Opps … Powered paragliding with the risers out of balance.

#525 and #526
Risers out of balance causes right hand turn
Daylight Savings changed to winter mode weekend  so….  I was a little off when planning what time to leave the house.  I could have tried the Saint Mary’s site, its only a mile away, but I wanted a long runway with a smooth surface.  The rows of bumpy ruts and high tension wires at Saint Mary’s just didn’t suit me tonight… I needed a nice easy LZ.  Vance Brand was looking good, I arrived at 4:00 pm and wasted no time putting up the wind sock and and unloading the Falcon.  It was 40 degrees, not quite cold enough to warrant the Electric G gloves but I wanted to try them out so that this winter, when it really got cold,  I would be familiar with all the hook ins and where they went..  By the time I was ready to launch it was 30 minutes till sundown. 
The wind was light from the south, not unusual for this time of day but it was the first time I’d launched to the south at Vance Brand.  I layed the wing on my lap and powered to the north end of the LZ about 50 feet from the General Aviation runway.  There was plenty of room but with the Eden III lots of runway is a good thing.  The G-gloves were bulky but manageable when I was positioning my hands to hold the the A mallions for inflation.  The wing came up quickly … I added some brake to allow time for the trike to catch up and started my run out.  The takeoff was sluggish and I found myself turning to the right.  Even at full power I wasn’t gaining altitude and a couple of times I considered. aborting but I had turned 180 degrees and was flying toward the runway. 
The correct thing would have been to go with the turn but I decided to fight it and kept adding left brake until I was able to fly straight.  Eventually I was pointed at the west end of the runway and then turning back toward the truck.  The wing was climbing but slowly.  I looked and knew there was something wrong that was causing the turn but I didn’t catch it until I landed. 

Despite being aware of keeping the trimmer cams above the hang point loops while setting up, the right side had somehow slipped down, hanging the trike from the hang point loop and the cam.  This has happened to me before and a couple of times I was able to free the cam but for some reason perhaps the bad light and dark sunglasses I didn’t see the problem. It is not a good thing, the hang point loop isn’t designed to take a load and when the cam is caught below the steel ring it causes the risers to be off center by more than an inch.  The wing will naturally cause a turn forcing me to used brakes and lose energy to maintain a straight line.  Perhaps it happened when I was adjusting the wing or positioning the lines…. whatever the cause, I was having to use lots of left brake to fly straight and when it was time to land I was using a huge amount of brake on the left side to maintain.  It is a small wing and needs speed to fly so I was a a distinct disadvantage, being forced warp the wing into an inefficient configuration to remain aloft.  The Eden riser is different from the PowerPlay,  it is more apt to do this and so I’m going to have to make it one of the last checks before starting the motor, expecially when I fly the Eden.

The second flight was just to prove I could
Take off was fine but the climb out was slow.  When flying the Eden I’ll have to allow for more room to gain take off speed.  The place where I had set up was adequate but there wasn’t a lot of room for error,  I found myself using brakes to get off and then I  had to stay on them to avoid dropping down.  Eventually I was stable I let up the brakes which allowed the wing to climb and the climb was good.   I circled up to 400 feet and pulled a couple of wing overs, circled over the hangers and landed.  It was all good and the landing was clean.
Two short flights…… Not much airtime… But
I got my fix and feel much better about
Life, the Universe, and Everything.

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

Bubba’s High Altitude Fly-In

I’ve been home from Bubba’s Event for almost a month but for a number of personal reasons I haven’t posted my report.  In a nutshell I had two good flights and one spectacular crash with minor equipment damage and no injuries.  For a complete report on the Fly-In, see Mike Bennetts Blog.  He picked up the ball and has written a very comprehensive post.     http://mbppg.com/info/bubba.html 

After two successful albeit fast launches I rolled the Falcon. 
The irony is within this You Tube Video

As with most incidents there were several things that contributed to the mishap.  Here is the way I remember it.  The first two launches with Mike’s 30 meter Eden III were fast.  In both cases I took off and touched down again before getting off.  In both cases I floated for a couple hundred yards before starting to climb.  Once up, the flight and landing was pretty standard.  Flight speed was around 32mph and my climb was about 125 feet/min.

