Monday, August 14, 2006

Bitten by Complacency

Today started out well. Gav and I got the required hardware to cut his keel and rivet it to a sleeve so that we could try his Sting 154 with the power harness.
We were hoping to fly from the golf course again, but they had a tournament on so we went looking for other options. The only other site I was reasonably happy with was the construction site for the new harbour development, you can see it from the air in some of the photos from my first flight here.
We found the site manager and got his permission as it was Sunday and they were not working in the area. When we arrived it was a light SE so we set-up at the into wind end. After we had rigged up and as I was pre flighting the glider it almost got turtled when the wind suddenly switched and came from the north.

We carried all the gear down to the other end of the area and I took off and flew around for a while, with the VG full on the sting felt like you were really going places as opposed to the funs slow pace. Landing was much more floaty, the fun just sinks out of the sky, the sting ground effected for a bit and after a little while I stopped it with a full flare, probably a bit of overkill but it worked.  Then Gav had a go and blasted all over the place before landing perfectly. He came in fast and then just kept on bleeding of speed until he walked it out with a couple of steps.

Finally I decided to have another go. When Gav landed the wind was northerly, it took me a couple of minutes to get into the harness and ready to take-off. I started the motor and picked up the glider, nose down, wings level gently increased to full power and as it pushed me I concentrated on keeping the nose down and the wings level as usual. As soon as the glider started to pick up airspeed it was trying to turn to the left, I had a full weight shift on to the right but its not very effective when you are running on the ground and the glider is not at flying speed yet. Within a second of the start of the run I knew I was in trouble, I quickly pondered my options but you don't have a lot really. As soon as I realised I was not going to get the glider back I released the throttle and flared with a wing-tip dragging on the ground. The glider touched down quite gently but the harness still had a spinning prop and forwards momentum and swung around putting the propeller through the trailing edge of the sail. Doh. I was completely unscathed and the harness and prop are fine too. The only damage is about a foot long rip through the trailing edge material and luckily it missed the luff lines and baton pockets so it should be easy to get repaired.

So I am sitting there and thinking, that was weird what could have caused that to happen? It was about then that i realised that right now the wind was Westerly and stronger than before. And sure enough it stayed westerly. I don't know exactly when it changed, the wind felt on the nose when I started my run. But to be honest when Gav landed slightly long I left the windsock behind at the original spot and just climbed into the glider where it was.

I already knew that trying to take off with a huge wing in a strong 90' crosswind was unlikely to end well, I feel like an idiot for proving it. Every time before I take off I reach down and check I am through my leg loops, it was 15 years ago that I got that sinking feeling and it's not a mistake I will ever make again. I hope that today was my lesson in not getting complacent and that from now on I make sure that I have a wind sock directly in front of me every time I take off.

Ironically I didn't bother to video any of my exploits today, but before that last fateful flight Gav said we really should get some footage of me taking off and so I gave him my camera. I'd love to be able to say that I lost it or the dog ate it, but I have the footage here so I will upload it to youtube so that you can all giggle at my stupidity.

The sting was definitely an improvement on the fun, but it felt very big and near the stall it was very hard to control, it was very easy to start a power on turn and find yourself entering a a kind of stalled turn  where weight shifting ceased to become effective but you were still climbing, pulling  the bar in restored control again.

After talking to Gav he points out that in a microlight you never push out in a turn like in a hang-glider, another one of these power effects to get used to.

I got another flat on the Caravan so that's my first job in the morning, after that who knows....

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