Thursday, April 30, 2009

Florida Ridge (Day 6)

Whew.  I'm tired tonight after another great day of crosswind flying.  The cummies showed up early this morning and continued through sunset.  The east wind continued and was stronger than forecasted but not as strong as previous days.  The task similar to yesterday's but included a couple more turn-points.

My tow was downright nasty.  It started moments after I lifted off the cart until I was over 1000 feet (300 m) high.  However the second half of the tow was OK and I was dropped into a good climb.  I hooked up with 3 of the American team (Dustin, Jeff S, and OB).  I left with a good group of pilots but soon was left behind with Johnny and Charles.  I caught up with Jeff S and OB, but when OB veered upwind of course line Jeff and I continued on.  I joined Campbell in a climb short of the 2nd turn point and went on a long glide almost to the ground.  Both Jeff and I struggled but eventually managed to escape.  However the pilots from the next clock caught me when I struggled back upwind in a blue hole.

Carl and Derrick were two of the pilots that caught me and I flew with them into goal.  We had a sweet elevator ride to the top floor near the last turn point that almost gave me goal.  I botched the setup on my flight computer so I'll have to see if I actually pierced the goal cylinder when I download my track log tomorrow morning.

Now its time to feed the rechargeable batteries, air out the smelly flying clothes, and get some rest for another good day tomorrow.

Our little "pick up" team called "Big and Tall" was one man short today as Paul drove home to have his elbow checked out.  (He banged up his elbow during his landing yesterday.)

Flights: 1, Time: 3:34, Distance: 90 miles

Florida Ridge (Day 5)

A wafting blanket of fog drifted across the field as I rigged by glider for an early morning check-out flight.

Although we were concerned with a strong east wind, the safety committee didn't see anything scary.  The task committee called a long 86 mile (139 km) cross-wind task to the northwest with a single turn point to the north of LaBelle.  We staged our gliders for an early launch on the north side of the field, but ended moving every glide to the center of the field as the winds shifted around.  The usual chaos erupted however things were back in order after a few minutes.

Rhett dropped me off in a sweet climb that allowed me to stow my tow line while still floating towards cloud base.  I hooked up with Paul near the edge of the start circle and we flew most of the flight together.  It wasn't a typical Florida day.  The lift was a bit rough at times due to the dry breezy conditions.  Still it was a great day to be flying as climbs were plentiful and strong and marked with clouds at 7000 foot (2100 m).

Phil joined us past the first turn point and shared climbs under aerial vacuum cleaners.  Zak and Jeff S joined the group around 25 miles (40 km) out from goal.  We fanned out on glide and I was the last to make it to a climb and missed it.  I watched the group glide away as I was slowly sinking to the farmland below.  I found a weak climb over some farm buildings and avoided landing.  Once I had some maneuvering room, I continued on only to find those same pilots now struggling 1500 feet (450 m) below me.  I thought all of them were doomed, but Jeff and Paul managed to climb out.  I continued on downwind and fought with a nasty thermal as I was circling a LZ.  After some intense negotiations I ended up with a climb and continued on (slowly) to goal.

The goal field was a small pasture surrounded by fence and filled with trees, shrubs, and a single post in the middle.  Of course I didn't see the single post until I was on final about to flare on it.  I whipped up a "hail Mary" flare and stopped short of the post.  Paul came in later and zoomed up over the post and ended up breaking a down tube as he stalled on the other side.

There were a lot of tired pilots (and drivers) at goal.  The exact count will be available tomorrow when the scores are released at the official site.

Flights: 2, Time: 3:45 hours, Distance: 86 miles

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Florida Ridge (Day 4)

I modified my VG system yesterday and woke up early this morning to test fly before any wind kicked up. I rigged the glider, pulled the VG, and listened to tiny ball bearings from an exploded pulley bounce down my aluminum down tube.  Dang.  I quickly broke down the glider, tore apart the VG system dug up my spare pulley, did some drilling so it would fit, put the VG system back together, rigged the glider and went for quick flight around 9:00 am.

It was already breezy, but much less so than the previous days.  The safety committee didn't find any problems with the breezy east wind so the race was on.  The task was a short down wind run to a grass strip on the west side of LaBelle then northwest to a another airfield for a total distance of 47 miles (75 km).

