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

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Return to the Sky

=Click on the video to jump to YouTube and see it in full width.=

Well, my last flight was April 3rd; the neurologist saw my MRI on April 6th and referred me to the neurosurgeon within five minutes of seeing the images. My surgery was April 30th. On November 10th, the surgeon inspected the latest X-ray images and approved me for flying, again. Veterans Day weekend and then Thanksgiving week travel precluded an immediate response to the new prescription. But on Saturday, December 3rd, the weather cooperated, and I headed out to the training hill in Smithsburg, with hopes of a follow on flight at High Rock.

The video shows my two flights, getting back into the groove, on my Pulse. Two decent launches; one adequate landing (didn't get fully into the wind, and flared early) and one very satisfying no-step landing. Note the bit of lift I hit on that first flight!

I did head up to the top at High Rock, just in time to see Karen C. Launch. Also helped Hugh M launch in a tandem with Ellis K, and then, with Carlos and Kelvin, observed Greg S for his second ever cliff launch. Greg had the quality launch of the day off of the Rock. Once we had more pilots to crew, we helped Carlos W launch about 4:15.

With gray sky and dusk quickly approaching, and glider set up taking a while, I decided not to fly at HR. I didn't want to be landing in the flat gray dusk light on my first day back.

Great day being back in the sky. Seven months is along time to be grounded. More to come!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Become a Pilot Day - Smithsonian Display

I may be grounded, but I can still talk a good flying day.

Four years ago, I was part of a team from the Capitol club showing off hang gliding at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum Annex for Women in Aviation Day. On June 19th, I returned to the Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles with Dan Tuckw for a different kind of event, Become a Pilot Day.

We were in a gaggle of over 50 pilots, including military, public service, experimental, sailplane, balloon, even a gyrocopter.

Dan an I spent the day in 90 degree-plus sun, extolling the pleasure of taking part in the least expensive way to fly. We talked all day, gave out dozens of flyers, and even met an old early 70's pilot who asked if we had ever flown a Standard (he had).

Grounded for the Summer

Three days after my flights at Blue Sky, I carried a CD of MRI images to a neurologist. In only a couple of minutes she pointed out to me a notably bulging disk in my neck, VERY close to the spinal cord:

She told me I had congenital cervical stenosis, and that she was immediately referring me to a neurosurgeon. I saw the surgeon on April 19; he was clear that corrective surgery was called for, sooner rather than later. Beginning the interview, I had told him I had a sports activity question for him. After discussing the surgery, he was open for the sports question. I asked him about my hang gliding. He got a notably surprised look on his face, and said "That's NOT what I was expecting." He also suggested I needed to stay grounded until fully recovered from the surgery.

On the last day of April, the good doctor slit my throat and replaced two disks with a bone slurry that will harden and fuse the vertebrae. He also installed a titanium plate on the front of the spine to protect all his work. This surgery earned me two weeks of no driving and no lifting, a pocket full of Percoset, and a month off from work.

At my one month check up at the end of May, the surgeon looked at the above image, and declared all was looking excellent. He also wants to see me again in another three months, at which time we'll talk about flying. So... I remain grounded into August.

Oh, and I did give a copy of Hang Gliding & Paragliding Magazine to his resident to share with the surgeon!.

Flight Parks in April

The first weekend in April I tried for back-to-back flight park days. Saturday April 3rd I headed south to Blue Sky at Manquin. Winds were light, and only a few pilots on hand. Steve pulled me up with the truck for three flights; all ended up as sleds. The tows went well, with pin-off heights of 840, 920, and 1040 feet. My landings were adequate and safe, but not as well positioned as I'd like. Still, it felt good to get high into the sky to begin the season.

Sunday I was eastbound for Highland Aerosports at Ridgely. As I set up the glider, I watched the winds grow stringer and more cross. Several pilots had flown, but not always happy with the conditions. Joe G landed and made unkind comments about the wind direction. As tug pilot Zac and I sat at the flightline discussing the 90 degree cross, a young Hang 2 who had already flown several times suited up on a cart, waited a few minutes, then climbed out and declared himself done for the day. We agreed he made a good decision. I saw no signs of improving conditions, so I packed up the U2 and socialized a bit before heading home.

One for two on tow parks.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Taylor March 20. '10

Finally, a sunny, dry spring day. Time to run the cobwebs off on the training hill. I arrived at Taylor farm mid-afternoon, where John M had a half dozen student in class. Just as I was unloading, two new faces pulled up. Turns out they are old faces at Taylor, having flown it way back in '75. Bill Shelton, from Stafford, said he has not flown in at least 20 years. Jimmie Zell from Manassas taught at Kitty Hawk '75-79, and then had a school in Blacksburg. He also hasn't flown in decades.

Bill Shelton and Jimmie Zell

John's students in class

I only got in two flights, both light wind, one a cross wind launch. Then, about 5:00, the forecast SW wind shifted to NE. We waited a half hour, then John pulled up the wind socks and we all broke down.