Bubba’s High Altitude Fly-In

I’ve been home from Bubba’s Event for almost a month but for a number of personal reasons I haven’t posted my report.  In a nutshell I had two good flights and one spectacular crash with minor equipment damage and no injuries.  For a complete report on the Fly-In, see Mike Bennetts Blog.  He picked up the ball and has written a very comprehensive post.     http://mbppg.com/info/bubba.html 

After two successful albeit fast launches I rolled the Falcon. 
The irony is within this You Tube Video

As with most incidents there were several things that contributed to the mishap.  Here is the way I remember it.  The first two launches with Mike’s 30 meter Eden III were fast.  In both cases I took off and touched down again before getting off.  In both cases I floated for a couple hundred yards before starting to climb.  Once up, the flight and landing was pretty standard.  Flight speed was around 32mph and my climb was about 125 feet/min.

On my last launch I touched twice and on the second touch I came down crooked with the trike contacting the ground with the front and right rear wheel.  The trike flipped and rolled once landing on the wheels, I was then ejected to the right in the opposite direction of the roll.  I immediately turned off the motor but not before it damaged the wing. Here are some of the things I did wrong:
1) I did not fasten the seat belt.   This is not a common mistake for me but I have done it twice… both times with witnesses.  It was fortunate that I was able to stay with the machine during the roll…  One effect of not being belted in was that when I hit a bump and got bounced, I lost contact with the right steering peg.  It could have caused the cart to turn so that when I did get lifted the thrust was out of alignment with the wing.
2) Once the wing came up and stabilized I didn’t check it again.   After the first touch the wing started an oscillation, which unknown to me, got progressively worse as I accelerated.  I lost situational awareness as to what my wing was doing relative to the trike.   HUGE MISTAKE !
3) I did not abort or reduce throttle after the first touch.  Despite the fact that the launch was obviously going bad I stayed on the throttle when I should have aborted or reduced power and stabilized.  The first thing Bubba asked me was … “Did your throttle get stuck.  It is very telling that I thought I could salvage the launch right up until the trike started to roll.  Looking back I my head wasn’t in it.  The weather wasn’t expected to be flyable and going out to the field was a last minute decision.  I rushed to get ready and like my last post “Rush and Pay the Piper”,  BOY DID I !
4)  The front wheel on the Falcon was bent and not appropriate for the terrain and speed required for lift-off.  The guys pointed out my bent front wheel when I first arrived.  It must have suffered from some of my lurching launches at Simms when the trike is rolling full speed over a bumpy surface.  This might have also contributed to the reason I didn’t abort.  The Falcon does not handle high speed taxiing as well as the Trike Buggy did … it was a little like trying to foot launch in no wind or down wind … It felt too fast to abort, and if that were the case I shouldn’t have tried to launch.. 
Looking back … I was an accident looking for a place to happen.  I was rushing to get up and in the wrong frame of mind to be flying.  My previous two flights were successful but my head was not in the game and it was dumb luck that prevented serious injury.

Time to take a break from flying.

Here are a series of pictures that Shelia Boulten took … See if you can follow the sequence.

Good inflation
Still good gaining speed
Bumpy ground
foot off peg
Emergency take off
Back down …foot off peg
Emergency take off
two point touch down
Trike is 100 degrees off course
Trike is 180 degrees off course and rolling
back on wheels / pilot is ejected
Turns off motor
Here is a link to Mike’s photos of the repair
Mike Bennetts’s Video

Author: JoeO

Powered Paraglider pilot since 2005

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