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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Flight #817 SCA

After a particularly difficult night where sleep was elusive and disturbed I awoke at 0600 to clear and calm conditions.  I pulled on my shorts and left the house immediately.   Perhaps the clerk at Circle K could tell I needed it, because she didn't charge me for the coffee.  
Arriving at the field, I discovered the same old mistake rearing its ugly head. After my last flight, I had bagged the wing out in the field and motored back to the truck killing the engine with the throttle kill switch and... as has happened so many times before, I left the key in the ignition, draining the battery.  If there is one thing I would change about the Falcon, its the keyed ignition.  I would much prefer a start button that toggles on or off ... Anything to keep me from repeating this bone headed blunder.
For two seconds I considered returning to the house and going to back to bed.... Sometimes your just not meant to fly.  But the sun was starting to rise and conditions were perfect so I unloaded the rig, laid out the wing and jump started the Paramotor.  
Take off was a little sloppy because I got on the breaks a bit to soon and had to milk it in order to climb out and away from the airstrip... but once up ... It was magic.
I climbed to 1000 feet and flew over by the radio tower.  A couple of days ago I had a start, when I couldn't locate it even though I knew it was close by.  My head was on a swivel until I finally spotted it an knew I wasn't going to skewer myself 800 feet above the surface.  This morning the anti collision lights were on and it was easy to spot.  I'm not sure what the problem was but I'm not going to venture into the area until I've got it pegged.
I did experience an unusual kink and it's one that the manual mentions.  When you get a particular trim and trust, the wing will start to oscillate.  It's not dramatic just a gentle persistent rocking.  I don't think it's anything to worry about because it doesn't keep building to greater and greater swings.  If I change the thrust, it settles down and the same, if I change the trim.  I'm going to watch and see if I can induce it with different trim setting.  It's torque related I'm sure.
For the first time in months, the air close to the surface was relatively smooth.  There was a light breeze  from the South so I descended toward the North end of the field, closed the trimmers and enjoyed a long slow run back toward the tower.  I didn't have my GPS with me and so I don't have exact speed measurements but it was classic low and slow.  I was starting to feel better about things.
After and hour  and fifteen I returned to the field a new man.

815 & 816 SCA

These were two morning flights at SCA.  That's four mornings in a row!  Have not done that for awhile.
No drama.
Yesterday evening I went out to Placida to meet up with some new guys.  The wind was gusty and since I'd had some good flying in the morning .... I passed.  But I did get some nice shots.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Letter to Terry

I wrote this up for Terry 

Hi Terry,
It's a nice wing it might be a bit too EZ for some guys but I have no complaints.  It is absolutely the easiest launching wing I've ever flown.  I've heard lots of wings discribed as coming up straight and "locking in " overhead but this one really does.  I've tried to get it to overshoot and it just doesn't.  I did away with the A assists after the first couple of flights and am amazed at how little pressure is required on the A's to get a clean inflation.  
I'd recommend it for a beginner ...but there are some rules.  Like, set the trimmers for launch, which is not full closed.  I'd tell em to fly in that setting for the first several flights and don't touch the trimmers.  They could close them for landing but it flares and slows down just fine in the launch mode.  The tip  stearing is nice and light and you can bring it around pretty damn fast.  Some guys may brand it as a beginner wing and  then assume that it will be boring to fly but I've enjoyed it.  Without using a speed bar I've noticed about 8 mph difference from full closed to full open and I can slow it down another 5 mph with some brake.  I don't think I've come close to stall speed yet and I'm not likely to but APCO  claims that full speed with speed bar is 3 times stall speed.  Climb rate is 300 fpm at 3600rpm.  I was expecting a little better glide and I will check it again but it does decend faster than the Eden 3.  I'm guessing 400fpm.  
APCO also says that you can fly with both the tip steer and brake toggles but I think I would have to have longer tip steering lines to do it because the tip steering engages well before the brakes.  This morning I tried landing with both and ended up releasing the tips before touch down because the tips were too sensitive and not in perfect balance with the brakes.  So, I'm working the tips to stay straight but not able to flare deep and even.  Tomorrow I'll see what it's like to "carve it up" at altitude with both toggles.
I've got probably 10 hours and about the same number of launches so there is still plenty to learn and I'll let you know it's "kinks" when I find them.
I'd love to get with somebody like Chris Santacroce and have him talk me through some maneuvers to see how far you can push it but it's not likely I'll get that opportunity so for now I'll just say I'm happy flying the wing, well inside it's design parameters.
(Not proof read, for your reading pleasure)

