09 March 2016

There are two experiences I had always hoped to have which I felt were just risky enough to think at least twice about doing - sky diving and going up in a glider.
The former I have given up on - too much chance of injury to my aged body. The latter I was able to finally accomplish due to the kindness of a neighbor here in Tucson Estates.

Click on the photos below for a larger image.

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Meet Bob, the man who would have my life in his hands.

Bob is no stranger to flying. He started flying in 1968, the same year I was smoking dope and dropping acid in San Francisco.
In 1969 Bob went solo and then in 1971 started flying commercially - mostly bush flying in Alaska and Africa.

Since that time he has spent 20 thousand hours in the air flying mostly single engine wheel and float planes. His flight log for gliders sits at 75 hours.

In addition to flying gliders a few times a month when in the Tucson area, he also flies the launch plane twice a month.

This gliding is with the Tucson Soaring Club which is based at the El Tiro Gliderport. The gliderport is about about 20 miles northwest of Tucson.

The Tucson Soaring Club (TuSC) was formed in November of 1967 and operated out of Ryan Field. There were 25 charter members. In 1983, the club moved to Marana Number 5 Auxiliary Field (a field used during WWII). The members cleared the brush for runways and built the hangars. The field was named El Tiro Gliderport after the road which leads to the airport.

In addition to having an active cadre of well-qualified Instructor pilots, we also enjoy a vibrant program of instruction, which has recently been extensively revamped to fit just about any area of interest and level of ability; from Student Pilots, to Aerobatic Competition and Cross Country Racing. TuSC has it all.

Source: The Tucson Soaring Club

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Bummer Dude! I was all ready...


And what exactly is a "glider" you ask? WikiPedia to the rescue!

A sailplane or glider is a type of glider aircraft used in the sport of gliding. Sailplanes are aerodynamically streamlined and are capable of soaring in rising air.

Sailplanes (or "sports gliders") benefit from producing the least drag for any given amount of lift, and this is best achieved with long, thin wings, a fully faired narrow cockpit and a slender fuselage. Aircraft with these features are able to climb efficiently in rising air produced by thermals or hills. Sailplanes can glide long distances at high speed with a minimum loss of height in between.

Source: WikiPedia

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

To the west of the gliderport lies the nearly 200,000 acre Ironwood Forest National Monument. There were some nice views of Ragged Top Mountain. The yellow flowers are Desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata).

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Looking to the east we could see Safford (AKA: Sombrero) and Panther peaks which are on the north end of the Tucson mountain range.

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

We were early for our appointment so I took some snaps of a few of the glider launches.

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

The triangular thingy is a big wind gauge. The tip points into the wind.

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

The Silverbell mountains made a nice backdrop for this launch.

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Here is the launch queue area. The launch plane is at the front of the line.

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

There was a fella up with an instructor who was making practice landings. This is the same glider we would be going up in. It is a Grob G103a Twin II.

The G103 Twin II (originally designated the G 118) is a high performance two-seater sailplane made by Grob Aircraft. The aircraft is of T-tail configuration, and is fitted with a non retractable undercarriage and upper surface airbrakes. Of glass fibre construction, it is designed for training, high performance, and simple aerobatic flying.

On 28 September 1981 the Twin II took the world Out & Return record for two-seat sailplanes (1000.88 km/ 621.92 miles). The aircraft (N424GL) was flown out of the Ridge Soaring Gliderport, Pennsylvania, USA, by pilot Thomas Knauff and crew, Rob Gannon.

Source: WikiPedia

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Now it's our turn!
The launch plane is ready and waiting for us.

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Do I look ready?

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Here Bob gets a few personal things stowed away.

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

This glider has dual controls. Bob told me not to touch anything. Especially not the canopy release.

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

What looks like a line on the runway is indeed a very taut tow rope. The rope looked to be 3/8 inch polypropylene.

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

In no time we were moving speedily down the runway.

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Now the tow plane is aloft and so are we!

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Here is my first look at the gliderport from the air.

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image   Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

In the distance are the Catalina mountains to left and north end of the Tucson mountains are on the right.

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

This was just before the tow rope release.

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

This is a look at part of the Silverbell mine.

The history of mining in the Silver Bell Mountains is fairly convoluted, largely due to the dynamic nature of the copper business in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. According to geologists and researchers, the richest, most densely exploited area occupied a narrow zone along the southwest flank of the range. Although copper was of primary interest, some silver, lead, and gold were also mined.

The first documented prospecting began in the early 1870s under the leadership of Tucsonan Charles O. Brown. By mid-1874, he and his partners had opened the Mammoth Lode, the Young America Mine, and a smelter.

Source: Arizona State Museum

An interesting aside about Charles O. Brown mentioned above: He is said to have been a member of the Glanton band which was engaged in gathering scalps of the Indians in Chihuahua, for which they received $150 each.

John Joel Glanton (1819 – April 23, 1850) was an American, later a Texian fighting for independence, a Texas Ranger who served in the Texas Ranger Division during the Mexican American War, a soldier of fortune and mercenary, and later led the Glanton Gang of scalp hunters, infamous in the Southwest.

Source: WikiPedia

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

I am pretty sure this is the town of Marana which is to the northeast of the gliderport.

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Bob had explained the instrumentation to me but I needed a refresher.

The shorter hand is thousands of feet -in this case 6000 ft --above sea level.
The longer is hundreds- 340 so the height above sea level is 6340 feet.
That longer skinny pointer shows ten/thousands of feet-6000ft. Pointing on 1 would be 10,000 ft.

That translates into 4240 ft above the ground- El Tiro is at 2100 ft above sea level.

The instrument on the right is the variometer which tells the rate of climb/ descent - in this case slightly up- like 50 feet per minute-or for practical purposes zero- holding our own altitude.

Source: Bob the Glider Dude

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Bob would give a glance back every once in a while to see how I was doing.

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Thumbs up indeed!

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Things look different from up here. This is why I always get a window seat when I fly.

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image   Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

There were several "black hills" which Bob was using to get lift. There was a good thermal here so we would climb quickly when Bob got us into it.

Earlier in the day someone had been able to climb a thermal up to 10,000 feet. From there they were able to glide down to the Mexico border - about 80 miles to the south.
We did not have that kind of luck on this day.

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

I loved seeing all the drainage patterns laid out before us.

  Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

And here we are making our landing. Without the aid of a motor, Bob taxied up to within a few feet of the gliders parking spot in the hangar. Pretty slick!

All in all a very interesting and fun time. I got a little nervous at the start but once I got used to it, it was no problem. And I didn't need to use the barf bag!

Thanks, Bob!

 

'Till next time...

~~~~ Bonus ~~~~

How to Stop a Protester

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