Friday, June 11, 2010

Smoke Wind Indicators

My absolute favorite wind indicator of all the choices out there, when wind is so slight as to be practically nonexistent, are these tiny, inexpensive, smoke bombs. These little guys are available in pretty much every roadside fireworks emporium in every State.

You simply light the fuse, and toss one in front of you, and they’ll indicate even the lightest breeze, which is a big help for virtually nil-wind launches. They give off a streamer of variously coloured smoke that lasts about 10 seconds. Then, if picking up the shell later on isn't practical, being made of cardboard and clay, they'll just biodegrade.

I cut an inch of excess cardboard off the bottom of the things to reduce their length so that they will fit neatly in a dollar-store AA battery case. Then I spot glued a pair of wooden, strike-anywhere matches to the side of each one, along with a bit of sandpaper/match-striking material as well. (My experience with strike anywhere matches, is that they strike almost NOWHERE effectively, except on the sandpaper striking surface on the side of the box that they came in.)

These pull-pin smoke grenades, are harder to find, (try ebay) but score very high in terms of fun factor. They don’t require matches to ignite, so I carry one in the air with me, to drop on a potential LZ if other wind indicators are not readily apparent. These grenades smoke for about thirty seconds, which should give a pilot enough time to orient a landing.
I've twice had to land some distance from my planned LZ, and both times I had no clue as to the wind direction. Fortunately, the wind was light, and I was able to safely run out my landings, but had I guessed wrong, or had they been days with significantly higher winds, coming in downwind might have led to a serious mishap.
These smokers come pre-wrapped in cellophane, but for ease of use in the air, I keep one pre-unwrapped, and with its pull-pin taped to the plastic with fabric gaffer's (similar to duct tape), so its ready to go.
I saw them here recently online for $4.95:

I find that they fit nicely in a Y2K era cell phone case that I keep clipped to my motor harness so it's always handy, and it will be handy if I ever need it.

Or try a Military surplus Flashbang pouch like this one, $4.95 from eBay seller Defence Acquisitions.

'Kaboom Fireworks' stores in Toronto have recently reduced the price on these pull-pin (no match necessary) grenades, marked down to $11.95. Like most fireworks, smoke bombs are more expensive in Canada than in the US, but at least people in Ontario can get a hold of a pull-pin smoker for a fairly low cost, and from a local source. These guys kick out smoke for a full 180 seconds, but are about the same size as the plastic pineapple encased ones above.

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