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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

First Flight of the Year

Sunday the soaring forecast looked acceptable, the wind was forecast to be high, and it was supposed to be better to the west with lighter winds. I originally had hoped to fly a closed course but after arriving at the airport and feeling the wind, Leah and I re-formulated our plan to go downwind. The towpilot thought I was crazy but gave me a tow anyway. Wind was probably about 20G25 knots. We rigged YYY easily, even though I haven't flown the glider since last July at the 13.5 Meter contest, it was like meeting an old friend again.

Takeoff roll was short. SeeYou says 4-5 seconds from start of roll to takeoff. Bob and I had both estimated where I would be airborne and we both guessed way too far. The souped up 175 towed fast, 9.2 knot average to 2000 AGL where I found some nibbles of lift. However I wasn't really able to get above release altitude and so Leah waited. After working a few thermals, I ran back over the airport to get a good start on my declared task, which was to, I believe, O'Neill Nebraska, just over Diamond Distance to the north. Yes, I believe in unashamed optimism. The Oudie said the wind was 27 knots from about 190 degrees. I found a weak thermal over the airport, got the start, and started rapidly drifting north, directly for Hutchinson. The towpilot was putting the towplane away and I had Mills Field, a local grass strip, easily in range. I still wasn't above release height but told Leah to head out anyway. The thermal finally improved and I climbed to about 4500 feet in it, spending the first 5 miles of the flight circling continuously. I contacted the Hutchinson Tower as I passed over their airspace and found another really good thermal over the Salt Mine parking lot which took me to 5500 feet, which still was not cloudbase. I was starting to think that this could end up being a good day! Directly downwind there wasn't any clouds very close, a more westerly track showed a few wisps but was also the Sand Hills State Park, an area NW of Hutch that isn't very landable. However there was another grass strip showing solidly green on the Oudie and after all I did have hopes of eventually working a bit to the west. Off we went.

Naturally, I could find nothing but sink and was soon low enough that the clouds weren't too helpful. Oh well on we go, towards Huey grass strip and hopefully to my save. A quick radio call to Leah "Struggling east of Nickerson" and I spot the runway. It didn't look particularly wide but the wingspan on the Cherokee is short so I was happy to have an out. I kept finding gusts of wind, getting tricked by sucker thermals, and everything else that happens to me when its windy. Oh well I pressed on towards some open fields to the west. Many of them were planted with winter wheat, which is only a few inches tall right now and would be landable. Some were open dirt though, which of course was preferable. I kept working anything I could find, but the thermals weren't agreeing with me and soon I was on downwind to a dirt patch. About that time I noticed a little standing water in the field and thought maybe that was part of my problem. It had been several sunny days since it rained in this area but apparently not long enough. I prepared for a wet landing but picked a line on the edge of the field that turned out to be very dry and solid. I called Leah, visited with a local who helped with directions, and sat in the glider and waited. Soon she arrived, we packed up, and I was a back at home in Wichita by 4:30 PM. I made it a whopping 18 miles and enjoyed my second landout of the year.

Last year I also made my first flight in the Cherokee for the year on April 21, and also landed out. Perhaps its a sign of good things to come :)

Here is my OLC trace:

Leah took this picture of me upon her arrival.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Where have you been?

I've gotten that question a few times this winter and I have no good excuse. I guess I've just been busy. I have been working on gliders just not Cherokee II stuff so haven't had a need to post anything. We are restoring a 2-22E in the garage, Matt is working on his SH-1 fuselage, and we've had the Cirrus in and out a few times too. I have been collecting some pictures for an eventual winter summary post so here it is.

First, I'm sad to report that William Ree, the surviving builder of YYY, passed away last summer. His wife Alice sent me a nice card with his obituary and a picture of his headstone. I was just about to mail out the annual report of YYY and my adventures in 2012 when I saw his name listed in the Final Glide section of Soaring. William flew the hump in WWII and he and his brother John went on to build YYY, then the first Cherokee RM (The R is for Ree), N10124, a Tern II which was lost in an unrecoverable spin, and then a Pioneer II. I believe that all of the gliders were built in the space above the shop they had in Philadelphia.

The scale model of 373Y that was built by Al Clark has been sold to John Mears. John added the YYY lettering to the glider in preparation for last years Huntsville Aerotow. I helped him out with the sizing and placement. Looks pretty good! And no, the pilot in the glider is not a scale representation of me. He is much older.

Dick Bean sent me some pictures of a Cherokee RM that he mostly built. At the time he sold it, it was ready to cover, and went to someone in Gresham, Oregon. He is unsure if it was ever completed.

You get a really good look at the internal fuselage and wing structure in these pictures. You can see that the RM uses the same two spar design by has a plywood shear web instead of spruce cross bracing between each rib bay. I believe the RM also has a solid leading edge glued onto squared off ribs and sanded to shape.

Josh Knerr saw this Cherokee fuselage (and maybe a wing too) sitting outside of an A&P school in Vacaville, CA. While the side of the Cherokee is large enough to make a billboard, I do not recommend it be used for this purpose. I have tried to contact some people at the school but never received a reply. If anyone out there might have more info about this glider, please let me know.

Robert Vogt sent me a really nice report on the history of N8079, or at least as much as he was familiar with, being one of the original builders. I'll get its entry updated.

Steve Leonard posted a few pictures of the Leonard Annebula on Facebook. I particularly enjoyed this one. "Waiting for the towplane. Towels can make good air scoops!" he says, a little Kansas wind helps too.

I wrote an article for our club newsletter about the theoretical performance of the Cherokee based on the measured polar vs. what i've actually acheived in flight. It was mildly interesting to see the results and you can read all about it here:

Finally, Chester Mumpower got ahold of me about selling a Cherokee II project that is hanging in his grandpas hangar. I don't know any details about it but can get you in touch with Chester. He is asking $2000 OBO. Here s a picture, I have a few others:

YYY is happily sitting in its trailer, I checked on it the other day. I don't have any big flying plans for it this spring, and I will probably focus my time early in the season on the Cirrus as I'm flying it at the Region 9 conetest in Moriarty in June. There is going to be a Vintage Rally in Moriarty over Labor Day and I plan to fly the Cherokee there.

My club is hosting a Low Performance Contest in July, limited to gliders with Standard Austria SH-1 performance and lower, and handicapped per normal SSA Sports Class Regional rules. I was hoping to fly YYY in that contest but it looks like I'm going to be the CD which will be equally rewarding.

Hopefully it won't be 6 months until my next update!!