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Aug 19, 2019, 06:30 PM
Lori, hey, you're home early
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Whoops!

When A Wing Wire Breaks...


I was at Bethel over the weekend with my flying buddies at the Golden Age Air Museum Air Show and RC Meet and saw a plane that I'd been quietly lusting after for a couple of years after seeing it for sale at the CPAA Lebanon Swap Meet. Well there it was over by Zeke's Park Scale Models booth. Met the owner, Dave, very nice guy and we talked about the story behind the model (I'll tell that one in the rebuild thread. Great story!!) and negotiated for a little while. We eventually came to a number that made us both happy and I was the proud new owner of a Duncan Hutson DeHavilland Tiger Moth in 1/4 scale all done up in fabric and painted in a beautiful and striking red and cream . Very well detailed and not at all heavy. Tacon Bigfoot 110, Castle Phoenix Edge 100, Hitec HS-5665 MH servos. It's a nice 8s set up. I swapped out the 20x8-14 prop for a more efficient APC 18x10 electric prop and put in two 4s 5000mah lipos in series. Made a bit over 1700 watts. AUW was right around 17 lbs. Took my time assembling it at the field and did my usual preflight checks (I will be adding a few things to the checklist going forward!) and taxied the Tiggie out to the far end of the field. Taxis very nicely and tracks well. I released back pressure on the elevator too soon and the first take off attempt ended after a few feet in a slow nose over. I walked out to her and set her back down and gave her a once over. Looked ok. I decided to stand behind her and take of from where I was since I was the only one at the field. (Go figure, it was only 97 and really humid...). Anyway, I eased on the throttle little by little and she started off nice and straight. At about 75% throttle she lifted off and was climbing out nicely. At about 60' of altitude I eased back to 50-60% throttle and let her climb. She was easing a bit to the left (tree line and parking lot) so I gave her some right aileron and rudder and she eased back into our right hand pattern and kept her climbing. Things got interesting at this point. She began to feel wildly out of trim. All I wanted to do was keep the airspeed up enough to gain altitude and trim her out when all of a sudden the left upper wing let go. A split second later the bottom wing went with it. Both were pulled up about 20-30 and the plane was in a somewhat flattish spin at maybe 80' to 100' feet up. (The video in my brain is telling me a right hand spin but can that be?) I throttled back and waited for the inevitable. I had to run home and put on my jungle gear to start the SAR mission. Just as I got back to the field it started to rain. Then it started to thunder off in the distance. About 30 feet into the thick brush it really started coming down. All I could think about was the wooden structure getting soaked and warped! I pressed on machete in hand hacking my way deeper and deeper in but couldn't find it. I had a good idea of the general location but the grass and brush was taller than me in some places. The rain was getting heavier. I had to do something. I wasn't giving up. I went back to my truck and got my transmitter. I turned it on and it instantly linked to the receiver (gotta love FrSky!!). I put it in a plastic bag. Taped it shut to seal it as best I could and headed back out. Between the pounding rain, it was coming down in buckets at this point, and the near constant thunder I figured I was wasting my time. I didn't think I'd be able to hear the servos, they were pretty quiet, but I thought that maybe I'd be able to hear the motor-- you know that sound they make at low throttle, that low staccato whine? I hacked my way out about 50'. It was like walking in deep wet snow. I was completely soaked too. I was wearing heavy work boots and winter weight canvas Carharts to protect me from the sticker bushes and thorny bramble. My suit was completely soaked and water was sloshing between my toes in the boots. I was thinking to myself, "This is crazy" when a bolt of lightning cracked down followed almost simultaneously by the crash of thunder. That had to be close by. Too close. This was crazy. Time to find the Tiger Moth or get out of that field. I tried a few clicks of throttle. I thought I heard something. My imagination maybe. It was so noisy with the rain pelting down. I tried it again. I did hear something. I turned my head to another direction. Nothing. Turned the other way and..,I did hear it...maybe. I hacked my way in the direction that I thought I heard it and tried again. I heard it! I was close. I hacked in another 10' and tried again. Yup! I really did hear it. It was faint but different than the sound of the rain. I kept hacking then listening, hacking and listening, easing my way towards the sound. I was stopped by a heavy thicket so I tried again. There was the sound. Louder and clearer. I hacked through the thicket and could just make out the tail. Another few steps and there she was in surprisingly good condition much to my relief. It looked like she'd pancaked in slightly nose down just missing a lone scraggly and bare tree and was swallowed up by some very long but very soft grass. It took a minute or two to untangle her from the grass and examine her but she really wasn't that bad. It did look like one of the flying load wires pulled out of the crimp and let go enough to overload the other wires. The landing gear took some damage as did the center cabane structure. The fiberglass cowl took the brunt of the load and cracked and bent the access hinges. All in all much better than I'd hoped for. I was envisioning a pile of sticks. I got lucky this time. I will change my preflight procedure with my larger models for next time. Pretty bummed since I wanted to fly this at Rhinebeck next month.
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