Monday, September 29, 2008

Buying & transporting a Sport 2 across the USA

How-to details first, commentary second, here's how you do it:

1. Call Sonotube, 888-SON-TUBE (766-8823), and ask them for local distributors.
2. Call the distributors, ask them where the nearest retailer they supply is.
3. Call the nearest retailer (prob a lumber type place) and ask them to get a quote for a 16" x 12' concrete form tube from Sonotube.
4. Place the order, get the tube.
5. While picking it up, buy a couple 20 gallon rubbermade trash cans for the ends. Also buy a large roll (or two) of bubble wrap and tape of your choice for attaching the ends to the tube.
6. Stop at a thrift store and get a couple of blankets on the way home. Maybe 3 or 4.

Edit: Another option is corrugated irrigation pipe, see this post by Jonathan "NMERider" Dietsch.

7. Short pack the wing per the instructions and Jeff O'Brien's packing tips .
8. Bubble wrap each end and twice in the middle, enough to expand the wing to the diameter of the tube.
9. Pad the cans and put 'em on (the wing will stick out a little each end).
10. Tape the snot outta it.
11. Call Pilot Air, get a quote for shipping an "Event Tent" **cough**cough** from your nearest location to the recipient's nearest location. The words "hang" and "glider" will probably kill the deal. Tell them you are a business.
12. Drop off, watch it through tracking.
13. Other guy gets a call when it arrives, picks it up.
14. Ta-da.

Big thanks to my brother Brad for shipping my new (used) Sport 2 out to me.

Above are pics of the end result of Brad's handiwork (tape missing from back end).

The garbage cans were brilliant. They lifted the tube enough for forklifts to get under the pipe. They had handles. They flexed if you dropped the tube on them. Perfect.

As for the costs:

- I found the wing on the ozreport classifieds for $2k.
- Tube was $80
- Misc supplies were $82
- Shipping was $128
- Extra gas driving to the airport $30

So, the wing was about $2320. I also asked Rob (my dealer) to inspect it as needed and replace the side wires. Let's say that takes it to $2500-$2600. A new Sport 2 from said dealer is $3,775 (man, am I lucky for yet another reason to have chosen back when I was surfing for web sites about hang gliding lessons). Plus tax takes it to $4067. So, I saved about $1,500.

So, was it worth it? Yes, but only for one reason: I probably will only fly this wing a couple of seasons. Maybe only one.

I am too heavy for the Sport 2 155 by about 20 lbs. But, I want to learn to fly double surface wings on it, not the U2 160, which is a better fit for my lard-200-pounds-before-putting-gear-on ass. I intend to lose the 20 lbs to fit into the wing and the rotor vulto harness I found for $450. Even then, though, the u2 may be better for me.

Everything went very well and I had a dedicated brother on the other end handling things for me. I got a great deal. I think I am going to quit while I am ahead. It was a fair bit of monkey business and everything went great. I can't imagine the hassle of a forklift through my wing or something like that. There are hassles for buying locally, too. Sport 2s, used, are hard to find in So Cal, with so many students popping outta Crestline & Kagel.

I'm going to go back to buying new from now on. The savings on the wing are not worth the lesser life span left in it and the hassles to get it. Glad it worked for this time, though.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

Blackhawk Down

Yesterday, I harshly reminded myself about the importance of good headwork during all parts of flight, but especially during launch and landing. Rare is the pilot who has more mishaps launching than landing... I'm that guy. I blew a launch and trashed my wing, with a broken downtube, bent batten, & a torn sail (at least).

I made bad decisions on launch at Blackhawk, let a wingtip and a nose get high, tried to straighten the wings instead of just tamping everything down, got picked up and thrown to the side. Once I was in the air, I leaned toward the ground to get my aircraft and me outta the sky before I picked up any velocity. I can't imagine how I could have saved that, once I was in the air, and I am glad I didn't try... I would have just picked up more energy for the eventual impact. Wings not level, nose high, and not communicating well with the wireman led to me walking away very luckily uninjured except a slight dent in the pocketbook and another in my pride.

