Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Atos VR mosquito/power keel

So there hasn't been too much flying since Lanzarote, the weather has been awful- however Chris and I have managed to get a few days out on our power units on the good days that have been either too light for ridge soaring or blowing west/wsw where we don't have hills to launch from. It's great flying with other people and power flying is the same, it makes rigging/de rigging much better and also makes the flight more memorable having others to share it with. 

Since selling my Axxess rigid wing which handled the Mosquito really nicely, I have been using a Willswing U2 160 which has been great  BUT rigid wings are SOOOO much better when it comes to strapping a power unit to, they handle exactly the same with power as they do without, the climb rate is much better which means much less fuel used and much less noise at level flight, the glide with the engine off is almost the same as without the mosquito- they are just awesome! 

 On the last flight on the U2 I was over 5000ft at Brighton, looking at the great cumulus clouds 3000ft below and remembered once again how much I LOVE this type of flying. I always like to be free flying, getting as far as I can using only Thermals, wind and your body and brain to try and stay in the air- but flying over and around the clouds enjoying the views that normal free-flying will never give you is incredible. I realised in my last flight that I really want to get back on a rigid wing with the mosquito ready for those thermic days that aren't suited to our hills in the downs, to use it like an aerotow launch- climb to 2000ft, engine off and go as far as you can using themals. 

The problem was I have sold my Axxess and had bought a VR which has a tail plane, the tail would get in the way of the propellor so has been unusable (without the tail the glider would be too unstable).

A.I.R have come up with two solutions to this- 

Option 1 - A shortened Stinger with the tail moved forward but fixed to a higher angle so it's doing more work to make up for having less leverage. These are a lot of money though, a.i.r USA are charging $695.00!!!! Not for me!

Option 2 - this is a clever device, it's a shortened keel when the engine is on, but the when you switch the engine off to start your thermic xc, it electrically extends back to the full length. Impressive but even more expensive than the shorter one!!!!

So they are the two options I have found. I cant fly the VR without the tail, but can't afford either of those options. So I attempted making my own keel and try and copy option 1.

The first problem was sourcing the tubing, the stinger is 44mm but I only had the imperial version of the same tube which was very close to fitting but just a little too tight. After sanding the end down for about an hour and drilling two holes for the spring clip that holds the keel in place-  I had a starting point. The mosquito requires the keel no further back than 1300mm from the hang point so that was where I had to cut the stinger.
As you can see in the above photo, I also drilled 4 holes to slide two old fibreglass battens in I got from a friend with this job in mind, these help the glider rest on the mosquito harness when not in use and not slide off to one side. To stop them vibrating or lifting in flight I put jubilee clips around them inside the stinger to hold them tightly in place as you can see in the next photo.

So the easy bit was now done, but how am I going to mount the tail onto the stinger? A carbon one from A.i.r would be very expensive so I decided to try and make one out of fibreglass instead.

 Firstly I knew the tail needed to be fixed at the same angle of the highest point the adjustable tail goes up to, which is 35mm from the keel. I then copied the shape of the current tail holder out of foam, sanded it down, and joined it to a bit of tubing the next size up from the stinger tubing (so that once finished I could slide it onto my stinger) and then wrapped the whole lot in fibreglass (twice!) before wrapping it I pushed two bolts into the foam which will act as the locater bumps for the tail and a nut to take the bolt that attaches the tail (I also put a washer above this nut to make a larger surface area to pull against underneath the fibreglass). I also drilled 8 holes it the tube so the fibre glass would have something to grab hold of and so the tube would never spin inside the fibreglass mould. Confused? I am! But hopefully the pictures will clear it up.

After the fibre glass had set, i sanded it all down and slid the tube over the stinger I'd made. I got it exactly level and pop rivitered it in place.

Here it is all together...

As you can see from the picture below, the front of the mould is not attached to a tube. This is so it will slide over the keel and be a little further forward to allow the back of the tail to be within the 1300mm mosquito limit (hang strap to keel end).

