Alliance Flyin-1995

Dave Broyles © 1995

The flying at a flyin, is sort of strange. Almost the sole purpose is to be seen flying by other pilots and spectators. We, the NTHGA crowd, were invited for that purpose. We were to fly hang gliders and paragliders, and be seen by other people. This meant that amongst other things we couldn't afford to screw up.

Loris Bacala and I went to the flyin on Friday afternoon to scope the scene and set up the scooter tow rig. The first thing we noticed was that the wind was from entirely the wrong direction. This meant that we had to set the gliders up about 2000 ft. up the runway from the ultralight area. This trend was disturbing since the ultralight area was already 2000 ft. up the runway from everyone else. Never-the-less, we set up the glider, my Pulse 11 meter, and Loris prepared to tow. Since we were in the "can't afford to screw up' area of the Twilight Zone already, I was not totally reassured that Loris had never flown scooter tow or the Pulse 11 meter, before nor that it had been quite some time since he had flown. Since I have a great deal of confidence in scooter tow and the Pulse 11 meter, and in Loris' flying skills on tow, I just told him to put the big wheels on and get ready. Loris, the Pulse and scooter tow came through fine. The tow wasn't really high, but Loris made the best of it and did a nice landing in front of the Ultralight Coordinator, who was duly impressed. As he was the only one there, the applause was sparse. I wasn't disappointed by the lack of spectators, as I already knew that almost no-one would come out on Friday and it would give us a chance to work out the bugs.

The first bug was Loris' low tow. The way I arrange scooter tow, is to run a length of towline out to a turn-around pulley and back to the pilot who launches next to me. Between the turn-around pulley and the scooter was a nicely mowed strip of Bermuda grass. I soon realized that the rope was in a nice curve through the Bermuda grass and wouldn't pull straight. The dense grass was acting as a long rope guide which put a lot of extra drag on the rope. We straightened out the rope and fixed that. Next Loris towed me up on a paraglider. I immediately towed up to 500 ft. Within minutes two different reporters from aviation publications were there to interview me about scooter tow and paragliding. That was what we were there for, publicity for hang gliding and paragliding, so we stopped everything and gave interviews. I promoted the USHGA, the club and our sport as hard as I could, setting the example that hang gliding and paragliding was not just for the young by pointing out that I am 53 and going strong in the sport.

We finally completed 3 tows each, packed up leaving the scooter tow system and the hang glider behind.

The game plan next morning was get to Lavon North at 7 in the morning, departing with another ultralight to XC to Alliance Airport, a distance of about 70 miles via the route we would take north of Lake Lewisville. At 45 mph IAS, this would put Loris and I at the airport about 8:30 AM, and ready to aerotow by 9 AM when the flyin was supposed to open for the public. So go the plans of mice and men. I was getting a helmet setup with earphones for the flight, and the guys who had it weren't up at 7:00 AM. Further, it was very hazy, and I wasn't sure I had adequate visibility, nor could I find my map of the TCA. By 8 AM, I had my helmet, gotten a glance at the other ultralight's map, and got strapped into my Pterodactyl. I couldn't wait around for the other ultralight, so I split. I had what I thought was a very accurate magnetic compass and I left with a heading calculated to take me over McKinney airport, but then navigationally, I was on my own. I passed right over McKinney airport, which wasn't hard, since on a clear day I could see it from 2000 feet over Lavon North and continued at the same heading. I sort of recognized the roads, from many hang glider flights over the area and many bicycle rides through it, but I was used to being at 0 feet AGL on the bike and at 5000 feet AGL on the hang glider, so everything looked a little strange. I couldn't figure out if I was looking at one road or another when I passed over Aero Country Airport. This told me that the road I was over was 380 and I just had to follow it to Denton. I did this, holding an altitude of about 2000 ft., when I was passed by the other ultralight which was a two place with both seats taken and flying at a much higher wing loading. I sped up, and began cursing at Vne, 55 mph,, which I seldom do because of fuel consumption and because of worrying about turbulence. Turbulence was no problem at 8:30 in the morning, and I expected to have twice the fuel I needed to make it to Alliance, in fact, being so confident that I hadn't even started with totally full tanks. Hmmm, higher fuel consumption, tanks not totally fuel. My brows wrinkled. "Dumb guy alert, dumb guy alert." I looked under my armpit at the gas tanks behind me. Opps, my harness wouldn't let me stretch enough to see them. Oh well, I just needed to keep enough altitude for an emergency landing if I needed one. The other ultralight descended immediately. I decided to keep the high position and slowed down to 50 mph. Not having a map and only having a 30 sec. glance at one before leaving, I expected to either follow roads or the other ultralight to Alliance airport. Gradually the other ultralight flew away from me, and about the time that I passed Lake Lewisville, he vanished in the distance. I knew that if I wanted to go the long way, I could go to Denton, fly the outskirts to US 35W and follow it down to Alliance. Otherwise I could trust my compass which was a geenuwine aviation compass and just take a compass course of 235 knowing I would eventually cross 35W and be able to find the airport by flying south, I hoped. My butt was falling asleep. The choice was made. Compass heading of 235. After a while, I passed a BIG highway. What was that? Could that be 35W? Just before I would have decided to follow it south, I suddenly realized that it had to be 35E which joins 35W at Denton. Big shudder. I realized that I was still some way from Alliance. I droned along, passing various roads and housing developments and faithfully holding my compass heading of 235. Eventually, I noticed that I was almost paralleling another BIG highway, and I could see an airport runway on the wrong side of it. Just before I would have landed to ask directions, I noticed a sign, A__o Vall_y on the roof. Oh, this must be Aero Valley Airport. NEVER HEARD of it. The runway markings indicated that my heading was substantially correct, so I peered out into the distance through the haze, and was sure I saw some very big buildings in the distance. Sure enough, they soon resolved themselves into Alliance Airport and I started my descent into the 500 foot ultralight pattern. I quickly noted that the wind socks were hanging straight down, and that people were flying the reverse of the pattern of the day before. I zoomed in, landed, got out of the plane, kissed the ground 3 times, and then stretched and relaxed. The other ultralight from Lavon North seemed to have just taxied to a stop. I didn't see it in the pattern, but concluded that they must have arrived only minutes before.

