Dumb Chute Story … Flight #670 Vance Brand

This one I’ll be kicking myself for a long time.  The flight was nothing dramatic.  No Balloons … No Bird strikes … just a nice AM flight.
BUT… After I landed and bagged the wing I was driving the trike back to the truck and saw Ian was at his hanger so I thought to go over there and shoot the breeze with him.
Well,  as I was along side the truck I tossed the wing off to the side and as soon as I did it I heard that horrible sound of a wing getting parablended.  Apparently it took a bad bounce and I didn’t toss it hard enough because the prop sliced right through the wing bag and took out two top panels plus a rip on the bottom.
Another technical note:
The belt has been squealing more the last few flights so I took Terry Lutke’s advice and removed the belt, washed it with soapy water and applied conditioner.  Well, now it’s not making any noise but I noticed that there was rubber on the pulleys.   Maybe it was the conditioner.  Maybe it’s too tight.  I’m going to fly one more flight and evaluate it then.

668 & 669 VB

Calm at the surface with a 10 mph Westerly breeze at 100 feet.  There were two nasty thermoclines at  5800 and 6300 feet MSL.  Over 200 feet it was at lease 10 degrees warmer. First flight with the balloons and then a short one for practice.  On the second launch a slight wind dad come up and when I powered up to launch the wing was popped up and overhead before I even started rolling.
Taxi practice went well until I hit one of the sand pits and slowed enough for the glider to stall

# 667 A Assists

Notice the A line is pulled ahead of the rest of the rest

For the last two weeks I’ve been experimenting with A Assists.  The idea is to have the A lines uniformly pulled during inflation with an attachment just forward of the hang point loops.  The line that hooks to the A Mallon is adjustable and can be released in flight.
So far I’m undecided, the wing comes up slower than if I’m the one controlling the A’s and unless I’m doing something wrong they don’t always come up as straight as advertised.  One time it was because the assist line got snagged and another time the lines might have been uneven.  Another thing I’m not to fond of is that unless they are detached on landing the wing is prone to inflate itself.  This morning while I walked back to the truck to retrieve the wing bag, the wing inflated and built a nice little wall.  One little puff and I think it would have launched itself.   Yesterday it did!  If there is any breeze at all I’m going to have to remember to release the tension on the A’s.
I like holding the A lines during inflation.  It allows me to feel the wing and adjust with brakes or steering the trike.  Using the Assists I can only monitor the wing by watching it.  That may be better if my helmet doesn’t get in the way.  On the next flight I’m going to pull the A’s out another 1/2 inch and see if it does n’t come up a little faster.
This morning there was a light breeze from the south  I could see 4 balloons that had launched from the Gunbarrel area.  It was perfect, I could fly into the wind and meet the balloons half way, and then, hopefully, they would come back to Vance Brand to land.  The take-off was good and I passed through two layers of bumpy air, one at 300 ft. agl and another at 1600 ft. agl.  The breeze changed direction at 300 ft and died completely above 1600.  There was no way to know where the balloons would land.  So… what I thought was going to be a headwind toward the balloons turned out to be a tail wind.  When we met at about 2000agl  I couldn’t tell what direction the air was moving.  I did a few fly-bys and headed back.

At the field the wind had turned 180 degrees from when I launched and was picking up quickly.  I should have guessed it from the bumps I encountered returning.  Good Flight

 Egil came out but didn’t fly due to a tear in his wing.

Mark of the Devil #666 VB

No Drama … The only real moment of interest was after landing.  The Eden III had laid down nicely and just after I I stepped out of my seat it inflated and decided to fly.  I think that soaking and fluff cycle at the field brought back some life to that old wing.   It felt so good that I hung around another 20 minutes and did some good kiting by 8:00 the wind had built to a nice steady 10 mph.

Chip,  it was good talking with you yesterday.  Here is a picture from THAT flight to Red Rocks.

