Flight over Yosemite! (And er, first mid-air emergency)

chipchap42

Newbie
Joined
Aug 25, 2015
Messages
125
Location
LOS ALTOS
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Magni M16
Total Flight Time
800
Ever since I saw Yosemite for the first time, back before i lived in the USA, I thought how amazing it must be to fly over it. I've done it in commercial flights of course, but at 30k ft, you can barely make it out. I wanted to fly right over it. With a gyro, that became a possibility, but the height restrictions meant that it would involve climbing up to at least 10k ft. I decided during the winter that once the weather got better, but before the midday heat started causing turbulence, I'd give it a go, and this last weekend I set out to fly over it.

The weather was forecasted to be very good on Sunday. The clocks were going forward so it would feel early and I didn't want to be too tired for the flight, so I left at 9am and was ready to fly at 10am. This turned out to be a good decision as there had been fog earlier and it was just burning off as I pushed the Magni out. I had worked out it was likely to take nearly 4 hours and might require over 20 gallons of fuel. The tank holds 19 and although I was planning two stops along the way, I took another 8 gallons in two fuel bladders, one of which went in the rear footwell and one on the seat. I also put a rucksack on the seat with some supplies in it. After checking the weather once more I donned 6 of the 8 layers of clothing I was planning to take (yes, really) and set off.

It was a beautiful morning and I enjoyed seeing how fast I could stably fly the gyro in the first part of the trip. I knew I'd want to slow down later but the first hour or more would have me climbing to 3k ft and crossing the mountains to the east of the Bay Area before descending and crossing the California Central Valley. I'd then head into the Sierra Nevada foothills and land at Mariposa for a break. This went all according to plan. I passed the gigantic Castle airbase at Merced and flew over the 12,000 ft runway, having got clearance from ATC there, then headed into the foothills for Mariposa. It was hazy with a few clouds as I got closer but nothing that got in the way. I could now see the Sierras clearly in the near distance. I landed at Mariposa almost exactly an hour after leaving San Martin - not bad for a 90 mile leg.

After a quick refreshment stop, I set off from Mariposa headed for Yosemite valley and for the climb. Mariposa is at 2,200ft, and the surrounding hills go up to 4k ft or so. I cleared them and set a steady climb up further. The only time I'd been to Mariposa before, in July of 2016, I had set out to take a look at Yosemite but turned back fairly soon as the air around 6k ft was really bumpy and I was already high above the ground. (I don't know if others feel the same, but for me there's something more alarming about being in turbulent air when you're a long way up.)

Soon I was at 6.5k ft and I could see the valley clearly and make out what I thought must be El Capitan, the gigantic cliff face that is so iconic for climbers. The air was calm and although it was cold, I was now wearing all 8 layers I'd come with, plus a balaclava. The entry to the park is at around 4k ft and I needed to be two thousand above that so I was OK for now, but the ground would continue to climb and the mountains to get higher and I needed to remain well above them, so I kept heading up.

1-GOPR0720.jpg

I passed into the valley proper and had spectacular views of El Capitan, from a pretty unusual angle. I've seen many pictures of it but none that showed it like this. I was kept busy trying to watch where I was going, take some pictures and video, look out for other aircraft and monitor the gauges. The danger in thin air with the Magni M16 is not lack of power but the possibility of engine overspeed. The max RPM is supposed to be 5,500 sustained, with up to 5,800 only for a max of 5 mins. In my previous long cross-country from Texas with Dayton Dabbs, I had noticed that as the air got thinner the prop would spin faster and even without use of the turbo, you can still see revs over 5,500, so I was monitoring that closely.

3-GOPR0737.jpg

I passed El Capitan and headed towards Half Dome, surely one of the most famous natural landmarks anywhere. The sun was not shining on the sheer face of it, but it looked amazing with snow blanketing the top. I was pushing 10k ft as I passed it on my right and looked out at the Sierras further east and towards Nevada. Getting past those would have to come another day.

4-GOPR0740.jpg

I began a slow circuit to turn around it. I've got to be honest, I was pretty nervous and frankly doing anything other than a slow and very careful circuit wasn't going to happen. There were no bumps and nothing was going wrong, but I was very conscious of being many thousands of feet above the ground with nothing nice and flat beneath me. It felt like being in a silent cathedral with these colossal stone mountains all around, with the eerie feeling that they were somehow watching. Fanciful? Yes I know. You try it and let me know how you find it... :)

Yosemite_0317_1.jpg

I headed back down the valley, now with Half Dome on the left. Half Dome is 8,800 ft high so I had reached 10,600 ft as I went closer to it to avoid breaking the altitude restriction. I didn't want to go higher, so I throttled back a bit to begin a descent. If you really have to stay 2k ft above the nearest point within 2k ft, I wondered if I could fly down the middle of the valley at much lower altitude, (provided it was at least 4k ft wide), but decided not to try that right now. Maybe another time...

