Sunday, May 30, 2010

The flight home

I went through Denver on the way home, the flight across the central divide is pretty. It started with some nice looking cloud streets.
Unfortunately I had packed my GPS in my luggage, so I was lost for a good part of the flight. But I think I recognized Breckenridge ski area.
Then the north end of Owens valley.
Mono Lake.
Half Dome in Yosemite.
Lake McClure.
New Jerusalem.
Mission peak.
I flew 6 sites in one day! A big thanks to Sharon for the early morning drop off at San Antonio airport.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Single Surface Awards

It is Nation Hang Gliding and Paragliding Day today (May 29), and we flew with high expectations. The day turned out to be very challenging, I sank out on my first attempt and went to get a re-light. Davis has the day well described on the Oz Report. Joe and I spent for ever over the same field trying to get up. It was in fact the field Davis had landed in. The thermals were broken, slow and drifting down wind at almost the glide back into wind. Determination won out and eventually we cruised back to the airport (turnpoint 3) and didn't hit a bump all the way to the ground.Joe landed 50 feet passed me and won the day.
Then we headed back to the Awards ceremony back in Luling. Joel Froelich did a great job at the meet. Lots of happy pilots.
Davis won the meet flying consistently through the meet, me in 2nd and Joe in third. Thats a 1, 2, 3 for Northwing. We were happy for this result but it was no "give me". Chris Zimmerman and Ken Robinson both put up a valiant fight.
I really should emphasize the above and beyond effort Joel has put into making the meet fun welcoming and convenient for the pilots. He really has spoiled us. I for one am looking forward to next year.

Thump Queens and Limosines

As you have noticed I have been getting into the spirit of Luling and their water melon obsession.
And who would you vote for ?

You've seen the water tower, but it all goes so much farther than that.
Shoes, bags
Umbrella ! Haven't found any underwear yet though...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Crossbar fairings

Look at the lines on this glider, there is much attention to detail on the Freedom, what a beautiful glider. A few folks have asked for pictures of the crossbar fairings. Well here is the freedom. When packing up you just rotate them down and fold as normal.Chris is flying the pimped out Falcon 195 - it too has crossbar fairings. They are Mylar with a velcro together trailing edge.
Todays flight was very fun. Good racing conditions, fun climbs and a nice course. 5 made it in to goal, the day was under called deliberately as previous have been over. Todays weather just blew the rest of the week out of the water. After crossing the finish line I climbed back up and flew over town for fun.
It was much cooler at cloudbase. Hot on the ground 97'F ? I got to fly back into goal with Chris Zimmerman.
It was interesting to compare top speeds and glides. 4 of 5 Freedoms in goal today, just one Falcon.

Flying the Freedom 170

After sinking out early on the second task I decided to fly more conservatively and with others. Yesterday I flew with Joe and Jeff Hunt. Davis was out in front with Chris Zimmerman. Joe is flying the stealth Freedom, Jeff on a Falcon 195. This is the area around Carter Airport that we are operating out of. Airstrip just off Jeff's left wing tip.
I am having a lot of fun flying the Freedom, it is a very confidence inspiring glider. It has a perfect balance in thermals and does not fight back at all, even in the snakyist fickle climbs.
I have flown low over some terrain where I would have been very concerned on the lightspeed, but feel quite comfortable on the freedom.
Up near Austin, Tx, there are some more upmarket resturants. The houses (well mansions) are considerably bigger too.
The confident feel of the Freedom enabled a couple of low saves yesterday. One around 200ft agl! I was unzipped and ready to land any point, and was down there for 5 mins or so before hitting the spiney sucker that got me back up. Still no-one in goal, though Kent Robinson was within spitting distance.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Single Surface Shootout, Luling, Texas

