Welcome to Flying at Torrey Pines
Flying at Torrey Pines is Fun and Exciting
Flying at Torrey Pines provides some unique thrills and pleasures – reliable summer lift, sweeping vistas of some of the best coastline in the West, and the opportunity to fly with some very accomplished pilots – to name just three..
The Torrey Pines Gulls always welcomes new or visiting pilots to come and fly at the Torrey Pines Gliderport. Some of the requirements for flying at Torrey Pines are modified for beginner pilots or those visiting for a short time, and these accommodations are described elsewhere on the website.
What Do You Need?
For residents of Southern California who are non-beginners, there are 4 requirements for flying at Torrey Pines –
- AMA membership
- Membership of the Torrey Pines Gulls or the Torrey Pines Scale Soaring Society
- Everyone must obey the Flight Regulations
- Pilot Certification.
Hopefully the first three requirements are givens, but you may have questions about the fourth, and I want to address some of those potential questions below.
How Long Does It Take To Get Pilot Rating?
For a skilled pilot with many hours of flying at other sites, obtaining a Pilot Rating may take no more than several minutes. For a novice pilot, or someone not experienced in flying a sea-cliff with multiple types of air traffic, obtaining a Pilot Rating could take a bit longer, but the process is not designed to be arduous, and is conducted in a friendly, win-win manner, with safety and enjoyment of the sport for all at it’s foundation.
What is Involved in Obtaining a Pilot Rating?
The first step is to secure the transmitter frequency on the frequency board. Then, we check out the plane to see that it is airworthy, the controls go in the right direction, and the linkages are good. We ask if the batteries have been in recent use and are freshly charged, and then conduct a range-check. We may hand-toss the glider in the landing area, or we may just launch it at the cliff, either with the owner flying it, or the check pilot flying it if the pilot is unsure for the very first time.
Flying at Torrey Pines can be Challenging Too
Torrey Pines also presents some significant challenges: strange and unexpected lift patterns and turbulence along the cliff, which vary dramatically with wind direction; flying in the same airspace as full-size, manned gliders; and flying with sometimes numerous Hang-gliders and Paragliders of varying skills and abilities.
How Do We Mitigate These Challenges?
A set of Flight Regulations have been arrived at to permit safe flying of all these modes while sharing the same air and ground space, and a good student can assimilate the meaning of some of these regulations quite quickly. But experience of flying in this mixed-mode environment is also essential to everyone’s safety and enjoyment, and that is why the RC pilots had to develop the Pilot Rating program.
The objective of the checkflight is to verify that the pilot has control over the glider, can perform some basic maneuvers AND CAN ANTICIPATE AND GIVE SIGNIFICANT CLEARANCE TO OTHER AIR TRAFFIC, sometimes in crowded situations.
It Can Get Crowded at Torrey Pines
We expect a pilot to be constantly checking not just his or her own glider’s path, but all around, for other gliders, slow-flying Paragliders, and fast-flying Hang-gliders, all of which can show up unannounced any place and at any moment. Constant adherence to the “blue sky rule” is a must. We also look for a competent landing pattern and landing.
Its Pretty Simple!
We typically ask for two flights and landings, and in some cases ask for two different check pilots to provide certification sign-off, each overseeing a separate flight. If you are a good pilot, you can be certified in minutes; if you need to gain experience in this somewhat unique environment, you can do that as well. Once you receive a Pilot Rating, you are then cleared to fly on your own, and perhaps even help others through this pretty straightforward process.