Flight # 1106

This was fun. I arrived at the field at 7am about 15 minutes before dawn. The air was still and there were patches of ground fog.

Adam Mangett, a drone pilot I met a couple of weeks ago, came to fly and film his drone with Rob Nordlund and I. We had a quick safety briefing and I launched. Adam’s drone was fast and incredibly nimble. I flew around the patch for about 15 minutes while he flew barrel rolls around me. Then I followed Rob out to Gaspirilla Island.

The air was bumpy even before the sun cleared the horizon. There were three layers, at 250 ft, and again at 800 and 1600. As I approached the causeway, I could see that there was a healthy breeze coming from the WSW. Halfway across the causeway I was whacked by sharp turbulence and took a partial collapse of the wing. So… I decided to abort and turned back toward the LZ. Rob wasn’t far behind.

Back at the LZ, the turbulence had come down to about a 4. The wind sock was showing zero wind so I decided to land opposite of takeoff. The must have had some breeze above the surface, because I came in hot and had to drop the wing into the grass to avoid dragging it on the pavement.

Here is the video Adam took with his drone.

At the LZ we shot the bull with the drone guys and a couple groups of cyclists who stopped by.

Adam’s edit from todays flight. Next time we will have communication and a plan of maneuvers.

620 & 621 VB

WOW ! busy day at the patch!   It was one of the warmest days of the year.  I got to the field a little after 6 and launched without drama.  The first touch and go was lovely but the second not so much.  I got some kind of bouncing thing going on between the left and right rear wheels.  Obviously i was using too much brake and didn’t have the lift when I needed it.  Powered up and got out of trouble.
After the touch and goes I flew by the ski lake and boated around until I was joined by Matt Heckler on his quicksilver.  We flew together for 20 minutes or so and returned to the airfield.

Good flight

Vance Brand 563 & 564

A hazy morning at Vance Brand. 

Moon Set 

 I arrived at 6:00am and it was still too dark to launch.  The air was still and moist and there wasn’t a soul moving at the airport.  I took my time setting up and took a minute to get familiar with the Go Pro.  There were a bunch of geese at the swoop pond and when the took off flapping and honking I took it as clearance to launch. 
Sun Rise
This was my 5th morning at Vance brand this week and I was feeling good.  Not a blown launch in the last several dozen flights and the Generac was running good.

Yesterday there weren’t any balloons but I was hoping they would be flying so I could take some video and I wasn’t disappointed.  I could see one flying low over the Gunbarrel neighborhood and 3 others inflating at the balloon port.  I made a beeline for the flyer who was beginning to ascend.  When I was 1000 yards out he was 300 feet above me I powered up and started to circle around him.   He must of seen me because he slowed his accent and allowed me to come level with him.  We waved and circled for awhile and I turned back to the LZ.

Heading back to the field there were several aircraft up.  A Bonanza heading South flew over and a ultralight circled about 100 yards off my wing.  The NEK Airborne were dropping 60 skydivers at a time with 3 planes.  I loitered to the South of the field until the sky divers were down and landed by the truck. 

I hadn’t planned to launch again but the ultra lite was doing touch and goes on the dirt strip along the South fence and the air was still good.  So I set up and launched.  This time I was getting allot of lift and was climbing at 350 ft./min.  Climbing to 2000ft AGL I shut down the motor and enjoyed the quiet for 10 minutes. At 500 feet I restarted and landed clean.

While I was packing up a fellow came over and introduced himself.  Craig Frank is a PPC and Light sport pilot.  He was waiting for the ultralight to land so that he could try it out. There were several PPC guys who were planning to fly later and he invited me to go along with him on his Six Shooter.  When the little single seat Quicksliver landed Craig introduced me to Barney.  Barney has just just rebuilt the Quicksilver and was planning to fly it to the Fly In in Fort Lupton the next day.  He briefed Craig who then climbed in and headed over to the main runway.  I chatted with Barney for a bit and watched the skydivers who were finishing their 3 jump of the morning.

After an hour and no sign of Craig I decided to go over to the other side of the airport to see if I could find my ride.  It didn’t take long to spot them.  They had the quicksliver on dollys and were wheeling it into Barney’s hanger.  I took a minute to figure out what was wrong with the picture but eventually I got it.  The wheels were missing and the landing struts were bent.  Craig had stalled 5 feet above the runway and pancaked.  He felt terrible and had decided to find a way … somehow.. to repair the plane so that Barney could fly it to the Fly In.  Barney is a fixture at Vance Brand and has been the Ultralight guru there for 20 years. 

The hanger is filled with Ultralight parts. and more than a couple broken planes.  We located some landing struts and determined the nose wheel was repairable.  The only thing missing was a set of axles.  Barney made a cal and 5 minutes later “Bob showed up.  Bob is a retired Mechanical Engineer and collector of small aircraft.  He offered to make a set of axles if we would follow him back to his home and work shop.

So off we went,  Bob has a wonderful shop complete with all the tools to machine just about whatever was needed.  While he worked on the axles I poked around and tried to absorb as much as I could.  His son stopped by and the four of us chatted about Bob’s aircraft.  I was taken by the Hovey Delta Hawk, a tiny little biplane that in another time I would have bought in a heartbeat.  Bob offered to sell it to me for $4,000 which shocked me but he was serious.  Wow a real airplane for $4,000!  Later I thought about it and figured that $4,000 was just the down payment.  By the time I got flight instruction and all that would be needed to keep the wonderful little plane it would be closer to $25,000.  Well I guy can dream.

Dawn and I planned to drive out to the fly in but the weather didn’t cooperate so we stayed home.  Sunday was no good because Obama was going to be speaking in Boulder and all but the big commercial flights were grounded.