Driving down the hill, fixing a flat, driving around collecting pilots scattered all over the base of the hill, I had time to reflect a bit on the fiasco. Here are some thoughts:

1. Headwork, headwork, headwork, especially at a new site, is needed in all parts of the task, for that part of the task.

2. Blackhawk, on a day that is not straight in (yesterday was SE), is a lot like Elsinore in the summer. You have to hit the window or drive down. We got rotored pretty good, after watching the big dogs circle up to 11K.

3. Going to Blackhawk for your first cross country attempt is like trying to pop your cherry with Madonna. Sure, it may be exciting, but the memories are more likely to be unpleasant and you may just end up with a permanent medical condition. I'd say it's a hang 4 site, but that doesn't even put it into proper perspective. It's Blackhawk... ratings don't cover what I think is needed to fly there.

4. The next time I fly there:
-it will be when I have at least a Sport 2, if not topless, wing.
-the wind will have to be North
-I will not only scope out a bail out, I'll clear out the brush in it and plant a flag. This will take hours, but will be well worth the effort.
-I will not be bashful about asking another pilot for help and being one of the middle guys off the hill, not one of the first or, in this case, second to last.
-The weather forecast will have to have the risk be worth the potential reward

5. I have a new policy for new sites that are not known entities: I want to drive for someone there first, before flying there. That's almost a must for Blackhawk. It would have been good policy for Upper/Lower Parma at Santa Barbara.

6. Next time, I'm following Dave, where he goes, and after he goes. That seems to work well for me. He went to the Owens and nailed a 61 mile flight. He's a natural.

I am really fortunate not to have hurt myself. I'm also fortunate to have Rob back at the LZ, with his truck waiting to take my torn up wing back to the shop for his expert care. Talking with him yesterday was like one of those Kung Fu "But, Master!" conversations. Maybe I should go to the guy with the green eyes before trying out some new karate chops.

I've heard it asked: "Why do you want to go anywhere when you've got Crestline/Marshall/AJ as your home site?" Err... variety? Today, I feel like Hugh Grant after he got busted with Devine.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Best flight yet

Best Day Yet... from knumbknuts on Vimeo.

If more days were like today, I probably wouldn't have a job... or a house... or a wife... or a car....

I was anxious to get up the hill, so I ditched my clients early and Hoffbrow, DbyD, & I barreled up the hill around noon. Beautiful marshmallows were coming over from Cuco to the Cajon pass. As I launched there, were dotting the ridge.

Popped to 7700 over launch.

Glided to halfway between Pine and Sugarpine, got nervous, turned to go out front, caught a real drifter that I bailed out of at 7800 because I didn't want to go to Vegas.

Got just past Sugarpine and turned my po', slow Falcon around, fearing the Venturi effect.

Back to Pine, I saw Dave as a speck way above me and caught another one to 7,500 and bailed out for the same reason, but soon caught a fatty to 9,300. A jet went overhead, so I kept my eyes on the desert.

Sure enough, here comes Alaska Airlines. Not too close, but closer than I'd prefer.

Bunny hopped the clouds East... chased one back to Rimforest, then the cloud disappeared and I got nervous. My vario showed 4:1 to AJ, so I pointed that direction and got drilled. Kyle was working Baylis Park and the exchange and thermals there popped me high enough to skip right past Billboard to Pine (barely). Not much shaking there, I figured the marine layer had taken the day, so I started working back to the LZ. right over it, I caught a punchy one from 4k to 8.5K, with notable turbulence a couple of times as I punched through mild inversions... or something.

A final tag of the 215 and a due West landing into smooth winds and my furthest, highest, & longest flight was over.

I am amazed that our club doesn't have 10,000 members... there are only about 6,000 hang glider pilots in the country.  This is so much fun.