Click on the pictures for a larger version. 

It was an eventful day.  Rich and I took our friend Bill Vogel  over to Hull to fly his new Atos VQ.  Bill had not flown in a couple of years.  His shoulders just could not take flying a flexwing anymore.  We talked him into getting a VQ as all the Atos gliders are so easy to fly and the VQ was 15 pounds lighter than the VR.  His hook in weight is just at the lower limit of the VQ. 

The forecast was for cloud base between 8,000' and 9,000' and clouds should be present.  Lift should be about 500 fpm.  We arrived at launch about an hour before any other pilots, 11:30.  The clouds had already filled the skies.  It took us most of an hour to get set up because we had only set up the VQ a couple of times and wanted to get everything right.  About the time we were done setting up other pilots started to show up. 

Clouds over launch at 12:45

Rich launched at 12:45.  I stayed behind to help Bill with a few words of encouragement and some help in ground handling his glider.  The cycles were coming straight in at about 10 mph.  Bill waited for a good cycle and launched.  He started his launch with a slow jog, intending to run after a few steps but found in self in the air after only three steps.  He turned left of launch and was climbing out in less than a minute.

This is what we call the timberline launch at Hull.  The three motorcycles are parked on launch.

Rich snapped this picture just as Bill launched.

Rich and Bill climbed out and immediately headed across the valley to play under the clouds on the other side.  Most of the clouds were working.

Do you think there is lift under this cloud?

After getting Bill launched, I got suited up and ready to fly.  After putting on my harness I could not find the radio cord that plugs into my helmet.  I took my harness off and re-arranged the cord.  When I put on my harness again, I forgot to zip up the upper zipper.  Any time I am interrupted in my flight preparations I should double check everything, but I did not.  After I launched I found myself hanging on the chest buckle.  It was not too uncomfortable so I found some lift and climbed out.  After getting high enough I managed to get the zipper done.   While I was over Hull, Bill and Rich were still on the other side of the valley.  Bill was starting to get the feel for the glider.

Bill was comfortable enough to wave at Rich as they flew together.

After about an hour, Bill was climbing like he had been on the glider for years.  I heard Rich radio that he was not going to give Bill any more tips because he was climbing to well.

Andy Long flying above Rich

I took me a while to catch up to Rich.  I went across the valley and back.  After getting to 8,100" over Hull, I headed back across the valley.  There was lots of cloud suck and you had to fly along the edges to keep from getting sucked up into the clouds.  Rich and Andy were ahead of me.  They headed for a cloud to my left.  I continued to fly along the edge of my cloud street.  As I got parallel to them, I turned left and headed in their direction. 

As I got out into the blue, I went over to about 20 or 30 degrees past vertical (looking straight ahead I could see the horizon behind me). It took about 3 seconds to go past vertical. My legs were pinned against the sail. I never let go of the base tube. As I was inverted I thought to myself that the tail should do its job about now, and at that instant the glider turned straight and level, tanking only about 1/2 second to rotate back to level. I don't know if my elbow hit the down tube (I have no bruise) or if it was the violent rotation to level, but the right down tube was bent about 15 degrees forward. The control cables had about an inch of slack in them. At first I tried to straighten the down tube, but then thought if I bent it too far back it may break, so I flew very gently over the lake and did nice big circles until I was low enough to land. I had a nice landing. At no time did the thought ever enter my mind to throw my chute. I just knew the glider with the tail would rotate back level. I believe a tailless flex wing would have tumbled.

I have ordered more material to make weak links for my down tubes.  I am going to try and install a second smaller tube inside the weak link for a little more strength since my weak links bend so much easier than the factory ones.

This is how it looked in SeeYou.  My instrument was set to record every 3 seconds, so it really only got one datapoint during the event.  My vario peaked at 3,700 fpm decent.  The max airspeed was only 42 mph.  It was very quit while it was happening, no sound of wind rushing in my face.

This is me, calmly describing what had happened.

With me on the ground, Rich and Bill (plus the other 8 or more pilots) continued to fly for another hour or more (my flight was only an hour and twenty minutes).  Rich then landed and bill flew for another 30 minutes.  Everyone was having great landings with no bent metal or bruised egos.  Bill's first landing on his VQ was great.

Andy Long with a nice picture perfect approach.

Everyone had landed but one pilot.  We did not even realize there was another pilot in the air.  I was sitting in the truck downloading Rich's pictures when I heard someone yell "he is going to land on us".  I got out of the truck just in time to see some idiot crash into two gliders, Charlie's and Bill's.  Bill narrowly escaped getting hit in the head by a leading edge. 

The LZ at Hull this year is one of the biggest you could hope for, over a mile long and 200 yards wide.  The wind was blowing a steady 10 mph almost strait along the length of the LZ.  Bill's glider was parked close the the trees.

Bill's glider was parked next to the blue and white glider.  The LZ continues from the top of the picture for most of a mile.

Bill's glider is to the left, Charlie's to the right.  The pilot in the picture was NOT the one who hit the gliders.

We all heard a crack as the pilot's leading edge hit Bill's brand new, one flight glider.  A quick visual inspection revealed a broken number two rib.  We packed up his glider and took it home to Bill's house for a better inspection.  To our horror, we found a 16" long, "L" shaped crack in the right D-cell.  The sail had a hole in it above the #2 rib, there are several places where the sail was stretched and is now puckered and will not lay flat.  BTW, the list price shown on AIR USA website for a new VQ is close to $23,000 with shipping.  The parts to repair the glider (excluding the sail) is about $5,400 excluding labor and shipping.

I have extremely strong emotions about this incident and am going to try and restrain myself against personal attacks, but I can't think of any scenario short of a glider coming down under canopy that could justify trying to land so close to 12 gliders breaking down.  Saturday should have been a celebration of a fellow pilot getting back into the air, now I am left with a bitter taste in my mouth. 

Vince's IGC file.

In all the confusion, I did not download Rich's or Bill's IGC files.  I will add them when I am able to get them.