Saturday, December 22, 2007

Elsinore... friends from afar

What a fun day...

Radwhacker and DocSoc (and his lovely family) barreled in from Vegas, GTPowell drove over Santiago Canyon road, and I took the toll out to Elsinore.

It was pretty strong in the morning, but by the time we launched, it was good for ridge soaring. I was the first to launch and the last to land. My track log is pretty repetitive. Back, forth, repeat. But, it was smooth and fun... and relaxing not to have to worry about life. Normally, I wouldn't have stayed up quite so long, but I've been so frustrated by sled rides, I waited until God flicked the off switch on the winds (i.e. until the paragliders could launch).

My patience rewarded me in the LZ; the winds went catabatic and I got to land uphill. From my perspective on high, the LZ was "the killing fields" for most of the day, so I was relieved to nail the touchdown.

Cold beer flowed and smiling pilots chased the sun down.

Pics to follow, when my DocSoc posts them and ETeam Jack mails them to me.

Here is a closeup of my tracklog of my approach and landing:

Here is a panned-out Google Earth shot of the LZ from the same angle, with the Launch in the upper right corner.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Hang 4 the goal

Having started flying a year ago, I chugged along to Hang 3 with pretty decent efficiency, so I decided to calculate how far I am from Hang 4. I was surprised when I did the math.

There are 3 reasons I want to get to my hang 4 as soon as possible:

1. Fly Torrey
2. Land on the beach at Santa Barbara
3. Of course, fly Yosemite

I did the math, to get there I need:

- 18.7 more hours (easy)
- 25 flying days (I average one day a week)
- 2 more flights at Dunlap (will do next spring)
- 4 more flights at Elsinore (no prob)
- 5 flights at Big Sur (going Presidents Day Weekend, if I can get 2 a day, this will happen).
- 5 flights at a 5th site... could easily be Kagel, but will likely be a beach site.

Here's the hard part:
- I need 120 more flights.

Ugh, I am down to 1 flight per trip to the hill... maybe 2. I don't want to game the system by going to Dockweiler and doing a bunch of bunny hill runs.

That leaves a beach site like Funston or Torrey. If I were to do the 25 days (and the other site requirements), I would need 95 more flights. That's a lot. I could maybe bang out 20 a day at a beach site like Torrey, but I wouldn't want to get dangerous about it and push myself too hard.

One other little brainchild would be to go with my wife to a business convention in Salt Lake this spring and go to Point of the Mountain for a couple of days.

In the end, I have no complaints, just an observation; Hang 4 is definitely more than twice as far as Hang 3. I'm glad the requirements are significant and I look forward to meeting them.

My goal is to have it by the end of the summer, so I can fly Yosemite late summer and fly Torrey when my family goes down to San Diego in September.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Popping the E-Team cherry

Santa Ana winds were originally named Satan winds... until someone spun the name into something positive.

The winds at Elsinore were coming from quite a few directions... but ultimately they were North enough for an extended sledder.

I launched well and landed well, which relieved me, given the the downslope LZ.

An E-Teamer named Jack spent hours giving me "the gouge" (the info) I needed to launch, fly, land, etc.

It's nice to have such a good site just as close to my home as Crestline/Marshall. Actually, now that I think of it, counting Kagel, I have 3 good sites 1 hour from my house. Not too shabby.

Here's a pic from the landing. I think I finally flared 100 feet later. Shoulda done a crosswind.

I'm looking forward to flying strong Santa Ana winds and 'sploiting that summer convergence.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Actually numb nuts

Today, Everyday (aka Designby) Dave, Rebardan, Mike Blakely and I flew in strong, cold, postfrontal conditions.

Andy Jackson in the summer is pretty predictable... and usually capped by an inversion layer. In the winter, it's a lot of sled rides and a lower inversion layer.

So, when a front rolls through, it breaks up the inversion layer and, combined with strong SW winds, gives you all-you can eat conditions.

Today, that meant lift pretty much everywhere, up to cloudbase, which ranged from 6-8K.

A little over an hour was enough to freeze us out and down... it was below freezing, which sends Californians to therapy for a week if we have to stand still in it... a month if we fly in it.

I'm having a hard time typing 8, i, k, and , because my right middle finger, which my bro chopped off when I was a kid, is still tweaked from the cold, but I have a very content smile on my face...

thanks to the best flying in months and a mary lou retton landing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Dunlap Road Trip

Mike Z, Mike B, Everyday Dave, all Crestline Soaring Society regulars, and I just got back from a fun trip to Dunlap.

Friday, I drove while the others got in a late afternoon flight to get familiar with the new launch and landing. A storm system was rolling in, leading to some striking clouds in the background of a lot of my pictures. After packing up, we swung by a grocery store and got supplies for Mike B. to cook us a great dinner at my father's vacant house.

Saturday, we had a driver and two of his assistants (young sons), but we got rained out. There was hail at the launch, lightning later in the valley behind, and a fair bit of water on and in our bags. We had to console ourselves with excellent Brazilian BBQ that night.

Sunday helped make up for Saturday. Mike B. drove while three of us got extended sledders, with Dave making a nice jaunt across the valley. There was a PG XC competition on, so I used "I was dodging them" as my reason for sinking out. Right as we finished packing up, the local pilots started showing up and even brought enough drivers for one of them to bring my van down, so we all finished off the day with hour-and-a-half flights in cold but surprisingly lifty afternoon air. We all got about a thousand feet over launch to enjoy some spectacular vistas of the Sierra Nevadas and the foothills.