Hopefully I will get out for a test fly on it this weekend and report back with the flight. I am hoping to wrap it in some carbon fibre to make it prettier and clean a couple of other bits up, but as this is currently untested, I need to make sure the angles don't need adjusting first.

If anyone else is thinking of making there own shortened stinger and need any help, feel free to mail me chipmunkluke(at)yahoo.co.uk 

many thanks to Nicos for the tubing, Ian for the battens and Steve Elkins at Avian for answering all my phone calls with question after question.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Winter thermals at the Dyke.

Flight diary details

Date of Flight: 
6 Dec 2013

Takeoff site: 
Devils Dyke

Wing Type: 
Rigid HG

Wind Direction: 

Wind Strength: 


Thermic activity: 

Pilots present: 
A surprisingly good day at the Dyke on Friday. I wasn't expecting the weather to be that nice, as rasp predicted a fairly low level cloud. But I was eager to fly my new VR for the second day so arranged to meet a few other guys there. Quite a big turn out for the hang gliders and a few pg's and speed wings in the afternoon too. The morning was a little bumpy and I took my time to sort out some of my tuning of the VR. Under Steve cooks recommendation I moved the hang point back about an inch and noticed in the air that the glider felt even more composed with 15degree of flap and when you let it off the speed didn't run away from you too much. I also marked the flap string as I spent far too long wondering what position they are at when I'm flying. These two small adjustments made the afternoons flying much nicer. I was able to take some weak thermals up and back behind the hill, even when they weakened out to zeros- I was just trying to stay with it and judge it so I get back to the hill just above it, however this never worked and the glide kept astonishing me even in a fairly strong wind, I would hardly loose anything on the glide back to the hill!
The afternoon was about 15mph wnw, I thought I would try to head towards truleigh and see what the glider was capable off.... It was incredible! Although I didn't make it all the way- it went a long way down the ridge, just hopping back up on the tiny bits of ridge that were creating a bit of lift.
There were about 12 gliders in the air by mid afternoon, it was great fun. The only thing with the dyke this time of year is the low sun around that time of day which makes visibility looking across to the west of the ridge RUBBISH! As the wind started dropping, the gliders where starting to scurry into the landing field with some of the flex's going down if they didn't get back on top in time. However Youngie and I were able to mince around at 200ft when the pg's were now trying to scratch and maintain on the ridge. Eventually Youngie got down to 75ft ato where he knew it was time to take the top Landing, but I felt no urgency as the VR was happy to continue floating at 100ft ato for another 15 minutes. It feels incredible to fly, the performance is astonishing, I spent another 4 hours in the air and would have stayed up for longer if it wasn't starting to get dark. Looking forward to the next day already... Hopefully peachy beachy next week.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

American tv show 'right this minute'

I was contacted to ask for permission to use my latest highlights video on an American tv show 'right this minute'. Although they thought thermalling was 'a Circle chase with another glider', It still felt good for loads of people to see some of the awesome views we get to enjoy.

Right this minute, ABC TV, Arizona

Saturday, 19 October 2013

My New Glider!

Well, ever since my first day flying in the Pre-Worlds, Annecy in July I realised that I needed the same glider as everybody else if I didn't want a handicap in competitions. The VR had a noticeably better glide than anything I've flown before and the sink rate is astonishing. My Axxess went up for sale as soon as I returned to the uk, I knew it was going to be a big stretch to get enough money together to buy a VR as they are very popular gliders now. If you want the highest performing hang glider on the market then there is no choice, it has to be a VR. They are currently over £15,000 new and for a second hand one in good condition without repairs you will be lucky to find one for less than £7000. I sold my Axxess to a friend in the Southern Club for £3000, his first flight was in extremely light wind and he had never flown a Rigid before, he launched well and after getting used to the different feeling of the basebar not connected to sidewires, he clawed his way back up level with the ridge and had 30 minutes soaring when not much else would have been able to stay up. He then went down for a perfect bottom landing and had a smile on his face for the rest of the day! The following day he had another flight in thermic conditions and after out climbing everyone else and sitting on top of the stack he landed with another big smile on his face and this video followed...
 So, after selling my glider I was now looking for a VR, I had been lent a Ghostbuster by a friend so I didn't rush into buying the first glider I see. The season is ending now in the UK and I'm aware that I have some time to find the right glider for what I need. I take on a lot of extra work (even missing some flying days which is unheard of!!!) and I now have enough money for some of the lower end gliders on the market, they are closer to £5000 and although will still fly fine, some have very tired sails, others have repairs to the flaps and leading edges. I try not to get distracted with being able to have a VR right now and continue saving for one that will serve me well for years.

