Monday, July 26, 2010

Pulpit - July 18, 2010

We actually tried to fly yesterday. That was a joke but...Ahhh, today was much better. After Ward, Hugh, Bacil, Daniel, and Brian all launched, it ramped up a little more. At the same time Carlos, Keith and I were noticing that no one was getting very high except Hugh who was a few miles East. There seemed to be a lot of pointing straight out and very little "circling." So we gave it a little while to hopefully back down some and heat up a little. After all, it was only 1:00PM. As we stood there it began to back down and within 10 minutes it was actually light. Like, not so sure this is even soarable light. When that happened, it was like someone turned on the thermal switch and Daniel, Ward, and Brian all started climbing. Bacil was way down the ridge when this was going on and before long Ward and Daniel were pointed East. Carlos and I decided to drop his truck in the field so Brian, who was on a schedule, would have a way up. Back up top it was coming in nice but self launchable. Clouds were forming in the valley out front, looked good. Carlos went first with a nice launch and I followed, I think around 2:00PM. I saw Carlos geting up down by Rt. 16 but I wanted to hang out by launch to make sure Keith got off okay. As he was on launch I hooked into a nice thermal and climbed up to 1K over. As I climbed I could see Bacil getting high and drifting over the back. When I looked down again, Keith had just launched so I cruised out into the valley towards a great looking cloud. On the way I started getting hammered but I kept on truckin because I knew I would get through the sink and into the monster thermal it surrounded. When I was down to 200' over, I got the hell out of there and high-tailed it back to the ridge near 16. I got there below launch level and couldn't find anything anywhere. Carlos and Keith were struggling at that point also, the ridge had really shut down. We all stayed as close to the trees as we dared and milked every beep. You could clearly see the lift on the trees below and how spotty it was. At one point I was down 300' below launch and finally found a little section of the ridge just North of 16 that was working, maybe 100 yards wide. I zig-zagged around there in 50-100fpm and slowly worked my way back up over the ridge. Once over the ridge I stair stepped my way up in much more organized thermals to 1,800' over. It was gloriously cool up there and I was in good position to head East but as I listened to Hugh on the radio driving past Bacil who was almost done breaking down, I opted to stay local and make things a lot easier. I flew around for another half hour or so in the valley searching around for something good. Found a few small climbs but nothing great so I headed in and joined Brian, Keith and Carlos in a pretty rowdy primary. Thankfully it was only about 2 million degrees in the field and I only lost about 20 lbs. of water weight. But don't worry, I ingested about 20 lbs. of gnats to make up for it.... As we were leaving, RichB showed up so we went back up top and got him off. Another great day!

Hyner View - July 4th Weekend 2010

Another fun trip to Hyner. We didn't stay long again but I did get two flights in. On the second one I got a little bit above launch but the lift band was so small that I had to get too close to the wall to stay in it. It was too early for thermals so I ended up landing pretty soon. Still, good landings are very satisfying so I had a good time. Here's a short video of the launches and landings.

Woodstock - June 30, 2010

Another great day at Woodstock. I arrived on launch first about 1:30 to light but soarable conditions. John M, Roger, and Steve showed up soon after dropping a couple vehicles in the main LZ. We watched some vultures soaring in what appeared to be smooth air so John launched his PG and quickly found out it wasn't so smooth. Steve was next with Roger following, both had real nice launches. I was last off around 4:00, self-launched into easy light wind. There was a West cross so there was definitely turbulence down low on the ridge. There was enough ridge lift to sustain you but it wasn't going high. After 20 minutes of that I found a thermal that I took up to 1,200' over and Roger and I headed South to the Gap where some nice looking clouds were. I got way down there with nary a beep, though I was in some zero for part of it. Roger found something which I bee-lined to and we got up about 2K over and continued. Didn't find anything else so I turned back home. When I got back to launch the lift was much improved, I climbed to 2,100' over and it slowly turned magic. I spent over an hour zooming around a few hundred over launch, full stuff barely going down. Roger noticed I was having all the fun and came and joined me in the smooth 200 fpm lift above launch. I chased a bunch of vultures, got real close to one, and got an awesome shot of Roger turning under me. Just as I landed a little after 6:00, John M launched his U2 and Gary and Randy also launched. Thanks Steve, for driving me back up. And Roger, glad you got another good one after such a long drive, it was way fun flying with you, glad to help on launch.

Pulpit - June 20, 2010 - XC to St. Thomas

Nice day at the Pulpit. MarkC, Dave P, Tony D, Carlos, Karen and Matthew. I launched after Dave and Mark and didn't get higher than 300' over for a half hour. I never got below the ridge but didn't find anything good until I ventured out into the valley a little under some clouds. Finally found a good climb to 1,000' over and then another which took me to 2,000' over as I drifted over the back. Dave was in the thermal with me so when it petered, we went downwind. Didn't find much anything in the valley and only made 9 miles. Still, I had a nice landing into the wind and uphill in a recently harvested wheat field right next to a road so I was happy. Dave landed across the street in a similar field. After we broke down Dave went hitch-hiking and didn't get a single brake light for over 4 miles. Once out to Rt. 30 MarkC picked him up and they came and got me. Many thanks Mark and also Dave for joining me OTB. When we got back up top, a student of John's named Dan (another one ) had stopped by to check out the flying after his class at Kirchners Knob. He had picked up Dave P hitch-hiking after an XC a few weeks back and was very interested in the sport. Yesterday was his 4th lesson. A little later John M came by and conditions were perfect so he set up his U2 and had a nice sunset flight along with Matthew in his PG. Congratulations Ellis and Tom, awesome flights! Happy summer solstice!

Vacation Week Video

What a great week to take off work. Enjoy.

Woodstock - June 10, 2010 - The Airport!

Another great day at Woodstock. I helped Roger and Mark off, both of whom had very nice launches. Bacil showed up shortly thereafter and I started to get hooked in. As soon as I was ready at 4:30, it ramped up beyond reasonable so I had to wait for an hour. Once I did launch it was really nice on the ridge, I went right up to 1,500' over in a few minutes. I hung around launch since Bacil had no crew, and once he was off, Roger and I started to head toward Signal Knob. We stopped for thermals a few times and got up there wth ease, passing MarkC on his way back. Once we got to the Knob, Roger turned back but I hung out for a little bit. I found a pretty good climb to 2,000' over launch near the tower and then decided to go ahead on back. As I got to the reservoir I saw Bacil coming up the ridge not too far away so I stopped and there I found a real nice thermal that I drifted back with to 4,100' over (6K MSL). I flew back out front and didn't lose a whole lot, down to about 3,700' over when Bacil called for the airport. I looked East and saw nice puffy clouds to follow and the airport looked very easy to get to. So I pulled VG, pointed towards it and didn't even have to think about stopping for lift. I got way ahead of Bacil because he had stopped at that ridge so I just boated around on the way doing circles in zero sink or whatever, waiting for him to catch up. Once he did I cored sink for a couple thousand feet down to the airport while Bacil reminded me of the rules over the radio. Then I set up a regular non-powered aircraft approach and set it down right in the grass next to the taxi-way and the giant windsock. A sweet no step landing to top it off. Bacil came in very shortly after me and had a real nice landing also. I have lots of video to go through. I'll post something. Great to meet you Roger and thanks Bacil for flying to the airport with me. But most of all, thanks Tony for coming to get us. Very much appreciated.

Sacramento, PA - June 8, 2010

Bacil and I were planning to fly the Pulpit again yesterday but my phone rang a little after 7:00am. It was Bacil and he suggested going up to the SAC since it was still pretty northerly at McConnellsburg. I've been there twice before and only flown once - when I was a Hang 2 and I sledded. The second time, there wasn't even enough wind to launch safely. If you haven't been there, it's a slot launch like Woodstock, but much more shallow and very long. The launch is only 600' AGL so there's not much time to find lift before you need to set up your approach. Driving up (3 hrs.), the wind direction was good and the sky started looking amazing. When I got there it was coming in so I set up. After awhile Bacil rolled in, then Karen and Joe, and then Bob with Cook, Doug with Nat, and finally T.R. Bacil launched first around 2:30 and showed it was soarable so I got hooked in and launched. The air on the ridge was bumpy, handing me a couple uncommanded turns but I wasn't too close to anything solid. Once up above the ridge I found a boomer that I rode from 500' over launch to 5,800' over. I drifted waaaaay back in the valley behind launch and as I was heading back out front, I ran into another that I rode up to 5,900' over. I did that a few times until I came into a thermal under Bob and reached my max altitude of 6,120' over (7,600' MSL). A new record for me! I couldn't quite get up to Bob who got to 6,750' over. With frozen hands I punched out front into the valley and boated around trying to get lower and warmer. I did, and decided I was satisfied so I landed in the main tiny little field. I love that uphill, fly on the wall landing though. After we all got packed up, Karen and Joe hosted everyone for an excellent dinner. Thanks again to Joe and Karen and thanks Bacil for a great weather call. Again, tons of video but it'll have to wait.

