Well I finally did it. I found somewhere to slope soar in Perth. I flew my Wowings Duck and quite frankly it was ducking awesome!

I have been flying off the edge of the Zig Zag in Gooseberry Hill with my Swift II a few times. It’s a great site with views out over the coastal plain and the city. It’s definitely not suited to conventional models because there is nowhere smooth to take off or land. It’s all hand launch and catch stuff.

The wind was really blowing when I was getting ready to take Kristy to work today. Ordinarily I wouldn’t even consider flying in wind like this, but with the promise of slope lift I packed the models. I took the Swift as a sniffer and packed the Duck just incase the hill was working. (Bear in mind I have little to no slope experience).

The Swift served it’s purpose well. First launch instant crash because the air close to the ground was so turbulent. Second launch and I got away – just. It was quite a harrowing flight to be honest, just keeping it the right way up and pointing it into wind was a challenge. I tried as best I could to fly motor off and just use the slope but it was too stressful. ‘Bugger this’ I thought, hit full throttle and climbed out high and in front of the slope. From there I soared about along the ridge. Towards the southern end it suddenly rocketed up like a homesick angel. I was joined by an inquisitive soaring bird of prey (dunno what type) who came to play for a while. I’d done it, I was slope soaring! My landing was less of the ‘landing’ and more of the ‘reverse it into a bush in the strong wind’. I tore a chunk or two out of the EPP foam in the process but it is repairable and well worth the information gained.

According to the Met Bureau website the wind at the time I was flying was somewhere between SW at 12kts and W at 20kts, gusting to 33kts. It’s no surprise the Swift was having problems in a wind like that.

The Duck had been charging in the car and I’d found which section of the hill was working so there was no excuse for not bringing the big gun out. So I found myself in a 37kph wind, on a part of the hill I’d never launched from before, holding a model I’ve only ever slope soared once before. Great. The Duck is much heavier and ‘cleaner’ than the Swift so she didn’t have much trouble making headway from my hand launch, she just didn’t climb. I had faith and kept pushing out and slowly but surely she started going up. I flew conservatively until I had some altitude and then started playing and exploring.

I tried doing what I’d read about, diving down to collect speed, doing aero’s then climbing back up into the good lift. This was great but I’d inevitably fail to finish a maneuver pointing into the wind and I’d get blown over the back. This would end up with a crash landing that was out of sight. (As in ‘I couldn’t see where it went’ not ‘it was really cool man’) A frantic search through the thick scrub would ensue. This happened about 4 times until I got concerned that maybe next time I wouldn’t find the model. Plus the Tx and Rx batteries were getting low.

I finished the session with a huge grin and a learned a few things.

  • I really need to use more exponential on the elevators. The Duck was so twitchy, especially in the turbulent conditions. I tried reducing the throws on low rates but it was still difficult to avoid over controlling. More expo should smooth her out for small adjustments and give the large throws needed for aero’s and tight turns.
  • Slope soaring doesn’t allow you to meander about the sky like park flyers in nil wind can. I had to constantly keep the models pointing into wind and think about their position in relation to the hill. It really adds / demands another element of skill.
  • I AM GOING TO BUY A LOST MODEL ALARM. I’ve seen them advertised and they’re not that expensive. A few times today I thought I’d be driving home with one less model.