Saturday, November 29, 2008

The E Team's Turkey Meet at the New Lake Elsinore LZ

Lake Elsinore's weather is very hard to predict in Santa Anas. Right up to the moment of launch, you can't really tell if it's going to be soarable, unless it's really honking, then you're worried about getting off safely.

The E Team, led by Mickey, have an annual fly in they call the Turkey Meet. Nov. 29 this year was a real hoot, though the winds were not strong enough for ridge soaring. The burgers were tasty, the beer cold, the Marina LZ fun to land on, and the company good.

Lake Elsinore Turkey Meet from knumbknuts on Vimeo.

My two flights were both 7 minutes long, straight bingos to the LZ. My bombs were 3 out of 4 in the outer circle and my second landing sucked, but my first was one of my favorites ever. I was beating myself up for my second launch, where I dropped a wingtip and missed the left downtube on transition, until I saw on a video that my wireman twanged my left sidewire while clearing, causing the drop.

I have added something to my list: watch the wiremen clear.

My bad landing was due to the fact that I cut the approach on the Sport 2 tight and retained less energy than I expected. I have to remember that my cocoon harness is like a big drogue and that I will lose speed in a tight turn, especially if I don't carve it, which I didn't. I was expecting about another half second or second when the bottom fell out and I belly flopped. But, it wasn't a whack and I got 4th in the HG comp, thanks to the good bomb drops on the run.

The good landing was after an approach that started higher and gave me more room to manuever. I came in over the water and landed into East winds. I was the first to launch and was really surprised to see the East winds, but they gave me a great shot of the Marina on my side mounted camera. That berm in the little bay sure loomed large as I came up to it at 30+ mph. I overshot the circle, but I was going for a good, safe landing... not the circle.

Fun day. I hope to fly Elsinore a few more times this winter and maybe next summer. It's a nice change of pace, though the lack of predicability can be frustrating.

Here's a fun landing Dave Aldrich caught of Wolfgang Siass, a comp pilot from Austria.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Panoramic Photos of the Lake Elsinore Launches and LZs

Below you will find descriptions and links to panoramic photos of the current launches and LZs at Lake Elsinore. The Oak Tree LZ lawsuit is headed for appeal but the E Team needs support ( I believe the information I am including about the LZs will show the benefit of reopening the Oak Tree LZ, which is reachable from either launch in any conditions.

There are two launches for Elsinore: Edwards and "The E." Edwards is primarily used in Santa Ana conditions, as North winds cause rotor at The E, which is used for "normal" days. The ratio you need to glide from Edwards to Marina is 6:5 to 1, so bring your double surface wing. My two sled rides there, I had the Sport 2 VG on full and arrived high enough to get a good approach in, but not much more.

Edwards is at 33.638, -117.387 and its panoramic photo can be found by clicking on this pic:

The E is at 33.629, -117.371 and its panoramic photo can be found found by clicking on this pic:

There are two new LZ's to replace the closed-back-in-litigation-please-support-the-eteam-by-donating-to-the-cause Oak Tree LZ.

The LZ closest to The E is known as "Everyday Mike's LZ." Everyday Mike is a PG pilot (learning HG too) who cleared some land and got permission from the owner to land there. It's a hang 4 LZ, in my opinion. I'd land uphill unless it was really honking off the lake. Then, you'd be dealing with rotor and shadow from the trees and houses. Everyday Mike's LZ is at 33.633, -117.345 and the trees in Google Earth have mostly been cleared. To get there, you go down Grand Ave and turn right at the Circle K, left at Hayes. The panoramic can be found by clicking on this pic:

The LZ closest to Edwards is the Marina LZ. The use of double surface wings is recommended to be able reach there, though single surface wings have done it many times. There are also numerous bailouts along the way. The fee is $5 a day or (I think $100/year) to use the facility. They sell beer and are very friendly. The Marina LZ is at 33.666, -117.377. Google Earth currently shows the problem with this LZ long-term. It has a way of being under water at certain times of the year. Its panoramic can be found by clicking on this pic:

A note about the panoramics. is selling a widget that automates taking panoramic photos. Pretty nifty. I don't think my Canon SD750 is optimal, as the lens doesn't seem to expose the edges of the photos evenly at full zoom. I'd recommend waiting for the SLR version to come out, but it's pretty spiffy, anyway.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Good News at Lake Elsinore... a Good LZ Reopens

This good news popped up on the Crestline site today.

To give a little background, when you've got Santa Ana winds, you want to launch from the Edwards launch at Elsinore. Since the Oak Tree LZ got shut down (it's right below Edwards), pilots have been landing at a small LZ closer to the E launch than it is to Edwards.

Elsinore has high drill potential, especially in Santa Anas, so you need an LZ near Edwards. This Marina will do. I would still recommend flying a double surface wing there. I have barely made the Oak Tree LZ in my Falcon, I've gotten drilled so hard.