Steamboat Springs Balloon Rodeo #665

The 2013 Steamboat Balloon Festival 

right place right time 


Dawn and I had planned to visit some friends in Steamboat and it was only a lucky break that it was the same weekend as the Festival.  We had a concert the evening before, so I wasn’t able to attend the pilot briefing on Friday night. I spoke with Debby Standefer the Balloon Meister earlier in the week and knew I was welcome but little else.

So, with little information and a gut full of butterfly s I arrived at the field on Saturday morning.  I had expected a large park and was hoping for plenty of room to launch but was disappointed to find a small rectangle surrounded by vendor booths.  There was no chance that I would be able to launch early and even after the mass ascension it would not be an easy launch.  There were too many obstructions and not enough room.  Debby suggested that I look around for an alternate site and I found a spot on the other side of the jump pond where a couple of the local balloonists were beginning to set-up.  

Steamboat 2013 LZ

It wasn’t great, there was a narrow runway of hard pack that ended abruptly into a field of tall weeds.  There were some trees to avoid and of course the pond that separated us from the rest of the festival. It looked possible but I was going to have to get the inflation right immediately and make the go- no go decision within 30 feet of the start. 

I spoke with Ian, the senior balloonist, who explained that the visiting pilots were concerned about a large cell several miles off and the possible winds that it might send our way.  The plan was for him and another one of his balloons to launch at this site and act as “Pie Plates” for the others to gauge the air.  He wasn’t too encouraging and told me that it might be a very short flight.  While we were talking a slight breeze came up from down valley which was in exactly the right direction.  I took it to be a good omen and set up.  

Ian launched quickly and his second balloon set up and inflated in record time.  It was now or never.  When I powered up, the wing only need a quick tug on the right side to bring it in-line with the runway.  It felt good from the start and once I was rolling I had no doubts.  Just before I got to the end of the hard pack I lifted off and started a very slow climb-out.  When I got to the trees I did a couple of turns between the largest groves and it was all good.  Dawn said that it looked close on take off and because of the trees they were not able to see where I was until I had climbed up and around the trees.  

Once up, it was a great flight.  I cruised over the Balloon field a couple of times and saw only one balloon that looked like it was going to launch.  The rest of the field was loaded with people milling around.  There was no way I was going to do a fly-by on the field, so I circled at 75 feet and waved before heading up valley to play with the two locals.  

Steamboat is a beautiful place to fly and I look forward to coming back.   The valley air was calm and the ski mountain looked like a great climb 3000 feet to the top.  There was a freight train rolling down the valley and lots to see.  I could have stayed up all morning and would have, except that it was starting to sprinkle and I was worried that it was only going to get worse.  After flying around the smaller balloon I turned back to check out my landing options.  I used the radio to ask Dawn  to clear the field and by the time I had circled once it was free of spectators.  

The landing was much like the take off,. narrow with obstructions to avoid.  There was no clearing turn before final,  I just set up over the Yampa and followed it in.  As soon as I cleared the trees I went to idle and touched down exactly right.  It felt good,

Time for showers and breakfast


This is a place I want to come back to, the area is flyer friendly and the view is wonderful.  At 6800 feet it’s not to high for a reasonable launch but with the ski area there I could do some serious climbing and never be 50 feet agl.  

Till the next time Steamboat.

# 657 & 658 Vance Brand

Arrived at 6:00 and the sun was already up.  Someday soon I’ll beat it!  This morning I flew the PowerPlay 250 because the Eden II has a broken line.  The first launch was good and after tightening the A Assist lines the second launch was even better.  I’m building a wall without the chevron or pulling the center up to the leading edge and it seems to improve inflation.  The wing flys through the prop wash and as soon as it is out of the was the trike begins to roll.
Problem solved ?  I hope so.

#656 Vance Brand

Problems adjusting to the A Assists.  The wing is coming up slow and I think it is partly because I am using the chevron style of set up.  Next time ill build a conventional wall and see what happens.  If there is a healthy breeze maybe go back to the chevron.
I cut a Main D line and not really sure how except that I may have not organized the lines properly before launch.  No biggie I tied a square knot and relaunched.  The wing seemed to pull a little to the right which I countered with a little trim and some left brake.
Nice flight