I launched right after Campbell and Davis.  Rhett dropped me off to the northeast of the flight park in a weak climb.  A short while later James S dropped in and we slowly climbed as we drifted away.  I was noticing pilots to the south climbing faster, but didn't want to jeopardize my hard-earned altitude.  Instead of proceeding on course, I followed James south to intercept some pilots.  They found a climb I didn't.  A short while later, Derrick joined me in a sweet 400 fpm (2 m/s) climb.  Instead of heading on course, I flew back up wind to get a better start.  (I should have started my run after the first climb and definitely after the second climb with Derrick).  I kept running back to the start gate (circle) and losing altitude instead of getting a better start position.

I finally left (started) but at a much lower altitude than I could have left with earlier.  I joined a nice climb over the airport in LaBelle and immediately headed to a field in the distance to the southwest I thought was the next turn point.  However, it wasn't the turn point.  The turn point I wanted was now upwind behind me.  Doh.  By the time I got to the turn point I was low and hooked up with Paul.  We floundered around awhile and got stuck low with our backs to a big orange grove.  We landed at the same time 50 yards apart in a huge pasture.  We both made colossal mistakes and out pitiful scores tomorrow morning will reflect that.

Lots of people made goal and pilots were happy to be flying and landing at goal.

Flights: 2, Time: 1:45

Monday, April 27, 2009

Florida Ridge (Day 3)

Blown-out.  Again.

Some friendly faces from the practice day.

Florida Ridge (Day 2)

I got up early this morning to setup my glider for some measurements before the wind started to blow.  I was just packing it back up at 8:15 when the wind starting to reach the ground.

The conditions were acceptable when the safety committee met around 10:30 AM, but we were worried what conditions would be like by 2:00 PM since the tug pilot for the early morning tows reported conditions similar to yesterday.  We decided to send Zak up on a scouting mission.

Zak report a lot of turbulence in the bottom 500 feet (150 m) and a very busy tow.  We had just cancelled the day when Steve returned from another tow and thought the conditions were fine.  Some pilots started rigging gliders although the day had been cancelled.  After the gusts and baseline speed rebuilt and nearby airports reported gusts to 28 mph (45 k/h), we called a pilots meeting and officially cancelled the day.

After a quick lunch we gathered some "vintage" gliders and headed to the beach for beach soaring.  We setup 3 gliders and man-towed pilots up in front of a vacant hotel.

I had a nice flight, many pilots had their first coastal soaring flight, and everyone seemed to have a good time.

Here is a short video of Dustin and Zak playing around.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Florida Ridge (Day 1)

I watched the tug and gliders drifting backward at the top of tows this morning.  Definitely not a good sign.  Kerry, the tug pilot said it was really blowing up high.

Derrick, Zippy, and I as the elected safety committee decided to cancel the day shortly after reviewing the forecast, measuring wind speeds, and Derrick took a quick test flight in the tug.  The forecast looks windy for a couple more days.  :-(

Some pilots went paddling at Fisheating Creek while others stayed for yet another excellent session on XC flying and racing by Mike Barber.

This is Larry on the practice day.

Friday, April 24, 2009


I left Wallaby Ranch Thursday morning after breakfast for the Florida Ridge and the Rob Kells Memorial Competition.  However before I left I check out Mick's progress on his Carbon Dragon and said goodbye to "tin head".

As I drove south I watched clouds form and then fill the sky until I was close to Lake Okeechobee and its famous "blue hole".

There were a few people in the air when I pulled into the "Ridge" and thought about setting up, but was happy finding a shady spot to pitch the tent and settle in.

I grabbed a shot of James and a tandem passenger while having breakfast Friday morning.  I spent most of the day greeting people as the arrived and catching up after a long winter.  Several pilots flew mid-day, but most decided to sit out the breezy conditions.

The competition starts tomorrow morning.

One That Almost Got Away

I almost missed out on a good day of flying Thursday Wednesday.  I was a bit sore and tired after the workout on Wednesday Tuesday and uninspired after seeing that the initial forecast for Thursday was a slightly mellower version of Wednesday's Tuesday's forecast.  I wasn't alone either.  Jason, Patrick, Christen, and I sat under the thatched roof and commented on all the other launches.  I think we would have sat there all afternoon if Mike hadn't strolled by with his glider and scolded us for sitting around on such a nice day.  As Mike walked away Patrick stood up and started walking to his glider.  I stood up and said "... and the lemmings jump" as Jason also managed to tear himself away from the deck chairs.