The E has a bailout that D by D and I have both kissed the ground on (literally in my case... took my helmet off and kissed it).

Here are some tracklogs of the weekend I got drilled at each launch. The first was from the E to the firehouse bailout, the second is from Edwards to the Oak tree. In each cap, I've marked the "new" marina LZ with a red LZ.

Pictures pop to larger ones

Assuming you make it there, this LZ will be miles better than the other one, replete with cold beer for sale.

Edit: I've been informed by old school E Teamers that the Marina is a fairly easy 5:1 from Edwards and 7:1 from the E. They used to land there all the time. Also, there are a lot of bailouts along the way. I still would recommend double surface wings if you have the choice. If you do fly a single surface, you have to be prepared to watch other guys launch and make sure the conditions are fairly bouyant and not too rowdy.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A fun thing happened on the way back from Reno

Happiness is turning a business trip into a business and hang gliding trip. I went to Reno to install a couple of computers for a favorite client and managed to stop by Dunlap on the way back. I drove the 800 miles with a hang glider on my van and all my gear... except my harness. Doh.

Fortunately, Dan Fleming, the Dunlap LZ owner and local instructor and WW dealer, had a nice high energy pod. I'd never flown a pod before and it was a perfect fit. I loved how easy it was to get into but missed the support of the cocoon... my back was a little worn at the end of the flight. I guess I wasn't relaxing in it well. I forgot about it by the time it came to land but it didn't seem to make a difference. I did remember to unzip.

The flight was a nice one. It was pretty easy to get over launch and I got 2K over and tried to go down range and around the corner. I didn't want to get too far away from the LZ in a relatively unfamiliar wing and completely different harness... at an away site.

A fun thing happened on the way back from Reno. from knumbknuts on Vimeo.

I came back and had some more fun. Then, the sun came out, the winds shifted to cross range, and I sunk out. I should have stayed further away from the ridge, in hindsight, or worked a North facing face like last chance.

No worries, with a 4 hour drive home (having woken up 4 hours North in Roseville), I was ready to go home with a smile on my face from the 90 minute flight.

Here are some landings from the other pilots, too bad I missed Dan greasing it in. Again, follow the link for better quality... click on HD on.

Dunlap Landings - 10-18-08 from knumbknuts on Vimeo.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Idiot lift

Idiot lift is lift that is so easy to find, any idiot could do it. Today was a good day to get dialed in to my Sport 2. The winds were strong, flattening thermals, but giving a general buoyancy right up to cloudbase.

I launched Marshall around 3:20, last off, alone. I took it slowly and carefully and found that the sport 2 is easier to ground handle than the falcon 3. Coulda used that at blackhawk.

I only found two well defined thermals in the hour I flew, but finding lift wasn't a problem, it was everywhere. Wanting to get home at a reasonable hour, I burned it out front and circled down. It was a good opportunity to experiment with VG settings and I threw some direction changes into the circles to get a better feel for the wing.

A few regulars and some of the kids watched my solid approach and flare and responded with applause. I'll take it... it was nice to land on my feet with a good flare. In the end, traffic won... I might as well have stayed up... but I am far from complaining. It was a very good day.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Quick first impressions of my new (used) Sport 2

I've read a lot of "Sport 2 vs U2" articles, but not as many about the transition from the Falcon 3 to the Sport 2.

The two, as I should have expected, are almost different types of aircraft. While the fundamentals are the same (shift your weight, pull in, push out, etc.), the way each feels is remarkably different from the other. What kept going through my mind as I flew yesterday was: "This wing is slicker."

In most ways, that slicker was better. The Sport 2 cut through the air more easily and quickly than the Falcon. It was quieter, smoother, and faster. But, the slickness worked against me in one way: it was harder to stay in thermals. I felt like I was sliding out of thermals that I may have stayed in with the Falcon. I compensated for this by focusing on pushing out and going more slowly and that seemed to help, but the telltale wingtip bumps and feedback though the control frame were dampened.

Spaghetti Junction on a Sport 2

As far as the quality of the specific wing, the guy I bought it from took good care of it. It's seen a lot of sun, thanks to the East Coast flying style that has the wings unfolded longer than they are out here. But, the wing is quite clean the the sail in good shape. D by D pointed at some stitching on the wingtip and commented that the stitches will not be that clean again. Time to fight the West Coast dirt, which Wills Wing considers to be a greater threat to the longevity of their wings.

The weather yesterday was odd. It was light and mildly bouyant, ideal paraglider weather. I only got over 5k once but was able to cross the ridge quite a bit without losing any altitude. It was almost a perfect day to try out a new wing. While I'd have loved to get to 8 or 10 K, I'll take the gentle thermals and easy conditions.