On my last launch I touched twice and on the second touch I came down crooked with the trike contacting the ground with the front and right rear wheel.  The trike flipped and rolled once landing on the wheels, I was then ejected to the right in the opposite direction of the roll.  I immediately turned off the motor but not before it damaged the wing. Here are some of the things I did wrong:
1) I did not fasten the seat belt.   This is not a common mistake for me but I have done it twice… both times with witnesses.  It was fortunate that I was able to stay with the machine during the roll…  One effect of not being belted in was that when I hit a bump and got bounced, I lost contact with the right steering peg.  It could have caused the cart to turn so that when I did get lifted the thrust was out of alignment with the wing.
2) Once the wing came up and stabilized I didn’t check it again.   After the first touch the wing started an oscillation, which unknown to me, got progressively worse as I accelerated.  I lost situational awareness as to what my wing was doing relative to the trike.   HUGE MISTAKE !
3) I did not abort or reduce throttle after the first touch.  Despite the fact that the launch was obviously going bad I stayed on the throttle when I should have aborted or reduced power and stabilized.  The first thing Bubba asked me was … “Did your throttle get stuck.  It is very telling that I thought I could salvage the launch right up until the trike started to roll.  Looking back I my head wasn’t in it.  The weather wasn’t expected to be flyable and going out to the field was a last minute decision.  I rushed to get ready and like my last post “Rush and Pay the Piper”,  BOY DID I !
4)  The front wheel on the Falcon was bent and not appropriate for the terrain and speed required for lift-off.  The guys pointed out my bent front wheel when I first arrived.  It must have suffered from some of my lurching launches at Simms when the trike is rolling full speed over a bumpy surface.  This might have also contributed to the reason I didn’t abort.  The Falcon does not handle high speed taxiing as well as the Trike Buggy did … it was a little like trying to foot launch in no wind or down wind … It felt too fast to abort, and if that were the case I shouldn’t have tried to launch.. 
Looking back … I was an accident looking for a place to happen.  I was rushing to get up and in the wrong frame of mind to be flying.  My previous two flights were successful but my head was not in the game and it was dumb luck that prevented serious injury.

Time to take a break from flying.

Here are a series of pictures that Shelia Boulten took … See if you can follow the sequence.

Good inflation
Still good gaining speed
Bumpy ground
foot off peg
Emergency take off
Back down …foot off peg
Emergency take off
two point touch down
Trike is 100 degrees off course
Trike is 180 degrees off course and rolling
back on wheels / pilot is ejected
Turns off motor
Here is a link to Mike’s photos of the repair
Mike Bennetts’s Video

#373 Falcon Walmart

This was an off day. I met with Kevin on the corner of Woodman & Markscheffel, it was too wet and muddy so we went to his 2nd choice which they call Falcon Walmart. I’m sure it was a better site a year ago but the construction has continued and the field we selected wasn’t that big. No problem for foot launch but a little tight for me. The field has recently been cut but the cuttings were still there and perfect little chunks of tangle weed.

The wind was fresh from the South and while we set up it shifted slightly to the east. My first launch was aborted when the throttle cable snagged a line and I couldn’t get it free…even with the wing mostly loaded. There wasn’t alot of room to fool around so I aborted before I got too far down the runway. While I reset Kevin took off and soon I was ready for
#2 This was a mess…The wing came up fine but my acceleration was poor and it fell back. I tried to save the launch. Big mistake… The PPS will not come back up unless you have control of the A’s. I’ve been thinking of reinstalling the A assists and this would have been the perfect time to have them. I would have probably got the wing back overhead but what happened instead was …the wing fell back and caught in the propwash, it pulled the buggy back and turtled. Fortunately I was able to kill the engine quickly. The cage was tweaked a bit but the spinner and soft damp earth saved the prop.

