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It seems that it's pretty common for engines to fail right during the ascent stage, very shortly after takeoff and when at only a few hundred feet (or, of course, sometimes less). Based on this, I thought it might prudent to simulate the circumstance by going into my normal steep climb, then immediately dropping into idle, and at various altititudes, to see what was the mininum AGL at which I can manage a 180 back to the runway (or at least to the grass that is parallel to it), and to see what technique would be most effective.
What I found is I can do it within about 350 AGL, so long as I use a particular and somewhat dramatic technique. Immediately upon loss of thrust, I pull in hard on the bar, pulling the nose downward from its formerly somewhat steep pitch upward, to a point where it seems I am staring almost straight at the ground. It's in this extreme nose down configuration (and before significant downward speed builds) that I can rapidly rotate the aircraft around back toward the runway. If done just right, I can complete the rotation (and round out from the resulting dive) with a good margin of safety (in truth, while doing this I pretend like the floor is 100' higher than it really is, so I have an added margin of safety).
I've tried other methods. When pulling the nose down to just normal glide pitch and turning with various degrees of bank, I always lose significantly more altitude (by the time the turn is completed) than via the method above described. Based on this, I suspect the best method may be the one I discovered. It's counter-intuitive: when the ground is the very thing you are afraid of (and altitude is your most precious commodity), dive for it (and while turning). But, within a particular altitude range while on first ascent, I suspect it may be just the ticket.
This "dive-for-the-ground" technique also has the benefit of reducing any chance of stall (and/or stall/spin) to just about zero. I believe it's well known that when seeking to minimize altitude loss in these kinds of turns (by keeping the nose up), pilots often lose sufficient speed, and the aircraft stalls fatally. When you instead dive for the ground, any possibility of that mistake is pretty far removed.
I am curious if anyone else has tried this technique? Have your tried this and others, and yet found others are better? Or have you found similar to me?
I have been using "Light Sport Trike" for reporting in the pattern at non towered airports with last three digits of my N number when there are more than one trike in the pattern. Short, sweet everyone is used to it.
I remember someone using "Delta" which is almost more descriptive. Almost ready to use "Light Sport Delta".
What do others use announcing in the pattern for trikes? This is a project I have been working on which I finally released to the local FAA FSDO and the airport manager. Would like to get some descriptive terms for trikes as I move forward implementing this to hopefully the highest levels.
Any one is welcome to use this for their airport. It has been well received. Most CFI's and pilots have the same concern.
What descriptive phraseology would standardize us triker's?
Here it is:
Recommendations for safer operations at CXP reducing the probability of midair collisions.
To increase safety at CXP airport, it is recommended that aircraft descriptive phraseology be implemented with CTAF so pilots can identify the type (profile and speed) of aircraft conducting operations at CXP. This will decrease the possibility of midair collisions.
This can be accomplished by promoting more descriptive phraseology of aircraft types with the AF/D, AWOS, airport website, utilizing posters at the airport, handouts to students and pilots during their flight review, and CFI's/pilot's simply asking for the aircraft type if not provided with radio transmissions. Additionally having two safety meetings, first with active CFI's and second pilots operating at the airport at the direction of the FAAST Team.
Although this first step is targeted specifically at the non-towered airport in Carson City (CXP), the goal is to implement these procedures nationally and be incorporated into FAA recommendations/procedures. This is a paradigm shift for many pilots and CFI's at non towered airports.
The problem will be defined, best practices discussed, examples provided, phraseology suggested and specific implementation steps recommended.
Profile of Midair Collisions
Studies of midair collisions reveal certain definite warning patterns. It may be surprising to learn that nearly all midair collisions occur during daylight hours and in VFR conditions. Perhaps not so surprising is that the majority happen within five miles of an airport, in the areas of greatest traffic concentration, and usually on warm weekend afternoons when more pilots are doing more flying.
Not What You Might Expect
Also surprising, perhaps, is the fact that the closing speed (rate at which two aircraft come together) is relatively slow, usually much slower than the airspeed of either aircraft. In fact, the majority of in-flight collisions are the result of a faster aircraft overtaking and hitting a slower plane.
Statistics on 105 in-flight collisions that occurred from 1964 to 1968 show that 82 percent had convergence angles associated with one aircraft overtaking another. Specifically, 35 percent were from 0 to 10 degrees - straight from behind. Only 5 percent were from a head-on angle. These numbers, plus the fact that 77 percent occurred at or below 3,000 feet (with 49 percent at or below 500 feet) imply accurately that in-flight collisions generally occur in the traffic pattern and primarily on final approach. Collisions occurring enroute generally are at or below 8,000 feet and within 25 miles of an airport.
Above "Profile of Midair Collisions" exert from FAA document
How to Avoid a Mid Air Collision - P-8740-51
Communication safety deficiencies at CXP and non-ATC operations
There are two basic communication problems for operations at non-ATC airports.
· First, there are no requirements for radio use at non ATC airports. This is a known safety deficiency, but this issue will not be addressed in this recommendation. This document will address increasing safety by reducing midair collision probability for those using radios.
· Second, there is little official guidance, or published procedures that are utilized for safe operations at non-ATC airports for pilots using radios. Lacking any guidance, many use ATC phraseology at non-ATC airports. This is unsafe for a number of reasons that will be described here. Safe operating procedures and phraseology with ATC is completely different than self announce procedures at non towered airports.
It is easiest to explain the basic safety deficiency with radio use with some actual examples:
I was in my light-sport aircraft taking off and climbing at 70 knots and hear "One two three Alpha, (generic call signs used here) ten miles out, will be entering a downwind". For typical operations, I would be well ahead of most aircraft while conducting closed pattern operations. I announce cross wind and then after my mid field downwind announcement I hear " One two three Alpha, downwind, no contact". So in other words, he must be coming up in back of me and he cannot see me. Soon to my right and slightly above a jet passes closer than I like, especially if he cannot see me. I responded "have a visual on the jet and will follow you in".
So here we have a jet pilot using the ATC N number as his complete "call sign" phraseology to identify himself with no indication of type of aircraft/profile to look for or speed to anticipate his whereabouts. N number only, as he usually does with ATC after his initial contact where the type of aircraft, profile and speed is communicated and established. This was an unnecessary close call and almost a midair collision. If he had simply said "jet" or "Cessna citation" I would have altered my course closer to the runway with a tighter pattern and expected him to be there when he was so I could be looking for him to use basic "see and avoid" techniques. Any indication that this was a fast aircraft besides just his N Number would have avoided this incident and a possible midair collision.
