Sky Sailing: Your First Adventure
Since 1959, Sky Sailing has been a world leader in the sport of SOARING. Soaring is the sport of flying sailplanes also known as Gliders, (Not to be confused with Hang Gliders or Para-gliders). Our staff is very proud of our operation and we are dedicated to giving you a safe, exciting and memorable experience. We have compiled this handout to assist you with some answers to questions that you may have about soaring! Also a little bit of knowledge on this sport will make your adventure that much more enjoyable.
We are open 7 days a week, except Thanksgiving & Christmas, from 9-5 (later by appointment, but we must be down by sunset). You do not need to have reservations for Rides on weekends, since we have extra pilots just for walk-in rides. Reservations are strongly recommended during the week. Since this is aviation, SAFETY is always our first priority. We can not guarantee that you will depart at your reservation time, reservations have priority for that time. We make every attempt to get everyone up as rapidly as possible, but after all you are out here to have fun, leave your tensions and stress at home! A 90 second ride at Disneyland may mean an hour wait in line. Try to arrive early, take a relaxing drive through our beautiful back country and enjoy the clean air. While waiting for your ride, we recommend that you bring a small picnic, enjoy the activities, ask questions, or watch our videos. We also have snack machines for your convenience. Due to the altitude and dry climate, drink plenty of our great water. It is best to eat a normal, light meal, before flying.
One of our greatest assets is our weather. The Warner Springs valley is very fortunate to have the mix and distances from the ocean, desert and mountains to give one of the best places for clear, clean, & sunny air to be enjoyed anywhere. The famous Palomar Observatory is located on a nearby ridge top because of the ideal weather here. From the standpoint of soaring weather, Sky Sailing enjoys the best year round weather in the World. This means that on most days we can not only stay up, but climb in the rising currents of air, be it thermals, ridge, shear or wave conditions. Sailplane flights of over one hundred miles are common occurrence's year round out of Warner Springs. We have had flights of over 400 miles and to above 30,000 feet! Currently one of our pilots is working on beating the world distance record by flying 1,200+ miles, or from here into Kansas, yes, let Dorothy know Toto is soaring in!
Our local weather is also unique because of how different it is from the weather of the coast only a few miles away. Our high desert valley is surrounded by mountains that keep out the smog, marine clouds, fog, low visibilities, and other "rif raft". So, if the skies are overcast where you are, please do not hesitate to call because chances are extremely good that the weather here at Sky Sailing is wonderful. In fact some of the most spectacular flights occur when the coastal weather is poor. Our weather is so different yet so close, you will be very pleasantly surprised! Above Sky Sailing, "we see from sea to Salton sea!"
When it is best to fly.
Wind, Wind, we need wind, NO NO we do not! It is a misconception that sailplanes need wind, for you see there is no sail upon our backs! Wind is nice to have since it is a part of the lifting mechanisms that cause the ridge and wave lift to work. Also, some wind helps to break loose the thermals that rise into the air that we circle in. But once we are aloft there is no wind to us, only an air mass in which we fly. Many people believe that we need wind to stay aloft, but in reality, we need only air and gravity, two essentials to us all! For rides you just want good visibility. For the soaring pilot we look for unstable air which is bumpy, it means that we can stay up for longer periods of time. On rides, however, you may want the air to be more stable and less bumpy. Stable air tends to be in the early and late part of the day. Each season brings new and exciting weather patterns, and all seasons have their uniqueness and beauty. Therefore, the best time to fly is; when you make the time!
What type of ride?
Each of our rides are tailored directly to YOU. We are here to introduce you to the Joy of Soaring. The best rides are the ones where you interact the most. Asking questions and showing you are having fun causes the pilot to equally react with fun. You have to understand why we do what we are doing. The pilots do not fly for the money, we fly because we Love It (if you feel that your ride was extraordinary and would like to give the pilot a tip, it is appreciated, but not expected). It is very satisfying to share the excitement, feelings of freedom and the Joy we get from soaring. This is one of the last truly romantic occupations, our pilots really look forward to coming to work (well we have to tell our significant other it is work), meeting interesting new friends like you and sharing the skies with you and a few eagles or hawks!
