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  • Steve

RV-8 and the Sourdough Fire

Saturday 8/12/23 was the beginning of a warming trend, but was still bringing acceptable temperatures. Gone was the the thick smoke from last week and we enjoyed mostly clear skies. I was once again on my own and decided that I would go a take a look at the Sourdough Fire burning east of Mt. Baker.

The other purpose of the flight was to test out my new DJI Action 4 camera. I have had a number of problems with all of the GoPros that I have used going back to the Hero 3. Most of the problems are continuous throughout the series. The biggest ones for me are the pitiful battery life and the fact that they have a tendency to stop recording at random intervals for no apparent reason. These were the main things I was trying to fix.

I do like the image stabilization on the GoPro 10, but don't like the fact that it won't record the turns smoothly, there is always some chatter in it, even with the horizon leveling feature turned off. For the recording linked below I used the lowest image stabilization setting on the Action 4, Rock Steady. They also have a Rock Steady + and a Rock Steady + with horizon leveling. In this case, the Rock Steady just wasn't quite enough. While it was somewhat stabilized, it did still jitter around a little bit. I will try the Rock Steady + next time.

Part of the issue may be that the mounting system on the Action 4 is a little less robust. In fact, I was concerned about using it at first because they talk about it being a magnetic mount and I didn't think that would be solid enough. It turns out, that there are these little latches that attach to the camera frame, over and above the magnet and when properly installed, it is a quite solid attachment. I couldn't get it to break free just pulling and pushing on it until the release buttons were pressed.

DJI quick release adapter.
Camera receptacle.

Once the adapter is mounted, it uses all standard GoPro style mounting systems. The adapter is plastic, but a pretty solid plastic. That being the case, it is a little less rigid than the GoPro which was mounted in an aluminum cage. Maybe in the near future Sandmarc or someone will come out with a version of the adapter in aluminum. Or an aluminum cage to mount the camera in, which will give me better rigidity.

In this case, I mounted the Action 4 under the wing and the GoPro Hero 10 that was under the wing behind the seat.

Seat back mount.

I took off heading north about 12:45. I didn't get very far north before the smoke layer became pretty obvious.

Smoke layer appears to be above the cloud layer.

I proceeded towards Mt. Baker, but didn't want to fly all the way around it this time because the winds at that altitude were a lot stiffer than last weekend. The forecast winds at 9,000' at that time were supposed to be from 329 @ 30 knots. I got some buffeting on the southeast side, so the wind was probably from a little more west of north than forecast. I still managed to get some good pictures though.

Pretty clear view of Mt. Baker.

From Mt. Baker I flew over the Mt. Baker ski area and was surprised at how many people were there. The place was packed. It is evidently as popular in the summer as in the winter, though for different activities.

From there I flew over to the peak that I call Spike for its resemblance to the evil critter from the movie "Gremlins". Those not so whimsically inclined tend to use it's given name, Mt. Shuksan.

Spike doesn't look quite the same without his snow cap on.

From Mt. Shuksan I headed toward the fire. The TFR around the fire has a five mile radius and extends up to 11,500'. There were at least 2 airplanes visible on ADS-B that appeared to be working the fire, so I didn't want to get too close therefore I circumnavigated the TFR. I started off at 9,500' but soon climbed to 11,500' for cloud clearance. Technically I could fly over the TFR above 11,500', but with those airplanes in there I didn't want to press it, so I didn't get the best pictures of the fire, but even from 5 miles and 11,500' away it was pretty obvious where it was.

I couldn't see much at all from the north side due to the smoke, but once I got to the south side it was much easier to see. The fire line went all the way up this one mountain, that is apparently called Sourdough Mountain. At the bottom it was pretty close to one of the dams at the south end of Ross Lake and apparently was, for a while, threatening a power generation station there that supplies something like 25% of the power to Seattle. Fortunately, it didn't damage the station.

The fire goes a long way up the mountain.

From there I went back to Mt. Baker to make a video pass from the windward side and then followed Baker Lake to Lake Shannon and then to Concrete. At Concrete I took a left and headed to Glacier peak.

Glacier Peak.

From Glacier Peak I followed the valley past Darrington and back out to Arlington. It took a while to descend so I ended up going out over Pt. Susan to lose altitude.

When I was 10 miles out I tuned in the AWOS to hear the weather and it was calling the wind 270 @ 10 knots. I figured that wasn't too bad so I was planning to land on runway 34. While I was over Pt. Susan, I listened again and they were now calling it 280 @ 11-17 knots. I was a little concerned with catching one of those 17 knot gusts just as I was touching down, so I changed my mind and planned to land on runway 29.

The battery had died in the GoPro 10 behind the seat before I got back to the airport. With where it is mounted, I'm not sure I can change the battery in flight, but I guess I am going to have to try.

The approach and landing went well, other than the fact that it was pretty bumpy down low. I pulled off a decent landing, but again, that doesn't really count because I cheated and used the easy runway.

Using runway 29 also makes for a really long taxi to the gas pumps. I was surprised to see that, for the second time today, when I got the pumps there was no one else around.

I got my gas and headed back to the hangar. After I shut down and was about to get out of the airplane, a big wind pummeled the airplane. It was bad enough that I had a hard time getting out of the airplane without the flight controls banging around. I called the AWOS again and they were calling it 280 @ 14-18 knots.

Fortunately I keep a bungee cord in the airplane that I use to hold the stick back when I have to park outside. It was a little tricky but I was able to get the stick secure by running the bungee from one of the holes in the left gear tower, wrapped several times around the stick and to a hole in the right gear tower. This makes it hard to get out, but keeps the controls from banging against the stops.

It was a pleasant flight and I'm glad I was able to go.

The track log can be seen here.

All of the photos I took can be seen here.

The video can be seen here.

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