I overheard this conversation over the radio while flying. A CFI I know was doing pattern work at CXP airport. He reports mid field, downwind and I hear someone report "Carson traffic, Cessna two three bravo, starting a forty five for a downwind". No indication of type (model) of aircraft or speed. This appeared to be a normal sequencing into the pattern. Soon after, I heard "Two three bravo, downwind". The CFI immediately said "Skyhawk, one nine Charlie, just past midfield downwind no contact". The reply was "Two three bravo, no contact, will do a 360 for spacing" apparently trying to stay in back of the Skymaster one nine Charlie. Next I hear the "Skyhawk turning base" and the other aircraft announces "on base, no contact". He must have blasted by the Skyhawk because the Skyhawk said shortly after, "Have a visual on the twin because you just went by me". Knowing now this was a twin since the Skyhawk identified it as such makes sense. It was a twin traveling much faster . The twin asked the Skyhawk "I did not see you how close was I?" The Skyhawk responds "about 400 feet".
Again, we have a fast aircraft using ATC procedures at a non towered airport, N number only, as he usually does with ATC after his initial contact (where ATC gets his aircraft type/speed). Again, there was another unnecessary close call, almost a mid air collision. If he had simply said "twin" the Skyhawk could have known where to look or altered course to avoid this incident. Additionally the twin should have been more situationally aware and done a wider pattern rather than try to get in tight with the slower Cessna. Again, anything besides just his N number would have been helpful to the Skyhawk with this incident.
Above, we have two examples of actual incidents where the incoming pilots were following the intent of ATC AIM communication procedures that resulted in near misses where better descriptive phraseology of the aircraft type/speed would have provided better safety for both pilots, their passengers, and the general public on the ground.
Pilots and CFI's using ATC practices at non towered airports
Another example will be used to emphasize the problem of how engrained ATC procedures are at non towered airports:
There were two aircraft flying around the pattern doing touch and goes at CXP. We were keeping track of each other and coordinating very well. I was reporting my aircraft model as "Sling", the other aircraft was reporting their identity as only the full "N number". It looked like a typical Cessna high wing Skyhawk or similar. I was training a student getting ready for his first solo when someone came on the CXP CTAF 123.00 and said:
"No one knows what a Sling is, please use your tail number".
This really surprised me. Saying my N number would not provide any more information on the aircraft type nor provide any greater safety in this situation.
Following this incident, I conducted research to try to understand the thought process and what would motivate someone who was not flying to exhibit such behavior on a CTAF to someone who was flying. I called the local FSDO and discussed this issue. I called FAA safety experts in Oklahoma City and discussed this issue. I talked with seasoned CFI's and pilots. The best explanation I could get as to why some in the industry only uses the N number and not the more logical type of aircraft to identify themselves was simply "it is a habit because what is what I have always done".
Some CFI's believe it is good practice for operating with ATC. Again, operations at non towered airports and ATC is completely different and both should be practiced/trained independently.
For non ATC operations it is best if everyone knows the aircraft type/profile and speed so they can more easily predict where the aircraft is and what to look for to make sure and not confuse it with another aircraft.
The problem is that almost all the AIM Chapter 4, Air Traffic Control procedures is for towered operation and pilots are typically trained to use this phraseology for non-ATC. There is little guidance in the AIM for non towered operations except AIM 4-1-9 recommending some phraseologies that include the model and full N number. This is better than just the N number in the incidence/examples above, but from typical ATC procedures and experience, pilots are dropping the model of aircraft for non ATC operations. Unfortunately a number does not help anybody in the pattern identify the type/profile/speed of aircraft for safe operation.
I cannot count the number of times I have witnessed someone, including me, who is identifying the wrong aircraft when only the N number is being used and no aircraft type is given.
Current practices used for non-towered air traffic control
Research of existing practices, presented below, provide the basis for using primarily the type of aircraft and second the N number so it can be easily identified by other aircraft in the pattern or in other non ATC aircraft operations.
Here is some background and research on this subject:
There are a couple of FAA Advisory Circulars AC 90-66A, AC 91-42F both which are older than 12 years on this subject. Both are before the growing light-sport aircraft/sport pilot rule was enacted. Both of these are little help for modern communication phraseology practices.
FAA AIM 4-1-9 has some recommended self announce practices that use the model and full N number. This is commonly used and appropriate especially if there are more than one type of aircraft, such as a Skyhawk in the pattern training. Typically the N number is shortened to the last three characters. Unfortunately, since everyone has the habit of using only the last three characters of the N number for ATC operations, typically the type of aircraft is dropped to shorten the call and we are left with no type of aircraft for visual reference and speed.
FAA publication "RUNWAY SAFETY A Best Practices Guide to Operations and Communications" has a section, page 13 and 14, for non-towered airports and it recommends specifically:
Beginning of FAA brochure quote:
Radio Communications Format
● Identify the airport you are calling
● State your aircraft make, model and call sign (you may also want to identify your aircraft color)
● State your position and your intentions
● Repeat the airport name at the end of your transmission
End of FAA brochure quote
Here the FAA have added make and possibly color to the AIM 4-1-9 so other aircraft can identify your aircraft. I think color is helpful if you are not the standard white. Red, yellow, blue, black, green are distinctive colors.
AOPA Air Safety Institute (ASI) Safety Advisor Operations and Proficiency No. 3 provides solid advice on this topic. The following is quoted when it comes to their recommendations on phraseology Page 5 which I support and agree.
Beginning of AOPA quote:
• When you transmit, begin by stating the name of the airport, followed by the model of your aircraft (Skyhawk, Cherokee, Bonanza, etc.) and the last three alphanumerics of the aircraft N number.
• It's common practice for pilots of homebuilt and other aircraft certificated in the experimental category to identify their airplanes as “experimental.” There is a tremendous performance differential between a Lancair and a Baby Ace. Likewise, an RV-4 silhouette is altogether different from an Acro Sport. In order to aid identification and predict performance, ASF recommends that all traffic-pattern announcements include the aircraft type.
