I was a Live Exhibit at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum Dulles Annex, Udvar-Hazy Center,
March 25, 2006

Monday, December 18, 2006

Taylor Farm Training Day, December 17

Sunday, December 10, was a fine day to be flying in shirtsleeves. One week later was even better. The forecast was SW 5-10 all afternoon, with temps into the 60's. Last week I flew in a long sleeve T; this week called for short sleeves. We had a nice crowd. John M. had three students, David C., Matt C., and Chris A. Joe T. and David B. brought their gliders out to do some brush up flying. Dan T. came out to swap turns on my Pulse. We even had a couple of PG guys doing some training. I took four flights on the Pulse, and then finished the day on John's Condor. Pretty nice glider... too bad it is only approved for training hills. OK, so my flying time didn't jump up by great numbers, but it sure is nice to accumulate 10 flights in 8 days.
John reports that 2 of his students completed their H2 flying tasks. Congrats, Chris & David!
As a bonus on the report, here is a video of a half dozen flights. Since I had the camera on my helmet, you won't see me. Enjoy the view. This is December?!? I love it.



or
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxAbyiqLHFo

Monday, December 11, 2006

Training Hill Sunday, December 10

A fine forecast of light (4 mph) SSW winds with bright clear sky and 50 degree temperature tempted a dozen pilots to the Taylor training hill. John M had four students, including recently arrived H2 Joe T, Mark, David, and Sufau (I apologize for mangling that name). Marc F was in instructor mode, too, with eager student Steve K bagging his way down the hill, and Ellis K. doing a few turns under the floppy wing, also. Janni P. did a bit of brush up work on his Eagle. PK had brow beaten and arm-twisted Joe G. into coming out, for a bit of foot launch practice that broke a long dry spell for both.

I got in five sweet flights in the shirtsleeve conditions, proud of myself for hiking my Pulse back up the hill so many times, wearing my knee-hanger harness. Joe got a similar 5 in on Janet's Falcon. However, PK definitely earns Pilot of the Day for foot launching for the first time in 4 years, and further, for hiking that weighty T2 back up the hill 5 times, while wearing a full pod with 'chute. I'm thinking his carry weight was about 40# more than mine. Go PK!

Damn, this is a fun sport!

Photos courtesy of Ellis and Webshots:

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Pulpit, Saturday, November 18

Early start, to take advantage of the forecast partly cloudy and NW 5-10. Arrived at the Pulpit shortly before 11:00 to find Bacil's glider set up (such a surprise!). and Janni P's glider on the ground ready to set up. well, you know that partly cloudy part? So much for the partly; it was totally clouded over. Winds were on the light side and crossing a bit form the north. As I started setting up, other pilots arrived, including Mike Lee, Shawn Ray (sans glider, since his car broke en route and he borrowed his mom's to get to launch), Dave Proctor, Carlos Weill, and Mark Cavanaugh. Consensus was that it might be on the edge of soarable. Some of us assembled gliders, other equivocated. As Dave, Mark, Janni and I drove to the main LZ (all crops are down), we passed Pete Lehmann and John going up the hill. We dropped a few trucks and headed back to the top. We passed Pete and Jon as they departed, reportedly on their way back west to High Point. Pete seemed not to like the prospects.

Along in there a few PG pilots arrived, Charlie, Laszlo, Tom,
John, and Ellis. I think they each got in one or more flights to the secondary.

Back at the top, we readied for our flights. Bacil sledded to the secondary. Janni followed suit, but got to the primary. Dave worked a bubble or two out over the primary, but still I think it was pretty much an extendo. Carlos bailed for High Rock. Mike was off next, and joined Bacil at the top of Jugtown road. I launched at 1:06 with assist from Shawn, Mark, and John Anderson. Great run off the old ramp into light winds, a careful nursing of the ridge to get me down to the main, and a sweet no-step flare up where the corn had been, for a gentle sled. I joined Dave and Janni breaking down at 7th street.

Now, when he helped me launch, Mark had still been debating breaking down at top, maybe to run over to High Rock. But as I was folding my wing, we saw him launch, in the midst of two paragliders. Since he had driven us back to the top in his truck after the truck shuttle at 12:30, I figured I'd wait for him to take him back to the top. Janni left, saying he'd get Bacil and Mike at the secondary. Dave left to grab a bite in town. Mark was still working the ridge. Hmmm. Maybe my wait for Mark would be a bit longer. I finished putting gear away. Dave had offered to come back for Mark if I wanted to head home early. Naw.. that's ok, Mark will be right down. like the rest of us. I was just about to give up and leave, when Mark finally headed out to land. Even then, he milked every foot of the flight to the end. Finally, mark joined me on the ground, after a 70 minute flight... on a day 5 other pilots eked out sleds. Definitely flight of the day!

Back at the top, Mark and I talked to Ellis as she contemplated launching again about 3:30. However, the winds had picked up noticeably, honking higher than PG-friendly speeds, plus still a bit of north cross. As I headed home a bit before 4:00, Ellis was packing it up.

Thanks to Shawn for coming on out to help crew, even though he didn't fly.

I even got home in time to go out to a party with the wife, for one of her clubs.. I hope that got me a brownie point or three.

I hope Mark gives the details for us on his flight. He clearly worked hard and deserved his prize. For myself, very happy for strong launch, clean safe landing, and flying in between. Not a bad day.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Blue Sky, Friday, November 10, 2006

I left Alexandria heading south on I-95 about 9:30. Noticed that the HOV lanes were mighty empty - those lanes had been secured as reserved passage for the busses taking VIPs and other guests to the dedication of the Marine Museum at Quantico. At every entrance or utility entrance to the car pool lanes there were orange cones and either a big highway maintenance truck or a State Trooper, blocking access. LOTS of security all along there. Southbound traffic was running normal, but northbound I-95 was pretty packed because of this.

