A "Crash" at Prairie Farm, WI

Monday, 6/15/09 (Some edits on 7/1/09, and 7/29/09)


I stayed overnight at the RWSA clubhouse at OEO last night. Andy Power and I had setup to fly on Monday, with Lee Bradshaw towing.

Despite the fact that I had gotten to sleep at 2am, from the retrieve the night before (see Sunday flight), I got out of bed shortly after 7am, and started thinking about the day. I hadn't made any specific plans yet. After getting some coffee and a scone at the local gas station (good scone-- Yum!), I checked the weather. It looked promising on all but the xcskies forecast. I decided I wanted to attempt a 200 mile triangle. The first turnpoint was to be West of Grantsburg, near Rush City, the second turnpoint, near Shell Lake, the third South of Baldwin, and then I would head back to OEO (all going well!). See You calls this a triangle "starting on a leg", which appears to be an acceptable form of FAI triangle (other requirements for leg distances being met as well).

I needed to wash my ship, having had two field landings recently, it was dirty and buggy. Andy arrived a little after 10am, and helped me with my wings. I hadn't seen him for a while, so it was good to chat.

NOAA predicted that the lift would start at 1pm. It turns out they were wrong. We could easily have launched by 12noon by the way the clouds looked, if not earlier. However, with my slowness getting going, and socializing with Andy, we were not ready by then. And I'd asked Lee Bradshaw to come out at 12:30pm based on NOAA's estimates.

I end up launching at 1:20pm. Lift was excellent on my first thermal off tow, and after that I headed out on my first turnpoint. Andy and I were going to mutually crew, though Andy said he was going to stay near the airport. I made my first turnpoint, near Rush City, by 2:02pm and headed towards the 2nd. The wind was out of the SE, so that made for good progress to the 1st turnpoint, plus with the "start on leg" triangle pattern, the first leg was relatively short (about 34 miles).

There was quite a bit of high-overcast cloud. For example, you don't see blue sky beyond the clouds here:

I made the 2nd turnpoint at 3:40pm, and the lift was still good. I was often encountering 5 kts up. I was doing pretty well on this third leg until Rice Lake. Pretty much from Rice Lake until landing, I was on final glide. I picked out a nice looking, slightly green, field (which turned out to have about 6 inches of corn) and landed to the South, mostly between the rows. At the start of final approach, I had seen some apparent motion to left side of the field (possibly a person in the field that I hadn't noticed at altitude), so kept more towards the center (West) of the field, away from the road to the East. Possibly this was a dog out in the field (later I learned the dog's name was "Pig"). Pig was my first visitor after I rolled to a stop and opened the canopy. Here's Pig--

Usually I don't like dogs, but I really liked Pig. He didn't bark, was friendly, and was seemingly quite bright. Unfortunately, I had forgotten my dog cookies :(. I need to put some of those in my emergency off-field landing kit! DeWayne, the gentleman that owned the field, was working just to the East side of the field, mowing the grass on the edge of the field, and saw me land. He shouted out after I landed, asking if I was OK. I gave him the thumbs up, hoping he would realize I was just fine.

Exiting the glider, I walked over to DeWayne, and thanked him for the use of his field. He was immediately friendly, and I could tell this was going to be an enjoyable visit. I think it was DeWayne that started the joke of the landing-- that I had been crop dusting, but had to land! I didn't have cell phone coverage, but DeWayne's wife, Judy, loaned me her cell phone for the duration of the time I was at their field. Thanks Judy! I contacted Andy and he got underway to the field.

Perhaps because of the local social atmosphere, perhaps just because someone happened to call 911 because of the aircraft "crash", we ended up with five emergency vehicles in not too long. The emergency vehicles happened by after we'd pulled the aircraft to the side of the field-- perhaps making it look even more like a crash!

Andy arrived to fetch me out of the field 15 minutes or so after most of the emergency vehicles left, though there was still one police or sheriff vehicle there, with emergency lights flashing, throughout the derigging process. Near the end of derigging, an official (sheriff?) handed me a cell phone, saying "It's the FAA" !! Wow. That's a first. Really. Five emergency vehicles and the FAA at the site of the "crash"! I'm expecting that because 911 was called, Princeton flight services got called, and that got routed through to the FAA, and they had to take some action. The nice female with the FAA asked me some basic questions (no one hurt, no damage?). I explained it was a normal landing, but just on another person's property. Earlier at the scene of the "crash", a police type official had gotten a written statement from me. I wrote down that I was a pilot flying a sailplane out of LO Simenstad airport, and had lost lift, and had to land. I guess I could have also written down that this was the 24th time that this has happened to me, but that little fact seemed unneeded! :). Hey, I like to fly cross-country in gliders, and if I can, I land at an airport. If I can't, I land where I can!

I felt like a nice connection had been made with several of the people, and gave out a RWSA brochure, and a glider ride certificate, and my contact information. I suspect we may see some of these people out at RWSA, and get at least one person up into the air.

I think 20-30 people learned about sailplanes today, and the crazy habit some of us have of landing on other people's property! Mostly, they are just generally amazed that we can stay up in the air without an engine. It takes quite a bit of convincing of some people that the aircraft doesn't have an engine.

The flight was a total of 132.08 miles (212.56 km; OLC Classic) flown at an average of 46.14mph (74.26 km/h). The flight duration was about 3 hours. Here is a link to the OLC for the flight. Here's a link to more pictures.

I just (on Wednesday, 6/17/09) searched for local news articles on my "crash" in this field. Here are a couple of stories I found:

7/1/09: I learned last week that my landing had made the front page of the Rice Lake Chronotype paper on June 17, 2009. Wow! :). There was a picture of my ship on the front page!!

7/29/09: I just got a letter from the field owners. The landing also made page 3 of the Barron News-Shield on June 17, 2009!! On page 1, they referred to the landing as a "Glider Accident" (which, of course, it was not-- I very purposefully, and not accidently, made a fine landing, thank you, in that corn field!).