Aside from learning a new site, we learned quite a few things:

- Mike B's a helluva cook
- Mike Z's a great conversationalist and has quite the supply of intriguing math questions.
- David A's got quite a music collection on that fancy new Itouch of his
- I am adept at blaming certain things on the hundreds of cows we drove by in the Central Valley.

Below are some pics. We all want to go back up in April, when all of the wild flowers and the valley's "Blossom Trail" will be in full bloom. Let's go for more than one carload that time. The local flyers up there are quite friendly and hospitable. Dunlap's got a smooth ridge, lots of XC potential, a good LZ, a decent campground at the LZ, and great views. It's a nice bit of variety.

I launch

Mike B. soars

Dave in the clouds

Mike Z

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Fun Day, 3 hours and 13 minutes in the air

My fun Brother in Law Bill and my sweet Sister in Law Maria drove for me today at the hang gliding club's fall fly-in. Bill and Maria watched us launch, took a hike along the ridge, then drove my van and a friend's truck down the hill (this is very important work!).

I have the world's greatest in-laws. There is not a bad apple in the lot.

I stayed up longer than usual, this time for a personal record: 3:13. I was really tired by the time I landed. I met an online friend (IRL), which was fun. It's always fun to put a face to a name and see the person behind the words you have read for a while.

Fun day.

Here's a pic of us getting ready to launch... my glider is closest to the camera.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Best week of the year at Andy Jackson

This will be last yodel for a while about the flying at Crestline/Andy Jackson. I am done for the week and won't be in town next week.

There's another flyin on the 15th. Hope to see lots of you there.

This week was the kind of week I learned to fly for. I rode out a gust front, as I held forth about ad naseum a few days ago. Twice, I breached 10k. I practically ordered snacks and a soda from a passing Southwest flight. My wife flew a tandem with McKenzie. I completed the hang 3 requirements.

Consistent flying at least once, sometimes twice a week has finally led me to confidence in finding thermals. Yesterday, I caught a thermal for 4,500 feet, lost it, found it again, and took it another 1K.

Of course, the view from up there was fantastic, though my photography was hampered by a little pucker factor and the fear of dropping a camera 5,000 feet. The altitude allowed me to be over little mountain (top of pic) at 7,500 feet and back to the LZ at 5K. Not bad for a Falcon, IMHO. (pic pops)

Owning my own business allowed me flights on Tuesday, Wed, Thurs, and Saturday. Sure, I'm no designbydave (below), but that's pretty good for an old married coot who lives 68 miles from the LZ. One of the more experienced pilots at the hill, who flew to the Miller Brewery in Irwindale the other day, admirably referred to Dave as a "waterdog," meaning he's out all the time. (pic pops)

Flying with Dave, bluthermal, SG, Nibs, MysticWizard, et. al. is fun, but nothing compares to seeing my wife in the air on a tandem with Rob. Here's a pic of her banking a turn with yours truly in the background (below the left washout strut). (pic pops)

The only crappy flight of the week was Tuesday, when I took a 5 o'clock sled ride from Marshall, scratching and sniffing for a half hour. But, I was out that day at that time to take the Hang 3 test.

I only missed 3 questions. According to Rob, that's the best score they've ever seen on that test. PM me if you want my study notes. Heh. I can tell you which three I missed, too, some in-air aero stuff that Pagen doesn't cover super well. I have 38 solo flights, 4 tandems, and a barrel load of bunny hills. I've flown solo on 36 days and 42 days total, done all my landings and a right-hand approach. The only challenge left is actually getting and submitting the paperwork, then I will be able to fly everywhere but Yosemite and Torrey.

For those that are thinking about the sport, I can't recommend it highly enough. This time last year, I hadn't even contemplated flying. Now, it's the #2 highlight of my week (family time is first). For those who are looking for a good place to live to fly, might I recommend So Cal. You just can't beat the flying.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride....

Broke 10,000 feet (10,007 LOL)
64 MPH Groundspeed
Rode out a gust front with huuuuge cloudsuck.
At one point I was 7,400 AGL

The lapse rate was predicted to have 11,000 thermal tops today and, sure enough, everyone got over ten (I was the lowest, most were up to 11). Launches were crazy, with gliders flipping, experienced guys flailing, etc. I dropped 500 ft before I got into my harness, ugliest effort since my first solo.

But, once you got a few hundred over launch, it was magic. I had a hard time keeping my Falcon within a safe glide of the edge of the trees. The Sports, Spectrums, and U2s were zooming around like sharks.

I was at 9K when, looking toward the desert, I saw an airliner on, fortunately, a slightly off bearing and decreasing range. I did two quick spins so the pilots could see the maximum amount of my wing and a few seconds later a Southwest jet flew below me and a little to the North... maybe 500-750 yards away. With the cloud ceiling at 12K and our flight park on a Victor Airway, we got a lot of traffic. A Beechcraft buzzed a Falcon, with a few hundred feet. A C17 actually turned toward us, Air Force weenies.

But, other aircraft were the least of our worries. Clouds were building to our East, along the mountains. I saw a brown cloud near the ground and thought it was a mist or a fog, a light cloud. Suddenly, everyone was bingoing to the LZ.