Pulpit - June 7, 2010

Fun flight for my birthday at the Pulpit! It was overcast and wet in the morning, but quite nice in the afternoon, though it was a NNW cross. Weird cloud formations while the weather shifted which turned into streets as the day wore on. Bacil was off before I even set up and he easily soared while I got ready. I launched about an hour after him and didn't find much on the ridge. The thermals were trashy and I couldn't find anything cohesive for awhile. Then Bacil headed out to land while I was a few hundred over the ridge by Rt 16. Finally I found something that got me up about 1,400 over. From there I relaxed a little and noticed a nice street running toward the NNW over McConnellsburg. It wasn't too far from the ridge so I flew to it. Before long I got to the lift and started climbing. Rather than try to thermal in the lift, I just kept flying straight and by the time I was over town I had climbed to about 2,200' over launch. On the far side of town the street ended and so did the lift so I cruised around looking for something else. After searching McConnellsburg and coming up empty, I headed South down the valley over the giant fields next to Rt. 522, also in the direction of another cloud. I was down to about 900' over launch when I found the thermal that was feeding the cloud. It was by far the nicest climb of the day and I was quickly at cloudbase, 3,350' over launch. It was a steady 3-500 fpm. From there, I kept exploring the valley but seemed to find all the sink available and soon was setting up my approach. Landing was uneventful except that the field was chest high wheat. But we knew it so we both landed fine. Huge thanks to Ward for wiring me off and driving. Lots of video but I'm planning to fly tomorrow.

Hyner View - Memorial Day Weekend 2010

Fun weekend! Olivia and I were only there for Saturday afternoon thru Sunday evening but I managed two flights and soared both times. Conditions were scratchy both flights but I got about 500' over on each. Huge crowd, lots of spectators finding their way down to the LZ to catch some of the landing action. The vast majority of the landings were nice. On the first flight my keel camera video got corrupted but I still got some nice footage besides that. All of the ground footage is courtesy of Olivia. Thanks! Good to see everyone, we'll be back for the 4th.

Woodstock - May 9, 2010

I showed around 1:30 and and John D and Ashley were setting up. Conditions were very nice at that point so I began setting up. About a half hour in, the velocity began to increase and the gusts were getting louder. Before I was finished setting up, it was too strong so we relaxed and waited hopefully for an afternoon backdown. Bacil arrived after awhile without a glider, purely to assist us in committing aviation. As we waited Gary S arrived and got set up. It was around 5:00 when it finally began to ramp down. Ashley was first off, timed a good cycle and went straight up followed by John soon after. I was up next and it was still strong so I waited for awhile for a mellow cycle. It came, and I took it, even still getting rocked around a little in the slot. I flew fast out of it and once clear, it was up, up, up! There was lots of lift but the velocity was definitely strong and you had to watch yourself. But the air was actually pretty nice and there was never any trouble penetrating so at 1,500' over I pulled on 3/4 VG and headed away from the ridge out into the valley. I climbed for the first two miles out, getting to 3,100' over launch way out over the valley in smooth lift, never turning once. So I kept heading towards Woodstock and started sinking. I got almost on top of Rt.11 and then turned back towards the ridge. Hit some sink on the way back but when I got within a mile of the ridge, I hit the lift again. I flew a little into it and turned around, got high, and flew back to Woodstock again. Then it was back to the ridge, in lift most of the way. I heard Bacil on the radio say that he had driven down to the main field and I was cold so I decided to land. I set up my approach in the upper left corner like always and started my downwind. Like always, I pulled on the speed and then I ran into strong lift, and then in an instant, I was in down-air, my right wing unloaded, immediately followed by strong lift and the re-loading of the right wing. Serious wire twang and sail POP!!! At the same time my vario is screaming and I'm climbing, so I turn onto base out of the lift, extend it and turn back for another base leg, then turn right onto final. I flared a little early but held it and landed nicely on my feet. Wow! That was freaky! Bacil actually saw the wing unload from the ground! It's a good thing I was flying fast through that. But other than that, it was a nice flight. Gary and Ashley landed shortly after that and John made it down to New Market. Huge thanks to Bacil for coming out just to help advise, wire crew, and drive our happy asses back up. Nice day to be on a mountain.

Daniels - May 1, 2010

Fun flight at Daniels yesterday. When we got up top John, Ward and I actually did clear for a little while but then we wanted to get set up. However Bacil wisely went to work on the right side of the slot. There are some larger saplings further down that really need to go. On launch I waited for awhile but all the cycles would only fill up part ofthe slot. I couldn't find a good clean cycle so I ended up taking a light but consistent cycle and got off fine. But I think the stuff further down the slot is messing with the airflow. Right off of launch I worked easy ridge lift right up to 1,100' over and explored the ridge. I flew into the valley and didn't find anything. Back on the ridge I could see that Luis was not launching and that Laszlo had set up. At that point the air above the ridge was still soarable but the lift was dying out quickly. We all headed out to land at pretty much the same time but worked it out. I hit a little pothole when I turned onto final that kind of messed up my approach but I still pulled off the flare. Huge thanks to Bacil for all his work in the slot (we really need a crew of us and a full day) and also thanks to Ward for the ground support. Much, much appreciated.

Woodstock XC - April 27, 2010

Yahoo!! Nothing like setting a goal and making it! Steve had suggested a field by Strasburg that he lands in but it's a good ways out from the ridge so you need altitude to make it. Bacil and I discussed the flight plan and now I had a goal. When I got on launch, the sky was starting to clear up and it was very strong. But there were launchable lulls, they were just short so you had to time it right and be ready to go. I ran hard and sped out of the slot only to be shotgunned skyward as I cleared the trees. One of the strongest elevators I've felt. The first 800' was pretty rowdy but I was through it very quickly and into some pretty nice air above it. I didn't wait around and headed North from launch at 800' over. I didn't hit any thermals as I went but by the time I got to Southfork I had climbed in solid ridge lift to 2,200' over. On the way I noticed a bird tailing me, and wouldn't ya know it, it was an immature baldy. And then I noticed there was a second one with him, both following along very close but not being aggressive at all. They were messing with each other, barrel rolling and stuff, but they seemed to be just playing. I did one 360 the whole way and that was just to try and get the eagles on film. However, by the time I passed Southfork (the 5-mile mark), the ridge lift was gone, and I started slowly sinking as I continued toward Signal Knob. We had a NNW cross on the ridge so I was hoping that the part of the ridge near the Knob would be working since it curves around to face more to the North. I was down to 1,200' over by the time I got there, and sure enough right around the curve the ridge turned back on. I climbed back up and found a nice late day thermal that I took back up to 2,400' over (4,250' MSL) where it was freezing and decided to head out to land. I followed a great line out to the field which was 2.5 miles from the ridge and had only lost 250' by the time I was out there. It was way fun cruising over the edge of Strasburg burning off 3,000' of altitude. I flew over the High School next to the field as they warmed up for their baseball games and set up a nice approach. It was a little rowdy between 200-500' AGL but it smoothed and I touched down ever so softly trying not to poke a hole in my sail with the corn stubble. Success!! Thank you Steve for the field and thank you Bacil for the advice and radio comm.

