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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Laser EXP__Conquering The High Winds


A lot of people really struggle with flying in the wind, which is why in 2015 I wrote High Wind Testing__How To Survive The Elements. The advice in that article is still good, though as technology advances it became time for an update.
Our 48" airplanes are roughly equivalent to 1/8th or 1/10th scale. Let's call it 10th scale and keep the math easy. Flying a 48" span plane in 8mph winds is a scale speed of 80mph which equates to a small hurricane.  Of course that's bit dramatic and our planes handle that kind wind of and pretty well, but it does demonstrate what we are up against in anything but calm conditions.
I feel sort of uniquely qualified to talk about wind because I fly in Pinellas County, which I have read is the wind shear capital of the world. We are almost always flying in 10mph or better, and as such you sort of get used to it and develop your own techniques for dealing with it. Much of those are in High Wind Testing__How To Survive The Elements, but they are only good on a reasonable day.
That, and some people just can't deal with it at all, and some just get so spooked that they won't even try. You are not going to learn how to deal with the conditions unless you actually try it, but once the flags starts to stand out a little most fields become deserted. There's only one way you can help those folks, and that's to encourage them to use the available technology. More and more sport fliers who used to pack up early because of the wind are now staying later and later with the use of a good stability system. More and more students are actually making it all the way through their basic training, and doing it faster than before, because they can now fly when before they were too terrified. For the sport community this has been a really big boom.
Stability systems are also really good even for experienced pilots, and especially advanced 3DXA pilots. 3D planes are generally really good in the wind because they have so much control that you can fight your way out of most problems high wind can throw at you. Still, that's good fun only for so long. A good stability system keeps you in the air long after you would ordinarily bail.
We have too much invested in these planes to be tearing them up just because we don't want to wait for a better day. Some guys work five or six days a week, so waiting for them might mean two or three weeks. For those guys, being able to fly in the wind is essential, but now we have the answer for them.
For these videos I used a musical soundtrack on the first one, but the wind is ripping so hard the music doesn't cover it. In the second and third videos I just left the sound alone so you can hear for yourself what we were dealing with.
A bit of a disclaimer here: We are professional clowns. If you try this at home your results might not be as humorous.

Laser EXP__High Wind Testing 001 from Doc Austin on Vimeo.

When you get into really ridiculous winds, you are going to need some help, and that's also where a
good stability system comes in. Since we started testing these we have flown more and more in conditions that would ordinarily have kept us in the shop. Not only that, but as long as you pay attention to the wind direction and not get caught out down wind, you can still fly pretty aggressively in anything up to 25mph winds, and maybe even beyond.
I went into our ESS experiments expecting the planes to track and groove better, so that didn't surprise me. It did catch me out that a good stability system almost cancels out a lot of turbulence and bad air, and generally turns a windy day into a nice one. OK, I'm not saying go fly in a hurricane, but most people can certainly go out on days that usually keep them away.
Perhaps the biggest surprise for me has been that even on a really crappy 25mph day, I did not have to alter my flying all that much other than watching my downwind speed and not getting too slow. The worst thing a bad wind day does to you comes from wind gusts. A sharp blast can not only knock
you off course, but it can also either put you in the ground or make you fight for your life. With an ESS, a lot of this simply disappears. Choppy wind can really knock you around, but now it's not nearly as bad.
We did not intend to write windy day flying article. We just planned to go flying. I was just going out to have a few laughs with my friend Jimmy K (who also does awesome camerawork for me).
The forecast looked good, but when we got there the conditions were so bad we almost scrubbed the day. However, we were already there when the wind picked up, and we are a bit crazy, so why not give it a try? I wanted to see just how much a stability system could help, or if it would be useless in such bad conditions. It was so dicey that we wanted to keep the camera rolling, just in case it got the better of one of us. 
All Pictures: Click To Enlarge

For these videos I inadvertently selected my beloved 48" Laser. This is an incredibly special plane for me, and I sort of retired her to display when I started flying the new 52"s. She is way too good of an airplane to let sit, and I thought that adding an ESS would give her some new life. Like with my MXS seen in New Life For The 48" EXP , the Laser exceeded any expectations I placed on her.
I'm so back in love with my Laser that I am planning to build a 48" Extra. I always loved those planes and if it can be improved as much as the MXS and Laser have, I am all in.

I am going to stop short here so that people can watch the videos and make up their own minds. After the first video the conditions became even worse. In one video you will see me land and go chase after my hat, which blew off more than once. Usually you quit when it gets that bad, but you can see the plane stayed composed through almost all of it.

Now the latest two videos which were shot in bear ideal conditions. Toy can see it does not look much different because the ESS essentially equalizes the conditions.. Sire, I'm more precise and smooth in the good conditions, but the gap between that and bad conditions has been substantially reduce.
The message is pretty clear here: if you want optimum performance in bad conditions that ground everyone else, a good ESS is a great tool.



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  3. Thanks for the mention my friend, I remember capturing that flight and that day, what a blast! That is what this is all about! It ain’t all bad my brother.