Archives for March 2008

Flying by Instruments

I may have inadvertently discovered how to create a flying instrument that works as an artificial horizon.  It is suitable for ensuring straight and level flight for those times we get sucked into low visibility environments.  It’s completely free, uses no batteries, and runs completely on water.

This afternoon, I was trying out a Gin Rebel that belongs to a friend.  His wing is a size larger than the one I should be flying, so before I went up the mountain, I brought along plenty of extra water for ballast, and I ate an extra cookie or two for good measure.

Perhaps because the Rebel is a new wing to me, I failed to notice when I launched that the drinking end of my camelback was actually in my seat, rather than tucked into the side pocket like it usually is.  I still didn’t notice until about the time that I was well into flight.  At that point, I couldn’t figure out how or why I would be feeling such a cold breeze in my lower back.  So I pushed on my stirrup, made sure that I was properly seated all the way back in my harness, and in short order it became abundantly clear what was going on.

My two-liter camelback was full to the very brim because I wanted the extra weight, and by sitting on the bite-valve, I was summarily dumping its  contents down my back side, through my flight suit, through my jacket, and down into my shorts.  At this point, I was still within a hundred feet of the trees, and there was a mixture of people who were ridge-soaring and trying to thermal.  Meanwhile, I was trying to avoid any sudden moves in what was to me a foreign, over-sized wing.  But dang it, it was COLD!  I squirmed a bit in my seat, but that only made it worse.

I took my hands off the controls momentarily to pull the fire-hose out from my tush, only to discover that I was about to enter the path of an oncoming wing.  Fortunately, he saw that SOMETHING was wrong and gave me space for the brief period of time that it took me to fix the problem.

At least, I thought I had fixed the problem.  It was at that point that I realized I was unquestionably sitting in a rather large puddle.  I mistakenly thought that in short order, the water would somehow drain, or that perhaps that my clothes would soak it all up like a sponge.  Unfortunately, that was not the case.  Instead, I found that as I put the glider into a turn, even the most gentle and shallow turn, that the puddle sloshed from one cheek to the other.  Despite the awkwardness and discomfort that this created, it was at that point that I made my discovery.

When the left tip of my wing entered even the lightest of thermals, my right cheek could feel the increased depth in the bath tub that was now my harness.  The opposite was also true, and when I was flying straight and level, both cheeks were equally submerged.  I decided to test my new-found instrument, and I discovered that my sloshometer gave readings that were consistently faster and more reliable than my vario.  The moment one cheek became submerged, I leaned the other way, into the thermal, and a second later my vario would start to beep.

I’ll be submitting detailed plans to the R&D department at FlyTec shortly after my patent application is approved.  In the mean time, does anybody have a towel?