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

Monday, November 10, 2008

Back to Woodstock, November 9, 2008

More Fall Foliage -Woodstock 11/9/2008 from Cragin S on Vimeo.

The forecast for Sunday looked promising, with west winds 5 to 10 at Winchester. I joined the crowd heading to Woodstock. Bluer sky than my last trip, and larger crowd. John M, John D, Tony D, Dan T, Grigor, Janni P, Glenn H, Carlos W all came out, all soared.

I launched at 3:30 and found quite usable lift. Did not get so high as last week, topping out at 2850 MSL, or about 800' over the ridge top. Others did a bit better. Everyone landed on their own schedule - no one was flushed. Flights wer all an hour or more.

I left the ridge at 4:25 in order to have daylight for breaking down. Wass still at 2400 out over the valley, so pulled the bar and did some spirals down to set uup for my landing.

The fall trees are still beautiful. In the video you see one glider onluanch, about to become skyborne; that is Glenn, last one off.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Woodstock Over the Fall Foliage, October 27, 2008

Woodstock Fall Trees 10/27/2008 from Cragin S on Vimeo.

Mark C and I spent Monday morning exchanging hopeful interpretations of the afternoon forecast for Woodstock. THese were tempered by my office window view of a totally overcast grey sky to the west from McLean. Since neither of us could fly the upcoming weekend, we decided to chance the timing of the front moving in, and depart our jobs at lunch time. I drove in rain from McLean until nearly Gainesville out I-66. Our coordinated timing was excellent, with Mark pulling in behind me along the Interstate about 15 miles past the rain line. We convoyed in to the LZ, where Tony D was waiting. He planted his brand new raffle-won windsock and we took my truck to launch.

At the top we found Hank & Karma's truck, glider still no the rack, and Ellis's car. None of them were around. As we set up our gliders, looking out at the still totally overcast valley and marveling at the failed forecast for 41% cloud cover, all three arrived, multiple dogs in tow. After some consideration, Hank decided not to fly, but did hang around to give all of us a hand. He kept his bike, and Karma headed home with the dog.

Hank , Ellis, and Tony helped Mark launch, so we'd have a good sky report for our H2. A bit later, with report of a bit rowdy but do-able from Mark, the three of us crewed Tony off. I think this was his 4th Woodstock flight.

I was able to suit up and with assist from Hank and Ellis was off the mountain side about 5:25. I felt good about the launch run and pitch, and left the slot with plenty of speed. As soon as I turned right, I found comfortable lift and worked the local area, slowly reaching about 800' over launch. Mark and Tony were another 800' above me at the north finger. As I continued my ascent, I lost track of them both. When I reached about 2,500 MSL, I spotted them both below me and to the south, out over the river. as they played down there, I kept finding stronger and broader lift. At 3,400 MSL I noted that the cloud base was interestingly near. At 3,600 MSL, it occurred to me that Mark was making no attempt to join me. Passing through 3,700 and still climbing in strong lift, I looked at those rolling cloud bottoms and figured out I just might be in for more of a ride than I had wanted. Down would be a very good thing. I pulled in a little, and kept going up. Hmmmm. I stiffed the bar and began hauling tail out into the valley. I was maintaining a nice 600-800 fpm down, and had good control so just kept it up. Well out over the valley, at about launch height, I backed the speed off to trim, hoping to boat around a bit. Nope.. that just put me back into a moderate up mode. OK - stuff the bar some more. I was out near the red barn on Moose Lodge Road, and decided to skip the main LZ and use the long field Hank had described as his "second favorite LZ." Fast approach, lots of speed well into the final leg, and I was still getting kicked around. However, brought it in safely with a nice flair, and was happily on the ground at 6:00. I agree with Hank's comment, I think I was messing at the edge of some wave up there. Glad I had the experience. Glad I dove down out of it easily.

While I was packing up, Mark radioed from overhead that Tony had landed in the main LZ. Mark joined Tony a little later. By the time Mark drove up to provide transport back to launch, I was all packed up and even had my glider over the barbed wire fence, ready to load. Tony headed home, happy with his day, and Mark and I stopped at the Handy Mart for a fill up ($2.29 /gal!) and a few brews.
(Note - the Annheuser distributor pretty much owns the cooler case in that store. We went for Yeungling Lager.)