New XC Best! Woodstock - April 22, 2010

That's one of this year's goals in the bag! I failed miserably on the first attempt last week only making it halfway but thankfully I got some redemption this week. Of course the goal was actually the airport but running to the Knob and back was also one of my goals for the season. I launched into a good cycle and headed North right away maintaining about 700' over the whole way up, stopping to turn in lift just a couple times. Just before I got to Signal Knob I thermaled up with an immature bald eagle, I think the same one from last week, you can see him in the video at 2:00. Then finally I made it and got to see that the radio tower is actually red on top. Because of the north cross, the North face of the Knob was working and diving over the ridge right next to the tower was just plain cool. I found a few decent climbs up there but nothing that ever got me more than 950' over launch. I heard Bacil call that he was going to head back so I turned back in that direction and found a nice climb back up to 950' over. But again, it petered out. However, at least I got to start the trip home in the good air well above the ridge. Getting back was uneventful, I didn't get low until the finger just North of launch but found a little climb that got me back home. My camera cut out on the way back but when I got to launch, once again it was blownig in like a fan. Two PG's were boating around in the evening glass and I zoomed around launch for 15 minutes before heading out for a nice no wind landing. It's 8.5 miles each way so that counts as a 17 mile cross country flight! A new personal best for me. Woohoo!

Woodstock - April 18, 2010 - Arrrrgggh!!!

Well, my timing couldn't have been worse. Had I launched 15 minutes earlier or an hour later, I think my day would've been very different. As it was, I got on launch right after Bacil and had to wait awhile for a good cycle. I timed them and took a real nice one and got right up to ridge level. The goal was Front Royal airport so I immediately headed North but before I even got to the first finger I was getting drilled and couldn't even cross it. Down, down, down, fast until I was 4-500' below the ridge working a tiny bubble over a little spine coming off the finger. Way down below me over the river I saw an immature bald eagle circling which was cool. Before I knew it he was in my thermal climbing right through me. He dive-bombed me at one point but didn't ever get very close. That thermal got me up 700' over the ridge and I continued North over the first finger. I hit one more light thermal in the 1st bowl that went to 700' over again but that was it. There was a tiny bit of ridge lift and by the time I got to about the 5th finger, I had not run into a single thermal. So back down at ridge level and discouraged I decided to turn back and try to make it back to the main LZ. Fortunately the Northerly tail wind helped me make it as I porpoised over each finger on the return, never more than 100' over the ridge. In fact I wasn't going to make it over the last finger and then found the best thermal of my flight right in the corner which took me up to 1000' over before dissipating. At that point, I turned back North to give it another try. But as soon as I turned North I got drilled again (like never before) and quickly gave up on that idea. Within a very few seconds, I was back down below the ridge. I have never dropped out of the sky like yesterday. Unreal sink. I leveled off about a hundred below the ridge and cruised towards launch hoping for anything. Before I even got there, I got slammed again and had to dive out of the hole straight out from the mountain. I didn't recover from that scraping and I went out to land. Landing was uneventful in the calm primary. I realize now that it was wave-related thermal/wind suppression that I was dealing with on the ridge. Pretty crazy stuff!

Pulpit - April 11, 2010

Wild day! Ward got there first around 9:30 or so and reported SW light conditions on launch and due South in the valley. By the time I got there around 10:30, it was NW and crankin. The trees by the set up area and the bushes by the ramp were lit up, and it was gusting in the upper 20's. Mark was already there and they were both mostly set up so I started setting up also in the hopes of a backdown soon. But at that point it was not launchable. As others began to arrive and set up (10 or 12 total, not gonna try to name names), we ran a shuttle down to the LZ and dropped my car and Mark's truck. Right before we left launch the conditions seemed to be calming down a bit and when we got back on launch it was even a little calmer. About 15-20, minimal gusts, good to go. Mark launched first, and I followed into pretty strong lift. I was 700' over within a couple minutes and I went down the ridge towards the towers to search around down there. Didn't find much except a buncha sink so I came back. Like Matthew said about yesterday, it was Spring air for sure. A lot of up and down, good strong lift but also some serious sinkholes. After a half an hour I was low, about ridge height, and looking for anything halfway to the primary. Finally I found a decent little thermal and got back up to 2,000' over. Did that whole thing again later but got further out over the field and 1000' AGL before I hooked a real nice one. From that one, I stair stepped my way from thermal to thermal until Mark and I were in the same one, climbing like mad. We drifted way back and at 3,600' over I had to decide whether to stick with it and go or leave it and head back out front. I should have gone. But I didn't, I pulled VG and bailed to go back out front. Not even a minute later, I ran into another monster. I couldn't help but turn and climbed in that one to 4,200' over, with Mark soon joining me again. Then I bailed again and headed back out front. With 3/4 VG penetration was cake, and I was still at 3,800 over when I passed over the front ridge. By that time I was freezing so I flew out into the valley to explore. I flew out over the primary and then headed North up the valley. I flew over the JLG plant, noticed the flag below was showing due North, and then turned back and stuffed it to see how fast I could get to the field. It didn't take long. Made a North approach into the field and had a nice landing after an hour and a half. By the time I was packed up, there were four pilots left on the ridge with everyone else having gone over the back. Can't wait to hear how their flights were. Shoulda, shoulda, shoulda.

Woodstock, April 10, 2010

The early birds showed up at Woodstock starting around 9:45 under cobalt blue skies and straight in soarable conditions. The faithful included me, Bacil, Gary S, Steve K, and Bruce E. We got set up and decided to wait awhile for some heating because it had backed off a bit since we got there. As the wind continued to back off, Gary bagged it and opted to get some things done. Bruce finished getting set up and launched about 1:20 into a good cycle. We could see him through the trees and he found lift up North a little bit and got up over the ridge. Bacil went next with a very nice launch and hooked into some lift and was soon gaining as I went to get hooked in. Steve helped me down into the slot and once again there were no good cycles coming through. Actually no cycles at all. It was really light, just wafting in, but at least it was coming in. I stood there waiting for 10 minutes, just like Wed last week. Then Steve pointed out a turkey vulture cruising out front which then started to go up and began to turn. As Steve and I watched, he hooked into a nice thermal and was climbing fast. I decided to go for it. It was still just wafting in so I picked up, got level, and launched heading straight out to the vulture. I found what he was in and got up over the ridge and I could see Bacil and Bruce already a couple miles North of launch. I stuck with that thermal up to 750' over the ridge and found a little bit more lift here and there but not much that was very organized. I soon found myself at launch height and tried to tuck it in to the non-existent ridge lift. I tried the SW facing bowl on the first North finger, no dice. So I went out to land and was staging over the corner of the field at 400' AGL when I got a couple beeps. I decided to turn in it since I was right where I needed to be to land and for the next 10 turns I was basically averaging zero sink. Finally it started to turn on and I gained a couple hundred feet. About then Bruce had come back and was low, saw me climbing and came over to join me a few hundred feet below. Unfortunately, the ladder was coming up right underneath me so there wasn't much for him to work with. But I managed to climb 800' in that thermal back up to 100' over launch. My first genuine low save! But the fun didn't last long, I searched for more but didn't find it and had to go land. Had a nice landing after 30 minutes in the air. Bruce had just landed before me after getting an hour and 2,000' over and then we saw Steve launch. He found a few burbles and got an extendo and had a really nice landing.

Woodstock - March 31, 2010

Good ol' Woodstock Effect, baby. I had wanted to get there early this time but ended up pulling into the parking lot at 2:45. As I walked up to the slot, Krzysztof was hooking in so I helped him off. But.....he didn't really need me because it was LIGHT in the slot. Completely self-launchable. So I set up and right as I was finishing up Gary landed, and hitched a ride up to help me off (again). Thanks Gary! But as I made my way to the slot, I noticed that there were no more cycles coming through. There was a light breeze, maybe 3-5 mph, wafting in pretty constantly but there had been good 10-12 mph cycles until then. I waited and waited and nothing was happening. I let 10 minutes pass by with nothing more than an 8 mph West cycle. And I'm not the type to wait around on launch. Then, at about 3:45, Bacil got on the radio and told me there was a thermal to the left of launch. I figured what the hey. Maybe I'll find it, maybe I'll sled. Whatever, it wouldn't be the first time. Plus, this is probably the best chance I've got. I launched, turned left, and got a couple beeps. I turned in closer to the ridge and got a couple more. I made one turn and then I saw two vultures turning about 100' below me and a bit further out over the spine. So I flew out there over them and hooked into their thermal, the one that Bacil saw, climbing out 1,800' right over launch. Man, that was cool. I drifted back with it halfway to the second ridge, then scooted back out front with ease. After that it was good spring time thermal flying. Strong lift, strong sink, sharp edges and lots of birds! The highest I got was 2,100' over. I decided to cruise South and got down to the last big fat finger with lots and lots of trees and then turned back. I didn't find much lift in the Southern most part and got down to 500' over, but still easily made it back and found more good thermals closer to launch. Sometime a little after 5:00 conditions went magic. It was the first time I've been able to stuff the bar on the U2, just haul ass and not lose a foot of altitude. I screamed past the tower and banked it up a few times to the delight of the waving spectators. I played around in the butter smooth lift for some time and then headed out for a nice landing in the bridge field where Gary and Bacil were waiting. I flew for just under 2 hours.

