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

Monday, November 12, 2007

Highland Aerosports, November 11, 2007

Two Minutes of Tidbits of My 28 Minute Flight

The Highland Crew had announced Sunday the 11th as the last day of their season. Winds were forecast as 5-10 N, not great but adequate. Several of us headed over to the Eastern Shore to finish the season with them. Off-season traffic was great. I arrived after just shy of a 90 minute drive from Alexandria. Dave the Amazing pulled in right behind me. Christian already had his rigid assembled and was lounging under the wing. Carlos had not yet pulled his glider off the rack. Viktor arrived, and John M. There were a couple of H2 students flying, who I did not recognize. Skies were broad blue, with high altitude cirrus and no cumulus in view.

Sunny and Adam had a steady stream of tandems all day, keeping Zack busy in the tug. Bob, Barb, and Bruce were all handling ground crew duties.

I launched just after 2:00, with a relatively smooth tow. We did find a bit of lift, and Zack tried to leave me in a thermal. I missed working that first one, but found another at 2K that I was able to work for a while to come close to maintaining. Next thermal I worked was over the woods and swamp, staying at around 1600'. WHile I was in that one, John M. came in above me and worked it up to 3K+. I eventually lost that one, and landed for a 25 minute flight. Just a tiny bit late on flare, so it was my custom "flare to the knees" landing.

I never even unhooked, and was being pulled skyward again shortly before 3:00. This time the tow was totally smooth and uneventful - not a good sign for lift. SUre enough, the vario never made a sound this time. I was able to slow the descent a bit, so my sled lasted about 8 minutes. This time I nailed my landing. Sweet.

Fine day, and nice to help the park finish up. Even got home at a most reasonable time.

Now - time to bundle up for winter mountain flying.

Pulpit, Sunday November 4

I arrived at the Pulpit about 11:00 to see several trucks and gliders already in place. Surprisingly, Bacil was not yet set up. Larry B. was on hand for his first ever Pulpit day.

Winds ramped up a bit more than expected, with a solid high altitude overcast. Early launches were Larry, Bacil, and Hugh. They all stayed up and got major high, even under the grey ceiling. They also ventured far out over the valley, past the golf course, at ~2K over launch.

Mike L launched next, but worked a nit far from the ridge, and sledded out. I decided to wait a bit, since Mike had not stayed up. Eventually Dan T. and I suited up. Dan got on the new ramp, and the winds went to just over 20. He waited for them to go back down. Bit of a wait. Eventually he backed off, when Carlos noticed his U2 corner bracket did not have the pip pin fully seated. While he fixed his glider, I launched from the old ramp. I did wait for reports of winds at 16 gusting to 20. They had been higher. Many thanks to Shawn R. for crewing me and giving regular wind speed readings from the ramp.

I found easy lift along the ridge, and got up to about 450 over. Never able to reach the Top 3 (early launches) who were boating about way above me.

I worked out in front a bit, but eventually slowly sank out and headed to land. Bacil landed just before me, confirming wind direction. I had a nice approach, landing on the (now cleared) ball diamond area amongst the corn stubble. Missed the flare timing, so bellied in on the wheels. Darn!

Total flight time 30 minutes, max altitude 450' above launch, Good strong launch, safe but not pretty landing. Overall, a fine day.

High praise to Shawn and Matt for doing Observer duty. Shawn got Rich B. into the air, and Matt threw visiting H2 JJ from NY into the sky.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Blue Sky October 21

On Sunday, October 21st I headed down to see Steve Wendt at Blue Sky. He had my UltraSport ready, with its newly installed king post. The forecast as for 5 S to SW, but when I arrived, the winds were notably stronger. The crowd was light, with Peter K, John C, Craig, Tom, Bob, and Billie. It was the first time I had seen Billie there in a couple of years. We were all truck towing.
I got in five flights, all with pin off heights between 950' and 1150' AGL. The flights were pretty much sleds, even though there was some small lift in the field. I was able to add a minute or three to several of the flights. This meant that I was able to stay off the ground long enough for Steve to get the line reeled in and the truck back to the start line. It is just so annoying to beat him back to the launch point.
On one flight, while I was still on the tow line, a hawk flew right in front of me, only about 6 feet away. Pretty neat!
When I had been at Blue Sky on the 6th, Steve gave me some landing advice, saying I should work on being more upright before the flare. This time I concentrated on getting upright, and nailed all five landings. Thanks, Steve!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mounting the Helmet Camera

