Thursday, May 03, 2007
Remember that while you are in the circuit, or the high key area at 1850 ft (ASL, of course) or lower that all turns must be in the same direction as your circuit. Since gliders fly left hand circuits, at Rockton, all turns must be in this direction.
A glider at mid-downwind decides to turn - for some unknown reason - it must only turn left, towards the runway. Why? Because if there is another glider over-taking this glider on downwind it will pass on the right since we should never turn right while in the circuit.
Why are these policies in place? Think about the purpose of the circuit - it is to put everyone in the same landing pattern so things are predictable - imagine if there was no circuit and you arrived on final from any direction!
Another traffic pattern to observe is: never fly the opposite direction of the downwind at circuit height (again below about 1850ft) in the same position as the down wind leg is located.
Picture this scenario - it happens all the time at SOSA - We are launching and landing on Runway 18, you are scratching in weak lift over the Safari and the southerly wind is blowing you away from the airport. You decide to return and land. How should you get to the High Key to start your circuit?
Since the towplanes are flying their downwind west of the field - straight towards you - and the glider are flying downwind to the east of the airport the safest place for you is directly overhead the runway so you avoid flying the opposite direction of the downwind traffic. Of course if you find yourself in this position you must also think of what height is required to safely return to the high key to join a normal circuit. You should plan on a minimum of 500 feet to fly the distance from the safari to the high key, meaning you need to leave the Safari at 2350 ft (1500 AGL)!
While this example uses Runway 18 and the Safari thermal, this situation can occur on any runway. As glider pilots we must always think about where we are with respect to distance and height from our circuit entry point.