It’s more important for pilots to know what kind of airplane you’re flying than to know your complete call sign. Knowing the model of airplane will help other pilots plan their pattern flight relative to you.
The abbreviated version of your call sign takes up less of valuable air time. It’s also easier for other pilots to remember a short call sign if they need to request an update on your position.
End of AOPA quote
Complete AOPA document:
It is inferred by AOPA that both the call sign and experimental can both be eliminated (except if more than one model is in the pattern, then the last three digits of the N number/call sign should be used to keep track of more than one model aircraft). Specifics will be discussed in the call to action section later in this document.
Experienced ATC volunteers control aircraft visually for operations of many aircraft coming into Oshkosh. It should be noted that these procedures have evolved over the years for visual aircraft identification.
There is allot of dialog but some highlights will be provided below relevant to visual ID of aircraft.
Beginning of Oshkosh quotes:
Aircraft identification type & color
SPECIFIC TYPES - MANUFACTURER/MODEL
· If the controller is familiar with your type, we may be more specific.
GENERAL TYPES - WING/LANDING GEAR CONFIGURATION
· "Taildragger" - Conventional landing gear (with tail wheel).
· "Tricycle Gear" - Nosedragger
· "High wing taildragger" or "Red and white low wing" or "Yellow biplane" or even "Low wing with wig wag lights", etc.
If you reach Fisk and ATC has not authorized you to proceed beyond Fisk to the airport, contact ATC on 120.7 stating your type, "Red and White Skyhawk", your location, etc.....
From this outdoor vantage point, utilizing binoculars and a radio the Fisk controller team uses their combined ATC experience to locate you, visually identify your type and possibly color, etc...
End of Oshkosh quotes
Complete EAA website :
Oshkosh FAA 2015 NOTUM quote
Controllers will call your aircraft by color and type (if known).
Note the results here for Oshkosh aircraft identification is type and color. No N numbers are used for visual identification.
Call to action recommendations to increase safety at CXP
1. Add a statement on Carson AWOS to ask all pilots to provide their type of aircraft when communicating at CXP for the safety of all.
2. Add a simple statement in the CXP AF/D to ask all pilots to provide their type of aircraft when communicating at CXP for the safety of all.
3. Call a FAAST safety meeting of active flight instructors operating at CXP to discuss this new safety initiative and discuss any fine tuning that should be accomplished. Follow with a pilot meeting.
4. Posters at the airport
5. CFI's provide handouts to students learning and handouts to pilots getting a flight review.
6. In practice, if you hear only the N number, ask for aircraft type (I have done this a number of times and some get bent out of shape but I consider it necessary for safety).
7. Add a simple statement in the Carson City airport website to ask all pilots to provide their type of aircraft as top priority for communicating at CXP for the safety of all.
Recommended Aircraft Type Phraseology Examples
In implementing specific phraseology there are many variations of which will be controversial and debated past our time. Please understand our common goal - In our unified recommendations for safety, what is the best priority of Phraseology to obtain the optimum level of safety. We all may drop something, so what is the priority to make sure we provide and what should we drop based on priority and simply reducing the less said to provide the type, color, N number , speed, or what ever, the first step is to 1.
what for the achnology It comes down to the best priority for safetyThe most descriptive would be
Last three alphanumerics should be added if there are two similar aircraft types broadcasting:
What is the best description of your aircraft to help pilots recognize your profile and speed?
Specific common model names
Citation Jet, Twin Cessna, Twin Barron, Skyhawk, Skycatcher, Zodiac, Warrior, Decathlon, Tee Six, R V, Sling (perhaps Light-Sport Sling)
Tail Dragger, Seaplane, Light Sport Trike, Helicopter, Biplane
If you do not know the type simply ask. Some examples with more detailed explanation.
· Sling - Low wing light sport airplane
· Light Sport Trike - Powered hang glider some call ultralight
· RV - Red Tail dragger
· T Six - war bird
Lately ive heard alot of talk of rowdy air. As i think about my own view i realize that others see this differently based on their own comfort zone . How do you measure turbulance severity.
A few yeas ago i flew in austrailia with 30 other pilots. Some talked of how turb it was . To me it was very laminar turb which didnt seem to bad at all. A tricky landing because it was turb and cross but not that bad.
Flying in central washington around and down grand coulee and the plains i found alot of mechanical turb. Still not to bad just a workout and some quick sink holes over the water.
Here in my homestate of western montana i find mechanical convective turb short lived but cliff rotors tree turb,mountain wave, lee side rotors the most challenging and i try to avoid?
New mexico high desert thermals dam turbulant large and agressive. But ive only exsperienced them in a hang glider , sailplaneand a stearman pt17 and some small ga aircraft
the ocean ive only flown a couple of times in a hang glider long time ago. So i dont have enough imput on the severity and types and consictancy of turb
So how do you define what is truly bad turb from what your used too when you can only really relate it to your own comfort zone and exsperience. I think it would be interesting to see some comments on this?
Hi All, I had a wing on order from Mark Gibson since Spring that I fully payed for ($5200). Since Mark’s tragic passing I have not heard from the holders of his estate and all my attempts to contact them have failed. I wonder if any of you is in the same situation… Before moving forward with lawyers/county sheriff etc. I would like to find a way to work this out in a most considerate way without causing more pain to those who were impacted by this tragedy. Please contact me if you have a suggestion or know how to get in touch with the holders of Mark’s estate. Thank you, Imre 408-364-5851 email@example.com
I am so sad at the news of Bill Crow passing away. His Revo crashed and he sustained many injuries. He was air lifted and passed away in the hospital.
Before we go any further, I want to be very clear in saying that all I want to do is to find some answers. This is a fact finiding mission and that is the only purpose here. As we know that in a year and a half (since last may 2014) This is the fourth Revo trike incident/accidents. Out of the four, three proved to be a fatal. This is not good statistical data. And I feel this is important to point out and discuss what caused them. I can think of atleast 6 or 7 Revo accidents.
Now I know many of you trike pilots are thinking this but I will put it in words that we would like some answers from the industry leaders and their mouth pieces who leave no stone unturned to promote their product via blogs as the best trike money can buy.
I hope you realize that every life lost affects many other lives. The pilots that perished flying your machines, their death impacted their children, spouse, friends and their entire life style. That is a huge cross to bear.