Jacks again - April 3, 2010

Fun day. I got there and set up and was ready to go by 12:00. The iffy conditions had just handed Bacil an extendo so I waited awhile. At 1:30, Dave and Shawn launched and found lift so by 2:00 I was off. It was coming in much more consistently by then so I was able to ridge soar until I found a thermal. Got up and most everything I was finding only went to 800' over, then it would peter out. Eventually I found a few that got me 1,250' over and one that got me to 1,300'. After an hour and a half I followed Chris out to land. Didn't really lose anything heading out, then went through a really nasty layer over the field and finally into massive sink on approach. I checked the flag which was showing SSW, almost right up the valley, so I set up a SSW approach. I got drilled, turned on final way down at the other end of the field and when I got into ground effect I realized the wind over there was pretty much nil, possibly a slight quartering tail. I got ready to run and landed without incident. Kinda bummed becasue I flew the whole time with one of the cameras zoomed in and missed and whole bunch of great shots! Oh well, at least the keel camera worked.

New Site! Jacks Mountain - March 28, 2010

Folks from far and wide showed up at Jacks yesterday. Mark and I met up at the Pulpit and caravanned the extra hour North to Jacks arriving at about 1:30. To our surprise there were 10 other pilots there from the Hyner and Pittsburg crews along with a bunch of spectators. A high cirrus layer was threatening to shut things down and it didn't really look soarable when we got there. But pretty soon Dave launched and proved us wrong by getting above the ridge although he did have to work for it. I guess Jack's is so steep it doesn't take much wind to get enough lift to soar. Soon he found a thermal and became a speck so the lemmings rushed to follow. I got off around 3:00 and it was easy flying, the ridge was working and the thermals were plentiful. Get high and cold, come down and warm up, lather, rinse, repeat. I flew until my hands wouldn't warm up anymore and headed out to land. I boated around in net-zero sink at 1K AGL over the field for 10 minutes before finding some decent sink to core. Finally I touched down with a nice flare at 5:00 for 2 hours in the air, topping out at 2,300' over. As I finished breaking down Pete L. and Pat H. landed with everyone thinking they were the last to land. Then they realized Mark was nowhere to be found. "Does he have a cell phone? A radio? We have to find Mark!" LOL!! You guys don't know Mark very well do you?! Another 15 minutes later here comes Mark cruising back up the ridge from the North, then nailing the landing. Awesome day! There's nothing better than getting a great flight at a new (to you) site.

Woodstock - March 24, 2010 (Wednesday)

I almost didn't escape from work yesterday. Finally I managed to get on the road about 1:30 but hit traffic on 66 so I didn't get to launch until 3:15. It was a little light in the slot and I wasn't so sure it was soarable. But Bacil and Gary were nowhere in sight which was encouraging. Then Bacil came cruising back by and went out to land. I was only a few switchbacks down the mountain when Gary flagged me down from the truck he was hitching a ride up in. He suggested we get back on launch and get set up since the wind was lightening up. Setting up a U2 is much faster with 2 people, thanks Gary! I picked the beginning of a good cycle and easily got up over the ridge. Found a few small light thermals and was getting about 1,500' over for awhile. About a half hour in I found the best thermal of my flight, solid smooth 300'/min up to 2,400' over. I didn't get high enough to get into any wave and just played around with a bunch of black vultures, chasing them and thermalling together. Had a good landing in the bridge field and Bacil drove me back up to my car, thanks! Hoping for more good weather this weekend.

Springtime at the Pulpit - March 19, 2010

Sweet flyin on Friday!! Well worth the spent sick day.

Puplit - March 7, 2010 - Red Tails Galore!

Yahoo!! A great day! I chased red tails all over the sky! Some got real close too, it was really cool. I got a few of them on camera and I'll sort through that later. It was nice to soar so easily in abundant ridge lift. The thermals were small, sharp, and not going very high. But given the sweet ridge conditions, it was a great opportunity to follow Bacil down to the corner for the first time. I kept him in front of, and below me so that he was my human vario. Thanks for the escort! For the whole run down I had on half VG, and then when we came back I cruised for a little and then pulled on 3/4 and left Bacil in my dust! That was fun! Spring is in the air and I'm looking forward to this season!!! Glad everyone got to fly and had great flights. Thanks Danny for the ride back up. I'm gonna do another video of today but this is a good taste of what today was anyway.

Pulpit - February 20, 2010

First time landing on the golf course! Woohoo! What a fun day, and I'm especially happy to hear that it mellowed enough for PGers. Video of the highlights -
Blast off!
Red-tailed hawk chasing Bacil
Small lenticulars to the South
Golf gourse landing
Hole in one.

Will Winter Ever End

Nice flight at the Pulpit. February 4, 2010. Ward and I both got there about 10:30 and decided to fly one at a time so we'd each have a wireman on launch. I got set to fly first and launched around 12:00 into a NNW cross from the new pad. Ridge lift was minimal and I maintained down towards Rt. 16 where I got up. I found a few disorganized thermals and got about 800' over, cruised around awhile and then started to sink out. When I got down to a couple hundred over I basically got drilled and headed out to land for a 25 minute flight. Ward came and got me and we headed up so he could get off. Conditions were very nice when we got back up, pretty much NW, a lot of straight in cycles at 8-12mph. Ward had a real nice launch and found lift quickly. He soared long enough for me to take a bunch of pictures and then get down to the LZ to film his landing! Can't ask for much more in February.

Bill's Hill - January 23, 2010

Another sledder at Bill's.

Pulpit - December 12, 2009

Driving up 75 I was surprised to see snow still on the mountain and when I got closer it was obvious that it was somewhat fresh. The whole area had a coat of snow with a quarter inch of ice on top of it. It was definitely slick setting up but I could see that the landing fields had grass showing and indeed it was not icy. Bacil was there already and after awhile Ward showed up. Conditions were lighter than forecast and the two of them declined to set up and graciously helped me out. Thanks guys. Just before I launched Glen and Gregory got there and set up. It was very light on the ridge and I sledded to the primary. But it was still nice to fly! Gregory eventually launched and sledded and Glen broke down up top. Nice day.

Snowy Pulpit Day - December 6, 2009

Very, very cold. But very neat to fly with snow on the ground for the first time.

Daniel's Mountain - New Site, November 29, 2009

Rockin first flight at Daniels! What a beautiful site! HGers included me, Bacil, and Randy Weber. Flying PG's were Lazslo, Tamas, and Jim K. Everyone flew, everyone soared 'til their tanks were full. I flew a little over an hour and got about 1,100' over the ridge. Some cows decided it would be a good idea to wander into my final approach lane. I was hootin' and hollerin' and they stood their ground, defiant. Finally I yelled 'hamburger!' and they scattered, and I touched down for a no-stepper. Great day! Where was everybody?!?!?!

Bill's Hill - November 22, 2009

Well it was a nice day anyways. Flying HG's were Mark C, Rich B, me, and Alexander, back in the saddle flying a new to him Pulse delivered by Mark from the Ohio Flyers. Flying PG - Laszlo, Tom C, Carlos, Matthew, Karen, and Dan Tm. A few of the PG's aaaalmost soared and all of us HGers pretty much made bee lines for the LZ. The air was indeed buoyant but I could probably count the total beeps on one hand. Set up a nice long final approach and had a great landing for 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Woohoo!

Pulpit - November 15, 2009

Pulpit was great! I got 1,200' over and about 1:30. There were red tailed hawks all over the place, very cool. Shared a thermal with one and shared a thermal with Mark! I got some good video I think. I'll watch it tomorrow and post something.

