February 7, 2010

Changing Gears - Community Comments Requested!

I'm trying something different this week. I would like to ask all the great pilots who have been reading my blog to help contribute. Below is a list of all the good and bad reasons I can think of that a pilot would change gears while soaring. By change gears I mean, fling more or less aggressively, staying high or pushing low, increasing or decreasing MacCready, keep flying or land. I don't imagine that my list is complete, so I would like you to add a comment below with all the ones I have missed. During the week I'll collect the comments and amend the list with your thoughts then select a few to provide anecdotes for from my own flying or from flights I have read about. If you are feeling ambitious, provide an anecdote as well! Note that there is a list of good reasons, and a list of bad reasons; I'll comment on that later.

Good reasons for changing gears:
The sky ahead is showing:
  1. More clouds
  2. Fewer clouds
  3. No clouds
  4. Cloud bases rising
  5. Cloud bases lowering
  6. Thunderstorms building
  7. Thunderstorm blow-off
  8. Cloud streeting
The wind is:
  1. A greater headwind/tailwind
  2. more/less favorable for ridge/wave/thermal-ridge/thermal-wave
  3. Showing a gust front
Last thermal was:
  1. Weaker than expected
  2. Stronger than expected
  3. Broken
  4. Broken above/below/at altitude x
  5. The next thermal is expected to be:
  6. Weaker than expected
  7. Stronger than expected
  8. Broken above/below/at altitude x
  9. Unknown
  1. Hasn’t started yet
  2. Is about to stop
  3. Has changed, i.e. shear line at end of day, ridge to thermal, thermal to wave, etc.
The sun:
  1. Has changed angles, i.e. high to low, east facing to west facing
  2. Will/Has become blocked
  3. Is about to set
Your altitude is:
  1. Too low for comfort
  2. Too high to use
  3. Above/in/below the working band
The Terrain:
  1. Will/Has become unlandable
  2. Will/Has changed, i.e. mountains/ plains, grasslands/forest, dry/wet
You are:
  1. Lost
  2. Tired
  3. Daydreaming
  4. Nervous
  5. Uncomfortable
Other gliders are:
  1. Reporting weak/booming lift
  2. Appear lower/higher ahead
  3. Returning lower/higher
  4. Deviating from course
  5. On the ground
  6. Gaggling
  7. Easy to see
Bad reasons for changing gears:
  1. Make up lost time
  2. Make more distance
  3. Fly further/faster than competitor
  4. Recover from a mistake
  5. Frustration
  6. Impatience


  1. Please post your comments here.


  2. The Cherokee only has one gear really. There have been a few times where I thought about trying to go fast but I usually ended up landing shortly after that. So a really BAD time to change gears would be when you are in a glider with only one gear :)

  3. Tony,

    That's a great point that can be expanded to most gliders. A newer generation standard class ship, starting with a Discus really takes a hit above 80knts. It's a poor choice to change gears to fly faster than 80knts because the cost is too great.

    Thanks for the comment,

  4. 1. haze, smoke cand change things...
    2. Fosha is beating you.