Sunday, July 21, 2013


My flight on July 21 was the first since my "failure to aviate" a month earlier.  Several pilots offered gliders, but I took up Jeff Curtis' offer since he lives fairly close and he offered up a Falcon, which is a light single-surface glider.  A light glider was important since everyone was heading to Mount Ascutney, the flying site with a long hike to the cliff launch.  Although I was a little concerned about launching with my healing injuries, my biggest concern was just being able to hike my harness and glider to launch.  I considered the day a major success when I arrived at launch still standing!

Several pilots were taking their first flights from the mountain.  Unfortunately, those pilots and a few others were relegated to extended sledders.

Jake Pierce offering advice to David Park and Ilya Rivkin

Green was my color for the day.  Thanks Jeff!

It was soon my turn to launch.  I felt surprisingly confident, but was moved when Jake, and a few others still on launch, took time to ensure that I and everything else was ready for the "first launch" after the accident.  Although the wind was predominately crossing from the left, I waited for the right conditions and cleanly launched.

Like the pilots before me, I slowly slid down the mountainside, briefly rising in bubbles of warm air.

I finally found a small, but workable, thermal that lifted me back above launch.

I bounced up and down along the top of the mountain with a few other pilots before finally sliding back down the mountain to a climb that I shared with Jake.

It was great to be in the air again with friends, especially when the climbs led to cloud base.

... and above

I quickly remembered why I put up with the extra weight of the T2C on the hikes to launch; glide performance.  The wind was strong enough at base that I couldn't make forward progress to the LZ if I stopped for climbs under 350 fpm (1.7 m/s).  It was a fun game "pushing upwind" in a Falcon.

Although Jake and Jeff Bernard took off towards Morningside, I continued my upwind treks and landed in front of the mountain with Jeff Curtis.  It was good to be back in the air and I rekindled my love of falconry.

Here are some clips from the flight,

Flights: 1, Duration: 1:06

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Failure to Aviate

I planned to attack a backlog of chores on Saturday June 15 since the wind looked too strong for flying.  Amy wanted to leave the house for the day, so after I quickly finished the most pressing tasks we decided to spend the day with Jeff, Lee, and Peter at Morningside.  We met at the park-and-ride parking lot near the Massachusetts - New Hampshire border and piled into Lee's vehicle.

The shaking trees in Newport, less than 20 miles (30 km) from Morningside, confirmed my concerns about the wind.  I was stunned to see limp wind socks when we pulled into Morningside.  I "double-checked" everything and indeed it looked calm.  I moved my hang point one notch forward, setup, and prepared take a quick flight before the day burst open.

Jeff finished rigging before me and took a sledder.  "How was launch?"  He replied, "light tailwind, but mostly calm".  Sounded good enough to check out the new glider configuration.

It was wafting over-the-back (opposite the wind above) when I arrived at launch.  I looked around and didn't see any other signs of wind in the LZ or along the ridge.  No problem; I'll wait.  There were brief lulls, but I've given up tailwind launches since moving to a smaller glider (Wills Wing T2C 136).  I was tempted by a couple longer lulls, but really wanted to see something coming in or at least a sustained period of no wind.

Patience paid off.  I watched the light tailwind subside and waited about 20 seconds with no activity before deciding to launch.  I have been trying to stretch my strides during the launch run, so I devoted some attention to that as I ran down the concrete ramp.  I knew things were not ideal when I reached the end with the glider still riding on my arms.  I powered forward with a strong kick as I felt the edge of the ramp under foot.  At this point I expected to dive away, gain airspeed, and buzz the trees below.  However, that didn't happen.

My first thought was the glider was folding up; I must have forgotten to attach the haul-back.  There was no pressure from the control frame; the glider wasn't flying or even dragging through the air.  The glider and I were falling as if I ran off the launch with the glider still folded in the bag.  I hit the ground (and a large rock) 80 feet (25 meters) below.  I hit hard.