We toasted the day and some truly fun flying up at the parking lot at the top, while listening to the winds howl in. It was a great day to play hooky, and all the folks who were discouraged by the clouds and rain in DC, well, you just lost out.

Thanks to Mark for prompting our escape. Congrats to Tony for a successful fall flight. Special appreciation to Ellis and Hank for sticking around to help us all fly.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Pulpit Flying, Sunday 9/7

Pulpit PA Flight Sunday 9/7 from Cragin S on Vimeo.

I got an early start driving north to the Pulpit. Travel was easy, and I even waved to the two Maryland cops on Route 58 stopped to visit with a few motorists. I arrived at launch about 11, to find Dave P. setting up his glider and a carload of birders up on the ramp. Other pilots began arriving while I set up the U2. When Bacil D. showed up I bragged on beating him there. He told me that he had had a nice visit with the cops on 58, who only gave him a warning ticket. They had sorta wanted to visit with me, too, it seems, but were busy with the several drivers already stopped. Hmmmm. I guess I may have used up my luck for the day.

Site condition from clean-up: We all owe a big Thank You, and maybe a beer or three, to Shawn R. He had cut all the lower level grass on Friday, and spent part of Sunday morning picking up trash. Meanwhile, Tony D and Charlie G broke out their gas weedwhackers and made the hillside all nice and purdy , too. Thanks, fellas!

The crowd grew, with Dan Tuck, Janni P. and Leonie, Carlos W, Bruce E, Gary s, Kristof, and Joe S also showing up.

While Shawn and I were walking the LZs with Tony and Dan, Dave launched. Apparently he caught the train outta town, because he was over the back by the time we returned to launch. I'm sure he will have a report.

The winds were distressingly light all afternoon. Launchable, but not particularly conducive for soaring (in spite of Dave's success). Joe made it down the ridge for a bit of soaring, and was able to land in the main by the road. Janni squeaked down to the upper main. And Bruce worked his rigid wing patiently slowly up, for along time only a few hundred over. Eventually he caught something by the towers to the north and went off into the valley behind.

Shawn and I co-observed Dan and Tony, and watched them each head off to the secondary. Afterward, Shawn took his sled like the man he is.

Others all landed in the secondary, some after short sleds (even Charlie under a bag). Only Bacil actually chose the secondary when he had the option of going to the main.

With so few flights on my U2, I did not want to land in the short secondary. The light wind and minimal thermal action convinced me to stay on the ground. Carlos gave it a shot in his, but the main was not in his future. By 4:30 we had launched all the pilots but two. My glider was set up and waiting. Gary S had not even set up, the winds were so light. I declared that I was not planning to fly, but would not break down until 5:30. Several of us watched the valley.

Then, surprisingly, the broken mostly blue sky clouded over about 5:00, and along with all the clouds came a steady, strong wind. The residual crowd encouraged me to suit up. I had to shift my mind into flight mode - I had already given up on a flight.
Gary, Janni and Carlos helped me launch, and I was lifted up into the air before even reaching the end of the ramp. I was in moderate lift right away, as I turned down the ridge. I slowly made my way up to abut 600' over launch, and played along Route 16 for about 20 minutes. then I began slowly sinking out - bands of lift not quite making up for the light pockets of sink. I had plenty of time to circle the field and wonder about wind direction. Finally I decided to use the hill, and landed toward the ridge, for a nice uphill landing. 35 minutes and 600' over - not as stupendous as Dave or Bruce, but a most satisfying flight.

At the very end of the day, after Carlos and Janni gave me a ride back to launch, John M showed up with 4 students who had just finished lessons at Kirchners. This was their first view of a mountain launch site. I think they were impressed.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory! Labor Day at Hyner View PA

Hang Gliding at Hyner View, Labor Day 2008 from Cragin S on Vimeo.
Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory! Labor Day at Hyner View PA.