5 guys made it, the last landing right in the middle of a gust front. A Fusion pilot, a Talon pilot, and a KnumbKnut in a Falcon decided to try to gun for the open space.

I got my ass kicked. I thought the phenomenon was mountain based and a jaunt to the basin would be my salvation. Instead, I got run down by a hell of a fast moving front. At first, flying at trim got me 600 fps in a nice, straight line. But, soon, I had my knees on the bar and I was still going up about 500fps. Eventually, I had the bar completely stuffed and was in at least a 45 degree bank and still couldn't sink. So, I flew a straight line with the bar stuffed until I found sink and then cored that.

I was never really "worried," except for the fact that I was stressing the hell out of my glider. It held like a rock.

Finally, about 7,500, I got out of the cloudsuck and decided to limp home to the LZ.

Turns out the jaunt was at about 10 mph groundspeed because the winds were a rare, strong East in the wake of the gust front. Also, my arms were shot from stuffing the bar, so I flew with my elbows for a while.

As I approached the LZ, I briefly contemplated stretching the flight to beat my longest, but I realized that, after what I had been through, that'd be like cuddling with a hooker.

A hard, fast, but safe landing found a friend to hold my glider and a lot of smiling pilots. The other two pilots came down for great landings and cold beer.

45 minutes later, all evidence of the chaos was gone and a few paragliders floated down. One, a biwingwal pilot (who picked the wrong wing today!), gave a play-by-play of the whole evolution, from their 360 degree perspective on Marshall. When Mike landed in the eye of the front, they literally cheered. They also wondered who the crazy %$!(!% in the Falcon was, heh.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Weesie on the wing

Back on St. Valentine's Day, at her request, I gave my love a hang gliding tandem flight gift certificate. Today, she redeemed it.

She got a nice flight in strong conditions and I had the privilege of flying next to her and waving at her. My camera was a point-n-shoot, so I couldn't zoom much or get wonderful pics, but here's one of her in the air (the pic is a clicky).

She is still more enthralled with horseback riding, in part because of the emotional connection to the animal, but she understands my passion better now.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Marshall 8-21

The McBus ran too early for a knumbknut to shlep out from OC, but Rob played matchmaker (thanks rob!) and Hollywood Jerry and I launched Marshall about 3:30.

The inversion layer was really low today, as I suspected looking at the smog and confirmed watching Jerry bounce his head against it. So, I hugged the hillside like Oprah hugging a hoagie until I stumbled across a big, fat, n00b-proof thermal at Cloud, that took me up to 5100, allowing me to arrive at Billboard right at the namesake antenna. I couldn't seem to get above it, though I had seen some others flying at at least 6K while we were launching, so I went over to pine, where the turbulence scared me into heading toward AJ. But, I caught another benevolent thermal that got me back up to 5100 and allowed me to vector toward billboard again.

I had to get home to a relieve babysitter, but there was really floaty lift at the edge of Cal State San Berdoo... a fun day... my only complaint was the relative dearth o' pilots to share it with. Woulda been a great Marshall day for the PGs, especially after 5.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Fun flight

Yesterday, I had quite a fun hang gliding flight. The temperature at the landing zone (a.k.a. LZ) was 103 deg. and the humidity was higher than it should be at that temp. At 5000', the launch altitude, the 15 MPH wind just bordered on the edge of cooling. Running into it combined relaxation with relief. Flying in it, 20 degrees cooler than the floor of the LA basin, was like floating in a warm pool.

I got 5 miles away from launch, up the ridge, over a couple of chasms that would suck to sink out in, to a spot I'd never reached before. My glider is a beginner model and, consequently, not the best for covering great distances. In winds like we had yesterday, there is a chance you'll get stuck someplace because the winds are going faster than your glider can. It turned out not to be a drama.

Because my instructor had to watch me land for my next rating, I stayed up until he was done with a tandem flight he started after I launched. So, I flew for 2 hours and 50 minutes. My right hip was a little cramped from the harness and shoulders were tired. Imagine doing very light military presses... for 3 hours. Eventually, it does add up. Before landing, I sat up and ran in the air, just to make sure the ol' sticks would move. I nailed an off-side approach and landing, which is a flying requirement for my next level of certification. Said level, "Hang 3," will allow me to fly all the sites I want to, except Torrey Pines and Yosemite (they are "Hang 4").

A couple of Red Tailed Hawks and I shared some thermals. At a place called Pine, with no other glider for 2 miles around, I saw something out of the corner of my eye and flinched. A gorgeous hawk floated right below me, from behind right to forward left, about 10 feet away at the closest. In the glint of the raptor's eye, I caught a hint of the taunt "n00b!" :) Later, another one was making big, fat, lazy circles down to my right, so I flew over. Sure enough, I found the thermal of the day, taking it up a couple thousand feet in gentle circles, with other pilots joining the party below me.

I picked the right afternoon to blow off work. I think I'll pay for it tomorrow, as I will probably have to blow off hang gliding to work on a Saturday. Blah.

Here's a map of where I flew. Reds and oranges are up, blues are down. It's a clicky.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

USHPA Mag pic

When Brad came out to visit and fly, he took pics of me launching the first day. As I launched, I thought his perspective (behind me) wasn't the greatest. Well, now my butt is in the US Hang Gliding and Paragliding monthly magazine.

