From idea to reality

2 years ago I made a new instrument pod and panel for my Dragonfly ultralight plane, the original one was from 1994 and was falling apart after many modifications. I bought a ready made fiberglass pod, and did some rough cutouts to make a panel for the existing instruments. Originally I thought I had to replace both the EMS, altimeter, and VSI, as they had started to fail, so I planned to get a digital EFIS to replace everything but the radio. But I took the altimiter and VSI apart, cleaned them, and they worked fine again, so I only needed to replace the EMS. (Engine monitoring system) This saved me around $3000 so it was well worth it. I flew 2 years with it, but it was ugly with the rough temporary panel, and the EMS was failing all the time.

I finally got around to ordering a new MGL Avionics EMS-1, which was just released to the marked this winter, I like the light weight and bright screen. I think it will be a good solution.

I designed the new panel in a CAD program, and had it produced in Germany. The design process took some time as I’ve never done any CAD work before, but it turned out OK in the end. The panel was cut perfectly, and I just had 1 minute of light dremel work to round the edges around the extra cutout for the altimeter where it was a little tight.

The final installed panel was cut from black anodized 2mm aluminium, total cost including shipping of around €100. I glued the new panel over the old fibreglass panel after cutting away the overlap. I am just waiting for new M3 titanium plated screws for the radio, the old ones were made of Chinesium that started to rust instantly.

I enjoyed the process of making the parts in CAD, trying to visualize the end result and how to avoid interference behind the panel, with all the instruments having different sizes and the extra space needed for power cables, pitot-tubes, signal-cables, and so on. In the end it was only one tight area between the fuse and radio that I had to insulate a bit extra to avoid unwanted contact, everything else fit tightly and as I had planned.

Now we just need spring to get started so I can get the plane back in the air and towing hanggliders again.

Dalby Big Air 2018, day 5, 6, 7

I woke up to heavy rain on the roof this morning, and it stayed wet all morning so unfortunately we will not fly the final task today.

Yesterday was a great day flying, nice clouds, smooth lift and not much wind. We got a 150km task, towards the south, 4 turnpoints. I had a slow start and ended up a few km behind the lead gaggle for the first thermals, but I pushed hard and caught up with the leaders at the first TP.

On the third leg I made a mistake coming in just under Rory that was thermalling just upwind of the track, but I hit massive sink and did not see him leaving, and lost a lot of height detouring back 90 degrees downwind to where Atilla and Olli were thermalling. I lost 20 minutes getting up there in a very weak thermal, and finally got to the last TP and to goal.  The final glide was 17km into 15 km/h winds, and I had good numbers for the first half of the glide, but had to stop to take a few turns in a thermal to be safe.

My teammate Len Paton got sick on day 3 and has been flat out in bed for 4 days since then. I probably caught it as well, as I had to spend day 5 at the house running to and from the toilet instead of flying. It was a bummer as the day was really nice for flying.

Great looking sky at goal day 6

Results at

Dalby Big Air 2018, day 3 and 4

Task 4 is cancelled due to too strong winds.

Yesterday we had a triangle-ish task, with a short final glide straight into wind. I had a OK start taking the first start gate with almost everyone else (20 minute gates). Trent and me flew together towards the second TP pushing upwind finding a very good lift taking us ahead of the main gaggle towards the TP. We pushed into wind going back on the 3. leg, and it was hard going with up to 40km/h cross/head winds.

I managed to find a few very good lines pushing into the wind, and got ahead again but had to push alone towards the goal to not fall behind by joining the gaggle that was 2-3km downwind and lower. I suffered the same fate as most pilots by not finding enough strong lift to gain glide towards goal and decked it a few km short.

Packing up on a lonely road
Packing up on a lonely road

Dalby 2018, task 1

150km task, some clouds but blue most of the task. I towed early as I was number 3 in the towing order. I did not have the patience to hang around over there airport and started as one of the first. Flew alone most of the task, met up with Rory just before the last TP.

Final glide was difficult, had to stop a few times in very weak lift to get in.

Forbes Flatlands 2018, day 7

Since I was first to tow I got to spend almost 2 hours in the air over the airport before the start of the task. I grouped up with Olav, Attila, Ollie, Tyler, and a few others, and we stuck around for the second start gate, 20 minutes behind the main gaggle.