After about ten years of urging from John M and others, I finally got my tail in gear and hit the road for a holiday weekend at Hyner View. Very glad I went; sorry I took so long to do it. Hyner View is indeed a free flight national treasure. Kudos for the Pennsy club for maintaining top relations with the state govies for launch access in the park and the local landowner for a HUGE LZ with the most spacious camping and landing accommodations you can wish for.
We had a quite reasonable contingent of Capital club faces on hand over the weekend. John M with Marnie, Rich C, Shawn R with Melina, David the Amazing with Victoria, Dan Tuck, Bacil D with Judy, myself, and, if the New Yorker will let us still claim him, Brian V-H. Overlapping Brian into the Maryland contingent, we add Bunkhouse Bob and Steve C.
PA locals included Shawn M, Tom G, Bob B, Dennis P, Bill U, Spoons, Joe & Karen G, and a supporting cast of dozens more pilots with innumerable spouses, kids, dogs, and camper trailers in tow.
I had thought my own weekend trip was the longest commute reported to reach Hyner. However, Brian V-H beat me with his 10:30 - midnight loop from NYC. I left the house at 6:45 a.m. and pulled into the LZ at 5:00 p.m. Ok, there was the interlude with the flat tire on the Beltway 15 minutes from home, followed by the purchase and installation of four new Bridgestone Duellers and a particularly troublesome 4-wheel alignment in Springfield. On the road again by 11:30, I pulled into the LZ at 5:00. I visited launch, but due to the extreme N to NE cross wind, did not set up.

On Sunday I flew twice, first with my Pulse about 4, and then with the U2 a bit after 6. Although there were several soaring flights, there were a lot of sleds. I was proud of eking out a dozen minutes on the Pulse, and padding a sled to 4 minutes with the U2.
I joined the cloud dive contingent Monday morning, for my first such experience. It was great, and I did, indeed, see my glory. The snapshot grabbed from my video shows the glider shadow over my left shoulder. The photo does not do justice to the rainbow halo that surrounded the shadow.

I will report that my launches were all good strong runs in light or no wind. On Sunday I landed in the upper field, visible to the picniccers at the swimming pool. For Monday's morning sled I brought it in right in front of the pilots' campfire.
In the evenings, I visited several campfires and enjoyed the many friendly folks. I will admit to bypassing the midnight to two shift up in Two-Town. Sunday night, I also stayed away from the kareoke up at the pool. Reportedly, not all the pilots refrained from it.
My return drive was greatly improved by map advice from Dennis P - I do learn much from him beyond his great flying and weather books. Only 5 hours to get home, and avoided all the I-70 holiday mess.
Thanks to all the great Hyner crowd, It was super fun, and I will get back there again.
For more great videos of the weekend events, see Dan Tuck's videos at

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Return to High Rock - 8/16

Oh, no! 14 months since flying High Rock and seeing Emma Jane. That required correction. Several flyers declared Saturday, August 16 as a good HR day, and I agreed. The crowd included Mark C, Carlos W, Kelvin P, Janni P (with Leonie). Glenn (with Mom), Rich H, Pete S, Eddie M, Dan Tw (to distinguish him from Dan Tm who is in Baghdad for a while), Pete S, and Bunkhouse Bob B.

I arrived close to 1:00 after a few errands, got partially set up, and helped several others launch. FInally I completed set up, hooked in, and was standing on the launch block just after 3:30. At which point the sky shut down, glders who had been many hundreds over were at launch ,and the trees out front showed no signs of motion.
BOOO! I potatoed for over 15 minutes. THanks to Rich, Eddie, and Glenn for staying with me as crew.

At 3:50 it looked almost good again. It was launchable, and soarable, but I am not sure good covered the option. I had a very satisfying launch from about 2 feet back from the edge of the cliff. Straight out, with almost no drop - nice. I spent almost half an hour scratching up and down in front of launch, varying from 100' below launch to 150' above.FInally my altitude losses became consistently greater than my gains. I stair-stepped out over the tracks and to the LZ. My setup and approach went very well, and I was quite happy with a 3 step run out landing. All was well.

Once packed up, I helped observe Dan Tw for a second flight in the half hour before sundown. He deserved it, having suffered the only sled of the day earlier.

We finished the evening with 6 of the gang having dinner at the Cozy Inn in Thurmont, enjoying their Saturday seafood buffet.

