Going Digital

After a cancelled days gliding, due to waterlogged field, I took the opportunity of doing something I have been meaning to do for years. I digitised my logbook. There are a couple of advantages to keeping a digital version; firstly, in the event of loss or damage of your paper logbook you have a backup record. Secondly, It makes the task of adding up you total hours much easier, especially when you come to fill in the front page of your next log book and need to find you hours, solo and instructed, in each type of glider. Finally, it allows you to analyse you flight data and learn more about your progress.

It is this final reason which I think is the most valuable, and so I've decided to share some preliminary analysis in the hope it will provide some insight to other CUGC pilots.

Before we begin a bit of personal flying history, I started flying in 2007 when I was an undergrad at Warwick Uni where we flew from Husbands Bosworth. In late 2011 I started a PhD at Cambridge and have been flying at Gransden ever since.

Number of flights and total hours per year, n.b. 2012 includes one 4.5 hour instruced cross-country flight which distorts the number of Instructed Hours

Lesson 1: Digitise Early

This really goes without saying that I should have started this years ago, typing in the details for 390 flights was very dull.

Lesson 2: 2012 has been a bad year for gliding

Many of you may have heard people complaining about 2012, and subjectively I have agreed with them, but having the data really brings out the difference. I have had half the number of flights in 2012 that I had in 2011. However it is not all bad news, the ratio of solo to instructed flights has more than doubled (2011, 1.1 2012, 2.2) and my average solo flight time has risen from 11.3 minutes to 21.5 minutes.

From this I concluded that although 2012 was a bad year for gliding I did progress as a pilot.

Lesson 3: Gliding gets cheaper as you go along

I haven't done any detailed cost analysis and my flights have been at many different airfields and rates. But assuming all flights are winch flights at Gransden and that solo flights are in the Junior I can get a feel of the cost of gliding. Total costs per year track the number of flights but if you look at the cost per hour of flying it has dropped from a high of £93/hour in 2008 to £41/hour in 2012. The reasons for this are simple, solo flying is cheaper than instructed flying and when flying solo you tend to have fewer longer flights converting expensive launches into cheaper airtime bills.

Of course CUGC members have the advantage of access to our ASW-19 "CU" at the bargain airtime rate of £9/hour rather than the £20/hour of the Junior. I used the junior rate because I flew the CU relatively little this year, but if I use CU's pricing my costs drop to £34/hour. Considering that powered flight is around £150-200/hour you can start to see what a bargain gliding is.

Lesson 4: Know your field and your type

How comfortable are you flying a particular type of glider or at a particular airfield. Do you have enough experience to go solo today? It is a hard question.

I have been flying from Gransden Lodge for a year, and consider it my home airfield, but looking at the numbers I've only have 40 launches at Gransden, which means many pre-solo pilots will know the field better than I do. Now my other 350 flights will have given me general gliding experience greater than that of a pre-solo pilot, but I should be aware that I'm still newbie to Gransden Lodge, I have several airfields which I have just visited and have a comparable number of launches (Snitterfield, Challock). I would treat those airfields very differently to Gransden Lodge, when there is no real difference in my level of familiarisation with each of those fields.

Lesson 5: Expeditions are great

Going on expeditions is a really great way to fly a lot, for example in 2012 I've been to the Long Mynd and Nympsfield. (I also went to Eden Soaring but was ill and did not fly) my average flight time at Gransedn Lodge in 11 minutes, while at both Nympsfield and the Long Mynd my average flight time is 46 minutes.

I hope that provides some useful insight to budding an experienced pilots alike. Also if anybody else at CUGC also keeps a digital record of their logbook it would be intrested to compare.