Three weeks ago Sparky asked to see how I mount the helmet camera. Here are photos to show the set up.
The camera is an Oregon Scientific Action Camera, model ATC-2000. It comes with a quick-clip mount, and several different straps, Velcro (tm) and rubber. I put the Velcro patch (which comes with it) on the back of the clip mount.
A Velcro glider tie strap is around the helmet, secured at the back with duct tape (not quite visible in the photos) to keep it from sliding around or off. The glider strap is Velcro loop-side out, and the patch on the bottom of the mount is hook-side Velcro. This Velcro-connection for the mount helps me align the camera at angles other than along the long direction of the glider strap. That was essential with the earlier model ATC-1000. Not as essential with the 2000, because the mounting base on the camera can rotate and lock. However, it does keep it all in place better.
The trick in setting up the camera is pointing it along my actual line of sight. When prone flying the glider, I end to look more up, relative to the helmet face, than when just standing on the ground.
The same technique works for mounting the camera on the glider base tube and keel. For those positions, the long Velcro strap that comes with the camera works fine.
These photos show the assembly.

(Dry grass courtesy of Blue Sky Flight Park, Manquin, Virginia, and one darn dry, warm autumn.)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Truck Towing, Saturday, October 6

Saturday morning Kay headed off to the Renaissance Faire, leaving me to my own devices. First activity for me was a bit of target practice at the range. After making about 150 little holes in the paper, I called Steve Wendt to check on conditions at Blue Sky. He reported solid overcast at 11:30, and light east winds. No indication of a soarable day, and the cross winds on the N-S tow road meant no expectation of high tows from the truck. Even so, flying felt like a good idea, so I headed south from Fairfax.

By the time I got to Bowling Green, there was plenty of blue mixed with the clouds. That was encouraging. As I was pulling in to Blue Sky Steve pointed up over the golf course, and showed me that Craig had found something and was about 2500' up. Four or so other pilots were waiting their turn on the truck.

I set up my Pulse and hopped into line. I was not so fortunate as Craig, and succeeded in logging three flights, with pin off heights of 750', 680, and 625 agl, successively. I was able to find a small area of zero sink on that first one, to stretch it into 7 1/2 minutes instead of the 5 of the remaining flights. Fun flights, just not long ones.

Randy W. was getting plenty of landing practice with his U2. John and one other pilot were rotating with us on the truck. Meanwhile, Craig claimed FotD with an hour and 2700' max. He declared that one flight plenty.

At one point as Randy was waiting to launch, we watched beautiful bald eagle circle down and land in the bean field. We could not see that the held any prey, but he stayed there for several minutes. Pretty cool. And gorgeous as he flew up, slowly circling up above the tree line.

Just 'cause I can, I built about 90 seconds of video to show you the view as I fly off the truck. Enjoy!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Two Highland Flights on 9/30

Sunday, September 30, the easterly winds looked to favor flying at Ridgely. I made good time across the bay and arrived shortly after 11:00. A few gliders were already set up, and more pilots streamed in over the next three hours.
My UltraSport is in the shop for some new parts, so I brought the Pulse out for the day. I remembered that it has a lot more bar pressure on tow than the US, but had forgotten just how much. First tow, just before 2:00, I got high on the tug, and was having trouble getting back down to it. Finally, at about 1350' I pinned off, not wanting to fight it any more and not wanting to put JR in the tug into an unhappy attitude. I sledded back down for a clean landing, and hurried back over in line.
My next tow was still rowdy, but I hung on for a full tow. didn't find the big lift a few other pilots reported, but worked small bubbles around 2K and then at 700; for an extendo.
Lots of flying, two tugs working solid, but I did not hear that anyone went XC. Even Christian only flew local. John M, Carlos W, Hugh McE, Viktor, and a number of others.
The Highland Canine Contingent is doing quite well. Old Jack, smartest dog on the flightline, made it a point to follow the shade of my wing as I moved up the line to launch. Spry young Nelly had more energy than she could stand, romping behind the tandem glider before each flight, then chasing the glider down the runway until airborne. Hogan the Mobile showed his stuff by competing in a 3-way drag race, with Bruce S in one golf cart, Hogan's owner in the second, and Hogan wheeling down the taxiway between them at fill speed.
My little camera continues o provide added entertainment. Here is about three minutes snipped from the first flight, helmet cam view. By popular request, this one has full commercial sound track added. Enjoy.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Saturday, 9/8/2007, at Highland

