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.

Auto towing day 1

The club is on a trip to Coyote Dry Lake near Barstow. The students and newer pilots are flying the Blanik with instructor B. Three members brought their own gliders: a 2-33, a PIK, and an ASW20B.

Saturday weather was great, 10-12 kt winds made for good launches to. 1500-1800' AGL. Sunday is forecast to be stiffer winds, so we hope we don't get blown out.

I had 3 auto tows a year and a half ago. My one launch today and 15-minute flight earned me my ground launch endorsement, so I'm hoping to take a solo flight today.

We have had a few issues with overrunning the cable on initial startup. We find that applying some wheel brake moderates the starting roll, but it takes just the right pressure. The 2-33 has a rough start because the brake causes it so slam down the nose. The Blanik isn't so extreme but still it's tricky.

Thermals have been OK, but not really strong. 2 to s knots and not very wide.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Aviation stuff between soaring

I haven't flown for 3 weeks but am still doing "flying" stuff:

3 weeks ago: Camping at the beach, slope-soared my R/C glider on the cliffs. I have a 2-meter foamie Highlander which I fly occasionally... it takes quite a strong wind to keep it up. I had to replace the stabilizer/rudder due to some wear-and-tear and then a botched repair job. The night we arrived there was a pretty good storm, and the next day had an excellent wind perpendicular to the cliffs. I had three great flights, and great landings. I only get to fly it a few times a year now that I'm mostly flying "full-scale", so this was a treat. Especially since the weather at Hemet was cold and rainy.

2 weeks ago: We declared a Work Day at the club, so no flying. It was a day with not much lift anyway, but again it was right after a storm and there were some terrific winds aloft. We watched lennies all day long and wished we were wave-flying instead of glider-waxing. But with lousy thermal conditions we wouldn't have reached the wave anyway... and the could not have gotten back to the airport due to the wind direction.

This week: The club set up a recruiting booth at a local air show, taking along the PW5. It rained all morning but then cleared up midday, so the show went on. Those shows are always fun. And we get to talk up soaring to lots of interested visitors.

Next week: IF the rain quits, and IF the recent rain haven't flooded it, we're planning a club field trip to Coyote Dry Lake for auto-towing and perhaps winch-launching. The club is acquiring a winch, and this may be our first chance to try it out. But I'm betting we scrub the trip... it's probably not a dry lake at this point.