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Landings that could have gone very wrong

Postby wingspan33 » Wed Aug 29, 2018 9:30 pm

I've got quite a few stories along these lines that ended with very happy endings. But I'd love to hear a few from other members to get some perspective.

The topic is - Landings that could have gone very wrong - but ended up perfect (or very close to it).
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Re: Landings that could have gone very wrong

Postby wingspan33 » Thu Aug 30, 2018 7:46 pm

I'll go first if you like.

The flying site was in Hawthorne NV. The launch was on Mt Grant. A friend and I were the pilots. I had a first flight and landed on top in an LZ that we had checked out on the way into the east facing launch site. The top LZ was in a large flat section on top of the mountain. Walker Lake is far below Mt. Grant towards the east and the drop off in elevation equals around 3,000 +/- feet. If you didn't climb out above Mt. Grant, in order to top land, you would land on the shallow slopped shore of Walker Lake.

Walker Lake was a salt lake and over half evaporated from its one time high water mark. On the way to the top, our local guide showed us a good place to land next to the lake, but we didn't get out and survey the area. As it was, there were several hundred acres of shore front where we could land. Kind of crazy to look it all over.

Well, On my second flight I did not get high enough to top land but was able to maintain a very slow descent. I think my flight was around 45 minutes. Being used to the scale of the launch site in Ellenville, NY (at about 1,100 ft) I started to plan out my landing when I was over 1,000 feet above Walker Lake. By way of scale, I would have been at about 300 feet over the LZ in Ellenville - after losing 2/3rds of my altitude! At Mt. Grant I was still almost as high as launch at Ellenville! :shock:

To cut to the chase, I picked out what looked like the good LZ as I (really) got low. As I did so, I decided not to fly from the lake up the shore line (which had been proposed by our local guide). He had said that often the wind at lake level was very light, and that a down wind, up slope landing was pretty easy (if the wind was truly light). Not being sure how strong the wind was (it was out of the east on top of the very high mountain) I elected to land on a diagonal across the mild down slope of the lake front.

Well, things seemed to go fine as I approached the ground. But as I entered ground effect my glide became very efficient. I was flying a WW HP AT 145, a high performance wing at the time. As it was, I keep going and going! But I was headed for a dang lake! haha :wtf:

There were also a number of 1-2 foot high boulders along the way as well as 2-3 foot high sage brush bushes. My control bar base tube started skimming very close to these obstacles. More than a couple times I had to push out gently to pop over (especially!) one or more of those big rocks. After what seemed like 5 minutes (but actually more like 30 seconds) I finally was able to flare VERY hard and land with no harm or impact with any large hard mineral deposits - or softer wire snagging flora.

I unhooked, looked around and wondered how I was able to land so nicely in what could have been compared to a hang gliding mine field! I smiled very broadly and considered that to be one of my most memorable flights (and landings!) of all time. The wind was very light, as I recall, so I probably could have landed up slope from the lake. But at 800 feet I had seen some smoke in the wind drifting toward the mountain from the lake so best judgement dictated to land roughly from west to east.

Okay, anybody going to go next? Topic - Landings that could have gone wrong but ended up being perfect - or very close to it.


PS - Here's a link to a picture of the shore line of Walker Lake - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walker_Lake_(Nevada)#/media/File:Walker_Lake_Nevada.JPG

This is not where I landed but make the slope shallower and it's very similar - IF you add larger sage brush bushes.
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Re: Landings that could have gone very wrong

Postby JoeF » Thu Aug 30, 2018 8:54 pm

3CorralCanyonNearMess1973.jpg
3CorralCanyonNearMess1973.jpg (121.11 KiB) Viewed 635 times
On land owned by Bob Hope (RIP, actor, performer): 1973 very-narrow-cliff launch with cross wind just feet away feeding canyon at Corral Canyon, Malibu, Calif. Jamie Budge, wind skate western pioneer (Jonathan Dietch was teen eastern pioneer in wind skating) and photographer, was filming my testing of Seagull Aircraft's Seagull III hang glider. Strong wind, new-for-me launch site: off and up I went thinking I'd go up and out and over to a meadow. No; instead up about 15 ft and backwards top landed mindfully thinking Out-of-Control and possible disaster. Result: top-landed going backwards; no incident. That all could have turned out badly, but did not. Backwards descent and no need for flare. Mike Riggs, designer and owner of Seagull Aircraft, was present.

On different day months earlier and only about 5 meters to the right and bit down: tested Bob Lovejoy's near-production Eipper-Formance Quicksilver tailed monoplane with a flight of two turns and landing in the shown meadow.
Last edited by JoeF on Thu Aug 30, 2018 10:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Landings that could have gone very wrong

Postby Rick Masters » Thu Aug 30, 2018 9:27 pm

The flying site was in Hawthorne NV. The launch was on Mt Grant.

