Filming w/ Motor Failure
2012 Aug 22 Prairie Preserve, Powered Paragliding, Naperville,
Fog has its uses.
In thin layers, close to the ground, it's the perfect medium to expose
wingtip vortices playing their twisty game. So, when I got up before
sunrise and saw fog to the East I figured it would be a good
opportunity. But morning is cold, even in the summer and especially down
low. After all, that's why the fog is there: yesterday's heat radiated
away, cooling the ground-hugging air which got pissed and squirted out
its water. Oh well, I don't get that many opportunities so I relented
and texted my neighbor and fellow flyer, Pete Sachs, to see if he would
be a video victim. He called a moment later. We're on!
My situation here is that every morning the wind oozes out of the
North, even if a south wind is forecast. That's good since I can only
launch to the north from my back yard. Pete chose a nearby field and,
since I had to get my camera gear ready, it worked out perfectly--I flew
to his field just as he was getting ready. He launched and we headed for
Unfortunately we were a bit late to get the best of it but we he did
fly through a few wisps that look good on camera. I also got some other
fun video before we headed back. I landed with him just in time for the
wind to switch. Almost like clockwork, at 7:13 am the oozing north wind
switched to a 3mph south. Thanks Pete!
The day before we went filming with a front mounted camera to get
clips of various maneuvers. It was, unfortunately, a bit frustrating.
After launching from the back yard I started to assemble my camera mount
when I realized I had the wrong fittings. Great. I went back, landed to
the south which was probably a 3 mph tailwind slider on pavement. That
was a month's worth of shoe sole!
At least the next launch was easy since albeit a bit bumpy with the
increasing wind and neighborhood trees.
The really interesting part came while filming some wingovers, where
you go above the wing. I went to climb up a bit and the motor wouldn't
go to full power. It was smooth, but would only give up enough for a
shallow climb. Bummer. I was high enough that I did one big wingover
then the motor sputtered even at low power.
Mind you, the terrain below me is entirely landable so this isn't a
safety emergency but I thought I'd make it to my house. Now that was
sketchy. So I quickly stowed my camera stuff and worked the throttle.
That got me enough power to make my house. I shut it off and began my
approach. An increasing Northeast wind necessitated landing to the North
which is quite tight. Making the turn to final I was blown closer to the
neighbor's tree than I liked and wound up pulling too much right brake.
Enough to spin the glider. I felt it immediately and let up --
thankfully quickly enough that it didn't go more than a quarter turn
which allowed me to finish a normal flare and landing on the taxiway.
That was close. Another half second and the outcome could have been
What a great reminder that safety doesn't come through skill, I comes
through margins. If you get better at something you can either spend
that skill on greater margins or greater (riskier) challenges. I'm
reminding myself that I've been spending it on greater challenges.