We have rides for One or Two Passengers. All rides have an FAA certified commercial pilot to act as your tour guide. The rides can be very tranquil and scenic or for the more adventurous a roller coaster type ride. Many places have an additional charge for the roller coaster flight, it is our policy to make the customer happy, not to charge more money! You will not need to decide on the length of the ride or if you want a roller coaster ride before you arrive and sign-up. During the flight you and your pilot could agree to make the ride more exciting. We do not want to scare you nor will we do anything unsafe. On rides for two, both passengers must want to try the roller coaster, even then we start out slow. For someone who is the original Adventuress, we do have aerobatic rides. This means you are shown how to use and wear a parachute (not to be used), and the pilot will then show you the world turned upside down! The aerobatic ride should only be done after you have been on a normal sailplane ride so that you can appreciate the difference. Kids do not try this at home.
If you have a Gift Certificate, you may always upgrade to a longer or different ride. If you and your friend are weight challenged (too big) to fit into the Ride for two plane, you can always upgrade to rides for one (costs are different and some adjustments may be required). The rides for two passenger sailplane will accommodate two average size people. Most often if you have one big and one smaller person that will work. The hip area seems to be the problem most often. In many cases we pull out the "grease and a big shoehorn" to help the fit in! In any event, our rides are cozy.
Special Aerobatic rides are available. Aerobatics on regular rides are not possible. To do aerobatics, (going upside down in rolls or loops) we must be in a sailplane certified for Aerobatics, (actually most sailplanes are built stronger than most powered aircraft and are fully aerobatic). You must be wearing an approved and certified parachute. Special reservations are required for these since only a few of our pilots are checked out to do aerobatics on rides. Our aerobatic program is very rigorous and our pilots are more highly trained than most places! Actually Sky Sailing is known for its training, we go far beyond what is required by the Federal Aviation Administration and in fact far beyond most soaring schools in the world!
Nervousness & Nausea
Are you nervous? Well, it is normal. Why are you this way? Because this is new to you. This nervousness is a protection and keeps us more aware, it also heightens the senses and could lead to an even more exciting adventure. We realize that you are nervous and do a lot to try to alleviate your common fears. The best way to reduce your fears is through understanding. If your notion is that gliders are flimsy crafts with little control and are dependent upon the mercy of the wind, you are not alone. The truth, however, is significantly different. Sailplanes are in most cases much stronger build that their cousin, the powered aircraft. In fact the SGS 2-32 ride for two sailplane is built to withstand +or- 12 G's which is stronger than some jet fighters! They are even used to fly into thunder storms for research, most aircraft would come out heavily damaged or in pieces, (you know: parts is parts). Sailplanes are far more controllable then other aircraft since we fly at very slow speeds with lots of aerodynamic lift. By the use of spoilers or dive brakes we can land exactly where we want and roll out to within inches of our parking spot. A football field is plenty of room for a sailplane to land in! NEW INFORMATION ON AIR SICKNESS (click here)
Airsickness is normally due to nervousness or from the inner ear. Every once in a while we have people who become airsick and there is nothing to be embarrassed about. A few people are more prone to it then others, but if you do become uncomfortable let your pilot know since there are a few things that they can do to help. A few tips: If you are very prone to car sickness etc. some of the over the counter medicines should be taken well before the flight (follow instructions and do not drive). Do not look through the camera viewfinder except when necessary, remember that you can just point and shoot with some great results. Watch outside all the time. If there are controls, ask to fly the aircraft. Let the pilot know, open all the vents, even the Canopy can be opened. Eat a normal meal before flight. For some sucking on a lemon helps a great deal. After your flight a highly carbonated drink helps. The key is to relax. Knowledge and understanding reduces stress. To help you in more understanding please read on.