With a moderate south forecast for Saturday, September 8, it was definitely a flight park day for me. I try to alternate between Blue Sky and Highland Aerosports, so, after flying Virginia last weekend, I was off to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. An early start got me there well before 11:00, where I found the tug still hangared and the entire crew socializing. Winds were much stronger than the forecast max of 9, so they had cancelled lessons. I set up, and was joined later by other pilots straggling in.

Pilots included Mark C, Carlos W, Ric N, Christian T, Chris McK, Daniel B, John M, Tom McG, Viktor, and Roger from NJ (new solo pilot). Here I am showing off my classic UltraSport with snazzy fin among a pile of U2s and Discus gliders, as well as the tandem wing. I had the only fin on the line. I just bet they are all jealous of my way cool tail fin, right?

I allowed others to test the sky before I carted up. This shot shows just how energetic the Highland ground crew is.

See Bob run! Run, Bob, run!

On this strong south wind and cloudless day, the activity was dominated by sled rides and extendos. Even Christian in his rigid wing had difficulty sticking in the sky. Ric had FotD, reaching 5K in a fast drift for a 42 minute, one thermal, 10 mile XC, not quite making it home as planned. The best entertainment was Mark's first landing. The quote from Pogo, "We have met the enemy, and he is us," was never more appropriate. Ask Mark about pogo.

I flew twice, accumulating a total of 30 minutes flight time for the day. The flights were almost identical, although on the first I did find a very light thermal when I was about 1500 AGL. I worked it from over the LZ to the north for a bit, but the drift was so fast, and the gain so light, I decided it was not worth a retrieve to where I might need to land. I left the thermal and came back to over the airport. That drift and maintain (hardly a gain) made flight #1 all of two minutes longer than #2.

I finished both flights with well positioned landings by the sock, with clean no steps. I was very pleased with both launches and landings. Fine day to be part of the sky.

Here is a short video with highlights from my flights.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Blue Sky Saturday September 1, '07

The forecast with a high pressure region bearing down on Richmond caused a light turn out of pilots for Saturday. Traffic moving south on I-95 was summer vacation heavy, so I hopped over on US 17 at Fredericksburg to take 301 down to Manquin. The trip took 3 hours instead of my usual 2.

I arrived at 1:00 as Joe was just finishing a wind check at altitude in the Dragonfly. Strong winds, not promising. Steve told me he had to make the scooter lesson earlier an abbreviated one as the winds had picked up. We all waited. Eventually, after 2:00, Peter had Joe pull him up, where he was able to stay up for quite a while and make it to 3K. However, on landing he also reported very strong winds.

Tom, Gene, Rob, and Jonathan all started some truck tows mid afternoon. No soaring, and reports of strong winds. As the wind picked up, Steve called off all flying after 3:00 for about an hour. We all visited and waited. I met Cathy, up from Florida to work on her landings using scooter tow lessons. A carload of folks arrived planning tandem lessons late. Scott and Holly arrived. Lots of socializing.

As 5:00 approached, we started flying again. The four truck tow guys flew several more times. I got on the string behind Joe at 5:10. None of us expected me to stay up, as late in the day as it was. However, Joe dropped me just next to a spot of lift over the trees north of the park, and I found light, but nicely workable lift. I had to be patient and work slowly, but I did achieve a gain of about 400 feet, and turned it into just shy of a half hour flight. My biggest problem was letting the thermal drift away from me, and having to find it again. I'm still focusing too much on the ground points when thermaling. I also gave myself way too much space when landing on the runway, resulting in a long walk back to the pavilion. Peter asked if that was my first XC at Blue Sky. :-)

Winds got better. As I left, Peter and Joe were beginning a series of tandems, hoping to get everyone into the sky before the sun dropped too low. Holly was on the truck, about to take her first flight of the day (of the year?). I took 301 home, which let me grab a slab of ribs at Johnnie's Ribs barbecue in La Plata. Nice!.

