick S.) Fifty

Answer: (George M.) Oh, fifty or sixty.

Answer: (A. J. S.) The same.

Question: Today there are many reasonably good pilots with good equipment who are poor contest pilots. In 1969 would it be more efficient to spend more time building a plan for each contest flight and attempt to learn the principles taught at this seminar by trial and error, or wouldn't it simply be better to follow some of the pros, like A. J., Dick and George, around in regional meets doing the right things and then later figure out why?

Answer: (Dick) No.

Answer: (George) You win by trying harder mostly. Any way that will do that I think helps. Following is a good trick, a lot easier said than done.

Answer: (A. J.) One thing to remember. We've talked a lot about preparation. But, most important, for most of you, the first day of the season that we have good soaring should be the day you should be in the air. You should fly every available minute you can, every time the weather is soarable.

Answer: (George) One more thing on that, it should be cross country. Flying around the airport is an absolute waste of time.

Answer: (Dick) Amen.

Question: How many variometers in your ship? How often do you calculate your cross country speed on a task?

Answer: (Dick) Two variometers and I try to calculate after every flight.

Answer: (George) Three variometers, the same calculations.

Answer: (A. J.) Two variometers. I read the contest results.

Question: It says, How often do you calculate your speed on a task? -- That probably means, Do you calculate it during the task? Do you keep up with how fast you're going?

Answer, (Dick) No.

Answer: (George) No.

Answer: (A. J.) That's a waste of time.

Question: When you're an hour out, don't you at least look at your map to see how many miles you've gone to get an idea of how fast you're going?

Answer: (Dick) Sometimes.

Answer: (George) Only if it's pretty marginal weather.

Answer: (A. J.) Almost never.

Question: Please discuss the merits of the well equipped sailplane; that is, full panel, ballasts and so forth versus the super-light sailplane as applied to competitive soaring. Your choice, why, and so forth.

Answer: (Dick) I wouldn't bet on the super-light sailplane. I'd rather have a well equipped heavier sailplane.

Answer: (George) I'd agree. Super-lights are only good for one condition. You probably won't get it all that often.

Answer: (A. J.) Agreed. I want the best piece of equipment and I want the heaviest sailplane that'll stay up on a given day.

Question: Under what conditions would you expect lift under an overcast? What prompted this was the last contest day at Elmira.

Answer: (Dick) Well, a good lapse rate and signs of the sun getting through occasionally.

Answer: (George) Well, really there are so many variables I don't think you could answer significantly.

Question: Gene Moore, explain "Chore Girl" function.

Answer: (Gene) That was just an example I showed here of how the heat sink material in the reference flask could actually speed up the output from the flask if you do the zoom maneuver that I described, that is climbing 1500 feet per minute and leveling off abruptly. That is described in some of the literature as a winch thermal. It's the artificial thermal that you see after a winch tow. I did want to show that when you are worrying about a very fast system, it is important to look at things that might be of small importance perhaps as this actually is in normal flying.

Question: Dick Schreder, quote, "Stay with the first lift below 2000 feet." Question - stay how long? Any comments, or is this just a matter of experienced guesswork?"

Answer: (Dick) It depends on the conditions, but at least get back up above 2000 feet.

Question: What comments do you have concerning east nationals versus west nationals, pro east or pro west, and reasons?

Answer: (Dick) I don't know. I seem to win the western ones and can't do very well at home.

Answer: (George) What we are flying for is competition. As long as everybody is flying at the same place, it doesn't make much difference.

Answer: (A. J.) I can only add that apparently the experience we get here in the east is good experience. Eastern pilots seem to do well in national competitions, even when they're held in the west. I think, perhaps, the reason might be that we're accustomed to working with weaker soaring conditions. I think the experience we get here is extremely valuable but, like George, I don't care where the contest is. The rules are the same for everybody. The terrain is the same for everybody.

Question: Chuck, would you draw a diagram of a rotor cloud or dust cloud in front of a sea breeze front.