We had a good run towards the first TP, but lost contact with Attila and Ollie around the first TP. After that we went on a long glide towards the second TP and got very low in shit air. We lost maybe 10 minutes slowly getting up there and, and when we got up there and glided to the second TP we were catching up with the earlier starters.

We went on a final glide at around 8:1 glide, and I took it easy with a conservative slow glide. We made good speed on the task, but without the leading points from the first start gate it was still a little to slow. That low save cost us a lot of points.

It was very nice to have a day where things work out without major mishaps. Olav and me flew together the whole flight.

At goal day 7

Forbes Flatlands 2018, day 6

Blue and windy conditions on day 6, late briefing and start due to the long task the day before, many pilots were not home until 4am. The task was 144km dogleg via Tomingley to Wellington, first downwind then crosswind.

Again there was no time for us back in the line to get up to take the first start, the first start clock passed as I lifted off the dolly on tow. The yellow tug I towed behind was misfiring and spitting black smoke while towing, I was a bit worried but hung on as I did not want a retow , it would be way to late.

At around 300m the tug stopped, I thought it just hit some sink at first and I dived down to stay in position, but soon there was some frantic waving from the pilot and I realized what happened and released. It was a major struggle to get up from that low, drifting away from the airport I found a few other pilots at the edge of the start circle as we took the third start clock 30 min after the main field.

From there I was alone again, and had 3 low saves with my harness open ready to land. I did get up again and found a nice 4 m/s lift just before the first TP and got to almost 2300m. Taking the TP and heading into crosswind it was quite late and I only found a couple of weak thermals and then had to glide downwind again to stay over landable terrain. I decked it around 40km from goal in the same paddock as Noma, and Olav was just a few km back so retrieve was quick and easy.

Outlanding day 6

Forbes Flatlands, Day 5, (k)not to be.

I could not fly yesterday, we had some logistical problems after the car broke down, and I did not get the retrieve seat I thought I would due to communications problems. I was ditched in our house, and spent the day there, bummer.

Since I scored 0 yesterday I was way back in the towing order today, I got a retrieve organized thanks to Sasha, and we got early out in the field to be ready in time for the long task.

Towing was way to slow for the long task, and I was still on the ground when the first start gate opened. I got a looong tow in sinking air, it took twice as long as normal to get up to release altitude and we still towed for 200 more meters without finding any usable thermal. During the tow I felt one of my harness zipper lines had come loose on takeoff, and was slapping against my thigh, I did not worry about it as it was the left one that I use to close the harness, and it is short and could not catch or wrap itself around anything. I did not want to take my hands of the speedbar while towing.

I released in a weak thermal, that died quickly, and glided downwind to search for another. As I was gliding I tried to close my harness, but felt something sticking and I could not get the zipper more than 10cm closed, it felt like a shoelace had jammed. I soon hit a new rough thermal and concentrated on getting up, the zipper could wait until I was higher.

I got up to 1800m and started to work the zipper problem again as the thermal got a bit weaker and wider. I could see there was nothing stuck in the zipper, and I could open it fully, but it jammed after 10cm every time. I know from experience it’s not realistic to fly a long flight with the harness open, so this was a major issue.

I tried standing up in the basebar to reach down and drag up the zipper manually, and try to find the problem, but it’s not easy in rowdy air to keep control and reach inside the harness boot. I could not find the problem and gave up standing in the basebar after a few scary loss of control moments in the thermal.

I had to land to fix the problem, but I had now drifted quite far away from the airport, and it was getting late. I took a weak lift and glided 15km back to the airport in strong headwinds, I arrived with some height to spare, and struggled to get down in the thermals kicking off the field (As usual when you don’t need them). By the time I was down the tugs were in the hangar, and it was getting too late to attempt the task.

The problem was that the handle to close the zipper had been flying in circles during the tow,  creating a massive twist in the zipper line inside the harness, so much that it wrapped around itself creating a loose knot. When I first tried to close the zipper I tightened this knot without realizing it, and the more I pulled the worse it stuck, preventing the rope from sliding through the pulley in the boot of the harness. I checked that it worked before takeoff as part of my pre-flight, so this was a new issue for me.

So the best day, world record longest task, cracking conditions, good chance to do a new personal best, and this happens. If I was superstitious I’d say I was cursed in this competition. At least I do not have to do the 6+ hours retrieve drive back from Manilla tonight.

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