Overdue Flight Reports - July 2007

Since I failed to post my flying activity in July, this post will fill in the gap and prove I have not been totally dormant in the heat of the summer.

Saturday, July 7 I joined the large crowd at the Pulpit. Lots of fine flights took place that day, including a couple of impressive XC runs. I set up the glider and considered when I should jump into line for a ramp. However, I was also feeling a bit off my feed, and realized I was not well focused on flight. The day just did not feel right for me, and I was moving very slowly mentally. I decided I should not be in the air if not ready to respond quickly to a surprise wind gust or thermal. I didn't exactly use Robert's checklist, but did declare myself not ready to fly. Dinner in Hagerstown with Matt, Karen, and Carlos was fun, and it was great seeing everyone else fly.

A couple of weeks later, I was out at Bill's Hill on Saturday, July 22.

Five pilots with gliders - John M. David C (H2). Christie H., Mark C., me.
One pilot on a motorcycle - Rich B, cruising over from McConnellburg.
We wondered why no bag flyers were there.
Total of ten flights happened.
Beautiful cumies across the sky when we arrived. However, by the time we flew, they didn't do us much good.
Lots of cross and light cycles on launch.

First launch about 2:00 volley resulted in five sleds.
Second launch after 4:00 volley saw several sleds and a couple of hard-fought extendos.
John M, Christie H., and Mark C. all did their best to stay in the sky. David C and I demonstrated proper sled technique.

With his flights, David doubled his lifetime mountain launch count.

Dinner at Bob Evans in Breezewood afterward. Bob hisseff had passed the week before. Memorial flyer at the cash register. RIP.
BTW, they close that place at 9:00. John and Christie arrived before 9:00. David, Mark and I at 9:03. John talked the manager into letting us in. We all got to eat.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Highland, Saturday June 30 '07

The forecast for Saturday the 30th led me to believe the front would pass through and the overcast burn off well before noon. I got an early start to the Eastern shore and arrived in Ridgely at 1130. The sky was still totally overcast, ceiling about 4K. Even got lightly sprinkled on crossing the Bay Bridge. Darn.
Only a very few pilots came out on Saturday. Christian set up his Millenium, but then went back home. I had planned a two-day park trip, so I stuck it out. The park had a nice stream of tandem customers, but only three of us flying solo. Mid afternoon I had Zach pull me up for a couple of pattern tows, to get my sea legs. Everything went fine. After the second, I got a report of light but buoyant lift from a Discus pilot (sorry, don't know the name), so I went for a full pull to altitude.
I tried to work several small lift points, but was not really catching them, so the flight became a busy extended sled. Then I set up to land. In spite of my good work on the first two flights, this time I set up poorly, and was heading in right next to the swamp. Darn. I put the glider gently and safely right next to the big bush in the set up line, but did so with wings not level when I flared. That took a downtube out. Another darn for the day. I, of course had three spares back home. Adam checked, but had none in stock. There went my weekend of flying. Canceled my room at the Slo Horse Inn and was home before sundown.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Blue Sky Report, Saturday 6/16/07

With temps forecast to 82 on Saturday and 94 on Sunday, I declared Saturday my flying day for the weekend. South winds sent me down to Blue Sky for a bit of towing. On the way down I found myself in caravan with Chris Donahue, having merged together where the I-95 HOV lanes end. Besides Chris D., others at the park included Peter Kain, Chris Cioffi, Tom, Craig, Mike, Andrew, and even Jim Carrigan getting to fly for his own amusement. Joe is flying the tug this summer, giving Jim a bit more freedom in his days.
We had a lot of overcast, so not a lot of workable lift. Peter did scratch hard to get over a half hour off of an early afternoon AT. That was FOTD for the Park.
For my part, I started with a truck tow... in the sinky air only got to about 750 feet. That was a pleasant sled.
Later in the afternoon, Joe pulled me up behind the beautiful white BlueSky dragonfly. He looked hard for something nice to drop me in, but not much was available. There were a couple of bumps over the gold course, but nothing I could work successfully.
Pleasant flights, good clean landings, and a good friendly crowd - a successful flying day.
I avoided I-95 traffic no the way home, coming up 301 into MD. Very pleasant drive, with no where near the hassles of the Interstate, at least until the Capital Beltway. Once more, I noted that the least expensive gas was on the Virginia side of the river, near the Nice bridge on 301 - $3.79. As soon as I crossed into Maryland, the price jumped to $3.99. Dang!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Flying High Rock, June 9, 2007