Answer: (Chuck Lindsay) I think he must be referring to these. This is the coast line and this is the ocean. You've got the cool air moving in, of course, and even before that you have thermals rising up here. As the cool air comes in, of course it tends to push back this other air, and this warmer air rises up ever it, so that you get a circulation then going up, and this air then returns out to the sea. And of course you get your clouds developing right in this area right in here. Also, they will tend to lean out here because this air is still rising out here. Wallington has actually soared up and not just under this, but out a ways, with this ledge lift out here, with a tail wind, come down and then go back in toward the station where we were at Lasham with a tail wind. But this is where your line of clouds is, right where this cold air meets the warm air.

Answer: (Dick) I'd like to add something to that, and that is if you're flying parallel to one of these fronts, stay out on this side. Don't get caught back here; you'll go down.

Answer: (A. J.) Quite often you'll find some wisps of clouds hanging down at the front where condensation is beginning to take place. As Dick says, it's good right there on the land side. It might be interesting to you people who are worried about how these fronts lock. When you finally come to a sea breeze front, you will recognize it. The definition between clear air and hazy air is relatively easy to see. If it's that hard to identify, very few other people are going to identify it. Stay with the shear lines in the west.

Question: A. J. Smith, primarily what is the value of the 450 wing sanding you reportedly are so enthusiastic about?

Answer: (A. J.) It's a peculiar thing with the Sisu. The Sisu airfoil, in my opinion, is sensitive to atmospheric turbulence. It doesn't climb well in a turbulent thermal and it doesn't glide well in turbulent air. Over a period of years of having prepared the sailplane in the winter, contouring the wing and that sort of thing, I have experienced that it seems to fly better in the first of the season just after I've rough sanded it with 320 paper. I've sanded it diagonally. First, because that's the way to get the contours right in the easiest and most efficient manner. During contests, I clean the bugs from the leading edge of the wing each day. The polishing compound, or cleaning or rubbing compound, puts a glossy finish on the wing. After three or four days, perhaps halfway through the contest, I seem to be aware that the ship is beginning to lose its ability to climb in turbulent air. I've roughed the wing up a few times, and each time it seemed to be improved. And I say "seemed to" with a purpose because this is difficult to evaluate. That next day might have been a slightly smoother day. All this may apply only to the Sisu.

Question: How did you rough it up?

Answer: (A. J.) With a long, contoured, smooth sanding block and 320 paper moved at 45 degrees. If this does work, apparently the theory behind it is that a slightly turbulent air flow is more difficult to separate than a laminar air flow.

Answer: (George) Last year when my Cirrus was first delivered, I found it had a stalling speed of about 82 kilometers. I was away for about a month, during which time the designer, Klaus Holinghaus, was flying the ship and doing some tests. After I got back, I noticed that the best speed to fly seemed to be about 78 kilometers so I asked Klaus about it. He said he had been working on the wings and sanded them a bit, and it had definitely lowered the stall speed. Everything else was the same, the instruments, static ports, the whole installation.

Answer: (Dick) I too have had a similar experience. In the nationals last year my ship hadn't returned so I had to borrow Joe Perrucci's and couldn't keep it in the air for several days, and started looking around and found quite a few things wrong. We got working on it, and the biggest improvement we got was with sanding the wings; and I understand that since then, Joe's done some more and gotten some instruments.

Question: Has this sanding been concentrated on the leading edge of the wing?

Answer: (Dick) No, you start right at the leading edge and go all the way back if you have time.

Answer: (George) The most important part is right there at the leading edge and just back to the thickest section. On the Cirrus there is no point in bothering with anything past the 50 percent point. Laminar flow breaks down about there as it does on most wings for practical purposes.

Answer: (A. J.) First, you have to get the wing wave-free. It has to be optically a perfect surface. Then you can worry about whether this little turbulator is important.

Question: (Steve Dupont) Dick, can I say something? The HP-14 you built is now three years old and it has been chalking severely. It chalks so bad that when you put the wing on you get covered with it. No amount of washing will take it off. Do you have any comment on that?

