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

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.