My approach and landing were better than my first flight on a Sport 2. This time, I was relaxed on approach and only made the mistake of flaring too late, as I was a bit preoccupied by facing into the West winds. I was in a wind shadow and was expecting more slowing from the wind... that was blocked by the gazebo. I was a little low and flared right at the end of the window, my right knee sliding across the grass like I was sliding into second with an almost-stand-up double.

Fun times, I am glad I bought the wing and am looking forward to more time in the air.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Buying & transporting a Sport 2 across the USA

How-to details first, commentary second, here's how you do it:

1. Call Sonotube, 888-SON-TUBE (766-8823), and ask them for local distributors.
2. Call the distributors, ask them where the nearest retailer they supply is.
3. Call the nearest retailer (prob a lumber type place) and ask them to get a quote for a 16" x 12' concrete form tube from Sonotube.
4. Place the order, get the tube.
5. While picking it up, buy a couple 20 gallon rubbermade trash cans for the ends. Also buy a large roll (or two) of bubble wrap and tape of your choice for attaching the ends to the tube.
6. Stop at a thrift store and get a couple of blankets on the way home. Maybe 3 or 4.

Edit: Another option is corrugated irrigation pipe, see this post by Jonathan "NMERider" Dietsch.

7. Short pack the wing per the instructions and Jeff O'Brien's packing tips .
8. Bubble wrap each end and twice in the middle, enough to expand the wing to the diameter of the tube.
9. Pad the cans and put 'em on (the wing will stick out a little each end).
10. Tape the snot outta it.
11. Call Pilot Air, get a quote for shipping an "Event Tent" **cough**cough** from your nearest location to the recipient's nearest location. The words "hang" and "glider" will probably kill the deal. Tell them you are a business.
12. Drop off, watch it through tracking.
13. Other guy gets a call when it arrives, picks it up.
14. Ta-da.

Big thanks to my brother Brad for shipping my new (used) Sport 2 out to me.

Above are pics of the end result of Brad's handiwork (tape missing from back end).

The garbage cans were brilliant. They lifted the tube enough for forklifts to get under the pipe. They had handles. They flexed if you dropped the tube on them. Perfect.

As for the costs:

- I found the wing on the ozreport classifieds for $2k.
- Tube was $80
- Misc supplies were $82
- Shipping was $128
- Extra gas driving to the airport $30

So, the wing was about $2320. I also asked Rob (my dealer) to inspect it as needed and replace the side wires. Let's say that takes it to $2500-$2600. A new Sport 2 from said dealer is $3,775 (man, am I lucky for yet another reason to have chosen back when I was surfing for web sites about hang gliding lessons). Plus tax takes it to $4067. So, I saved about $1,500.

So, was it worth it? Yes, but only for one reason: I probably will only fly this wing a couple of seasons. Maybe only one.

I am too heavy for the Sport 2 155 by about 20 lbs. But, I want to learn to fly double surface wings on it, not the U2 160, which is a better fit for my lard-200-pounds-before-putting-gear-on ass. I intend to lose the 20 lbs to fit into the wing and the rotor vulto harness I found for $450. Even then, though, the u2 may be better for me.

Everything went very well and I had a dedicated brother on the other end handling things for me. I got a great deal. I think I am going to quit while I am ahead. It was a fair bit of monkey business and everything went great. I can't imagine the hassle of a forklift through my wing or something like that. There are hassles for buying locally, too. Sport 2s, used, are hard to find in So Cal, with so many students popping outta Crestline & Kagel.

I'm going to go back to buying new from now on. The savings on the wing are not worth the lesser life span left in it and the hassles to get it. Glad it worked for this time, though.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

Blackhawk Down

Yesterday, I harshly reminded myself about the importance of good headwork during all parts of flight, but especially during launch and landing. Rare is the pilot who has more mishaps launching than landing... I'm that guy. I blew a launch and trashed my wing, with a broken downtube, bent batten, & a torn sail (at least).

I made bad decisions on launch at Blackhawk, let a wingtip and a nose get high, tried to straighten the wings instead of just tamping everything down, got picked up and thrown to the side. Once I was in the air, I leaned toward the ground to get my aircraft and me outta the sky before I picked up any velocity. I can't imagine how I could have saved that, once I was in the air, and I am glad I didn't try... I would have just picked up more energy for the eventual impact. Wings not level, nose high, and not communicating well with the wireman led to me walking away very luckily uninjured except a slight dent in the pocketbook and another in my pride.

Driving down the hill, fixing a flat, driving around collecting pilots scattered all over the base of the hill, I had time to reflect a bit on the fiasco. Here are some thoughts:

1. Headwork, headwork, headwork, especially at a new site, is needed in all parts of the task, for that part of the task.