Here's a two minute review of my flight. I edited out the launch potato portion.

Flying High Rock, August 16, 2008 from Cragin S on Vimeo.

U2 to the Mountains - 080808

According to the Chinese, 8 is a very lucky number. Thus, the date 8/8/08 was particularly auspicious, and they opened the Olympics at 8:08 p.m. that day.
I chose to play hooky from work the afternoon of Friday, August 8, because the NW winds and open sky looked like a fine Woodstock day. Others on hand included Joe S, Bruce E, Homer, Steve K, Gary S, Pete S, and Bacil D.

I had brought the U2 to Woodstock several weeks earlier, but had not even set it up. This would be my first mountain flight with the new glider.

Bacil and I were the last ones still on the mountain, and he helped me launch. As I left the ground and floated into the slot, he hollered "Pull in!" I needed the advice. I launched nose-high, and was mushing out over the rocks, getting closer and closer to the trees. Finally, my brain engaged, and I pulled in to correct as I skimmed over the tree tops with only a few feet to spare.
My long lag between mountain flights led me to get the pitch wrong, Once I was airborne, I think my subconscious took over with the natural, but BAD, analysis of 'push out for height to get over those trees.' I know better, but dumbed up.

In any event, I used up my Luck of the 8's and made it out of the slot unscathed. After that, I had a pleasant 45 minute flight, primarily at 200' to 600' over launch. Landing on thee upslope of the LZ was very satisfying. I had impetus to get it right; I had just watched Gary S use every bit of the LZ, right up to the fence, to put his U2 on the ground.

I finished the evening by joining Joe, Zelda, their friend Louie, and Steve for beer, burgers, and bluegrass at the Strassburg Hotel. It was a fine flying day and a fun Friday night.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sled Day at Blue Sky, June 14

Launching & Landing at Blue Sky 6/14/08 from Cragin S on Vimeo.

The DC area forecast offered a 60% chance of thunderstorms; not conducive to flying. However, for Richmond the odds were only 20%, with SSW to SW winds. Blue Sky was worth a shot. Besides, I needed to drop off the UltraSport for Steve to hold on consignment - still looking for a buyer.

Rather than rushing down I-95, I started the morning at the NRA range to get in an hour punching holes in paper plates. The .22's just back from factory service did right nicely.

However, letting the traffic build up on the highway was not the best idea. The trip down took about 3 1/2 ours rather than the under 2 theoretically possible. Arrived about 2:30.

I found a moderate crowd with gliders set up. Mike told me that so far the lift had been light, and just seemed to be turning on. Others there included John, Ray M, Peter K, Chris O, Cathy (from NC), another Mike, Olaf the paraglider, and a few more.

All of us hang gliders took our sleds as they came. Only Olaf soared, working the tiny burbles of lift with his bag wing. That gave him FOTD. I scored three flights, having fun getting used to the U2. Tried a new mount position for the camera, on the downtube. I think it worked out well, but want to adjust the angle just a bit.

Driving home I got caught in the downpour. Oh, well.. the glider will dry out. I've had wet glider bags before.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Another Light Wind Day - Woodstock June 1

Well, Sunday ended up feeling a lot like Friday, May 23. I headed out to Woodstock with high hopes for a fine flying day. Arrived about 1:00 to find a tightly packed set up area, littered with gliders in bags, gliders set up, and various hang glider and paraglider pilots wandering around. Winds were light to nil, and no one was excited about leaping off the mountain. Then about 2:00 the sky reminded us that 20% chance of rain is not 0%. After two sessions of light rain, various PG pilots decided to give it a shot.
Matthew convinced our two Hang 2's present to take advantage of the available launch window, since there appeared to be more rain approaching from the far ridge across the valley. Tom observed Kathy off, then Matthew observed Dan. Each waited in the very light wind for a comfortable cycle, and showed us all excellent running launches. Here they are for your viewing enjoyment. Forgive the low grade video - cell phone camera.

I love the adulation of a cheering crowd!

