Saturday, July 11, 2009

Search and Rescue from the Toy Eating Tree

Our Tuesday evening get-together earlier this week at Chris and Liza's house ran unexpectedly late.

While the adults ate the excellent chicken salad provided by Lorna and Michael, and talked about boring stuff like job hunting, or writing, or music suitable for a drive to Temagami, or organ transplantation, or the economics and strategies behind the current city workers' strike, the kids were busy doing doing much more important things. Recognizing the Megaforce motto of "Deeds, Not Words", the boys went off to the park to try out Cameron's new radio controlled airplane, and therein lies the story.

By the time everyone was gone, and we went to retrieve the children, we discovered the aftermath of an airplane disaster.

The airplane was a model of an F18 fighter, perhaps 20 or 25 cm long, made of molded styrofoam, with control circuitry, a battery, and motors embedded in the body. The motors turned two propellers on the trailing edge of the wings, and the battery was charged by attaching the aircraft's charging port to a cable on the remote control device. The aircraft was light, and reasonably fragile. It was much more interesting than any toy I ever had as a kid (isn't that always the way?), and more importantly, was totally unsuited for the nefarious purposes of the boys, which would undoubtedly have involved mounting a wireless webcam and at least one nerf dart launcher.

In the course of their flight trials, another little boy from the neighbourhood had inadvertently steered the airplane into the high branches of a tree. As Corwin pointed out later on the drive home, out of all possible directions that he could have flown the plane, he picked the worst one.

As the sun set, Chris and I, along with a couple of other guys from the neighbourhood tried to retrieve the airplane by trying to knock it loose. Prior to our arrival, these attempts had been made with a rubber ball, a tennis ball, and a football -- now all stuck in the tree as well. Chris and I added to the Buster Keatonesque air of these proceedings. A hockey stick, tossed into the branches to shake things loose also got stuck and had to be knocked loose by a rope. The rope on a subsequent attempt got stuck and had to be retrieved with the hockey stick. We ultimately made repeated attempts with the rope being tossed into the branches while the other end was tied to the hockey stick -- anchoring the rope and solving our alternating loss of tools problem.

Our innovations failed to loosen the airplane, but provided much amusement for Jill, Liza and the mother of the little boy whose directional malfunction had treed the plane. Liza was heard to suggest tossing a bicycle which had been left on the playground. Eventually, we did manage to knock loose all the stuck balls, including the football. Deepening twilight caused us to suspend the search and rescue operation for the airplane.

The story ends well. Late next day, we got the following e-mail from Chris:

Search and rescue efforts were suspended July 7th after 10PM EDT when low light levels made attempts to even locate the downed aircraft difficult.

On July 8th, at 7:30 AM crews returned to the incident site. The aircraft was located, but it was determined that it was inaccessible given the resource constraints on crews at that point. However, it was determined that the aircraft was unlikely to shift to be in further jeopardy, as the surrounding foliage was acting to secure the aircraft against shifts due to any inclement weather.

On July 8th at 8:15PM, crews established that the aircraft was unmoved from its morning position, and returned to the site with elevation enhancement equipment [1], as well as reach extensors [2]. Careful movement of the aircraft using both pieces of gear resulted in the aircraft being freed of the entrapment of the foliage. Further movements caused the aircraft to come free and shift to a point [3] where recovery of the vehicle intact was possible, with only minor cosmetic damage.

Recovery equipment and the vehicle were returned to storage and maintenance, respectively. The vehicle was inspected and refueled, and engine run up tests were done. All systems appear to be fully functional. A flight test and return to service is expected after the flight crew returns to duty tomorrow from an off-site mission.

[1: wooden step ladder]
[2: twelve foot fly pole from tent]
[3: drop from the tree to the ground]

1 comment:

Madcat said...

Ack. The picture. It burns! It burns!