Sunday, April 09, 2006

Rope break!

So... the event we all train for happened to me: rope break at 300 feet!

Yesterday I got my signoff for ground launch, so today's my first solo auto tow. Rollout was great - wings level, lots of rudder to keep straight. Smooth liftoff, stick back... speed was coming up, through 50, approaching 55. Suddenly I felt a little jolt and started to decelerate. Right away I knew the steel cable had broken. I had not been watching the altimeter, so I did not know my altitude yet. (In ground launch the nose is above the horizon, and I had been focusing on keeping my wings level.) So I nosed over and got speed up to about 50 or 55. Pulled the release handle twice to lose the broken cable and bridle. I looked at the altimeter and found I was at 300' AGL. No problem - head back to the takeoff point. Smooth left turn. That made it just a 180 degree turn. Plenty of altitude, wind was light. (Later I realized I didn't factor wind into my turn direction, but it was light enough it didn't matter.) I ended up using full spoilers most of the way down. Landed to the right of the launch area to stay clear of everyone. Landed smoothly about 100' to 150' beyond the starting point. No problem at all! I got a "nicely done" from instructor B.

The next launch did not go well. As I mentioned, overrunning the bridle is a problem. Well, I did it without even knowing it. I held moderate wheel brake during the starting roll. Suddenly I felt a huge loss of speed. The ship nosed over - I thought it was because of the effect of my brake and a slack line due to some deceleration of the truck or due to bow in the line. Then the cable broke and I came to a stop. One bridle cable was wrapped around both sides of the wheel, and sliced through the tire! Observers later told me I overran the cable and then recovered without tangling, and then overran it again. I guess I was not using nearly enough brake. The cable tangling around the wheel stopped me and caused a cable brake further up. So... that was the end of the Blanik for the day. We could have mounted another wheel, but it was late enough that we scubbed for the weekend. Bummer! I thought I was going to avoid doing what others had done. Now I get to learn how to replace a Blanik wheel and tire.

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