Arriving at Blue sky a bit before noon, I found one glider set up. It was a Pulse, belonging to Mike, one of the Kitty Hawk Kites instructors who had been up for the biannual reunion. He lives in Powhatan, only 45 minutes from Blue Sky. Tom, and Gene Towns, and John (?) each arrived, so we had a handful of pilots ready to truck tow. Tom led off about 1:00, and the rest of us added to the line. Winds were pretty light, and the few thermals were small and tricky to stay in, so the best any of us did were sleds and extendos. I flew 7 times between 1:00 and 3:45. Air was buoyant, so I did pretty well on the tows, reaching over 1K AGL on 6 of 7 flights. That felt good, because on some days I only get to about 900'. Only on #2 did I find lift sufficient to gain (all of 40 feet) above pin-off altitude.


#----Time (min)-----Tow height
1-------4------------------787
2-------8-----------------1050 +40
3-------5-----------------1005
4-------6-----------------1142
5-------5-----------------1119
6------11-----------------1137
7-------7-----------------1260


As I was finishing my final flight, one of Steve's scooter tow students, Patrick, arrived with friend Kimberly. Patrick was ready for his first ever truck tow. Kimberly and I watched him make is first and second flights from the truck, Pretty good launch on the first, a bit nose high just off the truck, but still seemed to get to about 800'. For the second he did better with this angle of attack, and I think he made it to 1000'. He stuck both landings with excellent clean no-steppers. I am sure he was on a cloud the rest of the weekend.


Cragin

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Blue Sky Flight Park, Sunday, November 5, 2006

A day at the flight park was a fine finish to a most satisfying three flying day weekend. After an hour over the Virginia fall foliage at Woodstock on Friday, and a fun day at the Pulpit on Saturday with a short flight over Pennsylvania trees on Saturday, I headed down to Manquin for some towing over the farm field.
When I arrived shortly before noon, Steve Wendt was finishing up a scooter class with several enthusiastic students. Karma and Hank were there; Karma had been towing on Saturday, and Hank had been there all week, dialing in to his new T2. John Claytor and Steve Kinsley also joined the afternoon crowd. It was a light and switchy wind afternoon, with a clear blue sky a few wispy clouds. It was a truck towing day, with varying success on finding thermals. I ended up with six flights, but was able to work lift on only two of them for extendos. On one, I got a gain of about 250'; for the other, I just slowed my descent for 10 minutes of playing. The rest were pure sleds. Kinsley showed us how it's done, catching a thermal just off tow, and eventually getting well over 3K for the flight of the day. Claytor gave him a run for his money, joining Steve up high at one point.
Since my flying days have been few over the past 5 months, it was really nice to get in so many flights over a single weekend. Lots of smiles on the drive home. I needed that.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Pulpit, Saturday, November 4, 2006

With a forecast of 5-10 NW to W for Saturday, I was hoping for a 2d day of extended mountain flying. However, the forecast, and actual winds, went lighter and lighter. I arrived at Pulpit launch about 10:40 to find Bacil set up and ready (hardly a surprise.) The wind direction was good, but light. Bacil opined that it was not yet sufficient to sustain ridge lift. Danny Brotto arrived as I was setting up, and we both got our gliders ready. Mark Cavanaugh and Carols Weill arrived. And then we waited. Even Bacil, usually anxious to get into the sky early, was not jumping up to fly.
Other pilots arrived - mostly paragliders. They were all quite excited about the conditions, and prepared to bag-drag into the air. Laszlo, Stefan, Hugh McE, John Middleton, Karen Carra, and Matthew Graham all unfolded wings. Of course, they are all quite happy to land in the secondary - a field I prefer not to try with my UltraSport.
Yanni pulled in in his new truck with Glen and Grigor the Greek. Ah.. three more hang gliders.
Mark C finally decided to chance it, and showed that there was some lift out there. Glenn followed, and also found a bubble. Apparently it was possible to reach the primary. Grigor launched from the PG sloe between the ramps, and then at 3:13 I was off the old ramp. I never found those bubbles that Mark and Glenn had shown us, but I did make it down the ridge enough to beam out to the primary LZ for a comfortable 5 minute sled. Report was that my launch was pretty good. Thanks! My landing approach was very good, and then I was just slow enough on the flare to flare to a no-stepper to my knees instead of my feet. Oh, well.. a safe landing is a good landing.
No camera with me, so no photos, and no point in doing fancy GPS graphs for today.
But...
Once more I have gone into the countryside, and done the stuff of dreams.. I have flown! Millions around the world would envy me, if only they knew.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Woodstock, Friday, 11/3/06

Friday, November 3, 2006 - Woodstock

With a forecast of 10-15 NW, I headed out for Woodstock, hoping for decent flying day on a hooky day. The overturned log truck at mile 22 on I-66 only delayed me about 20 minutes, so I got to the LZ close to 1:00. I watched a glider launch as I drove up to the LZ. Three others were in the sky. As I parked, three of the four were flushed. They turned out to be Kitty Hawk Kites instructors, up for the reunion weekend. Kelvin had the luck of launching right into the flush cycle, so he soon joined the crowd in the LZ.
Carlos showed up a few minutes later, and as we were about to head out, David Bodner arrived, so the three of us pooled to the top, where we found Steve K. and Tim.
As we were setting up, three paragliders launched, reinforcing the light winds evidence of the earlier flush cycle. But, heck, we were there, so we set up. David B. started the late launch cycle at about 3:00, and found lift right way. The rest of us got in line. I launched at 3:26. and soon worked up to 1050' over launch. Others were higher, and some ran up the ridge. I stayed around the two fingers, slowly sinking back to only 100' over, but then recovered another lift are and worked back up to 1000' over. It was satisfying to get back up like that.
As an hour in the sky approached, I decided it was chilly enough, so I worked my way into the valley to prepare to land. It figures - when I wanted to get down, I hit all kinds of lift. So I stuffed the bar and flew out over the Fishburn house for a high speed descent.
I finished up a bit low as I entered the pattern over the LZ, but cam e in ok. I was late on the flare, so bumped down to wheels, but it was a clean stop and safe landing. Total time of 62 minutes in the air, hitting 1K over twice.
The trees were in full fall glory, oranges and reds and yellows all across the mountain. Sadly, the helmet cam is off for repair, so I don't have video of them. In the late afternoon low angle sun, they were even more fascinating, especially when the nearly full moon rose over them. It was a gorgeous view. However, tech toys being fun, I have added both the vertical flight profile from the Map 76CS GPS, as well as the flight track overlaid on imagery from Google Earth. You can see that the track is pretty boring, but well worth a fun hour in the sky.