814 SCA

,It rained heavily last night and the LZ was soaking wet.  There was a light breeze from the least but it was just a couple of miles an hour so I chose to launch downwind.  The wing inflated fine, perhaps a bit slower, but cleanly.   I lifted off with 3/4 throttle and suspect that there have been other launches that I would have done better if I'd used more power on the take-off run.  I'd used a couple of inches of brake to launch and the trike flew about  3 feet above the surface until I mashed the throttle and feathered the brakes.  The climb out was dramatic.

There was a distinct thermal layer at 400 ft and the wind shifted from East to North.

This morning I experimented using brake and tip steering together and decided that it didn't add anything to control so it's best to use one or the other.  I also intentionally flew through my own wake in Reflex and without.  The difference was obvious.

I dropped down to do some low and slow and spotted what I think we're Great Sand Hill Cranes, they were huge!  I was able to scare them up for a short flight but lost them in the neighboring jungle.
There was no activity at Punta Gorda Airport so I took advantage of the clear air to fly out to the Walmart distribution facility and back following the peace river.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

813 SCA (shell creek Airpark)

No flying tonight
But...this morning was just fine.  I set the alarm for 5:50 and was launching well before 7:00.  The winds were light from the East.  The last time it was like this I had planned to launch into the wind and turn up the runway, launching crosswind.  Today, after taking the buggy to the west side I changed up and decided,to launch between the Sky Divers building and Mr. Moss's.  I had to clear a 4 foot fence and stay between a few obstacles but it was reasonable.  The wing came up beautifully and there was plenty of room.  The EZ climbed 300fpm After I closed the trimmers 

APCO also says that you can fly with both the tip steer and brake toggles but I think I would have to have longer tip steering lines to do it because the tip steering engages before the brakes.   (5")
This morning I tried landing with both and ended up releasing the tips before touch down because the tips were too sensitive and not in perfect balance with the brakes.  So, I'm working the tips to stay straight but not able to flare deep and even.   Tomorrow I'll see what it's like to "carve it up" at altitude with both toggles.  I might be over cautious, it may be that I can warp the wingtip far enough to still have enough throw to use the brakes.  

Friday, June 19, 2015

Shell Creek Airpark 812

My first blown launch with the APCO LIFT EZ.  Probably due to some lines snagging the wing came up crooked.  I could have probably saved it but chose to abort rather than take the chance of damaging a brand new wing.  No problem, two minutes later I was climbing over the neighborhood and letting the trimmers out.  The wind was quite light and I was able to get some decent speed readings.  At full out without speed bar I was going 35 mph and at full in with no brakes I was going 28 mph.  APCO claIms the wing can go three times faster than stall speed.  Next flight I'll work the brakes and see how slow I can go.
Today, in my quest to master the trimmers I tried different angles to see if I can find a way to see the scale when I'm changing trim.  If I were foot launching I think would be easy to see the hatch marks on the trimmer but the trike's hang point loops restrict the risers movement.  I did have some success if I pulled the trim loop out and away but letting the trim out was still blind.  Perhaps I could put a mark on the edges which are more visible from my position.  If I sew colored thread onto the edge, I would have to be careful not to impede the cam action.  Stay tuned....
So... I flew east, out to the Red Neck Yact Club and the new concert venue and mud park farther out.
I'm going to have to drive out there and see it in action.  Looks like a crazy good time.
I'm not sure how the jump in the middle of a pond works.   Maybe they pump out most of the water and have a mud jump.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Placida. 810 & 811

Gasparilla Causeway

It was a good morning.  Got out to the field at 6:16 and cracked of a couple off nice ones. There were boomers off shore but the air was good inland.  During the second flight Ty Jenkins and James Peace showed up.  James has a Nirvana Rodeo with the carbon trike.  Very nice rig....  It took him several attempts and one turtle to get off but he got some good airtime once up.

