Friday, June 22, 2018

Consolation Prize

I had a couple decisions to make early this morning.  My wife wanted me in New Hampshire by late afternoon.  I could ignore the request, but knew it wouldn't be a good idea.  Peter J offered to pick me up at my place and drive to Mount Greylock.  Other pilots were chatting up coastal flying in Plymouth.  The weather forecast was reasonably good for both.  Mount Greylock offered the chance for XC flying while Plymouth was about a hour closer to home.  Although I was starving for XC, I decided to catch an early consolation flight at Plymouth and be home in time to leave with my wife.

I arrived at launch just before 8am to discover there was no wind.  Zero.  Nil.  Nothing.  So much for an early soaring flight.  Driving from there to Mount Greylock wasn't a sound plan, so I stayed put and sent messages to the other in-bound pilots about the current conditions.  John G jokingly responded "Your not flying at the airport", referencing the wind reports from the Plymouth airfield which is inland a bit.  I replied "I am at launch."  I had similar interactions with other optimistic pilots as I waited in the early morning sun.

After about 45 minutes a crossing breeze slowly began wafting in.  I unpacked and practiced kiting.  The breeze kept increasing until I could walk to the cliff edge with the glider flying overhead and then back away.  After doing that several times, Donna arrived.  She took one look at the wind streamers and said "It looks soarable".  I doubted it, but did agree it looked borderline.  I pulled up the glider, walked to the edge, and decided to "take the plunge".  That is exactly what happened.  Oh well; pack the glider and hike back up.  Over the couple hours Aine, Donna, Jason, John G, and Peter W tested the air with the same results.  Donna used her sledders to collect trash from the beach on her hikes back up.  I used the time to hike back to the car to shed weight and clothing.  (This was my first summer flying visit to the beach and I was overdressed.)

Around 11:30 I noticed the wind changing to a more favorable direction but was getting even lighter.  Several forecasts were predicting the wind to become lighter as the wind changed direction.  I debated leaving so I could get home in time to ride with my wife.  John thought a sacrifice on my part might help the remaining pilots.  I wasn't going to be the sacrificial lamb.  I stayed.

Peter W pulled up for another try and made it work.  That was enough for me and several others.  I had to carefully work to get above the cliff top, but once there it was comfortably soarable.

The view was great; blue skies painted with feathery cirrus laying over translucent water with the line of the outer cape on the horizon separating the two.

I tried flying smoothly and efficiently and was rewarded with a high spot in the stack.  I also had fun with mild wingovers in front of the golf course and flying with others.

Jason (lower) and me (upper).  Photo courtesy of Jason Wallace

The wind continued changing direction to the southeast and increase in velocity.  Although it was soarable, I needed my speed bar to progress to the south.  Everyone, aside from Donna and I, was on the ground.  We slowly made our way back to launch when I decided to land so I could at least make a token appearance with my wife.

After I landed, the remaining pilots took to the air again.

I made it back to launch in time to help two pilots launch into the heavy traffic.

Flights: 2, Duration: 1:37

Friday, February 23, 2018

Atlantic Sunrise

Left home at 4:00am to fly on the eastern shores of Cape Cod at sunrise today.

A couple hang glider pilots were rigging at White Crest Beach, while Jon was getting his paraglider ready when I arrived before 7:00am.  I quickly changed into warmer clothes, unpacked my paraglider, and walked over to launch.  Jon originally told me the winds were 13 mph (21 kph) but it was obvious the winds were stronger, probably closer to 16 mph (26 kph) with higher gusts.  We both decided to launch from the beach below where the winds were lighter.  Jon pulled up, backed up the walkway, and was soon up and away.  I had it even easier; I pulled up, and with the careful use of my brakes, managed to fly up the dune to the top.

It was easy to stay up but also easy to get pushed too far back in the strong wind.  I wanted to use my speed bar, but it just would not work.  After slowly inching out in front of the dunes I checked my gear and discovered the problem, I connected the speed bar lines through the inside of the shoulder strap and the friction was making it nearly impossible to use.  I disconnected the brummel hooks, rerouted the line, and reconnected it without dropping my gloves.  Whew.  Now I could continue to play.

The winds were forecasted to quickly shift to the southeast so I headed to the northern Highland Light before the wind became too cross.  I had never successfully crossed the larger gaps in a paraglider so I was prepared to land if necessary.  I barely crossed both, at times only a couple feet above the beach.  The initial progress was slow, but as the cape curves to the northwest and the wind became a crossing tailwind, I soon arrived at my first destination.

Highland Light

I played around the lighthouse before heading back in a strengthening cross wind.  I was using full bar to make progress towards the south.  I knew crossing the gaps would be more difficult in a headwind so I wasn't surprised when I ran out of altitude just short of the southern side of the first gap.  I landed with no forward speed and tried to walk forward to "float" up the dune on the other side.  However, the wind blowing through the gap was too much and I started drifting backwards.  I made the mistake of turning around and soon found myself being dragged across the sand for about 50 yards, laughing the entire way.  What a dope!

