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. 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.

Video credit Jacob Niely

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

Powered Paragliding in the most rowdy air ever

Dawn and I arrived at Titan at 6:30PM. The winds were blowing 5 to 8 from the NNW and seems to be coming down. I was disappointed that the FRS was not working, I had allowed the battery to run down . It was certainly not a show stopper but I would have liked to have communication with Dawn so that she could be in on the action. While we were fussing with the radios I watched the winds that were cycling every few minutes 150 degrees from NNW to WSW. There were clearly high winds aloft, but down low it looked fine.  No puffs… just a smooth shifting in direction.

When I kited the PP 250 it came up clean and stable so I built a wall and set-up for launch.  The take off was normal, but as soon as I was in the air, I realized that it was going  to be bumpy.  Almost immediately the wing was swung hard to the left and I was in a huge pocket of lift.  I climbed out over the neighborhood and found the air was now moving from the southwest… 180 degrees away from where it was on the surface.  When I got over the field east of the LZ the air smoothed out but the winds were still strong.  I continued around and was soon  back into the bumps over launch area.  This time I turned to the left and found myself in some incredible sink.  I was at full power and descending at over 100 feet / minute.  South of the horse ranch I hit the lift and was climbing 300ft/min at idle.  Now I was too high to set up a landing without hard maneuvers, so I decided to turn east and make a slow descending circle but the wind picked up and I found myself parked just south of the LZ.  At this point there must have been a hard wind shift because the wing folded on the left side.  It was at least a 1/3 collapse but it popped right out and I was still pointing toward my selected landing spot.  My decent was vertical and fast, I flared at the last second and touched down.  It wasn’t a hard landing but the wing pulled back and to the left, rolling me to the side and dragging the trike a few feet, which bent the foot peg that was damaged at Bubba’s last year.  On the ground I looked over the trike and found no other damage.  Dawn saw the collapse but did not see the landing or roll over because I was out of sight on the other side of the Rush Building. …. That was a good thing.

Looking back … Perhaps this could have been avoided … A test balloon might have shown the twitchy air.  I knew there was high wind aloft by the blown out edges on the clouds and… I should have been alerted when I saw the dramatic wind shifts.  BUT … It looked so good…. the next time I’m faced with similar weather signals I will try to be more patient and if the wind is shifting wait  to see if it is a pattern.

It was a short hairy ride … the good thing was … I didn’t freak out and kept flying the aircraft until I was able to get down without real damage to man or machine.

265 266 Vance Brand Airport

Biggest gathering of Denver area Pilots in a couple of years.
Paul Meyer Paul Crazy Ivan Marek Dan Robert Kitilla His son Mark Bennet Some spectators and maybe one or two who’s names I cannot recall.
Plus that’s not all…Wait there is MORE. Three flights of Scoop Divers.

I should have expected some weirdness when the temp dropped from 57 in Denver to 45 at Vance Brand. there were light winds from the North at 3:00. The first flight was ok …a little bumpy but ok.

I had to taxi for longer than usual to get off and the climb out seemed slow. First thing I noticed was that the left Brake line was bound in the risers. I was able to free it without problem since

nothing was crossed …just friction locked.

Max climb was 170 ft / min. I noticed that several of the guys were setting down so I did too. The landing was a bit hard. I killed the motor to0 soon or late and swung under the wing. No damage just didn’t look good. If I’m going to come in dead stick I should decide sooner than 10 feet.
Second Flight was a real pucker. After I set-up, the wind shifted. Rather than re-set I waited and launched when the cycle came around to me. The wing came up much better without the “A” Assists. This time I climbed at 180ft/min When I got to 1200 feet it started to get bumpy and I was climbing at 300ft/min! Even at idle I was still climbing over 100ft/min.
What a ride! The wing was alternately surging and falling back and a couple of times I found myself in a hard bank and starting to get weightless. It was one of those times that you can feel the wind shifting by the way it feels on your face. I was no longer flying in a stable mass of air..It was a good thing that I didn’t have the full height of pad behind me because the extra visibility came in handy to be able to watch the wing. There were several forward surges and while I never saw the trailing edge …it was hairy enough. I think that I was perhaps a little timid on the brakes because I couldn’t feel the wing and the forces working on it. I was contemplating Big Ears when I finally started to descend. I think I was in the worst of it for 3 or 4 minutes and I made the mistake of turning back into it again before I figured out that it was the west end of the box that was being pulled into the clouds…..NO FUN!
The good news is that the landing was better, I left the motor running and came in at idle.
I’ve found a better position to hold the throttle but it is still hard get fine control of the RPM’s. I look forward to using an FB throttle again!
The next time I see lenticular clouds I’m going to think twice. The didn’t seem to be moving but were hanging there sucking up the warmth.
Looking at the profile I was just getting into the nasty stuff when I decided to land on the first flight. It’s probably why I took one look at everybody landing and decided to do the same. The guys that stayed below 300 feet had very little turbulence but there were high winds aloft and the clouds were sucking the warm air from below…Big time…Maybe it was a clue when it got warm about 4:20. (from 45 to 50 plus in about 10 minutes. Be Aware when the temp is fluctuating…And watch out when there are lenticular clouds and signs of high winds aloft !
Later on the ground we stood around and it was so obvious to all of us, that it was ugly at altitude.

Today’s lessons…
1. Watch out when the temp is bouncing around especially if there are lenticular clouds.
2. To Hell with A Assists!
3. Ease the throttle cable
4. Don’t kill the motor at low altitude just to have the prop stopped when you land… come in under power and grease it.

#229 Rowdy Air Shortens Flight Simms

Salton Sea campsight 2007
Two days ago it snowed leaving 4 inches on the grass….but…

this afternoon looked beautiful. Even if the field was going little wet I thought it worth going out there to see if I had a shot at flying. I arrived at 3 (1 1/2 hours before sunset). Set-up and launched quickly.

The 3 inches of wet snow slowed the taxi and from the nice way the wing came up and settled overhead …It got me thinking that I’m a little heavy on the throttle and should practice short bursts of power to keep the speed down before committing to take-off.

Within seconds of leaving the ground I flew into some very powerful lift. and it was also clear that there was a strong breeze just above the surface. I decided to get down immediately, the only problem was that if I was going to land upwind and still be by the truck I would have to do some tricky flying. What I would have to do is fly clockwise around the trees and turn for final with enough room to avoid the wires. With all the bumps and mixing air I opted to come in fast and land downwind. There was almost no wind at the surface and even though I was technically downwind I was able to keep the wing up and taxi for over 150 feet back to the truck. Good thing too because the mud was sticky thick and I was wearing 2 inches of mud on the bottom of my boots by the time I loaded the rig back into the truck.

I think if I’d waited 30 minutes longer to launch it would have been allot better. I thought about it but decided not to because of the mud. I also wish I had launched a pilot balloon… even after landing it would have been instructive. I hope to remember this the next time the opportunity presents itself.

Before leaving the house I did change the jet to 155 and the motor started better and was more responsive. It even sounded better…deeper…more throaty.