Spent time practicing with the trimmers.  I'm not so much looking at the scale anymore as letting trim out or in then checking that the wing tracks straight.  Tomorrow I'm going to see if there is a way of pulling the trimmer so that the scale is more visible.
There was a distinct layer at 250 ft where the air settled down.  I climbed to 750 ft and flew off to the Gaspirella Causeway.  I was sorely tempted to drop down on the jet port for some touch and go but decided to let it go until another day.

Landings are getting better.  For awhile the wing was carrying too much energy after touch down. But I've been closing the trim all the way before landing and getting a nice long float.

Mike Lange seemed to be having the most fun with at least 12 flights and numerous touch and goes.

Friday, June 12, 2015

No Fly Day

I hadn't really planned on flying this evening but when the wind came down and it looked good, I jumped in the truck and drove out to Shell Creek.  When I got there the wind was blowing 5 mph from the east.  The launch was going to have to be crosswind to the South so I motored out to the runway. The plan was to launch perpendicular to the runway and after it was overhead turn south and launch down the runway.  A bit technical but nothing extraordinary, there was plenty of room to inflate and make a turn and clear air for 1000 feet to the south. 
So anyway, there I was all laid out and strapped into the rig when the wind starts to increase.  I decided to wait it out and 3 minutes later a gust front blows in.  After a moments hesitation, I unbuckled and started releasing the glider. The wind was gusting past 20 when I had the first Carabiner undone and before I could get to the other, the wing decided to fly, it half inflated and lifted overhead.  The trike was pulled around 180* before the loose riser went downwind and the wing was disarmed.  After that, life was easy.

I'm not really sure why I didn't launch as soon as I bucked in. I was looking forward to the challenge of a crosswind launch.  It looked good.  .....
The winds were starting to come up but it was still doable.  The clouds did appear to be heading my way but I sure didn't expect a major gust. It was part experience and a bunch of luck.  The best that can be said was that I was prudent and it paid off.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Shell Creek Airpark #808 & 809

The take offs were long and low for both Mike and I.  After getting up a good head of steam I felt confident that a small amt of brake would launch me.  I was wrong.  A little brake got me off the ground but then I was stuck in that awkward situation where I couldn't gain any altitude because of the brakes and if I let off brake I would start coming back down.  So there I was 6 inches off the surface waiting for the rig to pick up enough speed so that I could get the flock out.  It really wasn't a big deal but it seemed to take forever before the rig started climbing.  I slowly let off the brakes and eventually it happened.  I can see why Dan D. had some issues after leaving Porto Valarta and going to 5500 ft.  I'm not sure this would be the best wing for Monument Valley and certainly not for launching out of a bumpy horse meadow.  It requires speed for launch.
The first flight was short.  I was concerned about the weather and after running into some particularly nasty air I returned to the LZ and landed.  I can't explain the bad air that spooked me.  It wasn't short like going through my prop wash but there wasn't anything close that I could see to cause the instability.  I did see it depart when it passed over a pond.
  I waited a few minutes and relaunched.  Same thing, long slow climb out but the air was good and I enjoyed the moment.
The big news of the day was that I've removed th A Assists and launched without them.  The Lift doesn't require a lot of pressure and the shoulder feels fine.

Mike Lange took this shot with the faint rainbow.  The air was good dispite the boomers to the South West.  

