The last day of August, 2003. Finally a break-through in my R/C model airplane flying career!!
Dick Lucas and I arrive at the Fog Buster's flying field at 9:15 AM on a beautiful Sunday morning. There is fog on the coast but two miles inland, at our flying field, it is blue skies and no wind. Perfect.
I gas my DuraPlane 40 and fire it up. Dick and I walk out to the dirt runway with two transmitters connected via the buddy cord. Dick flies my plane off the ground and gets it trimmed and squared away and then, "gives it to me". I do some nice big lazy laps around the field, some lazy figure 8's, and then make a series of landing approach "fly-bys". Dick takes over and brings it in for refueling. I get myself settled and calmed down while Dick takes his combat plane up for a spin.
Dick returns and then I try my first take-off! I am almost up to speed when I hit a molehill with the prop and break it. Back to the pits to put on my other prop. Gas up and we are good to go only this time I have Dick take off.
Once up and steady Dick hands off to me and I do some more landing approaches. On one of the approaches the engine dies and Dick tells me to "just keep coming, it looks good, just let her settle". I'm doing fine but I get nervous and jerky at the last moment and correct left instead of right and stuff it into our mountainous dirt pile. Dick tells me that he thinks I am the first one in our club to hit the dirt pile. A dubious distinction! The pile has only been there a month and a half!
The prop is broke, the wing has two big dings in the leading edge, the nose gear is bent back, and the main gear is cross-wise. I carry my plane back to the pits. I am starting to understand why they are called "the pits"!
Dick loans me a prop. We remove the nose gear and straighten it. We remove the main gear and re-attach it straight. Dick has some two inch wide clear tape for fairing out the wing dings. The spinner has some very nice battle scars but it is not broken. Time to fuel up and try again. I want to try taking off again.
We set the plane back a bit further on the grass field so I have more room to get it airborne. Like in golf I walk the "lie" across the field to find the best route with the least number of gopher mounds. I figure if I aim at the fence post at the far corner of the field it should be just about right.
My mind is right. My confidence is pretty good. Time to fly. Away I go past the gopher mounds, throttle up, looking good, lift off. I'm up and climbing. I want to turn left before I get to the tall redwoods on the left. Dick hollers but it is too late. I fly behind, and into, the tall redwoods on the left! I hear the plane hit a branch, the engine is still going! I cut the throttle, we hear it crash and then hear the plane falling through some limbs. Damn, damn, damn.
Dick asks me why I turned left. I told him I thought I had to turn left or I would hit the redwoods on down the valley. Dick said that I would have had enough altitude to clear those trees by the time I got to them. In hind sight, I had never really thought about where I had to fly during climb-out, I had only given thought to how to miss the gopher mounds and clear the tall weeds at the end of the runway. I now know that I have to "stay the course" and keep climbing until there is blue sky under me. Then I can start turning left, or right.
Oh well, this is how I learn stuff, but now, there is nothing for it but to go look for the plane and hope we can find it. It flew into a cluster of redwoods about forty feet off the ground. There is a lot of brush and poison oak below.
After about fifteen minutes I happen to spot it. Amazingly, it is almost back down to the ground and with-in reach! Fortunately the rubber bands holding the wing on broke and allowed the wing to come off. The body must have fallen to the ground like an arrow. landing in the duff on top of a big redwood stump! The wings had fluttered down and were about ten feet away!
More dings and tears in the wing. The landing gear is crooked again but with another set of rubber bands and more fuel I should be good to go! As we head back through the brush towards the field we hear Lolli and her friend Suzanne arrive at the pits.
We walk back and greet the ladies. We tell them the story; how I crashed into the redwoods there, hit the dirt pile over there, broke the first prop out there. They are amused.
Dick and I clean, straighten, and tape up the wing. Once again I fuel the plane. We have hecklers now. It is no longer just Dick and I. I still want to fly! I have my mind right. I want to take off and land!! I'm good to go.
We fire up and walk to the field. The ladies are watching. I set the plane down. I bring up the throttle about half way and give it some left to keep away from the gopher mounds. The plane bounces once and starts to climb but I am too far down the field. At one foot off the ground it flies into the taller weeds at the edge of the field, is grabbed, and stopped in a soft landing. I walk over to it. The prop is not broken. I remove the weeds from the wheels and prop. It looks like we are still good to go.
Back to the start of the strip. Re-start the engine. Here we go again. This time I bring up full throttle quicker and away it goes, up, more up, I hold the course and keep it climbing and going straight up the valley. I am past the redwoods on the left. Soon I am above the redwoods at the head of the valley. The ladies are hollering and clapping. I'm flying!!
I bring it around to the left in a big slow turn and do a barrel roll as I come back overhead! More applause! I bring it around to the left and head back up the valley and do a loop! The ladies go wild!! I have Dick take over for a bit so he can rest his finger from the buddy switch; he has to hold it down all the time I am flying!! Soon he gives it back and I make a landing approach... To high. I go around and make another approach... Too wide and too high. The ladies are watching! I go around again.
This time I stay just above the ridge line on the right. I cut the throttle back to about half as I start my turn. The plane is settling nicely and coming on around. I straighten it out towards the landing strip and cut the throttle to idle. Coming down. Coming down. I have to stay a bit left to miss the pits and then bring it gently back to the right, toward us, to keep from hitting the dirt pile. Six feet above the ground and a bit fast. Dick tells me to pull back on the stick a bit and keep it flying, let it bleed off speed and height. Finally it settles to the ground and rolls to a stop. Perfect!
I did it! I finally did it!! A take-off, some barrel rolls, a loop, and a safe landing! All in one flight! E-ha! The ladies are impressed. I am giddy. Dick is pleased! It has been a rough day!
As I wipe down my plane and pack up my stuff Dick takes his combat plane up to show the ladies how it should really look!! Maybe in a couple more years I will be able to do the same!