A few more PGs flew, but I was not up for making my maiden mountain flight on the new U2 in such light winds P lus, it did look like another minor rain was coming. I headed home a little after 4:00, and, sure enough, was rained on on the highway.
THis was two skunked day sin a row at Woodstock. Gary S told me for him it was #5. Eventually I'll fly there again.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend - May 23-25 '08

Yes, I know Memorial Day is the 26th. But I will not be trying to fly that day, and have reports for the other days.

Friday 5/23.
As of Thursday night, Woodstock looked most promising. Packed all the gear that night and took it to work Friday. Left the office at noon with visions of mountain soaring. Arrived at launch to find the set up area covered with gliders and lots of hang waiting happening. The forecast 5-10 NW was a L&V trickle. Only Kevin C soared. Two others, Bruce and Adam, took their sleds. Others broke down at launch. I didn't even set up. Oh, well ... next time.

Saturday, 5/24.
A call to Steve Wendt in the morning elicited pessimism about the flyability of the day, so I delayed departure until noon. The normal drive time to Blue Sky is about two hors. In honor of the holiday weekend, both I-95 and US 1 became parking lots. I arrived after 4:00. However, I knew the drive would be worthwhile, because waiting for me was my brand new blue & silver U2 (click the photos for full size):

New U2 Hang Glider

After almost two hours of learning the nuances of set up and break down with tip wands and sprogs, I suited up at 7:20 and trucked off for my inaugural flight:

U2 on Blue Sky Launch Truck

The glider was rock steady smooth, and handled superbly. Mine was the last flight of the day for the park, so I had an entire pavilion of pilots and friends watching my landing. Luckily, I pulled it off cleanly.

After a fine burger and dog cookout hosted by Nick, Steve called us all together in the club house for a remembrance of Jim Carrigan. It was a touching and informal gathering, with Steve and others telling a few stories of Jim - one of the warmest and most positive pilots we knew. And almost none of us knew of his illness, much less that he had fought it for 8-10 years longer than his doctors predicted. After digital photo memories, accompanied by Jim's own singing and guitar music. we migrated out to the campfire.

A little new entertainment - Daniel showed us a bit of his choreographed fire flinging:

Sunday, 5/25
I started the flying day by joining Davis Straub for a scooter tow class with Steve. That was fun. Davis worked on his launch runs in full harness. I worked on my landings. He got in about a half dozen flights, I did four on the Falcon. Check the OzReport for Davis's report on this training.

(I was photographer for his short video.)

Here is that video, which is also embedded in Davis's report.

In the afternoon, I flew the U2 four more times off the truck. Kevin C. had flown down
in a little Cessna and spent the afternoon as AT tug pilot. The only truck-tow launch resulting in a soaring flight was Billy in the SuperFloater. Thus, my total flight time over 4 tows was between 16 and 20 minutes. Not long, but I got a good start on getting the feel of the new glider. Oh, Peter K was Kevin's first tow; Peter was supposed to be a practice pilot for Kevin. However, he stayed up over three hours, topping out at 6200'. Kevin had to find a few other practice pilots for his tow. They all stayed up a long time, too. I was envious; but Steve was being careful for my first few flights.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Dreaming of Flight at Kill Devil Hills

This b(L)og is all about flying. I try to stick to the one topic here. However, this post is about a day I wished I could have flown. While vacationing for a week on the Outer Banks, I not only flew the dunes at Jockey Ridge State Park, I also visited, for the first time, the Wright Brothers Memorial. What a great place. I've included a few pictures from the visit, below.

The memorial itself is undergoing rehab and repair, so we were kept back by a construction fence. The busts of Wilbur and Orville at the base are wrapped to protect them during the construction. The result is a duct-tape Ninja look for the brothers.

The memorial is at the top of the hill the Wrights used for their thousand glider flights from 1900 into 1902, learning details about aerodynamics and control surfaces. And that hill offers two of the most enticing looking hang glider launches I have seen for an advanced training hill. A steep drop faces south, overlooking the sculpture reproducing the first powered flight. You can see the sculpture in the upper left corner of this panoramic view.

Here I am in what would be a nice close LZ, the memorial and hill behind me.

The north side of the hill faces out onto the flat area where the first four powered flights took place. It offers a more shallow launch, and a superb extended LZ down where the powered flights occurred.