Cragin

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Pulpit, Saturday, October 21, 2006

Saturday morning before 8:00 it was pretty clear Woodstock have lighter winds than we like to have there. Bacil was insisting the Pulpit would be booming and bullet-proof, and Matthew agreed Pulpit was the call. I was on the road just before 9, arriving at launch at 10:55 to find Bacil set up, waiting for crew, and talking to Gary Devan. The parking lot was half full of tourist cars, with a crowd up on the ramp, admiring the view and hoping Bacil would launch soon. While I finished getting my own glider set up, Gary Smith and Dave Proctor arrived, so Bacil now had full crew. As he was launching, Shawn also pulled in.

Bacil had a good launch, and I then finished setting up, along with Proctor and Shawn. Dave was next off, and then I suited up at 12:30 while Shawn launched. However, I noted that Bacil was back low, after having gotten some good altitude, Dave was back down after an initial great climb, and reports from the ramp was that Shawn was working hard as he moved down the ridge. With that kind of report, I waited a bit in the setup area, still hooked in and ready. l watched them get back up, and headed to the ramp about 12:45. With carry up and hang check, I was at the top of the new ramp at 12:55. And the wind was BLOWING. We waited it to cycle down for a lull. THere were no lulls or cycles; it just blew. Finally since the wind did look smooth, I picked up and tested glider control. It was fine. I should have done that right away.

I launched at 1:05, only 10 seconds after picking up the second time after Dave Bodner cleared off my nose wire. Thanks and apologies to my wire crew (Matt, Karen, David, Gary, Gary) for making them stand in that wind for so long. Good clean launch, straight out and then up.

I milked it at 200 over down the ridge, then caught a nice one and topped out at 1600' over. After that one good ride, I spent lots of time at 300 - 600 over. As I was falling out of the small lift regions I slowly stair-stepped out and down to the LZ (would have preferred to stay up), landing at 2:00 for a 55 minute flight. Late on the flare, so a safe belly scrub landing.

Joined Shawn and David B. in the breakdown area. David, like I, had not landed by choice, but Shawn just HAD to tell us he not only landed early to meet Rich Bloomfield, but that he had trouble getting down at the LZ. I just hate it when I sink out and hear that! In any event, Shawn did well and had a good flight, and congrats at him. I appreciated the ride back up to the top form Rich Bloomfiled. I declared my 55 minutes a good flying day, so watched others and helped on a couple more launches, including Matthew's PG launch. Then Carlos and I walked over to the Mountain House for a brew while waiting for pilots to land and need retrieval and then dinner.

Back at launch, Carlos went down to retrieve Bodner, I chatted with various folks, and then one contingent headed to dinner at Antrim House in Greeencastle, so Bruce Engen and Gary Smith could hit I-81 conveniently to go home.

For my flight over the colorful fall foliage, see the beautiful fall trees for yourself, in this 2 minute film of my launch and first couple of minutes of flight:



or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmfzFuLMr0Q

The second dining group of Karen, Matthew, Bodner, Carlos, Brian V-H, and me by-passed Greencastle for one of the brew pubs in Frederick.
Good dinner with fun beer selection and mediocre service at the brew pub by Target in Frederick.

Thanks to all who helped with launch, retrieve, dinner suggestion, etc.

Yes, I did have a smile for the day.

Cragin

Monday, September 18, 2006

Pulpit Fly In 2006

Pulpit Fly-In, September 16-17

Tradition continued with the opening day of the annual Pulpit Fly-In - we had to fly an alternate site. Winds were forecast from the NE, so we headed to Bill's Hill, where we were greeted by grey overcast, misting, and even a little light rain. Oh, yeah, and fog. Eventually things cleared enough for some flying. Winds were light, so there was no soaring, but both hang glider and paraglider pilots took our sleds like men (and women).
My flight was short enough to show you a pilot's view of the entire flight, from launch run to flare.



For a direct link to the video page, use http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxV7ZdH3nsc

After I landed, I was able to film the approach to the LZ by new H2 Kathy, on her very first flight at Bill's.



Just want to see the video? link here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wThFnkgq42Y

Later that night was our traditional campfire and grilled supper at the Pulpit Launch, complete with raffle prizes. I snapped quite a few photos. Here is a sampling:



to see all of them, you can go to
http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v333/CraginS/Pulpit_Fly_In_06/

On Sunday the day started with a cloud deck between launch and the valley, Once it cleared, the light winds induced only a few pilots to fly, all of the early ones landing in the secondary LZ. I chose not to fly, and just enjoyed the day at launch. After the final flights if the day, several of us adjourned to the Mountain House Inn, next to launch, for a brew and recap. The Photobucket link above has a few shots there, also.