What does it feel like soaring with the weather and nature? We like to think it is best expressed by Freedom. Soaring is a sport. It challenges us to work with the weather and to always improve both our knowledge and our skills.
When we turn, you will not notice much change except that the wings bank. There is no sensation that you might fall out, in fact if you were carrying a glass of water it would not spill in the turn as long as the pilot is coordinated in the turn and you keep the glass level in relation to the wings. You will also feel the "G", (gravity, sitting here reading this you are at 1 G) pressure from the pilot increasing the angle of attack or more simply pulling back on the stick. If you opt to have some roller coaster you may feel up to 3 positive "Gs", (you would in effect weigh up to 3 times your normal weight) and weightlessness, (where you would be like an astronaut, and things appear to float) both these might be uncomfortable at first, but actually the body does get use to it, eventually.
When you first start rolling on take-off or the end of the landing roll, you will hear the glider sliding on a steel skid, its grating noise is short lived and perfectly normal. People who are afraid of heights are not normally affected in the glider, in fact some pilots cannot go up a ladder without discomfort. The large Plexiglas canopy allows for fantastic visibility and tremendous picture opportunities as well as keeping you out of the breeze! Note: the canopy can be opened by the pilot in flight to really feel the breeze.
The difference in the rides are the time, type glider, type of flight and one or two passengers. The ride times are 20,30, & 40 minuets, These times will vary with the weather and what you are doing on the ride, (roller coasters come down faster). The times come from the tow altitudes of 3000, 4000, and 5280 feet in calm conditions. Often, we will release at a low altitude but remain aloft for the time, (longer if you are having fun and there is no one waiting). The difference between the standard trainer ride and the hi-performance sailplane, is the hi-performance is much sleeker looking and much more expensive to buy! The rides in the standard trainer are the same and if there is a chance you may go on and fly some more, the trainer is much easier to fly. The difference between the scenic and introductory flights are that on the intro prior to your flight your pilot will show you how the controls operate, and how the plane flies. Then during the flight you will become the pilot as you are coached through turns and speed control. It is really easy to fly. After the flight you will receive your very first logbook to keep track of your flight time. Since the two passenger, (3 seat; 2 pax and pilot), has the control stick removed to accommodate the two passengers, you cannot do an intro on the ride for two. But we still invite your questions.
The following section is designed for those taking the Introductory Flight which includes ground instruction, however, everyone will benefit from a little understanding of how the glider flies. Remember that knowledge will help to alleviate fears and make your flight more enjoyable. Also there is no test, so enjoy.
As the wing moves forward, being drawn downward by gravity, the airflow over the wings is faster than the airflow under. According to Bernoulli's law, (which the current administration is trying to repeal!), the air going faster will cause a lower pressure over the wing causing lift. You can see this if you take a plain piece of paper and try blowing from a edge under and then over, (over should work better). Or another example would be in a shower with drapes, you notice that the drapes tend to draw in toward the shower when the water is on, this is caused by a lower pressure! Whenever you have lift, you will also have Drag. In a sailplane the lift is much greater than the drag due to the large wing area and sleek design. This increased lift gives the sailplane a better L/D, (lift over drag ratio). We tend to think of sailplanes having L/D of better than 20:1, while a glider has less. This means that for every foot that you go down the sailplane moves 20 feet forward. There are sailplanes with up to 60:1. Most powered aircraft are closer to 10:1.
Since the sailplane is always going down, we look for air that is moving up faster than we go down. Our average decent is about 200-300fpm (feet per minute), down. In thermals (raising currents of warm air) we often find lifting air masses of 700 to 1000 fpm. Deducting our decent of 300fpm, means that we climb at 400-700fpm! It is even possible out of Warner Springs to climb a better than 2000fpm.
