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]