Answer: (Dick) Wipe if off before every flight.

Question: What is the minimum crew number?

Answer: (Dick) Well, that depends on your ship. If you have a ship that two people can disassemble, I think you could get by with one good crew man, like a good wife, but in general I think you need at least two crew members beside the pilot and three is better.

Answer: (George) I disagree. I think that the minimum that can handle things is best. I've used two on mostly 600-pound ships for 7 or 8 years now. I did try three and they just got in each other's way. Two besides myself.

Answer: (A. J.) I would agree with that. I want two good ones, and I would say further that an infinite number of poor ones doesn't get anything done.

(Ed Byars) Ben Green won in Elmira last year with one crew man, with a good man and a little Libelle, of course.

Question: What is the minimum practical experience level to get in the '69 nationals?

Answer: (Dick) I think they've made it a Diamond Goal, haven't they?

Question: The question is, What is the minimum level? I'm not worrying about the rules.

Answer: (Dick) Well, like A. J. said, everybody should go expecting to win, but I seriously doubt if anyone could go and win if they didn't have several years of soaring under their belt. I don't think anybody that has an airplane pilot's license can buy any kind of a sailplane and go to the nationals without any practice and hope to win.

Answer: (George) I agree completely with what Dick said; however, the only way to learn to fly in contests is to fly in contests. They don't want to be pip-squeak contests, they want to be darn good contests because one of the first things that everybody says when he flies in a contest is, "Gee, I never learned so much in two days in all my life." I've heard this so often, and the reason, in my opinion, is that you get to see what people like A. J. or Dick can do in weather in which you don't think anybody would even bother to open the hangar doors.

Answer: (A. J.) I would agree. It's a good bit of advice. Your experience or lack of experience is not going to bother other competitors in the nationals, but if you're not safe, if you can't circle safely in thermals with a good number of other ships, be careful. Don't go. If you do go, get out of the way. Go as soon as you're safe and can handle the equipment and realize what kind of terrain you're going to be flying in. This should be a part of personal judgment. Answer: (Dick) I agree 100 percent with all that A. J. and George said, but you'll find that you will learn more in your first national competition than you've learned in all of your soaring to date.

Question: Is there any attempt being made to have the U.S. team fly U.S. sailplanes in 1970?

Answer: (Dick) I'm doing everything I can!

Answer: (George) I'm not very patriotic when it comes to sailplanes. I want the one that'll win the contest.

Answer: (A. J.) I wish Dick a lot of luck.

Question: What pre-contest flight sailplane preparations are used? What materials are best to prepare wings?

Answer: (Dick) I think we've handled that pretty well. The Russians have been showing up in the last two world competitions with bare metal, and I think this is a mistake. I don't think you can get bare metal anywhere near what you can with a fiberglass or painted finish.

Answer: (A. J.) I think one area that we haven't covered here might be worth a few minutes conversation. Number one, seal up all leaks. Seal every tiny leak because that leak is an air flow, usually perpendicular to the surface that's leaking, and it's like an antenna sticking out of your wing. Seal all the leaks first. Number two, saw off all the protuberances. Don't fair them in, saw them off. And then number three, get every surface smooth and wave-free.

Question: (Steve Dupont) How about leaks on the windshield and around the canopy where you can feel them blowing on you?

Answer: (A. J.) Put the leak exactly where you want it. You should only have an air intake in the optimum position. That means taking the air in where you want it to come in and exhausting it in an opposite location. Don't take chances, assuming it's a good condition because it seems to be leaking in here. It may be going out like stink down here.

