Wind was non-existent at daybreak so we waited until 0930 for enough to practice forward launches on northside. I also took advantage of the grass on this side to throw myself into the ground a few times. I won’t ever be trying to land like this but I’m glad to have the PLF in my tool box.
The first forward launch was ok but I took overly cautious steps and didn’t quite get that goldilocks brake pressure. In particular I am sometimes overcompensating for earlier mistakes around excessive brake pressure and need to get more dynamic. During the next launch I did better with these things but lost the wing toward one side near the end. Consequently we added quick twists of the head to scan the wingtips and subsequent countermeasures for various adverse situations, firstly a hard run toward the dipping wing with corresponding brake pressure on the opposite side, and secondly a vigorous snapping of the brake line in the case of wingtip that has not fully unfurled. After a couple more runs the ideas started to sink in though I feel I was too sluggish either to recognize or respond to a dipping wing with a sufficiently timely and aggressive sprint to save it elegantly.
When the wind suddenly picked up we switched to a smaller wing and moved closer to the ledge so we could keep making use of the time and conditions we had. During this portion I was performing reverse launches, spinning to a forward position, and then aiming to maintain a static location. One issue that quickly became evident was that in juggling multiple tasks I was at risk of losing the consistency of my probing of the brake lines which is one of my most important sensors. Ben would occasionally dart in, grab my hands, and start pumping them in the steady and relaxed rhythm I ought have been maintaining. I started thinking in terms of this being a metronome that I need to keep running to maintain a certain clock frequency of data collection and processing. It was also interesting to do this drill in this particular location as the fall line was askew from the wind and the sand was soft which punished mistakes of timing and balance more severely than when you are on flat and firm ground. I would sometimes be too slow to respond to a dipping wing, need to step under it to recover, then find that I had stepped too far and/or pulled too hard and/or too long on the countering brake and then had by body forcefully tugged in the opposite direction, then potentially find myself in a cycle that was tricky to break. It is really interesting how subtle changes in terrain can amplify the challenge of performing certain tasks well. I also found myself opportunistically leveraging the shadow of the wing as one more data point, which I could imagine being useful in some circumstances, but also I wonder if it is “cheating” at this phase and I ought be focusing on feeling brake pressures.
This evening involved the same manner of drills, again on the northside, albeit in much stronger and gustier wind. We started and stayed on a small wing.
The freshness of the morning’s lesson made this session extremely valuable and a lot of stuff began to click in a way it previously had not, both individually and in concert:
- Continual probing of brake pressure converted from a square wave to sinusoidal
- I began to recognize seize-ups of my arms after struggles and got better about resets
- I began detecting when I was applying residual brake pressure that I ought not have
- I began noticing when my brake input would bump my thigh instead of going outside
- I found opportunity for rough brake inputs to correct wing collapses or oscillations
- I seemed to get better about juggling these disparate tasks simultaneously
There was no flying to be had today but there is valuable practice of some kind to be had in a variety of conditions, especially as a novice, and living so close to the training site makes it far easier to exploit every circumstance. There are so many component skills I need to master to the point I can put them on autopilot and free up my prefrontal cortex for increasingly macro and dynamic problems.
What a productive day!