Some months ago I booked up on a SIV / pilotage course with Flyeo in Annecy, and as the time neared I have to admit I was feeling just a tad nervous, after all, I’d been finding excuses not to do one for the best part of fifteen years! (I don’t think I even knew about them in my first ten years of flying 🙂 ).
So the date duly arrived, but not before I’d had a wonderful five hour flight around the Annecy area the day before, taking off from Planfait, crossing the lake onto the Semnoz ridge, then working my way down to Chambery, then back to Semnoz, across to the Roc de Boeuf, onto the Tournette, then finally back to the Talloires LZ – great fun!
I landed at 1830, packed up and went to RipAir to collect my luggage (I’d only flown out from the UK that morning!), then met up with the other lads I was doing the course with. They were keen on an evening flight from Montmin so we headed up there and I saw them off before driving one of the cars back down again (I figured five hours was enough flying for one day considering I’d been awake since 0230!)
So to the day of the course… We met Fabian and his team at the Flyeo HQ in Doussard at 0800 where they checked our reserves and harnesses, then we had an hour or so of classroom session with Fab(ian) talking us through what we’d be doing during the course.
It became pretty clear that pitch control was the key skill Fab would be teaching us, and he explained that our first flight would consist of simple pitch control exercises (dolphining) followed by rapid exit from 360s in order to gauge our abilities.
All too soon it was time to walk the walk rather than just talk the talk, and so, like lambs to the slaughter, we headed up the hill…
Once at takeoff, we got ready and formed an orderly queue – no, you go first, that’s absolutely fine, feel free to go before me – and one by one we lobbed off, with our instructor Julian letting Fabian know who had just taken off on what wing. This was important, as our PGing experience ranged from 18 months to 25 years, and we each had our own goals, and therefore tasks, that Fab was setting us.
For most of us, getting that first flight ticked off calmed our nerves, and even though my rapid exits from 360s left a lot to be desired, I was keen to get up again and have another go to get them properly sussed. Damo however, wasn’t quite so keen, and I think would have preferred a stiff drink in the bar…
We did three flights each day – Fab debriefed us by the lake after the first two, then after the final flight we’d head back to Flyeo HQ for a video debrief of all our flights for the day.
The first day was pretty long – I don’t think we got back to our house until 2030 – and over supper (sausage, pasta and pesto, beautifully cooked my me, even though I say so myself) we put the put the world to rights with the aid of a few glasses of cheap red wine, and hit the sack early, all of us being pretty knackered…
Day 2 was another beautiful day, and this time we headed up the hill straight away, with the first of us ready to takeoff at about 1000. Having concentrated on the 360s with rapid exit yesterday, today I moved on to asymmetric collapses. Bear in mind that this was the first time I’d intentionally collapsed my glider (apart from big ears of course), since I started flying in 1990, so I was a bit anxious about grabbing the A riser and pulling hard, but gliders these days are so good, and the Sigma 9 no exception, so I needn’t have worried. It took an awful lot of leaning into the collapsed side to get it to autorotate, and it was very easy to control and recover.
Over the next couple of flights Fab talked me through accelerated collapses, both half and full bar, and collapsing it as the wing pitched forward after a 360 with rapid exit. All pretty tame really… Just to keep us on our toes, Fab would randomly make us do the odd rapid exit and get us to try pointing in a specific direction as we came out of it. All good practice…
Of course I realise that in the real world it’s not always going to be as straightforward as this, but having had some collapses on full bar in Gemona last year, I do know that my glider is pretty well behaved. We finished our three flights with plenty of time to head up to takeoff for an evening boat about, and Lawrie, James, Chinny and I had a lovely hour flying along the ridge, and eventually up to and over Les Dents before landing back at Doussard. The funny thing was that I felt more nervous with every thermic twitch whilst soaring up close to the rockface than I had done pulling my glider into odd shapes earlier. I guess that’s only natural though…
Jonnie was in charge of catering this time and produced a fine BBQ – sausages, burgers and red wine until we could eat and drink no more…! Parfait 🙂
Day 3 dawned clear and bright again, and was the big day for Lawrie and me – full stalls! The others were doing big big-ears, B line stalls and asymmetric collapses, but this was the big one as far as I was concerned 🙂 And what fun it was too! I’ve never seen a glider fly backwards before…! Once I found the sweet spot it settled into the backslide very nicely, and it was even easy to control the direction by weightshifting.
We were all flying B and C rated gliders, except for Chinny who was flying his Boom 9, and it was on his first flight of the day that it finally bit him. Having said that, he’d certainly been getting his money’s worth of Fab’s time, as whilst we were doing SIV, most of the time he was doing the “IV” without the “S” bit 🙂 (Actually to be fair, Chinny handled it really well, but all I can say is rather him than me!)
So, onto the final flight of the course, and seeing as how Lawrie and I had both mentioned that we’d like to try a SAT if time permitted, it was now time to put our money where our mouths were! Lawrie was off before me, and I could hear over the radio that his were going well, and moments later it was my turn… “Tuck your legs in, hold the riser, take a wrap…. and pull. Pull harder…” and suddenly it kicked in and there I was, doing my first ever SAT! “Pull a bit more” I did so and the rate of rotation slowed a bit, and I held it there for a good few rotations before Fab said “Ok, release left brake and pull right brake”. It came out nicely, and that was it, no drama at all! I did another one, equally straightforward, then landed with a huge grin on my face – bloody brilliant, what a buzz! In the words of our Jedi Master, I had focalised and masterised it 🙂
And suddenly that was it, course over. Having never been that keen on an SIV until now, and having never deliberately collapsed my glider before, I’d gone on to do full stalls and SATs in the space of three days – amazing! I’d learnt a lot about my glider, and about my own abilities, and I’d recommend it to anyone. For sure Fab pushes you outside your comfort zone, but by just the right amount. The idea is that you come back a better pilot, better equipped to deal with those IVs, rather than being put off flying, and it definitely worked for our group.
So, having got this far you deserve a rest, so grab a beer, sit back and watch me doing my stuff… 🙂
Thanks to Fab and Flyeo for the great instruction, and to Lawrie and the rest of the lads for letting an old guy like me join them on your trip – it was really good fun! Finally thanks to Silas Bosco and Advance for making such a great glider! (That’s a Sigma 9 in case you missed it first time 🙂 )