The View Up Here

Random scribblings about kites, photography, machining, and anything else

Conservation of Plane

Posted by Tom Benedict on 24/12/2013

I’m convinced there’s a law of physics out there somewhere that dictates a conservation of plane.

A couple of weeks ago I took my Bixler 2 out to a local field to start teaching my son to fly. I launched and got him some stick time while the plane was three mistakes high, but the whole time he was asking me to let him land it. Rather than go through that I landed the plane and then did some toss-glide flights so he could get some stick time near the ground. After crashing it about ten times he admitted that landing was a lot harder than it looked! And after those ten crashes, my plane was shot. I had cracks in the fuselage, both wings were cracked through to the spar, and one of the control horns had ripped out of one of the ailerons.

So I had three operable planes and one dead one. A couple of weeks of occasional work in the evenings got it back up and running, though: Gorilla Glue to fix the cracked wings, some foam filler in a torn out section, some glue for the tail boom, a re-work of the control horn, etc. As of a couple of days ago the plane was back in shape and hanging on my wall.

Today I took my Zagi and Le Fish, and my daughter, to the local slope to fly. I’m still trying to get my Le Fish flying the way I want, but without a grassy slope to fly from it’s been a little traumatic to the plane. After several rough landings I wound up hitting a thorn bush. By the time I extracted it, I had some chunks taken out of the wings and the tail boom was cracked. One Le Fish down.

I switched back to the Zagi just to clear my head and make up for the fact I’d busted a plane I’ve been so careful with up ’till now. Out of the blue my daughter pipes up and asks, “Can I learn to fly?”

The slope isn’t the ideal starting point for learning to fly a plane. You have to care about the wind and the terrain and the plane. A better scenario is the one I introduced my son to: hand-tossed gliding landings. But hey, she was interested. Why not?

I launched, talked her through the controls, and handed over. First thing she did was turn downwind toward the slope, ride the lift high over the ridge, and get lost in the rotor. The plane came down hard in the caldera of the cinder cone we were standing on. >sigh< We hiked down to where the plane was, only to find the battery pack blown all over the place. Second plane down.

I try to see the positive in things whenever I can. The only positive I can come up with for today is that we flew every second we could. We’d literally flown the bejeebers out of both planes. By the end of the day they were utterly bejeeberless. And they looked it!

I got the Zagi fixed pretty quickly. It just needed a new battery pack, after all. But the Le Fish will take some time to repair, especially the tail boom. Back to three operable planes and one dead one.

Damn physics…

– Tom

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