We launched after 3:00 PM, a couple hours after the pilots from Canada and Connecticut left.  We all had uneventful tows and started climbing immediately.  I ran over to join a stronger climb to the southeast of the ranch and was soon at cloud base.  Patrick asked "what are we doing" on the radio.  I answered "going south" and started gliding south along Route 27 for the third time in a week.  Unlike Wednesday's crosswind slog, the climbs were strong and smooth and the westerly component of the wind was much weaker as well.  I got a jump on Patrick and Jason with a couple back-to-back strong climbs and spent reminder of the day flying mostly by myself.

Patrick pointed out the smoke trails from the aerobatics show at Sun n' Fun in Lakeland.  I had a low save north of Lake Wales, but other than that it was a classic "climb and glide" kind of day with 600 fpm (3 m/s) climbs to 7000 feet (2100 m) and fairly flat glides.  I diverted to join some flex wings I caught up with around Avon Park but decided to return to my original course when they started heading in directions I didn't want to go.

Since we started late it wasn't too long before the day started to shut down.  I started a long glide into the blue over miles of non-land-able orange groves as Patrick was searching for an LZ in Lake Placid.  The glide was very buoyant and enjoyable.  I found a mellow climb over some pasture fields on the other side of the blue and slowed dribbled south along Route 27.  I decided to land north of Fisheating Creek in Palmdale.

I had a sweet approach and landing after 7:00 PM through almost still air into a large pasture.  I quickly broke down and finished just as the sun set.  Bill showed up shortly after dark with Patrick and another pilot who landed with Patrick.  We picked up Jason on the way back in Sebring well after dark before stopping for dinner.

We all owe Mike a thank-you for kicking out butts into gear!

Flights: 1, Time: 4:14, Distance: 87 miles

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Zipper Flight

I spent Monday getting ready for the Rob Kell's Memorial Competition meet at the Florida Ridge on Monday as storms blew through.  The setting sun illuminated the last of the departing rain clouds as we prepared for a good day of flying yesterday (Tuesday).

The sky looked like classic Florida yesterday at Wallaby Ranch with cummies popping shortly before breakfast at 10:00 AM. The only problem was the wind, both speed and direction.  The wind was blowing around 15 mph  (24 km) from the west, which means we had to fly crosswind or upwind.  We considered upwind, but quickly settled on another trip "zippering" to the south along Route 27.

My first tow was exciting as the tug disappeared above me around 1200 feet (365 m).  Both the tug pilot and I got things back in line when the tug took an almost instantaneous slipping 45 degree roll to the left.  I tried to follow but as I watched the tow line head to the corner of my control frame I released.  What followed was the most unpleasant air I've encountered in Florida.  I was going slack, getting tossed into wing overs, watching the nose of the glider approach vertical in front of me, and generally getting worked over.  I managed to climb some as I drifted away from the ranch, but had to head back before I had any workable altitude.  Meanwhile Jason was towing and getting worked but to everyone's delight (especially Jason's) managed to keep on the line.  My joy ride continued right to the ground as I got popped up at the tail end of my final approach.  I was happy to be on the ground.  Thinking back, I suspect we were flying in the backside of a very strong thermal.  Basically we were in the wrong place at the wrong time on a windy day.

Meanwhile Patrick was reporting smooth lift to cloud base and other dozen or so pilots were floating about overhead.  That was enough to get me motivated for another try.  The tug pilot Bob and I worked hard to keep things going well on another rowdy tow but it was the normal turbulence you learn to expect on windy days.  Thanks Bob.  It didn't take long for Jason, Patrick, Mick, and I to sync up and head on course.  Mick started out lower and push further south than the rest of us.  I grabbed a quick climb and then flew south to the hospital near Mick.  Patrick came in at my level and Jason below.  I ended up flying the rest of the day with Patrick and watched Jason follow below until he landed in Haines City.  I lost track of Mick as Patrick and I kept fighting the strong crosswind.  It was a bit of work staying in some of the wind-blown thermals but occasionally found a sweet climb were we could rest.

The winds increased as the day wore on.  We were soon getting reports of a sea breeze back at the ranch and stronger winds on the surface from Mick who landed south of Bok Tower pilots.  Mike, who caught up with us around Bok Tower, raced ahead and landed at Avon Park.  Given the wind, time of day, and windsocks at the airfield, I decided to land there as well.  It was windy on the deck but managed a "functional" landing in the turbulent air.

Our exceptional driver Bill was there before I even started packing.  After a quick pack we were headed back north, tired but happy.

