Sunday, 15 August 2010

Avoiding the gliders

A check of the NOTAM for a recent flight revealed a couple of gliding competitions, one of which was local. With my route taking me within about ten miles of Lasham there was a fair chance that I'd be spending a lot of time searching out gliders which are, as you probably know, notoriously difficult to spot.

I have a PCAS traffic system that displays the position and relative altitude of any threat traffic with Mode C or S transponders, but gliders have tended to avoid transponders in favour of either nothing or FLARM, and so far there's nothing on the market that offers both FLARM and Mode C/S in the same unit. PowerFLARM, announced at Aero earlier this year (and still not available), displays FLARM but does not provide a bearing on Mode A, C or S traffic.

When there's a high chance of glider traffic, I try to reduce the possibility of running into one in a couple of ways.

1. I seek out and try to fly in controlled airspace. If there's any Class D on the way, then I call up and request a transit. Gliders can and do fly in Class D with a clearance, but many don't bother (or have a radio) and of course the controllers should know about any traffic.

2. I climb on top if I can. Being on top of cloud also reduces the potential of meeting a glider, and of course it tends to make the flight smoother and the visibility better too.

Nothing is perfect, but doing whatever you can to stack the odds in your favour has to be a good thing.

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