Kevin landed and encouraged me to try again. I wasn’t too keen after two bad launches but the air was good. So…I started the motor to be sure the prop was still balanced and tracking clear of the cage. The motor came up to 3600 but I couldn’t get any more.
#3…The wing came up clean and started to overshoot but I added some brake and accelerated. The run out was long and I barely had enough room but eventually I got up and started circling the field. Climb rate was lousy and I noticed that the RPM’s had dropped to 3400. After several laps I started to get some altitude. The air was good with just the slightest currents. After 10 or 15 minutes I did a fly-by and landed. It was a nice landing, with a low & slow turn just before final and a 3/4 throttle gentle landing.
Kevin…thanks for the ear plugs!

Today I dressed for cold weather but didn’t need to. The gloves I selected were not nearly as supple as I thought, it hard to handle the lines and when I had to reset twice I was clumsy and hot in the “snow suit”. Next time …set up the wing ….test fill it … then put on the heavy clothes.

To Dos…
1)Add washers to the cruise control nob. DONE
2)Check the PPS for snags and debris…check the mallions on both wings
3)See about pulling the cage back into round.
4) Rig the A assists for winter flying
5)Check pitch of the props

I saw God Today #350 & #351 Chatfield

Lucky guy

Intermediate syndrome is an affliction that usually affects a pilot after 40 or 50 flights, or whenever they first start to feel good about their abilities.

It’s characterized by over confidence in both man and machine and it usually leads to a blunder that endangers life. It could present itself in any number of ways… an error in judgement, or a bad reaction to Mother Nature. It might be technique or a mechanical issue. Whatever the cause, if the pilot survives the incident…he should think real hard about either quitting or redoubling his efforts to improve.

It might be time to go to a maneuvers clinic or have some quality radio time with a good coach. It’s absolutely a good day to go over the machine and wing with a fine tooth comb.

Optimistically, there is an epiphany that stays with the pilot for the rest of their career, because on that day… the bag of luck is now half empty and the bag of experience is not yet full.

When I realized that my life was being supported by a glorified key

chain and some thin 1/2 inch webbing…

I thanked the Creator that I was still alive.

Then I looked for the best way,

to proceed to earth…

as directly as possible.

I’m still shaking my head trying to figure out how it happened.I attached the riser on the left side to the cheap plastic beaner that I use for the foot steering instead of connecting to the heavy stainless beaner that ties the wing to the buggy. I didn’t realize my mistake until I noticed that the foot steering cable was pressing against my left side. When I saw that the rig was being supported by a glorified key chain and thin 1/2 inch webbing…I couldn’t believe that I was still alive. Not only was the beaner unrated and not designed to carry a load, the loop it was attached to was loaded against the stitching. There were two places where a failure was imminent. Looking at the materials it should have failed when I loaded the wing before take-off …and… I wish it had. It would have been more dramatic and made a bigger impression but it wouldn’t have killed me. As it was a non-incident, I hope that the magnitude of the error sticks with me.

I had to get down …right now! I was 400 feet AGL and about the correct distance to glide back to the field, so I did a slow flat turn toward the field and landed without incident.

What were the causes that lead to this huge goof ?

1. I had switched to the Eden III which does not require the extra loop of webbing to get the hangpoint right. When it is configured this way the hangpoint loops are not long enough to reach the normal keeper on the bullet bars. So…I end up attaching the beaner to a loop on the foot steering for transport.

2. I must not have had enough coffee because it is almost impossible to imagine an alert mind attaching a plastic carabiner to the riser. It is so much more difficult to thread the correct carabiner that it should have set off alarms when that slim plastic beaner tip slipped through the loop so easily. The length was about right and when I pulled on the riser to take out any slack, it pulled the hangpoint loop just as if it were correctly attached.

I thought perhaps I should move the foot steering forward on the bullet bars to get them away from the hang point straps, but I don’t think I’ll do that. Having the webbing behind my shoulders is cleaner and I doubt I’ll ever look at the foot steering again without remembering the day I hung from a cheap 2 inch plastic carabiner.

This is the first real stupid mistake I’ve made in PPG and certainly the first one that endangered my life! I was deeply affected by the experience, and it was heavy on my mind for several days. I will strive to learn from this and be a more responsible pilot.

