POSITIONING THE GLIDER FOR TAKEOFF
Once the pilot has completed all required pre-flight checks and is ready for launch, the glider can be positioned on the departure runway. This operation must be performed efficiently to minimize the amount of time that other aircraft are prevented from using the runway. The following sections describe the procedure for positioning the glider on the runway and preparing for the pilot's pre-takeoff checklist.
Preparing to Position the Glider
It is important to complete all possible external pre-flight actions before moving the glider onto the runway. Required items such as ballast, maps, clothing, etc. should be in place and secure. Passenger briefings should also be accomplished prior to positioning the glider onto the runway.
The wing runner should ensure that all necessary pre-flight preparation has been completed before moving the glider onto the runway. The pilot of the tow plane should be made aware that a glider launch is imminent to ensure that the tow aircraft will be ready as well. It is extremely important to survey the traffic pattern to determine if an appropriate interval is available to position and launch the glider. Typically, an aircraft on downwind, base, or final for the same runway is close enough to landing that the glider should not be moved into position on the same runway.
Positioning Glider on Runway
When an appropriate interval is available, the glider should be moved to the departure point. Normally, the best position for the glider is at the very end of the departure runway (remember the old pilot's adage that runway behind you is useless). The glider should be aligned on the centerline and pointing directly down the runway. It is very important to point the glider straight down the runway as the glider pilot may not have full directional control during the initial phase of the takeoff roll.
One possible exception to the rule above: If there is a crosswind, and the runway is wide, the pilot may elect to position the glider near the upwind edge of the runway. This allows him to use the runway width to offset the effect of the crosswind. Always confirm proper positioning of the glider with the pilot-in-command.
Once the glider is positioned, the wing runner may assist the pilot and passengers with entering the glider. This assistance may include helping with seatbelts, the canopy, or other items. Ensure that loose objects in the cockpit are secured. Once the glider pilot begins the pre-takeoff checklist, avoid any unnecessary conversation or distractions.
Removing External Equipment
Some gliders (particularly high-performance sailplanes) use a tail dolly to assist ground handling and reduce wear on the tailskid/tail wheel. Sometimes other equipment such as wing wheels and tow bars are also used. These items must be removed before launch. The wing runner should show the removed items to the pilot for final verification.
This is also a good time to confirm that control locks, pitot tube covers, and any other remove-before-flight items have in fact been removed. Do not hesitate to stop the launch process if you suspect that any remove-before-flight item is still attached to the glider or anything else appears wrong.
- Perform as many preparatory items as possible before moving the glider onto the runway.
- Ensure that the runway and traffic pattern are clear of conflicting aircraft.
- Position the glider at the end of the departure runway, on centerline, and--most importantly--pointing straight down the runway.
- Assist the pilot and passengers with entering the glider.
- Remove and show the pilot all remove-before-flight items such as tail dollies, wingtip wheels, etc.