March 12, 2008
I hurried and arrived at the field 30 minutes earlier than yesterday. The winds were light and from east. The forecast was for West by Southwest which put me on alert that it might be sketchy. The skies were partly cloudy, but it looked mellow enough so I set up for launch. It was not my prettiest take off, more of a lurch into the sky. I had to add a bit of brake to keep from drifting back down and touching a wheel. Once the climb was established I let the torque of the Simonini ease me into a right hand turn and climbed to 500 feet. After a couple of laps around the field with moderate bumps I decided to land. It wasn’t so bumpy that I was spooked but it was enough that I thought it would be a good idea to let the air settle a bit.
I waited 15 minutes on the ground and decided to try again. ….Maybe I rushed or was laying out the wing slightly off the wind but there were two bad inflations and…I tried to recover long after I should have aborted…Once, I got tipped on 2 wheels and was doing the Fred Flintstone before I decided to give it up I think the wing tip was low enough to touch ground.
A couple of days ago I watched a video of Chad taxiing in circles and maybe I was inspired to push it. And… I might have been able to pull it off if it were dry lake bed instead of a bumpy hay field. Feeling a little bit humbled I set up for the 4th time that afternoon launched and cruised around the field feeling the air. It was noticeably smother so I headed into the park, I wanted to take some pictures of the ice melt. The eastern side of the lake is clear but the entire western leg is iced over. There is a fracture from the seadoo beach across to mark #6 which widens when the wind blows from the south. I loitered around the marina at 1000 feet and then turned south to the RC Airport. After taking a few pictures of the “Tiny Airport’ I headed to the west arm of the reservoir. When I got near the south west inlet it started getting really bumpy. The wing was acting jerky with short quick oscillations from side to side. A couple of times the wing surged forward and I tentatively added some brake to get it back overhead. I flew another 20 seconds and the wing pitched aft far enough to put feet were level with my head. That got my attention big time… for the next few minutes I was getting the puppet treatment the front wheel of the trike seems to be my reference point and I watched it and the mirror as I bounced around doing what ballast does best. After a few seconds I worked on flying with a few pounds of brake pressure and tried to actively keep the wing centered overhead.
About half way out of the park I was watching the mirror and gently flying the wing when the left side collapsed. I was surprised how slowly it seemed to happen. The tip went limp and the leading edge folded forward. It seemed like several seconds but I suspect it was over very quickly. It re-inflated quicly after touching the brakes followed by hands up. As soon as the wing re-inflated and flying, I changed course to the east, thinking that the turbulence was caused by the cool air following the river, almost immediately, I was in smooth air. Ten minutes later I was back at the field and landed without incident.
All in all I think I handled it pretty well, it could be argued that I shouldn’t have gone up at all, but the conditions were acceptable I knew there was a chance it was going to be bumpy so I didn’t waste any time getting to altitude. When it did get rowdy I focused on the wing and while I probably should have been more aggressive with the brakes, I didn’t overdo it and managed the situation ok. The important thing was that I didn’t panic, it was a little like being 80 feet below the surface of the ocean and having your face mask ripped off your face. Keep your head and deal with the situation. It was an ‘atta boy’ moment. I think I ready to start practicing simple maneuvers and learning to more actively fly the wing.