If I was to compile a data of total "top of the line trikes" sold and total accidents and fatalities of these trikes. The percentage so far would not look very favorably towards the manufacturer and the dealers. And hopefully we can find an answer for pilot safety, whether it is more training or some other solution, whatever it maybe.
So lets examine some of the accidents and what caused them.
First Gerry of Birds in Paradise perished last May, he had modified the vent system, that caught fire during the flight and we all know that much but no one has ever answered why he felt the need to modify the vent system? Was it a poor design?
Then Craig died and according to eye witnesses his Revo trike and the wing seperated. Should any trike (forget top of the line trike claims for a second) behave like that. Craig, like Gerry was an experienced pilot. I would like to know what happened there?
William in Virginia Revo stalled and crashed in five to six feet deep water. The trike was totalled but he should be counting his blessings that it didn't happen on asphalt or the outcome could have been fatal.
And now Bill Crow....this is very sad. These four accidents have happened in about one and a half year.
And while we mourn the loss of our good friend Bill, the loss of
Scmidt's brother and near death experience of the gentleman
flying Henry's trike with a Revo wing are fresh in memory.
I hope you can give us an explanation with the same enthusiasm as you promote your products. Because pilot lives are important too.
Another thing while we are at this topic is that majority of trike pilots already are talking about (and I am pretty sure that you are aware of this) your wing being prone to instability at high speed that could cause spirals, but what do I know. And if that is true, the solution should have been to fix the problem with a poor desinged or tuned wing rather than shoving Spiral Dive Recovery as PTS manuvers to protect yourself from impending law suits . So the question is that how many lives will be lost before we fix these problems?
I sincerely hope that I am not offending the manufacturer and the leaders, but firmly making my point that next time you aggressively promote or sell your product, please also be prepared to answer about the fatalities and imperfections too and what are you doing to fix them. Because pilot lives matter.
We all learn from our mistakes, the important question here is what have you done or are you doing to make sure that no more lives are lost.
(PS: My intention here is to learn to clarify some qustions that are on many mind and find some solutions that are on your mind).
This past July 4th I had a engine out on take-off.
After a touch and go at American Falls airport, Idaho I had engine failure that I could not recover from at about 250-280 feet above the ground.
With myself and a passenger I knew I didn't have enough time to turn around and land at the airport.
Everything that I had been taught and practiced for, for such as in an event like this kicked in automatically. I informed my passenger to prepare for an emergency landing.
I brought the nose of the wing down to maintain air speed and pulled up the landing gear and decided on a location to land.
I had three main obstacles to get over: a couple of buildings, a road, and an irrigation system.
I made it over the road and split the buildings. After that I had to flare the wing slightly to maintain altitude over the irrigation system. I chose to flare the wing knowing I might loose lift after the irrigation system but decided I rather fall out of the sky at 10 feet then hit the pipes at about 55 mph ground speed. Fortunately I was able to get over it and still retain enough energy to create lift.
At this point all I had to do was bring it down into a landing in a very bumpy potato field. I set the back end down and kept the nose of the aircraft up as long as I could to bleed off as much speed as possible. And at the last couple seconds I lowered the nose down and we came to a stop.
I turned to my passenger Joe and said you just survived your first emergency landing (of course it was also my first). He threw up his hand and high-fived me and said something along the lines "that was an awesome landing".
Joe is one of the bravest people I know. He remained quiet and calm during the whole event and afterwords I asked him why he didn't say anything. He said he wanted me to be able to focus on what I was doing.
I had only 40 hours of Pilot in Command logged when this occurred over a month ago. I can honestly say that I was completely calm and was thinking very clearly during what most people would consider a scary event. I attribute this state of mind to the training that my three CFIs gave me( Doug Boyle, Dave Myers, and Joe Lorenzen).
They more than prepared me for what could and did happen to me. One of the most important things that was ingrained into me by them was 1st Fly the Plane!, 2nd Fly the Plane, 3rd Fly the Plane. I had many decisions to make during the event that unfolded very quickly but the one thing I did throughout was FLY THE PLANE!
I was able to land the aircraft without even a scratch. After pulling the landing gear up, those floats worked out great landing on that potato field perpendicular to the rows. After washing it down later I could only find a couple spots where a little paint was rubbed off. By the way, I was able to get the aircraft out of the field when 8 farmers helped to lift and walk it out to the dirt road where I was able to load into on to its trailer.
I waited to post this hoping I could give everyone the info on what cause the engine out. We could not find a smoking gun. With the help of a A&P who also specializes in Rotax engines we went over the entire engine and focused on fuel flow through the whole engine. We saw a little debris in tank which we cleaned out. He believes it was not much. We replaced the fuel pump with a new one and put a backup electric one on. I have flown twice since then trying to recreate everything leading to the engine out (first over water, lots of runway if needed) with about 6 touch and goes and then into full throttle. No issues at all. I flew over mountains here in Utah this past weekend for two hours also with no issues.
I believe all is well with it but will continue to always be prepared as I was before and also was trained to do.
A few months ago I watched a trike crash video. It was somewhere in Russia. It was a fatal crash.
This trike was a single person trike with a 80 hp 912 on it. In the comments, there were many opinions (guesses) as to what caused it. Some pilots were of the opinion that there was too much torque.
One person said the cause of crash was battens falling out of the wing during take off deforming the wing causing the crash. Can this really happen?
My current trike wing has strings to hold battens in their place. My questions is
1) How much pressure (if any) is on these batten strings, especiallly during flight?
2) Is Bungee string a better way vs just the regular strings becuase a bungee can stretch under pressure?
3) Can these batten strings actually break in flight?
4) If a batten string breaks in flight, how likely is it that a batten would slide out of the wing and fall out?
5) If one is faced with such scenario where the batten is falling out, what is the best course of action?
Picture this: it's 2 a.m., raining, and forty knot winds are trying to rip your trike from its tethers. You're trying to de-rig the wing in this dark tempest, assisted by a tall, striking blonde woman you met a dozen hours ago, you're both nearly naked, and fifty yards away a couple of others are engaged in a similarly near-nude hectic battle with the elements...
This story starts over a beer, because, well, nothing worthwhile begins with a salad. It was in a bar, a long time ago, when Steve and I decided that we should make an epic cross-country flight; one that would have maidens singing and old men raising their glasses.
