VTOL

[ Embarrased Mood: Embarrased ]

Back to Wellfleet, with Jeff C. this time, and had significantly stronger winds than the day when I couldn’t manage to soar. We had some difficulty setting up the gliders, and once we did, we waited a while to see if the wind would abate. It dropped to a tolerable level, and Jeff helped me carry the glider out to launch and held my nose wires while I got established. When I was ready, it was a classic elevator, just one step forward and I went straight up (to the delight of the onlookers in the parking lot who tooted their horns in celebration). One of them helped Jeff get launched, and then we were both flying.

Not so easy going, a lot of the time I was just parked above the dune, pointing straight out, and hovering with the bar pulled in pretty far. I flew for an hour, doing a bunch of passes over the mile and a half stretch north of launch, while Jeff eventually headed south and made it to Nauset Light and back.

I did not demonstrate the maxim about a good pilot using his superior judgment to avoid the need to use his superior skills. Instead, my poor judgment necessitated the use of the tolerable skills that I have. The wind was picking up now and then, and making it hard to penetrate with my Falcon. There were some stretches when I couldn’t go along the beach at all, it was just a matter of pointing straight out and flying pretty fast in order to maintain my position. What’s the right thing to do in a case like that? Landing as soon as you get a chance would be a fine choice. Another would be to make sure to fly well out in front of the slope in order to maintain some reserve in terms of position in case a gust comes along.

Well, that gust did come along, and I was in the flight regime where pulling in more makes the glider go faster, but not faster forward, just faster down. I was almost managing to maintain my position, moving backwards just a tiny bit, and losing altitude. I got pushed just behind the lip of the dune, and it looked like I wasn’t going to make it far enough forward before I touched down. Top-landing on the dune, not a good thing from a regulatory point of view (though I’ve seen PGs doing it).

But then I glanced backward (as in, below my feet, since that’s where I was heading), and I saw SHINGLES! Aughh! I was about to land on a house! Very very not good! The last 10-20 feet of descent went pretty quickly, as I dropped into rotor, and I landed vertically, on my belly, on the edge of the driveway (well, sort of in some thorns). The building was a garage or something, and I moved my glider into the lee of it to break down and carried it back to the parking lot.

Could have been a lot worse. But I could have been a lot smarter, too.

On the other hand, in addition to my first toplanding (such as it was) and my first X-C out landing (sort of), I also flew with a GPS for the first time, a cheap datalogger, and got a track of my flight (see above). Reasonably cool, though it will be even more interesting at a mountain site.

flights: 1, airtime: 0:58

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About cleversky

Hang glider pilot in New England since 2004. Also an avid orienteer, and an embedded systems firmware engineer. And some other outdoor stuff.
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