Gliders in the immediate vicinity of the airport are normally expected to operate on the south side of Runway 7/25.
While gliders technically have right of way over most other aircraft, only a fool presumes that the other pilot sees them or is willing to take the appropriate evasive action. A little pre-planning is a great way to prevent the conflicts that can turn into accidents.
There are six different primary runway configurations that are used at KSFM (although, in practice, anything can happen). They are as follows:
- Gliders on 7, Airplanes on 7
- Gliders on 7, Airplanes on 32
- Gliders on 7, Airplanes on 14
- Gliders on 25, Airplanes on 25
- Gliders on 25, Airplanes on 32
- Gliders on 25, Airplanes on 14
Click on each link for a short discussion of each configuration.
A Note on Runway Selection
At KSFM, it is not uncommon to have multiple runways in use at any given time. It’s important to keep you eyes open, your head on the swivel and (if possible) to also maintain a careful listening watch to the CTAF frequency.
It’s also important to understand that winds shift, skills vary, and not all pilots or aircraft types fly the same type of pattern. Plus, not all pilots are competent or compliant. In short, aircraft can be anywhere and a sharp lookout is always important.
Opposite Direction Traffic
At KSFM, you will encounter opposite direction traffic. This usually involves aircraft on practice instrument approaches who are frequently conducting low approaches. Be aware of these aircraft, but they should not substantially interfere with our operations.
There is a helicopter flight school at KSFM. Their patterns tend to be unpredictable (there is no such thing as a standard helicopter pattern), but they do a good job of avoiding the flow of fixed wing traffic and announcing their positions. Please look and listen carefully for them.
Where to Land
First and foremost, land wherever you need to in order to be safe. But if possible, land in the desired area.
The dimensions of the Glider Operations Area (GOA) are clearly denoted by physical landmarks. The east end is terminated by the Precision Approach Path Indicators (PAPIs) for runway 25. The west end is bounded by the paved path between the runway and the ILS-7 Glideslope antenna.
When landing, plan to land roughly in the middle of the field. This will allow you safe margins on either side and also in general allow you to be immediately towed or pulled off into a staging area without having to “back taxi”.
Please don’t hit the PAPIs or the Glide Slope Antenna. Or the runway lights or signs. Or people.
Once you land, clear the GOA expeditiously!
In general, you should plan to arrive at the ‘initial point’ (abeam your touchdown point) at roughly 700 ft AGL (1000 MSL) with your landing spot at about 30 degrees below the horizon. As you keep that location in sight for the remainder of the approach you will be able to judge your descent rate and adjust as needed. In the event it is needed, keep in mind alternative landing locations including the asphalt!