"I just need a few days' pass from Joanna and the kids", Steve tells me. "Can you get some time off?" I assured him that I could. Being an underemployed bachelor has its advantages. "Sounds good", he says, pushing an empty glass my way. "Your round."
We made extraordinarily detailed plans: we'll take camping gear, enough kit for passengers in case some landowners whose property we'd turned into an impromptu airstrip or campground cared for some aerial recompense, and, uh, some maps. Sorted.
Day one, Saturday. For a couple of guys who'd long talked about a multi-day triking adventure, we were remarkably unprepared. After faffing around at the hangar for hours, shoving camping gear, clothing, spare helmets and headsets under seats and into borrowed saddlebags (cheers Doug), Steve and I discovered that we were equally gifted in organisation.
"What about plates?"
"Bugger. I forgot."
"Cutlery? Wine glasses? Corkscrew?"
"Ah... bollocks, no."
"Lighter? Matches? Flashlight?"
"I've got a flashlight... Here, see! No, wait - the batteries are flat."
By the time we'd cleared the supermarket and petrol station (and were now proud owners of a complete set of plastic cutlery and paper dinnerware) it was mid afternoon and plain we weren't going far that day. Steve beats me into the air by half an hour as I finish packing and sort fuel, with a loose arrangement that we'll meet at the Culverden strip. On the ground, I'm pretty sure that I can find the strip. Once airborne I'm not so sure. Perhaps I'd better consult the GPS. Argh! The air is quite rowdy, and the GPS batteries are flat. Nothing for it but to change the batteries in mid-air. I can do that, no worries. Well, not too many worries. Oops. Where'd that battery go? Ah well, I've got plenty of spares in my pocket. Bollocks, this is harder than you'd think. Might have to land somewhere and sort this out.
Chance hangs on slender threads. We both landed in a paddock at Waikari after rejecting Sam Mahon's sheep-infested strip in favour of a paddock next to the main road. Next to a couple of hitch-hikers, in fact. Jill was enjoying a break from lecturing at Canterbury University; her brother, Neil, was looking after Big Sis.
"Hi, I'm Bryan, better known as Tussock, and the shambles disentangling himself from his headset is Steve. Oops - sorry - I wondered where that battery went. Where are you going, and why are you giggling?"
And so two became four.
We made Hanmer Springs that evening - hardly a milestone in aviation, but there's a comfy hay barn for four right on the airstrip, and hot pools and restaurants and beer a bit of a walk away. Steve, keen to play the part of the seasoned aviator and master navigator, assured us of a short-cut into town that he found on his GPS; half a mile later we were wading through a "little" river that AirNav Pro had somehow neglected to inform us of.
I discovered that Jill and I had a hatful of mutual acquaintances ("She's your ex-girlfriend? Really? I went through Med School with her in Dunedin, and flatted with her for a couple of years while I wrote my PhD..."), and that we had opposing views on running barefoot (in fairness, her qualifications as a High Performance Coach for Olympic-level athletes carried almost as much weight as my I-read-a-book-about-it-then-tried-it-twice experience, I have to admit.) Steve and Neil discovered a shared penchant for grubby jokes. We swapped tall tales of past derring do over a curry and pint - Steve's martial arts prowess, honed over decades; Neil's foreign diplomatic skills, practiced in war-torn countries on behalf of the United Nations; Jill's extensive international sporting career in a multitude of disciplines; and my famous ability to recite Monty Python lines while belching. We chased dinner and diatribe down with a soak in the thermal pools.
Now clearly, seeing your new mate's sister in a rented swimsuit somewhat too small for her calls for discretion, tact and good taste. Steve and I, of course, had none.
"Neil, mate!!! Your sister's better than a 10!"
"No wonder you're a zero. Jill got all the good looking genes."
"Got any other sisters?"
"Ever considered having a sex change?"
Neil assured us that revenge is a dish best served cold. In the pool, we talk a little about ourselves and make bad jokes. Après soak, Neil and Steve looked all set to paint the unsuspecting town of Hanmer Springs some indiscrete shade of red, so Jill and I decide to leave them to it and we wander the long dry way back to warm sleeping bags in the luxury suite of the barn at the airfield.
Steve's 2 a.m. shout had us all awake, up and running. WIND!!! A front is coming through from the south, and we need to protect the trikes. Hence, the near-naked scramble in the dark gale to get the wing down... A brief blast as a front rolled through from the south, and then all was calm again. Amidst the rustling of nylon as we're all climbing back into our sleeping bags in the darkness:
"Steve, if I can't control myself and molest you tonight, it's your fault 'cause of what you were wearing."
Day two, Sunday. Dawn. A cloudy, cool and calm, post-frontal day. I'm awake - wide awake, and there's a tradition to uphold. After the usual struggle to align the mast and wing, ZK-JPR (known to his mates as Jasper) is ready for flight. Before the first rays of the rising sun kiss the clouds over the Amuri Plains, the barn is quaking to the tune of a Rotax. Heh! After the customary beat-up, I land and taxi back to the barn to find Jill has already left for an absurdly early morning run with Neil, each awoken prematurely by Steve's sonorous snorings which were continuing to echo around the valley.
Steve keeps up a constant chatter on the radio.
"What do you reckon, big boy... ah, this rain must be wearing our props out... hey, Neil wants to know if Jill is warm enough... I think there's too much cloud to get through the pass..."
"Jill wants to know if you ever shut up?"
"Yeah but this rain's getting worse. We'll have to land somewhere soon."
I want him to shut up as well. I'm aware that we're going to have to land or turn back, but there's a happy team in my trike and this reality business is an unwelcome intrusion. Jill and I are singing Neil Young's 'Thrasher' over the intercom, accompanied by the crackling Rotax and whistling propeller. We had left the Amuri basin shortly after takeoff under a solid overcast, nursing a forlorn hope that we'd find a way to get on top and fly over the high mountains in this area - I really wanted to see again the summits of Gloriana, Faerie Queen, Trovatore and Mt Technical; peaks I knew from climbing - but the prospects were slim. Instead, when we turned into the Waiau Valley we were confronted with lower cloud and intermittent drizzle which turned to light rain as we flew north.
