A wet autumn followed by the corona virus shut down resulted in an unusually long period of no-flying for most pilots at the club. Low currency results in skills fade and a higher risk of mistakes being made particularly during periods of high work load. This year we couldn’t do the customary annual check flights with an instructor, so instead experienced Qualified Pilots were encouraged to refresh themselves by practising at least 3 short flights on their own in benign conditions.
Most accidents occur during the launch or landing phase, and mid-air collisions are commonest close to the airfield, so circuit practice covers most of the higher risk portions of the flight, and is generally ‘a good thing’. At most clubs, early solo pilots will spend a lot of time doing circuits to build their experience, but Southdown doesn’t have a culture of practising circuits. Aerotows are too expensive to be conducted for fun on a regular basis. To help solve this problem, the club introduced cheaper 1,000’ tows for Qualified Pilots to refresh themselves. Any change can result in new learning points, and the 1,000’ tows have not disappointed.
A good 1,000’ training tow requires the glider be dropped reasonably near the high key area, particularly if there is an unfavourable wind to consider, so low tows place the tug closer to the circuit more of the time. Since the club’s earliest days at Parham, we have done all take-offs and circuits on the western side in the hope it would be less upsetting for our neighbours in Storrington. These factors mean that ascending combination traffic can end up in the same space as descending glider traffic. If the traffic is on a similar heading, one aircraft is likely to be in the other’s blind spot, behind or beneath it. Radio calls, Flarm and good look out will help but are not infallible.