August Vacation Flying

In a break from many years of standard family vacation practice, Kay agreed to let me drive the truck and bring gliders along to our annual August timeshare escape. This worked out well, since our vacation condo is in Williamsburg, only an hour away from Blue Sky Flight Park. She even agreed to not one, but two, flying days for me, allowing herself to be stranded in Williamsburg in the condo with only a/c, cable television, full kitchen, hot tub, three swimming pools, two restaurants, a bar, an exercise room, her two dozen library books, and an iPod with 2,000 songs on it to keep her company while I was away. Oh, the hardships that wonderful woman will endure to give me a few hours of escape to the sky.
On Sunday, August 13, I made my first trip down I-64 to Richmond. The crowd was small, and the winds iffy. It looked like low launches from the truck were likely, and few thermals. There was not a lot of enthusiasm for flying, but eventually a few folks took to the air from Steve's truck. I flew my Pulse for a change, and got in three sleds, all in the late afternoon post 5:30 p.m. In the light conditions my tows were in the 800 to 950 foot range. Flights were smooth and uneventful, with decent landings.
The following Thursday, August 17, I returned to Blue Sky for another truck tow day. Even smaller crowd than Sunday, since it was a weekday. Winds ENE 5-15 and rowdy, with a lot of cross at midfield. As a result, I didn't fly until late, after 5:00 again. Once more, three sleds. This time I flew the UltraSport. with tow heights between 800 and 900 ' AGL. FUn easy going days that week. Blue Sky is a great place to hang out and fly.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Highland Aerosports August 5, 2006

Saturday forecast for the Greater DC flying region clearly indicated a tow park day, but that meant, as always, a choice between Blue Sky at Richmond and Highland Aerosports at Ridgely. Winds looked like they were going to be stronger and more cross to the main runway at Blue Sky, so I picked Highland as my destination.
Also, I had not been there in a while, and want to balance my flying between the two excellent parks. When I checked my log, I saw that "in a while" translated to not since last October. Darn, how time flies!
Only a small crowd of solo pilots were at Highland; picnic table hobnobbing at the runway included surmise that a lot of the XC hungry regulars were in TExas for the WRE. Sunny did note that with Steve Vogel, Christian Thoreson and Steve (? Stevens?) all there, they only lacked Geoff Mumford to complete the 1999 opening day crowd for the park.
While not many rated pilots were there, the park business was brisk, with several medium to large crowds of tandem groups on hand. Many daring first timers in those groups, with lots of excited whoops during high wingovers by JR and Sunny just before entering the landing pattern. When a one of the tandem groups turned out to be a bachelor party, there was a mild complaint from one of the staff that they had not brought along a stripper. Groom-to-be did go for the Mile High - but since that was with JR, I don't think that gives him any kind of club membership.
In addition to the aforementioned trio, we also had Dale (?), Carlos Weill, Steve S's friend Adam for a first lesson, novices Mike and Bob. and Charile. Adam and Zack reported buoyant air in the late morning tandems, so Dal and then Steve V. launched shortly after noon. Christian and I hung around watching them, then it dawned on us they were not coming down, so we both launched just after 1:00.
My weak link broke for no obvious reason at ~2,000' as Zack was pulling me in a wide turn to get back into a thermal he had found earlier. I was able to find it and slowly worked up to 2500', drifting south, with Steve V in view. He and I were circling in adjacent cores at the same altitude, and both of us keeping an eye out for excessive closeness. While still plenty safe distance apart, I decided to move back toward the field, confident I could pick up the next thermal coming along. I didn't. Landed after 20 minutes. Steve came in about 10 minutes later, and reported he had succumbed to the same error of leaving lift. He had moved into the same thermal as Dale, and wanted more separation. He also assumed there was plenty of lift and departed that thermal, for what was to be his foray toward the landing pattern, just like I had done.
After resting under my wing, I flew again a little after 4:00. This turned out to be another one thermal flight, bagging another 20 minutes of air time. I was happy with my tows to get up, and my landings were not too bad, so even with only a bit of airtime for the day, I call it a success.
Late day flights included Carlos, Mike, Bob, Charlie, and others. Best soaring opportunities were for those who launched early.
I used the helmet camera again, and put together a short (less than 2 minutes) silent film for YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEouTpLWXUE and below in the blog) to summarize the day. I apologize that the view is not quite pilot's-eye; the view angle is depressed from the horizontal a little. I need to mark angles on the helmet for when I position the camera on the velcro. Still learning on this new toy.


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Taylor Farm, Sunday, July 9

The forecast for Sunday looked prime for good training hill flights at Taylor Farm: winds SSW, 5-10, partly coudy sky,high 84 F. I arrived there about 11:45 to find John Middleton setting up wind socks and his three students about ready to assemble their gliders. John had brought the lawn tractor, and was planning on making parts of the LZ more presentable between student flights.

John took the first flight of the day just before 1:00, and got enough lift to rise above launch for a moment. Between 1:00 and 4:20 I got in six flights from the top of the hill. The wind was a bit switchy, a lot of the time coming more from the south than southwest. As a result, most of my flights started with crosswind launches, all of them satisfactory. For my landings, I had three I am happy with, and three that were fully safe, if not as pretty as desired.

Hang 0 students Mike and Chris spent most of their afternoon on the flats, and then with four to six flights from just up the hill. Both are getting the hang of it. Hang 1 Matt, already on his own Falcon, put in about eight flights from the top, and is looking pretty good. After class John told him he may be in the mountains in about a month.

