Intermediate XC Session 1 – Basic Ridge Soaring

 Lesson Plan:

Objective: Introduce fundamentals of ridge soaring and ridge transitions

Discussion Topics:

    • Ridge Soaring Basics
      • Vertical position and crab angle
      • Vary speed to maintain vertical position
      • Need to have landing options in mind at all times
    • Ridge Transitions
      • Upwind transitions (see ‘Mifflin Upwind Transitions’ movie)
      • Downwind transitions
    • Thermalling off a ridge


      • Cross-country flying concepts
      • Cross-country safety considerations


      • Mifflin soaring area

Completion Standards:

      • Ability to recognize proper crab angle and position relative to the ridge
      • Proper attention to airspeed, varying as necessary to maintain ridge position
      • Ability to generate and verbalize Plan A/B/C… including landing options

Required Resources:

      • Mifflin Scenery (available from gliderracing site)
      • Plane Pack 1 (required for Discus 2 glider)

Condor Settings:

      • Water ballast: None
      • C/G Bias: -1.6″

Lesson Files:

Pre-brief (30 minutes)

Since this is usually the student’s first exposure to ridge soaring, it is important to take all the time required to cover ridge soaring basics, including vertical and horizontal position on the ridge, the need to hold a distinct crab angle (and the natural human tendency to remove same), the concept of varying airspeed to hold vertical position (and therefore the use of airspeed as a ‘figure of merit’ rather than altitude), and the absolute requirement to keep thinking about landout locations available within the next 60-120 seconds.

Basic Ridge Soaring and Transitions (2 hours)

This 26-mile task is set in the Mifflin scenery, as most U.S. pilots know this site as a ‘ridge soaring’ site, and it the scenery is readily available from multiple sources. The concept for this session is to use the Jack’s mountain ridge for initial ridge-soaring familiarization, and then to do a downwind transition to Shade mountain and then an upwind transition back to Jacks mountain.  The upwind transition portion of the flight should include a demonstration of the ability to ‘fail downwind’ back to Shade.

 Other Notes:

It is quite normal for the student to initially not implement the proper crab angle for the conditions, and thereby either drifting downwind onto the lee side of the ridge, or overcompensating and staying too far upwind.  Therefore, the instructor should spend the time necessary in F8 mode to assess the student’s crab angle.  It may be useful to spend a few minutes demonstrating the proper crab angle and ridge position in ‘web cam mode’  before starting the flight.

The ability to assess the progress of an upwind transition by watching the rise or fall of a distinct terrain feature relative to the top of the target ridge is an absolutely fundamental skill for successful ridge/mountain flying, as is the knowledge that it is almost always possible to ‘fail downwind’ back to the downwind ridge.  It is imperative that the student grasps the rising/falling terrain concept, so the instructor should insist that the student lead on at least one successful upwind transition.  I normally do this by leading on the first one, and then at some point using spoilers to ‘fail’ the upwind transition (making sure that the student concurs that terrain features are going down relative to the ridge).  Then once back on the downwind ridge, the student leads out on the next try.

No ghosts have been provided for this session.

See Also:



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