"Did you see the EMU ranch?" They said. "The EMUs scattered every which way when we passed over." I concluded that they had much more confidence in their engine and fuel supply than I did and had been flying "Nap of the Earth", perhaps trying to avoid enemy radar.

All of the people who were there to help and fly, Dan Mauk, Doug Wenger, Tre' Groschell and Glider Babe, (Opps, I'm a sexist pig!) I mean, Linda Wacht, were standing and waiting. I explained why I was late, lying and claiming that the tower had put me on hold and I had been circling for hours. "Well, lets get the show on the road.", I said, looking around for my truck and Loris.

I had lost radio contact with Loris almost seconds after I took off. Loris was driving the truck and supposed to be following me. I expected him to beat me there, but he hadn't made it. I had forgotten to give Loris precise directions on how to get to the airport, and I had visions of him arriving in Decatur or Oklahoma City and asking where the airport was. Dan called Loris on the cellular phone in the truck, and Loris assured us that he was only 10 minutes away.

About 30 minutes later, he actually arrived, and we unloaded. The air was already hot, and the Dac was not running totally smoothly, so we put off doing aerotows and decided to focus on scooter tow. We soon noticed that the predicted winds were from the north, so we moved the previous nights setup around to the opposite direction, and started towing. The first thing we noticed was that with no wind, the paraglider was hard to inflate and launch. After several launch failures, I figured I needed to be wind dummy, and tried a launch myself. No luck, the canopy wouldn't come up. I mumbled something about needing winds, then thought. I was sure we were doing something different than we had previously. Sure enough, light throttle pressure until the pilot got the canopy straight overhead was all it took and Linda and I immediately got several successful tows. We got the hang glider going and got a few tows in with it as well. Pretty soon, we had a number of spectators and other pilots standing around asking questions.

Almost immediately, a HG pilot walked up who was from Seattle, now living near Fort Worth. He told me that he didn't know that it was possible to hang glide in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Immediately we towed up another pilot, just to prove it was possible. Next, up walked two of my former students, a father and son, who had tried paragliding and were ready to try again. Mean-while, the father had bought a trike and was flying it. We had visitors like this all day, people who had never hang glided and wanted to try, and those who had started once and wanted to try again. A common story, "I took a lesson in '86' but I didn't think that there was much way to fly around here so I didn't keep going."