My day at Taylor also gave me a chance to play more with my new little movie camera. I figured out how to mount it on my helmet so it looks where I am looking, instead of down and to the side. I slso tried rigging it on my GPS mount for a basetube position. One aspect of a basetube position... on landings all you see is sky at the end. If you have Shockwave or Flash Player installed, you can see the results in the movie below.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Blue Sky, Saturday July 1

After a hiatus from flying for a month, I hopped back into the sky with a couple of truck tows at Blue Sky HG Park in Manquin. Conditions were ok but not great. First flight I towed to 920' and had a sled. Good landing though, after getting kicked around as I turned onto final.
The second flight was particularly fun. Towed to 1115', caught a nice thermal at 775', and worked it back to 1100. Total flight was 19 minutes.
On that 2d launch, I also experimented with the new helmet camera. Initial test video looks neat... this is gonna be a fun toy once I get it all sorted out.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Woodstock report for Saturday May 27

Woodstock report for Saturday May 27
I arrived about 10:15 a.m. in the first wave of hopefuls. Here is the roll call, best as I can recall: David Bodner with Jody to drive (thank you Jody), Mark Cavanaugh, Hugh McElrath, Gary Smith, Bruce Engen, Joe Schad, Joe Brauch, Randy Weber, Adam, Ashley Grove, Steve Kinsely, Pete Schumann, Steve Padget, Glenn, Yanni.
From 10 to noon the sky stayed totally to mostly overcast. There was heavy haze over the valley below the clouds. Winds were also lighter than the 10-15 forecast, and included a notable north-cross component (which had been in the forecast). No one wanted to launch into such guaranteed sled conditions.
Eventually some blue sky appeared, and as the ground heating began, a few pilots decided to give it a try. Winds in the launch slot were squirrely. The wind remained relatively light, and with the cross from the north, winds bounced around in the slot, often giving as many as three or four different indicated directions among the eight wind streamers placed in the slot. When the streamers did vote together for launchable direction, the strength was below 5, and lasted only long enough to pick up the glider, watch the streamers all change their vote, and put the glider back down.
Mark C braved these conditions some time around 1:30. Following him off in quick succession were Joe, Gary, David, Randy, and Hugh. Ashley moved onto launch next, and I was on deck right behind him. Launch conditions worsened, and Ashley waited about 20 minutes for a launch cycle long enough to use. I had no desire to push him, because as we waited we watched a flush cycle drive Joe, Gary, David, and Randy down to the LZ. Eventually Ashley took a cycle, and I moved into launch potato mode. Funny aside - as soon as Ashley launched, I stood up to carry into position, but could not move. It seems the squat I had been in had put my foot to sleep, and I had to let it wake up before I could carry the glider. After my own long wait, I did my best to launch into a small cycle at 2:49 and was rewarded with a little lift leaving the slot. That was about my only reward for that flight. Ashley and I shared several very small lift areas between the fingers, neither of us high enough for 360's, and staying a safe distance apart. Hugh was above us, part of the time even above the ridge. As gravity overcame both Ashley and me, we headed across the river to the LZ. I headed out with more altitude than he, so I had plenty of time to set up my approach as he did the same several hundred of feet below. Just as I crossed above the west edge of the LZ, about to turn left on to my downwind leg, I saw Hugh enter the pattern below me, also. The three of us landed in rapid succession, one-two-three; the flush cycle had completed its task, leaving Mark as the only survivor in the sky. My flight had lasted only seven minutes. I took satisfaction in having had a good launch run in the light conditions, a clean no step landing, and the fact that I experienced the stuff of dreams: I FLEW!
All of the other pilots launched after 3:00, and from what I could see, they did indeed find plenty of lift and filled the sky the rest of the day. I am jealous of all those longer flights, but hold no animosity.
I did return to launch, and a few minutes before 5:00 Gary Smith and I helped Steve Padget launch. Glenn and Yanni had the last two gliders on launch and Glenn had just left to fetch Kinsley to observe their launches. Once Steve was safely airborne, I headed home for dinner with the wife.
Addendum: Pilot safe report.
At 9:50 p.m. Steve Padget called me at home, to let me know he was OK. He had only just then made it back to his car at launch. It seems that he had had "lift everywhere" and run the ridge up toward Strasburg, feeling assured he would be able to make it back to the LZ. I'm not sure how far north he went, but on the return leg, found himself in heavy sink, and landed very near the river at Tom's Brook. Total flight time was about 1 1/2 hours. After breaking down the glider, he had hiked out to Route 11, walked / hitched to Woodstock, walked more up toward launch, and caught a second ride up to the top. Apparently he had no radio, and his cell phone was in his car. Since he had earlier told me he reached Woodstock launch after a 4 1/2 hour drive from the Tidewater, arriving before 2:00, and as of 10:00 p.m. still had to drive back down the mountain and fetch his glider from Tom's Brook, I think we can say that Steve had one LONG flying day.

Bill's Hill, Saturday April 29

With a forecast of E to NE at 5, club members declared an informal slot clearing day for Bill's Hill, with reasonable expectation of flight afterwards. I arrived at about 11:30 and contributed about half an hour to the efforts, Several others, including Mark C, Tom M, Pete Schumann, and Shawn Ray had preceded me and been doing yeoman's work.
Eventually a nice crowd of DC area and Pittsburgh-based pilots arrived, greeted by NE winds well below 5. A lot of sled rides, with a few notable flights. Pete Lehmann was in the sled crowd on his first launch, but did very well on a relight. Tom McG and Mark Gardner both had outstanding days, as did Juan on his PG.
For myself, I launched about 3:30 in very light winds, and found only a couple of bumps during my slow sled to the LZ. Launch quality A, but landing only C- with insufficient flare.
Rather than stay to socialize, I headed home to have dinner with the wife before two straight weeks of business travel.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Saturday April 15, back to Woodstock

