Sunday, July 20, 2014


A pleasant light easterly day on a Sunday ensured a crowd would amass at the top of Mount Greylock in western Massachusetts.  Although a retreating cloud deck retarded thermal development, I encouraged Max to launch early to avoid the growing throng of pilots that would soon run from the ground into the sky.  It was barely soarable, but any mistake or passing cloud put the early birds on the ground.  Even so, it was better to take chances with the weak lift than wait for the hoard.

I queued behind Steve on launch and then waited as Steve and another pilot barely kept afloat in front.  As Steve started climbing I ran into the air.  A few other paraglider pilots quickly launched and we climbed about a 1000 feet (300m) over in smooth weak thermals.

I got lazy and found myself tangled again in the growing fur-ball in front of launch before climbing up and away again into the open sky.

The sky in front looked good so I glided a long way into the valley before turning back empty-handed with my tail between my legs.  I arrived at the bottom of the pack and spent the rest of the flight dodging gliders.

I usually enjoy flying close to other pilots, but the density and lack of piloting experience was starting to get scarily dangerous at times.  I was continually going from one avoidance maneuver to the next.  I finally decided to leave the mountain even though I was low.  As feared, I slowly sank out and headed to the LZ.

The smarter pilots waited for all the novice pilots to launch and crowd themselves out of the air before launching into stronger, and less chaotic, conditions.   Those patient pilots enjoyed an afternoon at cloud base.  Meanwhile I helped shuttle cars and spent the afternoon catching up with friends.

Here is some video footage from the flight,

JJ wrote about the day on his blog "Another Fine Day in the Clever Sky".

Flights: 1, Duration: 0:53

Friday, July 18, 2014

Double Treat

Lee Minardi, Peter Judge, and I aero-towed at Morningside Flight Park today.

Although the sky looked promising, the pilots launching before us were surprisingly limited to "extended sledders".

The sky overhead dried out as we waited for conditions to improve.  I noticed a line of clouds leading to the northwest forming across the river.  I asked Eric Meibos for a tow in that direction.

The tow was depressingly smooth.  I released east of the river and continued gliding towards the line of clouds to the northwest.

I soon reached a decision point; 1) press on and maybe find a climb or land out or 2) retreat and slink back to Morningside for another tow.  I chose to retreat.  On the way back I diverted just enough to make a single pass over some factory buildings.

I found a tiny thermal that was almost big enough to circle in and allowed me to climb at an bone-crushing speed of 10 fpm (0.05 m/s).  I had to use the altimeter to verify I was climbing.  If that wasn't sad enough, Peter was dropped off above me and sank down to my level before joining the slowing growing thermal.

After topping out I headed west while he headed southeast.  I found nothing and soon turned around to join him in an area of weak broken lift on the ridge east of Morningside.

We extended our flights but were soon on the ground.

I was ready to pack up after watching other pilots continue to take extended sledders.  Dean Funk managed to keep his feet off the ground with a slow climb overhead and then Bertrand dialed into a real climb near the still-present line of clouds.  Although it was after 4:00 pm, I suited up for another go.

This time I was determined to discover if that line of clouds had climbs to match their good looks, even if it meant landing out.  I released and immediately headed west across the river and over the ridge line on the other side.  I was beyond the reach of Morningside when I found a solid climb that started at 300 fpm (1.5 m/s) and steadily increased to 500 fpm (2.5 m/s) right to cloud base.

I was almost to Charlestown when I started flying northwest at base under the line of clouds that tempted me all day.  There were solid, but a little weaker, climbs under each cloud.

I flew northwest to Little Ascutney before lazily gliding back to the airfield under a drying sky.  Although the wind aloft was west-northwest, the wind at Morningside was steadily blowing from the southeast.  I used the opportunity to make a rare southeast approach over the road into the bullseye.  Yahoo!

After packing up, I hiked the glider across the road and rejoined Lee and Peter.  We said farewell,  drove to Waxy O'Connors Irish Pub in Keene for drinks and dinner before returning home.

Although not epic, it was a fun and varied day.  I had a "claw my way up" flight followed by a "beam me up" flight across the river.  A double treat.

