The Duo Discus

July 9th, 2006

The Hollister Glider club Duo Discus

For my birthday in 2005, I received some dual in Hollister flying an amazing sailplane, the Duo Discus. It has like a 40-to-1 glide ratio which is 40 miles from 5000 feet!. I hadn’t flown a sailplane since 1981 when I got a few hours of dual in a Schweitzer 2-33 outside Colorado Springs. This was also a hot rod compared to the 2-32 I got some stick time at Mississippi State.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a great soaring day in Hollister where I flew with the Hollister Glider Club, though it seemed promising at first. I met the owner who was a friend of a co-worker. He set me up with an instructor. After a very short takeoff behind a Piper Pawnee, the instructor started me on flying the “box”, practicing holding positions behind the tow plane. This was a much shorter tow line than I was used to, only 100 ft, I think. The thermals bumped us around a bit and it took me awhile to stay in line. We cut loose near the foothills to the east of Hollister, looking for some lift.

With such long wings, you have to use the rudder to counter the adverse yaw from the really long wings, but it came quite naturally as the Discus had great control response. We flew around for about half an hour or so, not really gaining altitude but not losing much either. We flew very close to the ridge. I hadn’t flow that close to a hill since flying in France. As you can see by the picture, we were below the ridgeline.

Flying close to the ridge

Finally, it became time to land, so we turned the battery powered radio back on and reported our position and intentions. It is always so quiet after landing in a glider and coming to a stop, not like a powered plane.

The beginning…..

July 9th, 2006

Mark flying over Provence

Well, I thought I would try out blogging again. I tried it once years ago on Blogger, but made it too much like a personal journal, not something I’d actually want to share, nor would anyone actually want to read it. I am thinking now of something that might be of interest.

What to write about? Well, I thought I would start with something I am familiar with, small airplanes. I will write about each of the different airplane types I have flown, either as pilot-in-command, student, or as a passenger getting a little “stick” time.

The picture above my Dad took while I was flying a Robin DR400 over France under the tutelage of Richard Girard out of Salon Eyguiere airport. Salon is a town in Provence with this grass/gravel airstrip.  Gravel strip? When I looked a Mooney in one of the hangars, I was dismayed at how many dings in the prop there were and how badly it needed to be dressed. They had a small paved square pad for doing runups to avoid blowing gravel (I guess).  But flying rocks seems like a bad idea.

This Robin had 180 horsepower, which I thought was a good thing if all three of us were going up. We took off from Salon and I did some basic airwork then returned to the airport and greased it on (Richard Girard’s comment was “yeah, yeah, we know you are a good pilot”, French sarcasm?) When we took off again after a glider tow departed, but the glider suddenly turned back around to the field. Richard took over and avoided the glider. I thought we had plenty of room, but I guess he wanted to give it lots of room.

We then flew at low altitude (there was controlled airspace about 1500 feet) over to the airport at Avignon where I flew one touch and go. Next, we flew towards Mount Ventoux. This mountain is often included in the Tour de France. As we flew along it, Richard kept motioning for me to fly closer to the mountain. I was not comfortable getting closer than a few thousand feet and told him so. We flew down the west side, observing the retired nuclear missle launch facility on the top (why did they put it there?). Then as we flew around the south side, Richard took over and said, I will show you how to fly down the mountain. We descended to about 200-300 feet and and descended parallel to the terrain. This was quite a trip, reminding me of a video game. Definitely had the feeling of speed at this low altitude. We then turned south again as Richard said he would show us the “French Grand Canyon”. It was a fairly deep canyon, maybe 1000 feet. It had a highway alongside with overlooks. Richard thne warned me, “look out for blue cars” whereupon we did a wingover and proceeded to fly down the canyon! I looked back at my Dad, who is also a pilot, and we both had that “what is he going to do next?” look. After flying down the canyon, we did a few steep turns over some very scenic towns and then flew back at 200-300 feet to Salon. I was definitely getting used to flying low, below the surrounding hills. After we landed, Richard showed us his two airplanes. One was an older Robin, a taildragger with 90hp. The other was a homebuilt by the same designer, 180hp. He called this his mustang substitute. (He had flown armed versions of the T-6, T-28, and Fouga Magister in the French Airforce Reserve). I have some pictures of those if anyone is interesting.

The Robin is a fun plane, with control sticks and a canopy that slides forward. The gull wings are a bit tricky in cross-winds as they seem to present a lot more side surface to the wind. While it had a metal fuselage, the wings were fabric covered. I haven’t seen one yet in the states, though I am sure they are around.

My Dad and Richard Girard with the Robin DR-400

Here is a Google Map view of the airport:

View Larger Map