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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Update and another Flight Report

I'm still here! Leah and I were traveling over Christmas and New Year's so no progress has been made on the project. I am supposed to be getting electricity in my garage this week and then will be able to get back to work on the fuselage with heat! In the meantime record cold temps are on their way, woohoo!

I just received my latest copy of the Bungee Cord and see that Dean Gradwell's beautiful Cherokee II, N72DG, is featured for the month of July on the calendar. Very nice! I really like the VSA Calendar for the winter edition of the Bungee Cord.

Is anyone going to be at the SSA Convention in Little Rock? Leah and I will both be there and Dean is scheduled to have 72DG on display. I will likely be working the Soaring Safety Foundation booth most of Friday and Saturday unless one of the presentations really catches my attention. Looks like there will be plenty of good talks and good times to be had.

I'm still hopeful to get the fuselage more or less ready for fabric this month. After the fuselage is complete I think that I'll work on getting new skin on the trailer and then go to work on the wings. End goal is to be ready to fly by beginning of or mid April.

So in the meantime, I have my old computer up and running, so might as well pull some old flight reports off it and get it published for the world to read. Here is the report I wrote after my first solo cross country flight in a glider. Previous to this I had done a few cross country flights with my instructor, Matt Michael, in his IS28B2 "Lark", both ending in a landout which was valuable experience.

I had been looking forward to Memorial Day weekend for quite a while. I had purchased my glider, N373Y, the month before and had done my first flights in it the weekend before. I was pleased to find that it handled and climbed well, especially in weak lift. With a 25:1 piece of antique aviation all to myself, my next goal was to go for some distance! Watching the forecasts for the entire week before showed me that it would definitely be a downwind dash kind of weekend. Strong flow was predicted out of the south, but sunny skies and high temps were also predicted, giving me hope.

Arriving at the airport early Saturday morning to prepare for my flight, I wandered over to the towplane hangar to find Darrel Mullins mowing. Diane Bassham, scheduled towpilot for the day, drove up as I did, and Darrel reported that the Super Cub would not turn left. The tailwheel was not engaging. I was devastated. I would have had to get launched early (like right then) to beat prohibitive surface winds and get out of there. I also realized this was going to hurt chances of getting a flight in Sunday too. I went back to the hangar and worked on washing the glider and picking up some other loose ends. Lunch with Paul Kaufmann and Darrel was enjoyed while watching nearly gale force winds knock small children over. Maybe it wasn’t so bad that I didn’t get aloft.

The tailwheel was dropped off at club mechanic and storyteller Paul “Yeager” Mcilrath’s house Saturday night. I spent 11 hours at the airport Sunday, but was ground bound the entire time. I did install an electrical system in the ship as well as a good antenna and hookup for my handheld radio. Sunday evening I was delighted to hear from Paul saying that the tailwheel had nothing broken and should work, from what he could see. I crossed my fingers that it would work when reinstalled. Paul asked if I wanted to fly Monday, sounded to him like a blowout with 20-25 knot winds. I had talked to Tom Burns, the scheduled towpilot, and knew that if the wind was 25 or under, we both were comfortable flying. I had no intention of staying within glide distance of the Ames airport, so staying upwind was of no concern to me. I told him with a resounding “Yes!” that I would like to fly and he agreed to come up in the morning and install the tailwheel. I once again arrived at the airport, not trying to get too excited in the event the tailwheel didn’t work. I had the glider all ready to go, just needed to rig. After talking with Paul and Tom, we decided that Tom would test it out and then go do some touch and goes. If I saw him flying I would get right to work rigging in order to depart ASAP. I was never so happy to see the Super Cub in the air.

Paul came over to help rig, he decided to stick around and help me get launched. Also present were mentor Matt Michael as well as Leah Benson and Rob Gilbert. Tom also came over to help. With so much help, we quickly got the Cherokee assembled, and with Critical Assembly and Positive Control checks complete, were ready to pull down to the runway. Paul and I followed Tom to the active runway 19 while Matt and Rob got ready to crew. With everything prepared, all I had to do was jump in and take off. Leah and Paul helped hook me up and see me off. The wind was strong enough that no wing runner was necessary; the Cherokee is a great windjammer!

