Ultimate Light Wind Indicator

2015-10-15 Conquering The Calm


Calm conditions are one thing but NEARLY calm is even worse. "Light and variable" carries max suckage. I suspect that many blown launches in such conditions involve a slight tailwind up where the wing is, especially for pilots who normally make it and then have to abort for no apparent reason.

While working on the XC column I was telling Tim about my ideas and he came up with one better. How about a helium balloon? Of course, and I've heard about it before but just forgot. That wasn't his best idea, though.

After flying yesterday morning in similar conditions, one pilot had to abort two launches--probably because, in spite of apparently calm winds, it was a very slight tailwind. It doesn't take much.

So yesterday, Tim & I went to Party City in Lakeland, bought two Mylar balloons and a small container of helium. They filled the two balloons but they can be REfilled once they leak out.

This morning we tried it out and Tim offered his second great suggestion: put streamers on the balloon itself. My initial idea was to use the direction of the balloon's drift from the windsock's top where it's tied. But the streamers worked WAY better as you can see.

Tim's great ideas: a helium balloon wind indicator with tell tales hanging below. You can see why it's so valuable.
The sock on the bottom is barely moving but the streamers look like they're in a gale.
Even when we couldn't tell direction on the ground those streamers showed there was some wind up where the wing would be gasping for airflow.

Below are pictures from the last couple days. Some fun at Flanders.


Tim cruising the countryside.


Jeff Goin launching a Doberman 16.
This was the opposite direction from how Tim launched and was BEFORE we got the helium balloon.


Landing the Doberman 16 power off.
These little wings have tons of speed for flare but, if you do a wee bit of slowdown at 30 feet,
then let off the brakes to dive, you can get a HUGE slider.


Tim is underfoot.


Thomas Stross was letting off steam which, it turns out, is an even better wind indicator,
it just doesn't last long enough to get up where the wing is.
Smoke or steam is, in fact, the best indicator when it's available because it shows the winds at different elevations.


Thomas getting ready.


Tim putting some gadget in his pocket. More accurately, Tim putting ANOTHER gadget in his pocket.

Tim landing with beautiful Lake Lliaho in the background.


2015 Jeff Goin   Remember: If there's air there, it should be flown in!