During all this time there is one VR in the uk that I do like the look of but it isn't in my price range at the moment and I make it a rule to not borrow money, but I email Steve Elkins at Avian to find out more about the glider. It's great condition, no repairs, and had just had a full Service and Check over at A.I.R in Germany. It sounds great but I still haven't got the money.

After talking to Steve about my future goals, my current flying and some of my minor past achievements he offers to sponsor me and gives me a fantastic deal on the glider. We agree on the terms and I pay the deposit. I officially own a beautiful Atos VR. But even better am now sponsored by the only UK importer of A.I.R.
We have been talking about where to put the logos on the glider so that they will be in good camera shot and also readable from the ground up to a certain height. I'm very excited about the whole thing. Here are some pictures of my glider (being flown by Ollie Chitty).

I hope to get my glider in November and get familiar to the difference in handling and performance ready for the 2014 season.  I want to go to as many competitions as possible next year. Hopefully all the BritishOpenSeries and the Nationals in Laragne but I have also put my name down to be considered for the Worlds in Annecy, it may be that I need another year or two to get some more competition experience before being selected as part of the British Team but at least now I'm all set on the Correct glider for the job.

Thanks to Avian for the opportunity.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

154km Personal Best xc

Flight diary details
Date of Flight: 
Jun 2013
Takeoff site: 
Devils Dyke
Wing Type: 
Rigid HG
Wind Direction: 
Wind Strength: 
Thermic activity: 
Pilots present: 