I've had my share of abrupt stops.  Falling out of trees, falling off bikes at high speed onto asphalt, falling off buildings, crashing dirt bikes after failing to jump the last vehicle, spreading equipment and blood on poorly executed ski jumps, slamming head first into a wall on skates, and other shenanigans that I promised I would never divulge.  All those previous stops hurt, (at least I assume they did since I can't remember a couple), but this one was epic.  Immediately after impact I expected broken body parts; possibly broken legs and a messed up neck.  I knew the drill so I carefully inventoried body parts before moving.  Although hurting, everything seem to function.

I wiggled out from beneath the wreckage.  A breeze now blew into the hill and I had to rotate the glider around to keep it from flipping in the wind.  I walked a few yards up the slope and waved to the people below so they would know I was ok.  I found out later nobody saw the crash or me waving.  Only when I walked the glider back to the top did onlookers start questioning what happened.

Eric and a few others helped me finish carrying the glider up and over the top to a shady, but poison-ivy covered, spot out of the way.  The injuries were swelling, so after cleaning the blood from my face, Eric drove the ATV down with me standing on the back.  We had a good laugh when we rounded the lower bend and I exclaimed when seeing my old glider with the same sail pattern, "Oh, it was just a bad dream.  There's my glider in perfect shape!"

Amy drove Lee's SUV into town to get some ice while I more closely inspected my wounds.  I needed a lot of ice.  :-(

4-bagger!  (Photo by Lee Minardi)

Amy drove me back to launch and helped pack the glider.  I searched for, and found a GPS that was tossed from the impact zone.  While I was there, I captured a sequence of how launches are supposed to happen.

I waddled around the flight park for the rest of the day before joining a large group for dinner and then an uncomfortable ride home.  To make matters worse, it turned out to be a good flying day.  Jon flew from Morningside to the coast, about 90 miles (145 km) away.  I got to look at pictures and track logs as I waited in doctor's offices the following Monday and Tuesday.  Sigh.

I have spent many hours trying to understand what happened so I can avoid doing that again.

Launch upper right, landing 1/3 from right edge along the bottom (Photo by David Park)

First, the objective observations.  I landed directly below launch.  The keel of the glider was pointing about 20 degrees to the left of the intended course line (e.g., inline with launch).  Speaking of the keel, the front of the keel was smashed and peeled open.  Both leading edges were damaged at the nose but the nose plates were not.  The left rear and forward leading edges where sheared by the retaining bolt, i.e., the former small hole was now several inches (~7 cm) long.  Both down tubes (uprights) were severely bent but the base bar was fine.  Aside from a tiny rip in the sail where the nose batten pushed out the rear of its pocket, there was no damage or even scuffs to the sail.

The helmet visor was deeply scratched and the front inner lining crushed.  I had a matching bruise, abrasion, and bleeding above the bridge of my nose that matched the indent in the helmet liner.  I had sharp pain in my left wrist when moved.  (Later diagnosed as permanently damaged cartilage).  I had a bruised and swelling left elbow.  (Subsided in about a week).  I had an extensive bruise and surface abrasion above the knee on my right leg that quickly swelled and was painful.  (Swelling and damage was extensive enough that it created a compartment of dead muscle across the top my leg that has not regrown and probably never will).  The most painful injury was to my left knee.  It burned and quickly swelled but seemed to function properly.  (Orthopedist confirmed knee was sound, but suspected a destroyed or damaged bursa that cushions the knee.  A few days later, the knee was grotesquely swollen and I had a large pail of fluid drained.  The pain slowly subsided over several months).  Although not painful, the most concerning injury were the flashes of light in my left eye whenever I quickly shifted my view.  (Ophthalmologist said the sac that contains the fluid in the eye had pulled from the retina, but that the retina itself was not torn.  Predicted flashes would fade in a month, but it was more than six months).

I'm fairly certain the damage to my legs were from hitting the narrow back side of the carbon airfoil base bar.  It also seems reasonable to assume that the nose of the glider struck the ground with gusto.  There are at least three scenarios of what parts hit what and when, but I don't have enough information or knowlege to solve that part of the mystery.  I'm just glad the damage to me wasn't worse; it easily could have been.