2. Blackhawk, on a day that is not straight in (yesterday was SE), is a lot like Elsinore in the summer. You have to hit the window or drive down. We got rotored pretty good, after watching the big dogs circle up to 11K.

3. Going to Blackhawk for your first cross country attempt is like trying to pop your cherry with Madonna. Sure, it may be exciting, but the memories are more likely to be unpleasant and you may just end up with a permanent medical condition. I'd say it's a hang 4 site, but that doesn't even put it into proper perspective. It's Blackhawk... ratings don't cover what I think is needed to fly there.

4. The next time I fly there:
-it will be when I have at least a Sport 2, if not topless, wing.
-the wind will have to be North
-I will not only scope out a bail out, I'll clear out the brush in it and plant a flag. This will take hours, but will be well worth the effort.
-I will not be bashful about asking another pilot for help and being one of the middle guys off the hill, not one of the first or, in this case, second to last.
-The weather forecast will have to have the risk be worth the potential reward

5. I have a new policy for new sites that are not known entities: I want to drive for someone there first, before flying there. That's almost a must for Blackhawk. It would have been good policy for Upper/Lower Parma at Santa Barbara.

6. Next time, I'm following Dave, where he goes, and after he goes. That seems to work well for me. He went to the Owens and nailed a 61 mile flight. He's a natural.

I am really fortunate not to have hurt myself. I'm also fortunate to have Rob back at the LZ, with his truck waiting to take my torn up wing back to the shop for his expert care. Talking with him yesterday was like one of those Kung Fu "But, Master!" conversations. Maybe I should go to the guy with the green eyes before trying out some new karate chops.

I've heard it asked: "Why do you want to go anywhere when you've got Crestline/Marshall/AJ as your home site?" Err... variety? Today, I feel like Hugh Grant after he got busted with Devine.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Best flight yet

Best Day Yet... from knumbknuts on Vimeo.

If more days were like today, I probably wouldn't have a job... or a house... or a wife... or a car....

I was anxious to get up the hill, so I ditched my clients early and Hoffbrow, DbyD, & I barreled up the hill around noon. Beautiful marshmallows were coming over from Cuco to the Cajon pass. As I launched there, were dotting the ridge.

Popped to 7700 over launch.

Glided to halfway between Pine and Sugarpine, got nervous, turned to go out front, caught a real drifter that I bailed out of at 7800 because I didn't want to go to Vegas.

Got just past Sugarpine and turned my po', slow Falcon around, fearing the Venturi effect.

Back to Pine, I saw Dave as a speck way above me and caught another one to 7,500 and bailed out for the same reason, but soon caught a fatty to 9,300. A jet went overhead, so I kept my eyes on the desert.

Sure enough, here comes Alaska Airlines. Not too close, but closer than I'd prefer.

Bunny hopped the clouds East... chased one back to Rimforest, then the cloud disappeared and I got nervous. My vario showed 4:1 to AJ, so I pointed that direction and got drilled. Kyle was working Baylis Park and the exchange and thermals there popped me high enough to skip right past Billboard to Pine (barely). Not much shaking there, I figured the marine layer had taken the day, so I started working back to the LZ. right over it, I caught a punchy one from 4k to 8.5K, with notable turbulence a couple of times as I punched through mild inversions... or something.

A final tag of the 215 and a due West landing into smooth winds and my furthest, highest, & longest flight was over.

I am amazed that our club doesn't have 10,000 members... there are only about 6,000 hang glider pilots in the country.  This is so much fun.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Chortle.... got an article published in the USHPA monthly mag.

Getting an article published in the USHPA magazine is not particularly difficult, but it is fun, nonetheless. The only hard part is: I'm a n00b with little to write about. The organization only has about 10,000 members, so it's basically like a university-sized publication, but I respect those members greatly and hope the article is enjoyable and interesting.

This particular article is about short packing a Falcon 3. I can't reproduce it here, but it does point to a walk through I did:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A better than average day.

The inversion lifted a bit, got to 6,500 a bunch, tagged Pine 3 times, flew until I didn't want to fly.

Fun times with Rebardan, Dave A., Owen.

Tracklog links to larger version:

Monday, August 25, 2008

Press covers the Andy Jackson Airpark and development nearby.

The Andy Jackson Airpark, a world class LZ and home to the Crestline Soaring Society (and testbed for Wills Wing), is being threatened by neighboring development and a developer who has blown us off for years in our effort to come to a mutually agreeable solution.

The story in the San Bernardino Sun is here:

Find out about writing letters of support here:

I'm happy with the quotes attributed to me. It's refreshing for a journo to get it right and it's fun to be in the paper.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Rented a Sport 2

This post is aimed at either "wuffos" (people who are not hang glider pilots) or other new pilots who haven't flown double surface wings. I figure pilots more experienced than I would, obviously, already have their own opinion on the topic.