After emptying buckets of sand out of my harness I tried several times to relaunch but it was just too windy, too cross, and too environmentally sensitive for me to be successful.

Jim gave me a ride back to launch where a couple pilots were still hanging on in the strong crosswind.  Instead of doing the smart thing and leaving my packed glider in the car, I gave it another shot.  I managed maybe a minute of airtime before floating to the beach.  I took the opportunity to do some high wind kiting and practice cobra inflations.

A group of us had lunch at a nearby restaurant before heading home.

Flights: 2, Duration: 0:59

Monday, March 27, 2017

GSSK: Day 2

My team was the last team to launch today, and since the mentors launch last, it meant I would be the last to leave the field.  Definitely not how I like to roll.

Our task for the day was to head crosswind to the northwest to a small town and then downwind west southwest to a small airfield.  We expected the first leg to be the most difficult part of the flight.

Being last had a huge disadvantage today as the lake effect shadow from Lake Apopka carved a huge blue hole over launch and that only got larger was we struggled as a team to get up.

Although we finally got high enough to move, we had drifted southwest of Quest, almost in the opposite direction of our first turn point.  The only remaining cumulus were nestled up against the Green Swamp.  We made our move.

Rich was the only team member that escaped by climbing over the trees.

Once we were far enough north to escape the lake effect, we found plentiful strong climbs and had an easy trip to the first turn point.

The first glide and climb after the turn point was ok, but high cirrus approaching from the west was choking off the sunlight powering our climbs.  We worked to stay high but the climbs were weaker and further apart.

I pushed on and parked in a weak climb downwind of a prison.  I climbed, drifted, pushed back upwind to step up, but it wasn't looking good!  Rich eventually found a strong climb and glided in at my level as we started tip-toeing towards goal over trees.

We took a long slow glide with a few stops towards goal.  We passed over a glider in a field inside the goal radius but had enough altitude to easily make the goal field.  Of course there was lots of lift over the LZ and it took us both awhile to get down.

Even though we were slow, we made it.  Rich flew a much more difficult course than most of the competitors that missed the lake effect and shading.


Me and Rich

My adventure wasn't over once packed up.  It was Davis' glider we saw in the field on the way in.  I was shocked, as was Davis, by the height of the weeds in the field.  He had a fine landing, but lost his glider after walking out looking for a path to the road.

Davis and Greg

Davis, Greg, Michael, and I reentered the field using Google Maps to rediscover the glider.   It felt like we were on a safari!  Yvonne said we looked like "the children of the corn" as we disappeared into the brush.  I was literally 10 feet away from the glider before I saw the nose rising above the dead plants.  All part of the adventure!

Flights: 1, Duration: 2:38, Distance: 50.4 km

Sunday, March 26, 2017

GSWK: Day 1

The first day of most competitions are chaotic at best, but the first day of the Green Swamp Sport Klassic went amazingly well.  My mentees were first up and were all ready and in line 10 minutes before the launch opened.  We were on it!  I was really surprised when I, as the last pilot in the group, was climbing through 3000 feet only 14 minutes after launched open.  It was amazing how quickly the five tugs had us up and on our way.

The course was west northwest to an airfield labeled GROSS and then north northwest to the airfield at Inverness.


Greg and I got low after our first climb.  I was wondering how the mentoring would proceed if two mentors decked it after the first glide!  I made a mental note to be a bit more conservative with my altitude and how much I would spiral down to help struggling pilots.

Greg on our way back up

Things were going well as we pushed around the northwest corner of the Green Swamp.  Jeff and Rich pushed ahead while I stayed with Matt and Thor.


Although it was fun at first, I watched the sky overdevelop about 2/3 of the way along the first leg and warned the team to slow up and take every climb.  We all tried to stay up, but the area was soon littered with downed pilots.

Looking for lift while pilots land below

Matt was the only one on my team that almost escaped the killing fields, but succumbed just short of the climb that lifted the remaining pilots up and out.

Matt landed next to the airstrip (center), Greg landed across the highway (upper left center), we found a climb along the far tree line (upper left)

I had goal on glide just past the turn point, but teamed up with Ken and Mark and tried to help them into goal.  We bobbed around within reach of the field longer than I preferred, but all three of us eventually made goal.  Mick (another mentor) was the only other pilot in goal.

Ken, Mark, and me

I enjoyed the ride home with Audry at the wheel.

Flights: 1, Duration: 2:59, Distance: 56 km

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Practice Day

Decided to loosen up with a short flight before the Green Swamp Sports Klassic which starts tomorrow.

Zhenya, Andre, & Spinner making it happen safely

I mostly had the sky to myself but did have one fun low save along with four or five other pilots.

Flights: 1, Duration: 0:58