Sunday, April 25, 2010

Winch weekend - Day 1

The club is going out to a sleepy desert airport for a weekend of winch launching. We will take our own winch and also link up with the local club that flies there. We're taking one Blanik L13, our PW5, and one private ship.

We start arriving about midday. When 5 or 6 guys have arrived, we assemble the Blanik. There's always one or two pins that seem to be hard to get in... This time it's a drag pin and the pin that holds the stabilizers down. But we get it done, and one of the newer club members gets to learn how it goes together.

By "sleepy" I don't mean run down... Quite the contrary. This county airport is well laid out and marked, with two runways and taxiways. But there's not much traffic. All day Friday I think there are 2 or 3 airplane takeoffs, and a helicopter drops in for 5 minutes. That suits us fine, and we lay out our winch line on 3000 feet of the longest taxiway. We fuss with the radios and line up the Blanik.

But things never really get off the ground. The winch doesn't have power at the right speeds. The glider starts off briskly but the overruns the line and has to abort. Two out of three times, the steel bridle gets tangled up in the main wheel. Not good! Eventually we scrub the operation for the day and discuss the problem over dinner. (This all sounds so simple... Actually it's about four hours of driving back and forth, talking on radios and cell phones, and moving equipment around.)

Turns out that a recent modification to the winch transmission is not working properly. Under load, it always wants to shift to second gear, and we need third gear for the climb. It's not the kind of thing that can be fixed here, and the member who works on it has somewhere to be tomorrow, so he takes the winch home.

Tomorrow the local club will be here with their winch, so at least we're not grounded for the weekend.

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