Cheap Thrills

“A group of glider pilots relaxed on the deck of the clubhouse reliving the day’s flights. No one was thinking about the cost of the flight. No one needed to worry about it.”

Soaring Clubs

Imagine that your club decided to purchase the newest, 21st century trainer.  Easy to imagine.  We want our clubs to have the best equipment for our students and other club members.  Now comes the big question- are you ready to put over 150,000 dollars toward that objective?

The Wellington Gliding Club had committed to the idea that it’s worth the cost to have the level of technology in their trainers.  They have just acquired two new DG 1000s. Yep, that’s what I said- two.  The Grobs were sold and the new gliders are on the field.  I don’t know how much the Lotto players contributed to these ships.  I do know that educational organizations like gliding clubs clubs get grants from the state run lottery.  That is one good aspect of the NZ system.

Since I am here for two months working at the gliderport in the shelter-for-work Program, I have had an opportunity to see the ships as they go on-line. First impressions- WOW. Background for those who don’t know me as an aficionado of PW 5s and a supporter of the PW6 as a trainer, this assessment may come as a bit of a surprise.

Taking money out of the analysis- I’m flying the DG 1000-S trainer, and I couldn’t be more enthusiastic. First, it’s fun to fly. Responsive and beautifully balanced so the ship is flies like a much lighter ship. I was also impressed with a number of good safety features.  For example, if the spoilers are not locked, they will only deploy a fraction of an inch, and then they are caught until you move them past the safety tab.  In order to achieve neutral balance, weights are placed in the tail.  There is a green light that blinks the number of weights that have been loaded.  The pilot has to depress the light after counting the blinks.  A feature that would have served our club well is the warning sound that sounds if only one of the two canopies is locked. Another one that has caused so much grief to both power and a glider pilot is retractable gears.  The DG 1000 S has fixed gears.  That is rather surprising in a high performance glider, but it will certainly save the club a lot of grief.

One could argue that these safety features might lead to a more casual use of the check lists by the pilots.  But having these safety features certainly will save the club a great deal of money. According to Wellington Gilding Club officers, although DG advertised the 1000-S, it turns out they did not seem to be eager to produce one or two.  It took quite a bit of effort to get the manufacture to actually make the club design.  It seems that the clubs persistence is paying off.

An added note- At Omarama I flew the Duo Discus.  It is quite a different sailplane.  Pulling it up into lift against a mountainside took a bit of adjustment.  It takes a bit of force to pull it up and into the lift in a way that maximizes the energy you’re carrying.  A bit of a change from 1VG.


How Much Does It Cost?

The easy answer for all questions about prices in NZ is TOO MUCH!

Here is the schedule of costs for Demo Rides converted to US dollars
Standard ride- aprox. 15 min. to 2000’ -$76.00
Deluxe Ride-aprox. 20 min. 4,000’ -$153
Very high ride- 30+min. 5,200” -$230

The club does a great many such rides a day.  Monday was a local holiday but not a good soaring day.  Even the two private ships stayed up 30 min. or less.  The Demo rides generated $612, (US). The new DG 1000 is an expensive ship, but demos at that price seem to be within reason.

No one I talked with when we were exhibiting the PW 5 at the fair or people on people who phone the club seems surprised by the price.  I sold two vouchers over the phone last night.  The % of people actually using the vouches in the 6 months till they expire runs around 50%. Talk about a profit margin.

For club members, the cost of a tow is $4.60 a minute of the tow planes time from launch till the tow plane returns. Tows take from 7 minutes ($32) to 13 minutes.

A week at the mountain soaring camps on the South Island cost about $4,000+.  I will probably just take one flight when I am down there next month.

While on the subject of costs, food is very expensive.  Ironically, the fruit is especially high and none is of the quality I find at Central Market.  (Even the mention of that place makes me home-sick.) The best of everything seems to be destined for export.  The beer I drink proudly proclaims on the bottle that it is,”Export Quality.”

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