Still buzzing now! Been stressful trying to download the flight, my main gps unknowingly deletes the track after 3hrs 30 minutes to make room for more data so the first 2 hours of my flight were erased!!! Luckily Ian had lent me his garmin etrex which I stuffed in my harness just incase and only got the lead to see if it recorded anything from him today. It did!
I got dropped off at the dyke with my glider and my harness and a baguette for lunch, and then the Golden retriever left for Lewes. It all went well rigging the glider right up until I went to put the nose cone on and I didn't have it!!! Aaaaah, where is it! Looked all around the paddock as I had packed away there a couple of days ago but still couldn't find it, phoned the person I was de rigging next to and they said they would check if they have it that day...(they did and I have now got it) however I couldn't fly with a gaping big hole in the front of my glider. Started to get depressed and seriously thought about packing away and realising its not going to be my day... Until with great help from Steve cook and Steve m for the masking tape, I stuffed my coat in the hole and taped it up with masking tape! Used half a roll but it did the job! So I was all ready to launch...
Waited for a while and the paragliders were getting some okay climbs and the clouds were already good but the ridge lift was weak. I took off and had a scratchy 10minutes so took the earliest opportunity to land as I didn't want to go down. Waited for another 20minutes under my glider and the air looked to be getting better so when I saw a couple of pg's go through some large lift on the spur in front of the bowl I took off first and headed straight for it, after my first turn I saw Steve cook and johnny Carr launch and head straight for me, we gained about 150ft in it but it was too weak to work so we all scrambled to truleigh where a nice 3up took us all near cloudbase. I had planned to go east as I'm waiting for my 6030 to arrive and only had a basic vario and had just tried to memorise local airspace to the east from looking at an online air chart the night before. However Steve and johnny headed straight off across the gap towards steyning and I thought as long as I keep up I can follow them... But johnny got very low about 10km past steyning and Steve seemed to not loose much on the glide and climb very quickly before I got to there and so when I arrived I tried to climb but took quite a while to find something good and by the time I'd got up Steve had disappeared (as he does) and I'd lost track of johnny. So when I finally got back up to base I decided to return to the original plan and head east. I crossed the gap easily and found a big climb the Steve m was marking on his tsunami. Back up to base I headed over the dyke and nobody flying, it had all slightly overdeveloped it seemed and any climb now towards Lewes was weak! I took what I could and slowly drifted over falmer and headed to Nicos's roundabout to see if that was working (Kingston roundabout), it wasn't! So I headed for Lewes which was partly in the sun but there was only weak lift and I was now down to about 1500ft when all of a sudden I heard Nicos (the friendly Greek) shout on my radio 'who's that flying over my house!' After a short conversation with him and some encouragement I was heading over to Caburn to see if the north ridge was working, it was just about keeping my up between 1200ft and 2000ft but I had to wait for the sun to come over ringmer until I got a climb that would take me back to firle. At this point I tried to contact my wife who was in Lewes over the radio to tell her not to go back to the dyke as I will probably land near middle farm at firle, to my surprise she could hear me, answered and headed off that way! Ringmer eventually had some sunshine on it and after about 5minutes I headed forwards to it and was rewarded with a climb back to firle. I figured that I should use this height to try and head towards Eastbourne and give me my biggest flight in the uk! I did but was rewarded with climb after climb along the way and by the time I was near polegate I was at cloudbase with a perfect cloud street heading out towards Hastings, I shared this street with two red kites all the way to bexhill until they disappeared up into the cloud and I moved to the edge to avoid getting sucked in! The cloudstreet came to an end, but over Hastings lower down I recognised a blob of the seabreeze front curtain cloud developing and headed straight for it! The rest of the flight was with a couple of exceptions VERY easy, I was screaming along the front jumping from blob to blob at around 45mph. It was amazing, watching Hastings, battle, rye and Lydd disappear into the background! However once I got near Lydd (and I could see ashford as well as the north coast and south coast in the distance) I started seeing lots of planes and remembered that somewhere in the distance was an airport and If I went any further, I run the risk of going into airspace! So I turned around. the seabreeze front didn't look quite as defined but was definitely still there so I headed back down it. Thinking if I could just get back to Hastings, the Retreive would only be 1hr instead of over 2hours! I got very low around rye and managed to work a screaming thermal back up the side of the front and then got low over battle but eventually got helped out by about 50seagulls and the rest was easy again back to bo-peep. At bo-peep I spent too long trying to make a decision. I could see that the seabreeze front stopped just over firle and thought about trying to head inland towards ringmer and back towards the dyke but as I'd just spent the last 105kms using this free lift I decided to try and use it to firle and hope over the back of Lewes onto the ditchling ridge. It didn't work and I fell into the mixing air at bopeep. Bits of it were going up, very fast! But it was so broken and rough, I was getting chucked around I decided to be safe and head away from it inland and try and land safely. I landed right next to the lay by on the a27 between firle and bopeep for 154km's

