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

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.