The farmer’s son captured this shot in the paddock using a drone. I landed in the dry part of the paddock but it was still 700m to the gate.
By Garry Stevenson
On the last day of the Nationals at Narromine, the season was winding down. The days were short, typically starting late at around 2 or 3pm and finishing at around 5pm.
I decided to fly my own races rather than mix it up in the congested and often chaotic gaggles – not the best contest strategy, but I wasn’t there to fight it out with the leaders. The final task came along and I was determined to push. Landing out on the final day shouldn’t normally be a problem. It just meant de-rigging in a paddock rather than back at the airport.
The road in
In fact, I couldn’t have picked a worse day to attack! My housemate Terry Cubley, who is a far more experienced and smarter pilot than I am, turned back before the first turnpoint. He wasn’t alone. About half of Club Class opted not to fly or outlanded. The day was really soft. Occasional cu’s started popping, but not for long.
Tennis Court Landing
My climbs got progressively lower and lower but I kept pushing. Unfortunately, the local task area (unbeknownst to me) had received 200mm of rain overnight, leaving the ground very wet with large areas of pooled water and making finding climbs difficult. Eventually I just got too low and picked the largest, driest stubble paddock facing into wind that I could find, and set up a landing. The glider pulled up fast!
At first I thought it hadn’t left a rut – until I checked under the fuselage. The wheel was buried up to the fuselage. We talk about landing in a tennis court. I reckon I landed before the net! Later that night, I heard that there had been multiple outlandings, including 30 percent of 15M Class.
I saw the farmer, who told me there was no chance of driving a 4WD in there. When I asked about towing it out with the side-by-side vehicle he had arrived in, he said he was “too busy” and suggested waiting a few more days for the paddock to dry out. In short, while not deliberately obstructive, he wasn’t really interested in helping much either. That was fair enough – it was his property and I had landed on it.
However, that paddock became progressively worse over the following days as the area continued to experience huge rainfall. 200mm fell on Thursday night, 26mm the next and something in between on Saturday night. By Sunday the whole paddock was 3 inches underwater. Even the road coming in was half a meter deep
That meant I had lots of time to think about getting the glider out and, with Bunnings in Dubbo down the road, I had access to a good range of hardware. While chatting with Scott Lennon about adding additional wheels, he suggested using the dolly. In the end, I modified the dolly and added two of the largest wheels that Bunnings sell. Without them we wouldn’t have had a chance. The nose wheel was just digging in and it would have ripped the bomb doors off.
The fabricated tow out dolly.
I kept in contact with the farmer and sent him photos of my newly constructed ‘tow-out dolly’ and asked if he was prepared to tow me out, offering to compensate him for his time. By this stage, it was Monday and the paddock was 3 inches thick with gooey black mud.
No Chance Monday
The farmer rang Tuesday and suggested that today would be our best chance, as more rain had been forecast for later that day and Wednesday.
The farmer and his son assist in de-rigging in order to position the dolly, as it was too heavy to lift with wings on. (Broken-down side-by-side is in the background.)
I arrived at the paddock at around 11am after fording multiple sections of flooded road. I needed to switch to 4WD just to get there. Even the tow out had dramas. The tube axle I used was nowhere near strong enough and bent badly. The farmer’s side-by-side refused to start in the paddock, which necessitated going back to the farm to get one of the smaller tractors and re-fabricate the axle
Due to the mud build-up while towing, at times it briefly dragged rather than turning. We only just got away with it!
It took three hours, but eventually we got it out. While not fun, at the same time, I now have a good retrieve story to tell! It was my first outlanding with the Discus and first retrieve for the trailer. Hopefully, in the future they’ll all be better than this one.
Towing out with the tractor, which I have since purchased for next time. Even the re-manufactured axle had a substantial bend – we needed a solid 19mm axle.
It took 4 hours to get the mud out of the nose wheel and belly hook, then the trailer, all the tow out gear and finally the car. The trailer has never been cleaner! While pressure-washing the nose wheel, I made a newly resident mouse homeless.