Tag Archives: chiltern

I fly the Pilatus B4

The lovely people at the London Gliding Club treated my reciprocal membership as if I were the most valuable person there. I wish I could live nearby and fly there every week.

After aerobatic training in the ASK-21, I really wanted to try the Pilatus B4 – formerly the top aerobatic glider in the world.  The Pilatus spins much more readily than the K-21, so after a couple of spins in a K-13 I flew the Pilatus.

My goal for the day was to get comfortable with the aircraft, then work on a two-hour endurance flight on LGC’s ridge. It didn’t work out like that. I released at 4,000′ with a plan to do some stalls, steep turns, etc, and work my way down under Luton’s controlled airspace and fly on the ridge for a total of two hours. As I said, it didn’t work out that way.

Pilatus B4
Take off! Pilatus B4 at London Gliding Club.

The Pilatus just stayed up. And up. And up. It turns out that I ended up in a very gentle wave caused by the wind over a ridge well to the west. I was actually too high to head back towards the airfield due to some complex airspace arrangements to keep LGC open under Luton’s approach from the west while protecting airline traffic at the same time.

Pilatus B4
Take off! Pilatus B4 at London Gliding Club.

I stayed up. And up. You get the picture. It was amazing. I had never flown in wave before. American wave in the Rockies is quite different from what I’ve read; I hope to try that some time, too.

Slowly I worked my way down and back towards LGC’s field. The Chiltern Ridge is really neat to fly along. I had made several flights there before and was looking forward to doing so again to finish what would have been my first two hour flight. However…

Pilatus B4
Take off! Pilatus B4 at London Gliding Club.

The Army has trained me to be a planner. I already knew that I had just enough time to fly two hours, return the glider, pay my bill, drive to Stansted, turn in the rental car, and make my flight. I had not factored Mother Nature into my planning. it was November. In the UK – very far north by American (or even German) standards. I watched the sun working its way towards the horizon. My mental Mac was calculating all the permutations and each one said, “You don’t want to be landing into the sun, into the undulating landing area at LGC, in a glider you’ve never flown before, that likes to touch down very level. It’s just not a good idea.”

So, I spent a few minutes on the ridge, landed without damaging the glider, paid my bill, turned in the rental car, and caught the flight back to Germany.

Many thanks to Andy Roch, Andy Cunningham, Pat Geer, and Adrian Hobbs for being wonderful instructors and hosts. You’ve recruited a member if you can find me a job!

Pilatus B4 and Robin tow plane
Nice view of the Robin tow plane – “Tug” in the UK – and me in the B4. That grass looks beautiful!