Aside from the unusual calm wind in the valley on a breezy day around noon on a summer day, the tandem pilot Mark encountered unusually strong and widespread lift on the other side of the valley at roughly the same time I attempted to launch.  Also at that time another pilot was dealing with an 'interesting' landing caused by unexpected turbulence.

I successfully launched that particular glider in nil wind from that launch a few weeks earlier in front of a crowd of critical observers.  They offered no suggested improvements even when asked.  So at least on one particular day I was able to acceptably launch that glider in no wind.

That's the end of the relatively objective information.  No one, aside from me, saw the failed launch.  Here is my recollection of what happened.  I know very well that personal recall, reconstruction, and interpretation is flawed, so treat it accordingly.

I believe the nose angle was correct, or at least not high.  I distinctly remember the glider still being on my arms as I ran off the ramp.  If the nose were too high I would have felt the drag of the glider and it would have probably lifted off my arms.

I had been told that my launch strides are too fast and short.  I did not interpret their comments as my launch was too slow but that my style is unconventional or that I might be able to run faster.  I had been slowing increasing my stride but this wasn't the first time I worked on that.  However, it might have influenced the launch.

I was attentive, but not nervous.  I carefully watched the signs of wind speed and direction.  I looked for "leading signs" of upcoming changes.  I have had many many flights off this launch in a wide variety of gliders and conditions.  I don't think I was complacent, but maybe I was.

I remember trying to pull-in and then moments later trying to push-out before impact and not feeling any resistance from the wing.  I have never felt that total "absence" of feedback before while launching.  The closest feeling is probably "going over the falls" at the downward edge of a strong thermal.

I knew even while taking my last step that the wing wasn't flying.  I remember trying to rotate the nose down but nothing aerodynamically happened.  I knew I was falling.

After way too much contemplating, I have reached an uneasy conclusion that 1) I had a smaller safety margin around my no-wind launches than I previously thought, and 2) I am not as good at reading local weather phenomenon as I previously thought.

I think a mass of air that baked all morning trapped under a low level shear layer finally lifted off as I waited at launch.  The rising air mixed and entrained the higher wind above and it curled down the backside of the thermal creating a large area of air flowing down the hill and into the valley.  The lull I chose to launch into was probably the downwash from the thermal.  (A minute or two later the wind was blowing in at 15 mph (24 kph) after being calm all morning).

I also think I needed to either not launch or get the glider going faster to maintain a safe airspeed buffer.  How much speed is really required and how much extra is needed to remain relatively safe?  That is a topic for a future post, but seeking the answer to this question has lead to many discussions, measurements, hypotheses, and testing.  Jeff Curtis has taken measurements of many of our local launches, JJ Cote has gathered measurements on sprinting speeds, and Steve Pearson suggested a model of the launch process that helps tease apart some answers.

One final word about this failure to aviate.  I'm a lifetime addict, so this mistake gets my attention but doesn't dampen my passion.  However, I have to admit, it has been hard to reconcile the hard fall to the ground with the deep faith that we will fly when running off a cliff with a glider.  It reminded me that I didn't always have that faith.  It lets me peer back in time to see hang-gliding as a non-pilot, which at one time, was me.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

The car was packed and ready for the East Coast Championship at Highland Aerosports last Saturday morning when a nasty flu struck without warning.  I watched my one chance for competition flying fade away as I suffered both physically and emotionally.  Since it was raining at Highland, I consoled myself by thinking I could leave the following morning and not miss anything.  I had the same depressing internal conversation again on Sunday and Monday morning.  Alas, it wasn't meant to be.

I started feeling a bit better by Tuesday evening so when Peter called on Wednesday morning I was ready for some consolation flying at Morningside Flight Park even if not fully recovered.

I almost sank out after releasing from tow before finding a climb at the end of the runway.  The climb was slow, but gave me plenty of time to keep an eye on Peter far above.

