Saturday, March 18, 2017

No Drama

I was nervous getting ready to fly today at Quest Air since I had not aero-towed or thermal-soared my hang glider since early last summer.  It didn't help that the crystal clear blue skies meant the air would feature squirrelly high-pressure thermals and unpredictable landing winds.  I loaded the task Davis designed for the day, although I was certain a drama-free day of safely flying and landing back at the field would be good enough.  I had lots of help getting ready from pilots lingering around such as Michelle and Heather.  Thanks!


The wind was light west (90 cross) when we started queueing up on the north end of the runway.  Larry, Sara, and maybe a couple more launched before it became strong enough and then tailing enough to pause towing.  Johnny said he would take one more advanced pilot if they wanted to "give it a go".  I passed since a moderate tailing crosswind launch didn't fit my plans for a no-drama day!  Davis, who was in line behind me, sized up the situation and said he would go and stepped into the launch box.  Luck was on his side as the wind dropped to almost nothing by the time he was hooked up and Johnny was ready to go.  Less than a minute later the wind returned and I accepted a cart tow from Zhenya to the east runway.

Although other gliders were already there, I was nominated to go first.  Thanks.  Spinner hooked the line to Joel into my tow bridal and I started moving uphill.  I quickly discovered that I didn't have a good grip on the base-bar with my new gloves and I was very rusty!  Joel tolerated the squid on the other end of the line as I slowly remembered what to do and settled down.

The air was a little punchy but not bad.  I quickly found a climb and was with Davis and John later when they took off on course line to the south.  I briefly considered joining them but decided to stick with my no-drama plan.  I slowly became one with the glider again and was easily staying upwind of the field and climbing to the inversion around 5500 feet (1675 meters).  There were several very large flocks of white birds migrating northward that were very picturesque to watch from above.

A little after two hours in the air, my flight computer starting beeping and said the battery levels were critically low.  Seconds later, it quit being a flight computer, quickly saved the track log, and then shutdown.  Great.  I tried to restart it, but it was dead.  (I charged the batteries before leaving home on Thursday so it should have lasted all day.  I found out this evening that one of the rechargeable batteries failed.  I hope a simple replacement fixes the problem.)

I soar at the beach and along mountain ridges without a variometer, but never before in the flats.  I did ok when relatively low, but was nearly clueless when I got high since it is harder to detect angle changes as you get higher.  It was a fun challenge and I thermal-soared for another two hours and reached the inversion layer a couple times before coming in for a much needed bathroom break.  I wrapped up my no-drama flight plan with a nice landing close to where I left the ground earlier.  Jeremy brought a cart out (thanks!) and kept me company as I walked back to the tie-downs.

It wasn't an epic day; no-drama was just fine with me.

I apologize for the lack of pictures.  I turned the camera off as we switched launch positions and forgot to turn it back on once there.

Flights: 1, Duration: 3:58

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Afternoon break

I'm slowly progressing towards my novice paragliding rating at Morningside Flight Park.  Mid-day is too turbulent for newbies like me so I setup my hang glider for an afternoon break after flying the paraglider on the hill in the morning.

Although I started rigging after everyone else, I was the first to get in line after the first signs of thermal activity broke the hot, humid, and stable morning.  The developing clouds slowly drifting from the northwest matched the trickling wind on the ground.  However once Eric and I were in place and ready to go, the wind turned to a solid southwest quartering tailwind.  Sigh.  Ilya signaled Eric to cut the engine and we waited.

Ilya

Just as everyone was suggesting we turn around the wind faded away and I had Eric fire up the engine and go.  I should have waited a bit longer.  The roll-out was fine but we slammed into a strong rowdy thermal just as we flew past the trees along the road.  I was all over the place and very much did not want to lose the tow and have to land in that crap.  Very unusual for the field at Morningside.  Eric and I entertained the crowd on the ground as we both danced through the rough air.  Luckily it was sane on the other side and the rest of the tow was uneventful.

I found a good line of lift just south of Claremont.  I climbed to the southeast and would fly upwind to the northwest and snag another.


When I saw Eric drop Jon off south of the airport, I flew over to join him.  Jake was coming in from Ascutney at the same time.

Jon climbing lower left, Jake approaching from Ascutney

Jon gave up on the climb and decided to look for lift low behind Home Depot.  ;-)  Jake and I shared a climb but I certainly confused him when I returned to the valley instead of continuing on with him! A short while later I spotted Jeff B gliding over Green Mountain north of town.  (All three continued flying to the east.)


I decided to explore the area over Morningside and climbed out watching PG pilots kiting in the LZ below.



I pushed upwind after that climb and didn't really find anything.  Not sure what to do next, I noticed Peter J, who flew in from Ascutney, climbing near the LZ.

Peter (small white spot left)

I flew over to join him but instead knocked him out of the thermal even after "swinging wide" to allow him to climb above me before entering.  I flew into a strong surge on my first circle and didn't quite exactly match his circle.






