Robin Hamilton writes:
Seeing a video today of a drug runner's confiscated
private jet being launched from a dirt track in a forest made me recall my
dodgiest takeoff last year. We were aerotow launching (uphill) from the dirt
track running down to Kevin Christopherson's ranch, set halfway up the mountain
above Casper, WY. The track also had 2-3ft high grass both sides with sage bush,
rocks, farm equipment, deep ruts and probably
families of deer and Elk scattered at or below the vegetation line.
Absent willing volunteers, I elected to launch first. From the launch
dolly, I could see that the track itself was going to be a little bumpy (and
uphill) but doable. (Frame 1) What I hadn't factored in was our X Flight
launch dolly for she (and it was a she) was known to be a castoring free spirit,
having unexpectedly executed a number of 45 degree zigs and zags on often
beautiful flat concrete runways. Indeed, within 25ft of the takeoff rollout we
drove hard left off the track into the super bumpy sage brush world that was now
zipping past at eye level as we picked up speed.
Holding on as "white knuckle"
tight as I ever have for an aerotow launch wasn't tight enough and I got ejected
from the dolly "rodeo style" (Frame 2) as the cart got arrested by a rock or rut
or something rusty and immovable.
I was now down at ground level, carbon basebar
somehow miraculously surfing along over the sage brush whilst a good crop was
accumulating nicely in the side wires (Frame 3). But we were still flying(-ish)
so I hung on a little longer as tug pilot Rick gave it a bit more gas and
eventually was rewarded by a view of the tug from above vegetation level as I
became unstuck from the terrain. (Frame 4).
As we climbed out I was still
pulling accumulated objects (mostly sage brush roots) off the glider and in fact
at some point radioed back down to ask half seriously if I had left anything
from the glider back down in the bushes. Silence.
There were only startled pilots down there thinking hard about who was going to