Preparation and Engine Start
The self-launching glider [Figure 7-22] has many more systems than a nonmotorized glider, so glider preflight inspection is more complex. A positive control check is just as critical as it is with any aircraft. Ailerons, elevator, rudder, elevator trim tab, flaps, and spoiler/dive brakes must all be checked. In addition, numerous other systems must be inspected and readied for flight. These include the fuel system, electrical system, engine, propeller, cooling system, and any mechanisms and controls associated with extending or retracting the engine or propulsion system. Instruments, gauges, and all engine and propulsion system controls must be inspected for proper operation.
After preflighting the self-launching glider and clearing the area, start the engine in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Hearing protection may be needed and is advisable when using combustion engines in self-launching or sustaining gliders. Typical items on a self-launching glider engine-start checklist include fuel mixture control, fuel tank selection, fuel pump switch, engine priming, propeller pitch setting, throttle setting, magneto or ignition switch setting, and electric starter activation. After starting, the oil pressure, oil temp, alternator/generator charging, and flight instruments should be checked. If the engine and propulsion systems are operating within normal limits, taxi operations can begin. These types of gliders often feature a retractable powerplant for drag reduction. After the launch, the powerplant is retracted into the fuselage and stowed.
Common errors in preparation and engine start include:
- Failure to use or improper use of checklist.
- Improper or unsafe starting procedures.
- Excessively high revolutions per minutes (rpm) after starting.
- Failure to ensure proper clearance of propeller.
Self-launching gliders are designed with a variety of landing gear systems, including tricycle or tailwheel landing gear configurations. Other types of self-launching gliders rest primarily on the main landing gear wheel in the center of the fuselage and depend on outrigger wheels or skids to prevent the wingtips from contacting the ground.
Due to the long wingspan and low wingtip ground clearance of gliders, the self-launching glider pilot needs to consider airport layout and runway configuration. Some taxiways and airport ramps may not accommodate the long wingspan of the glider or limit maneuvering. Additionally, the pilot must consider the glider’s crosswind capability during taxi operations. Taxiing on soft ground requires additional power. Self-launching gliders with outrigger wingtip wheels may lose directional control if a wingtip wheel bogs down. Well-briefed wing walkers should hold the wings level during low-speed taxi operations on soft ground.
Common errors in taxiing a self-launching glider include:
- Improper use of brakes.
- Failure to comply with airport markings, signals, and clearances.
- Taxiing too fast for conditions.
- Improper control positioning for wind conditions.
- Failure to consider wingspan and space required to maneuver during taxiing.
The manufacturer provides a takeoff checklist. As shown in Figure 7-23, the complexity of many self-launching gliders makes a written takeoff checklist an essential safety item. Pretakeoff items on a self-launching glider may include fuel quantity check, fuel pressure check, oil temperature check, oil pressure check, engine runup, throttle/rpm check, propeller pitch setting, cowl flap setting, and vacuum check. Other items that also must be completed include ensuring seat belts and shoulder harnesses are latched or secured, doors and windows are closed and locked, canopies are closed and locked, air brakes are closed and locked, altimeter is set, communication radio set to the proper frequency for traffic advisory, and flight instruments are adjusted for takeoff.
Common errors in the before takeoff check include:
- Improper positioning of the self-launching glider for runup.
- Failure to use or improper use of checklist.
- Improper check of flight controls.
- Failure to review takeoff emergency procedures.
- Improper radio and communications procedures.
When the pretakeoff checklist is complete, the pilot should check for traffic and prepare for takeoff. If operating from an airport with an operating control tower, request and receive an air traffic control (ATC) clearance prior to taxi. The pilot should make a final check for conflicting traffic, then taxi out onto the active runway and align the glider with the centerline.
The pilot should smoothly apply full throttle and begin the takeoff roll while tracking the centerline of the runway and then fly the self-launching glider off the runway at the recommended lift-off airspeed, allowing the glider to accelerate in ground effect (IGE) until reaching the appropriate climb airspeed. If the runway has an obstacle ahead, the preferred airspeed is best angle of climb airspeed (VX) until the obstacle is cleared. If no obstacle is present, the preferred airspeed is either best rate of climb airspeed (VY) or the airspeed for best engine cooling during climb. The pilot should monitor the engine and instrument systems during climb-out. If the self-launching glider has a time limitation on full throttle operation, the throttle should be adjusted as necessary during the climb.
The long wingspan and low wingtip clearance of the typical self-launching glider make it vulnerable to wingtip strikes on runway signage and airport runway and taxiway lights. The takeoff roll should be started with the upwind wing on the ground with the aileron and rudder controls coordinated for the pilots current wind situation. For example, in a right crosswind, the control stick should be held to the right and the rudder held to the left. The aileron input keeps the crosswind from lifting the upwind wing, and the downwind rudder minimizes the weathervaning tendency of the selflaunching glider in a crosswind. As airspeed increases, control effectiveness improves and the pilot can gradually decrease the control setting to coordinated flight. The selflaunching glider should be lifted off at the appropriate lift-off airspeed and accelerate to climb airspeed. During the climb, a wind correction angle should be established so that the self-launching glider tracks the extended centerline of the takeoff runway. [Figure 7-24]
Common errors in crosswind takeoff include:
- Improper initial positioning of flight controls.
- Improper power application.
- Inappropriate removal of hand from throttle.
- Poor directional control.
- Improper use of flight controls.
- Improper pitch attitude during takeoff.
- Failure to establish and maintain proper climb attitude and airspeed.
- Maintaining takeoff slip instead of transitioning to crab to achieve more climb efficiency.