Peter (tiny spec near the center)

I also studied the weather system that soaked most of the eastern seaboard for several days pulling away to the east.

Peter was still waiting when I topped out and stayed behind as I headed upwind to the northwest for another long climb.

Morningside (lower center)

Claremont (from 1800 m / 6000 ft)

After flying around Claremont, I wondered back towards Morningside only to find that everyone else had landed.

As I slowly lost altitude gliding around, I hosted my own little pity party; whining to myself about how I just missed my only chance at a comp this year.  I glided off most of my altitude but didn't want to land just yet.  I found a tiny weak climb over Morningside (0.15 m/s, 30 fpm) that delayed the inevitable.  It was so buttery smooth, I rested by chin on the base bar for most of the climb.

The slow lazy climb gave me enough time to let go of my plans to race across the sky and enjoy the peaceful reflective day I was experiencing.  Such are the best laid plans of mice and men.

Flights: 1, Duration: 2:17

Sunday, May 19, 2013

That's Different

The weather forecast for Saturday was interesting.  High pressure was building over the Gulf of Maine and would be pushing a convergence line inland 60 miles (100 km) to the west by late afternoon.  Another convergence line would be pushing north 40 miles (65 km) from Long Island Sound.  The winds were predicted to be light, the lift strong, and the clouds high in the area along the Connecticut River valley between New Hampshire and Vermont.  Morningside Flight Park was right in the middle of all that goodness so it was an easy decision on where to start.  The tougher part was where to go.  East and south were dead ends.  The area to the north was predicted to over-develop, with clouds choking off the solar thermal generator.  The area to the west was predicted to be blue and more stable. Sounded like a day for triangles or short out-and-back trips.

I tossed on with Allen S and Randy at Randy's place around 8am.  John B and Jeff C left about an hour later.  After signing waivers and buying ride coupons, saying hello to Dave, Ilya, Kevin, Pat, and others, we searched for a board to support our carbon base-bars on the carts we use to haul gliders to the 450 foot launch (137 m).  All three of us rode up the hill looking for scrap lumber.  It was such a nice day, I decided to walk back down.

250 foot (76 m) launch

We decided to practice foot-launching and landing before heading across the road for aero-towing.  It wasn't soarable on the hill, but it was still blowing in slightly at times.  Allen launched while Dave was driving me up.  Randy was waiting on launch for a soarable cycle when we arrived.  I was on the verge of asking Randy to step aside when the wind started blowing in.  Randy launched and climbed a little before landing across the road with Allen.  Ilya, who was next in line to launch, suggested I go next.  Ok!  It was still blowing in but dying when I stepped onto launch.  I decided to wait for the next sign of soarable conditions; and wait I did.  We watched Pat launch behind Eric in the tug across the road.  A crowd started to collect in the shade under my glider.  We watched fluffy seeds slowly drift up, down, across, and over the back.  The sky looked good so I decided to abort my attempt at soaring the hill and took my no-wind-launch sledder to the runway like a man.  (I later heard that John waited almost an hour on launch before walking down with his glider.  He noticed it was blowing in when passing the 250 launch and ran off there!  Jeff spent the afternoon perfecting spot landings.)

I helped Pat relaunch as Randy landed after a short flight off tow.  Um, not encouraging.  I had an uneventful and unpromising tow behind Eric.  I released and immediately headed west to a disturbance on the river presumably caused by a thermal lifting off.  I found a very weak climb, hugged it tightly, and slowly climbed up and away.

Morningside (lower-left center)

The day's weather continued to intrigue me.  Climbs below 3000 feet (900 m) were weak to non-existent.  Climbs between 3000 and 5000 feet (1500 m) were wire-twanging turbulent.  (My instrument pod pounded onto my helmet on one violent weightless snap).  Above 7000 feet (2100 m) the air was frigid and the climbs ballistic.  Large areas of cumulus would develop, shade the ground, dry out to blue, and then start over.  It was important to keep moving around to avoid the localized overdevelopment and crushing sink that followed the collapses.