My log book tells me I had not flown High Rock since the High Rock Fly-In on August 17, 2005. That is way too long to be away from such a great flying site. Weather, schedules, complications of life, Presidential TFRs around Camp David; many reasons had kept me away from the Rock. But the Rock, and Ms. Emma Jane and Harry had been in my thoughts, especially as we got word of Harry's medical problems the past couple of years.
After Emma Jane lost Harry last month, I was able to visit with her twice. That helped me, and I hope it helped her. Then, last week the forecast was looking like a doable, if not great, HR day coming up. Many of us wanted to fly there, even if conditions worked out only as marginal, to be able to support Emma. Janni P. urged us on to turn it into a full gathering. He had the right idea, and many of the local pilots not tied up with the ECC over at Ridgely met up to fly and socialize together and with Emma.
I arrived at launch after 1:00, just in time to watch Janni leap into the sky, joining 3 others already airborne. While I set up, he and two of them found a sink cycle, but Dennis S. just got higher. With Matthew's urging to show him where the lift was, I led the second charge at about 2:40. Sure enough, I quickly made it to 400 over at the rock pile, then moved to the north, chasing Dennis. I found my big one for the day, reaching 1400 feet over launch. Matthew, Bunkhouse Bob, and a couple of others followed me, but for about 15 minutes I had top of that stack (I'm still not counting Dennis). Then, somehow, I sank back to 500 over, and Matthew and another pilot caught the good one. For 10-15 minutes Bob and I vied for low man honors, but always between 300 and 500 over. We kept a good eye on each other, working pretty close together up and down the ridge.
Eventually Bob turned wisely and I turned unwisely; he went higher and I sunk below launch, having to turn out toward the LZ. At the tracks aI found a bubble worth two 360s, but no more. Then, at the silo field I stumbled into a nice strong thermal. I worked it hard, and with a 100 foot gain, saw Matthew zooming over to join me in it. I rode up another 100 feet, but did not like the drift so left the thermal to set up my approach. I watched Matthew continue to ride it higher, back over the trees. I cursed him, thinking he would take it back to the ridge.
My set up and approach went well, but I flared a few seconds late, so skidded in with a safe, but not pretty, clean landing. My time was just shy of 55 minutes. As I carried off, Matthew came in right behind me, logging almost the same flight time.
Since it was still early, we both packed back to the top for a second try. At a minimum, we each hoped to accumulate a full hour of flying tome for the day. Thanks to Kathy C for shuttling my truck down for me, so it was ready to cart Matthew and me back up. Sorry she was not able to fly her first HR day.
For my second flight after 6:00 I tried a running launch from 4 steps back on the rock. Apparently I stumbled on that last step (according to wire crew witnesses), because I departed the rock with almost no forward energy, the run notwithstanding. I pulled into the steepest dive-out I have ever performed, got my airspeed, and pushed out over the tree tops. Shawn told me it was one scary steep dive, but also that I had plenty of clearance over the trees.
Once in flight, I found zilch for lift, and headed straight out, sinking nicely. Karen C had sledded out before me. On the ground, we both commented on the gnarly bumpy air we both felt on our short flights. Not new H2 kinda day, even for sleds. Total time on #2 - just over four minutes. Hmmm... even together, I didn't quite make my goal of an hour. Oh, well.
Thanks to Steve K. for the body ride back to the top for my truck.
Back to the bottom, I spent a half hour on the front porch with Emma and Randy. They are making it, but it is really tough on Emma. We tried to get her down to the LZ pavilion, but she said she was not up for a big crowd. We each did go see her in small groups, though, and she really appreciated that. She is truly appreciative of the HG community support for paying the funeral bill.
I finished the evening with the beer and grill crowd. telling tales, some of them true, and educating the two newest to HR, Kathy and David the Amazing, on HR lore.
My day was rewarding on many levels, with flight, closeness with Emma, and with fellow pilots in the LZ.
I did capture a few minutes of flight time with my little video camera, so I have another YouTube entry for this post.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Taylor Farm, Sunday,May 27

