Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Holy Shmoly, We are Live!

Last week, I sprinted toward the finish line of setting up the Big O Loop. I was like one of those marathon runners who's upchucking and stumbling as he enters the stadium, time long since having been a factor, the completion of the race being the only thing that matters.

And stumbled across it I did. There are a few warm down laps to run... then the century race of long term operations begins. But, for now, we are live.

A few days later, it's a blur. I remember a lot of drilling, chainsawing, cutting, bolting, begging, buying, weed whacking, digging, cementing, etc. Club silent stalwarts Rebar Dan DeWeese and Mike Zeller worked their butts off, Dan fabricating a great rack and Mike helping with it, as wells as taking a big chunk of out of the native California scrub brush anywhere near the Big O Loop (and, of course, mowing the LZ lawn or getting multi-hour flights the rest of the time). Ken Howells was a great help in the setup and testing of the wings, ever patient with a couple of completely boneheaded moves on my part.

Friday night, after Jonathan "NMERider" Dietch helped Ken test the double rack, after Mike and I cut Lower Embree (a no wind hang launch right below the graded portion), after a very long day, I booked a nice hotel room, took a relaxing swim, soaked my bones in the jacuzzi, had a fantastic dinner, a couple of Blue Moon ales, and passed out. I was so beat from the day I woke up in the middle of the night and had a hard time getting back to sleep, making me somewhat late for the LZ on Saturday, certainly not early enough to beat Mike Zeller as he sanded down the sharp edges of the rack.

The Ranger with 2 Wings

As Mike went to weed whack the LZ (try and stop that guy), I tweaked the front rack, adding a missing bolt and lowering it 6 inches (to help keep front and back wingtips from touching). Finally, I got to do a little test flying, paying for the Loop like any other customer, a scant 15 clams buying me 3 flights for a total of 2 hours of flying.

My first flight was an extended sledder of ten minutes, where I launched too soon after Ken and flushed him out of thermals. Lesson learned: one wing should be working the slope at a time, unless arranged in advance. Sorry again, Ken.

Flight number two bore easy and immediate fruit. A series of lazy 8s between the F'O' Hundred and Embree Launches got me up to the 750, where I was able to branch out a little and start chasing the thermals that were rolling through. Soon, I was over Marshall and heading to Crestline. I arrived a bit below launch, hit 6K at Billboard, jumped to Pine, got to 7,200', then tagged Sugarpine and went on glide without turning to the CVS Pharmacy in front of the University.

Tracklog of my second flight

I landed, hit the port-a-potty (a clubhouse will be a welcome place to take a break), chugged a diet root beer, then went up for flight #3. It was not a failure, but I didn't reach my goal of "breaking out," which I define as being over the windsock at Marshall at some point. I "only" got 40 minutes and over Regionals, before I decided to bring it in for the third landing of the day... the first time I've gotten three landings in a day at Andy Jackson Airpark.

This week, we've got customers coming and more administrative procedures to work out. We need volunteers, we need to practice and train running it, we need to think about maintenance. But, that's all minor stuff.

We're live!

Jonathan's Big O Loop Test Flights

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Big O Loop, the Breakout

The big news of the day is that I launched my U2 from the Embree Launch (about 380') and flew for 45 minutes, getting above Marshall and Cloud, and landing after the cold and my sore shoulder got me. Let's hope its the first of many breakout flights for many pilots this year.

What a fun flight, thanks Owen "Big O" Morse and "Rebar" Dan Deweese for the hard work on the Ranger Rack and for helping me launch. Thanks Ken "KH-11" Howells for the snapping the pics below (all pics except the track pop to larger versions).

The Ranger Rack back is done, solid... Dan's the man. The middle portion needs about 9 more inches to lift the wingtips above the bush on the way up. The front portion needs a couple of U bolts made the hard way, outta threaded stock, and that will be it. That's not a lot... we (i.e. Dan) should polish it off this Friday or Saturday.

Some work on the brush and the launches is in order, too.

At least the brush is pretty for now.

Getting the wing down needs some process improvement

.Dan wouldn't let Shiloh help me this time.


Happiness is having them look up.

Got over Marshall and Cloud.

Hawk buzzes the LZ while I was up.

Puppy puppy puppy puppy!

The same winds that got me out made the landing easy.

Scratch scratch scratch pop scratch scratch pop ahhh... spiral down.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Big O Loop, Proof of Concept Complete

It's coming, like a freight train.

In less than a month, The Big O Loop will be fully operational (and self-aware?). Yesterday, I strapped my fully set up U2 on the back of our Polaris Ranger and we drove up Via Testes to the F'O' Hundred Launch. I launched into a SE cycle and had a nice 3 minute extended sledder.

Thanks Rebardan for driving me up and the work (and more coming) on the rack. Thanks to Linda Dunn for taking most of these pics.

Ironically, all the work I have put into the project contributed to my not capitalizing on two thermals and getting up and out. I had only had 3 flights and AJX in the previous six months, despite twenty or so trips to the hill. It is just too hard to fly and get significant work done. So, I flew conservatively, not turning into a thermal because I was too close to the terrain for comfort (though I probably could have pulled it off with plenty of room to spare). I settled for a solid launch, led out by Shiloh, a three minute flight, and a perfect landing.

All photos by Linda Dunn, except the one with her in it. Thanks Linda!

