Brake Line Mistake

Otto Lilienthal, Pilot, Inventer, Daredevil, Hero

There is a lot of travel in my brakes before the wing starts turning. I liked that feel early on, but I’ve decided I would like my glider just a little quicker to respond. Having a bit more flare authority on landing would be nice also. Right now I can bury my hands below my waist and it doesn’t feel like I’m getting everything the glider can offer in that area.

The wing manual recommends no more than 1 inch of adjustment at a time, so that’s what I went with. I marked the lines 1 inch above the knot, then adjusted accordingly until my mark was in the correct place. Repeating the process with the other side being careful to maintain the same adjustment.

At the end something had to be done with the remaining line. I didn’t want to cut it as the extra lenght may be useful later. I couldn’t leave it loose because it’s a hazard that could get pulled into the prop, with my hand.

I decided to tape up the excess in a nice neat package. Here I made the mistake. The excess line got rolled and taped, to my line being used. Above the brake toggle. This meant my 1 inch adjustment ended up being about 3 1/2 inches. Feel free to hate, it was dumb.

The wing launched easy, way too easy for the light wind I had. And the climb rate was great. I realized the mistake when I jumped into the seat, got comfortable and went to stow the brakes. The tape was holding them so low they didn’t want to go up onto the magnets.

I was now pulling brake on both sides and could not fully release it.

This is the kind of thing that leads to stalls and spins. The glider was also climbing like a rocket.

After finding the problem I considered trying to pull the tape off in flight. That came with a huge line of problems, lack of control during the tape removal, loose line hitting the prop if sucssesfull, fighting a turn while correcting the second line if I managed to fix the first. There were more, it’s amazing how many problems your brain can work in a second or two.

I decided to land and sort it out. This was also not problem free. My high climb rate was due to being on power with brake inputs. If I drop to idle I’ll start my descent but also lose airspeed due to the brake inputs and risk a stall.

I decided to power down enough to zero my climb rate, hold that power and use gentle S turns on the way home to slowly give up altitude. Worked like a charm.

My first attempt I came in lower than expected so I aborted the landing. Corrected for the second attempt and brought it down.

I’ve since corrected the problem and I’m planning another test flight tonight. I think a lot about the lessons I’ve learned and how I’ve learned them along the way. It reminds me that guys like Otto Lilienthal were no doubt geniuses, but they had at least as much courage as brains to test the things they built.


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