The controls of the sailplane are basic stick & rudder. The stick moves forward, aft, right & left. When you move the stick forward it will lower the elevator (located horizontally on the back of the aircraft) which causes the nose to go down. This lowered nose increases your airspeed. Pulling back (raising the elevator) decreases your airspeed similar to going up a hill, you will slow down. So basically your airspeed is controlled by the stick which moves the nose of the aircraft up or down in relation to the horizon. Have we lost you yet? If this is new to you it will appear to be very confusing, thus you might assume it would be too hard for you, but all this information is repetitively learned during your lessons. One thing to remember is that flying is VERY EASY, do not let a lot of new information given to you at once cause you to be overwhelmed. As an example; you are to drive a Volkswagen for the first time, your only experience in a car was sitting in it as a passenger once, you could expect instructions such as: "OK, now adjust your seat by the knob under the seat, adjust your seat belts, put the key into the ignition, check the stick to be in neutral, check the clutch and brake for movement, they should have pressure against you. Now step on the throttle a few times to get gas into the carburetor. Now turn the key to engage the starter, good, now let off on the key, OOPS not turn it off. OK start again, good. Now make sure it is clear and step on the clutch all the way, the other one is the clutch. Now add a little power with the throttle and at the same time let out on the clutch to get it into first, you forgot to drop it into first ....." Anyway you get the picture, you learned to drive by observing and repetition, even when a lot of information is given to you at once, you can at best only retain 10%, so do not allow yourself to be overwhelmed!
Back to the controls. To turn, we first check both directions, just like a car, then we move the stick in the direction we want to turn. Stick movement is not large or hard. Smooth movement is what you want. In fact to hold the stick, use your thumb and two fingers only at the tips. When you move the stick the ailerons will move. The ailerons are located on the back of the wing closer to the wing tip. We will assume that we are turning right, when we apply right stick; the right aileron will go up, the left one will go down. The one going down will cause more lift on the left wing and cause it to raise. Once you get the desired bank angle you move the stick back to center, and the sailplane will continue to turn. Now the rudder; the rudder is located on the back of the plane and swings left or right. The rudders are the pedals located on the floor for your feet and cause the nose of the sailplane to yaw right or left. When you applied the aileron by the stick, the one that went down to increased lift and raises the wing, this additional lift also causes drag. Drag can be thought of like a little parachute which would hold back or slow down the lifting wing which is away from the direction you are turning. This "Adverse Yaw" is overcome by the rudder. This all sounds very complicated and hard to follow. But it is simple, when you use the stick you use the rudder. Lets put the right turn together. First we clear for other traffic, (look all the way to the left, front and right), then we use stick and rudder together, in this case right stick and right rudder, (with our foot). Once we get the bank we want, then the stick and the rudder are centered, (almost, but for now think centered). We also have to apply a little back stick to keep the nose of the sailplane in the same place in relation to the horizon during the turn. The nose tries to go down because some the lift which was used to oppose gravity is now making the sailplane turn. When we have turned to the direction we want, we use left stick and rudder until the plane is level, then center both the stick and rudder, keeping the nose on the horizon! Yes, this is like walking and rubbing your tummy while patting your head. Confusing at first but with practice easy, at least until we ask you to chew gum at the same time!
Other controls include the spoiler (dive brakes) which are located on the wing and moved by an arm on the left side of the cockpit. The spoilers cause a loss of lift in an area of the wing which makes us go down faster. These spoilers are what make the glider very easy to land exactly where we want and in a very short distance. The trim is used to take pressure off the stick for the given nose attitude. Remember that pilots are basically lazy or they would get a real job. So we use the trim to reduce the pressure that we have to hold on the stick. In fact once trimmed the aircraft will fly just fine if you completely let go of the stick/rudder. The wheel brake is at the end of the spoiler movement but is never relied on. The release knob is what sets us free to enjoy the true freedom of flight: soaring. When you pull the release knob (do not pull it until told to, or you will have a short flight!), there will be a BANG, which if you were not ready for might scare you. All that happens is that we get rid of the towplane by releasing the rope. We turn right the tow plane turns left, and now we are free to SOAR!
