Saturday, April 14, 2012

Aerotow-batics

I guess life has really gotten in the way of blogging lately.  I spent a great summer in Australia, did a bit of flying - but not as much as I would have liked - took a quick trip to Taiwan, then back to Australia all before the annual Colorado ski trip.  Now I'm home in Florida with my favorite person, hopefully getting a lot of flying in this summer.

Here's a very interesting little video of my tow yesterday evening at the Florida Ridge.  The comp started today (task cancelled, high wind), but I wanted a quick practice tow before things started.  By way of background, I was on my glider, with my harness and release and all of my usual equipment and VG settings - nothing new at all.  The wind had been quite strong all day, but mellowed slightly in the evening.  It was blowing probably around 10mph and there were storm cells out in front, but not moving in quickly.  The idea was to have a quick tow to 2000ft and then come in and land before the closest cell arrived.  Glen had gone up 10 minutes before and there was almost no lift, so he came down and landed as I was taking off.

I've been aerotowing for nearly 15 years and I don't ever recall getting more than 10 degrees or so out of line from the tow plane - when I have (even the slightest bit), I'm a big chicken and immediately release.  I'm definitely not one to keep trying to get the glider back into line if things get off line at all.  I prefer to just release and have another go.  The weak link didn't break - I released on the second oscillation.  So, with that background, I would welcome any comments/thoughts on what may have happened here, because I don't really have a clue, other than to say that I had a serious PIO problem.  The thing that bothers me most is that I've never done anything even remotely close to what I did last night and I would love to know how I could have screwed it up so badly.  Mostly, I'm just happy to still be here ;-)

video

13 comments:

David said...

Looks like maybe you held each correction too long then there was a lag and then just overcompensated. move a bit less earlier

Hadewych said...

I've done that, especially on a litesport, even though I usually tow well, like you. I think once you start oscillating uncomfortably, and you've got just that little bit of extra stress (stormcells looming, jetlag, slight suspicion you might be a bit rusty) plus strong winds, it all adds up and the oscillation can only get worse. On the up side, you reacted exactly right, that's your experience working too (not only when towing goes perfect I mean). Glad you and Damien are ok.

Frnandu said...

Is it possible you flew into the dragon's stream?

Anonymous said...

Oh Oh Houston Houston we have a problem do you copy over????

Anonymous said...

That must have been a little scary love, glad it worked out. Great job recovering and landing safely.
Tonixx

GW said...

Jaime, I thought I'd seen photos of you towing that glider (model) with a tail. I think it may be as simple as you have been foot launching (and not towing) it for a while and you just need to throw that tail back on for your first few tows.

You probably don't need to over think it (providing the glider is in it's normal configuration - ribs etc).

Anonymous said...

I only have a couple years towing experience but it appears that the tug climbed rather quickly and your position became low and perhaps put you in the prop wash as a result. It seems that you were pushing out (which was needed) in an attempt to get back into position which then gave you a low airspeed and thus lower control. Combine all of these effects together and it is clear that you made the proper choice to release. Thank you for posting the video, it is a good reminder that things can change very quickly within those first 100' of tow.

Anonymous said...

Hi hon, just happy you are ok!Watched it a few times and I think you recovered well, and that's what matters. Not experienced enough to know what really happened but I know you tow really well normally. Maybe some overcorrections, but that's all I see. Bad luck and well recovered. Miss you! Kathryn

Anonymous said...

Hi Jamie,
there is a man, Tad Eareckson, who was banned from all fora who explained many times that you have nothing to expect from a weak weaklink close to the ground except problems with bad failures but nothing against lockout before it becomes really bad.. As you observed the only thing that can help you is a good release with 2 hands on the controlbar whether in 2 or even 1 point AT.
Weaklink is used to protect from overloading (glider and release).

Your friends said good things about PIO, maybe you should pilot more with your feet or hips rather than shoulders that are in better position in the middle (torque issue).

Unknown said...

Prop wash, anxiety about first tow and anxiety about the weather. All made you react more than usual. Your realization of the situation put you nicely back on the ground. I'd take that...

Viktor Moroz said...

Wind shear.
Transition from relatively calm headwind to the fast one leads to suddenly fast reactions of your glider.
More VG before start could help, I guess, but who knows about such powerful shear?
You caught "the surprise" been in slightly banked position. It's the one more reason to get in a trouble. You've tried to correct left bank but overdo due to suddenly much faster airspeed.
Dangled legs... I'm not sure it's a useful thing to control the flight. ;-)

Release was an exceptionally right decision.

Have a safe towing.

Anonymous said...

First and foremost, thank you for this blog, which is simply the best of its kind.

I think you were still far from the point when the weak link should come into play. Probably a good decision to release in this case.
I think you had a mental problem. Question: can you recall if you had fear in you in that moment?
In aerotowing you need quick reactions and usually what you have to do when you catch yourself in a bad position is to say out loud: CONCENTRATE! and do it. That will bring you back on track.

It is of course not bad to be conservative, and release whenever you feel unsafe. But as you said this was a totally new situation for you, and that is also bad. When you have enough height, you should NOT chicken out of such situations too early, because many times it can be solved, if you react quickly and aggressively. And if you can do it, the result is experience, confidence, and that ultimately means more safety.

In this case your height was enough for a release, but sometimes if you are still low but already above the wingtip for whatever reason, what will save you is the force of the tow line that keeps you at speed and flying instead of diving down sideways. Learn to appreciate the towing force, and to use it to bring you back out of trouble. Of course you need to CONCENTRATE and react aggressively and also when you feel your action is taking effect, then ease back immediately else you just roll over to the other side probably worse. But this is basic stuff, you know it already, you just need to live the moment fully and SOLVE the situation.
Fear helps you to avoid stuff in advance, but once you are IN shit, fear is your enemy.

My best towing experience (apart from the first one, which was just pure beauty for me) is when I got in an almost wingover position, (luckily high enough) but I was somehow already high in spirits, and just kind of grinning cursed to myself, "come back, bastard", and did it.

Anonymous said...

In the movie I see you had to pull the botombar a lot. Also because of the high wind you are climbing hard. With a lot of pulling on the bottombar turning of the glider is earlier to come and oscilation is happening. To prevent this, perhaps use a briddle, this will make it easier for kingpost gliders.