My afternoon was dominated by a rookie mistake of leaving winter gloves in the harness and wearing spring gloves with heat packs instead.  I don't like cold and it was freezing; literally. Whenever high, I would loose feeling in my fingers and eventually the ability to move them.  The line from my water bladder froze solid and didn't thaw until I landed.  This meant I needed long glides into the blue so I could get below 5000 feet (1500 m) and into warmer air.  Even so, I was having a great flight.

I shared a climb with Pat and then a climb with John A, who launched with Jake from Mount Ascutney.  John headed west towards the Springfield airport while I headed towards Mount Ascutney.  I had to turn around when a collapsing large cloud complex caught me.  My vario was pegged in the sink.  Yikes!

Connecticut River (looking south)

Connecticut River (looking north towards Mount Ascutney)

I was more careful the next time and flew directly over the launch that Jake and John used about an hour earlier.  I then flew to the Springfield Airport and briefly considered flying to Ludlow before turning southeast to the town of Springfield and then back to Morningside for a 39 mile (63km) triangle.

Springfield Airport

Springfield, Vermont

I returned to Morningside and shared a climb with Randy and then Pat before heading west to complete another smaller 22 mile (35 km) triangle.

East of Morningside


The cold was finally winning out, so I started gliding in the blue to keep warm even as I passed John B climbing as I returned to Morningside the second time.

Claremont Airport

I spent the long time needed to glide off 9200 feet (2800 m) to enjoy the scenery, experiment with the glider, and warm up.  I was glad I decided to call-it-a-day when I watched the wind mills in Lempster slow to a stop, turn 180 degrees, and slowly start turning again; a sure sign the shift to the strong easterly wind was getting near.

I was all set for a spot landing when Dave and I decided to use the LZ at the same time.  The look on his face when he first saw me also turning onto final was precious!  We both maneuvered to good safe landings, but neither close to the bulls eye.

Everyone, aside from Randy, landed back at Morningside.  He flew east and then south as he overflew the convergence line and landed into an east wind about 30 miles (48 km) away at the airfield in Hillsboro.  Allen and I packed up, drove to Hillsboro to pick up Randy, had some ice cream to hold us over until we had dinner in Peterborough.

If I had wore winter gloves I might have tried for a larger triangle, maybe across the Green Mountains to Rutland Vermont and back.  Even so, I manage 61 miles of XC and 3+ hours on a unique flying day in New England.

Flights: 2, Duration: 3:17, Distance: 39 miles, 22 miles

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Not Going Down Without a Fight

I planned to meet Allen and Randy at 8am for a trip to Mount Equinox.  However, a quick check of the weather around 6am showed the winds were going to be SW instead of the required SE.  After a telephone conversation with Peter, I decided to join him and Jeff for a trip to our club's launch in West Rutland, Vermont instead.  Allen and Randy also decided to skip Mount Equinox and go practice take-offs and landings at Morningside.  JJ decided to fly at West Rutland but skipped the car pool for the ~3 hour drive.

We caught up with Allen, JJ, and Randy on Route 12 north of Keene, New Hampshire.  We knew Allen and Randy changed their minds when Allen turned to cross the Connecticut River south of Walpole, NH instead of continuing north to Morningside.

It was blowing straight in when we arrived at launch and continued to come in nicely as we rigged.  More and more of the regulars walked in as we prepared for a pleasant day of spring flying.

Calef launched with his paraglider first and got above launch but slowly sank out.  No big deal I thought, the day just wasn't ripe yet.  However the day started changing, and not for the better.

Photo by Krassi

No one wanted to launch.  Why not?

Photo by Krassi

Look at the windsock!  The wind shifted to the SE, which was mostly over-the-back.  PK, shown above, finally got into the air with an invigorating and gasp-inducing launch.  He was losing his battle with gravity until he found a climb near the LZ.  The next act on the roster was Randy.  His launch was good, but still exciting.  Even more exciting was his climb-out after following John's time-tested advice to dash around the southern edge of the ridge line.  Pilots cheered as he circled over our heads, vario beeping loudly.  Krassi was next.  He had a solid launch but slowly sank to the LZ.

