Information for New Members

We've had a number of new members join over the last couple of months and at various times I've been asked questions about the way the club/operations are run. So for the benefit of those folks, I pulled this together in random order based on those questions and threw a couple of other bits in as I thought of them.

The club is totally voluntary, all the work is carried out by the members except for those items that are subject to restrictions per the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR's) - a tome that will become an unfortunate familiar acquaintance as you progress towards your Private License. I say unfortunate because it's written in the language of litigation and authored by various government employees. Each sentence in the FAR's contains every letter of the alphabet and is broken up by every punctuation mark that a printer has at his disposal.

Tow pilots and instructors are unpaid volunteers and give their time willingly and without complaint (well mostly). We have 8 instructors who are rostered for Saturday and Sunday, which means they get to be at the mercy of our little foibles about once per month - which is probably about all their central nervous systems could take. It is, therefore, unlikely that you will fly with the same instructor on a continuing basis, unless you are only flying once per month, which in itself would become a hindrance to your progress. You'll find that although the teaching thread is the same with all instructors, some will emphasize one aspect of flying more than another or will expect you to do particular things in a specific way. After a while you get to know who wants to see what and everybody lives happily ever after.

Tow pilots are scheduled for four-hour sessions each Saturday/Sunday. Given there are 8 tow pilots, that means they average duty once every two weeks. You'll notice that all our tow pilots are pretty slim (well, by comparison with me), that's because they sweat off a few pounds every two weeks. Which comes about by having to take off and land every fifteen minutes for four hours non-stop. With the intervening period between departure and arrival having the potential to make life interesting, according to what's going on 200 feet behind them.

Duty officers are drawn from the rest of the pack of solo rated pilots. If you are neither an instructor nor tow pilot but have flown solo, then you can expect to appear on the roster. I won't cover the duties of the DO here but suffice to say when it's your turn, you'll be the first at the field in the morning and the last to leave at night. Non-soloed student pilots are not rostered, that's not a slight on anybody's intelligence, you haven't had time at that stage to figure out who you can safely shout at without fear of repercussions (only joking).

It takes a number of people to get an aircraft into the air and ultimately back to the take off point and WE are that number. Instructors and tow pilots have clearly defined roles, everybody else is expected to pitch in and help with any and all of the grunt work. If you make a habit of turning up, jumping in an aircraft and then leaving the field as soon as you land, it will soon be noticed. It is generally expected that you'll put four or five hours work in on the field when you come to fly, even better, make a day of it. Bring a cooler with a picnic in it and make sure there's plenty of (non-alcoholic) fluids and if you find you've brought to much to eat, give me a shout.

You are expected to READ right from the start. There are a number of publications that you will need in order to learn to fly and ultimately take the knowledge test and the flying test. The most fundamental of these is Glider Basics/First Flight to Solo, which the club's training program follows. You should be able to find a list of the publications, along with the club training manual on the club web site Off the top of my head you are likely to need:

These are all available from the SSA website, Tom Knauff's website or (possibly) from a good local pilot shop such as at Hanscom or Norwood.

Other reading material you might like to add to your library are Tom Knauff's After Solo or if you are/were a power pilot Transition to Gliders. You can also obtain a copy of Practical Test Standards for Glider Pilots, which lays out exactly what will be expected of you on the flying test, Oral Test Preparation that will guide you on expectations of the examiner when you take your Oral Test, immediately prior to the flying test. One more that I found extremely useful was the ASA Test Prep guide to the computerised knowledge tests, which give hundreds of possible (and actual) questions that may appear on your test. So if you thought Homer was a drudge at school . . .

An airfield and its vehicles can be extremely dangerous if not treated with respect. We must all be vigilant and aware of what is going on around us. Don't encroach the runway area unless you have FIRST checked that nothing is about to land, look both ways and keep looking. Just because we are operating at one end and the expected direction of travel is one way, don't assume that nothing will be coming the other way - it can and will when you least expect it. Be careful walking around power planes, if you see one with it's engine running, walk behind it. Even if the engine is not running, don't get too close to the sharp end; it might be about to start. Don't leave golf carts or stand too close to the taxiway where power aircraft are passing.

If you bring visitors or children to the field, they are very welcome but brief them on the dangers and what to look out for. Like your baggage at an airport, don't leave them unattended - we might have to stage a precautionary explosion. Don't let them wander around the runway area unsupervised.

We have an extremely approachable, affable and likeable bunch of folks in the club who will be more than happy to answer any questions you have, so don't be afraid to ask. Remember the dumbest question is the one you don't ask.

In closing, and to rely on some old aviation chestnuts, there are two things that keep an aeroplane in the air - airspeed and money (in that order). There's nothing more useless than runway behind you, altitude above you and if you're a power pilot - fuel on the ground.

Fly safely, enjoy flying and don't hesitate to ask.

Hope that helps, sincerely, Peter.