Dan T. and I carted my Pulse 19 down to Taylor Farm on Sunday for a little launch and landing practice. We arrived about 11:30, and found the wind more SE than SW, but not too strong. Also, in spite of the overcast, it was definitely hot. Eventually the wind was blowing more up the hill than across it. I got in a couple of flights; Dan flew once. Our runs felt good, and our landings were reasonable, even if not perfect.
We both agreed it was too hot for more carries back up the hill. With that, we found our way into Fredericksburg for a brew and a bit of pizza. Not a long flying day, but a flying day, nonetheless. It was fun to be in the sky.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Woodstock, Saturday, May 19, 2007

Mid-week, it looked like the weekend might get a bit damp. Luckily, the forecast changed for the better as Saturday approached. I got a late start on the morning, arriving at Woodstock launch about 1:30. Bruce, Mike, and Shawn greeted me in the parking lot. Plenty of pilots there - I had to wait for someone to launch before I could claim a set up spot. The winds were a bit strong at times, with swirling in the slot, so I was not worried about rushing into the sky. I set up right behind John M. and Steve P. As the afternoon went on, I assisted in a number of launches.. some good, some not so good. However, everyone got into the air safely.
As I finished my set up and pre-flight, two families with kids came over to ask questions. I enjoyed playing hang gliding answer man. One of the dads is an Army paratrooper, so he was asking about altitudes and need for oxygen. He has never done any recreational skydiving, though, so was not familiar with nuances of our sport. He sure kept the pre-teens in line for proper courtesy when asking their questions. I did encourage them to give it a try (HG, that is) next trip to Kitty Hawk.
I was the second to the last launch of the afternoon. Steve K. helped wire me off at 3:45 into a nice straight in cycle. We did get one of the wuffo dads to stabilize the other wire. Once I was in the sky, Steve launched, leaving the tourists to watch a while from launch.
As others reported about the day, there was lift aplenty. I hit the lift as soon as I exited the slot. Rode that up easily to about 2K over launch, working slowly back and forth between the fingers. I stayed a bit out front, but saw that John M. was another 1-2K above me, back behind the ridge. One other glider, Steve K, I think, took turns seeing who could be higher, playing between 2K and 3K over launch. We both found plenty to work with, including out front across the river. I eventually topped out at 4875 MSL, a very satisfying max altitude. From there, I went out front, and stabilized at about 3100 to 3300 MSL for about 20 minutes.
When I had been up for about an hour, I decided to work my way down. Landings in the main LZ had looked perky, so I decided to use that as an excuse and make my first bridge field landing. The set up was straightforward, with a downwind over the field on the south side of the road, base over the front yard of the house there, and final into the long axis of the field. I think I may have been a bit lower than optimum as I crossed the power lines in the front yard, but had good control and speed. Landed with a clean run out about half way down the field, and carried back over to the end by the bridge. Total flight time was 70 minutes, and I am quite happy with both the launch and the landing.
Great thanks to Mike L, and his already full complement of passengers (Gary, Dan, Shawn, and John) for squeezing me and my harness into the Amazing Toyota for a ride back to the top.
This was a great day to be out. My flying schedule has been terrible this year - my last previous mountain flight was November 18 at the Pulpit - a full six months of time away from the mountains! I'll be working on improving my timing this spring and summer. The wife says she likes when I fly... I come home so much happier with life.