Answer: (Dick) I would agree with that too, but I'd like to go back once more to Joe Perrucci's ship. When I first saw it, it looked very beautiful and I didn't realize that there wasn't something wrong with me. It took two or three days to find out it was the ship, because I absolutely couldn't stay up under good-looking cu's. I'd go down to the ground, and about the third day I realized I was getting a 300-foot per minute sink in smooth air, and we found all sorts of things wrong looking the ship over carefully. There were gaps between the ailerons and flaps, gaps between the flaps and the fuselage, discontinuities in fuselage contour up at the nose, leaks in the canopy, unsmooth wing surfaces, gaps between the ailerons and the wing and the tail and the stabilizers, and you just have to start a program to correct all these things on your ship.

Answer; (George) Even the best ships, I mean Libelles and Cirruses and so on, need never less than 50 hours work before they're ready for a contest, and often very much more.

Question: How about an open window in the canopy?

Answer: (Dick) The less of that you have, the better.

Question: What decrease in performance do you experience from raindrops on your wing surface?

Answer: (Dick) It feels like you've thrown a sea anchor cut.

Answer: (George) It varies very greatly with airfoils. John Ryan won't like me for saying this, but I flew with a Phoebus A last year which was absolutely even with the Elfe when we were both dry, but I wouldn't say his performance was even half that of mine when he was wet. Now this isn't saying nasty things about the Phoebus A because you're really not going to be flying in rain all that much, but there are some airfoils that are quite a lot more sensitive than others, as A..J. remarked on the Sisu a moment ago.

Answer: (A. J.) I think as soon as the first raindrop hits the ship, you should make a basic decision. If you possibly can, go somewhere else. Out of the rain. Answer: (Dick) Most of you can check this yourselves if you get the opportunity to fly through a cloud that'll leave water droplets on the wings, and you can check that the rate of descent is much higher when you come out the other side, and you can actually feel the ship accelerate when it evaporates off.

Question: George Moffat, why do you not like the cat's cradle as a task and regardless of your personal opinion, do you recognize it as a good task for national competition?

Answer: (George) No, it's a very bad task in my opinion for national competition. The purpose of a competition is to measure ability of the pilot. You cannot measure ability of pilots if they're not doing fundamentally the same thing. Imagine that you start an auto race from here this afternoon at two o'clock. Turn points are Cumberland, Martinsburg, and Baltimore. The driver getting the most mileage wins. That is a cat's cradle! If you really want to make it a cat's cradle, imagine that there have been quite a few floods nearby and some of the bridges are out, some aren't; you have no way of knowing which ones are which. You do have some fairly inaccurate information thanks to some maps compiled that morning from spot observations taken 200 miles apart. The cat's cradle is a very thinly disguised free distance. The basic problem with free distance is the same lack of direct competition.

Take Texas in '67. Dick Johnson went due east, got absolutely no place. Dick Schreder went north, contacted a front and won. He probably wouldn't have chosen the route he took if he had flown a lot in Texas like, say, Ben Green. Bikle went someplace that nobody in his right mind would have gone that day, but he was so far down in the standings that he had to do something far out. He went very, very well and got second for the day, taking a long chance; but these people hadn't been competing against each other. You don't know if Bikle was a better pilot than Johnson. Johnson went 226 miles, Bikle went 450. Do you really think that Bikle is twice as good as Johnson? You don't know from that task. This is my fundamental objection to both free distance and cat's cradle.

Answer: (Dick) The British and the people who draw up our rules are in favor of the cat's cradle. When I left the meeting in Paris day before yesterday, the Poles and the Germans were fighting the cat's cradle like mad at Marfa. How it turned out I don't know, but our people were holding out for the cat's cradle.

Answer: (A. J.) The cat's cradle is a return to the marathon and walkathon. of the 1930's. The only time I like to have a gambling situation, as George puts it, is when I'm far behind. Then the gambling, the element of luck with a distance task becomes very great and I think my chances improve. If we have, instead, a straight-out legitimate race around the same course, then we are really testing pilot against pilot, and I don't expect to beat anybody by very much or have anyone beat me by much.

Question: Is the objection the same to an out and return distance along a fixed course where everyone is flying the same task, even though you're flying distance?

