Warning: ob_start(): non-static method anchor_utils::ob_filter() should not be called statically in /home/kradmin/public_html/wp-content/plugins/auto-thickbox/anchor-utils/anchor-utils.php on line 33

Warning: ob_start(): non-static method sem_seo::ob_google_filter() should not be called statically in /home/kradmin/public_html/wp-content/plugins/sem-seo/sem-seo.php on line 540

Crow: It's What's for Dinner!

"We're screwed," I moaned as Anders and I desperately searched the ground below for the landmarks that would lead us to the timing line. "Where are the houses on the lake?"

We were already running late on our timing run into Redding, California on the first leg of this year's Hayward Air Rally and now we were lost. After making a full circle, we still didn't see anything that we recognized.

"Maybe it's farther up-river," Anders suggested.

"Must be," I replied, so we continued further Northeast, following the water.

"There are the houses!" I shouted, pointing ahead of us.

"And there's the timing line!" Anders replied, pointing about 45 degrees to the left. He turned toward it and pushed the nose over to pick up as much speed as possible. We screamed low over the timing line fully 6 minutes late according to the computer on my lap.

"Oh, that hurts," I lamented. And it did. At one penalty point per second off our estimate, we were officially toast.

In my March post Fuel Burn, Schmuel Burn about rally flying, I wrote (and I quote): "Time is easier than fuel, and Anders and I are getting pretty good at it." As I sat on the balcony of our hotel room in Bend, Oregon that evening recalling that statement and picking black feathers out of my teeth, it was clear that some reassessment was in order.

"All right, I'm Mr. Observe-Act-Observe," I thought to myself. "What can we observe here, and what can we do next time? What specifics do we have to work with?"

Well, the first obvious thing was that our timing strategy, which had worked well for small differences between forecast and actual winds, was totally inadequate in the face of a ten-knot discrepancy. We'd planned for 20-knot headwinds, but at our timing-run altitude, they were at least 30. When you're flying a 105-knot airplane, that's a huge difference. We also hadn't had enough practice regulating speed in a descent, which was required for both timing runs, so more experience with that was clearly in order.

Despite the poor results, several aspects of the flight had gone well, and those were worth noting too. Our navigation by pilotage and dead reckoning had been generally quite good. Except for our very ill-timed "location challenge" on the timing run, we had no trouble finding and identifying the mandatory checkpoints. Until we started our timing run (precisely at the time we planned to), we were even doing well on time. Our fueling predictions were not good, but they were better than we'd ever done before and the errors were consistent. We still weren't exactly in the ballpark, but we were at least in the neighborhood looking for parking. We also got some clues from more experienced participants that should help us with our fuel-burn accuracy.

The struggle behind us, we joined several other rally crews for dinner that evening to swap stories, tell jokes, make lame excuses, and generally enjoy an evening of good food and drink with friends. Despite the sting of our ignominious defeat (we ended up in the middle of the pack in the final standings), I was happy to have made the trip. The town of Bend is gorgeous. The folks at Professional Air and the Shilo Inn couldn't have been more accommodating. Our room with the balcony overlooking the tree-lined river populated by ducks, geese, swans, and frogs, was a wonderful place to relax and recover. The rally organizers and volunteers worked their tails off as usual to make the event smooth, efficient, and fun. And besides, as I'm so fond of saying, it was flying! We'll be back again next year.

In the meantime, what can Anders and I do? We can develop a timing strategy that can accommodate a much wider disparity between forecast and actual winds. This will be challenging in our slow airplane with minimal configuration options, but we have some ideas. There are also some experiments we can try to make our fuel burn more consistent and therefore more predictable.

Never let it be said I don't eat my own well earned crow! It's especially good followed by a little slice of humble pie a la mode.

Post a comment

Filed under Mission by  #

Leave a Comment

Comments are queued and moderated daily.

Fields marked by an asterisk (*) are required.

Register Login