Flights: 2, Time: 3:45, Distance: 50 miles

Monday, April 20, 2009

Across the Swamp

A week ago Sunday, Dennis and Art were preparing to head back home to New Hampshire and Vermont. However Dennis wanted one last flight even if it meant driving through the night and next day.  Both Dennis and Art assured me that hitching a ride back to Wallaby Ranch wouldn't be a problem if I landed with Dennis.  So the deal was struck.  Jason, Dennis, and I declared a course that would take us west away from the stronger easterly winds, but around the Tampa controlled airspace.  We had a turn point across the southern end of the swamp, then one at Dade City, with goal to the northwest at the airfield in Crystal River.

Dennis and I hooked up at cloud base soon after launching.  We headed off downwind along Deen Still road to the west.  Two other gliders also broke free and joined our sightseeing tour.  (I later found out it was Marco and Philipe).  We worked well as a group and were soon approaching the trees in the center of the Green Swamp.  Marco probed the area first and wasn't treated well.  Meanwhile Jason was keeping us informed of his progress a few climbs behind us.  After some topping off, the group ventured across the swamp.  Dennis found a really sweet 1000 fpm (5 m/s) climb that wakened the racer in me as I was tossed at the clouds.  I zoomed off to Dade City and took a wide sweep that didn't pay off.  The rest of the gang caught up and passed by as I kept searching for a thermal I "knew" was there but I never found.  Lesson learned.

It was also easy to see the affects of the drought in the lake boundaries.

We all floundered a bit around Dade City until Dennis once again found a strong climb.  I was too far away to catch the climb but could see Dennis glide off into the blue along course line and Marco and Phillipe head more to the west.  I was centering a strong climb north of town when Dennis radioed he was getting low.  I quickly reached cloud base and started cruising down a line of clouds along course line at 5800 feet (1700 m).  I saw Marco and Phillipe turn more the to north well west of my position and assumed I would soon connect with or even be in front of them in a few minutes.  I called for Dennis' position but didn't get a response.  As I floated along under the clouds I kept an eye open for Dennis and finally found him on the ground.

I was a bit concerned since the glider was pointed into the wind, not the "tail into the wind" position we typically use.  I called again on the radio but there wasn't a response.  Art chimed in and said he couldn't reach Dennis on the cell phone either.  I started spiraling down in case something was wrong.  At 1500 feet (450 m) Dennis walked out from under the glider and rotated it around "tail to the wind".  In a few minutes I was standing next to him in a pasture surround with way too many fences.  :-(

I sent coordinates to Art and started breaking down.  A neighbor that skydives at Zephyrhills using winged suits drove out in an ATV with his boys and brought us each a beer.  A short time later his wife brought us some bottled water.  What service!  We had a nice chat before returning to packing up.  A few cows ambled by and one in particular was interested in our activity.  She stayed even as Art drove into the field and we loaded gliders.  She didn't leave until I said goodbye as we stepped into the truck.

We didn't reach Crystal River, but had a fun day flying with friends and met nice interesting people we probably would not have met any other way.  Art and Dennis made a quick stop at the ranch to drop me off and then started their 26 hour drive home.  Jason landed about 50 miles out while Marco and Phillipe landed at the Hernando County Airport a few miles beyond us.

Flights: 1, Time: 2:36, Distance: 40 miles

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Broken Promises

Today dawned with great promise; a moderate south-southeast wind, cummies, good lift, and no overdevelopment.  Pilots were scurrying about checking airspace maps, swapping cellphone numbers, arranging rides, and rigging gliders.  However a thick band of cirrus drifted in and smothered thermal development and our hopes.  Some pilots launched around 2:00 PM.  Eric P managed to get up and away while most landed after relatively short flights.

Jason, Marco, Patrick, and I launched after lunch around 4:15 PM.  Patrick and I both needed to see people at Quest Air, so we declared that as our goal.  We knew the flight would be tough with the high cirrus and the late time.  However, after sinking down to 1200 feet (365 m) I managed to climb up to everyone else and we left.  We were working light lift as we drifted away from Wallaby Ranch.  I managed to find some consistent but weak lift that allowed me to float above the other pilots.  I took off on a direct line while Jason headed north along Route 27 and Marco headed back home.  Although I thought Jason would have an easier time initially, he didn't find much lift and landed near the Route 27 and Route 192 intersection.

Patrick and I slowly worked our way to the northwest turning in any scrap of lift.  My flight computer said I had goal several times, but I knew better.  Patrick and I were working a collection of small bubbles about 8 miles out that I thought might get us in.  However just as things started to look good, the climb collapsed and Patrick headed west while I stayed on course line.  I bounced through several micro-thermals but picked a "tiny" pasture about 2 miles (3.2 km) out as my LZ.