Since the instruments maybe new to you they seem alien and foreboding. Usually we add a few extra to impress the non-pilot and make them think we are someone very special! The airspeed is a pressure instrument which senses the speed that we are going through the air mass and has nothing to do with our speed over the ground. The altimeter tells us how high we are above sea level, since we know that Warner Springs is about 2885' above sea level, with a little math, we can deduce our height above the ground! The altimeter is also a pressure change instrument with two arms. The long arm reads the hundreds of feet and the short arm reads the thousands. The variometer reads the change in pressure to give us an indication in hundreds of feet per minute that we are raising or sinking. The Yaw String is a very advance instrument made of yarn. The yaw string lets us know the coordination between the rudder and stick. So there, now you know!
Yes, by all means bring your camera. If you forget yours we have some of the disposable cameras and plenty of film for sale. Video is a lot of fun to look at, however do not look all the time through the view finder as this might tend to make you airsick. Also a hint, turn OFF the auto focus as it will try to focus on the canopy not outside where you want. There is a lot of room for the new mini cameras, but not enough for the TV Minicam.
Our NEW wing mounted remote 35mm cameras take great pictures. We will load and shoot the roll of film and you are under NO obligation to buy. We find that most people wish they had purchased the pictures after the flight, so we load each flight with film. Satisfaction is guaranteed.
Our pilots fly for the love of flying, they do not expect tips, but they truly do appreciate the thought. If your flight was exceptional and you want to, a tip is something extra and un-expected!
Age, Health & Airsickness
Soaring rides are ageless. In order to solo you must be at least 14 years old, 16 to get your private pilots license (get that, you may not drive a car but you can be a pilot). Sky Sailing has soloed many youngsters, included one 82 year young pilot who had no previous piloting experience. In order to solo you will have to sign a waiver that states that you have no known health defects which would make you unable to fly a glider. For rides it must simply be up to you, you know your own health. We do not recommend a pregnant woman in the last few months due to flights at higher altitudes reduces the available oxygen, not to mention any little surprises since the paramedics make no glider calls! Everyone must have their own seat & belts, no kids may ride on laps. No towplane rides, thanks insurance!
SSA, Badges, People & Handicapped
The Soaring Society of America is the national organization for the sport of soaring located in Hobbs NM. The SSA along with the FAI, (Federal Aeronautique Internationale), issue badges or awards for sailplane flights. The ABC and Bronze badges may be earned by solo student pilots. There are many awards for cross country flights, (flying away from the local airport) and high altitude flights. Durations of longer than 5 hours are not kept because much longer flights are easily done, but after a couple of days it becomes unsafe. Do you know how long a sailplanes can stay up? It is individual, due to your bladder!
There are many very famous people just like you who fly sailplanes. From John Denver, the singer, to Barron Hilton, the business executive, but most pilots are those who want to leave the daily stress and challenge the future. Many families fly. This sport is for anyone who wants more out of their life. Women do extremely well in sailplanes since it is not strength but finesse. It just may be the best sport for youth since it teaches the fun of learning, responsibility, it is anti drugs as well as it helps to reinforce the importance of setting a goal and going for it. Since 1986, we have been teaching many Para's and quads, (incomplete), as well as many other physically challenged people to let their heart soar. Many have gone all the way to getting their license even as far as a commercial rating. But more than anything it gives you the ability to do what so few have done by helping themselves. You need the use of both hands and arms, (to some extent). If you are not sure, come out and see if this is for you.
Other places to see/Other things to do in the Warner Springs Area
Even though your glider ride will be the hit of the year for you, there are many things to do on your trip to the "Back Country". Make a whole day of it or even a couple of days. Here are a few ideas. Call us for a more complete list or more information of things to do. Dudley's famous bakery in Santa Ysabel a must stop. 18 hole golf course of the beautiful Warner Springs Ranch Resort (Private resort, but we can accommodate your visit), the great town of Julian. Camping, the Palomar observatory, museums, Borrego Springs, gold mines,... etc.