I landed about 45 miles northeast of there once - 178 miles GSD from Walt's Point - 15 miles north of Gabbs.
https://www.google.com/maps/place/Gabbs,+NV/@38.7619546,-118.278257,10z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x80bcd8767c472f5d:0x57be36354033635c!8m2!3d38.8690562!4d-117.9228819 (Click the satellite box.)
    It was June 23, 1986 and my 71st flight from Walt's. I was flying a Pacific Wings Racing Express, a very hot European ship with 52 battens, I think, and 1/8-inch side wires for aerobatics or extreme turbulence. JC Brown snidely called it the "Excess." It might as well have been a rigid wing. It had a superior glide to any flexwing but it flew like a board. Rainer Scholl had put drag rudders on it to help deal with the pronounced yaw but they seemed too small. I took them off. I didn't like the idea of anything draggy out there. You just had to think ahead and use an adverse yaw technique with your body as a rudder to turn it. It was a wonderful wing, actually. I loved it. This was before Mike Grisham broke the left leading edge in a failed launch at Horseshoe.
    The wind was straight in at 10 mph. I was third off launch at 9:50 a.m., right behind Steve Moyes. I stayed high and slow for a change. It was fairly warm up there. There were high cirrus clouds moving in from the south. I flew north on the edge of the shadow all the way. A light south wind blew all day and all through the night. The thermals were super - gentle and smooth. I pushed out more than usual and milked the lift, drifting on the high westerly flow. I crossed the Owens Valley from Mt. Tinnemaha with 16,000'. A thermal NW of Big Pine took me to 16,000' again but I lost everything and thermaled up the south spine of Black Mountain low. I caught one on the side of Coldwater Canyon and worked up Paiute to about 21,000' indicated from 6200'. I left Boundary at 14:00 with 20.000' indicated - which was probably no more than 16,999 with altimeter drift. Reached the cinder cone at Candelaria with 19,000' indicated. Down to 9000' at Tonopah Junction, then up to 19.000' indicated to cross over Mina, NV. Lots of good pilots got drilled at the base of Luning Pass. They probably had been trying to race each other. I drifted over them, very high and very smug. One was my friend Geoff Lyons who died in a motorized sailplane at the north end of the Whites a few years later. He told me later he was surprised and impressed to se me pass above them at such altitude. It was slow-going to Gabbs. I crossed Gabbs with 500', waved at 4 or 5 gliders below, and drifted on 0 sink for 13 miles north. Howard Gerrish was there. I yelled down, asked him to chase me. He refused. Too tired. I saved his life in an auto accident a couple of years later 95 miles east of there. I wasn't too tired.
    It was 7:30 p.m. The morning's coffee and I had been in the air for 9 and a half hours when I caught a light thermal low that wanted to take me over the indian reservation out toward Austin. Without a chase crew or a map, I let prudence override my go-for-it-ness and left it. It was pretty weak, I told myself. It was pretty late, I told myself. I'd probably break my leg out there and get eaten by something, I told myself. But I left it reluctantly because I know about the glass-off that was due to set in along the Shoshone Range. That thermal would have taken me toward North Shoshone Peak where the evening glass-off set up. Larry Tudor had used it when I chased him with Lori Judy for 221.5 miles a couple of years ago. It was sweet. I knew it was there and I chickened out. Oh well. Live to fly another day. Regret it the rest of your life...
    Nothing is flat in the wide open desert, although it looks flat as you descend. It's a little joke the devil plays on idiot hang glider pilots who fly too far and too long. The ground can be very hard. It looked hard as I desended above Highway 361 at the western edge of the Broken Hills. The ground was at 4,500 feet. Don't ask me what the density altitude was - it was bad. The breeze was coming up the slope toward the Broken Hills. There weren't any flat spots. The choice was to land uphill and downwind, or upwind and downhill in severe density altitude. Nice. I should have stayed in the thermal and taken my chances.
    There was a narrow wash with sand and boulders. One little stretch, about 70 feet long, was clear of boulders. That started to look beter and better. I set up my S-turn for it. I had to nail it. I rotated and slowed down as much as I dared. I was still hauling ass. It was one of those "Oh f**k" moments you try to avoid ever having througout your entire life. But I cheated. I chose sand on purpose. I can't run 20 miles an hour. Forget about having a hang glider on your back. But I tried. It worked until the first step. I fell, the bar dug in, the nose dropped and planted itself, I flew forward into the sail, the glider somersaulted and I ended up flat on my back on the sail, looking up at the sky. No damage at all. Thank the sand. Sand will save your sorry hang gliding ass in the wide open, easy-to-land-in desert.
    But I really had to pee. Nine hours and 40 minutes, you know. I was in pain. I didn't even unhook. I straddled the nose and tugged hard on my hang strap, rotating the glider from its kingpost to its nose, then upright. I was pissing out my harness bomb bay, experiencing incredible releif, when a voice behind me said, "You want a beer?"
    Did I pause? No. Did I want a cold beer? Yes. When I finished, a quart lighter, I zipped up, turned around and there was a guy and his wife parked in a truck at the edge of the wash. "You want a ride into town?"
    They dropped me off at the only restaurant in Gabbs. Charlie Boughman was there. He'd arrived late, after everyone had left. Neither of us had a ride. We ordered dinner. I had a hamburger. Charlie asked the waitress if she had any fish. I'll never forget the look she gave him. Like, "Fish, in Gabbs??? What's a fish? Are you insane?"
    We carried our gliders to the highway and split up. It was dark. I was fried. I think some chick with two kids let me tie my glider to the passenger side - I always carried nylon straps for that - and she drove me all the way to Independence. What luck. I don't know what happened to poor Charlie. Probably eaten by something.
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A lot of foolish people think they're hang gliding with parachutes - but nobody ever thinks they're parachuting with hang gliders.
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Re: Landings that could have gone very wrong