At the first launch of the powered Wright Flyer on December 17, 1903, the Wrights asked Surfman John Daniels to operate their camera. He captured the launch perfectly, creating an historic record of the beginning of that 12 second flight. That photograph is reproduced in sculpture at the park.

His view must have been amazing. Wish I could have been there with him.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Tuesday on the Kitty Hawk Dunes 5/6/08

Two months ago we got a postcard reminding us of a week of timeshare on deposit that would expire in August. Not wanting to waste that, I asked for an Atlantic beach location any time in May or June. They found us a week in Kitty Hawk in May. When I locked it in, the wife said, "You'll take your glider, right?" Of course! (I love having an understanding wife.)

I brought the UltraSport for a bit of aerotow at Currituck airport, and planned on renting a glider to play on the dunes. Monday was rainy, but Tuesday was bright and sunny with a light NE wind. Over at Kitty Hawk Kites I met Bruce Weaver, who was teaching the dune classes for the day. He provided a Falcon 2 195, which I carried out to the low dune where he was teaching. With light winds and a somewhat flat slope, neither the students on the Eaglets nor I on the Falcon had long flights. I got in 4 or 5 short flights there - nothing special, but I was in the air. I then left the class area, and carried a couple hundred years back to the BIG dune. With three families playing at the top of the dune as my audience, I took a nice run down the steep slope. With applause in behind me, I flew out a fifty yards and and set down smoothly, all smiles. First a wave to the crowd on the hill, then pondered another carry up that slope of sand. Nah... it was 3:30, I'd been there since late morning. I didn't have one of those healthy 20-something KHK instructors carrying my glider for me. Time to carry back in for the day.

Fun day, good exercise on the sand, and finished with a really nice dune sled. It was also good to finally meet Bruce, having heard his name for so many years.

Minor disappointment - until the tourist season opens in a few weeks, the AT operations at Currituck are weekends only. I had hoped for a mid week tow day. I'm used to Highland and Blue Sky being full time parks most of the year. KHK is more dependent on tourist trade, so is much more seasonal. We'll stop at the airport Saturday morning en route back to the DC area, and try to get a flight in before leaving the area. I'll report if successful.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Kite Festival 2008

The Capital Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association (CHGPA.org) once more used the annual Smithsonian Kite Festival to show off our sport to the masses. The sky filled with kites. PG pilots kited their bagwings. We bragged about having the biggest kites at the festival. The Batglider drew the crowds from across the lawn. So many wanted their photo with it. Then we started flying little kids under the gliders with a small training harness. Parental cell hone cameras got a real workout. The line didn't stop until we broke down the last glider.

Club members taking part included Matthew G., Karen C., David B. with Jody, Chris Mc (Batman), Dan T. (old-3), Dan T. (new-2) David C., Daniel B., Juanito with family and students, Clare, Susanna, Stan, Ellis, Carlos W., Kathy C., Sheila G. , Joe & Janet G., Mike L., Gary S., Joe S., (if I missed a name, let me know!), and even my own special Kay, who wowed the crowds with her devil stick juggling. (Kathy C. and David B. picked up the sticks and got pretty good with them, too.)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Good Friday Flying (Good Flying Friday?)

