Landing in a thermal landing field
Every nice XC-flight can be spoiled by a bad landing. So we want our landing to be as safe and smooth as possible, so we can go for an other great XC-flight tomorrow, as well. In Drama there are landings everywhere. Big fields and they are all free to land in. But since we like to fly XC by means of thermals, we must also expect the landingfield to be thermic. This give the pilot extra reason to be careful in the landing. Remember that after flying thermals and XC, you may not be as fresh in your mind, as if you just made a 20 minutes soaring. However, the more you fly, the more you can handle. Here is some things to take into account when landing in thermal area.
Pick the correct landing field. Go for the biggest landing field with no obstacles and no rocks on it, just grassy and nice. Even if it give you some extra walking back to the main road, it increases your chances for a smooth landing and that is preferable. Don't stay close, low to the mountain because you are expecting soaring, when there is no conditions for it. It will only narrow your options to reach the correct landing. If you don't get lift high by the mountain, you will not get it low. Then it is better to search out from the mountain. It gives you better chances for lift, and gives you better landing options. Never take the risk of having no landing options. On XC we always have more than one option.
Lowsaves. Are really cool when they happen. Sometimes you can get the thermal after raising up in the harness and are prepared for landing. It gives an amazing feeling when you manage to catch it and you again climb up to the clouds. The day continues for more XC. But be aware for loosing your landing options. The most important is that you should land safe and be able to fly the next day. If you are too low for lowsave, trying to do so may put you in a situation where you don't have a good landing, if the lowsave doesn't work. You may land downwind or in a pendulum. This also happens under impact of the windgradient and thermal activity. It may put your glider in a situation you are not prepared for. Remember that you loose much height when you are turning your glider. This appears best when you are close to the ground. A loss of 10 meter height does not feel much if you are at 200 meter above the ground. But if you are 20 meter above ground it suddenly is half your height, and you got very little time to recover if something unexpectedly happens. So, do not try to get a cool lowsave if it reduces your chances for a smooth landing.
Thermal landing. When landing in a field in the middle of a thermal day, you must expect thermal on the landingfield. Many times when you are on your final glide, you enter this thermal and you go up instead of down. The counteract to this is to start your final glide much lower and expect it to be much longer than you would expect on a non-thermic field. You have already picked the biggest field. Have good speed and energy in your glider to make any corrections if necessary. Don't be tempted to fly in with lots of brakes to increase the sink. This may lead to collapses when you meet the turbulent air. Turbulent because of windgradient and the thermals. Keep good speed and be ready to stop the pitch if the wing surges forward, and let go of the brakes once the pitch is stopped. Then you got energy to flare out and stall your glider once you are close to the ground.
The wind turns. Sometimes, especially on low wind day, the thermals can make the wind to turn 180 degrees when you are on the final glide. This make you realize how much energy you are dealing with, and why we never take off in wind from the back. If you are able to see the wind in good time before you are approaching the landingfield, it is always nice to do so. Maybe there are a windsocket, a streamer, flags or smoke that indicates that the wind is coming from different directions? Observe your changes in grondspeed, too. It may tell you how the thermals are working at the moment. Then you can expect the wind to turn when you are on final glide. So how do you deal with that? If possible you should make your finalglide 90 degrees on the wind. You got less energy relative to the ground, compared with downwind, and you can make a correction to both sides just before touchdown. If you are taken by surprise and if you are not prepared to this, it may hurt. It is still important to fly with as much energy so you still can make corrections if necessary. Flare out and stall the glider at the right moment, to have minimum speed relative to the ground when you hit it on your feet, running with the wind. Trying to turn upwind again, may lead to a landing in pendulum and lead to even more unwanted energy, so this must be calculated very well before being performed. It may be a better option to land on your butt and use the protection you have from your harness. Again, you have luckily picked the correct landingfield.
No wind. A technique used by many pilots, for landing in zero wind, is to add a little brake to induce a pitch pendulum. When you are in the correct height, release the brakes and let the glider dive forward. You will get increased groundspeed for you body for a moment, and the glider pitches behind you. With the correct timing you get a nice and easy stall when the glider is behind you. This technique is also used by tamdempilots, because it makes it easier to stall the glider when heavy loaded. Just be aware of timing, so you don't hit the ground with the glider in front of you. Practice this when you are at higher altitudes first and get used to the loss of height, before use this technique for landing. And be careful doing this on a thermic day.