Want to learn about flying tasks?

Do you want to try your hand at flying a task?  It’s easy to make a local task that keeps you close to the airfield, yet gives you practice in task flying.


Why would you want to fly a task?  Maybe you’ve gotten bored with flying around the flagpole and want more of a challenge, such as badge flights or distance/speed record attempts.  Maybe you are curious about soaring contests and need some practice before you attend your first one.  Don’t make your first contest or badge flight be your first time to fly a task.  That will stack the odds against you.  Do some local task flying first.

See the graphic below.  This is a task that starts at Sleeping Lady/Shiprock, and then has waypoints for the Space History Museum, Otero Mill dirt strip, Mesa Verde dirt strip, and finishes back at Sleeping Lady/Shiprock. If you enter the start gate above 10,000 feet, you can probably fly the entire task without stopping to thermal.  (Note that in competition and badge attempts you may have to start much lower.)  On this particular day I flew for an hour before starting the task as I waited for thermals the build and strengthen.

The first time you fly such a local task, a good goal is to complete it properly.  Get through the start gate, reach each turn point, and pass across the finish gate.  After landing you can download and examine your flight trace.  You’ll see where you could have improved your tactics.  In the graphic below you’ll see that the wind was from the southwest, and while thermaling I would drift to the northeast.  On some legs of the task that can be to your advantage, and on other legs it’s to your disadvantage.  On the first leg to the Space History Museum, any time spent thermaling is well spent because you drift closer to the turnpoint.  On such downwind legs it’s good to start low, spend time thermaling to get high…and drift closer to the next turnpoint.  Two legs on this task (to Otero Mill, and the final leg to the finish gate) are perpendicular to the wind.  Any thermaling on those legs may not help you drift closer to the next turn point, but they really don’t hurt you either.  One leg (to Mesa Verde) is against the wind, and any time spent thermaling gets you higher, but at the cost of drifting farther from the turn point.  On upwind legs it’s a good idea to start the leg high, thermal as little as possible, and pass the turnpoint down low.

You can also see from the flight trace that it would have been more efficient if I had headed into the wind on the crosswind legs.  Any time spent thermaling would have had me drifting back onto the course line.  But I wasn’t smart, so I headed to the next turnpoint directly on course, and my thermaling time had me drift off course.

The glide computer in E4 can easily build such a task from local waypoints, and will show you progress in the task as you’re flying.  MG and ML also have glide computers that can handle task flying.  Or you can use a smart phone or tablet with soaring software such as XCSoar.

I’m more than happy to help answer questions about the various glide computers we have.