Short Final: Pick Your Poison


In the 1980s, when I worked at Daniel Webster College in Nashua, New Hampshire, it had an innovative flight training program with a diverse fleet that included Grob G109B motorgliders, Mudry CAP 10 aerobatic trainers, and swift and slippery Mooney 201 complex singles. Based at Nashua Airport, DWC’s high-density flight operations blended in with a busy mix of corporate and other GA traffic. The slow speeds of the motorgliders eventually raised concern over the danger of a midair collision in the pattern.

Someone brainstormed the idea of a separate right-hand pattern for the motorgliders where they could land on the grass alongside the paved main runway to keep them out of harm’s way. Someone else raised the objection that the plan would result in unsightly grass stains on the gliders’ shiny white wheel pants.

The first person reflected, “I think I’d rather see grass stains on the airplanes than airplane stains on the grass!”

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.


  1. I thought tower did a great job sorting out all of the Webster traffic along with GFW and Key Flight. Since moving maps weren’t a thing I wondered how often ASH’s downwinds busted LWM’s class D.

  2. Not familiar with DW or Grobs, I was doing pattern work there once and the tower told me the glider ahead was doing a touch and go.

    • When landing my glider I always report in the pattern with something like “Glider xxx downwind runway 36 full stop”.

      Since it’s the only grass strip in the area we attract our share of transients. More than once I’ve seen power planes go around when they were following a glider too closely. We always try to pull off to the side of the 200 ft wide runway to make it faster to clear. Sometimes it’s not enough, though.

  3. Back in the busy training times at Bowman Field in the late 1960s it was difficult to get a word in to the hugely busy tower and you had to be prepared to land on the runway or left or right side in the grass. That was the era of C150s $8 an hour wet. With the mix of pros flying multis and 6 or 8 trainers in the pattern the radio could be a continuous (necessary)distraction.

  4. Have many flights in the G109B, what a great motor glider. Made a nice cross country machine. 110 knots using 4 gallon an hour. It was comfortable with the semi-reclined seats. Those long wings soaked up the jolts giving a nice ride. Despite the ungainly appearance it was a very tame handling conventional gear airplane.

  5. With the really slippery swept wings, and yes, even Money 201 type speed demons now part of my past, I too have picked my poison, having “brainstormed the idea of a separate right-hand pattern for motorgliders” and Paul Berge type flying conveyances “where they could land on the grass alongside the paved main runway to keep them out of harm’s way.” To no avail I might add. A sign of the times at wannabe airports.