As I left Yosemite Valley and the snowy areas behind, I breathed a little easier. There were still no good landing sites, but it just felt less intimidating, somehow. I headed for Turlock, a small airport in the Central Valley another 50 miles away.

I landed there and had a great chat with a guy who had grown up there and whose dad was very involved in Turlock years ago. He had two kids with him and they were fascinated by the gyro and couldn't get over the idea I'd just flown Yosemite. I had some lunch and took off several of the 8 layers - it was much warmer down there. I couldn't fit all of them in my rucksack, so I put what I could in it and stuffed the puffer jacket I no longer needed down behind the rucksack. Given that it was tied down, I felt it would be fine. So I took off again and headed home for San Martin.

Shortly after that is when I had my first and completely unplanned off-airport landing. And you can probably guess the reason. The coat that I thought was secured, turned out not to be. Shortly after I took off, I could smell burning. I checked the gauges and they were fine but the smell was strong. I looked over my shoulder and realized to my horror that my coat was now draped over the engine. I had no idea how it had ended up there or if it was going to stay there but either way I had to get down immediately. I picked a field and cut the power. I did a decent approach but missed until the end the fact that there were wires at the end of the field. Fortunately I stopped in time. I shut down the power, breathed deeply a few times and got out. The gyro was fine but the coat really doesn’t look so good. Turns out they melt when draped over the turbo, cylinder heads and exhaust. I’m extremely fortunate the coat flew in such a way it got stopped and didn’t go through the prop, potentially tangling it. Also that nothing (except the coat) was damaged. I turned the gyro around and did a short-field takeoff - the path I’d stopped on was dusty but smooth enough and I turned for home with my tail between my legs. The rest of the flight was uneventful, and for that I’m extremely grateful.

So a bit of a mixed day. On the one hand, the Yosemite flight was the best I've ever had and I'll remember it the rest of my life. On the other, not securing the coat was really dumb. Hopefully I remember the lessons of that my whole life too.

I took some video and it came out OK. I was extremely glad that I remembered to charge the battery, had a good memory card in, and pressed the buttons in the right order. I don't know when I'll be back, so it's good to have the memory. It's here if you'd like to see it, and I hope you will. Please let me know if you like it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlMp7FA3dJE&feature=youtu.be
 

bugflyer

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Lodi, CA
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I took another 8 gallons in two fuel bladders, one of which went in the rear footwell and one on the seat. I also put a rucksack on the seat with some supplies in it.

As soon as I read this part I figured from where your emergency was coming.

smiles,
Charles
 

ckurz7000

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Vienna
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Great report with amazing photos! Thanks for sharing.

I also tried to guess your mid-air emergency before reading and the tought that kept recurring was one of a more private, natural urge to vent. But I am glad that you managed the situation well and am sure you won't make that mistake ever again.

-- Chris.
 

GyrOZprey

Aussie in Kansas.
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Whitewater KS
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Yikes!!!!

Yikes!!!!

:eek: & well done in your handling of your emergency situation! :yo: Those pictures are fabulous .... waaaay beyond my comfort level to fly that high / around hard pointy rocks! :lol:

On my recent journey to Florida & back...I grumbled about the extra work of luggage securing "overkill" due to my paranoia of something getting out of the rear seat belt / footwell! .... I had extra safety straps wound around the gyro cover bag on the floor & also the spare helmet bag + backpack strapped under the rear seatbelt .... going to add more straps to make the "safety" lashing pattern simpler for the OZ trip!
The greatest advantage of the Titanium as a touring gyro is those big cargo pods ... as one sheds layers ... just stuff & stow safely! :D
 
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Vance

Gyroplane CFI
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Nipomo,California
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Brilliant!

Brilliant!

A wonderful story well told with some amazing pictures.

Thank you for sharing the fun Paul.

