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. A perfectly acceptable crumple zone, that soft metal V just folded in and absorbed a lot of energy. And…. cage is still round.
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.
Could this accident been avoided? Yes, I can think of a couple of scenarios that would have saved the launch. If I just followed my course and run off into the weeds, it would have been fine. If I’d have popped a little brake before I caught an edge, I’m confident the Falcon would have flown but I like to build as much speed as I can so that the trike leaps into the air.
However if I pulled brake after catching an edge, it would have been a disaster. I’d have spun under the wing and without the friction of the wheels on the surface, it would have probably turned a lot more than 270 degrees. And….When I came back down , who knows what direction I’d be pointed. One things for sure, I’d still be at takeoff speed and probably would have rolled violently. Round tires would , 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 small diameter helps to direct the prop wash above the wing before launch. So… I’m going to think a little more, before changing back to the conventional round nose wheel.
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.
I’m still not happy with the A assists and I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to not having my hands on the A’s during inflation. Today, the wing was a little slow to come overhead. I’d like to dial it in so I can try Robert’s Throggle.
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 awhile to make the last mile. Unable to penetrate he eventually he had to descend into the turbulent layer below 300 ft to gain 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.
A few days after this was uploaded, Tucker Gott, PPG’s YouTube phenom, put the video on a Blooper Reel. I thought! “Cool, at least there is a good write up “, maybe he’ll make a learning moment out of it.” But then, he called the rig “Rickety and Janky”, what’s Janky anyway? Maybe it’s Janky but Terry doesn’t build anything that’s Rickety. Geez!
Maybe I’ll have to buy a Risky Briskets Tee Shirt