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Friday, March 16, 2012

run for the border and back: part three


it seems i always hang with the right people for just about any given situation.

hanging with fred in this situation was no exception.

when we arrived to jacumba on friday, fred introduced himself as just “fred, from minden.”

to which most of those to whom he introduced himself would reply something like: “are you fred lasor from minden?”

yeah, that fred from minden in the scheizer 2-33
with steve and alasdar!

it was like going to the bonneville salt flats and people saying: “are you elmo gillette?” after the ol’ man introduced himself as “elmo”.

i have known for some time that fred was pretty sharp on multiple levels, but it was very cool for that to not only be confirmed, but to realize that he is “the dude”!

the dude and i arrived a little late on a cloudy and windy sunday morning after breakfast, but not so late that it ruffled any feathers. maybe it was a benefit of being “the dude”; maybe not.

bud told me that my duty on sunday would be winch-line retrieval, meaning, i would drive roman’s truck, chase down the cable, hook it to the trailer hitch and drive it at a speed of 25 to 30 mph back to the flight line on the other end of the runway.

winch view of a winch launch

the act, however, was easier said than done as the wind coming from mexico this morning kept catching the small parachute at the end of the cable and blowing it off into the booney bushes that surrounded the little airfield.

another view from the winch

since none of the pilots have yet been “signed off” and they all wanted that certification, not only was it going to be a long day, i was probably not going to get another ride.

the wind, however, shifted and the sun came out and it did not take long to get back on schedule and all of the pilots were wearing smiles of success for being certified on the cable launch system.

after the certificates were granted, two of the club’s other gliders were brought out to the flight line: the single seat szd 51-1 junior and the two seat szd 50 puchasz (pron.: poo-hahz), both nice looking planes and considered medium to high performance aircraft suitable for aerobatics.

after some of the club members who were acting as ground crew got flights in the various club aircraft, it was my turn for my second ride.

this time i would not only ride in the sporty puchasz, i would operate the radio during the launch and throughout the flight. before our flight, alasdar, who would once again be my pilot, offered to let me take the controls once we were aloft, but i declined – not because i was afraid i would auger us into the ground, but i quickly learned on my previous flight that soaring correctly is very much a thinking-persons’ game and did not want to take us out of the lift required to stay at altitude and make the ride shorter than i, or alasdar, wanted. if i had been there to learn how to soar, i would have eagerly taken the stick and rudder, but i was there for the fun and wanted every ounce i could get.

the sporty puchasz just before my next flight.
notice the 1/4 mile gap in the border fence.
what's that about?

climbing into the puchasz and strapping myself in was just as full of anticipation as my first flight in the 2-33; i was expecting more from this flight since it is a high performance bird, therefore was ready for new experiences.

“winch: stand by.”, i announced over the radio.

“winch standing by.”

the canopy was still up and we exchanged a few words with bud before it was closed and alasdar asked me to reconfirm the readiness of the winch drivers.

“winch: stand by.”

“winch standing by.”

“our target speed is 5-5 and we are launching the puchasz.”

“roger target speed of 5-5 in the puchasz”.

yesterday, only the 2-33 was being flown, so we did not have to pass the target speed or the type of aircraft along to the winch.

it’s funny: as i write this, i feel a bit of the anticipation i was feeling as we prepared for this flight. also, i know what would happen in about 10 seconds after bud said, “the pattern is clear.”

“when i tell you,” alasdar said, “radio, 'winch: take up slack' and when we begin to move say: 'go. go. go.'”

“roger that.”

