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Old 07-12-2011, 09:53 PM
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Larry Ball Larry Ball is offline
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Default Getting up off tow

Ok guys here it is, my way of getting up off tow. 4 words. GET OFF IN LIFT. How? Do not watch the idot dial called a variometer while towing, it will lie to you. If you do not have total energy compensation on your vario, every time you push out to keep up with the tug, it will say your climbing like crazy. Most modern varios have an averager for climb built into them, this is what I pay attention to. Most varios give you a reading on the average climb, updated every 30 sec., I have mine set on 20 sec. The average climb rate of the Fly and the trike is about 650-700 ft/min in zero sinking air on the averager while towing, if I'm reading any thing above that then I'm in lift/thermal. Most varios will display this reading in the upper right corner of the vario and will be in hundreds, example: 8.2 on the averager = 820 ft/min lift/thermal - 700 average tow in zero sink = 120 ft/min thermal, 5.0 on the averager = 500 ft/min - 700 average tow in zero sink= 200 down do not get off yet, wait till you see a reading above 7.0 on your averager.
Ok, now your in lift, when do I pin off? Question, how high am I? How strong is the lift? As a rule, the weaker the lift on the averager the higher you want to release. I will hardly ever get off tow lower than 1500 unless the thermal is stronger than 200 up or 8.5-9.0 on the averager. So what do you do when you see the tug starting to shot up on you? You push out to climb and catch up, are you in a thermal? Suddenly you are a little high on the tug and you pull in to get back down. A quick glance a the averager says your are in a 4.0 climb, not strong enough to get off in. Now you have went through different air masses, up/down and the tug is again climbing on you and you must push out to catch up, your vario is screaming but the averager is only reading 7.2, still the tug is above you and you are still pushed out and the tug pilot is waving you off, quick glance at the altimeter says your at 1800, high enough, but the position of the tug slightly above me would indicate that I haven't reached the core of the thermal yet. So I wait a few seconds, my averager is now saying 12.0/500 up and the tug is starting to get low on me, I am in the core and the tug is starting out the back side into the sink. Imeditately release and start turning in your favorite direction or the specified direction of the tow park( which is usually right) and then start your centering technique (see in other articles), do not fool with your harness or tow bridle until you are climbing comfortably. Now that you are up, look for Craig to pimp off of. Really, while you are climbing, look around, see where others are thermaling and be aware of their position so if your thermal dies or you see some climbing better than you, you will have an idea where other sources of lift are.
Any how, that's how I do it. I couldn't tell you what my highest climb rate was during a flight, I never look at it, only my averager. I listen to the vario and make adjument to my bank angle to stay in the best lift and glance at the averager once and a while to get the over all picture of the thermal. Seems to work for me
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Last edited by Larry Ball; 07-12-2011 at 10:14 PM.
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  #2  
Old 07-13-2011, 06:40 AM
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Great post, Larry. Thanks for taking the time to write this up. This sort of information has a huge amount of value. I appreciate it.
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Old 07-13-2011, 07:49 AM
fdmurphy44 fdmurphy44 is offline
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Nicely done Larry and good, basic information for sure. Everyone has their own nuances that seem to work best for them and their glider. I will always make sure that I wait a few seconds after seeing my best climb rate before I give the pilot a wave off. I also rarely see climb rates of 600 to 800 feet per minute in zero sink air. More often that not, I will see 300 (typical) to 500 at best when towing in zero sink air. I pay attention to what the day has been offering and try to send the pilot off in the best lift possible.
A bit of important info about my towing techniques:
- I will always speed up a bit when entering a thermal to allow the towed pilot to follow the tug as I rise. Means you can safely push out and climb with me. The added speed will allow this. You may need to pull in some when you've entered the thermal so you don't get to high on me. See below.
- I will usually maintain speed or slow slightly when I hit sink. As you see me getting lower, pull in to follow. Getting high is BAD, see below.
- I may turn in the thermal to get us both up faster and this also speeds up the process for those waiting below. Very important to stay with me in what is usually very textured air. I may speed up to safely turn, stay in the lift and maintain control. If things get a bit fast on your end, drift to the inside of the turn a bit to slow down to a safe flying speed for you. Don't let yourself get flung to the outside of the turn as the speed will cause you to climb and possibly lock out.
- Anticipate the tug and follow. Nothing else (short of an emergency) should distract you from your attention to the tug and following it. Precisely! Your position in relation to the tug is very important and has great authority over the ability of the tug to fly. Getting high on me is dangerous, especially low. Don't want to give anyone the rope and getting it low is really a bad thing for you. All the more reason to use the aerotow style release as this affords you a one hand release instead of the two hands required with the barrel release.
- Try to stay a bit low instead of high while on tow. If you can't see my mirrors, I can't see you. I am not comfortable with that and will give you a hand signal to get you back into position. Thumb up means you're low. Thumb down means you're high. You've got the rope means you didn't pay attention. If you get the rope, it's your responsibility to make sure it is retrieved so pay attention to where it lands or bring it back with you if you safely can. They cost about $80.00 each.

