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Nov 17, 2016, 04:19 PM
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R/C Diary Pt. 33 “The Ecstasy Then The Agony! “


Nov. 17/16

In the Hamilton, Ontario area….43 N Latitude, It’s getting very late in the season for r/c sailplane flying especially for the hi-starts which apparently don’t respond well in near freezing temperatures. However, for whatever reason, the weather gods decided to bless us with a sunny, warm day with a high of 14C…..in mid November non-the-less! Winds were very light, coming in from the southwest, which explains the warm air temperatures.

In the early hours of the morning, I had taken my van in to the dealership to have the snow tires installed which seemed rather silly given the current weather! However, I’ve learned a thing or two over the years and one of them is the “Witch of November” can come early without warning! Better to be prepared I say…

I arrived home around 10 am and realized the potential for getting some airtime! I quickly checked the weather forecast and our SOGGI website. Sure enough, low speed southwest winds and at least one member posted he was heading for the field around 10 am.

I quickly packed up my gear, referring to my checklist so as not to miss something important. By 10:30 am I was heading out the door & to our flying field located about 20 kms to the south.

When I got to the field I was pleasantly surprised to see three members already set up in the pit area preparing their planes! I pulled up, unloaded my work table, chairs & r/c gear.

I hooked up the battery on the Spirit, installed the wings which are held down by nylon screws and performed a range check! So far so good! I then conferred with President Bob H. about the failsafe settings for the rudder and elevator. I then adjusted the rudder for a slight left turn and some up on the elevator to compensate for the dropping nose on a turn. I turned off the radio to check my failsafe settings and the settings looked good.

Next I rolled back the elevator setting in the sub trim menu as I remembered that last time out, the Spirit seemed to want to climb on a level flight and even more so when coming around into the wind which can slow your forward momentum and cause a dreaded stall situation.

I stood behind the plane to make sure all controls where going in the proper direction. Everything looked good so I headed out to the flight line to try a few hand tosses before hooking up to the hi-start. It floated out straight and level without any input from me on the sticks. Bingo! This baby was ready to roll! : )

Our chief flight instructor Dick C. did the honours of launching the plane on the hi-start with me on the sticks. As usual it went up like it was on rails before breaking free off the line at about 250’ - 300’ altitude. It never fails to impress me as I watch that big bird become totally free! Such a graceful sight!

At this point in my learning curve, I’m never aggressively looking for lift but just concentrating in keeping the plane away from the low hanging sun and learning to perform graceful turns and runs up and down the field. Within minutes, I was setting up for the landing and it headed in with a beautiful level glide before gently touching down. Perfecto! : )

The wind was picking up to around 16 kms and a bit gusty but quite manageable in my mind. We took turns launching a Gentle Lady and then It was my turn to send the Spirit back up with Dick C. handling the launch. Once again it took off up into the sky on a 60-70 degree angle before gently falling off the line at around 300 ft. I immediately banked to the right and headed west to get away from the sun. I performed a number of maneuvers, circling the field before setting up for the landing. I was about 5-6 ft off the ground coming around from a tight left turn and was heading into the wind for the final landing. As I tried to level it out a gust of wind caught it and over and in it went with a thud! A most sickening sound if ever there was one. : ( I wasn't that high up and I didn't think it was flying that fast but I saw the wings fly off as it hit the only hard, bare ground in a field full of lush grass (Murphy’s Law!)

A closer inspection revealed that the nylon wing bolts had done their job and sheared off, however, the forward motion of the wing was then transferred to the canopy which transferred the energy to the nose, which caused it to partially shear off from the front of the fuselage! Plus the fuselage sides had buckled in a few spots….Crap! My beautiful Spirit was now a sad looking, wounded bird. I was quite astounded at the amount of damage incurred all things considered. Grrrrr!

If you fly a lot, you’ve probably done it…..now it was turn to do the “walk of shame” as I headed back to the pit area with the fuselage in one hand and the wing in the other. As I walked, I went over the last flight in my head, especially the landing and thought, was it pilot error? I saw the left wing drop and I instinctively gave it right rudder to level it. I was facing in the same direction as the plane was flying so that should have been the correct response. Or was it just a combination of a wind gust and flying too slow that caused a stall? I like to learn from my mistakes but in this case, I’m just not sure exactly what happened.

Now I have my work cut out for me as I have to try to put that damaged fuselage back together again and try to make it look as good as new….wish me luck!

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog, hopefully someone can benefit from mistakes!

Cheers!
Lyle
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Nov 17, 2016, 06:17 PM
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When I was young, a long long time ago, I flew free-flight sailplanes.
Often contests were held in wind conditions a bit too high for comfort.
In all that time I never saw free-flight sailplanes get into the trouble your plane suffered.
I am sure this is because well trimmed free-flight planes glide at a constant air-speed.
With our clever radio control we frequently interfere with this, and it seems to me that is what you did in this instance.
Try to let the plane 'do its thing' in pitch on final and you may avoid the dreaded airspeed deficit and stall one wing syndrome.
Nov 17, 2016, 07:21 PM
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Whiskers:
Thanks a bunch for sharing your years of flying wisdom! I tend to agree with your assessment....flying too slow especially into the strengthening wind and the dreaded stall. Sometimes we learn the hard way and I seem to excel at this!

Cheers!
Lyle
Nov 17, 2016, 09:20 PM
Build straight - Fly twisty
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No problem, Lyle.
I've done my share of 'hard way' learning too.


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