“Underdogs” Practice CIAF – Lake Xueye – Mon 19th

Finally sunshine and Cu’s too! The rainy weather appears finally to have broken with some blue sky today and signs of thermal activity at last. Our soggy Worlds flying site may just yet have time to dry out some and let us fly on a proper field. The Big BUS was summoned this morning to take us to the Lake for some more practice alongside the CIAF runway. The Australians Steve Keep and John Skinner came with us as their equipment had still not arrived at Laiwu. This is a surce of some frustration for the teams like us that have arrived early with the Japanese not getting their equipment until Tuesday evening and the Australians the same. We still have no line and don’t expect it until tomorrow either as it is still held up in customs. In spite of this we are in excellent spirits and the team is at least getting stick time at the alternate location on the airstrip at the lake. This site is not ideal and does nothing to teach us about conditions at the actual contest location. The grass space available is rather small and the distractions and obstacles numerous. We have a constant stream of people, dump trucks, cars and tripeds -(thats what I call the 3 wheeler, single cylinder, belt driven, handlebar steered, motorcycle like, dump trailer jalopies they use for transportation here) driving up and down the taxiway we are camped beside. At one point today before lunch a police or security car arrived and asked us to ground the planes for the arrival of some light aircraft on the runway. Two small aircraft landed about 30 mins later and a small heli bringing with them a camera crew to film some of the CIAF preparations.

The flying today was excellent with all three US Team pilots putting in some solid speed runs with Kyles runs crisp, clean and very straight. Kyle likes the practice site here because we have a taxi way to follow on the out leg and a runway to follow on the home leg of each run. Excellent guide to stay parallel and tight. The air was once again pretty good with a stiff breeze of about 10 coming across the lake with the occasional lift cycles now being much more noticeable than they were the previous 2 days. The aussies also ran some pretty good runs with their Fosa’s and a large crowd of chinese on-lookers gathered at different times through the day to watch these sleek ships racing back and forth above what is currently their road. It was constantly an issue to avoid the vehicles with one occasion Tom having to avoid a vehicle driving down the runway on both the last two legs. It’s really weird here in China regarding road rules and the laws. It seems that even though there are rules governing where you drive and on which side of the road etc – it is OK to break them as long as you don’t have an accident etc. Everybody appears to operate their vehicle or cross roads – (even pedestrians) on the basis of “honk honk” meaning – “I’m coming across your side of the road – so you need to slow down and avoid me now.” and so on. As a result people and cars constantly seem to venture into danger and then the other vehicles all slow down and take avoiding action and everything moves right along. No road rage. The traffic on the airport was the same with people seeming to have no understanding of any danger associated with Kyle, Tom and Dave’s planes traveling at 100mph plus assuming that we would always avoid them – and of course we did.

It was late afternoon before I took a couple of flights with the Target and my clumsy attempts at running the speed course were in stark contrast to the smooth work put in by the real F3B pilots all day.

Around 5:30 pm we packed up and loaded all our winches, planes and people on a smaller Bus to the consternation of the chinese driver who was very unsure of the weight we were loading on his vehicle. It all packed in fine though and it was only 30 mins later we were at the official flying site to off load or stuff in the tent where we would be every day during the contest. There was to be a guard posted there from now on so we would be able to leave our equipment at the site and not have to carry it to and from the hotel every day.

We spent 2 1/2 hours into the night calibrating the winch motors and batteries to ensure they were in spec and save the precious daylight hours for flying tomorrow. The plan would be to get out early in the morning and fly all day the real contest site during our final practice day before the pre-worlds contest starting on Wednesday.

It was 8:45 when we finally reached the hotel and were greeted by the remaining 3 Australians who had arrived from Beijing during the day. A few beers, some more Dicos Chicken from next door and a cosy lounge in the Hotel Foyer finished off a long day. It was great to meet with Ralf Decker also. For me it was the first time we have met though I have read much abut him even in my earlier life as a teenager when Ralf was playing with his famous Tele-M telescoping wing F3B model etc. He told us a few stories about that model and it;s development. Even considers it a far more likely success with todays radios than what it was in his day. The variable length of the aileron and it’s effectiveness being the main technical problem other than its 2.2kg weight.
This was a productive day with no incidents other than a growing confidence in the Teams ability to perform well here when it counts. It is bed time for me.
See Y’al tomorrow