The first few months at Ellwood were filled with anticipation. Discovering that you could keep a plane up at a slope for as long as the batteries lasted was…well, pretty amazing.
I was working as a Student Affairs Officer at UC Santa Barbara during those early years…just a stones throw from Ellwood. In fact, from my office on the UCSB campus I could see the tops of the eucalyptus trees which were in direct line to the cliffs. It was a pretty accurate indication of what was going on at the launch site. If there was movement at the tops of the trees, then you pretty much knew that there was good flying conditions. If the tops of the trees were swaying considerably, then it was a good indication that an epic day was forming at Ellwood.
I was fortunate to be the department head, so I could pretty much leave when I wanted to…at least for a short time. Getting my fix in those days was pretty easy.
I don’t want to give anyone the idea that Ellwood was simply a place where the winds blew steady at 12 mph all day. There were many times when Ellwood became “epic” as far as lift goes. It was then that people would pull out their lead sleds and start doing the huge pumps on either end of the half-pipes. It was amazing to watch how some could get amazing heights from the airspeed they were able to generate. One of the fun things to do was to generate huge speed and then dive down towards the beach...Continue Reading
Posted by FSD |
Mar 30, 2015 @ 10:57 PM | 8,257 Views
My first shaky treks out to the cliffs of Ellwood started in 1980. Back then, all I had to fly were the left over ships from my “thermal” period. The jump from hi-starting on a flat field with 3-4 minute flights to the unending duration of slope soaring was amazing. I was completely consumed by slope soaring.
It was back then that I met Michael Richter. Michael is of course the designer and producer of both the Weasel and the Alula. When I met him, it was still three years before we would see these iconic designs.
Michael’s design skills are only surpassed by his kind and supportive nature. He is simply one of the nicest people you could meet on the slopes.
During this time I was putting together basic designs that suited the Ellwood cliffs. Michael was so open and supportive, helping me fine tune some of my more radical offerings. I recall bringing out my first Canard design. We kept hand-chucking it in the tall grass and all it would do is immediately dive into the ground. After about ten minutes of this, we realized that “up” and “down” are reversed with a Canard. The whole time when I would pull the stick back, the plane would nose down. Once we realized what was happening and reversed the servo, the Canard flew quite well.
I also had a chance to meet Michael’s dad. It was easy to see where Michael got his character and personality. His dad was closer to my age so we were able to share a lot more. I hope to see him again at some...Continue Reading
Posted by FSD |
Mar 29, 2015 @ 04:03 PM | 1,659 Views
Assessment of My Slope Experience
I’ve tried to start this particular entry many times. Sometimes when I think about what I need to say, it simply becomes too complex and even overwhelming. One thing seems perfectly clear…I’m really not writing this for anyone else but myself. Perhaps as a means of organizing my thoughts which will ultimately allow me to move forward.
I’ve been haunted by the notion that I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I did.
I think when you produce slope planes for nearly ten years and you hear back from customers about how great your design are and how well they perform, it is easy to think that you know a lot more than you do. I began to think that I knew just about as much as anyone about this industry. It’s clear that I was deceiving myself.
“Foamies” are only a small part of the slope world. When you consider glass planes, DS machines, racers, giant thermal ships…foam planes only occupy a small slice of the slope world.
There are even some that dismiss anything made of foam as not “real” slope planes. They are merely a stepping stone to the real world of slope soaring…highly technical machines that perform on a whole different level.
There is no question as to why I turned to designing small, light aerobatic foam planes. It is a direct result of 20 years of flying at Ellwood in Santa Barbara. So much of what we design is highly influenced by the slope(s) we occupy. Ellwood was my home slope. There...Continue Reading
For a while there I was beginning to feel that I had just about done it all when it came to slope soaring. The learning curve was bound to flatten out after 30 years. I did my standard rolls and close in stuff. I liked catching and finding innovative ways to launch.
It wasn’t that I didn’t find the same kind of satisfaction I had always found when I arrived at the slopes. There was the constant evaluation of the wind conditions, both on the Internet and the well-known signposts of swinging trees and waving flags. Of course, there was always the “pre-flight” anticipation as you loaded your car in preparation. Finally, arriving at the slope site, that feeling that it was going to be a good session.
I had always pressed the envelope, trying new moves until I either mastered them or went home with planes that had somehow returned to “kit form.” I usually brought three planes out with me. I had always said that if I didn’t return home with at least two of them trashed, I wasn’t pushing the envelope.
What was there left to do?
One evening while I was touring YouTube, checking out all of the different flight videos, I ran into this unique flying style that seemed so different from anything I had seen before. It was a video of a larger composite sloper performing slow and graceful maneuvers close to the pilot. He was executing slow rolls and extended inverted moves that seemed almost ballet-like. I learned it was...Continue Reading