In the world of hang gliding, there are 4 basic classes of wings:
- Beginner
- Intermediate/Advanced (kingposted)
- Topless
- Rigid

The wing I've been flying for the last year and two thirds and 112 mountain solos has been a beginner wing, the Wills Wing Falcon 3 195 (3 is the version, 195 refers to the square footage of the sail). The other term for this class of wing is "single surface." These wings have, for the most part, one surface to their airfoil.

Intermediate/Advanced wings have two surfaces. They have a top surface similar to the single surface wing, but their bottom is also covered to significant amounts by another surface. This allows for cleaner, faster airflow. Less drag means the wing can go faster and will go further in static conditions than a single surface wing.

Intermediate/Advanced wings also have a "VG" (variable geometry) system that allows the wing's shape to change in flight. A "full on VG" means the wing will glide better, faster and more efficiently, in a straight line, but will be more difficult to turn. It also lends to a more pronounced stall at a slightly higher speed.

The Wills Wing Sport 2 175 (20 square feet larger than the one I flew Friday)

Friday, for my second flight, I rented a Wills Wing Sport 2, an intermediate level wing. It is well known for having a very good combination of improved performance with still fairly easy handling.

Boy, did I notice the speed. That thing really zips around compared to the Falcon.

When I am in the Falcon, I am either putting along fairly slowly at around 24 mph. It pretty much feels like I have one speed. If I pull in to gain speed, I feel more like I am going down than anything. Things get pretty loud and the ground starts rushing up to me.

The upside of that lower speed is that the Falcon handles very well and crisply at its lower speeds. If I fly into a thermal at "trim" (that optimal speed), it is easy to turn the wing and stay in the thermal, for two reasons. The first reason is that the wing turns more easily than double surface wings at the same speeds. The second reason is that I'm not going very fast, so it takes a while to get through the thermal.

In the Sport 2, I felt the wind more, but heard it less. The wing really felt smooth and fast. It turned easily, but I felt like I would have to put more effort into putting it on a wing and coring a thermal. The difference between it and the Falcon felt like the difference between changing direction while running vs. changing direction while on a bicycle. With the Falcon, if I felt a thermal, I feel like I can just "crank it" into a turn. I didn't really try, but it doesn't quite feel like it would be more difficult to do that in a Sport 2, in accordance with what I've heard.

The only hard part of the flight was my approach, where I thought like a Falcon pilot and just buried the control bar to get speed up. Well, the Sport 2 speeds up in a hurry and so I turned to downwind a bit late and low. I also lost a lot of altitude in the turn, due to the bar being buried. I think I was even oscillating due to speed and poor control (this is called PIO for Pilot Induced Oscillations). I eased back on the control bar, turned a bit too low straight to the LZ, cutting the corner but heading right into the wind (somewhat by plan), got the wings level, thought I should flare, hesitated and mushed it in on my knees. Grass stains on my pants were the only dinger to pilot or wing... I'll take it.

I wanted to rent the Sport 2 for a number of reasons:
1. To see what it was like to fly a double surface wing
2. To see if I had the chops to fly an intermediate wing
3. To help my planning for buying the next wing, in both timeframe and type.

Here are my intial reactions:
1. It's a lot of fun. It's fast, smooth, clean. I felt like I was almost on a completely different kind of wing. It was really nice not to lose so much altitude going places. I got to just crank on the VG and zoom across to a spot that I wouldn't have reached in a Falcon.

2. I give myself a passing grade on the flight as a whole. Good launch (near as I could tell), good control in air, poor approach, adequate save on landing.

3. I need to lose weight and try again (I was a bit heavy on this one) on the Sport 2 155. I am better fit, weight-wise, for the next one up the ladder, the U2 160. I think I am going to have to rent the Sport 2 enough times to get familiar with it, if Rob has one available, then try to get a U2 rental or demo to see what the difference is. The U2 has slightly better performance but is more significantly difficult to fly, according to Wills Wing.

I need more time to answer all those questions adequately.

In sum, it was fun to fly, I am going to set aside the whole question for now, try to lose some weight, hopefully fitting into my sleeker harness, get used to that, and try again. Hopefully, that won't be too far off.

Whatever the case, I will always want a Falcon in the quiver. It's tough to beat how easy it is to fly.

Here's a chart of the various wing type "polars." Basically, the shallower the curve, the better the wing performance. That'd be the Falcon there on the bottom. The wings between it and the Sport 2 are older wings. According to this, at 30 miles per hour in static air, the Sport 2 would only be descending about 215 feet per minute. At that speed, a Falcon would be dropping like a rock, 400 feet per minute.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Another new site

You know you are in Southern California when traffic is a major consideration of where you fly when you live equidistant to two sites. Because going up through the middle of LA is the only thing that is worse than going out the 91 to San Berdoo, I had never flown Kagel in the year and a half I've been flying.