As I was breaking down, some young cattle decided to check out my glider.  I spent most of my time keeping them away from the glider.  Every time I would go to one side of the glider, they would sneak in for lick on the other side.  They were persistent but quite docile.  Several times they had me completely surrounded.  I finally managed to get the glider packed and said goodbye to my new friends.

Bill, Kathy, Jason, and Patrick showed up just a short time after I finished and we drove the rest of the way to goal.

(I also took a sled ride in the morning to measure some things on my new glider.  It was sweet flying 68 mph (109 km) in the glassy smooth air.)

Flights: 2, Airtime: 2:10, Distance: 18 miles

Around the Ranch

  It was tough to get motivated to fly yesterday.  On the downside, the east wind was predicted to be marginal for towing and a thick cirrus blanketed the sky.  On the the upside ... well there really wasn't an upside!  Pilots were swinging in swings, laying in hammocks, sleeping on benches, or chatting in small circles around the ranch.  I walked out into the field around 2:00 and saw no birds, no cummies overhead, but did see some cummies to the east and south and the wind was tolerable.  About 20 minutes before lunch at 3:00 a ragged line of cummies formed overhead and the birds started soaring.  Everyone grabbed a quick lunch and pushed out to launch.

  I had a sweet tow and was dropped off in a mellow little climb.  I stayed with climb until I was about 4 miles (6.4 km) downwind at 5000 feet (1600 m).  I flew back to the ranch and hooked up with Jason and Patrick.  We shared some climbs and then had an unproductive glide upwind.  All three of us were low on the downwind side of the field and were working this weak, elusive, wanna-be thermal as we drifted away.  It was fun sharing the hunt with friends.  We split up at the top of that climb as I headed south to get some pictures, Jason headed back towards the ranch, and Patrick cruised off to the southeast.

  We all settled back to the ranch after after a couple hours of airtime to land in a weak sea breeze.  Jason and Patrick had good landings but I managed to whack with gusto in front of everyone.  Sigh.

Flights: 1, Airtime: 2:12

Friday, April 17, 2009

Out and Back

  A week ago Thursday Dennis, Tom N, and I decided on an out-and-back to Groveland (42 miles, 67 km).  It would be downwind on the way out and upwind on the way home.  It was predicted to be blue, but some clouds formed when the thermals busted through a low inversion later in the day.

  My first tow was exciting as the weak link broke as I came out of the cart.  Although the prop wash banged around the glider I managed a stand-up landing to the crowd's, any my, delight.  The second tow was uneventful and I was soon leaving the ranch with Dennis.  We took our time, jumping from hot spot to hot spot.  Tom, who was out in front, reported a low save which encouraged Dennis and I cherish our precious altitude.

  Dennis found a strong climb just short of the airfield and snagged the turn point a minute or so before me. Dennis continued to the west northwest while I headed down the runway to the north towards Tom who was climbing under the first cloud I saw during the day.  I stumbled unto a sweet 600 fpm climb at the end of the runway that Dennis was unable to get to in time.  Dennis landed about the time Tom flew in to join my tall climb.

  I was surprised at how difficult it was making progress against the headwind on the way back.  For example, I glided over the Seminole Gliderport, drifted back over it while climbing, and then glided back over it again after topping out.  I flew with two immature bald eagles and one unhappy hawk on the return trip.  The hawk came in close, flipped over in front of me with talons fully exposed, and screeching the entire time.  The eagles on the other hand came in close and flew in perfect formation before moving on.

  Persistence paid off and I eventually joined Tom back at the ranch.

Flights: 1.5, Time: 4:00, Distance: 42 miles

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Down the Road

  It was a busy day.  I started out watching Bill and Kathy each take two tandem flights.  I pointed out to Patrick that turning your driver (Bill) onto flying usually ends up with one less driver!  I later talked with Steve and Kim as Steve setup his Silent powered sailplane.

  Over breakfast us pilots discussed the less-than-stellar forecast.  The forecasted strong east-northeast wind and meager lift sent some pilots off to do other things.  Although not real hopeful, my attitude changed when I started seeing clouds form to the east.  That was all I needed to head to launch.

  I had a busy, but reasonable, full tow and started a slow climb.  I got greedy, went exploring, and found myself low running back to the flight park.  I landed, ran over to my tent for a wrench so I could make a minor tuning adjustment to the wing, suited up, and stepped back into line for "take two".

