Archive for the 'Airtime' Category

Who invented the modern hang glider?

Was any one person the “Inventor of the modern Hang Glider”?   Well, that’s debatable, but nevertheless, claims that the honour belongs to John Dickenson, an Australian engineer whose design in 1963 was certainly the catalyst that sparked the explosion of a formerly fringe activity into the mainstream.

Originally intending to build a “bat wing” design ski kite, John was instead inspired by a photo of an experimental gliding recovery parachute for Gemini space capsules designed by Francis Rogallo to design a more practical, safer and controllable machine using the combination of a wing with conical sails – like the parachute – but braced by spars, a cable braced “A” frame control frame construction and a pendulum harness system.

These days, of course, the wing that John used is long obsolete thanks to the development of higher performing designs with far superior safety characteristics. If you define “Modern” as “Contemporary”, the modern hang glider has come a long way since 1963 thanks to the contributions of many people – with performance in some cases, up to 6 times greater than the primitive wings of the early 1970’s.

Soaring flight, by Orville Wright, Kitty Hawk, NC

Hang gliding in various forms, of course, had been around for many years, (see this Wiki entry) with the first arguably successful machines appearing in the 1800’s, but the aircraft were usually not simple, safe, cheap or adequately controllable, so it had never become a sport for the masses. Even the Wright Brothers flew their prototype machines as hang gliders, even soaring them on the Kitty Hawk dunes, before attempting to add power.

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Birdman 2008!

Pictures from the 2008 Birdman Rally on the Yarra on the 9th March.

Snoopy’s “cardboard Sopwith Camel” effort hardly qualified as a flight but looked good.

For every Snoopy, there has to be a Red Baron. Unfortunately, as he leapt, the tail clipped the edge of the platform and he plunged headfirst into the murky Yarra.

The flying wing below was a serious entry, but was too flexible (look at the warped leading edge) and the pilot had no idea how to launch or fly it. The same problem crops up on most of these machines – they have difficulty getting the angle of attack for the run correct. Half the problem is that the wing gives no cues as to what angle is right. A hint, guys. Get some trial runs in first, and make a small widget that hangs from the nose that must be kept on the horizon and horizontal for the takeoff run.

Fancy dress is worth a few points, and this “sea monster” guy jumped well.

And the Englishman in a “phantom of the opera” mask, coolie hat and diaphanous wings fell elegantly.

Which is more than you can say about the “flying saucer man” whose costume turned out to have some hidden dangers, and it’s a good thing he was not trapped in it. In the water it became a big “water bag” that was almost impossible to haul out of the river by the the retrieval crew once it filled.

Another serious entry with launch problems. He came of the ramp far too slowly.

Picture below: The guys on the platform lifted the whole wing and threw it and a girl lying on top of it off the edge. It looked and was dangerous, as she landed on top of the wing – it was a very sudden stop.

This primitive bamboo and plastic rogallo actually glided a little – like a high performance brick.

Take one stuffed pink unicorn and a loony and what do you get? A splash.

But there has to be a winner, and this guy has won it 3 years in a row. Not a great takeoff, as he had the nose too high on the takeoff run, but it flew 18 metres from the 4m launch.


Ramping it up

It’s a long time since I’ve had butterflies in the stomach on a hang glider launch. I’ll admit that Mt Buffalo always gave me butterflies, but I haven’t flown there for a decade or so. Last weekend I got the chance to fly Mt Donna Buang for the first time, and the butterflies resurfaced.

Donna’s a pretty site, sitting 3150ft above Warburton in the Yarra Valley. The launch is a expanded mesh ramp and a deep slot in the trees that you have to launch into and fly out of.
If there had been any wind to speak of, it wouldn’t have been so bad, but the day was mild with only a breath of a breeze. Since you can’t fly a floater hang glider at Donna because the landing area is so far away (you’d land short in fields belonging to unsympathetic farmers), I took the ATOS. This would be the first time I would do an inland footlaunch and landing with this glider. To do so in nil wind conditions at a whole new site was an added level of stress.
Steve Norman and I set up our ATOS’s by the side of the road, deeming it too difficult to manhandle them down from the normal setup area. This meant scrabbling about in some long grass, and I managed to pick up a couple of leeches, and bled copiously when they were removed.
Like me, Steve hadn’t flown Donna before, but he was impatient and launched first. His flight showed that there was lift about, but very light and not extending much if any above hill height. As he hung about in the valley, two flex wings launched, and then I took to the ramp.
After a hard run, I dived off the ramp and zoomed out of the slot. I found light lift on the hill, but it was very poor; I eventually headed out over the valley, finding lift over the landing field and taking it back to takeoff altitude.
Eventually everyone (about 8 gliders) launched, and we all milled about in the valley for an hour or so.
My landing was good, but I spoilt it by not properly running it out properly and subsequently dropped the bar.
Of course, then we had to go retrieve the 2 cars that had been left at the top of the hill, which took another hour. Then an hour and a half drive home.
Donna’s a lot of fun, but the logistics of getting there, getting to the top, waiting for the right wind, risking not catching a thermal and the long turnaround all remind me of why I turned to nanolights!