Brad Wright, nationally known photographer. John Wright, nationally known... ass?

Actually, my modesty is completely false. It's quite fun to be in the mag. Though, by nationally known, I mean by the few of the 10,000 or so readers who get as far as the announcements section and happen to notice. :)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Monday, July 9, 2007

A relaxing Sunday

Ok, so it's Monday. Despite the typical Monday Morning madness, to which I must attend shortly, I am actually feeling quite relaxed, thanks in large part to a very relaxing and fun Sunday.

Sunday morning I played with my pipsqueek while the missus went to yoga, then I went hang gliding.

The flight was quite fun, as I flew for a bit over two hours, was in the air with a bunch of friends, and got to a place I'd not reached before. My landing was as good as it's going to get and the time in the Landing Zone after was relaxing, as I watched other hang gliders and paragliders sink out of the skies.

It was the perfect way to burn off the stress of a couple of weeks with no break, per se. It only would have been better if the family could have been there, but pipsqueek can't go because she'd miss her nap. And the hippo and bunny with whom she sleeps would miss her.

In the time that it took to type this, I've had 2 clients call me with outages, one client that I owe a visit to call me, and a couple of domestic dramas to attend to.

I'm flying... in my mind.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Of hang gliding and segways

Talk about doubling your fun.

My realtor, who happens to be quite pretty and a lot of fun, was interested in watching hang gliding and offered to drive on a Friday. That's not the double part. The double part is our club's world-class, professional juggler brought out two Segways that he is going to incorporate into his act.

So, here's a video of a day that was just... too... fun.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Wright Brothers Week

The catalyst for my learning to fly was a trip out here by my brother, who has one solo under his belt, training in New Hampshire and once out here.

To thank him for getting me into this wonderful sport, I flew him out on freq. flier miles, put him up, fed him, and drove him to the hill 4 times. I am happy that it was a good break for him. As a university professor, he gets a lot of time off, but as a university professor with a big, beautiful house and beautiful family, he gets few deluxe, self-centered vacations. It was also the longest I had with him to myself in about 17 years. Growing up idolizing my big bro (not so much now, LOL), it was a lot of fun for me.

The flying was about average for spring at Andy Jackson. I got in 4 flights (he'd drive me for the early afternoon, then take a late avo lesson). It was nice to have a personal driver to take me to Crestline and to fly with my friend Ross and others.

It is a good thing he had 4 days of lessons booked. The first day was uneventful, as he just took a bunny hill lesson with Rob. The second day was pretty turbulent for a second solo and he was kinda shaken by it. Bear in mind all his flights had been either at the Morningside bunny hill or in winter conditions in California (only one previous tandem and one solo 7 months ago). Fortunately, he had good sled rides and landings the last two days.

I hope he keeps the momentum going through the summer.

Next year, I am going to require he stay longer if I pick up the flight. He's a lot of fun. My wife was bummed to see him go... and she usually tires of houseguests quickly.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

All you can eat Wednesdays

Another Wednesday, another 2 1/2 hour flight.


Launched at 2:45, right as the winds were picking up... good thing my wireman has 31 years in the sport. They were about 20 then, on the way to 30... it was blowing out the thermals, it felt like the pockets of lift were based on the funky geography of Marshall... capped off by a tidy inversion layer at 5500 or so, shoving wind right down the canyons, resulting in insane sink for that much wind.

My flying friend, who's leaving soon for Missouri, wah, and I had a hard time penetrating against the wind. We did get a fun fly by where I was about 30 feet over him, sliding right, while he slid left. He should have stuck right, because he sunk out and landed around an hour and change. I caught lift off my lucky spot, the 750 launch, worked my way up, and basically flew wherever I wanted for the rest of the time.

I buzzed a Hummer that was shiny and new and testing out its four wheel drive... on a road I later drove my old Nissan Quest up. They stopped, opened the sunroof, and waved... and I got up the hill faster than they.

A crazy ass Spanish paraglider launched from the 750 and worked his way up the hill... flying backwards, before finally penetrating out and spinning down to the LZ. Wacky bastard.

I got tired around 150 minutes and came in for a running landing. I had to keep the airspeed high just to fly forward, so I figured the landing would be a bit of a barn burner. I ran about three steps before my feet actually made contact with the ground. It was a clean, unusual landing.

After a coldie I saw a nice biwingwal guy at the club (H4 P2) kiting around the the LZ because he didnt' get off work in time to get his wing out. So, I drove him to the 750 to enjoy the sunset.

Then, my passenger bought me pizza and a Sam Adams at a stone fired pizza joint.

A good day. Mr. Green drool mosh Razz Laughing

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

2 and a half hours, wee.....

My flying day started off poorly. In high winds on Marshal, I turtled my wing by not following the advice of a ground handler. I straightened out a batten, checked the rest, and half an hour later and with the help of said handler, a paraglider pilot, I launched a lull of 20+ mph winds.

It was worth it. 2 1/2 hours of boating around later, I landed with cold hands and stiff knees in switchy winds.

In the middle, I found lift all over, and flew right next to two friends from the club in their Falcons, hooting and hollering. It was an all-you-can-eat day.

The track log looks like my daughter's work with the crayons.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Fun day at Marshall thanks to Mark Z.