Saturday April 15, back to Woodstock
The forecast was for W to WNW winds at 10-15. Not a particularly promising forecast, but on the order of 30 hang glider and paraglider pilots showed up with high hopes. When I arrived at 1:00 about ten hang gliders were set up and waiting for wind. Not even early bird Bacil had launched. PG pilots were taking their turn in the just enough wind, with marginal success. Eventually, about 3:30 the winds started increasing and HG pilots scrambled to launch. As I was moving on deck, the winds were doing a lot of strong and cross. I discussed a possible pre-frontal situation with Karen and Steve K. There were launchable lulls, and neither Steve nor I saw the clouds out across the valley as threatening. Even so, I decided to be prepared to duck under any nasty weather that might come in.
I launched at 4:00, after several minutes of watching a 90 degree cross in the slot. The wind straightened out during the lull, and I grabbed the opportunity. Dave Bodner told me later my run looked a little slow. This matched with my perception that I was lifted in the air a step or so before I had intended - I must have had my nose a bit high; not good, but not terrible. Right away I was in moderate lift, and worked my way to the north finger in steady up, reaching 1200 over launch in just a few minutes. I saw four gliders about 800 to 1000 above me, but they eventually headed south. A light rain started hitting me, and I inspected the cloud that was generating it. Moderately dark, several thousand above me, and spread out along the valley. I was in rowdy air, but not so bad as to be scary. I was thinking it was just not a sky for new Hang 2's or single surface gliders.
I debated with myself just how long the storm clouds would remain, and whether they would build up. Since the winds had been increasing since 3:30, I decided to play it safe and head out to land. Penetration was no problem, although there was lift all the way out, and some bumps. I set up a good fast approach and hit a no-stepper half way up the slope in the LZ. I was much happier with my landing than with my take-off. I was on the ground at 4:15... a short 15 minute flight.
I spent the next three hours in the LZ, relaxing on the grass and mostly watching no one launch. Gary Smith eventually joined me there, and reported a most windy and rowdy hour in the sky. He also had heard from Joe Schad about a real rock n roll landing in the bridge field after a quite rowdy flight. Both Gary and Joe had launched after me. David Bodner gave me a telephone report about 6 that it was really cranking on launch, and no one wanted to launch in it. Driving out to Rout 11 a little after 7:15 I passed Nelson Lewis in a field along Moose Lodge Road; he had landed a few minutes before, after an hour flight. He had been the only launch between 4:30 and 7:30. He also reported a lot of very strong winds.
Over the next two days I read more flight reports of pilots who were in the air between 4:30 and 7:00, and most all of them spoke of high winds, un-fun rowdy conditions, and even being pushed over the back in high performance gliders. For my first one to two hours in the LZ, resting in the grass, I had wondered if I had wimped out by landing when I did. After compiling the available evidence I concluded that I had left the sky at just the right time. I am thankful for a safe launch and landing and some reasonable flying in between those two events.

Sunday, March 26 at Woodstock

The forecast was for NW 10-15 and overcast. Actual was more NNW, but still in the 10-15 range. I launched just after 3:00 with a clean run. The lift seemed light, and I worked it very slowly, eventually peaking at only 800' over launch. Lost that out front to about 50 below, but then worked slowly back up to 500' over. At about 55 minutes air time I headed out into the valley, flying just west of the LZ, where I found big thermal, played it a little, then set up a fast approach for a clean no-step landing. Total air time 61 minutes. Nothing special about the day, but a good launch, good landing, and reasonable day in light lift. It made me happy.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Women in Aviation Day at NASM, 3/25/06

Well, we didn't get to fly today, because the Capital Hang gliding & Paragliding Association was engaging in public awareness for hang gliding activities at two Smithsonian Institute activities. One crew was down on the National Mall, near the Washington Monument, taking part in the annual Smithsonian Kite Festival. Meanwhile, I was part of a second crew, out at the National Air & Space Museum Annex at Dulles International Airport, taking part in Women in Aviation Day. This annual activity is sponsored by the Girl Scouts in cooperation with the Museum.
Our team was headed up by CHGPA President Daniel Broxterman,and included Karen Carra, Linda Baskerville, Linda's daughters Olivia and Charlotte, Gary Smith, Christy Huddle, and Brian Vant-Hull. We set up a table display giving away club handouts and copies of Hang Gliding and Paragliding Magazine, set up my Airwave Pulse glider, and showed flying videos. The hit activity of the day was former high school physics teacher Brian's hands-on activity of build your own hang glider. He had the young Scouts folding a simple paper airplane in steps, adding wing shape and then a pilot (pipecleaner). Each step reinforced the lesson of aerodynamics and wing in air. Well, that was the hidden lesson from educator Brian. For the girls, they had fun doing a simple craft activity and building a souvenir toy that worked.
Special credit goes to the younger Baskerville ladies for their contributions to the day. Linda may have coerced or bribed them into coming, but they put their hearts into being part of the team, talking to visitors, handing out items, helping with the build a glider activity, and being demo pilot on my Pulse. They were cheerful and helpful all day, and a delight to have with us. It was pretty cool to tell the Scouts coming through that yes, these two ladies of 8 and 13 had flown on hang gliders!
It was also a fun surprise to be in the staff area for lunch, and see a photo on the wall identified as "Susan Pierce, Hang Gliding Pilot, McConnellsburg PA, 1994."

Here are quickview photos of the day.






To see the full album, hop over to
http://photobucket.com/albums/v333/CraginS/GS_NASM_060325/

I talked all day, showed off my gear, and came home pleased with the day and exhausted.

Cragin

p.s. Oh, I should note that late in the day we discovered we had brought two versions of the club flyer. One of them quoted one local pilot as needing a better hobby than alcoholism, and thinking hang gliding fit the bill, and quoted a second pilot as stating that yes, flying a hang glider IS better than sex. Hmmm. We stopped giving that version out to the Girl Scouts. However, every visitor before 11:30 a.m. received our PG-13 flyer version. Darn.