I had been away from mountain flying for way too long. My most recent high flight and mountain flight were 4 1/2 months ago, on back to back weekends in early November. Last weekend I played lazy and was a no show at Woodstock when quite a few folks flew in spite of the increasing winds across the afternoon.
With a mountain itch needing scratching, I was pumped up to see a flight-friendly forecast for Friday. Wednesday I marked my work calendar for a hooky day, and confirmed with the wife that I could take a pass on the free opera tickets we had been offered for Friday night.
Thursday night we were out late, seeing Macbeth at the Folger Library theater. When we got home I put the rack on the truck, fresh batteries in all the electronics, and pre-positioned my gear bag for early departure. As an aside, Macbeth was fabulous. Co-directors are Aaron Posner and Teller (as in Penn &). Teller designed a number of magic tricks integral to the play, including floating dagger, disappearing witch, and ghastly bloody fights. Great fun, and truly outstanding acting.
Friday morning I was on the road just after 8:00 and first to arrive at launch, setting my glider down on the ground at 10:00. Bacil D. arrived just as I was standing up, and Bruce E. and Randy W. within the hour. Gary S. was about an hour behind them. Juan showed up with his PG.
Sky report: at 10:00 the sky was totally clear, not a hint of a whispy in sight. Between noon and 3:00 lenticular disks formed, some in significant stacks indicating wave. By 5:00 the sky was a flat grey, indicating the new weather system moving in as predicted.
Bacil launched at 12:10, and went upright away as he turned north along the ridge. Randy followed him, showing similar upness in the sky. I helped Bruce launch his ATOS (that is a WIDE wing!), dawdled a bit, then with Gary's help ran into the sky a quarter to two. My run and pitch felt good, and Gary alter told me it all looked fine, nothing he noticed in the launch that could be improved. Juan and Gary followed me fairly soon thereafter.
I turned right once clear of the slot, and was in light lift almost immediately. As I worked up to the first ridge finger, I found the lift was all thermal, with no consistent ridge lift. Was able to find lift areas at different spots. Had to work a lot, although maybe not hard. Spent almost the entire flight between 200 and 600 over launch. Sunk out to 150 below launch twice, out front near the river. Each time found up air and stair stepped back to the ridge and 500 over. One thermal did get me to 850 over, my best for the day.
At 2:10 I watched Bacil land in the main LZ - 2 hours for him. As I approached 75 minutes I worked away from the ridge and allowed myself to sink out. Worked my way down above the Fisher yard, past the LZ, then entered a standard left hand turn DBF approach over the trees. I saw Gary coming out from the ridge, effectively setting up a straight-in approach. We ended up landing in parallel, side by side, 30 yards apart, on either side of the row of cows in the center of the field. Probably looked pretty neat and coordinated, although it was all coincidence. I logged 80 minutes, two low saves, and a lot of fun.
Randy got us back to the top, where we helped Eric S and Dave K, up from Charlottesville, launch. Home and Adam arrived at launch as Gary, Bacil, and I started back to the LZ to break down. Back at the LZ, Adam landed as we finished packing up, after a pleasant but short soaring flight. Poor Homer, last on launch, reported tailing winds and broke down on top.

Heard later that Juan had gotten up into the wave in his PG, reaching 9K, and with an awesome XC.

Finished the day with dinner at Christina's Mexican in Strassburg with Bacil. Fella at the next table had to ask Bacil about his relief map we were studying over the chips and salsa.

Fine way to spend a day out in nature with friends .

(Sorry, no video or pics this post.)

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Launch Video - Light Wind Launches

Over the past week OzReport Forum has had an extensive and very informative discussion on foot launch technique, particularly in light wind conditions. Several valuable video links and still photos are included in the forum thread. The thread is available at http://tinyurl.com/2ezp2q or


Since our training hill day on March 2 was definitely a light wind day, I pulled out the videos and isolated my two launches for study. Here is the resulting short (20 second) video.

Much of the OzReport thread has concentrated on proper use of the grapevine and coke bottle grips, need for each, and transition timing and technique between them. There seems to be strong support for starting with grapevine and keeping fairly far into the launch run. This is to maximize pitch control authority. In this video, you see me taking a different approach to the grip during launch. First remember that this was a very light wind day; I was launching in near no-wind conditions.

My plan was to use a technique I learned from an advanced instructor a number of years ago, during one of his launch & landing seminars on a high wind day. Greg's suggestion was to use the grapevine grip for positive control during all ground handling, right up to standing on launch. Keep the grapevine hold in place while standing on launch, until you feel the wing load balanced. Then, once the wing is balanced and pitch is set, change to bottle grip before starting the run. Confirm that balance and pitch are still set, then begin the run. Keep the hands wrapped fully around the down tubes for positive pitch control. However, do not grip the tubes tightly. Instead, allow the tubes to slide up or down within the loose grip. As you accelerate, the glider rises off your shoulders, first with enough lift to fly its own weight. Work to keep the elbow angle constant as the tubes rise. This keeps the hands down closer to waist high, and ensure maximum pitch control range throughout the run. As the lift increases under the wing, it eventually pulls you off the ground, with sufficient lift for the weight of pilot and wing together.