Mark Z. PMed me and offered to be my driver if I wanted to meet him and drive out to San Berdoo together (he lives about 25 minutes South of me). Mark has been flying since the gliders were 18x18... he has some very interesting stories about the old times. Anyway, he wanted to see a Sport 2 as that is what he wants to get on his return to flying, but none were out.

Because of him, I got two flights in on a very good day. Thanks, bud!

The first flight was about 35 minutes. There were thermals everywhere, but the air was trashy, so it seemed like I was either in 500 fps up or down, not much in between. Here's the map of it:

When I fly out a bit before landing, that's when I got fairly close to McKenzie and Dave Aldrich on their tandem. They were boating around pretty efficiently.

I've gotta work on my thermalling techniques.

Knowing I had a ride up, I didn't sweat landing, so I got in another sled ride.

The most interesting part of this flight was that I was at the same height and about 300 yards away from another H2 in a falcon when we were both 600 feet above the LZ. He launched about 2 minutes before me. I managed to fly efficiently enough to get him about 100-150 below me (that's when I'm fying that long horizontal line above the LZ, he did an out to in approach). So, I was making a turn into my downwind leg as he was, I thought, turning onto final.

Then he did a 360 right above the house above the LZ. ahh That changed everything, I was flying right at him at altitude (since I was flying fast on my typical approach). I boated up a bit and he came out of his 360... we passed left wing to left wing, with me about 75' to his left and 50' up. As soon as we passed, I turned toward base and started working on getting back on my glide path.

We landed about 5 seconds and 100' apart... the flight of the Falcons. I was very excited about the show we had put on for the large weekend crowd.

The best part: he never saw me!!!! ahh ROFL Rolling Eyes

I laughed and told him he may want to work on his situational awareness on approach. Andy Jackson is a busy joint. Then I gave him a beer. big grin Shame of it all is that he's moving to Missouri in a few months, so I am losing a fellow n00bie, but we are flying together on Wednesday. He's not as familiar with the site, having learned at Lookout.

Saturday was the semi-annual Crestline Soaring Society meeting. John, the regional director from Santa Barbara showed and presented Rob and Dianne with placques from the Foundation for Free Flight for, in essence, being the lynchpins that hold the place together. Owen Morse, a professional juggler ( and another pilot named Len got recognized for buying the ranch house above the LZ so that it would stay in friendly hands, allowing the club to expand its grass and training hills. As it cost over $500K, this is a hell of a leap of faith, that the club would adequately support the purchase! John also got to see the new, improved training hill in action, thanks to the tractor that the Foundation helped us buy. CSS is also on the hunt for a storage unit, the insulated type like at Wallaby, and needs to do some PR with San Bernardino to help fend off further development encroachments.

I brought a camp grill/stove and some brats and burgers and gave the "Scurvy Special" to anyone I recognized and/or had chatted with. No fruits or vegetables, just brats, burgers, Doritos and beer. I was happy to see the last of the food was eaten, so I didn't waste any.

The day, in terms of hang gliding, was perfect. The only fly in the ointment was getting back at 9:30 and finding that my web server had been down since I had left it Friday afternoon. Doh!!!! Turns out when I unplugged the data center monitor, the video card was a little loose and the server froze. Since I had just been on it, it didn't occur to me to test it from an independent machine. So, I took a 45 mile trip to downtown LA, tried to find parking near 1 Wilshire (*!$@! film crews had the place blocked off and packed punch ), and got my server all updated, tweaked and tested at midnight. My 350z had me back home 40 minutes and a few obscene gesture later.

Note the plates.

So what if my email (and that of a half dozen friends and clients) was down yesterday. I frikkin flew. mosh mosh

Friday, April 20, 2007


Damn, I thought I saved my post yesterday, here goes:

I was supposed to work, but the winds looked strong and the sky clear. Good decision to play hooky; Marshall was going off.

Even a caveman could soar it. Or a newbie H2 in a Falcon. As a matter of fact, my biggest concern was penetration. The lift was banded ridge lift, with funky eddies, both up and down, and a lot of turbulence. puke

I set a couple of firsts and bests. This was my first flight where I got over launch (I mean directly over). It was my first flight over an hour (1:19). I had my highest altitude (6000' msl, 4300' AGL), fastest sustained climb (3000' in 5 minutes), and highest spike on my vario (1600 fpm).


There were no "thermals" to speak of. There were pockets of great lift, but when I tried to circle in them, I'd get blown out of the back of them pretty quickly. Instead, I rode them the way that I would fly my RC gliders in strong lift, just trying to maintain pitch and roll to optimize lift.

By the time I got past 5500' on the wonderlift, I was worried about getting caught in a high band of wind that would push me behind the hill. I had the bar fully stuffed and was still climbing! Finally, I popped out of the front and circled around it back to more familiar turf. ahh Since there were only 2 of us in the air, this was my windiest day, and discretion is the better part of valor, I am content with my decision, especially since I got another 50 minutes after bailing out of that band. It must have been part of a cold front rolling in. After about an hour, the turbulence and a bad burger from McD's were tag teaming my stomach, so I decided to head out to smoother air again, this time to no wonderlift.

Not the best day to be in a Falcon, but I landed it pretty easily, before the winds got even stronger. The wind graph showed it at 35 mph sustained about the time I landed.