All, in all, we were getting as much attention as the ultralights. Among the ultralights, my Pterodactyl attracted it's share. People would walk over and say, "That looks like something the Wright Bros. flew", or "I can see why it's called a Pterodactyl, sure looks old" or just "This sure is a weird looking aircraft" Among the cognoscenti, the Pterodactyl got some respect, as they knew that it was a 15 year old design which had won the ultralight national championship the last two years running. There, the questions centered around the Cuyuna engine which had a totally undeserved reputation for unreliability. I told them how I was using it for aerotow and they walked away impressed.

We planned to do an aerotow demonstration that evening, but a storm was building off in the distance, and strangely, it rained heavily in the exposition area while we only received a few drops just a few hundred yards away. We decided to put off the aerotow until the next day, and finished off the day with scooter tow.

The next morning, Loris and I arrived at 8 AM, ready to do an aerotow, but no one was there. I wasn't going to do a tow with an inexperienced pilot, so we were waiting for Doug to show. Finally, he did show up, and we set up and did one aerotow. The flyin rules restricted us to a maximum of 500 ft. and besides, I could see by the rpm of the engine that my reduction drive was slipping so we didn't do another. I just restricted myself to flying the Dac solo around the pattern just to prove to people that such an ungainly looking aircraft could never-the-less fly well.

Gary Sheer showed up, and helped for most of the day. I finished off the day by towing Gary twice on my Pulse 11 meter. Been a while for him too. Oh well, them H4/instructor types never forget.

I didn't look forward to flying back to Lavon North in the middle of the day, but I put on my new safety harness, checked the count of safety rings, about 29 on the Pterodactyl Ptug, did a radio check, and blasted off. I was soon at 800 ft. and winging my way back. I couldn't hear Loris on the radio. I called and called, but no Loris. I flew to the northeast, and which showed a compass heading of 300 degrees. I didn't think much about it as I knew exactly where I was going. I could see Aero Valley in the distance, and I planned to fly there then turn right to go straight east. When I did, the compass showed west???? Hmmm, I must need to compensate it a little. Oh, well, I was flying by pilotage anyway. I could see Lake Lavon, and knew I needed to fly north of Lake Lavon to Lewisville. At Lewisville, I could clearly see the dam of Lake Lewisville, an old time hang glider site. There, I knew, the TCA was down to 2000 ft. MSL. Not to worry. I was flying at 1600 MSL which put me about 800 ft. high. I got a nice view of every swimming pool around and was strongly tempted to land and hit the pool. I wondered what the Lewisville Country Club would have thought of THAT? Probably would think I was a Hell's Angel of the Sky and throw me out. I kept looking for Loris below and occasionally transmitting on my radio. Eventually I unhooked the radio from the harness and looked at the display. I was transmitting continuously. Opps, my vox was on. I fixed that, but my battery was so low that I could now only receive.

The most noticeable thing about the flight was the thermal activity. I wonder why a thermal is so much more welcome on a hang glider than an ultralight, and so much harder to find. I guess that passing through a thermal at 50 mph does give it a little more of a KICK. I kept wondering if vital parts of my plane might fall off. Flying a Pterodactyl has it's moments, not the least of which is that from the pilot's seat there are at least a dozen safety rings in view, any of which are all that stand between you and immediate use of your reserve. Even more unnerving is that there are another 15 or so out of your sight with the same sort of importance. Every time I gave the plane full throttle, the belts would slip for a while, the engine would turn 7000 RPM and the plane would vibrate like crazy. I wondered if safety rings could vibrate loose. Oh well, I had my new Quantum parachute equipped Second Chantz Air Rocket which I was sure was full of fresh nitrogen, wasn't it. Did I check that? Yeah, I did, last week. Hope it doesn't have a slow leak.

Fortunately, I had seen the light, and topped off my gas tanks at Alliance, so fuel worries didn't bother me. I knew that I shouldn't need more than a half tank if I didn't get lost. I kept flying down 121 towards McKinney, and eventually passed near my training site. I started hearing plaintive calls from Loris asking where I was, and more significantly where Lavon North Air Port was. I tried calling him, but the radio refused to transmit with a low battery.

As I approached McKinney Municipal Airport, I suddenly remembered that pattern height was 800 ft. AGL which was about my altitude. I throttled up, and shot up another 800 ft. As there wasn't another plane to be seen, the precaution was probably not necessary, but by the book is better than catch as catch can, and being mowed down by a Cessna 210 would probably make everyone involved REALLY mad.

Once at McKinney Municipal Airport, I knew the way to North Lavon Airport, so I climbed to cross Lake Lavon.

 

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