April 21, 2007, Highland Aerosports

This report is overdue being posted, but I want to keep the log complete. On Saturday, April 21, I braved the Bay Bridge for my first day at Ridgely since last August Most everyone acted like they remembered me in spite of the long absence. I needed a flying day, since it had been two months since my flights at Quest Air in Florida. Weather was good, with temps about 75 degrees and a blue sky. I launched at 2:40, with the tug dropping me right in a nice thermal. I rode that first gift to 3300', then looked around for another as I worked a very slow descent. Took a long time to find my own thermal, so I was down to 900' when I finally began going back up. Succeeded in getting back up to 2500' from the t900' start point. Back down some, I played for an extended periods at ~1500', mostly over the swampy area past the hangars. I landed with a sweet no-step after a solid approach, logging a total of 47 minutes in the air. Really enjoyed the satisfaction of that low save. Thanks to all the Highland crew for a fine day.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Hang Gliders at the Smithsonian Kite Festival, March 31, 2007

Each spring the Smithsonian has a one day kite festival. This year was their 41st. For the last 8 to 10 years, the Capital Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association has set up a display. (Last year it coincided with Women in Aviation Day at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum Annex Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport. The club split resources, and I was in the big hangar instead of at the Kite Festival.
We pride ourselves on bringing the biggest kites of the festival. Sadly, we are not allowed to fly ours there. However, many visitors ask if we are going to, and if we can jump off the top of the Washington Monument with them.
It was a long day on the Mall, but a lot of fun. I got most of the gear down there about 7:30. Just to add to the fun, there was no parking on Constitution Avenue because of the Epilepsy Walk. Batman showed up with the Bat Kite about 8, hollering obscenities at me because he could not figure where to park to unload his glider. We solved that by telling him which sidewalk to drive up in order to get the Bat Glider unloaded.
Not surprisingly, the Bat Kite was a real hit as a photo opportunity for festival visitors. Both young and old wanted to pose under it. Since the glider is brand new, it has only been flown by the test pilots at Wills Wing. Winds have not been cooperative since Batman took delivery. You can see it below.
We never really expect to recruit new pilots at the Kite Festival. It is just a fun way to do some good PR for hang gliding. One fellow said he used to teach at Kitty Hawk. Another visitor said he got his Hang 2 years ago but got away from the sport. I think we did convince a couple of folks to at least go try a tandem lesson, for the experience.
We gave away over a hundred hang gliding and paragliding buttons for the kids, dozens of copies of back issues of the USHGA / USHPA magazine, and quite a few simple flyers introducing the sport that our club has prepared.
Officially, the festival was over at 4:00. However, the crowds were still milling around, and we did not finish getting packed up and out of there until about 6:00.
Overall, pretty good turnout from the club. Here are all the names I recall as being down under the kite-filled sky:
Chris Mc. Suzie & Shasta, Carlos W, David B, Mark C, John M, Joe G & Mark, Shawn R & Malina, Mike L & Rhonda, Tom Mc, Tracey & kids, Joe S & Zelda, John D & Family, Jim D & more family, Daniel Broxterman.

Here are a few pics, followed by a video.

The Batman under the Bat Glider.

David B, selling the sport.

Joe G and Mark join the Batman.

Batman and I pose, with Shawn off to the side.

Daniel & David tell hang lies while Mark actually talks to a visitor.

A smallpart of the crowd; John M giving the club flying spiel at the table.

Even more crowd around our display.

And, what would a Kite Festival be without a Kite Eating Tree?

About 5 minutes of the sights and sounds of the day.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Quest Air, Feb '07

