Last year I lost my vario and just never got round to getting another. In the beginning I missed it and realised just how much I depended on it to help me but now I love flying without one and I have no intension of getting another.
Flying without a vario has made me more sensitive to the movement and feel of the air around me. Believe it or not this has helped my thermaling tremendously and I know feel that I am climbing better than I ever have! I find it easier to search for the lift because rather than listing for the vario I am concentrating on the feeling of the air through my harness, brakes and my natural senses.
You see, because most of us always fly with a vario we never really spend the time to analyse the feelings and wind noise in flight. Why? Because we have already been told that something is happening, because the little box is making a noise telling us we are in lift or sink. This means we don’t exploit the true potential of the air because we haven’t ever really exercised our mind in the translation of these sensations and feelings.
On top of that it makes you think a lot more about all you decisions because you realise that you have to get it right otherwise you are going down! Another plus side is that it is quiet without that little box screaming at you all the time. This helps me to relax and if it is a rough turbulent day, not having it scream at you really makes it much better and helps me maintain confidence even in the rough stuff. It is amazing how a strong rough thermal feels worse when the vario is hawking in your ear compared to the just having the wind noise and the climbing sensation.
I’m not telling you to get rid of the vario but I really think it is a good idea to practice flying without one just to hone your skills and understanding of the air and how your glider reacts in it. The next time you are out flying on a good day then switch it off and have a go without it, you will be surprised. It is strange in the beginning but it soon you start to feel good and comfortable without it.
Remember, with flying anything that makes you use your brain more makes you a better pilot. A vario does not make you use your brain; it is your brain when you are flying. I have heard so many pilots over the years say I went down because my batteries ran out or it stopped working. Come on, that is not an excuse, that is dependency. So next time you get the chance give it a go!
For sure there are pilots out there that will not like flying without their life blood but many of you will find it very enriching.
Happy safe flying,
Rob and the team