Answer: (Dick) I would say to a certain extent that my greatest objection is that I've flown, I believe, three cat's cradles, and I was in the air over nine hours on each of them. I think this is too long in a national contest. Answer: (George) There's one other problem that comes up on these open end tasks of any sort, and that's quite simply that frequently, especially in Texas, you can fly after dark. That does put you in a rather awkward situation. There's a strong tendency to stay in the air too long, especially if you're at high altitude; you don't realize how dark it is on the ground. I know at least three pilots in this group that have landed after dark, myself included, and that is a kind of scary feeling.

Question: Do you make any changes in thermal technique when you're below 1,000 feet?

Answer: (Dick) You just do it more so.

Answer: (George) When low, below four or five hundred, I often thermal a bit more on instruments because there is a tendency to skid on turns a good deal if you look out the window.

Answer: (A. J.) That's good. I think my thermaling techniques change when I'm low. I play it a bit safer, faster, shallower, etc. Any sailplane at a low altitude is more apt to get into a wind shear condition and this aggravates things.

Answer: (George) I think there's another point about it. In several regional contests I have seen people who have had bad accidents by circling right on down into the ground. To me this is absolutely unforgivable. I hardly know anybody who could pick up a thermal below 150 feet. It's just not sane to keep on going below that altitude, and furthermore, I think you want to consult your altimeter regularly, once a circle. Memorize whatever you've got, say 210 feet, then if you go down to 200 feet, make sure you take another look out the window to see how your clearances are doing. Then go back and concentrate on variometers and yaw strings, but look at the altimeter again every round to see whether you're making or losing.

Answer: (Dick) I do something different when I'm down that low, and the first thing I do is get within gliding distance of a good field to land in, and then, and only then, do I continue circling; and I never start another turn when I'm not positive I can still make it into the field.

Answer: (A. J.) We can't be too careful about this. The things we've been talking to you about in the last few days can lead you into some bad situations. Exercise your judgment. Most of us talk from a great deal of experience. I've got photographs of two separate sailplanes that were badly wrecked because I didn't follow this kind of discipline. Pick a good landing spot at 1000 feet and just don't leave it until you start getting back up again.

Answer: (Dick) I'd like to add to that too. I've been flying quite a while, and I haven't had a serious sailplane injury or damage, just because I follow this technique religiously, and I've had three real bad auto accidents during the contests.

Question: When the wind is too weak for ridge lift, would you expect the thermals to form on the upwind or downwind slopes of the ridge?

Answer: (Dick) I'd rather stay on the upwind side.

Answer: (George) Upwind, definitely. The only time the downwind side is likely to be of much use is if the wind's quite strong when you may get wind shadow thermals.

Answer: (A. J.) Regarding the last question, my answer is yes!

Answer: (Dick) I would make an exception. If the wind is very light and the wind is striking the downwind side at perpendicular angles, then it might change the situation just a little.

Answer: (George) Just one thing on that. If you're low on the ridges, watch your step. That's how Phillip Wills came very, very close to killing himself last year -- broken back and all that sort of thing. He was wandering around the end of a little ridge. The wind was not quite in the direction he thought it was. He got a little shear, and first thing you know, instead of flying fifty knots, he was flying at 37, according to the air speed, and the Dart didn't fly too well at 37 at 200 feet.

Answer: (Dick) I'd like to add to Phillip Wills' accident. I think another thing that got him into trouble was that he completely forgot that if the wind is strong over the top of a hill, that it very often blows in the opposite direction on the lee side, and I think he landed downwind too.

Answer: (George) He landed at a bad angle, if you call that a landing. 70 degrees, measured.

Question: In Marfa 1969 outlandings, comment on this please.

Answer: (Dick) They can be tough. There are lots of places you have trouble finding anything but yucca trees and sagebrush. I think all of us who have flown out there have landed in some rather bad fields, and even on the highways occasionally; and now with the reflectors on both sides of the highways, be very wary of those -- and I would say be more careful than ever at Marfa that you have a suitable place in mind when you start getting low.