What a fun day! mosh thumbsup

PS: Here's the flight:

Monday, April 2, 2007

Two flights... first thermal... embarassing overshoot

Saturday, I got two flights in, one 25 minutes and the other 35.

The 25 minute one, I had to land to pack up for the second trip up the hill. I launched, got slightly over launch, then went to check another spot... I scratched a bit, but came on down, as the lift disappeared once I got low enough to get into the haze. The winds were switchy on landing, and I worried about sink on base, but I greased the landing right down the middle of the LZ.

The next flight, launching at about 3:15, was better, except for the landing. I was afraid, at first, that I was going to be a sled driver. But, I managed to hook a thermal at 2600 ft to get me up to 3800... and then another mini-thermal. This was the first time I definitely caught a thermal, with edges and all that (I found myself circling in and out of it, adjusting to stay in).

It was a lot of fun, except for one thing: I started to get airsick from the turbulence. I was a little dehydrated as my van was not in the parking lot while I repacked... and my cooler was in it. A nice guy from Albuquerque drove it down from my 1 o'clock launch, as I drove his friend and him up to get their car. They are old school hang pilots working on their paragliding. Anyway, I didn't want to chuck in my helmet, so I got out from the hill and went for the ground.

I've never flown in thermals before and it affected my landing. Normally, I come in a little high and make up for it by diving like a madman for the LZ. Well, that doesn't work when there's a thermal behind the LZ. I had the damn bar stuffed and shot right over the LZ and damn near missed the overshoot, too. The peeps in the LZ heard me whistle by over their laughter and the whir of their video cameras. I flopped down in the weeds and came out to the side to give the "I'm okay" high signs. Bah.

Tomorrow, I'm taking landing lessons. Dockweiler Beach doesn't prepare you for landing at Andy Jackson.

Thermals are fun, but I am surprised at how much they bounced me around. On my approach, I had a hard time spotting the landing aids. Tomorrow, if I get two flights in, I'll make the first a sledder so I can focus on landing.

All in all, even with the weed whacking at the end, I am very happy to have had such a good day flying.

Here are my Google Earth tracks (the first one has a wacky GPS error that shows as a spike to the Southwest).

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

H2 special at IHOP

Well, my last flight, about a week ago, was ok, but...

it could have been better.

It didn't start until 5 PM, as the shuttle left at 4 and it took me a while to get to the top. By then, thermal activity was about kaput and I was left with off angle ridge lift... not much I can do with that in my Falcon with my skills.

Then, on approach, the winds were SW, so I did a standard pattern. I came in a little steeply, so when I first checked bar pressure, I popped up. I readjusted and got back down. By then, two things happpened. First, I didn't have much speed left. Second, I had neglected to see that the wind was now due W and I was at a 45 degree crosswind.... With my slow speed, that gave the upwind wing more lift and I started to worry about landing hard on my bad left knee.

A woman had just gotten her first flight in after a long time off from a knee injury. That and a bit of tenderness in my old Navy-injured knee led me to decide:

Time to land on the wheels.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the grass and dirt marks on my harness say otherwise.

So, I am going to take another landing lesson from my instructor. There's a pretty big difference between Dockweiler and Andy Jackson in terms of wind and land gradient. Dockweiler has a nice smooth beach for winds to come across, 90 degrees of angle to launch from, ensuring headwinds if you want them, and a slight downslope. AJ has a slightly upslope landing and a significant gradient due to the elevated, rectangular LZ. Also, there are some pretty sharp little rocks that had me worried more about my knee than my gear.

On the bright side, the Crestline Soaring Society has a new tractor, so the 85' hill is in good shape, and my instructor has a new John Deere cart to carry gliders up the hill... so I don't have to hump them myself.

I have to remind myself that I made a decision to choose physical safety over pride in landing on my belly on a busy day. Given that I know what it's like to have a life-changing injury, I can live with that.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Gotta love spring

I am beat. I woke up this morning and hit the gym, doing some upper body work that included lotsa reps of light weights in exercises to build up the ol' hang gliding muscles.

I was not planning to fly, so I thought I'd start getting in shape for the summer thermals and soar-a-thons.

Then, at a client site, the emails started rolling through... winds good, lapse rates good, driver available. My gear was at home, home is 67 miles from the hill. I usually have my gear in my van, but not today, so I went home and got it... and switched cars to the Z cuzza I was going to have to hurry. I made it... 15 minutes after the noon meeting time.

5 of us loaded up and launched Crestline, a few more to Marshall. Crestline was strong getting stronger. It was a warm day for Spring.

I figured the combination of ridge lift and thermals meant it was time to explore. I got as far North as I've ever been at the site. Any further and I mighta gotten sucked into the Cajon pass venturi effect. I was glad I had my bags in my harness.

I went back down the ridge as far South as I've ever been, or at least as far South that low. Gliding out of there on a Falcon is a tall order, especially in strong headwinds. The narrow ridge lift band saved my ass, cuz the wind was blowing out thermals.

The two hour mark approached and my arms were tired, so I started heading to the LZ, only to find a pleasant surprise. A thermal at Marshall popped me up to 7,700'. Though, the winds and sink at that altitude kept me from translating that into much distance. I got sucked down under the inversion layer. I tagged the flags at CSUSB and turned to try to try to do a mile long downwind leg...