Here is the video,

Sorry Peter.

I had a couple more climbs then it was time to land.



Apparently I wasn't done with my bone-headed moves for the day either.  I was so worried about the switching winds on the surface that I had a lazy landing with minimal round-out and too little speed.  The universe reminded me of my errors with a resounding whack.  That is twice in the last three flights.  Time to focus and not get too comfortable, and lazy, landing at familiar LZs.

I packed up my hang glider and then had eight sweet flights in the evening glass off on the paraglider.

Flights: 1, Duration: 1:28

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Quick Trip

Amy and I drove north to Mount Ascutney after spending part of the Independence Day holiday weekend around home.  Pilots were gathering at the base of the mountain when we arrived.  Since Amy could drive a vehicle back down, we loaded our car and headed up.  The hike out didn't get any shorter over the winter, but I arrived first and got my choice of setup spots.



We rigged, talked, explored the old southwest launch, and Jake held a short "introduction to the mountain" class for pilots with little or no experience flying Ascutney.

It made sense to wait until the thermals were robust and well formed.  However there was a counter push to launch early since the winds were forecasted to become westerly and a west wind is not desirable for launching.

Time to launch?

Nick moved to launch first but backed down after Jake convinced him he might end up with a sledder.  About an hour later Nick moved back to launch.  Jon followed and both got up.  I was next in line.  Although soaring, both had dipped their wings to the west on their way off launch.  Since this was my first foot launch of the year, I wanted a breeze that was mostly blowing in, not the strong cross being offered.  After 10 minutes I backed down.  Mike went up and launched a few minutes later.  Jake and Jeff quickly launched after him.  I moved back to launch, found good conditions and ran off into a climb with a good clean launch.  I was glad I waited.



I had one short climb over the mountain and followed Jeff and Jake to the west under a line of clouds.  We gave up after finding nothing and returned to the mountain.



I found a reasonable climb and was joined by Dave and Jon for awhile.  They returned to the front as I continued to climb to a newly forming wispy.  I thought about re-joining the gang out front, but when I saw them all banging around ridge height, I decided to leave and search elsewhere.

They hazy sky didn't look good and guess what?  It wasn't!  I found bits and pieces of lift but nothing that would entice me to head off for a long XC.  I quickly decided to head to Morningside and show the gang my new glider that included a Morningside logo.



I had a mostly smooth glide over and a sweet spot landing on the runway.




Photo by Amy Lanning

About an hour later Jake came cruising in, followed by Ilya, Jeff B, Jon A, Peter C, and probably a couple more.  The hero of the day was Dave P who had his first XC from Ascutney to Morningside.  Congratulations!

Ilya, Dave P, and Dave B

I wish the flight was much longer, both in distance and time, but it was still nice foot launching and flying at a green mountain again.


Here is a short video of the flight,

Max wrote about his flight on his blog.  Here is another perspective on the day,


Flights: 1, Duration: 0:35, Distance: 9.6 miles

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Opening Day

Lee and Peter met Jeff and I at my place for the relatively short drive to Hang Glide New England in central Massachusetts.  Although I have been flying a lot, today was my first flight this year in New England.  Also, it was the first time several months that I wasn't racing XC.

Rhett dropped me off in a weak, but consistent, climb to the south and I stayed relatively high for the next couple hours.  I shared several climbs with Peter J and Max.  A mature bald eagle climbed with us; at times coming in real close.

Max

Max and his new green machine

I played over the hills to the east until Lee mentioned he had a good climb just north of the field.


A bit later, Anna, rocking her new glider, joined the climb and I got to see what her glider looks like in the air.  Sweet.

Anna

Anna

Anna

Anna, Matt, and I shared a lazy climb to the south of the field before Anna left to prepare for tandem flights.

Matt

I slowly drifted downward towards a landing when I spotted Max at the same altitude preparing to land.  I quickly dove in to give him more room and ended up on final a bit too high with a tailwind and whacked onto the asphalt.  Ouch.  I ended up scuffing my knee and my once-shiney new glider.  Sigh.  Not the way I wanted to end my first flight back at home.

Max wrote about the day on his blog.

Flights: 1, Duration: 2:32

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Pull the Plug

Davis, Richard, and I originally planned to fly to Arcadia.  However, as the day progressed we changed the task to Fantasy of Flight and back.

I was the first off and Mark dropped me into a strong climb that I rode to base.  Malcolm, Richard, and Davis weren't so lucky and had to piece together several weaker climbs to get up.  I waited around so we could leave together.

We started south but Davis pointed out several large cells to the east that were dumping copious amounts of rain.  The cells were building to the west, but, as we found out later, were mostly moving to the south.  We had to make a quick call and decided to return to the field before things got potentially messy.

I had a good landing and had my glider mostly packed up before the gust front swept across the field.

(No pictures today since I am preparing for the upcoming competition.)

Flights: 1, Duration: 1:11