Today, I finally got to Kagel/Sylmar, though I had to game the traffic like Steve Martin in "LA Story" to get up there by noon. I didn't pull out of the driveway until 10:40. It's 77 miles the way I went, 64 at the shortest. I made it in an hour 10.

I am glad I went today and I look forward to getting some mileage out of my 90 day visitor membership. Variety is the spice of life and Kagel has it for me.

The inversion layer kept me on the first ridge, but there were some thermals to work there and I got to get a little oil on my technique, which was a bit rusty after one thermalling flight in the last month (at Dunlap).

I was glad I was not there on a crowded day, as I felt my way around the ridge, I only had one ATOS to keep track of.

The LZ at Kagel is an interesting one. The grass is a Hang 4 spot, as they are concerned about lesser pilots overshooting into the the storage containers and picnic benches. That left me in the wash, a long, narrow riverbed with some spots nicer than others. A long, fast DBF got me right where I wanted to be with plenty of speed. Turns out, though, I nipped the edge of the "Sylmar Triangle." The wash has some funky geometry to its geology and I encountered the lowest wind shadow I've ever felt. I was maybe 15 feet off the ground with good speed and hands on the downtubes, rounding out, when suddenly I was 5 feet off with not so much speed.

"Flare!" I thought to myself, thinking possibly ballooning would be a better risk to take than flying into the ground. My timing was actually pretty good, but my wings were not very level and I couldn't give it a full flare.

I didn't whack, though, and I recovered it pretty well, so I am giving myself a passing grade on my landing... based on the new site, the well known "triangle," my perfect approach, and my good save.

I am not letting myself buy a new wing until, among other things (like having money), I have landed my Falcon well 30 straight times. By well I mean I can not do anything that would disqualify me from a spot landing contest or anything unsafe. That was my 6th such landing and 28th out of the last 29.

Fun day, nice people, great site... though working afterward took some of the sheen off it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I finally get to fly there

15 years ago, I was flying an RC glider near where I lived when a couple of guys unfolded hang gliders, hooked in, launched, and went up. I was really surprised at their soaring capability.

I started poking around about lessons, but I witnessed a pretty rough bailout landing at this site and a medevac flight picking up a guy who got rotored behind the ridge. Then, a friend who had flown hang gliders as a French Foreign Legion commando (and tumbled one at altitude) said they scared the hell out of him. That cooled me off.

But, once I got into flying, I really wanted to fly the site. It took three trips, but I finally got the combination of help from the local instructor and the right winds to be able to fly it. Said instructor was very helpful, as always. It is definitely not a site you want to fly without help from a local. As a matter of fact, it'd be about impossible, as you need a gate code and a few other items or information.

The video shows the fun I had and we topped off the day with dinner at a Brazilian BBQ.

A fun thing happened on the way back from Reno. from knumbknuts on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

All you can eat at Morningside

My trip to Morningside ended up solidly in the "Win" column, a big relief after much travel and a "Loss" at Funston three weeks ago.

After being rained out the first of two days, I got 22 flights in on the second. I got to practice dead, cross, and strong wind ramp launches. Ramp launching in a tree gap is noticeably different than launching from a nice, rounded hilltop. The varying conditions allowed me to practice a number of different approaches and landings. Along with my best crosswind launch in my short flying career, I also affected my best crosswind landing, keeping the glider crabbed into the wind and running it out at about a 30 degree angle.

More importantly, I got to spend a lot of time with my Brother, Brad, allowing us to catch up on quite a bit. After flying, I finally saw his nice house in Storrs, where I had not visited in 7 years. All that house cuts into his flying budget, so we brainstormed how to get a university professor rigged for hang gliding on the cheap. If anyone has a Falcon 225 and/or a harness for a 6'1" 220 pounder, let me know.

Morningside Flight Park was a real sleeper hit for me. I was very impressed by the facilities:
- A nice, carpeted hanger to reassemble my shortpacked glider
- Lots of spare parts and equipment (see previous post for why that helped)
- Helpful, friendly staff
- Gatorade for sale! Man, was I thirsty in the 90 degree 90% humidity weather
- ATVs to get you to launch in a couple of minutes
- A slope that is perfect for working your way up in training and is also perfect for flying down in ground effect on final
- Aero tow operations & lessons (which I will do next time)
- Lots of enthusiastic students

Variety is the spice of life. After averaging an hour per flight in California, but only flying once or twice a day, it was a blast to get in almost 2 dozen "Mountain" flights in one day. I know you can get that many at a beach site or at Point of the Mountain or winch towing, all of which I look forward to doing. But, for this trip, getting that many flights in felt like cheating.

