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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Late evening report

This will be a short report, as I have just returned from a longish retrieve. Doug landed about 120 km east of home, in an area where a substantial number of gliders came to earth. For the retrieve I chose the autobahn route, as being longer but meaningfully faster. German-registered trailers that meet certain standards are allowed a maximum speed of 100 kph; others (such as those with Rhode Island plates) are supposed to limit themselves to 80. I won’t say what speed I was doing, except to note that if it had been anything near 80 we’d still be inbound. I’m glad the police presence on roads south of Berlin was today rather modest.

Doug’s field was one of the many huge ones that abound in this task area. But the soil was very sandy, making it almost too soft for a 2-wheel-drive vehicle. Our exit from the field was exciting – I had to build up a serious head of steam, and then not slow down until I’d bounced onto the paved road that borders the field – definitely one of the more marginal retrieve episodes of my experience.

Today’s tasks worked out about the way cynical observers suggested they would. Being the first class to launch and having the best performance, the Open class saw a decent number of finishers. Tasks for the short-wingers were a respectable percentage of the Open-class distance, but opened much later – there was almost no hope of completing them.

I say almost because there were two finishers in 18-Meter class, and one of them was Rick Walters (winner of last year’s Pre-World contest at this site). It took a dogged struggle with weak and widely spaced lift over the final 100 km, but he crossed the finish line at around 7:20 pm – long after most pilots had hit the dirt. Unfortunately, WGC scoring gives very little reward to finishers when most pilots fail to do so: Rick received just 25 more points than he would have had he fallen just short of the finish. Still, it’s an excellent flight worth 999 points.

If I’m to be ready for my 68 assembly steps tomorrow, I must now sign off and head for bed.

Afternoon report

Today’s weather is blue and definitely tending toward hot (we expect over 90 degrees on the field today, and the humidity here is never astonishingly low). We were told to prepare for a line of severe weather with thunderstorms, lightning, high winds and hail, due to arrive at Lusse around 7 pm. Tasks of 400 to near 500 km have been set.

The launch got underway at 12:15, and was then delayed a bit because the Open class (first to launch) was clearly having trouble climbing. We saw several re-lights, and at one point a gaggle of at least 20 gliders was grinding around in slow circles not more than 800 feet overhead. This was a fine show for ground-based spectators, though I doubt the pilots starring in it were all that happy.

The launch of the 15-Meter and 18-Meter classes was held until conditions improved (which they did by 1 pm). But when the day is blue, your first opportunity to start comes at 2:30 (as was the case for the 18-Meter class), winds are higher than forecast, soarable condition may end as early as 6:00 and dangerous weather is predicted for 7:00, 420 km looks ambitious. Anyone who gets slowed down a bit may find the end of the day challenging indeed.

Just for fun, I decided to list all the steps involved in getting Doug Jacob’s Ventus 2cxa read for flight each morning. Here they are:
  1. Open trailer

  2. Remove fuselage ramp

  3. Pump the hydraulic jack to raise the ramp

  4. Roll fuselage out of trailer

  5. Extend the landing gear

  6. Install battery that was charged overnight

  7. Check the voltage of three batteries

  8. Check that the water dump valve is in the closed position

  9. Set the wingstand to the left of the fuselage

  10. Install the left inboard wing

  11. Place wingstand under the left wing

  12. Insert the main pin partway into the left wing spar root

  13. Install the right inboard wing

  14. Seat and safety the main pin

  15. Install the left wing tip

  16. Install a small strip of fiberglass that covers the left wingtip pin mechanism

  17. Repeat steps 15 and 16 for the right wingtip

  18. Install the horizontal tail

  19. Remove the tail tool and place it in the cockpit right side pocket

  20. Lower the fuselage ramp jack (so the weight is borne on the main wheel)

  21. Install the wing dolly on the left wing

  22. Roll the plane backward about 1 meter and rotate left 20 degrees (allows neighbors to rig)

  23. Fetch 8 liters of water in a bucket

  24. Set bucket on the horizontal tail, and prime a siphon hose to drain water into the tail tank

  25. Tape the left outboard wing junction (3 pieces of tape)

  26. Run a hose from water tap to the left wing

  27. Smear ChapStick on the left outboard dump valve (to eliminate leaks)

  28. Remove the left outboard waterballtast tank fill plug

  29. Fill the left outboard tank with 3.6 gallons of water

  30. Reinstall the left outboard waterballtast tank fill plug

  31. Remove the left inboard waterballtast tank fill plug

  32. Fill the left inboard tank with 19 gallons of water

  33. Reinstall the left inboard waterballtast tank fill plug

  34. Tape the left wing root

  35. Tape the horizontal tail pin area

  36. Tape the right win junction (3 pieces of tape)

  37. Tape the right wing root

  38. Smear ChapStick on the right outboard dump valve

  39. Remove the right outboard waterballtast tank fill plug

  40. Fill the right outboard tank with 3.6 gallons of water

  41. Reinstall the right outboard waterballtast tank fill plug

  42. Remove the right inboard waterballtast tank fill plug

  43. Fill the right inboard tank with 19 gallons of water

  44. Reinstall the right inboard waterballtast tank fill plug

  45. Remove the now-empty bucket from the horizontal tail

  46. Wipe up spilled water from both wings and the tail

  47. Install pitot and total energy tubes in the vertical fin

  48. Clean the canopy

  49. Fill drinking water container

  50. Remove yesterday’s task sheet

  51. Check that main pin is safetied

  52. Check that horizontal tail is seated and pin is not protruding

  53. Check that all controls (ailerons, flaps, elevator, rudder, spoilers) move freely

  54. Check gear doors

  55. Check tires for proper inflation

  56. Install the tail dolly

  57. Position the crew car at the planes tail (taking care not to collide with the rudder)

  58. Attach the tow-out bar to the tail dolly

  59. Couple the tow-out bar to the car’s tow hitch

  60. Drive the glider to the scales for weighing (approximately 800 meters)

  61. Drive to the assigned grid position (typically another 200 meters)

  62. Unhitch the tow-out bar

  63. Drive car forward one meter (so tailgate doesn't hit rudder when opened)

  64. Remove tow-out bar and tail dolly; place these in the trunk of car

  65. Insert wingstand under the right wing

  66. Install canopy cover

  67. Final inspection for bugs and other contamination on leading edges

  68. Final wipedown of all surfaces
No doubt I’ve omitted a few small items, but that’s pretty much the lot. Steps 10, 14, 15 and 17 require two people. Otherwise this is a one man-job (though I rarely turn down help if offered). Given some practice and a good level of organization, it can be completed in about 70 minutes. Better water pressure would reduce that by 10 minutes.

With all competitors now on task, a jet-powered glider (said to be an ASW-20) is making low passes up and down the airfield, perhaps in practice for Sunday’s airshow. The noise is considerable – it seems a bit of a stretch to include this within the sport of silent flight.