I was next.  I had reasonably good launch conditions and was airborne without any drama.  Like Randy, I dove around the spine to the left of launch.  Unlike Randy, I was unceremoniously thrown towards the mountain when I flew into mechanical turbulence.  I avoided the outstretched limbs of the trees below me but lost precious altitude recovering and turning back for more.  There was nothing but sink left for me there, so I turned tail and ran toward the foothills.

I found weak broken bits of lift that would allow me to climb a couple hundred feet (60m) at a time before disappearing.  I keep finding bits of lift that I was sure would take me up and away.

Launch is at opposite end of the ridge line

I marked a thermal for PK, who climbed out 500 feet (150m) above me while I floundered below.  I chased a circling bird into the valley that immediately left on glide when I got there.

Bird is near center of the plowed field

It was soon obvious that I was destined for a short flight.  I briefly enjoyed the green leaves sprouting in the valley.

I chased my shadow to the ground.  It ended in a tie!

Peter and JJ landed a short time later.  The soar masters, Randy, John, and finally PK, joined us short-timers.

Peter, JJ, Randy, myself, Krassi; photo by Krassi

Jeff and a couple other sledding pilots landed in the LZ at the other end of the valley.  George and another PG pilot had short flights down the valley.  The rest of the pilots decided to pack up and drive down.  (Thanks Allen for driving Peter's vehicle down).

It is frustrating that after all these years of trying to predict weather, a large number of us ended up at the wrong launch.  At least we didn't go down without a fight.

Flights: 1, Duration: 0:20

Wednesday, May 01, 2013


Spring in New England has been unusually mild by all accounts this year, including temperature, rainfall, and wind.  It has been painful watching cumulus clouds drift far overhead in light winds and warm air as the snow slowly melts off our mountain sites.  So I was excited to hear Rhett was firing up Hang Glide New England for the season at Tanner-Hiller airport in central Massachusetts last weekend.

I picked up Randy on the other side of town Sunday morning before returning home to pick up Jeff before starting our relatively short 1 hour drive.  John, Nick, and Nolle where already there when we arrived.  Max, Peter, and another half dozen pilots dribbled in as we rigged.

Nick and Nolle launched and managed to stay airborne.  Peter flew on Friday and kept emphasizing how cold it was at base (21F / -6C).  I put on every layer I could and still squeeze into the harness and then waddled out to the tow line.  Peter reported climbing at 700 fpm (3.5m/s) as I got ready to launch.

As usual, the tow behind Rhett was civilized; maybe a bit too civilized.  Aside from a strong surge at the end of the runway, we didn't come across anything else interesting until we bumped into something around 1800 feet (550m).  I released, climbed for a couple turns, and then sank out.  I essentially had a sled ride back to the field for a whopping 11 minute flight.  I landed mid-field to avoid turbulence.  Of course, I just about died of overheating on the long walk back.  Meanwhile Peter reported he was at 7500 feet (2280m).  Thanks Peter.

John essentially repeated my performance a few minutes later.  Randy was up next.  Like Peter, he immediately found a climb to base and was soon flying off to the north on a course we talked over beforehand.  A few minutes later Peter, who had fallen from grace, landed.

John, Peter, and I talked with Matt and others while we waited for the other pilots to get their first tow before giving it another go.  It was almost 4pm before I was rolling down the field again behind Rhett.  This time I stayed on for a full tow and still almost landed before finding a weak, but reliable, climb downwind of the field.

Climbing with a "local" off my wing

Given that Randy was somewhere downwind and Jeff already landed out, it began to look like I was the driver for the day.  That meant I needed to land back at the field and my car.  It wasn't my plan for the day, but hey, I was flying a new glider in good conditions with friends ... not exactly torture.

I flew over Jeff's landing field before returning to the field to watch Peter and several other pilots land.  I was getting low and planning my approach when I noticed a helicopter hovering up and down the runway that showed no signs of leaving.  Peter warned me on the radio, but I don't have an engine and when its time to land "its time to land"!  I did everything I could to delay my approach and stumbled into a strong climb upwind of the field that solved the problem.

