Tips on flying the Grob 103

Greetings. Brandon Wolsey, USA club member -- who also happens to own one nice Ventus with a sustainer engine, who also broke his hand mountain biking but is OK to fly gliders -- sent me an article from the Albuquerque Soaring Club (ASC). I thought I would share it with few of my own thoughts added.

First, please give credit for most of the material to John Stevenson of the ASC. He has done a nice job providing good tips for flying the Grob 103.

Check out the landing gear: The Grob 103 has a nose, main and tail wheel. When empty, it sits on the main and tail wheel. When you get in, it settles on the nose wheel. If you walk out to the wingtip and look down the wing to the root, you'll notice the wing is mounted at a slight angle of incidence to the fuselage. The implication of this fact is the importance of getting the nose wheel up ASAP, a few seconds after the take-off roll begins. If you hold the nose wheel on the ground too long while building speed and then raise it, the glider will jump into the air. Remember that the angle of incidence adds to the angle of attack -- you want it to be allowed to do its job, so get the nose wheel up ASAP. Try to balance the glider on the main gear during the take-off roll. There is no need to touch the tail wheel during take-off. Hold the stick back during the initial roll. When the nose starts to get light and the nose wheel is coming up, relax the back pressure just enough to hold the ship in the main wheel until lift-off occurs.

Preflight the nose wheel by squeezing it: Since there's no weight on the tire while you are doing your inspection, you probably won't notice a flat tire until you begin you take-off roll (very embarrassing). It's a good idea to squeeze the rear tire also.

Front seat rudder pedals: I know of several cases where the front seat rudder pedals have slipped forward several inches while being towed -- not fun to stretch real low in the seat to reach the pedals. After you've been shown how to release them, you'll notice that they will come toward you. Just release the adjust knob and push them away gently-you will hear them click into place. Push both pedals again, firmly and at the same time to ensure they are locked. Make sure the rear rudder pedals are also set correctly. If you are flying from the back seat, set them and if you have a passenger with longer legs, make sure they are set all the way forward for passenger comfort .

Insure the spoilers are locked: The Grob 103 has a fairly heavy over-center lock and you should hear a loud clunk when you lock them for take-off. If you don't, they are sure to suck open on tow (potentially very dangerous). At Heber, we do a push back from Taxiway A2 to the launch position. Please don't deploy the spoilers during pushback. It will save the backs of your ground crew not having the glider come to a sudden stop.

Brief your passenger: Besides the obvious (don't touch the stick and pedals). Point out the red emergency canopy jettison knob. Make sure they never touch this under any circumstance except bailout. Then repeat these instructions again or you'll stand a very good chance of having them do exactly the wrong thing and dump the canopy on the asphalt after the flight. You might also want to tell your passengers to look into the turns during flight. They will be less apt to get vertigo or become airsick.

The canopy: Both the canopies on the Grob are poorly tethered and it is easy to twist the frame if slammed open. It also may get hung up in the O2 system during opening. Always lock the canopies when you walk away. Speaking of briefing your passengers, have them take the control of the canopy during pushback to alleviate the greenhouse effect in the cockpit by resting their left elbow on the gunnel and tightly gripping the canopy in their left hand..

Landing: Land the Grob on both the main and tail wheels together. This means getting the pitch attitude into a 5-7 degree nose-up position. To demonstrate this on the ground, position the pilot in the cockpit with the canopy closed. Then have one person hold the wings level. Go to the tail and move the glider to the take-off and landing attitudes. Do this multiple times to illustrate what a 5-7 degree nose up attitude looks like. Never get anxious and force the glider down on to the main wheel. Remember that angle of incidence. It will become your enemy in this case. You'll probably kangaroo hop down the runway, bouncing from nose to tail wheel uncontrollably -- pilot induced oscillation (PIO). If PIO occurs, get the stick all the way back and let the glider settle down on to the runway. Also on landing, don't touchdown with more than 2/3 spoilers deployed. Any more than this will engage the wheel brake and we will have balled tires too quickly.

Fly the ship until it stops: This means hold the wings level. The Grob 103 is a low wing ship and touching a tip can cause a very ugly ground loop. I've learned this the hard way and have seen more than one instructor get careless and fall victim to this. Remember-- there is not much rudder control authority at slow speeds. If you do have to land in a big crosswind, choose the grass runway if available. Landing a bit diagonal on the grass -- into the wind as much as possible -- and slowing it down will result in a much easier weather-vane effect. Yes, it will weather vane, but by using the grass, the chance of meeting one of those pesky runway lights won't be as great.

Respect the useful load limit. All three of USA's Grobs have rather small useful loads. Anything above the advertised limits and you become a test pilot. As a reminder, here are the Maximum Useful Loads for our three ships: N228BG---377lbs; N54554---358lbs; N4446Y---410lbs. All the specs can be found on our USA website under club ships

Happy Safe Soaring, see you at Taxiway Alpha 2