Saturday, September 1, 2007

Bill Hill - Thoughts on Cross-Country Soaring

Bill in his Discus 2 flying over Moriarty, New Mexico

This is the first in a series of interviews with the pilots of Moriarty, New Mexico.

Aviation Experience

Bill Hill has been flying gliders since 1963. He is an instructor and an accomplished cross-country glider pilot. He has been in numerous glider competitions and is a mentor to many of the younger glider pilots at Moriarty.

Bill retired from Air Traffic Control as an Assistant Air Traffic Manager in 1993. He has been employed as a commercial pilot ever since. He has flown for Sky West, Seven Bar Flying Service, Rio Grande Air, Westward Airways and presently flies for Cutter Aviation in Albuquerque.

How did you get started flying gliders?

While on a flight from the Frederick Municipal airport in Frederick MD, I spotted a glider circling near the town of Leesburg VA. As I approached the area in which it was flying, the glider started a descent toward the Leesburg airport. Fascinated by the prospect of engineless flight, I followed it to the airport, landed, tied down my trusty Piper Super Cruiser, and took a glider ride. Three flights later I soloed in a Schweizer 2-22 Utility glider and was hooked for life.

What is your most memorable flight?

Since memorable need not equate with pleasurable, I would have to pick the mid-air collision between myself and another competitor during a national soaring championship in 1984. I was hit from behind by the pilot of another sailplane which did substantial damage to my glider. Rather than bail out of my crippled craft, (which in retrospect I should have done), I elected to fly it back to the airport of origin. I had the good fortune to make a successful landing and was able to have the glider repaired. The other pilot who’s sailplane sustained only minor damage also returned for landing.

Why do you think you are such a successful cross county pilot?

Assessing the subtle nuances of change in the atmosphere and making adjustments in tactics enables me to maximize my time spent in cruise and minimize the time spent climbing in thermals. The net result is a higher average cross country speed combined with a greater number of miles flown.

An additional part of the tactics involved in cross country flying is determining how close to the ground you are willing to fly before accepting a weaker thermal in order to keep from landing. This in turn is a function of knowing when to fly slower and when to speed up which is all part of the tactics of assessing change and applying the best technique in order to maximize the entire soaring day.

What usually causes pilots to land away from the departure airport?
Generally the lower time glider pilot tends to get tunnel vision and therefore loses his focus and ability to assess conditions. As he gets lower, his ability to center a thermal is compromised by his level of anxiety which in turn increases as he gets closer to the ground.

The novice pilot becomes distracted by such things as his desire to get home regardless of the conditions. He fails to realize that in order to get home, he must first keep flying. This may require a deviation from his intended route to his destination in order to avail himself of soarable conditions.

Bill’s two favorite books on cross-country flying are:

Cross Country Soaring by Helmut Reichman


Winning on the Wind by George Moffat,_Jr.

1 comment:

Jonathan Price said...

Good idea to structure the responses this way. Did you do the interview in person or by email?

Seems like real expert advice.

Thanks for the beautiful picture, and the links, too.

I think a lot of other people will enjoy reading your blog.