Woodstock - November 3, 2009 - 7,000'

Fantastic day at Woodstock. HG pilots of many flavors and hairstyles crowded the set up area and we latecomers actually had to wait for people to launch to get a spot to set up. I found a small piece of real estate before long and got going. I was hoping to get flying quickly and join Bacil for a ridge run to the gap. After helping a few people launch, I joined the masses in the air at 2:30. It had actually lightened up a bit by then and for the first hour I couldn't get more than 1,000 over launch. I couldn't find any good thermals and several times I sank back to launch level and had to work the west facing fingers to get back up. Finally I hooked into something 200' over launch and started to get high. I got around 1,500 over in that thermal and decided to finally head SW. About 2 bends down that way I found this monster thermal, smooth, organized, 800fpm on the averager. I rode that sucker all the way to 4,800 over before it petered out. I cruised a little further South and found more lift. That one topped out at 5,150' over launch (7K MSL) and at that point I was really wishing I had put on my balaclava and had some bar mits. Up there I could see over the Shenandoah mountains into the flatlands toward the coast. Giggling, I went South toward the gap and turned back a couple bends early. From there, it was pretty steady back on down to around 1,500' over in magic air, watching the bald eagles until the light began to fade. I left the ridge and gained 300' on the way to the LZ. When I got over it with 2,000', I decided it was too crowded and with the West cross, I headed over to the bridge field. First time I've landed there but I could see Tony and a couple others over there and I wanted to be one of the cool kids. Had a great no-step landing for just over 2 hours in the air and then hitched a ride back up with Gary. Thanks Gary! Pizza and beer in Strasburg capped the day perfectly. So I crushed my personal altitude record yesterday, hopefully it won't be another year and a half before I beat it again. Here's the video and a screen grab from 7K!

Pulpit - October 25, 2010

I had tried to get there by noon but didn't make it until 1:30. Chad was ready to go and waiting on me so I got him taken care of quickly and then got set up. By the time I was ready, it had backed off and was very light. Light enough that it was questionable making the primary and I wasn't all that comfortable with trying to land the U2 in the secondary. So I waited and around 4:00 it started to get better and the PG's started sticking. Didn't waste any time and got suited up and launched promptly from the old ramp into the North cross. I left the PG gaggle at launch and didn't lose a foot heading down toward the towers in hopes of finding my thermal over there. When I found it at first the lift was light and broken but it was there and I kept circling until it got more solid and I got up. I'm not sure how high I got because when I was a several hundred over the ridge I looked at my vario which said I was 900' below. Hugh commented that the microwave towers might be interfering. So I think I got in the 1,200' over range, maybe higher. It was high enough that I could have made it over the back but not high enough to do it comfortably. Most of my flight was in that first thermal which was sitting still in the light wind. It was a nice flight, flew for about 40 minutes or so and landed in the primary. Thanks Tony for the ride back up.
Great day! I got there to find Greg Sessa already there and setting up. I set up as pilots arrived and the winds increased. But it increased just perfectly and didn't blow out. I was second off behind Bacil and flew South in search of the friendly thermal generator near the main field. Didn't find it at first but after a few passes, we hooked up and I got up. It was definitely active air, some pretty big lift as well as big sink with pops of 1000fpm and better. Most of the thermals were weak and laying over but the strong ones were standing up better and the drift wasn't so bad. For me it was a very enjoyable flight even though I never got more than 1,500' over the ridge. After 1:40 I had to pee so I went to land but I was still more than 1,000' over the field when I got there and it was absolutely boiling. Strong lift all over the place so I beamed back up and went back to the ridge. Flew around a little while longer and tried landing again, this time getting down wasn't nearly as hard. Got my approach set up real nice and this time only used about half the field and stuck the flare for 2:00 airtime. After some pizza I picked up Dan Tomlinson past Greencastle who picked a field that must have had its own zip code. Nice flight, man. Got some video, hopefully it came out alright. I need to get a 16GB memory card, this 8GB card keeps running out before I land.

High Rock Fly-In 2009

Thanks to all who made it out to the Fly In despite the so-so forecast. It turned out to be a great day!We actually had talked about getting up early and going to the Pulpit and attempting to truly Fly-In to High Rock for the party.But I ended up oversleeping and deciding it would probably be blown out there by 10:00. However, as we still sat in the High Rock LZ in the morning undecided, the wind was still SW, even S. But Mark and Hugh checked launch anyway. We thought they were messing with us when the report was "brain dead soarable". It was true! Sweet! But I also knew that the ramp up was happening sooner than we thought so we'd better get on launch. By the time Mark and Hugh were ready to launch, it had already ramped up and 3-man wire crew was a must. Actually, Mark did mention that he'd fly by launch and I could give him a signal whether it was even launchable for us. Now that I think of it, I do remember hearing Mark yell something when I was over by the gliders. hahaha. But later I did give him the "hell no, I ain't launching in this so keep right on flying, buddy" wave. Anyways, things started to ease up a little and everyone launched, everyone soared. I got to 2,000' over a bunch of times but kept drifting over the towers and having to leave thermals. And for the first time it was actually hard to get down! I seriously thought you all were just rubbing it in when you'd tell me about this after I had sledded. It was kind of neat but tiring! Still high on the approach but it was very hard trying to set it up with that much lift so low to the ground. I still got it down and hit the flare. And an hour and forty minutes helped me get a lot more in tune with the glider.I'm getting there. Here's some footage from the flight -

Pulpit - September 27, 2010

Strange but very cool day at the Pulpit. Watch the video for pretty much the whole story. But for those with dial-up, or no time for such childishness, here's the gist. It was raining when I got there at noon and completely socked in for a couple hours. But I set up anyway, as did John D, and after a couple light showers things started to look better. The clouds on launch cleared in grandiose fashion and spirits soared. Then, so did the velocity on launch. Strong stuff with a high gust factor had us grounded for awhile longer. We took the opportuniy to drop a car in the LZ (thanks Bacil) and I drove down with John's nephew. Wow, that's one bright young man! Back on launch there was more waiting and hoping for the throttle down and as Bacil said, our patience finally paid off. John launched first with me soon after and it was a nice soaring flight in pure strong ridge lift, definitely glad to have the U2 at times. After getting spit in the face for a little while, I decided to land. I'm still getting used to the U2 but my approach was pretty good, just a little too high when I turned on final. I came in pretty fast across the lower field and just kept gliding for-e-ver. Flared a little late but on my feet. And great job to our newest H-2's Greg, Matt, and Chuck! What a fun day to be at the Pulpit!

First Cross-Country Flight!

It's safe to say that I love my new U2.I got to the Pulpit at 11:00 and it was definitely cross North. But there were straight in cycles, easily launchable. Tony and I decided to get set up and then drop a car in primary. While we were setting up, Carlos, Dave Proctor, Mark, and Cragin showed up. Generously, Mark offered to follow Tony and me down to the LZ so we could drop both cars, and solve the rides-up issue early. I have been looking to go over the back for a few months but didn't think it was happening because of the cross. So putting both Tony's and my car in LZ sounded perfect. Back up top, while most of us stood there considering it, Dave got suited up and launched from the new (wood) ramp. It didn't take him long to find a thermal down the ridge and get up. However, the North cross was pronounced. Making the primary was not going to be an issue... After watching the wind on the old ramp for awhile, I decided to give it a shot. I waited through a lot of cross junk and took a good cycle. I found minimal ridge lift and headed down the ridge. One thing I've learned in hang gliding is that there's no shame in following the leader. Though I couldn't respond, I could hear Dave on the radio giving me real time advice in the air. Invaluable. He told me to stay behind him and I followed him out away from the ridge. We hooked into a nice thermal and took it up maybe 1K over the ridge where we lost it. Or at least I lost it, maybe Dave just left it to make me feel better.... I followed him around for awhile in search mode but couldn't keep up on glide. That Litespeed is fast and I wasn't messing with the VG yet on the U2. He headed down toward launch and I stayed near the LZ because I was sinking. Others have mentioned and I have also noticed that on thermal days the thermals are much better out away from the ridge. This was also true just a little while earlier when I was following Dave. So at about ridge level, I headed out, hoping to find something and preparing to land if I didn't. Beep, beep, beep... What's this? I started turning and it started to turn on. Up I went and drifted back with it. By the time I was over the ridge, I was about 1,500' over. I stayed with it and drifted back, climbing all the time. By the time I was over the second ridge, I was around 2,300' over. Once again, I was plenty high to go over the back (and halfway there) but there was no one to accompany me. Unfortunately, Dave was getting hammered on the ridge at this point and I was all alone. But I had my radio and my cell I went for it. As I drifted over the third ridge, I located the High School on 75 and pointed towards it. It seemed like the perfect time to start playing with the VG so I pulled it on 3/4 and went on glide. I didn't hit anything on the way but I got there with a good 1,500' so I thought, maybe I'll make it in to Mercersburg. Over the school I blundered into a weak thermal, cut the VG back down to 1/4, and climbed up another 500' or so. Then I thought, maybe I can make it past Mercersburg! I went on glide again (more VG fun!) to the North of town and once past it found another, much nicer thermal. I climbed about 2,000' in that one and then decided to follow 416 south because it was pretty much straight downwind. I found a couple more small climbs and eventually was down to around 1,000'. There were several fields in range at that point and I picked the big one out of a few possibilities. The toughest thing for me was trying to determine the contours of the field from that high. But I could see power lines by the road and there were none in or around the field. And there were no fences that I could see. So I circled down and set up a long final. Around 3-400' I realized I was too high so I did one more turn. Mistake. There was too much wind in the valley and I ended up too far back and too low. I should have done S-turns. I immediately bailed on that field and went to one of the others that I had seen earlier. It was much smaller, back in a neighborhood. The approach was ugly but I put it down without whacking or anything. It was one of those sliding landings. I actually landed about 50 yards across the MD state line for 16 miles on my first XC. I called up launch and reported my position which I thought was a couple miles down 416. Honestly! Dan Tomlinson agreed to come get me and while I was on the phone with him, I saw the Maryland flag waving and realized where I was, more than a couple miles. Sorry, but sweet! So it was an awesome experience and I learned a valuable lesson about landing out and specifically setting up the approach. Huge thank you to Dan, I owe you one! And thank you Dave also for the in-flight advice, it really did help. Consider the umbilical cord cut!

