Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wills Wing Demo Daze

Thursday was blown out, but many of us attended a landing clinic sponsored by Wills Wing and conducted by Ryan Voight.  I was prepared for another repetition of traditional material but was surprised by how much I learned.  Ryan led a refreshing and non-confrontational discussion that kept drawing in more and more pilots.  Some of us continued discussing landings later that evening while enjoying a spaghetti dinner, drinks, and live music.  I even drifted off to sleep reviewing my landings and visualizing how I would change them using the new insights I picked up.

I talked with Ryan Friday morning as he recorded landings in the calm morning air.  I decided to chuck my responsibilities and take a short pattern tow to see how my technique looked on the screen.  Ryan spent the rest of the morning reviewing each landing in front of the class, prompting the group to provide most of the analysis.  I highly recommend his clinic for all pilots, especially those pilots like me that typically land far from the critical eyes of seasoned instructors.

Flying overhead in my new glider.  Photo by Steve Pearson.

I missed the afternoon soaring session picking up Amy at the airport.  Some pilots flew for 3 to 4 hours but most flew for about an hour.  Friday night we were treated to smoked turkey, plenty of drinks, and more live music.  I was beginning to wonder if I was a flight park that threw good parties, or a concert park that happened to offer flying.  ;-)

Chilling in the shade.

The forecast for Saturday looked good so just lots of people arrived early.  I wanted to land back at the Ranch in time for the dinner and party so I thought a trip to Sheets airport and back sounded about right.  Cliff and Roger hadn't flown that course before so we decided to make the trip together.  We launched early but I pinned off into a strong 600 fpm (3 m/s) climb to cloud base at 4200 feet (1280 m).  I immediately lost my team and a short while later heard Roger say he was on the ground.  Bummer.  I flew downwind looking for Cliff and came across Riker, who was sporting a long pink streamer attached to his keel; a gift from the launch crew.  He was pleading for someone to dive in and yank it off, but I told him it looked "cute".  Everyone, including Riker, enjoyed a good laugh at his expense.

I never did find Cliff, but assumed Roger would tow back up, so I pushed upwind looking for another climb to park in for awhile.  I plowed as far upwind as possible but couldn't find a climb.  I was forced retreat back to the ranch low, with my tail between my legs.  I found two little climbs at the edge of the field that only delayed my inevitable landing, but allowed me to watch a couple "scary" landings before coming in for a nice "no stepper".

I considered going back up, but wondered back to the tie-down line and folded up the glider.  Pilots continued soaring until the sea-breeze passed through, including a few from that flew in from up north.

Shortly after the sea breeze passed through.

As expected, Wills Wing and Wallaby Ranch rolled out the good stuff Saturday night.

Table centerpieces.

I gobbled up great barbecue, collard greens, beans, cole slaw, and topped it off with a long-time favorite, strawberry shortcake served up by Malcom's mom.  We were treated to a movie advocating the preservation of natural outdoor playgrounds, a stunning teaser for the movie "Dreaming Awake" presented by David Aldrich, and a photo history of Wills Wing.  Afterwards we danced, talked, and listened to music into the "wee hours" before collapsing for the night.

Sunday was breezy and the deluge started on Monday.  It has rained, rained, and rained.  Wading birds now wonder across the fields.  Ditches are full and spill onto the roads.  We even had tornadoes nearby that destroyed planes at Sun n' Fun.  Needless to say, I've had enough "liquid sunshine" for awhile.  Tomorrow, Friday, looks drier although windy.

Flights: 3, Duration:  0:52

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Beat the Wind

The wind was forecasted to increase during the day Wednesday so I tried to launch before it became too windy but after it became soar-able.  I also wanted to test some minor tuning I made to the new glider.  The staff at Wallaby Ranch were busy launching pilots test flying Wills Wing demo gliders all morning.  Once I saw pilots "almost soaring" I pushed out to the launch line.  I had a nice full tow and pushed upwind to the southwest looking for a climb.  Although there was some air going up, the wind was shredding the lift making it virtually unusable.  I managed a couple 500 foot (150m) climbs but turned tail and retreated to the ranch.  I sparred with a fire-thermal in a nearby orchard but succumbed to gravity after a few minutes.

Launching was suspended a bit later as tug pilots reported having trouble "keeping things under control" in the increasing wind.  I was happy I didn't delay any longer.

I spent the afternoon playing around the ranch.  One pilot, Bob, brought a "chopped down" glider he uses as a model to demonstrate how hang gliding works.  Very nice.

The "Captain" with the glider model

Two AirCams dropped in for a vist.

The ranch cooked pizzas for everyone in the neat looking oven after the sun went down.

We enjoyed great food, drink, friends, conversation, and music from two artists, one wielding a guitar and then later another playing traditional native-peoples' flutes and drums.  It was hard to image life getting any better.

Flights: 1, Duration: 0:15

Righteous Pound

I writing this sitting in the warm shade at Wallaby Ranch at the Wills Wing Demo Daze.  I drove the 1320 miles (2124 km) to Florida from Massachusetts on Sunday in near record time thanks to light traffic, absent construction workers, and good weather.  The full moon was my companion as I left at 4am.  I watched the sun rise over New York City hours later, and greeted the moon again as I entered Florida.

