Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Departure From Controlled Flight

'Departure From Controlled Flight' is the dry aviation term used to describe loss of control of one's flying machine.

Two days ago, in Nevada, I made a takeoff run towards the edge of a 600-foot bluff. This was a zero-wind forward inflation, not the best way to take off, but I'd just completed a successful flight and was feeling confident. However, while checking out the takeoff track, I had worried it was a little short, and that if I didn't have enough speed at the edge, I'd drop and smash into the rocks on the terrace ten feet below. I'd put my fists on my waist, thought, taken a deep breath, filed away the the worry and made my takeoff run.

Not enough speed; the wing inflated on my run but was just shy of giving lift when I went over the edge;
I slamed into the boulders;
I pitched headfirst--a certain departure from controlled flight--and my wing flopped and then surged ahead;
I had no thought except that if i didn't recover in the next instant I would curl up in a crash position;
I went over the edge just in time, my boots swung below me, I applied a bit of brake to stop the wing surge;
The wing popped into shape;
I glided away from the bluff and down to a safe landing a few minutes later.

Now I'm in crutches with a severe sprain / strain / bruising to all the muscles of the left foot. I will be on crutches for at least the next few weeks if not a month or more. I have not yet learned how to carry a cup of coffee while hobbling with crutches.

No Alaska this year--too tight, timewise; but I have two books to write (and a third to edit), and it looks like I'll be in a seated position for some time.

Above, a frame from my helmet camera, a moment before impact; I'm a few inches above the ground, speeding along about 25mph, and about to impact the rocks; below, a strange and fun collage of images from my helmet camera, stitched together to give a general impression of flying in this beautiful desert environment (click for enlargement).

Look at those brambly, hardy shrubs! Look at those lakes of sand! See that open sky! What wonders there are in each of those blue-black boulders, older than aomebas!

Mery Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!