Hyner View - First Flight in the U2

Well, it was a short trip for me but as always, still worth it. I arrived Sat afternoon about 1:00 and had to leave Sun. about 1:00. I had considered canning the trip but the forecast had changed to being quite nice for Saturday so I made the haul with Olivia. We stopped in the LZ and then headed right up because a couple people had launched and the flag looked great! Straight in around 5-8 . There was a good crowd already set up on launch and I went to work putting together the U2. The winds remained consistent and pilots commenced launching, with some finding thermals and getting up and some sinking out. After a few preflights I got in my harness and got on launch. It cycled in and I was off, turned left and found some lift. As expected, I need to get used to the roll response but I still managed to get a few hundred feet up above the wall in a thermal. Actually, that's the highest I've been there. I lost it and cruised out, found some more light lift and extended the flight to about 15 minutes. I was amazed at how little altitude I lost lapping the LZ and camping area before my approach. This thing can gliiiiide and I never took it off 1/3 VG. I set up my approach and I got knocked around a little on final but kept it under control, and came in for a few-step landing. Wow, wow, wow. I love this glider and can't wait to fly it some more and get tuned in. Sunday morning we kind of slept in and didn't get going until 8:45. I didn't think there would be much chance the clouds would last long enough to drive up and set up but, what the hey, we gave it a shot. The cloudbase was not much more than 200' AGL and they were thick as we drove up and through them. Oddly, the tops of the clouds were a good 5-600' below the mountain tops and still solid. Sweet, plenty of time to set up the Falcon but no pilots. Huh?! Whatever, I got set up and then Jim and Brian V-H showed up with their Falcons. Cool! We all launched within a minute of each other got a really nice cloud dive. After that Olivia and I got some breakfast, broke camp and hit the road. It was great to see the Hyner crew and great to try out the U2! I'm pretty stoked

Pulpit - August 30, 2009

Great day today. I'm sure I'll miss someone but I'll try - Bacil, Carlos, Dan Tomlinson, John Dullahan, Kristof, Gregory, Glen, Tony, David Bodner, Cragin, Peter, Rich B, Matthew, Karen, and myself. As far as I know everyone that flew soared. Other pilots that were there but didn't fly - Janni, Dawson, and Judy. I waited for awhile for conditions to mellow when we started getting steady 20 with 25mph gusts on the new pad. Once I got up there it was a lot more like 15 gusting to 20. I waited for a lull and got off clean. Most of the flight was around 500' over the ridge but I got to 1,000' a couple times and once to 1,100'. I got close to an eagle at one point so I turned to get a little closer. He apparently didn't appreciate me very much because he dove at me showed me his talons. Then he flew down the ridge to where David was flying and dove at him with feet forward, pulling up only when he was about 10' above him. That guy was pissed at something! I flew until I was tired and after watching a couple landings from the air, I had a real nice crosswind landing for 1:45. Tony got us back up top the back way (thanks Tony) and the cops were very cool about us getting through. 30 was shut down for an accident for those of you not there. Overall a real nice day, shoulda been there.Janni, if that's the last time we'll see you, have a safe trip my friend!

New Glider!!!!! September 1, 2009

Hell yes!!! My new Wills Wing U2 145 is here!!!! Avert your eyes before you are blinded by its beauty!!!

Pulpit, August 24, 2009

Fun day out there. I had driven in the morning to meet Steve Ziegler(a retired and hopefully one day returning pilot) in York, PA to pick up his never-flown Lookout GTXC harness for a test flight. Rt. 30 looked like a nice straight shot to the Pulpit so I hopped on it. Ugh!!!! That was a mistake. I didn't even get to the Pulpit until 3:00, set up right away and then sat on the ramp with Cragin, Tony and David B. It wasn't looking too bad, borderline soarable and I was short on time so I decided to give it a shot. I suited up and by the time I was on the ramp, a cloud had moved in and shut it down. Five minutes later the sun came back out, Laszlo launched his PG from the new pad and I followed him off the old ramp. Like the past couple days at the Pulpit it was another scratchy, low flight. I only managed about 250' over the ridge, made a couple passes at the ramp for the spectators and flew for about 35 minutes. I set my landing approach, everything was cool, an then on final I transitioned to the downtubes. Doh!! Leg loops are way too loose. So I just slowed down and did one of those moonbounce landings and ran it out for a soft touchdown. Otherwise the harness fits nice. Plus it will match my new glider! Tony and Laszlo landed shortly thereafter. Overall a nice flight but I haven't had a nice high flight for awhile. Blah summertime. Still a good day.

Pulpit, August 9, 2009

Great day at Woodstock! I was a hit or miss kind of day. Set up was slow and easy with many breaks to cool off in the intermittent breeze. We were all reluctant to launch with the hopes of an evening glass-off, though none of us were too sure of that. There were short cycles and long cycles and if you were lucky you launched into one of the long cycles and got up. I gave in and launched at 5:20, was fortunate and got up, finding enough to get about 500' over the ridge and hang on until it went magic. From then, it was smooth sailing in very steady but light lift. Just enough to climb if you flew real slow. Spent most of the flight around 2-300 over, boated around for 2.5 hours and didn't want to break down in the dark. It was beginning to shut down anyhow so I went in for a decent landing. I flared a little late and barely got my feet under me but managed to run it out. Beautiful orange hazy dusk across the valley viewed from launch with a cold beer, thanks Mark. We are a lucky bunch. Huge thanks to Tony for sticking around and driving us up. I owe you one.

Learning to Aerotow - August 1, 2009

Finally. I've been meaning to get out there since last year. I did the first tandem on top just to get an idea of what things look like to follow a tug. Jim Rooney (instructor) gave me the basics as we flew up to 2500'. We actually found some lift and stayed up for a little while. The stars were aligned because a while later all the scheduled students were late so Jim and I did another one. This time I flew on the bottom and followed the tug into the sky. We played I fly, you fly and I think I did okay. I honestly expected it to be harder. So things went well, I'm really happy I finally got out there. Hopefully a couple more tandems and I'll be good to go. Thanks Jim and John, it's a whole new world of flying.

Pulpit, July 19, 2009

It was almost a repeat of last Sunday. I got there and it was way beyond falconable but I still set up with with my optimist hat on for later in the day. After Carlos and Janni launched, Tony and I decided to drop a car and put a windsock in the primary. Carlos landed while we were down there so we threw him in and headed back up. On the way up we got the call that Janni had landed out in the valley so we headed towards 30 & 522. After a short search we found him (good eye Tony) and he and Carlos snuggled up in the backseat and we were on our way. Back at launch the sky had decked over and the velocity had about halved. Tough decision whether to launch before things completely shut down or wait for it to maybe turn on again. Opted for the former and launched from the new pad at around 2:30. Found bits if lift here and there, highest I got was 175' over launch. I was really tucked in to stay in what tiny lift band was there and pretty much stayed down near 16 so I could make the primary if and when I got flushed. Slowly I started to sink and when I crossed 16, I found another tiny little lift band that worked for another few minutes before shutting down. Landed in the primary for a whopping 30 minutes. Good scratching practice (again) but I'm looking forward to a new glider.

