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.