Glider Launch Operations

KSFM

Pilots wishing to be towed will bring their glider towards the GOA and queue in a reasonably organized manner. The order of launch will be determined by the Duty Officer, based primarily on a first come, first served basis but with the ability to juggle as needed to give priority to check rides or such.

Once your glider is in position, please finish your preflight checks and board the glider. Your ground crew should remain nearby in case there is a problem or in case the GOA needs to be evacuated.

Once a Tow Plane is ready, it will taxi into position. A Safety Officer will inspect the tow hook and the tow Rope, and then use the following procedures.

  1. The Safety Officer will display the end of the Tow Rope to the glider pilot, who will confirm that the correct type of tow-ring is installed.  If the correct ring is displayed, the glider pilot will respond with a thumbs-up.
  2. A Safety Officer will attach the rope, using the “open hand” or “fist” signal to ask the glider pilot to open or close their tow hook as needed.  When the ring is inserted, the Safety Officer will pull on the rope to apply tension and then ask the pilot to test the release.
  3. If the release test is successful, the Safety Officer will then re-insert the ring, apply tension and verify the security of rope.
  4. Once the rope is attached to the glider, the Safety Officer will move outside the wingspan of the glider and ensure that all personnel are outside the operations area.
  5. Once the glider pilot is prepared for launch, he or she will give the Safety Officer a “thumbs up” signal.  This signals the Safety Officer to raise the glider wing and signal the tow pilot to begin taking up slack.
  6. The Safety Officer will then signal the tow pilot using the “swinging arm” signal to take up slack. When all the slack has been taken up, the Safety Officer will raise his/her arm directly overhead to signal the tow pilot to stop. Generally, another safety officer will be stationed near the tow plane, and will be repeating these signals to facilitate the operation.
  7. Once slack has been removed, the Safety Officer will visually clear the airspace one final time. The glider pilot will waggle the glider rudder to confirm launch readiness.  If the area is clear, the Safety Officer will give the “windmill” launch signal for the tow pilot to depart. There may be some delay between the “rudder wag” and the commencement of the tow due to traffic considerations.
  8. If at any point after the wings are leveled, the glider pilot decides that he/she is not ready to takeoff, he/she will give a “thumbs-down” signal to the Safety Officer, make a “Stop Tow” call on the CTAF frequency (if equipped with a radio) and/or release the tow hook. (Keep in mind that the Safety Officer will be primarily looking for traffic, and may not see a thumbs-down signal.)
  9. If at any point after the wings are leveled, the Safety Officer sees an unsafe condition for takeoff he or she will place the wing back on the ground as an abort signal.  The tow pilot should never proceed while the glider wing is lowered.  Nonetheless, all should be prepared for any eventuality in case the tow pilot has not seen the abort signal.  In addition to traffic concerns or tow plane issues, an open canopy, open dive brakes, or inattention of the glider pilot are all cases for the Safety Officer to abort and lower the wing.

Note that we will NOT be using the tow plane rudder wag signal defined by the national soaring association as an indication of the glider having dive brakes open.  This signal was added to improve safety but has caused confusion and incorrect early releases by glider pilots, so is under review.  In our club, if the tow plane is able to climb safely it will do so and notify the glider via radio only, and if unable to climb will release the glider immediately rather than signaling the glider to do so.

It is primarily the duty of the Safety Officer(s) to ensure that any traffic conflicts are resolved. However, the glider pilot should also be actively looking for traffic, and react appropriately if other traffic is observed.

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