I wish we could fly - not in a trike, but really fly, like Peter Pan and Tinker Bell, for us to be able to extend out arms and soar through the falling rain, climbing and swooping and diving and rolling, and go above this rain and the murk and into the sunlight above. I want to walk among the billows of the cloud-tops and rest on their vaporous domes.
But it's not to be. A quick conference on the chat channel has us picking a paddock on the river terrace below; a low pass confirms the choice and we're soon setting down on the soft wet grass. The tents go up, and given Steve's incredible nocturnal performance the night before (his snoring repertoire includes plausible imitations of chainsaws hard at work on tough trees, trains leaving stations during a blitz, and spectacular aircraft collisions with rugged granite cliffs), the tents are located some distance apart and I'm feeling sorry for Neil. By midday the rain has set in and my tentmate and I are snuggled into sleeping bags co-reading 'Puckoon' and giggling like schoolkids. For the rest of the day we trade stories, ideas and dreams, while the primus keeps up a steady supply of chicken soup which we drink from plastic cups bought from the Rangiora supermarket. Nightfall settles on the Waiau Valley and I am supremely content. By midnight there are stars punctuating the night.
Day three, Monday, brings a crisp, clearing dawn and the promise of wonderful flying. Ribbons of cloud are wrapped like skirts around the surrounding summits; the sky above is a perfect vault of blue. No one stirs until the sun warms the tents and soft billows of steam rise from the paddock.
Day three is also the day the day Steve's engine refuses to start. After a battery-threateningly long R-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r we try hand starting. I manage maybe a dozen modest tugs on the starter cord before gasping and stepping aside. Neil looks sideways at me, grabs the starter handle and gives perhaps thirty solid pulls without puffing. I rub my left shoulder and mutter about it not being right since fending the lion off my cook in Botswana.
"It might be damp from all that rain. Let's give the plugs a wipe, dry off the ignition leads and check the carb bowls for water."
"Perhaps we can get Steve to fall asleep facing backwards. A couple of his snores should get us a hundred miles or so."
"Or we could be repelled from here by one of your Python jokes."
It takes until late afternoon, and a battery swap, before getting started.
Jill and Neil have the front seats today. We're underway at eight thousand feet on a bluebird afternoon.
"Relax, take a deep breath, Jill; you're doing fine. Hey, see that little tarn on the ridge to our right? I camped next to that a month ago. Wow! Look at the light on Lake Christabel - isn't that something? That's the Freyberg Range and Cannibal Gorge in front of us, isn't it beautiful? And that's the Spencer Mountains to the right. Let's fly over th..."
She’s doing a pretty good job of flying straight, making gentle corrections with an athlete's touch; and I’m giving no more than the occasional nudge on the training bars.
“What’s the name of the peak just to our right? The one with rocky spur running down towards us?”
“That’s Mt Duessa.”
“I’d like to climb it. Can we climb it? And sleep on the summit and watch the stars unwind through the night, and give cute new names to the constellations and eat chocolate covered raisins until dawn, then…"
We fly over the Main Divide, not shhhing at all but singing Pink Floyd. Jagged rock summits flecked with snow rise above tussock basins beneath us. Narrow valleys flanked with forests tapering down to deep gorges slide under our wings. I love this. This is my home.
Murchison is a short grass paddock dotted with cows. It takes a couple of passes to clear enough space for a pair of trikes to land.
“How’d you go, Neil old sport?”
“Bloody amazing. Fantastic!” Big grins.
“More fun than burning your sister’s toys, eh?”
“Too right, mate! Brilliant! And easy! No wonder even you two can do it. I'm shouting dinner tonight!”
“Aw mate; you have no idea what you've just committed yourself to. Steve only eats as much as a small African nation. You could shout us a feed at Beachwoods if you’re prepared to peddle a few of your body parts to some back-alley Angolan surgeons. Tell you what, we'll restrict Steve to six deserts and keep the wines down to hundred dollar bottles…”
And no tents tonight - we’re in the height of back-country New Zealand salubriousness - cabins at the campground. Yay!
Day four... Tuesday, and I’m feeling a little guilty. We’ve got two passengers who were going to go to Motueka, and after four days we’re STILL at least an hour’s flying away and now we're trapped in a solid blanket of fog. We're going nowhere, slowly. Neil isn't concerned.
"Look, Motueka was never important - it was just an idea for somewhere for Jill and I to go to for a sibling bonding holiday. Things are different now. Different dynamics, new adventures. Steve and I are a team now anyway, God help me. This is brilliant fun, in spite of the terrible company."
"Then do we keep aiming north for Motueka, or head for the West Coast and home over the Alps? Better flying, amazing scenery, big mountains, somewhere different? There's a definite risk of being trapped by weather, but it's not a bad place to be stuck…"
Jill and I go for a long run, up the Matakitaki Valley to the gorge. We swim in the river as the sun dissolves the fog. We lie on the granite boulders, basking in pools of sunlight. Then we fly west.
There were kayakers all over the white-water of the Buller - O'Sullivans, Ariki Falls, Jetboat rapids and Earthquake Run had paddlers bouncing their kayaks in the froth. Jill was inspired.
"…in a boat on a river…"
We chorus over the intercom:
"…with tangerine trees and marmalade skies…"
So we Beatled our way down the forested flanks of the gorge, with me casting slightly anxious glances to the side, searching for non-existent places to put down should the engine quit. Motorcycles are parked by the Iron Bridge, and others are riding towards us on the gorge road. Neither Steve nor I can resist a flyby, so we drop down low over the road. A forest of arms bending to an unseen breeze wave to us as the bikes slow. We're cut from the same cloth, trikers and bikers.
We follow the Grey River downstream, easy now with a narrow strip of paddocks between the forested valley walls. Sewell Peak and Mt Davy announce that the coast is near, and the township of Greymouth soon appears. For one of a handful of times in my flying life we land on a sealed runway. There's the satisfying chirp of the mains on asphalt… hold off the nosewheel… bit more… and we're down, and taxiing to the buildings. We watch Steve and Neil land, tether the wings, and dinner is fish and chips on the beach.
It's late in what is a perfect West Coast day, still and cloudless, and Jill wants to make the twenty-ish mile flight down to Hokitika in the last of the light. Why not? Steve and Neil choose to stay in Greymouth for the night, probably swayed by the temptations of a supper from the local all-you-can-eat buffet, and will join us for breakfast tomorrow. We take off, Jill in the front, and she takes the controls as soon as we're airborne.
