The Farm Dog – Problems After a Land-out

While I’m only about 50% successful in meeting farmers in land-outs, I am about 80% successful in meeting the farm dog who, invariably, is a 100+ pound package of vicious snarling teeth with a “take no prisoners” attitude. In fact, this dog has been waiting all of his life to protect his family and kill the dangerous interloper (that’s you) who dropped in from the sky to invade his home. I’m semi-serious here, and mention this so that you are not surprised when you are greeted – before meeting the farmer – by his hound who acts like he wants to kill you as you approach the farmhouse. If this happens, here are a few suggestions: Stop advancing toward the house or toward the dog (this alone may stop the dog’s response). Turn your head deliberately to the side and do not look at the dog or its eyes (dogs take eye contact as a sign of aggression). Speak only in a low soothing voice and do not smile nor show your teeth (teeth are another dog sign of aggression). Usually, the dog will have made such a racket that the farmer or a family member will show up. If the farmer doesn’t show up, retreat (if nobody came during the barking demonstration it means that there is probably nobody home). Don’t try to make friends with the dog, or give him your sandwich, or try to play “Dog Whisperer” – it is the dog’s job to protect that house and he is more likely to make an impression on you than you are to make friends with him.

Usually, a field that you will select for outlanding will not have livestock in it – and I’ve never heard of a real incident of any animal damaging a glider left alone. I have had some instances of sheep and cows clustering near (and blocking) the gate at the end of the day as they anticipate a farm hand opening the gate to herd them down the road and back to the barn. But the good part of this scenario is that it means somebody is coming soon. If you have to get a trailer through such a roadblock it’s not difficult to control the animals – if you drive slowly, don’t swing the gate open too wide, and don’t let them start moving toward the open gate.

Soft fields
There is a trick that you can use to tamp down a very soft field so that you can get the trailer into the glider – even if it looks like you can’t tow a trailer into the field without getting stuck. Remove the trailer from the vehicle (hopefully a 4X4) and drive the vehicle (without the trailer) straight at the front of the glider, then fully around the glider, and then exit on the same path at the front of the glider that you came into the field on. Do this 3 or 4 times until you have tamped down a pretty firm pathway from the gate to the front of the glider and around the glider. The path will look like a circle with a stem at the front of the glider. Only then reconnect the trailer to the car, drive in toward the glider and around the glider with the trailer on the path that you made – stopping at the stem with the trailer rear pointed at the glider. After loading the glider, you can drive out with the loaded trailer on the pathway. I would do this only with the farmer’s permission – or in a situation where I could not find the farmer and there was no other way to get the glider out.

If you can pull the glider out of a soft field with a 4X4 or tractor, try to get the main wheel on a row where a tractor wheel has been. This usually packs down the soil well enough for the main wheel to roll without digging in. There is a way of rolling the glider on wooden boards shifted ahead of the main wheel that prevents the main wheel from sinking in – but it’s very tedious and slow and requires several people.

If the glider has dug into a mushy soft field, it is very important to free the main wheel before trying to rotate the glider in place. Turning the glider from the wing tips while the landing gear is still stuck in soft soil or mud causes a very high twisting load on the main landing gear that it was never designed for. This will likely cause damage to the undercarriage.

A useful device for extracting a glider that has dug into a soft field is a military-style “entrenchment tool”. Available online or from military surplus stores, these are basically small folding shovels – inexpensive and much better than digging out the main wheel with your hands. I keep one in the trunk of my car. Also helpful to have handy on the retrieve: flashlights (I like the headlamp type), bug spray, the aforementioned Tost ring, and drinking water.

“Carry out”
Perhaps the two most dreaded words you can say to your crew. This involves disassembly of the glider in place and hand-carrying the components across the field to the waiting trailer. It’s dirty and arduous work, requiring several people, and sometimes it is best to leave the machine in the field overnight and do this the next day in the daylight. Bring trestles, sawhorses, or moving blankets to rest the parts on mid-field. It’s also a job for high shoes or work boots – not sneakers. Sometimes you can do a limited carry-out by hauling the wings by hand and then rolling the fuselage – which of course is much lighter without the wings.

Streams and fences
It can happen that access to a field is blocked by a small stream of water that the farmer’s tractor can easily navigate but your car and trailer can’t. Sometimes you can back the rear of the trailer over the stream (see irrigation canals below) and load the trailer that way, but if you must pass the components through the stream, it’s usually easiest to station one or two persons mid-stream and hand the components to them like a “bucket brigade.” Otherwise, it’s too easy to slip and fall while carrying a wing or fuselage across a stream. Only once did I assist in passing a glider over a fence with the trailer on the other side – and I hope to never do it again. This must be done carefully and slowly with one person in charge and giving instructions. Remove the canopy from the fuselage first and pass it over separately. Take everything you can out of the fuselage to reduce the weight (batteries, O2 bottle, etc.). If the fence has barbed wire, use horse blankets, moving blankets, or automobile floor mats draped over the barbed wire to protect the people and the glider parts.

Irrigation canals
In some agricultural areas, rectangular fields are surrounded by cement irrigation canals or” moats” that the sprayers draw water from. They are not wide, and you can jump across them. If it’s not practical to find the bridge into the field, then you can often use the rear half of the trailer as a bridge across the canal – meaning that the trailer itself never goes into the field (just the back half of it).

Moving irrigation equipment
In many places, you will find automatic moving irrigation systems like the “centre pivot” type that make huge crop circles that we see from the air. They have a rolling spray arm that moves in a circle over several hours. If you land in one of these fields, be aware of the deep trenches that the wheels of the system can make in the ground and also that there is always a valve that will shut the system down if it is moving on a collision course with your glider. For the circular type of system, the valve will be in the centre.

Retrieval of a motor glider
Yes, it happens. I’ve had to do this four different times and the added weight of the motor makes it more difficult and always requires more people – especially in a soft field. This can be another situation for the limited carry out where the wings are carried to the trailer and the fuselage is rolled on the main wheel with some of the weight removed.

Prepare the glider for disassembly
In most cases, you will have lots of time to kill so it makes sense to start getting the glider ready for the crew and trailer. Remove the gap tape, TE probe, batteries (after you have downloaded the flight), and the winglets (if they are removable), and disconnect the l’hotellier fittings (if your glider has them). Leave small parts in the cockpit until the trailer arrives. Keep the big parts on the glider. Then relax and wait for your crew. I hope that you brought something to read. Continue to conserve the battery in your cell phone until your friends arrive. Source: ‚Roy Bourgeois / Wings & Wheels‚.

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