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


This was a good morning.  I arrived a few minutes after sunrise.   Tremendous boomers were percolating over Placida but the air over Shell Creek was calm.  The sun was starting to burn fog off the field and there was a light breeze at treetop level.  I set up in my favorite spot and launched without using the A Assists.  The wing came up slightly to the left but righted itself quickly.  
Nice flight with and without reflex.  I experimented with the trimmers fully closed.  Speed was around 25 mph and cruise was 2900 rpm.  I think there is about 10 mph between full closed and full reflex, maybe more.  After some time carving at 1000ft dropped down and practiced the low and slow over the pasture east of the LZ.  Reading the trimmers is easer but still not automatic.  On landing I popped up the front wheel.  Means I'm leaving energy in the wing.  Next time I'll try for a longer glide at touchdown.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Maintenance Day

The new wing has inspired me.  After Mike and I split up from the morning launch, I stopped at Ace Hardware and purchased a impact socket that fits the oil drain plug.  I went home and changed the oil and filter on the Generac.
It's been 20 months and lots of hours..... Shame on me and Bravo to Terry for putting together such a reliable and simple aircraft.  And then.... Because I was feeling so virtuous, I re-positioned my seat so that I sat up straighter.  A couple of hard landings have bent the frame so that the main spar geometry is more like a trike buggy.  I haven't worried about it much.  It tilts the prop a little forward which keeps the wash out of the wing but it also laid me back which sometimes stressed my chest muscles.  Anyway, it's more comfortable now and while the hang straps are a little to forward.... It's an improvement.

APCO LIFT EZ flight 805 806

The first flight was at Placida in 5mph breeze.

EZ Launch and better climb.  Probably because the density of altitude was much better than the first few flights.  I did see a post on the Big List where Dan Dimov has been flying a lift for about a year and mostly at sea level.  He mentioned he was not pleased with the climb when flying at 5500+ ASL.   It's climb will be less, of course, but thats true with any wing.  It's possible that the thrust of his motor had as much to do with change in climb as the wing.  Anyway he has moved onto faster more sporty wings
It would really be interesting to have him fly the EZ and comment on any difference he noticed with the latest generation of the lift.

The manual recommends that you fly straight for a time to gain altitude and speed before beginning a turn.  That could be a problem when the LZ is small and you have to circle the field.  Perhaps, that would be the time to apply the tip steering?  After 5 launches, 4 required some brake to take off  and only one (where I had a paved runway) was I able to get enough speed to launch without any brake pressure.  At negative trim the wing will not launch but it is acceptable to go "all closed" after .  I have not yet flown the wing with the trimmers "all closed", but it will be interesting to see how much it slows down the wing and how it handles.  APCO states the speed range is three times faster at full reflex with speed bar than with trims all in.

The LIFT EZ features an innovative riser design allowing to slow down the glider to minimum speed without risking getting caught in deep stall.

The manual states, "in powered flight the Lift EZ behaves more like an airplane than a Paraglider, and it is a good idea to regard it as such.  LIFT EZ in a steep climb does not stay behind as much as a conventional glider.  The SRS prevents or delays a possible stall".  So... Perhaps a little brake pressure is needed to get max climb.
I flew for awhile in neutral and discovered that a little more brake pressure made a lot of difference in handling shifty air.... No surprise there!..... I was just being too timid  with a new wing.  In fact, the latest generation of magnetic toggle keeper is so strong that I was startled when  the brake came off the keeper.  I thought I was applying minimal pressure to the wing but was just pulling against the keeper.  When it let go I felt the brakes go slack it surprised me.  Next time I'm going to experiment with using the brakes with increasingly open trim.  The question is... At what point of trim is it necessary to switch from brakes to wing tip steering?  APCO states that at full reflex, the brake input will require much more force and increase the possibility of collapse.  I'm guessing somewhere around 1/3 to 1/2 reflex will be the shift to tip steer.  They also mention flying with both brakes and tip steer which should be interesting.


APCO has designed the tip steer to form a wind scoop / drag parachute that produces drag without lift.  They claim it will make for agile and efficient turns with less input pressure and also cause more stable tips.  I might have to increase the length of the tip steer.  Next time I'm up, I'll watch for the little pooch where the stabilo pulls the material together.