The climb took me right back to base at 7000 feet (2133m) under a fantastic cloud street that stretched far to the north.

It was really late, but how could I resist running that thing?  Thoughts of getting back home at 6am the next morning is how!  (After some reflection, I should have thrown convenience under the bus and gone for it.)

I settled for evening views of the sun dancing on the Quabbin Reservoir and shadows creeping across rocky fields nestled between treed hillsides.

I capped the evening with 12 miles (20 km) of whistling high speed glides in relatively smooth but buoyant air.

Jeff, who found a ride to the airport, and Nick, who landed upwind in Ware, watched my active but fine landing in breezy conditions.

As I quickly packed up in fading daylight, we discovered Randy had landed 72 miles (116 km) away near Concord, New Hampshire.  After a few words with Bob and Rhett, Jeff and I drove to Barre to pick up his glider and then to my place where he left his car.  Meanwhile, Randy found a ride partway home to Chelmsford with Ilya and Krassi who were returning from a flying weekend at Morningside.  I met them for a late dinner before dropping Randy off at his place and returning home around midnight.

Check out the details of Randy's sweet flight on his blog Iron Man Hang-Gliding.

Flights: 2, Duration: 2:30

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Running Empty

I originally planned to return home on Monday or the first non-flyable day after that.  I almost left on Tuesday after dragging around Monday evening and Tuesday morning with a mild virus I picked up somewhere along the way.  Wednesday looked good, so I decided to stay for another day.  That worked out well for everyone that wanted a ride north for their gliders, especially for Peter J who would have been left without a glider and harness on a good day.

Peter need to stay local so he could drive to the airport after flying, but Jason W and Scott L were up for some XC flying.  I packed the tent, loaded the car, and tracked down gliders while everyone else rigged.  Pilots were heading to the launch line while I was still getting ready.

The day looked good at first, but cloud cover was on the verge of being too extensive by launch time.  I was dropped in a weak, but consistent climb, that ensured I wouldn't be landing soon like a few other good pilots were.

Wallaby Ranch (lower left)

I played near base waiting for Jason and Scott.  I used up most of my altitude watching a pilot get low over a field of nearly invisible 10 foot (3 m) sprinkler heads downwind of Wallaby Ranch.  Everyone that flies here knows to avoid the field, so I assumed the pilot didn't know about the hazard and might need help.  I radio'ed to Scott, who was on the ground waiting for a tow, to let the crew know someone was landing there.  I hung out overhead until I saw the pilot successfully land between the rows of  poles and then immediately flew back to the ranch to avoid the same fate.

Lucky for me, I found a solid climb over the orange groves and was soon at base playing with Wolfi and a few other pilots.

The only thing I heard from Jason was he was heading north, so I raced off in hot pursuit.  The climbs were slow, but the drift was good towards my turn point at QuestAir.  I was almost there when Jason announced he was on the ground not far from the ranch.  That explained why I couldn't find him in front of me!

QuestAir (lower center)

I flew over QuestAir at cloud base and headed back to the ranch.  I soon realized the combination of wind and weak climbs meant I was making slow forward progress; I would glide forward, get low, take a weak climb, and then drift back to the place I started the glide.

After several of these cycles, combined with my low energy levels, I decided to give up and land at the Seminole-Lake Gliderport.

I was greeted by several sailplane pilots, including two ex-hang glider pilots.

I watched the sailplanes launch and land as I packed up.  I also had a chance to talk with Russell B; another nice surprise.  It was early enough in the afternoon that Peter was willing to drive my car over and pick me up.  Thanks Peter!

I briefly talked with Jason when I got back before he took off to fetch pilots in Groveland.  I loaded the remaining gliders and hit the road.  I was running on empty by the time I got to Jacksonville 3 hours later and called it quits for the day.  It was a "good" tired.

Flights: 1, Duration: 2:10, 32 miles