Do Varios Make You a Better Pilot?

Let me tell you a tale about a man named Jim (and the varios in his 1-26, 032)

When we got the ship, it had a pellet variometer that sort of worked and a Crossfeld that didn't. Shortly after we got it, I set out on what I hoped would result in Silver Distance -- landed 4.5 hours later and 215 miles away in the middle of Kansas. That just happened to be the same day Wally Scott flew over 700 miles and said that he could have done 500 in a 1-26. Sort of took the shine off my flight.

Well, 215 miles on a pellet variometer that you had to keep tapping to prevent the pellets from sticking, how far could I go with a good vario. I shipped the Crossfeld off to the left coast for repairs.

The repair bill was more than the Crossfeld sold for new but now it worked, at least the hand went up and down and the audio made a noise like a dentist's drill. Declared diamond goal (that was when you could to it straight out) and launched to the scream of the Crossfeld. Landed 4.6 hours later, 168 miles but fifteen miles short of my goal. I tried to blame my failure on the Crossfeld which had gone silent after two hours and I had to do the rest of the flight thumping the pellet. All I got out of that as far as badges was a long retrieve. Still lacked my 5 hour duration for a Silver badge. Must need a better vario.

I celebrated the arrival of my new Winter by making a new instrument panel without the square hole for the pellet or the funny shaped one for the Crossfeld which ate four D cell batteries every two hours. I was always sort of glad when the Crossfeld would finally die so I wouldn't have to listen to that awful scream any longer. Besides, it wasn't as good as the old pellet anyway. I was wise enough to cut a second variometer hole when I made the panel, just in case..... The new Winter took me 165 miles from home.

Speed ring, that's what I needed. So the Winter was joined by a PZL with the lovely ring and numbers that never made any sense. Best flight with that combination was 4.5 hrs and 148 miles. The Winter and the PZL were like a pair of lawyers, never agreeing on anything. The only time they ever read the same was sitting on the ground.

It was becomming painfully obvious that an electric vario was what I needed if I was ever going to get that dratted Silver Badge. So Richard Ball received and cashed my check. My check was better than his vario, at least in improving my flights; 3.9 hours and 94 miles was my best flight. Still no cigar. (Please, no Clinton jokes)

I agonized for a while over the latest in electronic varios; one with everything, digital readout, computerized speeds to fly, when to leave the thermal and cooking time of a Cornish Game Hen -- the one that George Moffat, Wally Scott, Ben Greene and the rest of the really hot pilots of the time were all using. I wanted one that went Bweep Bweep Bweep when you were climbing and Beoup Beoup when you were in sink. Record that and teenagers would dance to it.

Almost sent off an order even though it cost more than what I had paid for the glider. Then I finally realized that for me, the price of the varios and distance flown were in inverse proportion and if I put one of those in the ship, I'd have to take a 3,000 foot tow to get far enough to land off field.


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Copyright 2000 by Jim Foreman