Way back in the early Eighties my eagerness for any chance to fly any glider got me involved in several long aero tows ferrying planes I’d never flown before from one unfamiliar place to another. Predictably, those summer days got bumpier by the hour, and one time, about halfway along I noticed the port wing of that particular 2-33 flexing much more than its equally well beaten counterpart. That kind of observation, mid-flight, has a way of making you think.
About lots of things. First, pique at the seller for pawning off junk on an unsuspecting colleague. And if the buyer knew, fair enough, but then what about me? The more I thought about that, the less ‘pique’ seemed the right word. But who was at fault, or even at risk, was less important than having the aircraft hold together for just couple more hours.
That’s what I thought about most.
The wing was flexing right where that big aluminum strut attaches, no surprise. Inboard of there it’s stiff as a bridge. Rivets at that seam appeared the same as their counterparts under the other wing, but I watched them close during and after hefty bumps trying to detect any change… Like proving a negative.
Okay, so maybe it’s not an acute problem. But even if it’s been this way for years it’s still critical, isn’t it? Shouldn’t someone know about this? Never have I been so impatient to get back on the ground.
After finally landing I tried to keep personal feelings to myself while making a big deal about the floppy wing. The guy who took the paperwork didn’t seem concerned, so I grabbed the tip and shook it up and down, boing boing boing. Made me queasy, but impressed no one else…
Okay, caveat emptor. I wouldn’t be flying it again, that’s what mattered most. Then we climbed into the Bird Dog and headed home.
I never saw or heard of that glider again, knew nothing of its obviously long history beforehand, and to this day know almost nothing of its perhaps more important history since. I could have tried to keep track of how the floppy-winged bird and her new owner fared, but this was before the internet and I had no clue how to gather such information.
That’s easy these days, and when ultimately I did look up the N-number it had been deregistered… Had they decided it wasn’t worth fixing and declared it a wreck — or did they fly it broken until it came apart and was destroyed, along with maybe a victim or two?
No, a little more research revealed the aircraft was sold to someone in Canada in 1989, several years after the day I flew it. Had it been fixed? One would hope so, but given what we’d seen before, who knows.
Then, of course, it would have been reregistered Canadian style (all letters, no numbers). Does it still fly? And if so, how ‘bout that wing? All such information is available these days, somewhere…
Uh oh, now you’ve got me pawing through dusty old logbooks, wondering about any number of other heavily weathered beaters I toiled in back when, and what they’re up to now. Looks like this could take some time. Cancel all my appointments.
Yes, according to calendars this is the middle week of winter, but around here it feels like spring already. Oh we’ll get a bit more cool and cloudy weather sometime soon, and maybe even a hint of it in the coming week, but not much. Officially, this is WAVE season, but until we see a south wind again there’ll be none of that on the horizon. Thermal potential is still low at this point, though steadily rising with the arc of the sun… Typically, by the middle of February our thermals begin to grow in frequency and size, and by mid-March you can count on soarable WX every single day through October!
SEE YOU SOON!
The local ridge where I flew in New England runs ten miles, barely high enough to matter at the near end and twice as big further south. Lower slopes are covered with second growth hardwoods, easy tramping, but the ridge top itself is a densely tangled thicket of ancient vegetation, living and dead, impenetrable ten feet deep. No trails anywhere, except of the game variety.
Halfway between the low end and high end, a little rill of folded bedrock crosses a saddle on the ridge, adorned with a chain of four jewel-like beaver ponds set within low trees and high brush. Sometimes they reflect the sky’s blue, sometimes its gray, but more often their aquatic green is only a shade lighter than than the olive drab camo of the forest itself. Hiding in plane sight.
One day three of the ponds were placid, but the widest one looked like a minuscule phonograph record, concentric circles vibrating sunlight. That called for a closer look. (Blowing off altitude is so much more more fun when you have a real excuse, but that’s another yarn altogether!) Down on the treetops I did a double take… Really? Yup, two huge moose straight ahead, up to their knees in the drink.
Surprised them like they’ll never forget, then pulled quick and hard back around to see more. But they’d already galoshed their way to shore and ducked under cover, leaving the water a roiled and muddy brown.
No doubt the moose visited there more often than I did, but that’s the only time I saw them in sixteen seasons and who knows how many flybys. Yeah, so, because the ponds had no official name (who else even knew about them?) I christened them Moosey Lakes and promised myself to bushwhack up there someday for a respectful look around. What I didn’t know was, they too were in the process of disappearing.
Not long after my moose sighting, one of the beaver dams collapsed, leaving three green eyes to stare at the sky. Then a couple years later, my last there, another dam failed. Only two left. Sad to think I never did get up there on foot.
When I reconnoitered in 2010 via GoogleEarth, only one pond remained, and then in ‘13 nothing but a grassy bog. End of an era. Had the beavers just gone away, or been wasted by a rabid Second Amendment enthusiast? Who knows. Whatever else you say about life, it does go on.
Chasing that stream all the way up a mountainside to its very source before getting down to business must have required extraordinary eagerness, even for beavers. Yet eventually all their work was washed away. Would they ever return?
Well, in 2016 GoogleEarth revealed that a new dam had been erected at the lower end and a new pond was filling up again. The first of several? We may suppose that beavers (like the moose) have come and gone from this tiny corner of Paradise unnumbered times over millennia, and will continue to until we render them extinct.
Now it’s 2018, and wouldn’t you know, another new dam seems to be in place, collecting water to restore that wider pond where two moose once had a UFO sighting. After nearly forty years this current cycle is not quite complete, but looks like it won’t be much longer. Nice to know it can still happen. Not like I need an excuse to go there and soar that ridge again, but celebrating one full and prosperous cycle would surely qualify. And in the process why not finally make that ceremonial bushwhack up to Moosey Lakes!
Let’s flush January down the old memory hole and try again, okay? We’ve had a long run of achingly pleasant weather lately, light wind and balmy temps, that should continue in the coming week. Countless ravens have been observed soaring – easy to see because none were going very high yet – but by Saturday thermals may be lofting as high as our snow covered mountaintops. Won’t that be nice?
SEE YOU SOON!