A huge factor in the overall climb rate is the position of the towed pilot. Our tug is marginally powered and will not climb well or might even sink if the towed pilot gets/remains high on me. The drag is to much and my elevator authority/power will not overcome the tail up/nose down attitude imposed by the towed pilot. Please keep that in mind when behind me.
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Last edited by fdmurphy44; 07-13-2011 at 10:47 AM.
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Old 07-13-2011, 08:12 AM
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Kent Kendall Kent Kendall is offline
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Thanks Larry, that was very helpfull. Sense I am fairly new to aerotowing, I have oftened wondered how you could tell if you are in lift on tow. The vario is sounding off the whole time. I only have the old vario from mid 1980's and looking at a newer Flytec to buy.
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Old 07-13-2011, 11:05 AM
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Larry Huffman Larry Huffman is offline
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Larry and Frank have posted very useful information that should help. I would like to add something that I have used since I started towing.

It is important to pay attention to the tension on the tow line and what it means to the pilot under tow and the tug. For example if the pilot being towed gets high on the tug it usually means that he let the tension get too much. This puts a lot of drag on the tug and slows his climb. By pulling in the pilot being towed seems to come down but in reality the tension is lessened allowing the tug to climb better along with the glider coming down some. Conversely if we get low then we have to increase the tension. This slows the tugs climb and speed up the gliders to get back into position.

I would suggest that all of us pay attention to the amount of tension required to keep us in the proper position in smooth air. Then use that as a guideline as to how much to lessen or increase the tension to accomplish what we want. More tension makes us climb faster and the restricts the tugs climb. Less tension allows the tug to climb better and us to climb slower.

Controlling line tension helps to stay in position straight ahead and in turns. Keeping proper line tension when in lift under tow gives us a better idea of the true strength of that lift.

I believe that consciously controlling line tension is a good way to keep a tow smooth and under control.

Larry
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Old 07-13-2011, 05:21 PM
freeeba freeeba is offline
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Except for the three popoffs from me-Matt-Kent, The comments from these EXTREMELY good pilots should be printed up and given to each pilot new to Aero towing. You know like on a credit card size reminder information thing. This is some of the most in-depth stuff to come to this site in a long time. Real knowledge needed to be known and initiated. Thanks fella's .02 pitdweller
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Old 07-13-2011, 07:29 PM
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The one thing I would like to add is, as tug pilots we try to put you in a good thermal before we wave you off. I personally wait until I think the glider pilot is in lift before I wave. Many times I'll just circle in the lift until the towed guy figures out we are in lift and gets off. HOWEVER, when I wave, don't wait. I may be waving you off in what I think is good lift, OR I may be waving you off because I have a problem.

Also, my trike on good days will get a 4-600 fpm climb rate. Hot summer days it can be 2-400. Any climb above 600 for more than 5 seconds is always lift if you are maintaining position behind me..

Last edited by RickM; 07-13-2011 at 07:33 PM.
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Old 07-13-2011, 08:11 PM
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Great point Rick.

Larry
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Old 07-14-2011, 08:47 PM
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Have not been able to follow the conversation for a day, but my posts are based on my personal experiences. With that, I have found that if I get off tow with anything less than 7.0 on MY averager while under tow I will not be climbing AFTER RELEASE and have to hunt for the lift. Now this is probably because of my hook in weight, sink rate of my glider and difference of sensitivity of my instruments etc.. My point is to watch your averager while on tow and not your analog vario and figure out what is the minimum reading on your AVERAGER that you can get off tow with and be in lift and start turning instead of wasting altitude looking for lift. Now this doesn't mean that every tow will have this conditions, I have towed to 2500+ and never hit anything that seemed like lift and the tug pilot was not waving me off in what he thought was lift and I had to look around for lift. However while under tow, I was aware of where we were and knew I had to look some where else for the lift and not the space where we just towed through. Also, if the tug pilot waves you off and there seems to be nothing wrong you should be boring holes in the sky because he has just dropped you off in lift.
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Last edited by Larry Ball; 07-14-2011 at 08:50 PM.
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