Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wings Across America Flight

So, I signed up about a year and a half or so ago to be a pilot for Wings Across America (WAA) to help fly an r/c airplane in every state in the US. They started it last year in Virginia and it's finally made it to me. I was pilot number 155. Yesterday, I met up with Jim who was pilot number 154 and we made the hand off in Moore. It was nice to meet a fellow pilot and I was able to get a picture with him. Since I didn't ask his permission to post the picture, I'll hold off on it although if you really want to see it, you can get to it through the WAA website in a round-a-bout way. Anyway, he explained to me a little about the plane and what I needed to do to get it set up and what was in the box. After a few words and pictures, we loaded up the box into the car and I headed home hoping the weather would cooperate enough to let me fly it quickly to get it to Jim, pilot number 156.

I got the box home and we were both very impressed with how nice the box is. There are stickers all over the sides of the box of various r/c clubs that have participated.

There are signatures of every volunteer pilot registered to fly for WAA on the top of the box as you can see in that last picture.
I was even on the website for WAA as having had possession of the plane.

Anyway, today, I thought it would be nice to try and fly the plane and hand it off the Jim #156 as soon as possible. I was online at work and saw an article on CNN about how people did some interesting things on September 9, 2009 (999) and I thought, "I should fly the plane on 09-09-09!" I decided I had to do it today since the wind wouldn't be that strong and I wouldn't have a chance any time soon as it was supposed to rain for the next week.

We packed the plane up and headed to the park to go fly. As I was getting it put together in the back of the van, I found the wind was stronger than it was supposed to be. I had the thought in the back of my mind, "Don't do it" but I really wanted to fly on 999 and I didn't know when else I would be able to fly soon. So, I got everything ready anyway, Kendall sat in the back of the van ready to take pictures, and Thomas sat in his car seat.

I did a range check, lined up the plane to fly into the wind, got behind the plane, and hit the throttle to get going and it just went in a circle. I tried again, and went in another circle. I repeated this several times.

You see, with a tail dragging plane, there are issues when you try and take off. Unless everything is just perfect, you tend to turn one way or another. The trick is to just throttle up the plane so the tail doesn't drag and if it's trimmed right, you'll go straight. I was nervous doing that though because it was windy and in addition to that, it wasn't my plane and there are about 150 more people after me that need to fly it, so I couldn't take unnecessary risks.

Well, I finally got it up in the air and started a circuit around the parking lot in the air. By then Thomas had started crying so Kendall had to get him and take care of him so all the pictures of the plane were taken while taking care of Thomas. Quite the feat if I may say so. Some were pretty good shots.

A few were not quite what you want when taking a picture of the plane.

Where's the plane?

She did a great job. I like the one where it's just taking off. You'll have to click that first picture to see the details.

Anyway, I got up in the air and realized, "It's a lot windier up there than it is down here!" but it was too late to jump ship. I had to fly it and get it down somehow in one piece and I could only fly for 5-6 minutes on a pack before the motor could have cut out.

I did one circuit around the parking lot and tried to bring it in for a landing and was way too high to land closely so I throttled up again to gain altitude and do another circuit. Well, same thing again. I came in too high so I throttled up and tried to get it back North flying with the wind to get in position and lost control for a second and the wind turned it left (I was trying to go right) so it lost altitude quickly but finally turned North and went where I wanted it to go. I made sure to give it a little down elevator and got it low enough to land. The wind was strong enough that I probably could have floated it down and landed like a helicopter but I didn't care to try so I just landed the best I could and I landed it just fine.

Kind of hard to see there but it landed just fine even though it may look like it might have crashed.

I was quite relieved that it was back down on the ground in one piece. I took it back over to Kendall relieved that I had been able to fly it on 09-09-09 and also get it back down without any problems because I really thought I was in trouble when I was in the air.

This evening, I finished off the rest of my responsibilities. I was supposed to write my experiences and any advice to the next pilot(s) in the log book and sign the top of the box as I was one of the volunteer pilots.

It really was a lot of fun to be able to participate in Wing Across America. If I end up in Arizona in the next few months, I could have the opportunity to fly it again which I believe will be a first for the journey, to have the same person fly in two states, but I could be wrong.

Here's the video of the flight. Sorry for how bumpy it is. If you zoom in closely where I'm flying to plane in the picture where it's taking off, you'll probably be able to see I have a hat on with a camera mounted on it so I can record where I was looking. Obviously, I missed the plane in some areas but I didn't care at the time because I was more concerned about getting the plane back in one piece. It was just a bumpy recording since I was moving around with it on my head.

Here's the final hand-off with Jim #156.

Thanks to everyone who has participated and to all those that made it possible! I really enjoyed it and hope it makes it around the US quickly.