Answer: (George) I think I've flown there longer than either Dick or A. J. On the reflector problem -- reflectors will always be found on curves (even slight curves). If you see it's straight, there's a reasonable chance that the reflectors will not be there or won't be too frequent. However, you will not be able to see them from much distance, so keep an alternate. And I don't really agree with Dick. I think very much of Marfa is very easy to land in, particularly the area covered by the cat's cradle. Even if you get stuck in the mountains up by Livermore, you'll find quite nice grass meadows that you can land on, even make air tows cut of. Phillip Wills did in 1964. Last point. Be extremely careful of ranch strips. All the local ships are Cessnas because Cessnas are about the only thing that operates very successfully out of those altitudes -- base altitude is 5000 feet. Ranchers make those strips about 35 feet wide. They don't cut the brush below about four feet on the sides. I would not ever land on a ranch strip unless I know the strip. I'm really quite surprised that we haven't had some accidents from that. The only reason, I believe, is because all the local people know this.

Answer: (Ed Byars) The reflectors are also over the dry washes, even on the straight stretches. You can see the culverts pretty well, even if you can't see the reflectors.

Answer: (Dick) I'd like to add to that. The people from Texas say that the highway department has had a very ambitious program to put reflectors along straight stretches. I would say everybody that goes out there ought to look the situation over carefully while you're driving into Marfa.

Answer: (George) I agree completely with what Dick says. However, do not die of a heart attack if you come in by way of Pecos. There are two ways to get to Marfa; either go by Fort Stockton or go by way of Pecos. The easiest way, the usual way, is by Pecos. If you go that way, you drive through about 35 miles of the wildest looking mountains you ever saw. Don't turn around and come back. It looks a whole lot better from 2000 feet higher. I say that as someone who darn near did turn around and come back in 1962 when I went down there to auto tow the HP-8 around and try for a few records. The country just plain seems impossible, but it really isn't that bad from the air at all. Further, even in the open desert, there are a great many places to land. Brush is clearly defined, and you'll see quite a number of openings. Here's just one other thing. You'll find quite a few very much abandoned World War II airstrips. Be very cautious about them indeed. They're frequently gullied three feet deep.

Answer: (A. J.) I don't think that that area between Pecos and Marfa looks that much better from the air. Exercise a little caution when you go to your first competition, particularly in areas like Marfa. I would have to add to what Dick and George have said. If you haven't planned a landing on an airfield or a ranch strip that you personally know, or on a public airport or some facility like that, then everything else that you might do is strictly a gamble. Landing on the highway is a gamble. Landing out on the desert is a gamble. I made two landings in the desert, and I was pleased to find that they were safe. But I was not confident that I was safe until I was practically on the ground. Those landings were unpredictable. That's bad.

Answer: (Dick) One thing you have to watch in the desert is that the sagebrush looks very innocent from the air; but when you get on the ground, you'll find that they have very well developed roots, and the sand has been blown up into the roots and packed, and it would be just about like hitting a tree stump.

Answer: (Ed Byars) I have one of these broken reflector signs at home if you want to see one. They break off clean at the ground; they are steel hat sections.

Question: When flying a speed triangle and you have a choice of direction, how do you plan which leg to go on when?

Answer: (Dick) Well, I don't think you ever have a choice on a speed triangle which way you go. They always direct you because this would be disastrous if people were making the turns from both directions.

Question: Well, how about cat's cradle then?

Answer: (Dick) Well, if there's anything in the terrain that would let you get high altitude while you're going into the turn, I'd say this would probably be one of the decisions that would help you.

Answer: (George) If there were no other important factors dictating otherwise, I would always make the first leg downwind, simply because you have to do a lot of climbing that you can't control on the first leg and might as well be drifting in the right direction. Then you can arrange to be high at the turn and drive off on the second leg. The last leg would then normally be into the wind. That's your best leg to be into the wind because you can start at 10,000 feet -- whatever you can climb to -- and finish off the task, so you'll waste the least possible time thermaling.

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