Long Grass and Hot with Severe Turbulence

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The grass has grown a lot in the three weeks since I last flew. I didn’t take the autogyro this week, though, because I thought that there would be no wind with the heatwave we’re currently experiencing. That was wrong, but it was still good that I didn’t bring it because the 10 knot wind was much too strong for an autogyro that I’m still not confident flying. It did occur to me that today is the first of July and the first flight of the autogyro was on the 16th July, so it’s almost a year since it first flew and it’s still not completely sorted. It’s still a work in progress that, but today I flew the RS352.

When I got there this morning, there was already a guy with a racing drone at the far end of the field doing his level best to hit the tree he was sheltering under. Then another guy walked past me without saying anything and stopped about 20 metres away. What on earth is he doing?

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Oh, it’s a DJI Phantom that he’s setting up in amongst the long grass. After that we had another guy with a high wing foam Cessna, Parrot wing and Corsair (with broken retracts). He was joined by a new guy with his young son who had a blue Horizon Hobby high wing Cessna aircraft (possibly the Cessna 182?). I helped them out with the maiden flight, but I did sort of talk them into flying it despite the fact that it was very windy and they were wondering whether it was a good idea or not. That’s a bit strange because usually it’s the other way around. Newcomers don’t have any idea about weather and try to fly in terrible conditions, but I talk them out of it. Having flown more of these UMX planes than I can count, I was confident it would fly in the conditions and it certainly did. The little guy even had a go, but it was a bit of a handful in the conditions, even with the AS3X. When I looked at the elevator stick, he was holding in full down to stop it ballooning in the wind, plus he had the throttle backed off to about 40%. In ideal conditions, I think he would have flown it beautifully straight from the hand-launch. Anyway, he let me have a fly to see what the trim was like in the very windy conditions. I think it was fine, just needing a bit of right and some down, but it really wasn’t a day for trimming new models. He then took it back and he and his son had a go, which is when it started to go wrong. They let it get too far down wind with the power getting low and couldn’t turn it back into the wind to come home. I am annoyed with myself for letting them get into that situation, as, when I took the controller off of him, I couldn’t get it back on the low power either. All I could do was to circle, miss the trees and land in the long grass, all while the very small plane was at the extreme edge of the field. It all had a happy ending, though, as the plane was fine. There was no way I was going to lose their aircraft on the maiden flight. I was actually more worried about not being able to find it again in the long grass, but there it was just waiting for us to find it. So everybody goes away happy.

After that, we had another guy turn up with a racing drone that was exceptionally fast. In fact, frighteningly fast bearing in mind that he himself admitted that he wasn’t very good at flying it with FPV and kept crashing into the ground. It didn’t seem to work all that well either.

The other notable flight today was the Parrot Disco flying wing making a fully autonomous flight. At one point he thought he had lost it, because the radio and FPV dropped out, but it came back, circled around our heads and made a landing all by itself. Admittedly, it landed a long way off and might not have been so good if it wasn’t for the long grass cushioning the landing, but it was vaguely in the right place and it didn’t land on any of us.

As for me, I managed four flights with my RS352, where the first two I would call usual hot weather with a bit of wind, but for the final two flights the turbulence was extreme. I could hardly keep the plane in the air as it was that sort of turbulence that was always trying to push it down into the ground. I tried getting up higher out of the low level turbulence zone, but that didn’t help as it was yawing all over the place and dropping a wing while still trying to fly itself into the ground. I did some really ragged aerobatics, but that was about it. At least my landings were good, though. Despite the blustery wind, I still managed to hit my spot on the only 3 metre patch of mown grass four times out of four. Extreme wind landing techniques applied, i.e. come in fast and high on power and hover it in. It likes that better than trying to maintain forward momentum against a strong wind.

That’s it for this week, but I’m going to have to start thinking about drones again as I have National Robotics week to prepare for in three weeks’ time.

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