New York City at sunrise

I voluntarily grounded myself on Monday as I rested and caught up with old friends.  I awoke on Tuesday morning to the sound of balloons drifting over my tent.

After watch the morning tows, I unwrapped my very sweet looking new T2C.  After fondling my new toy, I suited up and pushed out for my our first flight together.  The wind was light and highly variable.  The tow started out OK but I broke my one-year-old weak link around 500 feet (150 m).  (I know, I should have replaced it even though it looked fine).  I swung around the complex and setup to land near were we were launching.  I was slow and wobbly during final and ended high, slow, and in a right turn  with a crossing downwind when it was time to flare.  Yep.  Massive righteous pounding whack on our maiden voyage together.  Amazingly both the glider and I were unharmed; well at least not physically.  ;-)

After checking everything out, talking with bystanders about what they saw happen, and installing a new weak link, I hopped back into the cart for another go.  I pinned off at 1000 feet (300 m) in a strong climb and corkscrewed to cloud base.  I spent the next 3.5+ hours getting to know the new glider.  (It flies as nice as it looks, by the way).

Wallaby Ranch (upper center field below metal buildings)

I stayed tethered to Wallaby Ranch, but was still able to cover a wide area since cloud base was over 6000 feet (1820 m).  I even shared a climb with Richard who was flying his "inverse-colored" twin of my glider.  I managed to hang on after all the clouds dried up and even enjoyed a super smooth weak orange-blossom thermal to the top floor before slowly gliding home in flat air.  My second landing was immensely better than the first, but still had room for improvement as I had to "run it out".

I enjoyed dinner and flying conversation at a local pub with friends before crawling into my tent refreshingly exhausted.

Flights: 2, Duration: 3:43

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


My new glider has left the nest at Wills Wing.

Steve Pearson with my new T2C 144.  Photo by Mike Meier.

The new undersurface sail pattern was designed by Owen Morse.  I'm excited to see how it looks in person through the semi-transparent upper-surface.

The glider and I will rendezvous in Florida next week.  I'm counting down the days.  :-)

Monday, March 14, 2011


Had my first flight of 2011 last Wednesday on the dunes at Cape Cod.  Since I'm temporarily glider-less, Randy kindly offered the use of his old glider, a Wills Wing Ultrasport 147.  I used to fly an Ultrasport many years ago.  In fact, I used to fly that very glider.  I bought the glider in 1997, 14 years ago, sold the glider to Ken, who sold it to Brian, who later sold it to Randy.

I met Randy at 5am so we could take advantage of the morning low tide after a 2.5 hour to Wellfleet Massachusetts.  Keith, Matt, and JJ were already there when we arrived and were soon playing in the near-perfect soaring conditions.  (It was blowing almost straight-in at 20-25 mph (32-40 kph) but the temperature was only 37F (3C)).

Randy and I usually rig quickly, but both had "issues".  I took time getting reacquainted with an old friend with a king-post.  I also found a zipper that wouldn't close and struggled 30 minutes trying to re-thread it with my frozen hands.  Meanwhile Randy couldn't squeeze into his new-to-him harness.  During the time it took us to get ready, John arrived, rigged, and launched and Keith and Matt flew and landed.

We finally got everything sorted out and were ready to go.  I helped Randy launch and then stepped into the air with the help of an RC pilot and a paraglider pilot.  My old friend flew well with the exception of being trimmed too slow, which meant I had to keep pressure on the controls to keep it from stalling.

JJ, John, Randy and I played on the high dunes north of launch before jumping across the first challenging gap.  JJ stayed behind while John, Randy, and I continued north the lighthouse about 9 miles (14 km) away.  On the way there we spotted a seal that had bled-out on the beach, probably the victim of a shark attack.  Hawks and hundreds of seagulls joined us in the air.

JJ and John



The shoreline along the outer cape recedes to the northwest, so we started with a bit of headwind on launch but had a bit of tailwind by the time we reached the northern lighthouse.  That become very obvious when we swung around for the return trip.  However, the velocity and direction easily provided enough lift to cross the sketchy sections.

Mud flowing onto the beach

We also kept an eye on the shrinking beach since the tide was coming in.

Once back south, we saw JJ had landed near an easily accessible parking lot.  I decided to join him but first wanted to soar the tiny dunes.  However I forgot about the glider stalling easily and lost too much altitude when I made a quick turn at the southern end.  Oh well.  I had a soft landing close to an easy exit spot.

JJ walked back to get his car while I de-rigged.  I got some video of John and then Randy landing a short time later.


While John and Randy de-rigged JJ gave me a lift back to the car.  We briefly stopped at the Beachcomber restaurant to see how John M did on his flight before returning to launch.

It was a fun late-winter day and a good start to a new season.

Update:  JJ wrote about the day on his blog.
Update:  Reporters from CapeCast produced this video.

Flights: 1, Duration: 2:00, Distance: 17 miles