05-10-21 | Stupid, Stupid, Stupid

Yesterday I broke the canopy of the glider because I did something very stupid. Today, when I inspected the glider, I found the crack at the top of the canopy. Thanks to the help of Sarah Arnold, Jacob Fairbairn, and Mitch Hudson (all IAs), we have temporarily fixed the crack, which makes the glider flyable for the time being. I am very, very sorry to my club for damaging the glider and will work to make it right. When I get back home after the end of the meet, I’ll coordinate with the club to make sure the ship remains safe and flyable for the remainder of the season and replacing the canopy at the end of the year.

What happened was that I made an egregiously stupid mistake while derigging the glider. After the day got canceled, we put the ships away due to storms coming in the afternoon. I brought the LS4 to the trailer, but came in at a little bit of an angle to get around a neighboring glider. After straightening the tail out to be square with the trailer, the ramp was slightly askew and the forward pins weren’t fully wedged in their respective sockets. I should have fixed this misalignment and made a critical mistake in assuming that it was straight enough. After taking the wings off, I started jacking up the ramp up to level it with the back of the trailer. At that point, the pins in the front of the ramp popped off the back end of the trailer, destabilizing the whole rig and the fuselage immediately blew over in the strong wind.

With the help of several folks, we righted the fuselage up, dropped the gear and realigned everything. I took a good look around and didn’t see any signs that anything got damaged on the fuselage. The canopy locked and everything remained aligned. No signs of any damage to the tail or the nose. A big sigh of relief, I put the fuselage back into the box.

This morning, the contest day was canceled due to poor prospects for soaring. I decided to take the fuselage out to take another good look at it. Much to my horror, I found a long longitudinal crack at the top of the canopy, right about over the top of the pilot’s head, running to the back of the canopy. Flying with a crack in the canopy is unsafe as the crack can quickly propagate and the canopy will break in-flight. At minimum, the crack MUST be stop drilled to stem the bleeding.

Thankfully, Sarah Arnold, World Champion, airport owner, and licensed mechanic had a full service shop for her equipment in her spacious hangar. She had plexiglass drill bits to contribute to the fix. Mitch Hudson, in turn, had a cordless drill and packing tape to fix the glider right on the spot. I had the CA glue to seal the crack. And Jacob Fairbairn came over to help work on the canopy. All three licensed mechanics inspected and contributed toward fixing the canopy. The field repair will keep the glider flyable for the time being, and I can’t thank them enough for helping make the glider airworthy again. It is absolutely amazing the level of knowledge and experience available at such meets.

This should make the glider serviceable for the time being. I’ll coordinate with club members to check the work and assess whether there needs to be further work for the glider to be serviceable through the end of the season. Finally, I’ll work with the Board toward replacing the canopy at the end of the season.

All of this could have been prevented with a bit more patience and forethought when taking the glider apart and ensuring everything was properly lined up. My deepest apologies to my wonderful club, to all the club members, and especially to the folks that have put so much effort restoring the ship and making it beautiful.

2 Replies to “05-10-21 | Stupid, Stupid, Stupid”

  1. Daniel,
    Sorry to hear about the canopy crack.
    As you remember, after cracking CT canopy with my head during a very rough flight, I was able to have it replaced by Mike. You helped bringing it back to BTN. Thanks again.
    My horror story was that after my last flight, I was putting the glider away when trying to retract the landing wheel up to push the fuselage up the ramp, the whole fuselage rolled to the right and hit the wing bicycle breaking the brand new canopy in two parts. Needless to say I was devastated. It means that, considering the time to do a replacement job, it was clear that it would mean no more flights in CT this year. Retracing my procedure of storing the glider in the trailer, my conclusion is that the back side of the trailer is considerably higher since I changed my tow vehicle (black 2002 SUV) to a newer RAV4. I had a tow hoockup installed, but much lower, making the back of the trailer higher and the ramp much steeper inclined. This allowed the glider in the dolly to jump the chokes at end of the ramp and roll. Stupid me. Never happened since I bought the glider in 1995. But it can happen. Gliders are precious piece of equipment but very fragile in many ways.
    The glider in in another shop now, the new plexus has arrived. I hope it will be done soon
    Enjoy your competition, I have been following your descriptions daily.
    Good luck


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