Pulpit - July 12, 2009

There were already a couple a gliders in the sky when I got to the Pulpit. Almost everyone who launched early got up and out. I got set up and crewed for some time while the wind on launch increased to beyond "falconable." I stuck it out hoping for some evening mellowing on launch which finally came around 6:30PM. Unfortunately, conditions on the ridge had quickly mellowed to barely soarable by that point. I didn't have my vario on for this flight and managed to stick for about 20 minutes, though I never got more than 100' over the ridge. It's actually kind of easy to fly without a vario when you're that close to the trees! Still, it was a nice flight, with a nice landing in the primary, for an overall nice evening.

Hyner View July 4th Weekend 2009

Had a great time at Hyner as always. Got a few flights in, relaxed a lot.

Flying with an Eagle, June 20, 2009

I had to come up on Saturday and I was staying with a friend in Winchester that night. I planned to get up early and fly Sunday with everyone for Father's Day. So, on my way out to his place on Saturday I decided to stop by Woodstock and maybe do a timelapse or just watch the sunset. I got there and put some streamers back up in the slot getting ready for the morning. It was coming in real nice, maybe a little strong but I didn't consider launching. As I was walking back up to set up my camera, Tony walks up with his glider followed by Randy with his. Well alright then! We all got set up and Tony launched first, nice launch into a lull. He went right up and Randy graciously agreed to self launch. So I got ready and got on launch. Some pretty strong cycles came through so I kept Randy on my nose wires and waited for a lull. When one came, I cleared him, picked up, got level and got off before it ramped back up. Up on the ridge it was strong wth a West cross so I stayed way out front in the giant lift band. The lift was plentiful and strong at times. My vario was pegged at 400 up a number of times, and I'm sure it was stronger than that, my vario just doesn't go any higher. I found strong winds aloft and stayed below 1,000 over launch which enabled a very enjoyable flight. Being heavy on my wing and it being the latest generation Falcon were just enough that I was never in trouble, never being pushed backwards. I just had to stay low and out front. About 20 minutes into the flight, I noticed a large bird out in front of me a little ways. With camera rolling, I started to chase him. He scooted in towards the ridge and I fell in right behind him. It was then that I realized it was an immature bald eagle not more than 15 feet in front of me. I was right behind him for a couple seconds and then he dove off below me. I couldn't help but just laugh, it was so amazing. It was one of those moments I'll never ever forget. I flew for about 45 minutes and it started to get more turbulent so I went and landed. I'm so glad I decided to stop by! Enjoy the video below.

Pulpit Fly-In - May 30, 2009

We decided to have an ad-hoc fly-in instead of planning it in advance this year since the weather never seems to work out. Well, it was a fantastic day Saturday. I believe we had 24 HG pilots and 1 PG pilot launch in total. I'm not even gonna try to name names. If you weren't there, you shoulda been. It was way strong on launch during the afternoon. I waited until sometime around 5:30 and then launched. I flew until I was tired and didn't want to miss a ride back up top. Airtime was 1:45. Of course, Rt. 30 was closed for an accident, could've flown another half hour. But that's quite alright, my tank is full. Hats off to both Bacil and Janni, for calling a perfect forecast and pushing through an awesome new launch pad, respectively. I didn't get to try out the new launch, North cross when I was up, but I will soon. I'd say the ad-hoc fly-in was a great success. No video this time, just a couple panoramas. See ya next time.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend - Hyner View, PA

Having a true gem like Hyner View, PA within 4 hours from me in VA was such a treat. The club has 5 fly-ins each year on the holiday long-weekends and last year I attended 3 of them. Everyone camps in the LZ and flys all day long. It's an absolute blast and there's plenty of other things to do when it's not flyable including river rafting, swimming, kayaking, biking, hiking, and fossil hunting on the cliff faces. Gazillion year old teeth are commonly found. Accordingly, I joined the club and Olivia and I plan to attend all of the fly-ins this year. The only problem is that I'm in Charlotte, NC for the time being and that's over 9 hours from Hyner. Not to mention she's in New York City for now.... Long story short, we ended up with something else to do in VA so I split the trip over two days, 6 and 4 hours. We got there Thursday afternoon and it was too South to fly so we just set up camp and got dinner. Nice evening around the campfire with the early Hyner crew. Friday morning was light and clear and I got a short flight in nice smooth air. We decided to head back up for another quick flight before lunch. After I was set up, a couple pilots launched, found a thermal and got up around 3K over pretty quickly, and of course the scramble for launch followed. Unfortunately the pilots who launched right after them struggled and sank out due to a nasty looking cell that shut everything down. The first two pilots came down and landed to avoid it and we had to wait for the cloud to pass through. Fortunately it didn't rain or anything and the sun came back out. We waited for it to heat back up (I was on the ramp since before the clouds moved in) but it was already after 4 at that point. After awhile I just chose a decent cycle because I felt bad making everyone wait around for possible heating and I had another short flight. Saturday was decked over and South but later in the day there were some very short windows. If you wanted to launch, you had to take a lull but they were only lasting 10 seconds at most. So lots of us set up but the later it got, the shorter the lulls got. Eventually I broke down up top. We had a real nice evening relaxing around the campfire with good friends. Sunday morning brought the first possibility for a cloud dive and I was up top by 7:15am so as not to miss it. It was the first time I had witnessed what seemed to be the mountain breathing. It was trickling over the back at a couple mph but then it would start to come in straight at a couple mph. And whenever the wind would come in, the clouds would slosh up on launch and wash out the set up area. Then the winds would switch again and clear out the set up area. It was very cool. When the clouds finally began to break up, the wind was light out of the North and we all got off. Olivia's friend got to do her first tandem, a semi-cloud dive, and had a blast. Unfortunately, they had to drive back to Manhattan and I had to drive back to Charlotte so we ran out of time and Olivia did not get to fly. But we all had a lot of fun. Hyner is well worth it even if you don't sky out. I was not disappointed. I'll see yous on July 4th.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mother's Day at Woodstock

I had just made it home Saturday night from New York and I checked the CHGPA forum out of habit. Woodstock was the call for Sunday and it looked good, real good. So I decided, what the hey, and got up early Sunday, planning to meet John M in the LZ around 1:00. I arrived to find Tony already there with new H-2 Greg arriving shortly afterward. Hugh also made it to the LZ and was looking for a ride up. Greg was meeting Matthew so John, Hugh, Tony, and I all drove up in John's truck. I set up and watched a few benign launches though the conditions were strong and gusty. However, there were very nice cycles to launch in and no gusts were too strong. I decided to launch in a lull because the strong lift cycles were plentiful and there would still likely be the elevator waiting at the edge of the slot. I had a nice launch and, just as I thought, hit the elevator just when I cleared the trees. I turned right which, in hindsight, was probably wrong. The reason I turned right is that the LZ is off and down to the right so if I get hammered by sink, I'm on the way to safety. But given the wind being quite cross from the West (left), I probably should have turned left. The reason is that the fingers of the mountain, which extend perpendicular to the NW facing ridge (and particularly the finger that is just off to the left of launch), can create rotors on strong Westerly days. It's best to get up and well over the ridge before you get caught in one of these rotors. I got a little bit knocked around when I was low and I think it was due to the rotor off the finger. I almost sank out right away, I was down to 300' below launch. I was turning to head out and land when my vario started beeping. So I kept turning and kept going up. I got a little closer to the ridge and the lift got stronger. Pretty soon I was 1,800' over launch, flying in very active air. It was strong lift, strong sink, turbulence, smooth air, it was all over the place. But overall, still a fun flight. It wasn't scary at any point. The wind velocity at altitude was just about all my glider could take, and still go forward. I'm really starting to itch for some more performance. I flew around for a little over an hour before deciding to land. On the way out from the ridge, I hit lift and more lift. But then when I got over the field, I started getting drilled. Granted, I was 1,500' over the LZ so it was no big deal but it was serious sink. I made it through it and flew up wind for a bit. I started my downwind from far away and very high. When I got to the edge of the field I felt like I was still too high so I made a couple turns and bled off a little more altitude. I entered my pattern and nailed it for a nice, no-step landing. It was a great ending to a great flight. I'm happy that I got fly in some more challenging conditions. It's the best way to really expand my flying envelope. Video -