Beautiful Cross Country 547 and 548 at Vance Brand

What a beautiful morning to fly with the Balloons!

There was absolutely no breeze at Vance Brand airport this morning.  The sky was clear and I could see one lone balloon at altitude off to the south.  After launching I noticed there were 3 others at low altitude east of the Boulder Reservoir.  I climbed to 500 feet and went to meet them.  There was a 10 mph breeze from the north and the Falcon picked up to 40+mph.   Smooth air all the way.
I did encounter a small fixed wing GA at the same altitude who was heading right at me.  He turned away 1000 yards off my nose.  It could have been that he did not see me until I started to bank away giving the wing more visible surface area.
The return was slow and it started to get bumpy when I dropped altitude to get out of the head wind so I climbed back up opting for the smoother air.   I cant really call it a cross country because I was only up about 40 minutes but it was 14 miles … 7 out and 7 back.
This weekend is the Fly In at Bubba’s.  Have a great time guys … I cannot make it this year.

#545 & #546 Vance Brand

I awoke early and decided to go for it.  The air was warm and still when I arrived at Vance Brand about 6 am.  The first launch was picture perfect.  I lined up on the dirt track and launched right down the runway.  There was a good strong breeze from the South West above 50 feet.   As I was setting up to land I noticed a couple of balloons to the south.  So I landed …. gassed … and set up to reach launch.
This one was a little different.  I didn’t damp the wing quick enough during the inflation and it folded up in a frontal.   I watched it in the mirror as it collapsed and fell behind.  I contemplated aborting the take off but I had plenty of room ahead and decided to see if I could save it.  I throttled down and rolled along for quite a long distance with half the wing but eventually  it inflated and I powered back up.  I was rolling over the grass and waiting for my speed to back up until I came adjacent to the swoop pond. Eventually I got off and went to chase the balloons.  There were 5 in the air with one playing very close to the ground.  Since he was the closest I headed that way and we danced together for a few minutes before I turned back toward the LZ.  I aborted the first landing attempt because the wing was oscillating.  I think it was the result of a hard turn as I descended through the temperature inversion.  Anyway it wasn’t settling down and rather than come in swinging I went around again and landed without trouble.
The balloon was landing east of the field so after packing my gear I drove over and said hello.  There was an FAA inspector who showed up shortly after I to do a “ramp inspection”.  The captain was an elderly gent who seemed a bit forgetful and I didn’t like the idea of the FAA guy quizzing him.  Or me!  I said a quick good by and was on my way back to the house.

#543 Vance Brand

The take off was a little dicey.  Once again I was heading down the western “runway” right toward the picnic bench that I bounced off of a couple of months ago.  The air was still but I expect that I was in a bit of a downwind take off because of the speed of the trike. Just as I was about to abort the trike lifted off and I turned to the right and flew over the swoop pond. 
Once up, I turned to the south to chase the balloons Dawn and I saw on the way out.  There was only one left but I caught up with him and we flew together until he descended into an affluent neighborhood.  I was amazed to see him glide through the neighborhood at rooftop level even descending lower at times when he passed between houses.  On the east end of the community there was a large green space where he landed.
All I can think was that the guy either lived in the neighborhood or had good friends there!
It was a good flight with good air and beautiful skies.

#485 & #486 Vance Brand

It was going to be a weekend of racing with Dawn and Bill Edwards at the Carter Lake Open but the night before the Regatta, Marek called and said that the Flock was going to be flying at Vance Brand in the morning.  I looked at Dawn and 2 seconds later altered my plans to stop for a flight on the way. 

It was wonderful, there was a group of 6 balloons close enough to rendezvous … and so I did.

 The air was smooth and both launches were fine. 

Robert and Marek

Mike Bennett carving it up

off to the regatta

Trike has mid air with balloon

I will let the experts analyze this incident.  I was disapointed and revolted by the bashing from all quarters of the paraflying community.  I will say this…. I knew the pilot and flew with him and his son at the “Gathering”.  He was a healthy and mature pilot with a good conservative attitude toward flying.  While at first blush it is easy to assume the accident was the cause of careless or reckless flying, I prefer to believe that it was “just one of those things that could have happened to any one of us.  Of course mistakes were made but flying with other craft in the air adds risk.  If the pilot had more hours it might not have happened but all of us have been in situations that could have ….. should have bit us in the ass.

Thank God no one was killed

More later

#439 Titan

It was 54 degrees when I left the house but cool air flowing down from the hills reduced the temp at Titan to 41 degrees!  I left the cold weather gear at the house thinking the temp was the temp…wrong.  Lesson learned.  The launch was great, it sure helps to have a nice smooth surface and plenty of room.  I inflated and taxied for a long way before I powered up and committed to launch.  At 1000 feet it warmed up considerably so I flew over to the marina and took pictures.  Not much going on over there. 

My friend here is landing on just a spit of land with water on three sides … Good Job !

The “Ol Balloon Man” was launching 30 minutes into the flight, I was thinking about landing but the opportunity to fly with balloons comes far to seldom so I turned back and played tag for awhile.  I circled him a few times and then passed over the top to catch his thermal.  What a rolercoaster that is!  On the last pass he opened the vents to decend and I shot up like a bubble of champane in a long stem glass.  It’s a very small but intence thermal and wanted to see if I could hold a power on climbing spiral and stay in but …no joy.  What a rush. Looking back I should have taken some pictures but flying around those massive things spooks me and I stayed “hands on”  the whole time we were together”  He had a hell of a day and was still flying after I had packed up and drove back into the park.   I caught up with his wife and asked if they needed any help packing up, she said that they had a ton of crew, but thanks.  We stood around and watched while he thrilled his passengers by landing on a little tongue of land sticking out of the SCUBA pond.


Low Water
calm day

near the end of the season