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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Glad you walked away. Time for a new glider anyway :-)

Following DbyD does seem to work nicely. Remember his AKA, 'Wave Dave'. You could have been that guy ;-)

- Alan