The second launch was that evening  at the intersection of Veterans Hwy and Peachtree.  The winds picked up as the sun was going down and we were forced into quick laps around the field.  I landed after about 20 minutes when I noticed the air starting to get gusty.  The landing was one for my memory book.  I was returning to the SW corner of the field downwind at 50 mph and decending  at 750 fpm.  As I approached the LZ I started turning into the wind and was on final for only a second or two before touching down.  Mike was saying to himself, "that's going to hurt", but it felt correct and in control to me.  I was in neutral and will try it next time with the trimmers fully closed.
After landing, Mike Otten showed up.  It was too windy to fly so we kited.  Mike tried out my wing and I had a good opportunity to see it in flight.
Nice looking wing.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

APCO Lift EZ ... First Flights 802 to 804

The LIFT EZ is APCO's latest generation of reflex wings designed as an "all round" wing for beginner or experienced pilots.  Mine arrived fresh from the factory via Terry Lutke who declined to demo the wing even though he had my blessing.  Terry claims that he wants me to have the honor of the first flight and that's very nice of him.... But....I think he just didn't want to take the chance blending it.  To that I say....ah Heck... It's going to be up close and personal with Elizabeth sooner or later.   CHICKEN!!

The first thing I noticed was the fabric was lighter than my previous wings and it has been chemically treated giving it a slicker feel.  APCO claims it will increase lifespan by reducing UV damage and abrasion.  They also claim zero porosity over the life of the glider.  This wing is the large model measuring 29.2 m and 25 m projected area.  It's rated to 407 lbs. all up, so we are right at the top of the placard.  The Brasiliera color scheme I selected is Red Yellow and Green, it is vibrant and totally out of character with the Falcon... But... I like it.  

The trimmer range is several inches longer than I'm used to and the hatch marks span both positive and negative trim.   It's been suggested that the negative trim would be helpful when adjusting for crosswind flying or possibly anti torque.  It's unknown territory for me.  I've requested info from APCO and would like to start a discussion of trim and characteristics on Facebook.   Hopefully I'll be able to do an intelligent report on glider behavior with this wing. 
The manual says it is safe to fly at any setting, so I assume it is ok to fly with the trim fully closed.
I don't know what to expect because it kites like a power mattress with trims fully closed.
Stay Tuned....

There are several safety features.  The SRS Stall Recovery System is a clever riser design that allow the A and the C and D risers to slide in opposing directions.  If the wing were ever to go into a parachutal stall the load would shift elevating the C and D risers and pulling the A riser down, accelerating the wing back into a flight.  Since I tend to fly like an old lady, I've never experienced  a  parachutal stall.There is also a series of valves at the top of the leading edge.  When the wing is in reflex and the Angle of Attack is lowered these HIT valves open up increasing internal pressure.  This feature really becomes important when using the speed system.  The tip steering is also a little different.  Instead of just pulling down the stabilo line the WSS Wind Scoop System cups the wing tips, creating drag without lift.  

For the first flights, I set the trim to neutral, the take offs and landing were clean and uneventful.  Climb is good in neutral but goes down fast in reflex.  At one point I was climbing at 250 fpm but the average seems to be around 175 fpm, descent was around 500 fpm.  Turning with the tip steering is smooth and requires minimum pull.  I did notice that we were losing altitude in turns and I'm going to experiment with different thrust to figure out what makes for a flat turn.  Turning against the torque is discouraged and when it's also against the wind, the wing resists greatly.  It reminds me of the way the power play swing used to react.
Both days there was building wind and it was hard to judge the speed but I don't think it's any faster than I was with the Eden III, probably 30 mph.  I might think about the speed system

There were a few annoyances....
Its hard to see the scale marks on the trim tabs, and when closed, the loose webbing can get in the way.  These things are probably no big deal and after 10 flights I won't even notice but right now, they  complicate the flight.
But I Really liked....
The new magnets, they really grab the toggles.
The Flexon Battons that shap the cell openings.
The butt holes to keep my wing clean.  :)

Overall it's a nice wing.  The flight characteristics are predictable and benign but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's clearly suitable for a beginner and I think the huge speed range possible with this wing will keep me interested for awhile.