Declared out and return, devils dyke to ditchling and back

One of my best flights in the downs. Very annoyed that my gps packed up. I've sold my usual one and am waiting for my 6030 to arrive and so used a back up. However it lost reception and recorded a 10th of the flight! Really annoying as it means I can't upload my best scoring flight this year to UKNXCL... Oh well. I'd declared the flight earlier that day. Had a quick flight in the morning and found the air VERY rough.
Took off at around 2pm and very quickly climbed out to around 3300ft with John young and Miles(flying like a skygod today!)
Decided to use this height to cross straight to ditchling, realised half way across that I wouldn't make it in the strong headwind and had to top up on a climb over the main road that runs between newtimber and ditchling. Once onto the ditchling ridge I had a mission to get to the end of the ridge and half complete my out and return goal, this was my first mistake as I was not stopping for the little climbs to top up height. I pegged the end of the ridge and started turning around to come back at about 300ft above the ridge. However, even though there was plenty of sunshine I couldn't find a climb anywhere and spent the next HOUR scratching two small bowls that seemed to work between 60-150ft ato!!! Very depressing, I tried to head for the brown fields out the front but didn't have enough height to get to them. After 30 minutes of being stuck halfway down the ridge, miles screamed above me on his Atos VR at about 1000ft, got another climb IMMEDIATELY and shot off towards ringmer, leaving me pinned at ridge height. I was receiving encouragement form Paul cryer over the radio who was working near plumpton. After miles had shot off, the sky went overcast and everything went into shade, I spent some time at ridge height, sometimes a little lower and occasionally if I worked really hard got up to 220ft!!!! I found myself getting mentally exhausted and tired when all of a sudden after an hour of scratching, the sun slowly appeared and swifts&swallows started dancing around in front of the hill, I carefully pushed out and worked some weak lift to 700ft before it turned into a nice 5up and took me to 2700ft! I was so happy to be off the ridge I got a little carried away and turned straight for the dyke and sped back at full speed only slowing up for any lift but not really turning in it. I scraped over the top of newtimber and arrive just below the trees in front of the modellers bowl. It was very easy to get back up from there and I went straight across to truleigh to complete the declared goal and managed to get a nice line of lift a little out the front of the arials over the industrial estate or scrapyard (note really sure). I landed back on top of the dyke after just under 3hours but i felt like I was trapped at ditchling for half the day. 

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Fantastic Firle 14/03/13

Great day, i decided to not go to the dyke as I'd been there yesterday and it was a long carry up with the hang glider due to the massive snow drifts. So we decided on firle, arrived at 9:15 and i talked to Carlo and Nancy for a bit before finally rigging the glider- miles and Paul arrived shortly after and we all started getting exited at the sky by 11am, I launched first shortly after that, the sky was good but maybe due to the wet ground the thermals were very weak low down, also only the westerly bowl was working- got a weak climb to about 300ft and moved forward to another one to about 700ft and then forward to another which eventually took me to base with another paraglider. I then went too fast a few miles out the front, towards the first good looking cloud, and hit bad sink all the way there- which nearly ended my flight very quickly- got lots of ripples of the ground very low down which seemed to take forever to get up- eventually took a few very weak thermals back to base near drucillas roundabout and then screamed back towards the sussex pg shop- got a few climbs along the way and managed to get onto the south side of Caburn but was not getting great air in front so headed back to a good cloud, got back to cloud base a couple of km's in front of gribble s ridge and then headed for Lewes- a fantastic glide using a cloud street, almost lost no height at all- very lifty all over Lewes and lots of thermals coming off the first bit of the ditching ridge- had a motor glider come searching for lift beneath me, after some floating around looking at Lewes I then headed back over nicos's house and towards Kingston and then went back to play in front of the NW ridge where the paragliding school where teaching and eventually back to firle- had to burn off 2000ft to land but was hungry and exhausted after over 6hours airtime in two days. Great day- must remember to pack transport money next time and go further- but was good to talk to Paul, miles, and Nicos and John b who had spotted me from Lewes and Firle village. 

Snowy devils dyke 13/03/13

A really good day for February- Miles and me drove to a  km away from the dyke until all of a sudden there were 5foot snow drifts in the road and cars abandoned everywhere- this resulted in miles turning around and heading to firle where he had a good flight but I decided to try and fly from the dyke and fly over to firle- a few miles away. It was a long walk to take off with my rigid but well worth it for a beautiful flight. I flew with Adam on his rio and James on his moyes rs3.5. It was a thermic day but with overdevelopment and snow showers every so often I decided to stay around the dyke area, I got between newtimber and the ditching ridge and went off the end of truleigh into the valley a bit but had a broken gps so no tracklog. 2000ft above takeoff was easy but the walk back to the car with the glider at the end of the day wasn't. I almost decided not to fly the following day at firle which would have been a terrible decision as it ended up to be my best flight in the South Downs in the past two years...