Here we are in Luling Texas. Its a small town with the friendly small town feel, and oil pumps liberally scattered in and out of town. It appears that the town is known for water melons. In a few weeks here a Water Melon Thump Queen will be chosen. There are some entertaining posters scattered around town, soliciting votes. I am lucky enough to be flying for team Northwing - manufacturer of the Freedom Hang glider. The team consists of Kamron (northwing owner), Joe Evans, Davis Straub, Dan, Chris, Joel Freohlich. Day 1 - a task was set west of Austin airspace, open distance but limited to 4 hours from the first start. Here is Joe taking off on the PX15 Freedom, notice the flat sail.
It turned out to be a very soft day, Joe and Davis managed to get up to base just over 4000ft, I pinned off at 2300ft and drifted in zeros for 15miles or so. Occasionally with 50ft/min up. But mostly just trying to stay in the air. 12 miles out I was joined by Chris Zimmerman, we worked together to try and survive. I seemed to maintain, while Chris sank through me, all the while drifting across not particularly good LZ's at 500 feet.

I was thinking Davis and Joe were way above and infront of me, but actually they were just off to my east. I continued to drift toward the control tower you see over Joe's head. I had looked at the airspace map. Why was there a control tower ? Control tower usually means at least class D. And there were big planes there and I was about 400ft. Thinking I was going to get a "welcome party" I landed next to the windsock out of the way next to the Pilot lounge. No-one came up. I broke down and went into the arrivals lounge, to find San Marcos airport opens at the end of summer. Phew !!
Thanks to Kamron for setting me up with a great flying glider. Right now I can only attest to its sink rate and nice climb handling, since I never really flew straight ! I am sure it does that great too (we will see soon).
The weather looks to be improving through the week.

San Francisco Hang Gliding

A few weeks ago Pat asked me if I could help with a Hang Gliding segment for Eye on the Bay, which aired on TV channel CBS 5 last week. It all worked out perfectly with weather and tides. I have been doing tandems for for a few years now, but many more in the recent last year or so.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Coyote Howl 2010

I am very lucky to go to so many flying events every year. The McClure Coyote Howl and Oktoberfest are two I always look forward to. The casual atmosphere, good food and an emphasis on fun. This year was no exception, and no matter what the flying conditions are, great flights are always pulled off.
On arriving I heard the previous few days were spectacular - there is quite a bit more snow this year than previous years and the lift went high. I had high expectations. The weather had other plans however, top of lift was 4400ft msl and not 6500 like the previous day. No matter, we'll give it the old college try. In the above picture the south route goes to the top left, not much in the way of bail outs... Scott Huber followed, alas I didn't see him until over in Hunters Valley. Here is the GPS tracklog. From the same vantage point there are landing options upwind, so just stick in that thermal and dribble downwind while hopefully climbing. This was pretty much the strategy in the Florida Flytec Rally too. From Hunter ridge you could see Yosemite Valley highlighted with snow through the haze (just right of centre). Click on the picture to make it bigger.
From there I hopped back over Hunter ridge into Bear valley, only finding sink and light lift. I figured a reasonable goal was Mariposa airport, and I probably would have made it, but the consequences of the last glide look a bit dire.
Instead I opted for this field, which worked out well if a little tight.
My Girlfriend Tracey was there 2 minutes after I landed. I was pleased to see her fly Saturday. Somehow she launched after me, flew, packed up, and retrieved me all in the space of 2 hours! And after a bit of a pounding, she did not feel up to flying Sunday. Now I owe her big time.

Sunday I went up and had another go at the Speed Gliding, and did quite a bit better. The Coyote Howl event has a number of fun events like the Horseshoe Dash (Horseshoe out and returns) won by Brian Horgan with no less than 9 roundtrips! Also the Pylon course (specific points to fly over), won by Bruce Bousfield, Cross Country won by me with a 16.3mile flight, duration won by Steve G. And Speed gliding, also won by me with a 1:01 min time. Here I am being goofy for CRV.
The Mother Load Sky Riders really go all out to welcome pilots, it is a fun time, thanks guys! One day Noman I will take your record! (shortly before you take it back, I am sure)