I arrived in Florida the afternoon of Sunday, Feb 11, and drove straight to Quest AIr at 2:00, before going into Orlando to my hotel. The air was calm, with no indications of lift, so no none of the locals were flying. One visitor from Argentina was arranging to borrow a glider and take a flight.
I found Paul Tjaden doing repair work on the stairs going up to the clubhouse. Peter Kane, a Richmond pilot, wandered around the corner. I had not known he was wintering at Quest in his new trailer. Awesome Bob let me fill out my forms so I would have them done for the next weekend. I also met Fender, the designated grumpy Dalmation. Steve Wendt was just finishing the classroom portion of his scooter tow clinic, and spotted me as he descended those in-progress stairs. Son of a gun, in his gaggle of students was Santos!
Lots of familiar faces floating around.
Paul helped me load my glider into one of the storage barns, and I went on into town to check in and do my official business conference stuff for the week.
After spending 4 1/2 days in suit and tie and being all official (officious?) I got back out to Quest on Friday afternoon. Nothing was going on; no flying to be had. I did get to meet Bo, who was studying his anatomy & physiology text in the office. He's in school over in Miami. OK, back to my Orlando hotel for one last night.
Saturday morning I was back at Quest to a forecast of 10+, W to NW. The locals assured me west days were gnarly, plus at 50 degrees, it was too cold for them and they generally chose not to fly. However, I needed an air fix, so I set up and got ready to go. At 1:00 I was pulled into the sky by tug pilot young Paul (and I do mean young!). It was chilly, and I was happy to have my leather flight jacket. And, who knew I'd be happy I accidently brought my bar mitts? We found a couple of good lift spots on the way up, and after pinning off, I caught one at 2200 and rode it back to 2500. Losing that one, I made my way across the middle of the field to the trees at the south. Nothing but sink, so I arrived over those trees at about 1K. At 960' I saved myself and climbed back up to 2000. I drifted eastward, and found another corner thermal just outside the park. to play in. I was back and forth between the two thermals at the corners, generally between 2K and 2600. After about 30 minutes, I was getting a little fatigued and queasy. I really should have eaten breakfast, or lunch, or something. I landed at 36 minutes even though the sky was doing fine, and ran into town for a burger at Hardee's.
When I got back a bit after 3:00, Rich and Lisa were towing a few other visitors up. Winds had increased, and no one was staying up long. Reports were of very rowdy tows, in the not fun range. I decided to wait for late day smoothing, and spent time watching Steve's scooter tows. The smoothing never arrived, winds ramped up to lead into the forecast gale force winds on Sunday.
I joined a mix of locals and visitors for dinner at a Thai restaurant in Winter Garden, meeting both Jim (Prahl?) and Jamie Shelden.
Sunday was as blown out as the forecast said it would be. I was invited to the Quest Sunday pancake breakfast at Jim's trailer. He was cooking toast, cofee, and bacon in the trailer. Jamie was doing great blueberry and raspberry pancakes on the grill. Bo brought bananas. Steve finished his breakfast and headed home to Richmond. To finish the day, I ate Mexican for lunch and did laundry in beautiful downtown Groveland. I think I was the only Anglo in the laundromat.
Back at the park on Monday, we were looking forward to NE to E and 5-10, with lots of lift. Well, the wind direction was right. I set up early. Lauren came out mid afternoon, both to fly and to sell her Falcon to an out of towner. The sky was clear and blue. The temperature was nice, back to shirtsleeves on the ground. There was no lift. Lauren's glider purchaser arrived; it was Bob B. from Memphis, who I had met at Blue SKy last August. Hang gliding remains a small world.
Starting about 3:00, several of us proceeded to work on our skills with a series of sleds. Lauren has described her landing practice. Bob and his buddy from Utah were getting to know the Falcon and refresh their AT skills after a two year lull. I took tow sleds, the first about 4:30. Young Paul loved my towing and I was pleased with the flights from start to finish.
That finished my first Florida winter flying trip. I had one soaring flight, and two pleasant sleds, saw a bunch of old friends, met some very nice new HG friends, and overall had a good time.
Quest was friendly, fun, professional, and I hope to make my way back down there again, soon.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Saturday, January 6, 2007 - Taylor Farm Training Hill

With the forecast for SW winds and temps in the low 70's, how could I not spend the first Saturday in January flying? After some morning chores, I arrived at 1:00 to see strong winds and a bit of west cross. Dan T. had ridden his BMW down, beating me there by 15 minutes. John M. had two students, and all three of them were setting up gliders at the bottom by the trees, due to the strong winds. With Dan's help, I set up the Pulse on the top. The winds were well above 10 mph, and increasing for a while. NWS reports later showed a peak of 17 mph at 2:00 p.m.
I finally launched during a nice lull after 2:00. Dan and I alternated on the Pulse, picking lighter cycles. Even then, we both found bumps of lift just off the hill, nearly getting above launch. I flew three times, and Dan flew twice.
In the meantime, John was working with his students, and after about 3:30 they were flying from up the hill as the winds were more reasonable. We also had the help of Gary Campbell, who dropped by to see how things were looking. Gary told us he hopes to return to flying in the spring after a three year hiatus. He is looking forward to freeing his WW Eagle from the garage. Gary's stories included tales of Attack Ducks and XCs and flying years ago with Tad and Nelson and others.
Dan and I departed about 4:30, with John and hi students still enjoying the flying.
Fine day to be alive!