Postby wingspan33 » Thu Sep 06, 2018 7:05 pm

Joe,

I love your recounting of that short flight. I myself have had a couple flights like that.

One was on a beach on the north side of Cape Cod. The slightly slopped beach LZ (is there a repeating theme here? lol) was in a sizable gap between bluffs. It ends up the wind was moving faster there due to the venturi effect and as I approached the ground (sand, as was the case) I was neither making headway or losing altitude. I had to pull in in order to get back on the ground.

Like my above retelling of another landing I quickly realized (upon touching down) that my landing was safe but may not have been. Considering I did the exact opposite of what you are supposed to do to have a good landing. :crazy: I pulled in instead of flaring. :shock:

Had I flared I would have gained altitude and backed up down wind. Some ways down wind of me was the steeper slope heading back to the top of the bluff. Flying backwards and (failing to penetrate) I would have begun flying backwards up that slope and ended up soaring above it - instead of landing.

Joe, I can place myself exactly in your position back on that Seagull 3! I'm very glad things went well for you. :thumbup:

PS - I have another true story, again out on Cape Cod, that is even closer to your situation.
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Re: Landings that could have gone very wrong

Postby wingspan33 » Thu Sep 06, 2018 7:27 pm

Rick, All I can say is - :shock: :thumbup:

Clearly, your landing could have ended much worse. And considering that your landing zone was the wide open desert - which I now realize is not that "wide and open" - You are lucky to have found a "good" spot to "touch down" (or should I say, pound in?).

And while I don't believe in miracles your landing on that occasion was both VERY dynamic and unique, in that both you and your glider came out completely unscathed! :thumbup: :thumbup: :thumbup: :thumbup:

However, I am a bit conflicted because your landing did, but also didn't, go very wrong! :think: :lolno:

One thing nice about the inland east coast is that while an LZ at the end of an XC flight may be somewhat restricted, it may also be a farmer's field or a high school athletic field which, often by definition, are usually flat and level. Desert LZs rarely have a big sign visible from the air that says "Land here, it's flat and level!". Unless it's a road/highway or some large parking lot next to a truck stop.
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Re: Landings that could have gone very wrong

Postby DaveSchy » Sun Sep 09, 2018 7:21 pm

Baumgarten Mt near Yelm, WA 7-15-1981 The launch faces north with the Nisqually delta and Puget Sound out in front. Very reliable soaring on the first north day after the rain.
Loggers were burning slash to the east of launch which is 1250 AGL. The only LZ is across the Nisqually River and one must cross a double set of the really big BPA power lines to reach it (oh, there was a rutty bull living in the LZ, also). The LZ is about 150 ft above the river bottom.
I had made 5 passes in my Cirrus 5B and soon learned that, no, Dave, a slash burn produces sink and a very tight unworkable core of ash and smoke. Sinking out, eyes teary, it was past time to leave the hill and get past the river. Too much sink at the river, and no way am I getting to the LZ. The power lines have 15 ft conifers under them, a few clear spots and 100 ft conifers on either side of the clearing for the lines. The lines at the bottom of their catenary swoop were maybe 75 to 100' AGL.
I made an approach directly above the east set of power lines and was glad for my red leather ski gloves. Yes, a glider will induct when moving through a field of 100,000 volts AC. Blue sparkles were dancing between my gloves and the mighty C5B base tube (gold anodized). My wire rim glasses got a bit warm, too!
I side slipped to the east of the power lines, watching the power lines and dodging big fir tree tops, and only when I was sure my kingpost was sufficiently lower than the lowest conductor, side slipped west, then came in parallel to the power lines (headed north) and directly under the eastern set of lines.
I landed upwind, uphill, between scrubby trees and had a two step landing. Adrenalin is truly remarkable...even when you are stupid.

I had to keep my gloves on to break down and bag up, and as I carried to the LZ (uphill about 1/4 mi) those snaps on my red Electra Flyer cover bag kept giving me zaps in my neck!

Of course, now, I have been a licensed electrician for 35 years, shocking!
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