845. Sunset flight

It was not a big one.  It was not a long one.  

The best way to describe this flight was …. I don’t know….maybe? Dicey.  
First….The winds were from the East giving me the shortest angle on the field.  I had to thread the needle between several obstacles and…  if the Lift EZ decided not to live up to its name, I would be apologizing to the rancher for scaring his cows.   In my favor …. there was a healthy 8 mph to help me climb.  So… I kited a bit.  The air was only slightly twitchy and most of it was caused by soft edge rotor from upwind trees.   I decided to set-up the wing in a chevron with the center tucked in.  

It inflated beautifully and I only needed to taxi for a short time before committing to launch.  The climb out was acceptable.  It was one of those times I missed the old simonini trike buggy but the Falcon did fine.  I headed upwind and tasted the air.  With the trim still in neutral Airspeed was 16 mph with mildly bumpy air.  The first turn downwind was sluggish.  Subsequent turns I used more brake pressure and found it better.  I suspect that had I let trim out I would have been much more comfortable.  
The real problem was that I just wasn’t feeling good about the flight.  There were too many little things less than perfect.  I was pissed not to have my camera available and was trying to use my iPhone to shoot the sunset.  Try as I might, I couldn’t settle down and go hands free.  An angel looking over my shoulder would have thought that I was spastic seeing the convoluted way I was trying to hold the phone and shoot with one hand.  The sunset was stunning …. The pictures were not.
Then,  I noticed an unusual amount of play with the nosewheel.  I could feel the caster moving way too much in the mounting plate and wondered if the whole thing would fall off when I touched down.  I couldn’t see where the problem was from my perspective but it was, “hillbilly sloppy”.  It wouldnt have been a good idea to land after  sunset, when my nosewheel was acting funny.  The winds were good for a slow landing, right now.  But, after the sun sets, they have a tendency to decrease, meaning that my landing speed would be faster.
Time to land.  
After an uneventful landing, I inspected the wheel and found that the caster bearings were gone.  Without the 3/8 balls filling the caster plate there was a huge amount of play with the whole wheel assembly.  It was ugly but I can probably fly it that way forever.  

When I got home and did a more comprehensive post flight inspection, I discovered that a weld had broken in the center of the cage.  It happened after my preflight and I’d like to think that the vibration from the broken weld played a part in my unease.  Probably not.  Either way,  it wasn’t structural and not a showstopper in itself. 
So…. I cheated Death yet again and flew like a bird.   Gawd love this sport.

Author: JoeO

Powered Paraglider pilot since 2005

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