This past weekend I did something completely different…I was a Wing Runner!
If you’re like me watching gliders is as complicated as watching television. You sit and watch other people do the work. Well this past week I decided to get off the couch and participate.
My first task was to take the Wing Runner Exam – but first I studied the online course available at:
This is a great resource for anyone who wants to learn about wing running. After I studied the material I took the 20-question exam, which in my case applies as Wing Runner credit towards the Civil Air Patrol. In most cases you will not be allowed to take the exam through this site unless you have access rights or are a member of the Civil Air Patrol.
The video at the top of this page gives you an idea of what goes on during a glider launch…in particular, hand signals used during the launch process. That was my task as I helped to launch six flights for the Finger Lakes Soaring Club down in Dansville, NY.
The Tow Plane
To start you need a tow plane, in our case it was a PA-25 Pawnee piloted by Ted Timmons. Ted was kind enough to give me the OK to participate. Ted is a fellow CAP member and a FAA certificated flight instructor (CFII, ASEL, ASES).
The next thing you need is a glider. We launched several gliders but the one we launched the most was a two seat Schleicher ASK 21 I believe.
Line Up and Wait
My job was to first help position the gliders on the grass strip. All you need to do is get them pointed straight down the runway.
Next, you wait for the tow plane as the pilot gets setup in the cockpit. Once the pilot is in and ready to go you take a bright orange stick with a hook on the end and use that to grab the line that is hanging behind the tow plane. This bright orange line has on the end of it a metal ring. You signal the pilot to take up the slack in the line as you stand next to the canopy. Once you have about 10 feet of line to work with you signal the tow plane to stop.
Next, you take the rope and signal (or say OPEN) to the pilot, The OPEN command tells the pilot to open the cable release so that you can take the metal ring and insert it into the release either under the glider or in the nose of the glider. Once in position you signal (or say CLOSE) for the pilot to close the release. This will hold the ring and rope to the plane and all you need to do is give it a hard pull just to confirm that the rope is secure.
Next, you stand to the outside of one of the wings and watch the pilot. If he gives you the thumbs up, you look for traffic in the pattern and everywhere else. If it’s clear, you lift the wing to level. I am right handed so I grab the wing with my right hand.
Now you can signal the tow plane to take up the slack with a back and forth motion with your arm pointed down towards the ground in clear view of the tow plane.
REMEMBER: Do NOT stand in FRONT of the wing, stand at the side as you hold the wing and BEFORE you signal.
This is the LAST opportunity for you to call the whole thing off before things are beyond your control. And believe me things will be out of your hands quickly! If you see a problem or a complication just wave off the tow plane.
Finally, once the tow rope is tight, it’s GO time. With the wing in one hand, you swing your other arm in a circle which tells the tow plane pilot to GO and GO they do! You are supposed to RUN with the wing as long as you can…which is 15 feet if you are lucky.
There…you did it! Now get off the runway before you get hurt. 🙂