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

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

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


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.