Monday, September 14, 2015

Placing Last in RC Soaring Not so Bad

This past Saturday I entered a thermal duration contest knowing full well that my chances of placing well in the contest were very slim. What was more important to me was enjoying the wonderful weather for soaring with other soaring enthusiasts, learning, and flying a glider that had belonged to a member of the soaring club that passed away. The glider which flies well is at a big disadvantage being smaller with only a 2 meter span when the other sailplanes are at least 3 meters. I was not finding very strong lift and what little wind there was seemed to really hold my glider back when landing.

What I found so interesting was watching the other sailplanes flying in thermal lift, noting where they were flying relating to the field and features on the field such as trees and cornfields. One of the members mentioned that he does a great deal of practice flying and always has a plan before he launches as to where to fly.  I started thinking about my sport flying in that I might launch a dozen times and then hit thermal lift strong enough that I can fly it to a good altitude for a 6 minute flight. Contrast this to the contest where I only had 6 launches, and it is apparent that my odds for getting a good flight are not real good.

I sometimes think of some of the earliest radio control competition I was part of, pylon racing. A few guys from the club I was in were going to try the .15 size quarter midget class, starting with sport type .15 engines. Racing against members of a more experienced club sure was a shock; they passed us like we were crawling around the course. Better engines and airplanes were the next step for us and we started to do much better.  Then there was the ½ A class using the Cox TeeDee .049 engines, from what I had learned in .15 class I did really well in ½ A, in fact I never lost a race. That was because other people in this class were really beginners doing well just to fly without crashing. After a while I found it boring winning all the time and went back to racing the .15 size.

On Sunday I decided I would fly my glider in rather windy conditions as one of the expert pilots had said how he often flew in the wind, this year we have been lucky contest days have had rather light wind but often that is not the case.  My two meter glider was getting bounced around in the wind at times but I could tell the air was buoyant.  After several launches I noticed the hi-start was really stretching out, I knew I was in good lift. This time I circled my glider tighter and that is what it took, it was going up at a pretty good rate. The glider was slowly going downwind, a turkey vulture joined it in flight but I knew I better try penetrating the wind back or where it might land could be bad. 

I pushed the nose down and kept coming back as straight as possible. My sailplane was flying over a bunch steel scrap and I was afraid it might land there and really do some damage to the glider. There was an animal clinic on the edge of the field and I thought I could land in the front lawn. Just as my glider started flying over the lawn, a gust whipped it into a small tree. The glider spun around and flipped inverted and crashed. Luckily the only damage was breaking off the vertical fin, an easy fix. It was a pretty good flight actually and a learning experience on pushing the limit a little too far.

Bill Kuhl

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