Monday, May 23, 2005

The ballad of the Bubble Dancer by Ryan Woebkenberg

"The king is gone but he's not forgotten
This is the story of Johnny Rotten
It's better to burn out than it is to rust
The king is gone but he's not forgotten."

On the final round of the day in Cincinnati on Saturday, I had a battery failure on the Bubble Dancer. Final round was a 15 minute task. I had noticed before launching on the final round that my spoiler servo was buzzing. It normally does not buzz. When I moved the spoiler stick a bit, it stopped buzzing, so I thought I should be fine.

Launch was a bit low in the down wind conditions at the time of that launch. One pilot managed to find lift in that round and got pretty high. Not sure how the other guys did, as I pretty much fought my own fight that round. After about a minute and loosing most of my launch altitude, I found some decent lift but got pretty far down wind. After about 6 or so minutes into the task, I started back up wind. I worked my way up wind for about 2 minutes, until I found a small patch of lift over a lone tree. At this point I was probably at about 100 feet of altitude.

I worked this bubble for the next several minutes. Re-cored a number of times. About 12 or 13 minutes into the task, I noticed that the plane did not want to change diameter of the circles. I gave hard right stick, nothing. I tried to see if I could stall it, nothing. Gave full spoiler nothing. At this point, I realized I did not have the plane.

So I of course go running after the plane. That seems to be the first instinct when something like this happens. I ran after the plane as it started to thermal higher (and move down wind). On my run, John Dinitz from JR pulled up behind me in his vehicle and offered to drive and chase the BD. I hop in his SUV, and we drive down the roads at Voice of America Park. We get to a closed road and ask the security guy if we can go through as we were chasing a plane. He said we could not, so I thanked John for the lift and took off on foot. I chased the plane about another half mile, and finally stopped to at least get a line on it as it seemed to be descending. Then, of course right as soon as it descended it would climb again. I stopped and watched it for what seemed like forever. It eventually disappeared from sight in the sky. Probably at 500 to 1000 feet of altitude. It seemed odd to just turn back when I could still see it, but I knew that it was so far away and thermalling so nicely that it
was unlikely I would be able to run it down on foot.

On the walk back to the field, John came around in his car again. He drove me back to the flight line. He said he took another route around that closed road after he dropped me off. He had driven about 2 or 3 miles after the plane. He eventually got to a point where it was low (and over a park). But then of course it re-cored the lift and went up and out of sight.

Even though I was not able to recover the plane, I really appreciated John's help. He could have missed his flight assignment but he chose to help me chase after the plane anyway. John is a heck of a good guy, and JR has been supporting the OVSS series very well. I have been a JR customer since 1996 when I purchased my 783. I have bought gear from other manufacturers since (as well as a ton of JR servos and receivers. I'm particularly fond of the 610 for use in small HLGs and other small planes). JR has found another lifetime customer in that small act of camaraderie on Saturday.

My last image of that Bubble Dancer was it working the lift masterfully. As much as it hurts too loose a plane that took me 7 months to build (not to mention the gear including the good JR servos), I like to think it is still up there somewhere, still working thermals. My name, AMA number, and phone number are inside the canopy, so if anybody finds a red, white, and blue Bubble Dancer in Ohio, Indiana, or Kentucky, please give me a call.


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