Gain Ground on Your Turnaround
Getting quick turnarounds during your competition flying is crucial. Making quick turnarounds is a skill is one you must keep working on since it sets the pace and even precision of your flight paths. In this week’s post, we highlight tips that Team ArmSoar pilot Gavin Trussell shared on the Camber Up podcast.
The Turnaround Low Down
A turnaround is the time it takes for a pilot to catch, spin, and relaunch the plane into the air. The timing of this maneuver impacts on your score because scoring is set according to the time your plane is in flight. The cycle of launch, flight, return and relaunch into a new flight comes down to the tenth of a second, so it’s important to work on this skill.
There are various set ‘tasks’ that pilots complete in an F3K competition. For example, in Task G (Five Longest Flights), you get scored on your five best flights, each with a maximum of two minutes within a 10-minute working window. If you fly beyond two minutes, your score for that flight is capped at two minutes. If you fly under two minutes, your actual flight time is scored. So having efficient, quick turnarounds minimizes the time your plane isn’t flying, and this gives you a higher score.
A good, competition turnaround time is between 1 to 1.5 seconds. That’s a very short window to catch the aircraft by the wingtip, spin, and relaunch.
As you can imagine, turnarounds are moments in a competition when many things can and do go wrong. Not only does a pilot need excellent coordination and timing to catch the aircraft, but there's also the added challenge of having several other gliders crisscross the flight paths.
For detailed competition rules and tasks, you can download the PDF here.
Practice Practice Practice
“A lot of bad things happen when you're learning,” explained Gavin. "To this day, it's something I have to practice.”
Even a moment’s inattention or carelessness can have dangerous consequences for the safety of your own self, that of others, and of course the condition of everyone’s aircraft. Unfortunately, when planes collide, either with other pilots or other aircraft, it is often during competitions.
Getting back to basics, Gavin explained how quick turnarounds are all about timing. Each step in a turnaround must be practiced and solid. This includes:
- Understanding your plane’s behavior in the field.
- Knowing and responding to specific positions and locations, especially during the last 20 to 30 seconds of flight leading to where you’re standing to do the turnaround.
- Finding a landing path that is consistent and repeatable.
- Making an even wingtip catch, followed by the spin and powerful release.
- Making this powerful launch, again and again and again.
In his opinion, “you're not there to compete. You're there to get a feel for the rhythm... Learn things and just have a good time.”
To watch a clip with a breakdown of the turnaround, click here.
Mistakes Get Expensive – Quick
A beginner should focus on keeping the aircraft free from harm. "Even if you bought a used one, they're expensive,” Gavin stressed. But although it is an expensive hobby, "it's so fun and rewarding.”
The stress of competing and being in a crowded field means there are many more aircraft to keep an eye on and a much higher potential for crashes.
Eventually, pilots realize that since crashes happen, having a second or even a third plane is worth it. "You need multiple planes,” he admitted, “because you're always one accident away from having to put your second plane in the air.”
Even at his level, Gavin can go through one or two planes during a competition. It is a horrible feeling to go through your planes like that, but as he says, "you want to keep flying because you're having so much fun!”