“wing and tail.”, was alasdar’s command and bud lifted the right wing to level us and somebody went to the rear of the aircraft to give us a push that i can only think of as being redundant with roman’s powerful winch.

alsadar gave me the word and i said: “winch: take up slack.”

the visibility of the puchasz is much better than the 2-33 and i could see more of the winch cable on this flight and watched it being reeled in until it was tight and with a slightly unstable voice i said: “go. go. go.”

the vertical profile of the entire flight from my gps

once again, we were off like being shot out of a cannon and began lifting off the runway even faster than before. as soon as were off the ground and high enough to not drag the tail, alasdar rotated up and we were climbing for the heavens and firmly planted into our seats.

the first speed i announced was… maybe a second after going airborne, “fifty.” and i remembered that i was supposed to say it as “five-zero” and made the correction when i said, “5-5… 5-8… 5-5… 5-2… 4-8… 5-2.”

i knew we were only about halfway down the runway when a big bang startled me and alasdar suddenly put us into a controlled dive.

the cable at the ring that attaches to the release on the glider broke and we only had about 900 feet of elevation off the deck. not only can i claim that i am an international soarer, i can also claim a cable break. man, i'm gettin' it all!

the vert. profile of the first few seconds of the flight
notice how steep the graph is on the far left. that will give you an indication of how steep the launch is.
the drop following the initial climb is where alasdar put us into a dive when the cable broke.

the dive alasdar put us in was, of course, to give us some airspeed so we could make it back to the runway as we would surely have to land with such little altitude, which was confirmed by my competent pilot sitting behind me.

looking north from near the airport

it was not long, however, before alasdar said, “i think we can make it to the ridge after all.” and just as sure as bob’s your uncle, we soon gained enough altitude that we were as high above the airport as anyone in the little puchasz was able to reach on that day.

smiles on my and alasdar's faces show
we're enjoying every second

the winch crew confirmed that the weak link on the end of the cable had, indeed, snapped. alasdar had me radio back that we would retain the metal links that were formerly attached to the cable. they cost $42 a piece!

a close-up of my gps track log shows how many turns we made to stay in the lift

again, alasdar circled and made endless figure eights above the ridge that extends into mexico. we were even joined by roman, who had previously launched in the single-place junior and was looking for lift north of the airport (somebody said that roman could tell when a cow farts and get lift off of its gas) and steve, the winch clinic instructor, who was flying the 2-33. having three aircraft in such close proximity was a little unnerving to myself, but i gained much confidence from alasdar as he seemed to enjoy the company. visually, it was quite exciting to see the other planes so close to us.

roman flying in the little junior on our 9:00

once (or maybe 9 times) again we did what the hawks do: making tight aerial pirouettes and it seemed inconceivable that we could stay aloft, yet i am here to tell about it. one series of those turns was so fast and tight that i got a bit dizzy for a moment and had to look up and keep focusing on other things to stave off the dizziness, which quickly subsided.

to the right: mexico

before heading back to the airport, alasdar performed another wingover and one more maneuver that pinned me to the seat as firmly as any roller coast has. i truly don’t remember if he called it by name, but alasdar said we were probably around 3 g’s. that was very cool!

notice some of the speeds in the gray figures on the left and the sharp changes in the vert. profile on the right.
da's what i'm ta'kin' 'bout!

he also did some swooping turns as we descended to the airport that were quite fun and graceful as we bled-off speed and altitude to make an even smoother landing than the previous day even though our speed was certainly faster this time; we were able to coast almost all the way to the apron and the puchesz tie downs before one of the wings dropped and we stopped moving.

with that we said goodbye to our new friends at the jacumba airport and headed over to the nearby jacumba library to get a chance to download email, which we had not been able to do since we left el centro on friday. actually, fred checked email. i went to geocaching.com because one of the agcsc members told me that there was a cache near the airport. as it turned out, there are several caches right outside the airport. one looked as though it was at the front gate, but i saw that there was one about 500 feet away that was placed by a past rally team, jahoadi and john, who lived for a while in fallon when john was stationed at nas, fallon. so, i had to stop and find that one before we left. i did.

a pall, however, was cast over our moods when fred learned that his sister, susan, who had been in the hospital for quite some time was not getting better. we returned to the ranch for showers before heading out to get some dinner, but the light-hearted atmosphere of the past few days was now a memory.

to be continued…

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