The short journey south is nothing short of magic. Mt Cook and Mt Tasman stand tall and proud, dominating the view to the south, and the expanse of Alps between here and there is clear and magnificent. We're flying right along the coast, the long strip of beach beneath us and the swells of the Tasman Sea breaking on the sandy shore. With the hand throttle set I have no need to touch the training bars and I'm free to soak everything in, to wring the greatest joy from the sweep of scenery from the sea to the mountains, the expanse of ocean nudging forested plains and rolling hills that yield to the majestic glaciated stretch of the Alps beyond. The sun is touching the horizon now, and the alpine snows have a full blush of evening alpenglow. We're not Peter Pan and Tinker Bell but we're close enough, flying through this scene and I love this, intensely.
"Wow, Jill… this is a highlight of my life. Thank you."
"Mine too. This is incredible… unbelievable. The best day of my life."
Day five, Wednesday. We watch Neil, in the front seat, following Steve's pointed arm from the back, taxiing their trike up to the Hokitika Airport terminal building - close behind an Air New Zealand twin turboprop. Steve and Neil get out as the Dash 8 disgorges its passengers, and there's mutual bemusement. Jill runs up to her brother and crushes him in a hug. Steve looks around and bleats. Bah-h-h-h.
"I was pretty nervous about its prop wash", Steve says, pointing to the Dash. "We were well clear of it in the air, but it took ages backtracking and taxiing. I didn't want to park anywhere near it in case it starts its engines again while we're on the ground. Where are you parked?"
Jill grins. "We've got a hangar. Tussock's got friends in high places. The airport manager, Drew Howat, watched us land and he's done us proud. Apparently there are only two commercial flights a day into here, and the rest of the time this building is locked. Drew gave us the keys to the entire terminal building, and we had the place to ourselves last night. We slept in his office upstairs. We're welcome to stay here as long as we want, and we've got free use of a car. C'mon, we'll get your trike into the hangar and go for some breakfast."
I chime in. "Drew is a trike pilot too but he's a decent bloke, not like us at all. I've only met him a couple of times before, on previous trips here. He's been good to us. We've got fresh gas, too."
We could fly home today if we chose, but no one is keen. Steve and Neil opt for an afternoon flight south along the coast to Franz Josef. Jill and I take Drew's recommendation: we fly up the rugged Whitcombe Valley, around Mt Evans and the Bracken Snowfield. I know the area from previous visits on foot, and it's every bit as dramatic, stunning and awesome from the air. It's big country: precipitous rock faces, deeply crevassed snowfields clinging to anywhere flat enough for snow to stick, jagged skylines. It makes me feel tiny in the little trike. The air is beautifully smooth on the western side of the Main Divide, but as we cross to the east above the Ramsay Glacier the turbulence becomes extreme - a couple of wire slaps and involuntary ninety degree turns has us in retreat. We're hammered as we go back to the western side, but it turns perfectly smooth again as we follow the Alps south. We hear Steve and Neil on the radio, and meet them and a B20 3-axis microlight above Harihari.
"Looks like we've got ourselves a convoy."
We fly together back to Hokitika.
With the trikes tucked away in the hangar, we take the car to Hokitika Gorge. Rainforest drapes grey granite boulders in a sheer ravine; the turquoise water flows like a benediction beneath. We dive in to the river, our protests about the water temperature echoing from the canyon walls. The attempt at thawing in the sun evolves into an extended sandfly squashing session.
This has to be our last night here; the weather cannot last. No one wants to talk about tomorrow. Steve and Neil have taken the two tents ("A tent each! I can sleep in peace tonight!") and they've gone in Drew's car to the campsite at Lake Mahinapua. Steve has family duties; they will fly straight back to Rangiora in the morning. We will take our time.
Night falls. I want to be alone for an hour, and go for a walk along the beach under a nearly full moon. When I get back, Jill unlocks the doors of the Hokitika Airport Terminal for me. She's wearing an airline captain's cap she found in the office and a shy grin. She presses an eight-page letter into my hand.
Day six, Thursday.
"No, sorry Jill, it's too risky. We've been over plenty of tiger country before on this trip, but I've always felt that if push came to shove and the engine quit, I'd get it down well enough for us to walk away. Moonlight isn't enough."
We're parked on a patch of grass in the Rakaia valley. The Tussock luck has held and the manager of the nearby sheep station, Darryl Thompson, has offered us a room in the shearers' quarters for the night. I've taken him for an aerial tour of his domain. Our crossing over the Alps was spectacular, and everything is perfect - why chance wrecking everything by flying through remote NZ in a two-stroke trike at night?
Jill is pensive.
"So how do you balance risk and reward? Do you stop when the probability of something going wrong reaches a threshold, or do you accept a higher risk when the rewards are greater? In mountaineering, and in whitewater kayaking, don't you go for the finest line you can - the closer you cut the corner, the greater the reward? How is it in flying?"
Now there's a question. How do you slice the pie?
"I don't know that I consider it in the same way. In flying, you must know how to fly. It's nearly entirely subjective because the only variable is the engine, unless you're committing to a window of weather. There's nothing really to reach out and grab you."
"Yet in mountaineering, say, there are moments where the joy or wonder or satisfaction is so intense that you're willing to risk all your future happiness for the joy you feel in that brief span of time. There are minutes or hours that you would sacrifice years for."
"Yes, absolutely true. It's the old saying about having more life in your years, not years in your life. But two mountaineers might entertain a risk that a pilot wouldn't expect a passenger to take."
"So you'd fly by moonlight if you were alone?"
There's a pause. The warmth of the sun is exquisite. The river is reciting its gradient and the boulders of its bed. The peaks are etched sharply against a cobalt sky.
Jill breaks the silence.
"Do you know Joni Mitchell's song 'Night Ride Home'?"
I laugh. I don't know the song, but the title gives away her thoughts. She sings the first verse:
"Once in a while
in a big blue moon
there comes a night like this
like some surrealist
invented this Fourth of July
night ride home"
Wow. Now I get it - this is Jill's Big Blue Moon; this is her moment in time.
"Ok, let's get an early night tonight. So long as there's no fog and the sky stays clear, we can wait until the moon is at its highest and its light is filling in the valleys and fly back up to the Alps. We can do a loop around the Main Divide, and then come back to here for some more sleep."