I vote for better pilot.

#324 & #325 … Dick’s Soccer Fields

The View was Great

( Pilot’s eye View )
Mike Bennett said he would be at Dick’s at 6:30… I arrived and unloaded at 5:30 so I could launch before the sun. It was 57 degrees and the wind was steady from the SSW at 5mph.

I set up and launched with only one issue. …….

Last week Mike Savino commented on my Facebook ….Check Lists …Check Lists… Check Lists… Well…. Today, the little thing I missed was the trimmers. I’d left them open after kiting in high wind on Wed. The buggy got up fairly quickly but the climb was terrible. I closed them and did a couple of laps for altitude. The plan was to traverse the new neighborhoods high and then descend to 150 feet and circle the old tower at Stapleton. If all went well I would get a trophy shot of my shadow on the tower, unfortunately there were three or four police cars spotlighting an apartment building directly between me and the tower. I could probably have pulled it off because I doubt they could have heard the 4 stroke from 1000 feet but…No good would come from getting their attention, so I decided to abort on the side of discretion and save it for another day. On the way back after crossing the highway I explored the southern field from 150 feet. Lots of trees but plenty of room to work with.
When I got back over the field Mike was setting up and Paul Dillon pulled in shortly after I landed. By the time I went up for the second flight Paul M., Dan K. and a couple of new guys were there. Shortly after Paul launched a Gov. type showed up looking for a fight. Apparently we had crossed into the Rocky Mountain Arsenal. I don’t think any of us was ever more than 600 feet inside the fence but from his perspective it could have looked like we were much deeper into his turf. After pleading ignorance, begging forgiveness and promising to brief the “new guys”, he cooled down and and left.

( Photo Mike Bennett )

I set up on the entrance road to avoid the low clinging weeds and launched behind Dan and had a great flight.

( Photo Mike Bennett )
It was good to see so many of the Denver Flock in one place. I had to leave to get to work but the gang hung around and worked with the new guys (Tom & Branden) on ground handling.

( Photo Mike Bennett )

#313 Simms

First Sunset Fight of the Season

Finally an afternoon without thunderstorms building over the foothills! I packed and was at the field at 7:30. There as hardly a cloud in the sky and the breeze was half a knot from the south east. I set-up on the high side of the field where the weeds were a bit shorter. There was no problem getting the buggy rolling because of the slight grade and the wing came up perfectly. I think I’ve found the best was to lay out with a slight V and the center tucked up to the cell openings. Take off speed was 24 mph which leads me to think there was a gradient just above the surface.

The light wasn’t great for photography but I tried a 360 degree series anyway.


The air was good with a little mixing going on. I watched a kid practicing motocross for a while and as the breeze built I played with crabbing the wing across the field. When the sun set behind the foothills I turned on the forward strobe. It would be great if I could find a way to turn them both on while in flight. I boated around the field for 20 minutes and when the breeze started to shift to a Westerly decided to land.
For no good reason I was uncomfortable and flew as I expected something bad to happen at any minute. Huh where did that come from? Perhaps it was because I had to sort out a brake line which was not tangled but had wrapped and tightened on the wrong side of the risers. (NON EVENT)
I did have an issue where I had changed the position of the throttle and pinched my hand badly during landing. Part of it might have been because I wasn’t wearing the trusty golf gloves, the “D” ring on the Velcro was pinching the flesh between thumb and forefinger and when I flared it bruised the area behind my knuckles big time.. I’m going to have to sit in the garage and play with it since I’m still having trouble finding a comfortable grip.
PPG NEWS…
Jeff Baumgartner has sold his PPG Plans for Sky Bolt and website to Jeff Goin and his inventory to Terry Lutke. Jeff and Terry plan to keep this excellent design available for pilots who want to build their own. This level of cooperation speaks volumes about their unselfish love of the sport and I applaud them for it.
Bubba has invited everybody to his place next weekend for a midsummer fly-in. I’m bummed, this is the 3rd one that I’m going to miss. Next year for sure!