Double Surface Developments

Double Surface Developments

Before the Lakes adventure, I had shared a few trips up north with Graeme Baird of the Dunstable club, an extremely energetic go-for-it experienced pilot. He thought nothing of motoring 180 miles to Carlton Bank (at 90 mph) on the chance of just a day's flying. He flew a UP Comet, and was trading up. After my Mam Tor experience, I thought I was ready to trade up too, and said I would buy it. We met at Dunstable early one morning for my first flight. It was nearly my last. Wooster was there. The wind was already up to 26 mph. It would soon be too strong, but I thought I would be able to "pull on speed" for safety with a high performance kite such as this. Immediately after launch the kite started to hurtle around the sky in a series of radical high speed turns. In complete panic I tried to fly away from the hill - my first thoughts were that the kite was rigged wrong somehow. However, my friends on the ground could see I was grossly over-controlling the kite, but they couldn't do anything about it, and probably thought I was a goner. By the time I had rumbled that less speed was the answer I was well down the hill and plonked the kite down into scrub in the bottom landing area. Wooster helped with the carry up, but by then the wind was even stronger, and nobody was keen to watch me have another flight. My log book says flight time: 1 minute.
I went through with the purchase, incredibly, and four days later tried another early morning flight with Graeme there again for some guidance. This time I logged 20 minutes (to our combined relief) but - "top landed in bushes". Dunstable was never an easy site for me. The photo album picture caption was "My new Comet - could I handle it?". I knew I desperately wanted to.

Comet1982.JPG

The magnificent beast was a WING not a sail (like the Scorpion). It had a double surface leading edge for 50% of the wing chord with mylar insertsto make a mouth-wateringly smooth top surface, and numerous pre-formed aluminium battens to create a genuine aerofoil wing section, not just a sail profile. The cross tube (so exposed on the Scorpion) was concealed within the leading edge to reduce drag, and was floating - allegedly to confer good flight handling. Yes, at 30+ kilos it weighed more than the Scorpion but, well, I would just have to learn how to lift the damn thing. A week or two after, I took it to Mere.

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