Saturday, 10 April 2010

Elise saves the day

Image found on Google

This afternoon's sea-breezes blowing in at over 10mph combined with thermic activity in the field made rigging an abortive affair because the wind kept shifting and no sooner had I bolted my monopole than the nose of the wing moved a few inches on the grass, twisting the coupling alarmingly; the flying structure isn't affected...only the bracket for holding the de-rigged monopole, but that sort of thing is still worrying. The irony of the Dragonfly being great in thermals is that it doesn't like to be rigged in them.

So, while others, including hang gliders, enjoyed today's conditions, I wasn't able to. On the advice of Charlie, an experienced hang glider pilot with an interesting rigid wing, I fitted the keel tube and sat the wing nose-up with back to the wind and waited anxiously for the wind to drop sufficiently for putting it away.

On such days I dream of owning something a little less expensive (in case something awful happens to it) and a little more solidly built, to enable me to rig it in blowy conditions. Tomorrow I am going to Sackville to be assessed by Neill in a 3-axis, to try to estimate how long a conversion will take. I do envy the guys who were able to park their fixed-winged aircraft and wander nonchalantly away from them today.

I felt pretty low as I put my wing away, helped by a chap with an enviably cheap but robust Gemini, and needed something to redeem the day. It came in the form of an Elise, a French-made SSDR trike, flown by John Buchanan, whose sons also flew-in, in an XL and a Quantum. They have their own field, which is on the chart, called Willingham, SW of Sutton Meadows. When I saw the Elise approaching, I thought it was Bernie Hewing's Demoiselle, as it was similarly basic in appearance.

John got his machine second hand from someone who had intended to be an importer. Like mine the Elise has a Discus wing but it has a very different trike. It has similar rigging to mine but a more solid, less sophisticated and rather less pretentious structure, which really appealed to me for its minimalism, which ought to be what SSDR is all about, after all.

John told me that when Paul Bailey saw whatever engine it originally had he said, "you are not allowed to have that" :) ... and suggested replacing it with the same engine as I have, the 4-stroke 175. So he did. Interestingly, in a pic of an Elise I found on Google (above) the Elise seems originally to have had a paramotoring style prop cage.

John has no trouble with rigging. Operating from his own field, he keeps his aircraft fully rigged and just wheels it out of his hangar; another friend who is living the dream!

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