The PGC weekend day starts at 8:00 AM when the field operations crew, instructors, students and tow pilots arrive to open the hangars and make preparations. We aim to hold all instructional flights between 9 AM and noon. Each student has the opportunity for 2 training flights, but if instructional load is light on a given day, more may be available. Behind the scenes, the PGC web master has arranged the smooth online scheduling of students with their instructors. As students and pilots arrive at the field, each signs in on the day's flight list which helps to determine the order of access to gliders following scheduled instruction. The flight desk and tow plane are wheeled onto the field, the John Deere Gators (glider retrieve vehicles) are gassed and checked, the glider tow ropes are examined for faults and the flags are hoisted. We fuel the tow plane, and its pilot completes his own pre-flight checklist. The flight students, under the watchful eyes of experienced pilots and instructors, go through the pre-flight check lists of our 4 Grob 103 dual control gliders, and a call to the FAA weather briefer is made. Any needed washing of the gliders is done, batteries, radios and transponders checked, instruments are set, and we are ready for the all important pre-flight weather and safety brief.
When it's time to start the show the student and instructor are belted in and ready. The tow plane taxis in front of the glider dragging its tow rope behind it. One of the ops crew, the wing runner, handles hook-up of the tow rope to the glider while the other crew member runs the flight desk to log flights on our Ipad and monitor the radio. When signaled by the student pilot, the wing runner lifts the glider's wings to a level position, scans the sky for signs of intruding aircraft, and signals the tow pilot to creep forward to take the slack out of the rope. When the rope tightens, the wing runner signals the tow pilot, and the mighty engine roars into full life accelerating itself and the glider behind it as the wing runner trots along supporting the wing for a few steps until it flies out of his reach.
As the 2-plane formation gains speed down the runway, the long winged glider lifts off first but keeps level behind the tow plane. A few moments later, the tow plane begins its climb out with the glider following it steadily a few meters above the level of the tow plane to keep out of the turbulent slip stream. As altitude is gained, the tow plane and glider bank to the right along the usual horseshoe shaped tow path in the sky until reaching an altitude of about 2,000 feet above ground level. At altitude the glider pilot clears the airspace ahead and to the right before giving two firm tugs on the tow rope release. Don't forget to visually confirm tow rope release from the glider! By pre-arranged convention, the tow pilot banks left, and the glider banks to the right to keep out of one another's way, and the soaring day has begun.
While the tow plane has been climbing out, the next student and instructor have gotten themselves ready to go and await his return for their launch. The process continues through the morning and may call for use of 2 tow planes if the instructional list is a long one. (We save one of the gliders for non-instructional morning use by licensed club members who want to glide in the quiet morning air or get a start on early thermal opportunities in favorable weather.) Sooner or later the first student's glider is ready to come in for a landing and radios its intentions. After it rolls to a stop, one of the club members motors out in a radio equipped Gator to tow the glider back to the flight line for its next adventure.