Flights: 2, Duration: 0:55, 0:56

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Hanging On

By the time I got going this morning, flying with Hang Glide New England at Tanner-Hiller Airport was the only reasonable choice.  I was also, thankfully, waiting on Jeff Curtis and John Beckley.  John's car broke down yesterday and Jeff graciously picked up John even though it was out-of-his-way.

A gaggle of gliders were ready for flight when we arrived and we watched pilots take extended sledders while we rigged and suited up.  I stayed on tow behind Rhett Radford longer than usual trying to ensure I had every opportunity to stay aloft.  I waved goodbye, released, and settled into a weak, but consistent and pleasant, climb.

I went round and round long enough for Rhett to tow Jeff up and then over me.  That's cheating!  ;-)

Too bad the climb was fading away.  I moved northeast to where Peter Judge was slowing climbing.  Jeff joined us and we all topped out.

My glider has the best glide of the three so I zipped off to the northwest to a cloud that was surely working.

Except it wasn't.  The three of us dabbled in broken lift with mixed results, but it was soon time for Peter and Jeff to return to the field.

The two of them scratched around the field before landing while I stumbled into a weak climb where a sailplane pilot joined me.

After climbing back to the top floor the sailplane pilot headed northeast, presumably towards the gliderport at Sterling, and I lazily headed back to Tanner-Hiller.  I stopped several times for weak short-lived climbs but didn't find anything productive.

I found choppy and buoyant air over a mulch-making operation that I thought was my ticket out.  However, after a lot of searching I concluded either I wasn't good enough to find the main core or that the rising air was just strong enough to keep me from descending.  (John had the same experience during his flight).

I half-heartedly continued the search for another climb as I cruised over the homes and businesses to the west of the field.  I watched Rhett tow another pilot up, crossed paths with Dana Harris when he returned from the south, and then took a long downwind-base-final approach into the field.

Rhett towing (lower center)


I hurried when I realized Dana and I would be landing at the same time.  Dana flew overhead moments after I landed.  (Listen for his greeting at the end of the video below).

We socialized before heading out to get ice cream and then back to my place.  From there Jeff headed out while I gave John a lift home.

It wasn't an epic day of flying, but it was still fun and challenging trying to "hang on".

Flights: 1, Duration: 1:20

Friday, July 11, 2014


Even though I knew Peter and Lee were going flying at Tanner-Hiller airport with Hang Glide New England in Barre Massachusetts, I decided to stay home and cut up trees that were blown over during a recent severe thunderstorm.  The trees fell into an area thick with poison ivy so I needed to take a break mid-day for a shower before getting lunch and returning to work.  After showering I noticed cumulus starting to form, something the morning forecast said wouldn't happen.  I quickly decided I had enough chain saws, firewood, and poison ivy and decided to go flying.

Tanner-Hiller is the only place close enough (around 1 hour drive) that I can leave home after noon and still have a soaring flight.  I sped along the tree-lined country roads, past stone walls and rocky fields, arriving early enough that I even launched before Lee!

Rhett dropped me in a weak climb southeast of the airport that slowly dissipated.  I was returning to the airfield when I stumbled into a solid climb to base.

It became obvious during the climb why my previous climb fizzled away; the unexpected clouds were forming over a convergence line that was slowing moving eastward away from the airfield.

Looking back west towards the airfield

Although the sky looked gorgeous downwind to the southeast, we were blocked by controlled airspace at Worcester, I had no retrieve driver, and I had plans to attend an outdoor evening concert with Amy.  I just HAD to look the other way.  ;-)

Looking southeast, downwind towards Worcester

I spent most of the flight dancing around at cloudbase on the western edge of the convergence line.

I stayed as long as I could and still make it back to the airport.  I cruised south along the line and then turned west towards a wispy forming in the blue.  Peter joined me in a broken climb before we both returned to the field.

Peter (lower center)

I played with a couple quickly drifting climbs with two other pilots before landing back at the field.  I packed up, helped Matt adjust his new harness, and sped back along the country roads to catch the second half of the concert under a full moon with Amy.

Flights: 1, Duration: 2:23