Flying till it hurts

Just a flight log post today.

I’ve given the flying muscles a severe workout this weekend.

On Saturday, Ms Canada and I tripped down to Flinders to catch the coastal sea breeze.   Initially looking a bit doubtful with the wind off to the southwest, I set up the Fun and took off for an hour of cruising the  eastern section of the bowl.  A nice landing and lunch on the beach and I pack up as the wind slowly swings to the south.

Back at takeoff, I set up the ATOS rigid wing and launch.  The conditions become good, then excellent, with heights of 600ft and flying the coast many kilometers to the west past Cairns Bay.

3-1/2 hours this day.

Sunday was a late start, but I headed off alone to the Dynamic Flight Park out past Ballarat.  It was quiet, with three visiting Finns being launched by car tow.  I set up the nanotrike on the ATOS and launched. landing 3 hours later after climbs to 5000 ft and some excursions toward Lexton.

By the time I got home (at about 8pm) I was very stiff indeed!

Scaring up some fun

Got my arse kicked on Friday.

It’s been a while since my soaring trike has seen any airtime. There were some cobwebs on the exhaust! I needed some thermals.

I’d been looking at the weather forecast all week, and for days the long range view said “fine and light winds” on Friday 26th . Which is of course, a public holiday.Of course, I get up early on Friday and the latest forecast is less encouraging. “Light winds turning west-southwest and strengthening”. But it’s the only day of the weekend that might even possibly be flyable!

On the road then, to Locksley bright and early. There’s no wind to speak of as I drive, but a bit of high cloud. When I arrive, there’s a light westerly; a bit worrying so early. But I set up anyhow. By the time I’m ready, it’s a tad stronger.

I launch at about 11:30am and climb-cruise out to 1km from the field where I contact light lift. It’s disorganised. I can’t get established. Too early perhaps? I spend 1/2 hour bumbling about, at one stage climbing to 2000 ft, but decide to go back, refuel (as I launched with only 1/3 tank) and see if things improve. Back at the field the windsock is showing more wind. My landing is rough and difficult; I have to land diagonal to the runway because of the crosswind.

I rest for a while and have some lunch. There’s a sailplane being dragged out to be winched up, so I refuel and then push the trike out to the end of the strip to save fuel. I watch the sailplane get towed up. He works a little lift for a few minutes, which is encouraging, but then he comes back and lands. It’s 1pm and things should be working. The sailplane lines up again and launches. I move to the flight line and take off as soon as he’s clear.

As I lift off I see the sailplane coming back on downwind leg to land already, and he’s really, really low. I find out why – there’s massive sink all over the strip area. By the time I overfly the winch, I’m still at less than 200ft! Rather than continue on over trees, I turn early and head at right angles to the strip and quickly exit the down air.

There’s more lift now, and I actually get the chance to kill the engine. But every time I get to about 2500ft, it gets really, really rough and the thermal gets torn apart. I know what’s happening. There’s a strong westerly up there above an inversion and it’s ripping the thermals apart at the interface.

I bang my head against this barrier again and again. This is ceasing to be fun, and it’s scary. Clouds begin to form at about 3-4000ft. Obviously some of the stronger thermals are getting through the inversion. But these clouds show streamers and raggedness. The wind is tearing them apart too.

An hour of this is enough. I land. The wind in the teardown area has picked up substantially . I can hear it roaring through the trees. I decide that that’s my limit. I pack up.

A sailplane launches. He finds a thermal and climbs away, but he’s drifting downwind at a great rate. Too strong for me though.

So, back on the road. Days like this are frustrating.