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Pulpit - 4-18-09

What a fun day at the Pulpit on Saturday. There were only four of us there early and I launched first at about 11:30 I think. It was coming in nice and there were thermals popping off already. As usual it was strong on launch because of a venturi off to the right and much lighter down the ridge. That's the downside of a Falcon at the Pulpit. You've got to get off before it's too strong but it's likely to be very light as soon as you get away from the ramps. The forecast wasn't very strong and we knew it would be a thermal day anyway but this site can get blown out very easily so I took the chance. Down the ridge a little, over a rock pile, I managed to get about 300' over in a light, disorganized thermal. I lost it, couldn't find another, and ended up landing in the secondary after 20 minutes. A very good pilot had launched when I was still doing okay but he was scratching low when I landed. I was thinking that I've really got to stop sucking at this when he sank out and landed also. Then I didn't feel so bad. I noticed that no one else had launched after that second pilot and that was because it had really turned off. Shawn came and picked me up and took me up for a re-light. I didn't set up again right away and helped crew for people for awhile. I waited until about 3:30 to launch again and found lots of thermal lift on the ridge but they were small and difficult to stay in. It was kind of hard to get up and I spent 30 minutes between 200' and 600' over the ridge. There was a variety of thermals out there. Some were small, some big, some mellow, some with pretty sharp edges. Finally I found a huge one that I took up to 2,300' over launch. It was drifting over the back and I really considered going with it. See, earlier I had been looking at a relief map belonging to a pilot planning to go XC. So after talking with him and another XC god, I had 2K'-over floating around in my mind along with Mountain View Elementary and Buchanan High, if I could make it. I had the altitude but being up there and looking East I really didn't know much of what I was looking at. At this point I was kicking myself for not scoping out the valley on google maps. So I tried to look for some landmarks I might recognize to get my bearings. I found the fish hatchery which I know is on 75, same as the Elementary School. And from there I know where the High School is. So far so good. But then I noticed another fish hatchery not far to the South and I realized that I didn't know which was the one on 75. I tried to follow the roads from the mountain but I wasn't that high to get a real good perspective. Hmmmm. On top of that I'd forgotten my radio at home and my cell battery was low. The final straw was that I would have been alone, no one to follow, or follow me, for my first XC so I decided not to go. Ah well, soon enough, soon enough. I landed after 1:15 in the secondary again. And once again Shawn, who made this entire day possible for a lot of us, picked me up and took me back up to my car. You are the man, thank you. Fantastic day!
Video -

Monday, April 13, 2009

Spring Flying at Woodstock, 4-11-09

I got up early Saturday morning and got back on the road (I know, what can I say, I'm a junkie) arriving in the LZ around 2:30 to weird, switchy winds in the field. With the solid overcast, it didn't look too promising but then it began to break up and I saw one of the two HG's on launch take off and get up which was encouraging. On the way up top the second one launched and got up also. Once up top it was coming in pretty nice, mostly cross from the right but still way better than Thursday. I launched fourth into 7 or 8 mph STFI and got up right away. It was definitely spring out there. I encountered very smooth air at times but then quite turbulent stuff at other times. There were lots of large birds out, I saw one bald eagle way down low. It was a nice flight until finally a turbulent and very strong sink cycle came through and flushed me from 700' over. My little vario was giving me some very strange tones and was reading 600-700 fpm down. There had been nothing like that all day so I scooted on out to the LZ. I set up a nice approach and stuck the landing. All told I got 1:25 and 1,300' over. It was a great day and it was really nice to get back up to Woodstock. I love that mountain. Enjoy the video.

Woodstock, finally

This whole living in Charlotte thing has really been getting in the way of my flying but finally, after 7 weeks bound to the earth, I made my escape. Thursday actually looked pretty good and my H1 & 2 instructor posted that he was taking a couple of fresh new mounatin pilots out for their first ones. One of them I trained with and the other I'd met from going out to the training hill recently. I wanted to be there to share their experience and get it on tape for them, so I played hooky and made the 5 hour trek north. The forecast was a little cross but the strength was good and there was to be plenty of sun and thermal activity. But if you know Woodstock, you've probably heard of the Woodstock Effect. Because of the surrounding topography, the wind on top of the mountain is often much lighter than in the valley. And Thursday was no exception with maybe 2-5 mph coming in on launch and all of the cummies were drying up too for some reason. It was good for the new pilots because they didn't have to wait around for the evening but it meant sleds for the rest of us also. Having been 7 weeks since my last flight, I wasn't too upset with the benign conditions. We took our sleds like men and then one of the first timers and I did a second one. Both of the new pilots did very well, congrats guys! It was good to knock the dust off and get ready for Saturday, which had a nicer forecast. It would have been really nice to just grab a hotel room and relax on Friday, save all that driving, but I had to work so I hit the road. Here's video of their first launches:

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pulpit - Feb 15

It was pretty much perfect when we got to the Pulpit. STFI @ 15 mph. We set up and the usual "how are we going to get everyone off?" conversation ensued. With six pilots and no extras, that meant four would go and two would stay and wait. So Shawn and I let the others go since they have topless gliders/ATOS and it was midday. We were happy to get a radio report that it was not too strong, cross or punchy. By the time I launched at about 3:00, it had backed off a lot but with decent, straight in cycles still coming through. I stepped onto the ramp as a good cycle was blowing right in my face at 8-10. I cleared Shawn from my nose and had a nice smooth launch. And then my vario said Boooooooo! I launched right into the backside of the thermal that was coming through. That was dumb! I know better than that and should have been a little more patient. Ah well, still had a nice tight approach into the secondary, landed on my feet. Nice to get another flight at the Pulpit. Forgot my camera, no video.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

January 28, 2009 - Hang 3!!!

Yahoooooooo! I passed my test today and I am officially a Hang-3 pilot! My training began July 1, 2007. I got my Hang-1 on October 11, 2007. I got my Hang-2 March 8, 2008. And now, finally, as of January 28, 2009, I have my Hang-3. No more trying to find an Observer to watch me when I fly and now I can fly a lot more sites. Huge thanks to Shawn Ray for helping me get there safely. Hells yeah!

Hangin' 2 2008

So here is my video of my first season of flying. I had fun making it and I have fun watching it! Oh and USHPA has it on their website in the learning to fly section. They have 8 HG videos to encourage people to take up hang gliding and mine is one of them. Pretty cool!

January 3 - Winter Soaring at the Pulpit

One of the bad things about having our main 3 sites all face NW is that it makes it difficult for everyone to agree on which site will be best. Will it be Woodstock? High Rock? Pulpit? For Saturday, most pilots wanted to go to High Rock but the forecast at the Pulpit was 10-15 WNW which is perfect for that site. HR was showing 8-10 NW which is okay but not as good. So Shawn and I talked and decided that soon enough everyone would change their minds and come up to the Pulpit. We met there at 11:00 and set up. Steady 13-14 coming straight in! It doesn't get much better than that. Not too much later the phone rang and we were told that HR was pretty dead and they were headed our way. We waited. And waited. We called to see where they were at. Voicemail. WTF. Gregory showed up with his Exxtacy so we came up with a plan so we could all fly. Gregory and Shawn wired me off first, I had a great launch and up I went. Soon after Gregory and his friend wired Shawn off and we played on the ridge for nearly an hour. The idea was to land after not too long and go back and help Gregory off. Gains were in the 1,000' range in textured air. I practiced some light wingovers and high speed stuff. I think I even got a little taste of some wave action. When I got around 900 over, I started really gaining altitude fast and the wind speed picked up noticeably. I got back down and headed out to the valley to land in the secondary. I set up my approach and due to the orientation of the field, when I turned onto base, I had a quartering tailwind, then I hit the gradient from the tree line. Wow did I lose airspeed fast! I always shoot very fast approaches so I was prepared to handle it. Turned onto final and couldn't quite get level so I had to run out the landing. Ah, well, they can't all be no-steppers. All in all, a great day, even though the temp never crested 30F. It was my first soaring flight at the Pulpit and also my first time with the Canon Vixia in flight. Turned out okay -