Monday, March 20, 2006

High Wind Weekend at Woodstock - March 18-19

High Wind Weekend at Woodstock - March 18-19
I knew that the forecast winds would be on the high side, and possibly blown out, for both Saturday and Sunday. Forecasts above 15 mph are always shaky, but the optimist in me looked for the Woodstock effect to bring calmer conditions to the ridge there.
Saturday morning before leaving the house, I saw the 8:20 report from Winchester... 9 gusting to 23. 150% gust factor bodes ill, but I went out anyway, in hopes of seeing the forecast late day fall off in wind speed. Found that the early launches (before 12:30) had launchable winds, but had a handful in the air. Some of them tell their own tales. All found it dicey on landing.
After about 12:30, winds ramped up and stayed there. Folks made their blown-out calls over the course of the afternoon, starting with Tom Mc about 1:30, and going through Dan T, Nelson Lewis, around 4, me at 4:55, and Ashley Grove about 5:00. Between 4:55 and 5:20 as I was breaking down, several lulls caused Mark C to try to get me to fly. I called them sucker lulls.. I was proven right.
Sunday the 19th had a better look to the possibilities, resulting in a larger crowd out to the site, also. After helping with some other launches, I got out of the slot at 3:55. I launched straight into 500-600 up, right out of the slot. That was nice. Worked my way to 1900 over launch fairly easily. Then I started working down the ridge to the south. I had a destination of a field on Route 11, just south of the town of Woodstock, because my truck was parked there. That field is 4 miles straight from launch.
As I worked down the ridge, I thought I'd test the valley to see if it could sustain a flight out to 11. I left the ridge at 1500 over, and worked into the valley, until I was 200 below launch. Yet I was no where near my field. At 1700 MSL, I ran back to the ridge, finding lift and slowly working up high enough to get above ridge top. From there I got into better lift and worked back up to 3500 MSL, or 1600 over. I was no straight out form my desired field, but still on the ridge. Worked lift up and own, but was never able to get to 2K over. As 5:00 approached, I decided to go for the filed and see how far I could get. I picked safety LZs en route, and headed out. GOt only 1/3 of the way to Route 11, and saw that it was not gonna happen. All 3 of my secondary choices were back near the river, so I turned back and set up to land in a nice large field of corn stubble.
I landed at 5:10, for a 75 minute flight. Had a few bumps coming in on final, so stayed fast and did not try to flare until too late. Wheels may be ignominious, but they work safely. I was only 8/10ths of a mile (straightline) from my goal, so I'll call this a 3 mile XC. It turned out I was at the end of Morning Dove Lane, off of Lakeview Road, at the very edge between Woodstock and Edinburg. Dan T. was able to pick me up after I had walked abut a half mile toward 11, and get me to my truck very quickly.
This was one of my few goal XCs (truck-suck is a good incentive), and I was very pleased with the results, especially the save from below launch altitude, even if I did not get all the way to my goal.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Taylor Training Hill 3/12/06

Ok, so for Sunday March 12 the forecast around Fredericksburg was for Sw 10 -15, or 5-10, depending on when and where you read the forecast. Seemed a reasonable day for a spring brush-up, as Chris McKee had pointed out.

But the silly weathermen said nothing about NNW 15-20.

John Middleton arrived at Taylor Farm first, with two 1st time students, pretty close to his announced 11:20 target. Dan Thomlinson and I rolled up just after 11:30. By shortly after noon, Mark Cavanaugh and Chris McKee were both on the hill, too.

Winds were in the 1-15 range, with an occasional gust approaching 20. Dan an I set up my Pulse as a team to keep the glider in check. John had his students take a Condor and a Falcon to the bottom to set up down below. Dan helped Mark get the U2 set up. Chris had arranged earlier to share John's Falcon; he was not interested in lugging his T2 up the hill.

John's students took turns with the Condor on flat runs in front of the kite eating tree and Chris practiced a lot of flat runs on the Falcon with his super sleek fancy streamlined racing type harness. Meanwhile, up at the top, I launched first on the Pulse, got back up, Dan flew the Pulse, and then Mark showed us highperf with a U2 flight. I got in a second flight on the Pulse, but in carrying back up saw that I had not routed the flying wires correctly when I had switched from plain old round downtubes to Attack tubes. Bad, bad, bad! The wires were rubbing on the DTs, requiring immediate correction and inspection. While I was engaged in glider maintenance, Mark got in another flight, and John flew the Falcon from the top. Chris was waiting for his turn with the Falcon after John.
About the time I got the Pulse reassembled (the wires are fine), the wind turned due west and strong. We all stood around waiting for the cycle to finish and the winds to go back to the forecast SW direction. They didn't. The direction turned even more northerly, reaching NNW, and stayed strong. Temperature dropped notably, and the smell of the air changed. Not quite rain smell, but different.
We finally gave up and packed it out about 3:30. Mark was gonna head to Woodstock to see if he could make a late day flight in the bonus NW winds. Dan and Chris and I just headed home. John was still with his students when we left. I think they had a good time.
None of us H3's got as many flights as we had hoped, but Chris got experience in his harness, and Dan, Mark and I did fly. We are happy about that. And once more, enjoyed a day out under the sky, fresh air. That is good.