Well, it felt like cheating until the next day, when I tried to get outta bed. No matter how easy the ATVs and facilities make it, 22 times of putting the glider on the cart, carrying down the crest of the hill, launching, landing, and taking it back to the cart... adds up.

By about 3 o'clock, the winds had picked up to the point where you needed two wire crew to launch and I was too tired to do so safely. I ended on a 7 minute flight that got me above launch.

The wing went back to Storrs on a ladder and I spent a scant 1:20 the next morning short packing it and the rest of the day playing with my nephews in the pool.

Even Delta was nice to me, only charging me $25 for the wing, making that cost $200 for the round trip... fair enough. And no tubbies crowded my "airspace" on the way back.

Work bit with a vengeance, though, and I stopped by a client's on the way home from LAX and recovered a failed RAID array until two in the morning.

When do I get to fly again? How can I make it back to Morningside this summer?

Open the link and click on Watch in High Quality for the video.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Planes, cables, and automobiles

Needless to say, on a supposedly full flight, I get stuck next to a 350 pound man. Delta's response was something to the effect of "sucks to be you." Ugh. So, for 6 hours, I tried to doze while shifted to the left out into the aisle... getting bumped by the flight attendants and passengers every time. Worst... flight... ever.

Fortunately, it was a straight shot and 6 hours later, I was on the ground in CT with my bro and it's great to be hanging out with him. He's a fun guy and a good big brother to have. I wish he lived closer.

Here's a tip for the shortpack of a Falcon. DO NOT LET ANYONE DISTRACT YOU WHILE DOING IT. The one time I was hurried while dissembling it was when I was putting the battens in a few days after having done most of the packing. My wife was anxious to leave for the gym... and I ended up dropping the kingpost luff line dongle, a 6 inch cable that hangs out of the kingpost to hook the luff lines to. The way the dongle works, it can twist and slip out of the kingpost if there are no other cables in the kingpost to help hold it in. It was in the grass of my backyard as I was in New Hampshire. Profanity ensued this discovery... next time I'm putting it in a ziploc. Fortunately, the helpful guys at Morningside crafted a spare from old parts (shortened one from a previous WW Glider) for me. The cost was some beer. Great guys.

I spent about 4-5 hours reassembling the wing in their great hangar, protected from the rain and the South winds which kept me, along with being too tired, from flying.

After going back to the nearby hotel, which is cheap and clean, showering and taking a cat nap, I walked with my brother to the top of the 450' launch. Morningside is such a nice place... what a great setup.

Today, we fly.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Off to Morningside

My policy of not liking to travel, especially by air, is well founded, though it's going fairly well so far.

Delta cut me a minor break... only charging me oversize ($150) and extra bag ($25) and not overweight (would have been $85) for my glider.

Man, I wish Morningside rented wings... I'da soooo much rather rented, especially since weather there is so fickle. But, the ticket wasn't bad and the trip will be worth it...

Now I am sitting in LAX at the bar... wondering if I am going to pull a Radwhacker. I drove up early to beat the traffic. Dockweiler looked quiet, though a Condor was unfolded, nobody was flying. So, I am drinking a Sam Adams, waiting for the Celtics game to start, watching the birds go by... could be a lot worse.

Security didn't open my glider bag... they just wiped the latches with some kinda of chemical wipe... phew.

Gonna be a long night.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Beats workin'

My Friday blew up, so I went flying.

By 11, I had already been to 3 client sites & the rest of the day was Fubared. My daughter & wife were out for the day, it was too early to drink (barely), and no other work projects were good for a Friday.

I called Rob, the McBus was full, then I got an email: MikeB & Mike Z were driving up at 12:30. I left my driveway at 11:25. I left the gas station on the corner at 11:29. I hit the lot at 12:30, not easy to do in 67 miles of So Cal traffic.

The relief to be above the smog, literal and figurative, held me up for 3 hours and took me to an unexpected 6,800. Crestline, Pine, Crestline, Cloud, Crestline, Pine, Marshall, Crestline, Marshall, the University Flags, Marshall... whack! (ugh) (I need to drill procedures in for landings)

Fun day. Next up: Morningside.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The day I'd been waiting for

I bummed a ride up early to work on a video project (and the SD card needed formatting so the video was corrupted, among other things blah). Thanks Whack.

Marshall was the killing fields as the winds switched from North to East and back and forth. My wing got tipped by the wind when it was on the basetube with the velcro still on the wings. Then, even with a good wireman, I got turtled by a dust devil at the launch point, as winds went from 5 mph East to 15 mph West in a matter of seconds.

Thanks Rob and Dan for the help.

It was worth it.

