Flight Day. #1114. Spinout!

Well…. That was interesting. This morning… the first day of 2022, I had two aborted launches with a tip over.

The whole thing was so smooth and gentle, that, the second it was over, I knew …. It was OK. Nothing was bent, crushed or broken. Man or machine. The only visible evidence was a scrape on the outer ring and the original keeper was bent flush to the cage. If it had happened at the Salton Sea Gathering ….it would have gone viral .

The tip-over was the end result of the nose wheel catching an edge just at take off speed. I was drifting toward the boundary of the blacktop and dirt and had started to steer back to center, when (I think), the front wheel barely lifted and immediately touched back down. The sharp edge of the nose wheel appears to catch the edge of the blacktop causing the Falcon to pivot off it’s nose and spin 280 degrees to the left. Then, with it’s energy spent, the Falcon gently tipped over.

Video Jacob Nisley

Could this accident been avoided? Yes, I can think of a couple of scenarios that would have saved the launch. If I’d have popped a little brake at that moment, I’m confident the Falcon would have flown. A little more brake pressure might have allowed me to feel and steer the wing more precisely. If I’d been a little lighter of foot, the wheel might not have been turned as sharply and might not have caught an edge. The “slop” in the front wheel caster might have allowed it to cant causing the edge to catch. Round tires might have helped and that’s something not related to reactions or muscle memory. But I like the way the flat wheel steers and it’s smaller diameter helps to direct the prop wash above the wing before launch. So… I going to think a little more before changing tires.

After quick check of the rig and lines, I reset and tried again. And… failed again! This time the A-assist ratchet slipped and the wing headed off to the right where I followed it off the field. It was an embarrassing non-event. So… I gathered up the wing and determined to fly, reset for the third time. By now, the wind had picked up to 5 knots and was coming from 90 degrees off the earlier heading. This time the launch was quick, clean and very lofty. No issues with the lines at all.

The air was trashy up to 300 feet, where it settled down but the breeze had increased to 18 knots. Jacob had launched earlier and was well on his way to the beach. I called him and we swapped position reports. He was over the causeway about to descend to the beach. The wind looked like it was going to continue to build so I stayed over the patch.

I landed clean by the truck and waited for Jacob. After waiting awhile for his return I called him again. He was having a slow time penetrating and it took him a long time to make the last mile. Unable to penetrate he eventually he had to descend into the turbulent layer below 300 ft to start gaining ground on the LZ. His landing was spot on, despite the strong breeze and bumpy air.

It wasn’t a good day but it wasn’t a disaster either. It’s been more than a decade since I crashed on takeoff at Bubba’s. These things happen… and… after all… I did get to fly.

Author: JoeO

Powered Paraglider pilot since 2005

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