I purchased a larger rucksack at Big Five for less than the jacket cost.
 

chipchap42

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Joined
Aug 25, 2015
Messages
125
Location
LOS ALTOS
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Magni M16
Total Flight Time
800
:eek: & well done in your handling of your emergency situation! :yo: Those pictures are fabulous .... waaaay beyond my comfort level to fly that high / around hard pointy rocks! :lol:

On my recent journey to Florida & back...I grumbled about the extra work of luggage securing "overkill" due to my paranoia of something getting out of the rear seat belt / footwell! .... I had extra safety straps wound around the gyro cover bag on the floor & also the spare helmet bag + backpack strapped under the rear seatbelt .... going to add more straps to make the "safety" lashing pattern simpler for the OZ trip!
The greatest advantage of the Titanium as a touring gyro is those big cargo pods ... as one sheds layers ... just stuff & stow safely! :D

Thanks Chris. Yes the rocks did seem hard and pointy, but it was soooo beautiful.

I envy you the cargo pods on the Ti Explorer. The Magni M22 has them, but then you lose the dual controls, so that's not a good exchange in most cases.

Cheers,
Paul.
 

chipchap42

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Joined
Aug 25, 2015
Messages
125
Location
LOS ALTOS
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Magni M16
Total Flight Time
800
A wonderful story well told with some amazing pictures.

Thank you for sharing the fun Paul.

I purchased a larger rucksack at Big Five for less than the jacket cost.

Vance,

thanks. Yes I take your point about the rucksack vs. jacket cost - not least because I ordered a replacement yesterday... Here's what the old one looks like now.



Cheers,
Paul.
 

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ventana7

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Salida, Colorado
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Great story and really nice photos.

I regularly fly at 10,000' or more in my Xenon from my home airport in Colorado (elev. 7,500'). But two years ago when I flew to Oshkosh at only 800' I Had the opposite problem you did. I found I needed to repitch my prop once going each way. I especially disliked my takeoffs from low elevations with the prop over pitched.
 

HighAltitude

in transition
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Mesquite, NV
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The more you fly in the mountains, the more you relax and enjoy it. Your pre flight and check list work takes longer cause you have no place to put it down anywhere. I'm glad you had the luck of not losing the coat over Yosemite.
 

chrisk

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Round Rock TX
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This thread does make me wonder what a coat in the prop would do. Would it slice and dice the coat, would there be carbon fiber splinters, or get hung up and cause a balance issue?
 

GyrOZprey

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We DO know ....

We DO know ....

That an escaping gyro cover going through the prop likely caused a fatality ... last year - was it in Africa??

I feel you were very lucky the coat stuck on the engine!
 

chipchap42

Newbie
Joined
Aug 25, 2015
Messages
125
Location
LOS ALTOS
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Magni M16
Total Flight Time
800
The more you fly in the mountains, the more you relax and enjoy it. Your pre flight and check list work takes longer cause you have no place to put it down anywhere. I'm glad you had the luck of not losing the coat over Yosemite.

Thanks - I'll remember that and try to get some more experience. It was a very majestic feeling. I couldn't have lost the coat over Yosemite as it was so cold I was still wearing it then!
 

chipchap42

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Aug 25, 2015
Messages
125
Location
LOS ALTOS
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Magni M16
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800
That an escaping gyro cover going through the prop likely caused a fatality ... last year - was it in Africa??

I feel you were very lucky the coat stuck on the engine!

Thanks Chris, I didn't know that, but a good friend of mine had some batteries from handwarmers go through the prop in a trike. The prop was destroyed (so he immediately had to shut down the engine) and the shrapnel from the batteries went through the wing in multiple places. With a 130 sq ft wing, that's OK, but with rotor blades, that might not be so good.
 

j bird

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Paul, what a wonderful, amazing flight, awesome video, loved your story. You should hang that coat in your hanger and when people ask you ask you about it, you have a wonderful story to tell.
I also must add, to people who have never been to Yosemite, it's mind boggling, every one on this forum should visit once in there lifetime.
 

chipchap42

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Joined
Aug 25, 2015
Messages
125
Location
LOS ALTOS
Aircraft
Magni M16
Total Flight Time
800
Paul, what a wonderful, amazing flight, awesome video, loved your story. You should hang that coat in your hanger and when people ask you ask you about it, you have a wonderful story to tell.
I also must add, to people who have never been to Yosemite, it's mind boggling, every one on this forum should visit once in there lifetime.

Hi Jay,

thanks very much - really glad you liked it. Funnily enough, that's exactly what I plan to do with the coat. It's in the back of my car ready for my next trip to the airport at the w/e and it will indeed go on the wall!

Cheers,
Paul.
 

GyrOZprey

Aussie in Kansas.
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Just watched your video

Just watched your video

Loved it ... gave a great feeling of the experience & height! What camera are you using ... on a selfie stick??? How do you secure it when flying with both hands!?
 
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