Oct 112010

We are getting close to the end of the Fly-In Season and around here that means Augusta, Kansas the first Saturday of the month October.

Why I even check any more is questionable but I looked at the weather forecast the evening before the event and the morning of the event. Both times it said the was only going to be about 14mph. Wrong. On the ground it already felt like about 14. When I got in the air it was more like 35 or even 40. To compound matters it was coming from the North East. Directly from where I was heading. On the “high side” it was not choppy. I don’t mind a little wind when flying my Quicksilver as long as it isn’t real choppy. Choppy turbulence can put excessive loads on the structure. Also, it is not fun.

Quicksilver at sunrise

I like this shot because if verifies that I got up real early to make this flight. Also the sunrise accentuates the Yellow and Orange fabric I chose for my MXL. I think the factory even calls this scheme “Tequila Sunrise”.

The “short” flight from Selby Aerodrome to Augusta Municipal Airport would normally take me about 15 to 20 minutes. Today it took about an hour. Although the surface wind was only about 12 or 14 when I took off I realized immediately in the pattern it was more strong at 200′ and higher. As I found later it was significantly higher at about 1,000′ when I attempted to go to that level to cross over Cook Airfield which was directly in my path. Flying at about 400′ AGL I watch Cook Field creep slowly into view. Because going was slow as it was, I didn’t want to divert around the field and elected to climb above the pattern and go over it. I started my climb about 5 miles Southwest of the field but when I got to 1,000′ I realized I was going nowhere fast. I had become a helicopter with no forward motion. After about 5 minutes of that futility I decided to swing around Cook’s traffic pattern to the West and continue toward Augusta Muni at about 300′ where I was getting at least 12 mph ground speed… I finally completed this laborious journey after about an hour and landed at Augusta. So as not to spend too much time taxiing on the active, after making my pattern, I just dropped down to about 3 feet off the runway and flew to about the last 20′ before the turnout at the end and plopped it down. This is one of the advantages of the MXL’s slow flying characteristics on a day like it was.

Kids pose in front of MXL

A guy brought his kids and their friends out to the event. They got a kick out of the ultralight so I took a picture of them in front of it.

Just before this shot a different rope they gave me for a tie-down snapped and this is before the surface wind really picked up. One thing I learned to do back in the 80’s when I first started flying ultralights is to tie them down with the tail into the wind. This discourages them from flying off before you get in the seat. Even having done that I was concerned the whole time I was there. I spent about 15 minutes gourmandizing some Boy Scout pancakes and then returned to my post next to the plane. I wanted to be there in case another rope broke.

Before the wind picked up, though, I hoofed it around the airpark to gather some pix to show you what was there:

Doug Range's 1949 Stinson

Terry Alley's Kitfox

A nice C-170 owned by Dennis Scarberry of Goddard, Kansas

A T-6 "Texan"

A 1943 Cessna T-50 owned by the C.A.F.

A 1943 Fairchild (Howard) M-62C (PT-23A) owned by the C.A.F.

An Eagle 150B (designed by John Roncz) owned by David McDonald of Douglass, Kansas

You won’t see too many of these around.

Some aerobatic plane...

Sorry, I don’t have much to go on with this one. It was “showroom clean” though, and the passengers stepped out wearing backpack parachutes.

A Pitts S-2A owned by Ross Schoneboom of Benton, Kansas

A Christen EAGLE II owned by John Harrison of Wichita, Kansas

A 1986 Malibu owned by Jayhawk Flight Services of Salina, Kansas

Unknown helicopter lands

This helicopter landed about the time the surface winds had already picked up to about 25 mph. I am really glad I was standing by my plane because as he hovered there (too close to the tied down aircraft and for too long) his downwash added to the already high wind on the ramp. Larry Hart’s RANS which was parked next to my plane jumped it’s chocks and started swinging toward my plane and away from the helicopter. Two guys who were standing there talking to me and I grabbed the RANS to stop it and then hold it in place while the helicopter hovered for about 5 minutes. Once Larry made it across the ramp to grab his plane I took up station on my own.

Brian "poses" with Quicksilver MXL

This shot has the appearance of “Brian posing with airplane”. In reality it was “Brian holds ailerons to keep them from flapping wildly in the wind while holding the horizontal stabilizer to be ready in case the tail tie down rope breaks AGAIN”. Yes, the first rope they had for the tail tie down broke under the stress of the wind.

Wingwalkers hold wings before takeoff - Photo by Doug Moler

Some of the guys were getting ready to leave and suggested they would walk my wings out to the runway so I could egress the area. It seemed like a good time to go so I took them up on the offer. Once I taxied onto the active and gave it full power I was in the air in about 10 feet. After that I pretty much climbed in a vertical manner until I cleared my turn and headed downwind. The trip back to Selby Field was uneventful. The plane did not get squirrel-y on the ground but I put it in the hangar immediately so as not to tempt the Kansas Wind into putting my MXL inverted. That happened to me with my old MX years ago and I don’t want to go through that again…

Blue Skies & Tailwinds!

Brian FitzGerald