In my video here, you will see that I did not allow the tubes to slide up as described. Instead my hands stayed at about the same place on the tubes, and rode up to near my shoulders as the glider flew up. I will be working on correcting this.

Here are more comments on this bottle grip-only launch run. In many foot launch events the glider nose pops up, causing loss of forward momentum and energy, and loss of lift. Quite often, the nose pops up during the transition from grapevine to bottle grip. A nose-high launch can result in the glide mushing into the hill (or trees) instead of flying off into clear air. Eliminating the grip transfer eliminates this obvious opportunity for a nose pop. Further, while the grapevine is definitely a more powerful grip for controlling the glider during ground handling, once the wings are balanced and the pilot is ready to run, the pitch angle is paramount to a good launch. Hands fully wrapped around the down tubes, and kept low close to the waist, provide as much power, and much more leverage, for pitch control than the grapevine grip. To see the reduced leverage of grapevine during launch, look at some of the still photos included in the OzReport forum thread linked at the beginning of this post.

Clearly, I am describing a theory that I have not yet perfected in practice. However, I like the logic of it and will continue working on it. I also would appreciate feedback on it, relative to the points made by Davis, Aaron, and others in the Oz forum.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Another Training Hill Day - Taylor Farm, 3/2/2008

Dan T and I returned to Taylor Farm for another afternoon of foot launch brush up flying. John M was there with his class of Jim, Deb, Matt, Dan, and Joseph. The winds were fairly light, but all over the place in direction. We had expected a smooth shift from NW around noon to SW by late afternoon. No such luck. We watched the 1-3 mph winds blow up the hill, down the hill, and across the hill. Usable launch windows were short, but doable. Newest student Jim worked on the flats and only a few feet up the hill. The rest of us were launching from the top.

I got in three flights, Dan T two, John about five, and all of the paying students from seven to nine.

All of my launches were great, but my landings were mediocre to good. Gotta dust off the cobwebs.

On the way home, Dan and I stopped for a Stonewall draught stout at Amy's on the River in Falmouth, again. Robin, our beertender last time, was busy with a birthday party of bikers, all in their leathers and jackets, but new employee Amy (New Amy - not the owner) took fine care of us at the bar. (Robin told us that all of the bikers are local cops.) We highly recommend this place.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

New Year - First Training Day

The first Saturday of the new year offered a perfect forecast for the Taylor Farm training hill, with light southwest winds, moderate overcast, and temperatures expected just shy of 50F. Dan T and I headed south late morning, expecting to find only John M with his class going on. We arrived about 12:30 to see hang gliders being assembled and paragliders on launch. Juan had been there since 10:00 with three bagwing students.
John's students Dan 1, Valerie, and Dan 2 were finishing the glider set up. John flew one Falcon to the bottom, and began flat run practice with Valerie and the Dans. While Dan T and I set up the Pulse, student Mark arrived and set up his Falcon.
Juan pointed out John M's cross wind HG launch technique to his students. Juan's PG students then showed good launches in the benign light wind with a slight left cross.
All of the HG students showed good flights with good control. Dan 1 has an impressively strong launch run, and obviously has progressed well over a number of lessons. Mark was also flying from the top of the hill all afternoon and doing very well. This was Valerie's second foot launch lesson, although she has logged 38 solo aerotow flights. She is getting her sea legs (hill legs?) pretty well. Dan 2 was out for his very first day under a glider. Clearly John thinks he shows promise, because Dan 2 was launching from 1/3 up the hill by mid-afternoon. Congrats!
Dan T and I took our time carrying up the hill after each flight, so while the paying students all got 8 to 10 flights, we each flew three times. We were both happy with our launches and landings. John M commented specifically on Dan T's good light wind launches.
On the way home, Dan, Valerie, and I stopped off in Falmouth at Amy's on the River, where we helped bartender Robin cheer for the Redskins, and sampled the local brewery Blue & Gray's stout on tap. Good brew, tasty appetizers, and friendly homey place - we plan to return. Oh, treat them nice; Robin told us Amy's has become a favorite stop for local law enforcement and politicians.