Not even close, I hooked the strongest thermal of the day at 700 feet over and took it back up over cloud.

Finally, I wanged and slipped and spun my down to a passable landing.

There were a few very nice Moyes wings in the LZ... the Sylmar boys were flying over. I watched George Stebbins land and got in my Z and made it home in time for a 6:00 appointment (15 minutes late). I checked messages on the way home... pesky clients... I had forgot to turn off my phone before launching and my ring tones were driving me nuts.

I picked the right day to blow off work. I had a 1:1 drive to flight ratio. Not bad.

Here's the track:

Friday, February 9, 2007

Hang 2

The sun didn't come out today, but I managed a 27 minute flight to get my Hang 2 signoff. We launched from Crestline in winds that were a little cross, so we went straight for the LZ.

Once there, I notice the winds were coming from a different direction than usual, requiring a (first for me) right hand approach to the LZ. I did figure eights, coming out of the last one a bit too high, but I didn't want to hit any of the structures or cars on that side of the LZ, so I was really wanting to keep it high.

My instructor was on the ground pointing me to the best spot to aim for. I dove so hard to get to the LZ I had quite a ground skim to work the energy out of... and the winds died right as I came in. Meh. It was fun and I hit pretty close to where I was aiming.

So, Hang 2, first Crestline launch, first opposite side landing. Fun day.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A good flying day goes easy on a n00bie

A mid-January day at Marshall in San Bernardino, CA, is not a prime candidate for a good flying day. Two weeks ago, there was snow on the LZ. More days than not, Santa Ana winds blow out the hill.

Today was a good day.

The winds were blowing the wrong direction all over the southland, but they were right on for Marshall. I was up at four to get some work done, drove two hours inland to Palm Springs... an hour past San Berdoo, fixed a client's problem in record time, and came barreling back. I got to the LZ a little after noon and loaded my van up with two para pilots and a new friend named Mark, who is back in the sport after some flying in the 70s.

The Marshall road in winter, with ruts and brush, was almost too much for my loaded down Quest. Looks like the paint will need a few ... err quite a few... scratches buffed out. But it was worth it to know that I could get up there in a minivan... in the land of the Superflous Hummer.

Here's Mark Launching on a relatively clear day for the LA Basin...

So, for the first time with no instructor anywhere near... as a matter of fact, with nobody else left on launch, I launched.

What a fun ride. I kinda caught a couple of thermals and juiced the ride a little bit, though I need to fly more smoothly to work those thermals. I landed well without the VASI, a little short due to the winds coming across the LZ. The VASI is described here: It is one of the many engineering improvements to our LZ made by my instructor.

Anyway, I had one wing a bit low so I ran it out instead of gunning for the perfect flare... so much for the Mary Lou Retton training at Dockweiler yesterday. But, it beats a bent bar somewhere on my bird.

Here's a nice pic of a nice guy named Wayne flying over my shiny new Falcon at the Marshall launch.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The new phone books are here! The new phone books are here!

Well, I got all my gear yesterday and took my third solo, the first with my new Falcon 3. I also got a new helmet and a Flytec 5020 GPS vario, but I didn't use those yesterday, as I am trying only to change one variable at a time. The harness is a used one I flew with last time and bought from Rob.

The flight was fun, with the Falcon 3 195 being much more responsive than Falcon 1 225. I got a little bit of lift but no thermals and so it was a 15 minute sled ride with a decent landing. There was wind on the LZ for the first time on any of my flights and so I came up a bit short of the landing circle... not that I was concerned about it on my first flight with my new wing. I took one training hill run after the flight, but didn't feel like humping it back up for a second. On that one flight, I found that the Falcon 3 is significantly more efficient than what I am used to.

Storage. What a hassle storage is, more so than I expected. This thing is 20 feet long in the bag. Actually, it's 19'6"... and I worked up a space for it with 6 inches to spare. I can't hang it on the side of the garage, as I only have 16' to spare there. So, I had to angle it and hang it about 7 and a half feet up. Well, getting an 80 pound, 20 foot long, cumbersome bag 7 and a half feet over your head is no simple clean and jerk. I hope I did no damage... I don't think I did... but I need a better way to get that thing elevated. I think I will use a pully system to get it the first 7 feet, then place it by hand the rest of the way. It's the transition from holding it at your waist to getting it over your head that is hard. I really hope the wills wing bag handles can support the weight of the glider (why else would they be there), as that is what I intend to attach the pulley system to. When hanging, it looks as if it is high in the center, but I think that's an optical illusion. I measured the five horizontal supports with a tensioned string and with a ruler to the garage floor and found less than a half inch variation with each. The possible damage I need to look for before my next flight will be bent tubes and damage to the nose... both unlikely as I didn't force anything.

Anyway, it's nice to have it all.

So, here are my costs for training to Hang 2, buying everything new except the harness and 'chute:

I think that's a pretty reasonable cost to get to fly, especially because most people don't get a new glider right off the bat and most don't get a new vario with GPS. I went with the new glider because the hill I fly at is better suited to a Falcon than other places that don't have LZs in easy glide range of launches. I went with the vario with GPS because I wanted to get straight to the one I was going to have in the long run.