Shiloh shows me how to launch

We are getting there, but I have a lot of work to do before our BBQ honoring Big O for his Presidential Citation on June 5th. Among other things, we have to:
- finish the ticket box and signs
- clear a lot of brush on Via Testes
- Cut the Zeller Cliff Launch and KK's Half a K (500) Launch
- Get the rack for the Ranger fabricated
- Program the online reservation system
- Find an Internet voice mail to email system
- Recruit volunteers to help run it

Crap, that's a buncha stuff. I better look at some pics to motivate myself (click to pop bigger pics).

Loading up the test wing (mine)

While Marlin test flies, Jim, Jim and James work on the sprinkler system.

Gene gave us a great, wide road to work with

Stop, lop, ready to roll!

Wot, no hook in sign?

A motley crew

Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta...

Il Padrino i Il Consigliere

Hilarious launch, Jeff plowed through the brush, hootin' and hollerin'

Jeff emerges from the brush to a beautiful sunset.

Kevin does a nice forward inflation in a crosswind

And off Kevin goes

A montage of my first launch from the F'O' Hundred.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Pleasant Day at Torrey Pines

I haven't had much to yap about this winter, as I've only been working on the Big O Loop, with a smattering of unremarkable flights.

Friday, however, I did have a pleasant bit of flying at Torrey Pines. I took two flights with Joe Spinney borrowing my wing in between (Joe is pictured here)

Joe Spinney on my U2

Only a couple of things worth mentioning:
- Finally got another of Rebar Dan's Hook In signs delivered to Torrey. Let's see if those pissants who chucked the last one over the cliff leave this one alone.
- Got most of a right turn out of my wing, but it needs some TLC, there's still a bit of one there.
- Being 160 pounds on a U2 160 with full VG on a medium-light day at Torrey puts you above most other wings.
- It was fun to just chill up and down the range, buzzing people on the cliffs, getting a better view of the mansions and pier and golfers, and just, generally, relaxing. I'm not used to being so relaxed in the air for such a long period of time. It's always cathartic, but usually busier. The relaxing flights are usually sledders, by definition short.

Peace in our time? If any PG pilots mess with this one, maybe we can just bitch slap 'em.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Big O Loop, A CSS Venture

6 months ago, I started working on the Big O Loop as a private venture to benefit Owen and Len, the owners of the land above the LZ at Andy Jackson. It was my thought that they could use it to stop their financial bleeding and pay down the principal on the property, eventually paying it off and donating it to the club, taking a tidy write off or something.

However, they were losing money faster than they or I realized and it was time to turn to the board of the Crestline Soaring Society for help.

For the next few months, the board will be working on a feasibility study to buy the property from Len and Owen. The club as a whole will vote on it. I am confident that the club will go for it and will own the land outright long before I stop flying there.

The Big O Loop, a part of what will eventually be quite a nice destination flight park, will be off to a quick start with the purchase of a new utility vehicle to haul multiple wings up at once to the the "F'O' Hundred" and "Embree" launches. The club agreed to pay for the right vehicle for the job, sparing me having to dip far into the cash reserves to do it.

These are going to be very exciting times at the Andy Jackson Flight Park. The club has survived the threat of development and the fire and is going to be the place to go to fly in the West, if not the country. Where else will you be able to stay at the LZ, have nice showers and facilities, a clubhouse, year-around good flying weather, and launches at every necessary height to learn the sport and become a better pilot? It will be a foot launch paradise.

As a bonus, I am now very optimistic that that two men who took a *huge* risk for the club won't be losing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I'm very happy tonight.

Via Testes and AJX (photo by Wills Wing test pilot and CSS Webmaster Ken Howells)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Big O Loop:1, El NiƱo: 0

What a week... and the week before that was a lot of hard work. I spent a lot of cabbage cutting a road up to new launches and a fair bit on top of that, prepping it for the rain. That rain came with a vengeance... the wettest week in almost 15 years. Ugh.

The call for help went out here.

Mike Zeller, Rob McKenzie (in the rain especially), Owen, Carl, Flakey John, Kevin Greene, Megret, Rebar Dan, Kenny, Rod, Bob, the list of people who helped prep for the rains is bigger than that, but they are the ones that spring to mind at the moment. What a great team effort.

It held up against 8 inches (at least) of rain in 5 days... that's half a normal season. Lots of that came down in strong bursts that overwhelmed the terrain. The road needs more design work and a lotta "touching up," but it held.

The jute matting (straw / mesh) held well, as did the canvas. The hay bales were also a success. The home made straw rolls were basically worthless, the drains were a joke. Cutting trenches seemed to help, especially the deeper ones.

The culverts worked very well.

Here are some pics... Click on them to pop larger ones.

The F'O' Hundred Launch

Soft stuff washed away, leaving these monsters

Between the launches

Zeller's diagonal cut across Embree

Looking down the last climb after the last turn

These straw rolls didn't do much

The burlap strips and jute matting held the line... the slope held.

This slope was a concern

I was worried about a slide from the left... didn't happen.

10 dollar rolls of burlap... best bang for the buck

The drains sucked... only figuratively... this was the only visible one.

The mud in the middle pushed the water to the right (see next photo)

Under the bale and down the slope... this was the worst spot in the "Great White Slope" and still not bad. That jute matting was worth the $740... it save the slope.

The banks we built up washed away, but the matting prevented a slide.

Above the McKenzie launch

The slope to the East near McKenzie Launch

Nasty chasm in the loose sand... a few of these in safe spots.

Middle portion was safe

This deep ditch worked really well.

Above the first slope.

The rocks worked well

Bottom of culverts... great job Rob & Owen

Rob engineered a nice solution!

Bottom of Via Testes

Pretty deep ditch on the inside of the road above the Ranch House

Still there!

The road into the LZ had some nasty damage

Little worried going over this one