Reply To: Taking Up Slack

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Don GrilloDon Grillo

    Hello Erik,

    You picked a good topic for discussion. Their have been disagreements between tow-pilots and some Board members on this subject.

    What you are talking about is out and back operations when we are departing on runway 09 and landing on runway 27.  Basically, a conflict between  departing and arriving aircraft with a possibility of a head on collision either in the air or on the ground if safety procedures are either ignored, missed or misinterpreted by an untrained individual.  When doing out and back operations we are counting on every individual to all be on the same page (so to speak).  The tow pilot must know if traffic is in the pattern as does the wing runner and the glider pilot.  Holding the take-off and waiting for the glider to land is the SAFEST option.

    Who is in the landing pattern?  Is the glider pilot in the pattern a new solo student or a high time private ship owner?  Does it make a difference who it is?  No it does not.  SAFETY is the priority.

    Do the club gliders have wheel breaks? Yes they do but, none of them operate and they are useless.

    As we saw this past Saturday, one of our club gliders came within feet of running into the hangar. The pilot was an experienced glider pilot and CFIG with a Day Member on board.  A Soaring Safety Officer and DPE just happened to be standing in the hanger when this near collision occurred.  The grass was wet and stopping distance for all gliders had increased substantially.  Was this glider pilot prepared for that?  What if he had rolled into a standing towplane waiting to take-off?  Disaster!

    Having the towplane take up slack while a glider is on final approach or even on base leg or a low downwind is dangerous in a number of ways;
    1. Landing with a tailwind increases ground speed and landing distance as much as 60% with a 10 knot tailwind.
    2. A moving towplane on the runway taking up slack is a distraction to the landing glider pilot.
    3. A towplane waiting to takeoff puts pressure on the landing pilot to clear the runway usually in the direction of trailers and gliders. If turning off the runway with too much energy, the glider stands the risk of running into a trailer, parked glider, 1000 gallon fuel tank or hangar, remember, no wheel breaks.

    Our club has lost a number of gliders due to collisions on the ground where one or more of the above played a role in those collisions.

    Bottom line is; Safety is the key word here. Always Always error on the side of safety. Remember that in your flying career and you will be a safe pilot.

    Occasionally, you will find yourself holding in position for take-off for an extended period.  In the event a glider is on final be prepared to release the tow rope and move the towplane off to the side of the runway if you see the glider is landing long.

    You are the PIC.  Make the decisions that you feel are the safest. Remember, Risk Management. Avoid the risk. No one will fault you for being safe.

    I will teach all tow pilots to NOT take up slack and remain off the runway until the landing glider has come to a complete stop.

    I’m sure the clubs Flight Chairman and Chief Tow Pilot will agree with me.

    Fly Safe,
    Don Grillo