So, getting to Hang 2, basically sparing no expense, is roughly the price of getting a pilot's license on the cheap, but my costs for the next couple of years will be gas money and $10 rides to the top of the hill. Hoot! Oh, and broken crossbars, heh. If I wanted to do it with a used glider, cheap vario, and minimal racking for my van, it would have cost about half as much, but I wanted to do it right.

Next goals:
- Learn to land better
- Learn to thermal
- Get Brad out here!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Second solo, even more fun than the first

I have heard it said that hang gliding just keeps getting funner and funner, though I can't imagine it can keep up this pace, or it will start looking like I am flying with the kingpost on the wrong side of the glider.

My second solo was with a radio, but Rob didn't need to use it, and I compensated for most of my errors of the first flight. Instead of launching very agressively, I was a little light and a bit too nose high, so I had to hop on the bar to get speed up and keep control after launch. I landed well enough, running out in about four steps after a fairly agressive approach for the last 100 feet. I hit my target, though it was the PG circle, not the HG circle. I didn't care, it was what I was looking at on base. Most of all, in the middle of the flight, I was up, alone, and it was quiet. I was relaxed and very happy.

In many movie genres, there's a crazy asian guy who provides comic relief. Well, there appears to be such a character at Crestline. In the tradition of Long Duck Dong in "Sixteen Candles" or the Toshiro Takashi in "Revenge of the Nerds," there is a Korean, a former HG instructor, who flies wings above his ability and crashes them with startling regularity. After I landed, word spread that he was on approach, calls went out for a video camera (none to be found), and work on the new grass came to a halt. He flew over the field quite high, then arced a long circle downwind, then followed the ridgeline that most only use for a short baseleg. As he turned on final, the assesment of someone more knowledgeable than I was that he could make it if he dove hard. He didn't. He went right over the landing circles, right over a wheelbarrow full of rocks they are clearing, right over a PG pilot folding up for the night, and toward the edge of the grass and a 50 foot drop to the practice landing field. Realizing his predicament about a minute after everyone else, he dove for the deck and stopped himself with his knees. If he had been a Hornet landing on a carrier, he not only would have overshot the 4 wire, he would have barely gotten his wheels down before having to go around. But, sans two Pratt and Whitneys, our hero had to make his landing hold with his knees and control bar.

As the light beer-fueled cheers rose, I had to turn away, so nobody would see me laugh. I had landed, albeit closer to my target, in a similar position on my flight the week before. Even though I had wheels and it was my first solo, it is sure to happen again. I dread the day when hollers of "WHACK!" and good-natured laughter welcome me back to Terra Firma.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

First Solo!!!!!111one!!!11!!!

Let's just start at the end of the day:

[Scene is set inside a late model minivan, middle aged yuppie, LAHN DART, is talking on a cell phone]

[L DART] "Hi Hon! I'm on my way home for dinner. I'll be home soon. Hey, guess wha..."

[L DART] "...."

[L DART] "Ho noes, will the ferrier be able to reschedule?"

[L DART] "... no......... that's horrible.......... I'm sure it will work out..."

[He takes a swig from a quick-e-mart soda, adjusts himself, and holds the phone up while he shovels spicy hot munch mix into his mouth."]

[L DART] "I think it's going to rain this weekend, maybe you could go see your horse next weekend."

[L DART] "... The saddle store was closed??? On a Wednesday? Jerks!"

[Camera pans out of the car to show typically packed LA Inland Empire traffic.]

[Speed of film increases to signify passage of time.]

[Camera pans back into the van.]

[L DART] "Hey, let me... Boy, that sounds like horrible service... Yes, yes, I'll fix that tomorrow... No, I'm sorry, I forgot to do that."

[L DART] ".... .... that's... wait... hey... bu.. but..."

[L DART] "WAIT, don't hang up! I have great..."

[L DART looks at phone. Writer's note to producer, check to see if certain levels of profanity can lead to an NC-17 rating]

[L DART] "@*&^%$!©±¾¶§£¥"

[L DART looks at phone, pulls a credit card out of his wallet and looking at it, dials again, 10 digits]

[L DART] "Hi... Lahn Dart... Visa... 4233 8222 8113 1313... expires 09/09... Thanks... ... Hi Krystal with a K, my name is Lahn. No. No No, I mean yes, that's an interesting physiological proposition, but first, let me tell you about my first hang gliding solo."

[L DART] "No, that's not a kinky metaphor."

[L DART] "... A metaphor is something that represents something else."

[L DART] "Look, am I paying four bucks a minute are you?"

[L DART] "No, I didn't whack... though, I did slide on my knees and the wheels a bit, but hey, I hadn't done a bunny hill in a month... Who's Bunny? No, a bunny hill is a hill you practice hang gliding on. Could we stay on target here?"

[L DART] "Anyway, the launch was great, boy was I nervous. But, my instructor talked me down like Leslie Neilson talking down Robert Hayes at the end of Airplane. I was up for about fifteen minutes. That's about average, you say? Yea. Yea it was fun. I can't wait to go again."

[L DART] "Did I have a happy ending? Well, I wasn't thrilled about going to my knees, but hey, I lived, so you could say I had a 'Happy Ending.'"

[L DART] "WHAT? That's extra???!!!"

[Zoom to L DART's face as he screams last line, then pan out as he slams on brakes to avoid rear ending sudden traffic.]

[Scene ends]