We towed straight out into the wind, in case I needed a relight. Lift was weak on tow, but I released at 1800 ft thinking I was in some great thermal. Of course I ended up being wrong. I drifted downwind towards the airport and couldn’t find anything. The lift was getting broken up by the wind and hard to work. I entered the pattern, and of course as soon as I did I found a little lift, maybe 100 fpm up. I worked it for a little while, but wasn’t climbing very well. Eventually I had to leave it as the airport was getting farther upwind and I didn’t have nearly enough altitude to try to set out over town. I probably wouldn’t have made it past the north side of town.

Tom had just landed the towplane and I landed behind him. Paul raced the Festiva back down to 19 and we hooked up quickly and off I was again. It was about the closest I’ve gotten to doing a touch and go in a glider, without landing on tow.

I wisely decided to take the second tow to a higher altitude, and got off in some weak lift at about 2500 AGL. I also had Tom take me further east of the airport where some better looking clouds were. Thankfully I found a good patch of 200 fpm up and was gone. I set off to the north, the 20 knot tailwind giving me a good push. After the initial climb I had trouble finding any good lift. Occasionally I would find a patch of rising air, but it was getting broken up and was impossible to work. Holding altitude was just as good as climbing and I took what I could get. Once north of Story city, I was approaching 1500 AGL and still going down. I started scoping out good landing sites, which I was surrounded by. Continuing to the north, I was now half way to Jewell and going through 1000 feet. Crap. I was sure that I was going to lose it and started to set up for an approach. At 800 feet, about to turn base leg for a nice field, I flew through a strong core, and it literally startled the heck out of me. After regaining my composure I turned back for it. I was unable to find the core again, but once again found some good 200 fpm lift that was semi steady. I worked it to my maximum altitude of 2800 AGL.

While on this climb I noticed I hadn’t heard from my crew in a bit, and then noticed that I had bumped the radio and changed the frequency. I regained contact with Matt and he told me they thought I had crashed into a field. Some confidence! I reported climbing to the north and was considering heading northwest as there looked to be some overdevelopment ahead. Once back in cruise, Matt reported that thunderstorms were building from Omaha to Fort Dodge headed northeast and he recommended I also turn northeast. Conditions looked fine in that direction so I agreed. I started to notice that once again I was not finding any lift. Occasional zero sink was the best I could do. As before, I started to scope out landing sites, made a radio call that I was starting to get low, and pressed on downwind. As I got below 1000 AGL I picked out a nice cornfield with a farmhouse and big driveway at the south end. I set up an approach to it, still hoping for some lift. The low save was not to come this time, and I turned final and gave up hope. My landing site was at the bottom of a hill, which I cleared. With the strong headwind and the soft dirt, my landing roll couldn’t have been longer than 50 feet. This left me about 300 feet from the house; I was planning on a longer landing roll.

I immediately unstrapped and pulled out my phone to call Matt and let him know that I was safely on the ground. I also tried to estimate my position for him to come get me. I got out of the glider and saw some people at the house looking kind of funny at me. I waved to let them know (hopefully) that I hadn’t crashed and wasn’t dead. I started to tie down the glider when the farmer and his son walked out to meet me. I introduced myself and let him know my crew was on the way. I asked if we could derig in his driveway, and made very clear we didn’t want to damage any crops or inconvenience him. He had work to do, but helped pull the glider up to the house. As we were walking up, Matt, Leah, and Rob showed up. We got to work derigging, and in just under an hour were on the road.

We made it back to Ames in time for the Memorial Day picnic and I made up a bunch of lies about how far and fast I had gone. Total distance was measured at 50.3 km in about 1 hr and 10 minutes. Because of the high tow, I would’ve needed about 75 km to get silver distance. Oh well, something to aim for next flight

Had a blast and finally got to put to the test all this cross country soaring instruction I’ve been taking.

Here are a few pictures from the flight:

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