Flying the Snake (This Will NOT be flown!!!)
Strategy for doing well
Here are the tasks
that will be flown for the July 25, 2008 World Air Games Qualifier. The
Snake will NOT be flown but it's kind of cool to do.
I felt like a kid getting away with something—pulling off the road,
making sure no one was paying attention, sneaking out to set up the "snake"
course in an unused development field near my house. Nobody will mess
with my sticks, though, for the same reason I came out bloody. That
vegetation is nasty. What looked soft and small from above, turned thick
and thorny up close. There's still wood in my leg.
Yesterday I finally got to practice the course. Quite enlightening, I
The 9 sticks (I only have room for 7) are lined up north/south which
put them quartering across the 5 to 7 mph wind out of the
south/southwest. I was flying the Miniplane under a 22 m˛ Spice.
One unfortunate observation: this is basically a straight through
course. Although you have to do small turns, it will favor a fast wing.
Maneuvering is minimal except for that one critical turn around the last
stick. And that's a critical turn: doing it wrong can mess up your time
for the entire second half.
The first time through, I flew it like the diagram, turning just
before the last stick. But that turn to downwind went way too long and
then each subsequent downwind turn required a steep bank and time
sucking distance. A different strategy would obviously be necessary in
this wind. The risk meter was high on the downwind portion, too, given
the rough surface I'd be dealing with after an engine failure.
This course is basically straight course with very minor turns,
especially on the upwind leg. It became apparent that you have to work
at making the downwind leg straight, too, but that's not as easy since
the poles are effectively closer together given the higher groundspeed.
I entered the course with speedbar depressed and kicked the first
stick, heading slightly right to go around stick 2. I then eased back
left to kick stick 3 and so on. You can keep both feet on the speedbar
but I found it easier to use one foot on the speedbar and the other for
Caution: Speedbar use increases the
collapse risk on most wings and aggravates the result. You'll be
low, possibly flying through your own wake and in a vulnerable state
with speedbar deployed. If you're not comfortable with that elevated
risk, skip the speedbar—use just
trimmers instead. Also, Some reflex wings recommend against using
brakes with the speedbar deployed or only want the speedbar deployed
with the trimmers set fast. Consult your manual.
On the downwind portion, it's important not to let any significant
turn develop. You must be looking ahead at the next stick as you're
kicking one. This is where the difficulty comes in and, with any
significant wind, it may be best not to use speedbar on the return leg.
2008 July 1
Man this is fun!
This morning I launched from the back yard for what I hoped would be
a calm air go around the Snake task. Running down the taxiway at
breakleg speed made it clear this wasn't going to be calm--I obviously
had a tailwind.
Although there was wind, it was still very light. That let me run the
course almost like it was calm. The big difference being that I could
start the last turn immediately but still get back around to nearly
paralleling the course.
I used speedbar while heading upwind only, coming off it just as I
got banked up for the turn around. My best results, in these runs, was
not getting on the speedbar at all for the downwind portion. It was too
much although I can see where, with practice, you could shave off a
couple seconds by doing so at some risk of missing a stick or having to
do too much turning. I kept two feet in the speedbar but, with the light
speedbar pressure of my wing, I'd love to have a speedbar stirrup that
works well with only one foot.
In no wind, or less than about 4 mph, you'll definitely be able to
consistently crank into the last turn immediately after kicking the last
stick. I did here and was able to still get parallel. It was good to
have weight shift.
My practice course has only has 7 sticks due to space limits but
that, it turns out, is far from ideal. The last turn will be different
and slightly easier since rounding stick 8 (a pylon) will put you in the
proper position, especially with no wind.
Not all my runs went well. One would have yielded no points and
another wouldn't have had a prayer of being competitive. No big deal,
it's still a blast figuring things out and putting the machine through
its paces. I'm still awaiting my carbon fiber prop but seem to have
enough power to do what I want in spite of this wood prop being 10% less
powerful. And for those who say clutched machines aren't responsive, I
say poppycock! A properly running clutch machine, and this one is
purring, spins up just as fast as anything I've flown.
I'm gonna see if I can't figure out a way to get two more sticks out
there. That will be telling.
The reason I share this, by the way, is because I think if more
people gave competition a try, they'd enjoy it. Especially this
style. Plus, I'd like to see our pilots do as well as they can. Even
if I don't wind up qualifying, I'll bet some of our pilots do.
Unfortunately, Eric Dufour is apparently not competing in this one.
I suspect he'd have the best chance of winning but I suppose that
bodes better for me. Stan Kasica, who beat me in 2007 *is*
competing. Also David Sigier from Canada may be coming and he'll do
very well. And there there are many pilots who have become highly
accomplished but haven't gotten to really flex their newfound
abilities (guys, I've seen you fly!) I'd personally love to see them
give this a shot.
Remember, this task is no longer part of the program. Rather
Here are the tasks that
will be flown for the July 25, 2008 World Air Games Qualifier. The Snake
will NOT be flown.