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Glider Polars and Speed-to-Fly
This volume makes it easy for you to learn the fundamentals of glider performance polar analysis and speed-to-fly decision making. The step-by-step approach employed to illustrate glider performance is user-friendly and non-technical. You do not need to know algebra, or geometry, or calculus. In fact, the only math you will be asked to perform is simple arithmetic - addition, subtraction, and division.
Glider Polars And Speed-To-Fly Made Easy deals with several concepts. We begin with an examination of the performance polar characteristics of a particular glider. The principal performance speeds, how they are discovered, and how to select optimum speed as you cruise between thermals are all covered. These concepts are known by the curiously descriptive phrase speed-to-fly. Speed-to-fly concerns itself with the selection of the optimum airspeed to fly in the presence of calm air, rising air, or subsiding air.
We also examine the problem of selecting the cruise airspeed that will maximize your glide over the ground (a fundamentally different problem than trying to maximize arrival altitude at the next thermal). Racing pilots call this part of gliding the final glide because the last portion of a successful racing flight is a glide to the finish gate. During final glide the racing pilot seeks to minimize time spent on this last portion of the flight. For that reason, stopping to circle in thermals is not done (unless the pilot is too low to make the finish gate, in which case another climb must be accomplished, then the final glide begun anew). Since the final glide has as its objective the attainment of an objective on the ground (the finish gate), the pilot must factor in the effect of the wind on the track and groundspeed of the glider during the final glide. After all, the glider is flying through an ocean of air that is usually moving both horizontally (wind) and vertically (convection). It follows that the speed of the glider over the ground is actually the sum of two motions: the glider motion through the airmass, and the airmass motion over the ground. We will investigate why we adjust airspeed during final glide to account for any wind and convection present. Then we will discover just how much to adjust airspeed during final glide.
Finally, a word about the importance of selecting optimum airspeeds. Some glider pilots think that only racing pilots need to be concerned with selection of optimum airspeeds. Nothing could be further from the truth. For safety's sake, every soaring pilot needs to know how to extract maximum performance and maximum glide from the glider. This has long been recognized by experienced glider flight instructors and by the FAA, which rightly demands thorough knowledge of glider performance airspeeds on both the Private Pilot Glider Practical Test and the Commercial Pilot Glider Practical Test.
Author: Bob Wander
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