  Roger, the tug pilot, headed to a group of buzzards circling to the south of the ranch.  Since I was passing through 1200 feet (365 m), I released.  After a few turns the buzzards left and I was heading to the flight park again.  Oops.  I was down to 500 feet (150 m) before I starting spinning around and around like a whirling dervish in a tight little climb.  I managed to escape the LZ and then find a sweet climb that took me to 6000 feet (1800 m).

  Jason, Patrick, Mick, and I talked about heading south along Route 27, but we were scattered all over the place by the time I got high.  After some amusing and decision-less discussions, I headed upwind towards Champions Gate.  After snagging my impromptu turn point, I cruised back to hook up with Patrick.  Jason, Patrick, and I finally decided at 4:00 PM to cruise cross-wind south along Route 27.  I flew with Jason around the hospital and then spent some time flying with Patrick.  We had a couple of nice long glides together but got separated north of Lake Wales.  We eventually hooked back up and landed together about 40 miles out after 2 hours on course.

Here is Patrick with his ride.

Here is my new bird.

Bill showed up just as we were picking up our gliders for the hike to the road.  We picked up Jason a few miles behind us and made it back just as the big red sun was crossing the horizon.

Flights: 2, Airtime: 3:30, Distance: 40 miles

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Homosassa Springs

On the rainy Monday after the Wills Wing demo days at Wallaby Ranch, Amy and I drove northwest to the Homosassa Spring Wildlife State Park to view manatees.

We also saw a lot of birds at the park.

They also had a hippo with its own "special" sign.
Later in the afternoon after the rain stopped and the front passed through, we drove through the marshes to a small beach that overlooks the nuclear power plant at Crystal River.

Animal Kingdom

The wind really blew yesterday afternoon and into the evening.  It mellowed out by the time I went to sleep so I was surprised to here the tent rustling in the middle of the night.  I thought it was strange that it was gusting at night but rolled over only to hear the snorting of an armadillo 3 inches (25 mm)  from my face digging for crickets.  I actually punched through the tent and pushed the armadillo away.  It must have been hungary since it just moved around to the other side of tent and continued digging.

I went for a nice long run this morning in the cool air and continued my encounters with the natives.  I ran by vultures enjoying an armadillo pizza.  They looked up, decided I was no threat and continued eating.  I told them to enjoy the meal because we had a busy day of flying ahead.  Further down the road a large flock of starlings set along a power line chatting away as I ran underneath.  On the way back two adult Sandhill cranes and one chick crossed the road directly in front of me.  I could have easily reached over and grabbed the tail feathers of one of the adults.  I passed by the vultures again and then two rabbits sitting right on the berm of the road.  Of course I had my daily encounter with the local fire ants.

Flying-wise the day was a bit odd.  A front was stalling to the south and strange cloud formations were zipping overhead in the mid-levels of the atmosphere.  The computer models predicted no clouds with weak lift blown apart under a strong inversion;  not exactly a forecast to get excited about.  We didn't start launching until 2 PM and I almost didn't launch, but decided I could use the tow and landing practice.  Pilots were already sinking out when I launched so I was ready for a short flight.  However the flight was much shorter than I expected when the tug and I were tossed in different directions at about 200 feet (60 m).  I pinned off, flew back to launch through 5 or 6 bullet thermals, landed, and walked over to the tie-down line.  Enough for me.  Several pilots hung on for short flights and Jason even managed to climb to 3200 feet (975 m) before succumbing to gravity.

Flights: 1, Time: 0:05

Monday, April 13, 2009

Wills Wing Demo Days

  The Wills Wing party at Wallaby Ranch is always a good time and this year was no exception.  The sound of roaring dragonflies woke me early Saturday morning.  I was greeted with a "good morning" from a tandem pilot flying overhead when I crawled out of the tent.  The onslaught continued throughout the day with over 250 tows before sunset.

  After a hardy breakfast with many friends I watched a "missing man formation" fly-over performed by the tug pilots in memory of Rob Kells.  I lazily rigged the glider sometime after noon and took to the sky with everyone else.  The wind was blowing about 10 mph from the west and John B and Steve P even managed (very) short XC flights.  ;-)  I flew around the ranch for an hour before coming down to clean up for the evening's festivities.  The crowd was large, the corn delicious, the margaritas cold, the dinner great, the tribute to Rob moving, the slide show cool, and the thanks to the ranch well earned.  We ate, drank, talked, joked, and danced to a band into the night.  (Nathan J even joined the band on bass for a song.)

  Here's some shots of the crew I took during the demo days.

Flights: 1, Airtime: 1:07