Seniorita flies off into the foggy abyss!
Monday January 16th we had yet another warm front move through Southwest Lower MI. I got home from work around 8pm, Kevin a friend I fly with stopped in to see what I was working on in the shop and suggested we head out to the Airport and do a little night flying. After a an hour or so of conversation we loaded up and headed out.
I first maidened my modded Hobbyzone Super Cub with floats and all went well without incident. I prepped my Sig Kadet Seniorita for flight and performed my preflight check. All was well. Well maybe.
I had flown this plane about 10 times prior and at night as well without incident. I had before flown the plane using a HK Orange rx with satellite till it was nearly out of site. Never had issues with range before but tonight it was raining lightly as a mist and fog was thickening and moving in from the west.
I took off as you can see in the video and about 3 minutes into the flight while north of the airport visually I could see the plane was blurry due to the fog approaching, about that time the airplane was at 200ft. AGL heading south back towards me and it turned east and back north . Problem was, I did not have control. My friend Fred was on the phone with me about 1/8th mile north of the airport and was at that point detecting my urgency for him to tell me which way my plane was headed. He thought at first I was pulling his leg but I was not! He confirmed what I was seeing, my plane was headed north with the wind and no signal on my end. I told Fred I have to go and watched anxiously as my plane headed towards several factories hanging up the phone. The plane was last seen heading north about 3/4 of a mile away and it appeared to be around 100 feet. It went behind a leafless tree line and disappeared into the fog. Me and Kevin jumped in my SUV and took off north. We ducked in and out of several businesses without any luck as the rain got heavier and the fog thickened to around 25-40 feet of visibility. We looked for about 45 minutes and for some reason I decided to go into an area that is called "the Terminals" which is an old abandoned rail-yard. I had been back there a couple times a few months back looking for a 80" sailplane that Fred had fly away on him but never found it.
It is a real spooky place at night and tonight there was snow, mud and very low visibility. We drove back on a lane and started up a incline that lead into a woods that reminded me of scenes in the movie "The Blair Witch Project". As we crested the top of the hill Kevin shouted "there it is!", sure as all get out we could see the glow through the fog. My Seniorita was 20 feet off of the lane in a heavily wooded area. Badly damaged and the wing was stuck in a tree, amazingly all of the electronics were fine! The lights on the fuse lit up the woods and gave us one hell of a flashlight to aid in finding all of the pieces of the wreckage! We both shook our heads in amazement not believing we actually found it at night, raining in very dense fog. The airplane was 2 miles from where it took off from, I set the trip odometer before we headed back to the airport. I don't think the Civil Air Patrol could have found my plane in the conditions we did any faster. All in all I got the plane back and without property damage, I thank the Lord!
Hind-site, I believe the heavy content of water in the air blocked my signal and caused the fly-away. I have been testing all of the HK Orange receivers extensively and I haven't had one glitch even on the ones I have not installed satellites on. I plane to range test on the ground in the near future in clear, rainy, snowy and foggy conditions to see if that was the issue. I tested the rx back at home and all checked out.
If you can provide me any info on how 2.4 is affected in the conditions I was flying in please feel free to chime in and you can even post a link!
Thanks for taking the time to read and I hope I can prevent others from having a fly away and maybe save your plane! Total cost of this mishap was $85, some gasoline and time, oh yeah not to mention the car wash to get the mud off of my Mountaineer afterwards
Crash Site Pics!
Here is the video link of it's last take off. Also pics of the crash site!!!
* Note in the last two pics I had the flash on and it is not snowing, that was the density of the fog!
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