Blue Sky report for Saturday, March 11

The forecasts were obvious that it was not a mountain flying day, so it narrowed down to a question of which flight park. Weather Underground gave me the following for 1 and 4 p.m:
Highland / Ridgely MD, 2-3 SE, clouds 43-58% Temp 65
Blue Sky / Manquin VA, 6-4 SE -SSE clouds 63-67% Temp 69

I opted for staying in Virginia, and headed to Blue Sky, arriving about 11:30. Steve was finishing up his morning scooter tow class, and only a couple of gliders were set up. Tug pilot Jim Carrigan was at a construction job with his log splitter, so there was no aerotowing on the agenda for the day.
Winds were more cross and stronger than expected all afternoon. That expected SSE stayed much more SE than we wanted. At 1:30 Peter Cain (sp?) offered himself up as wind dummy on the truck. He made it all the way to 630 feet in very sinky air. We all decide to wait a bit. While waiting, Steve agreed to break out his newest static winch, which he is building with his 4-wheeler ATV instead of a scooter. His goal with this one is a winch useful for launches as high as 1,000 feet.
Peter was test pilot on this new set-up, since he had had previous experience on Steve's big scooter with the two-release system required. The tow line ends in a a V-line with one segment slightly longer than the other, both segments hooking to the pilot's releases. The pilot flies with both a shoulder-point V-bridle as with aerotow, with the shorter line over the cross-bar, and a hip-mounted truck tow release for the longer line, which passes under the cross bar. Tow tension starts on the shoulder points, over the bar. As the upper line reaches the crossbar, the pilot opens that release using the barrel slide we consider the secondary on a full AT set up. The tension switches smoothly to the lower line and truck tow release. The pilot finishes out the tow in the same manner as a truck tow.
Steve has about 6,000 feet of spectra on the drum, and places the return pulley 3,000 feet down the runway. Once everything is working and the winch construction completed, this system should give tows to heights similar to the truck.
Peter flew three times on this rig, reaching heights in the 500+ range. Steve saw several items he wants to improve, both in how the trailer /platform for the ATV is anchored for stability, and in exactly how to configure the line drum. He should have this launch option ready very soon. He does not expect to use it for instruction. The small and big scooters are better suited for the speed and power needs of getting students to H2 level. However, this looks like a great alternative / supplement to the truck, especially when the ground is too wet to run the truck on the runway road.
Status of aerotow at Blue Sky: For now, AT will be with the trike as tug. The Dragonfly has arrived... in all of it's boxes. Steve figures he has about 200 - 300 hours of work ahead to turn all those parts into an aircraft. He is not predicting a hard ready date, but thinks maybe by June.
Crowd report: good day for socializing in the sunshine, and opinionating on the ATV winch. Others there besides Peter - Mike WIlmer took delivery on his Sport 2 175. Tom picked up his newly purchased Falcon. Obviously, neither got to try them out. Ray Mitchell dropped by, gliderless for the day, to visit with the gang. Nick Martina and Andrew B. rounded out the crew. There is electrical power available at the picnic table pavilion, and Andrew promised to have the WiFi repeater antenna working from the hangar roof very soon , so the terminally connected techno's will be able play internet most anywhere on the premises.
Well, I didn't fly, but I did spend a day in the sunshine and fresh air, away from DC. That was good.

Monday, March 06, 2006

March 5 at Woodstock

Sunday, March 5, the forecast was NW 10-15. Had a late morning at home, to spend time with the daughter, home from college for her birthday weekend. Packed up the glider and gear and was away at 12:15. Arrived at Woodstock launch about 2:00 to see only a couple of gliders in the air, lots of gliders set up, and winds coming in about 5-7. Apparently it had been much lighter, but was picking up some just as I arrived, because a stream of gliders ran down the slot as I was setting up.
Hank Hengst launched as I was stuffing battens. He was back up at launch before I was fully preflighted. Hmmm.. seems a sink cycle had hit. As I finished getting the glider ready I saw a BUNCH of gliders accumulating in the LZ. Joe Brauch launched, leaving me alone. Soon Brauch was on the radio saying unkind things to Matthew and Karen, who had some how avoided the flush.
I thought I would be alone to launch, but a couple of PG pilots showed up. THey watched me launch in about 4-5 mph. It was effectively a self launch. One fella I did not recognize was on my left wire, and I had to ask him to let go of it because he was fighting me for control, pulling me down when I was getting level. I launched at 3:52.
Out of the slot I found only minimal lift. I turned right, and worked what I could find in passes between launch and half way to the north finger. I was able to add 10-15 feet of altitude on each pass. Began thinking it might be an 8 minute extendo. Somehow I slowly made it up to 200 above launch. That gave me enough to go all the way down to the north finger. I worked more light stuff, passing back and forth, until I had 400 over. At that point, it felt ok to start a 360 when I found a little better lift. Good choice - that put me in a nice thermal all the way to 1700 over. Way cool!
I played around at 1600-1700 over for a while, staying over the middle of the ridge, to the north of launch. By this time I was sharing sky with Matthew, and decided to give him some room, so headed down to near launch. Not the best plan... ended up losing it. down to 50 below launch, out in front. Now, having messed up my original 8 minute expectation, I figured well, half an hour ain't bad.
But straight out from launch I found more small bumps. I worked them slowly, inching back up, again at maybe 15 feet per pass. At 300 over, I headed back up to that nice north finger. Sure enough, it was still working. Caught some good thermal action back up to 1350 over. Played around as 1300 over for 15 minutes, enjoying life. As 5:00 pm got closer, I decided to call an our a good flight, in order to have plenty of light for breaking down. At 59 minutes in the sky, I left the ridge and flew out in teh valley, past the LZ. did a lot of bar stuffing to come down fast, set up my pattern, and landed in the main at 4:55 - 63 minutes of air time. Clean landing, but flared a tiny bit too early, so I set down feet then bumped down to wheels on the ground.
I was very happy with my flying. Clean launch, a couple of low saves, some light lift work that actually worked for me this time (I have not been happy with my ability to stay up in that stuff.) Then a reasonable and safe landing.
Thanks to Joe B for the body ride back to the top. Dinner in Strassburg was fun, with Matthew, Karen and me meeting Dan T and David B for Mexican.
Oh, anyone want a puppy? The family in the LZ has a litter of 5 week olds, ready to adopt in about two weeks. Really cute.