We lie in the sun, reading 'Puckoon' and giggling, eating cheese and crackers. Later, we walk up Double Hill to watch the sun set behind the Alps.
Day seven, Friday, midnight. It's cold! We're wrapped in every item of clothing we can manage. Moonlight floods the valley with a blue glow, and there's magic in the air. It feels as though the moonlight makes a faint distortion of distances when we leave the ground, but it may be nothing. We follow the Rakaia, climbing steadily, and then fly over the Butler range to Erewhon Col.
The mountains have dark, sinister faces where shadows fall, and snow-speckled grey slopes where they're touched by moonglow. From a distance the snowfields look like white blankets draped across the crags to soften their contours; up close the appearance is of billions of diamonds, their crystal faces catching and returning the moon to space. We spin around Mt Whitcombe and Snow Dome, and can clearly see blocks of ice in Vane Stream that have tumbled down the slopes from the Essex Icefall. Evans River flows in a catacomb between the truncated spurs that flank it.
The Sapphire and Radiant glaciers are just that, in dazzling contrast to the valleys they flow in to. From a low pass over the Heim Ice Plateau I can make out the spot where fifteen years earlier Geoff, Doug and I had pitched our tent.
Clouds are boiling up on the western side of the Alps; pillows of grey vapours that catch our moonshadow and turn it into faint halos; Saturn's rings around an umbra of black.
Malcolm Peak is a spire in the night. I recall that years ago we found an aluminium film canister that had been blasted by lightning in a cairn on the summit; presumably left there by Ebenezer Teichelmann a century earlier. We cross over the top of the Lyell and Frances Glaciers and into the sublime world of the Gardens.
The Lambert Glacier and the Garden of Eden and Garden of Allah are three expansive ice plateaux that cloak the peaks of the central Alps. I want us to be Peter Pan and Tinker Bell again - beneath us they are timeless and still, studded by peaks that keep them apart, and seem close enough to almost touch.
We circle around the Arethusa Icefall and swoop through Angel Col. The little rock rounds at Adams Col and Icefall Lookout - places I had camped when I'd come to slay the dragons - are dark smudges in the night. We fly along the Devil's Backbone to The Great Unknown, and turn east over to the safety of the Rangitata Valley. We're shivering when we land.
Saturday evening. We're standing in Steve's kitchen while he puts the finishing touches on a couple of pizzas. Steve's daughter is bounding around with the exuberance of a puppy with a full bladder, clearly enjoying having her father home and guests to bounce off. Joanna is pouring drinks while Neil regales her with epic tales of our journey without taking his eyes off the pizza. Jill looks like a million dollars in a skirt and blouse, fingers around the stem of a wine glass as she follows Neil's chatter. Steve gives me a big wink, and tells me a lie:
"Jo says I don't snore."
In selling new and slightly used high end trikes I have heard many be surprised at the high cost for the best trikes you can buy. http://trikesforsale.sportaviationcenter.com/current/
However everyone must realize that there is a huge range of costs for trikes.
It is like someone wanting to get into boating and asks you how much does a boat cost to float me and my wife/girlfriend/mistress/daughter/brother/friend? You reply, anywhere between $50 for a row boat to $500,000 for a new 36 foot cruiser depending on what you want. There is a big range of costs and boats.
Another example is someone asking you how much does a car cost. You reply between $2000 to $400,000. Again a range for cars.
How much does it cost to buy a motorcycle? How much does it cost to buy a house?
How much does it cost to buy an airplane. I have heard many people say they can buy a used Cessna 172 for $40,000,.... why would I buy a $100,000 trike? Yes the reality is that a new Cessna 172 with options you would normally get costs $400,000. This is a far cry from $40,000.
Cannot compare low end old with high end new.
Yes there is a great difference in price for different things. Generally trikes are about 1/4 to 1/2 the cost of general aviation aircraft on an apples to apples cost basis.
And back to our original question about aviation trikes, how much does it cost to buy a trike. I respond between 10,000 and $120,000 is the range and it depends on what you want AND what is your budget.
So the trikes I sell are the best and the most expensive. The best money can buy. You basically get what you pay for. So anyone/everyone please do not think the top of the line trikes I sell is the standard for all trikes and lower end used trikes. There is a complete range for all. Again depending on your budget and what you want.
However I will say to every one of my students before they start lessons. If you want a cheap sport, DO NOT TAKE UP AVIATION. Try hiking, basket weaving, pottery, and the list is endless. If you want to pursue your dreams to fly, triking is a great way to accomplish this.
the preflight went ok, the parts i landed with last week were still there. i mounted my new $65. adventure x4 gopro knock-off camera looking backwards, (i can then see where i,ve been!) i screwed my go-pro to the side of my brain bucket,( no tether) then taxied over to 11/29. on the way i swung my bar forwards, backwards and left and the 'other' left, i felt a 'twang' as a stay wire hit the go-pro, i briefly considered checking it, but 'moronic stupidity' won and i proceded with plan A to take off. no adventure flight no 'trike-abatics, no spirals or ,tumbles, just a few laps around the area, then landed on the 'big plane' runway taxied to my hanger,shut down, took my helmet off to turn my gopro off, it wasn't there, gone! no longer mine! now i'm blessed with an excellent memory, though it doesn't last long! did i mount it? is it still in my bag? nope, not in the bag,the clamp screw was in and tight! WTF! then i remembered the 'twang'. i trudged along the taxi-way, then i saw this little silver speck in the distance . yep there was my little gopro,laying on it's back, stareing lifelessly (sniffle) with it's one little eye aimed at the sky it would never again witness,(more sniffling) but wait! sos was on it's screen! i hit the power button, it works! a tiny scratch ( 'tis but a scratch!) the only evidence of being callously thrown to the blacktop. tetherless. i learned from this, make SURE the clamp screw 'goesinta' ALL the holes, and let the stay wire 'twang' the camera,(at least once!) before take-off. if it hadn't been 'twanged' it would have gone through the big fan, in flight, with all the 'inconvenience' of a prop strike. the 'knockoff' x4 seems to work fine, easier to program than the gopro, and accepts the 'cheapo' cards, the gopro won't, i don't anticipate throwing it to the blacktop yet to test it's 'gopro toughness', maybe next week! monty