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So if I flew up into a cloud...


Jan 30, 2015
I've been glued to a computer screen most of the day posting to Facebook, and it was really irking me, so I was like, ugh, I got to get outside and see some of the day, before it's over.

So I went outside and sat on my little swing out in the yard.



And I was looking at this one cloud. It was such a gorgeous cloud. And I started to think...

"What if I were some black woman 200 years ago, in colonial America, right in this very field that use to be a cotton field, picking cotton out in the hot sun, trapped inside a plantation culture forever far away from the civilization that was Europe, looking up at these very clouds. Surely trapped in my brutal life, I would think it was some kind of glorious heaven up there.... some promised land... that I was destine for... some day when I died... and was finally free..."


And I sat there and thought... hmm, if I were drop everything right now, and run out to air field, never losing sight of that cloud, keeping my eye on it, and hop in my ultralight, and fly up, in climbing circles until I reached that cloud... I would be sorely disappointed... that it was just... water vapor.

Nevertheless, I would want to fly briefly through the top of it, just to say and know... and to... be there. From the moment I saw it on the swing, to the moment I flew up to that very cloud and flew through the top of it... like making a wistful daydream come true.


It occurred to me immediatly, I wouldn't have an attitude indicator. Working good aircraft grade Attitude Indicators are *very expensive*, so they are way, way down my list of things to try and score on the cheap someday.

To fly into a cloud, even for a minute without one, either accidentally or intentional, probably would be a dangerous proposition, as I'd no longer have visual reference to anything like the ground or sun or space above.

So what could I do in such an emergency? And then I though...

A string off my jacket, with a weight on it. Or even dangling some keys. If I keep them out of the wind, they will always point straight to the ground, and as long as I were to hold them straight over my er... crotch... and look straight down at them, and correct for deviations, and keep them from shaking or being blown around too much, I could maintain a relatively straight and level flight until I came out on the other side...


a4237582-174-Glider Yaw String 2.jpg

Everybody has seen the ubiquitous "yarn on the windshield" yaw indicator... so I present to you, my daft emergency "in a pinch" attitude indicator.... nothing really beyond an (ideally) heavy steel ball on some string... (or better, fishing line, low wind resistance).

In this case, to emphasis the quick and improvised solution of using whatever might be in my pocket... a nut tied with the string that held two foam ear plugs (but it could be anything you had):



So if you can't afford a Mid Continent Lifesaver Gyro at $4000, and all your instruments black out, I hope you'll remember this silly little rudimentary attitude indicator.... :) Like I said, hold it over your crotch to center it, with one hand, or your teeth if necessary if you need both hands. Or get Maxwell Smart and tie it to something ;-) It probably will wiggle and move around in pendulum circles a lot from the vibrations, but you should be able to visually guestimate an average center position between all the swinging, and it should show you any gross deviations from level flight...
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