Introduction to Gliding Operations at Lee-on-Solent
Tthe following information should be of some additional safety value to visiting pilots not already familiar with gliding operations at Lee on Solent .
The Glider Launch Point
When the Gliding Club is operating, the launchpoint (gliders, tractors, bus, people, cars) is positioned to the south east of Runway 05/23, opposite the landing/take-off roll end of the runway in use. Local airfield operating procedures, designed to increase safety margins in the even ot a loss of control on take-off/landiing, are:
1) Power pilots refrain from applying full take off power until after they have rolled past the launch point bus. "See Bus Think Defer Full Power"
2) Power pilots arrange their landing so that touchdown occurs beyond the launch point bus. "See Bus, Think Land Beyond"
On a good day our winch launch cables are authorised to go to 2100ft ams, as marked on the aeronautical chart. To ensure deconfliction between arriving aircraft and the winch cables there is no "deadside" and no overhead or crosswind joins at Lee-On-Solent The decision that it is safe to commence a winch launch is made by the Gliding Club Duty Instructor managing the gliding launch point. A winch launch does not begin unless the Duty Instructor is sure it is safe to do and will not conflict with aircraft or gliders on their respective approach/base leg.
Glider pilots regularly practice launch failures at various heights during which the glider may cross the main runway at right angles and low level. Thus the advice is for aircraft not to depart until the winch cable itself (identified by the drogue parachute at the end of the cable) is on the ground and the glider safely launched.
The towing aircraft (tug) and glider combination's climbout will usually involve a turn into wind to facilitate a return to the airfield should the tow rope break or if there is an engine failure on the tug aircraft. Aerotows are normally to 2000ft or 3000ft within 2nm but have been known to go to 5000ft particularly if aerobatics or prolonged spin training is to be conducted. The glider release will normally be overhead or upwind of the airfield.
For many years the glider circuit was rectangular shape (the same as a power aircraft circuit) albeit a 'tighter' pattern due to glider performance, convection and wind conditions. About 20 years ago the standard gliding circuit and training was modified toward the end of the downwind leg (effectively 'cutting the corner').
Typically an arriving glider pilot positions to be upwind of the airfield when at 1000ft agl and aims to start the gliding circuit (in the area at the start of the downwind leg) at a point known as "High Key" (approximately 800ft agl). At Lee-on-Solent the standard operating procedure is for the glider pilot to make a downwind call (there will be no base or final call as the gliders do not have "Press To Transmit" fitted to the control column and the 'other hand' is required to operate the air-brake in the latter half of the circuit.
The glider will be abeam the touchdown reference point "Low Key" (500 - 600 ft agl) and will continue downwind before turning 45 degrees onto a diagonal leg so as to keep the landing area in view.Depending on wind strength and glider type the glider will make a further 45 degree turn onto base leg followed by a final turn (completed by 300ft agl). Sometimes a glider on a winch launch may only achieve 800ft agl, so will be straight into the circuit.
High performance gliders returning from cross-country flights may be making 'straight in' /high energy approaches to the glider side of the airfield at speeds up to VNE (135kts) before pulling up and joining the glider circuit. They may also be dumping water ballast at the time ( not to be confused with smoke !!).
Hope this information helps to keep all flying safe at Lee. For more general insight into gliding a brief Introduction to Gliding for Power Pilots produced by Aston Down Gliding Club is available here.
Martin Heneghan Jon Butts
PNGC Safety Officer LFA Chairman