10 minutes later I was at 8k. It seemed like there was a lot of lift and a lot of suck, so I didn't take my Falcon too far afield, as some did in their new sport 2s (**cough** Dave ** I-15** cough ** cough**). I guess my acrobatics on launch were scary: it took quite a while for everyone to launch after I did.

After 2 1/2 hours, my shoulders were sore, my hands cold, and my day complete.

Here are some pics (all pop):

Bracing for impact

Face down, *** up, that's the way we like to be ****ed.

Here's a view of a wing you don't see often

Decent shot of the wings on Marshall

Look and you can see the wings on Marshall

Lakes and Launch


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Big O Flies from the E

Backfilling here. Dave, Owen, and I went out to Elsinore for a late Friday flight in moderate Santa Anas. Owen launched first, Dave second, I third.

Owen had a great flight, Dave and I met Mr. Lee. Mr. Lee Side Rotor, that is. While I was finishing setting up, Dave got spanked down into the bailout below the E. I went ahead and launched and barely made it... and it's only 5:1 from launch. The first portion of the flight was a rodeo ride. I actually looked up to see if my wing was assembled properly. The last third, I skimmed over rooftops, starting at 200' over them down to 50' over the last roof a quarter or third a mile later.

It scared the hell outta me.

But, I landed safely, kissed the ground, was delivered a beer by Spike, and vowed never to launch the E in North winds again.

Here's a video I made of Owen's flight.

Big O Flies from the E from knumbknuts on Vimeo.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Flying with 3 cameras and GPS tracking

The day was pretty murky to begin with (I think I saw Frodo and Sam hiking into San Berdoo), I didn't tweak the saturation on this run of video, and YouTube washed it out a bit more, but...

Camera, Camera, Camera, GPS, Windy Windy Windy from knumbknuts on Vimeo.

Here's my video of the day. Better quality option if you follow the link.

I was experimenting with three cameras. My verdict: it can be done, but it's a pain in the ***, worth doing for the most scenic of sites. The overhead camera records onto to a little portable recorder I got, on which I have to rerender from divx to mpeg to edit, as the divx it records to is too compressed for my edit software and causes it to freeze (Vegas, Pinnacle, & Premier, ugh!).

Having 3 perspectives at once is too much, generally. I like three cameras only for the variety of angles they provide. Two cameras were hi def, one standard, not that you can tell on youtube.

I got some good in air shots of Dave's new Sport 2, Jack holding onto his glider at Crestline, Wisconsin Paul, and one of the Atos boys at Crestline. They look better on the hi def.

This was also a video where I experimented on using my gps track to help tell the tale.

I give myself a B- on it, getting above a C only due to the sheer volume of raw material (I was flying around like a %%(!&! EA-6B Prowler). It's almost too much and the conditions were kinda crappy for vid; it didn't turn out as well as I hoped it would.

As far as the flight itself... holy crap I need a DS glider for days like that. It was w-w-w-windy & gusty. The only reason I was glad I was on a Falcon is I got thrown around by the hand of God a couple of times and was wondering if I'da been tumbled or something on a DS glider. Probably not, but the stability of the Falcon was welcome. But, there were thermals I couldn't follow because they would have taken me back into the trees. I had to leave Crestline while the getting was good.

The landing is amusing. I have to do 3 in a row into that circle, the next one with a right hand approach. I've done two, both just barely reaching it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Crazy weather week ends with a good flight

After a week of bungling weather forecasts, I was determined to get a flight in on Saturday. Looking at the Skew-T graphs, it looked like the clouds would be above Marshall but the wind would be growing in strength all day. My wiley scheme was to launch early, milk ridge lift, & enjoy the building energy in the air.

Dave, Mike Z and I left the LZ at 11:15 with Fez, a paraglider pilot. Marshall was honking when we got there, though lulls tempted Fez, he wisely waited for a more experienced paraglider pilot.

I recently wrote a letter to the editor of the national mag citing the CSS as an example of a club that's got the HG/PG thing right. (that letter was referenced in this month's mag) What I want to add to that is that HG pilots should love PG pilots... they drive your vehicle back down on blown out days. Thanks Fez!!!!

Dave launched and hooted and hollered. I had enough electronics on my glider to make an Intruder pilot shake his head, so I was holding up the show. Mike Z, the most altruistic man on earth since Ghandi died, was waiting to help me off. I was testing out a helmet cam (Fail)(Archos sucks). As I was hooking in, snow started to fall. Light, flakey, and quick to melt, it sped up the launch process. I didn't miss any safety items, but I did forget my second layer of jacket. Dohp.

There was some ridge lift, but the only strong lift I found was cloudsuck, which I circled out of and didn't find again. I scratched for 23 minutes (handicapped by a bit of extra bar pressure and terrain separation due to the wet wing) in the hopes of drying out my Falcon.

The windsocks were dead on downwind, boring on base, and doing a &^%$#@~! tango on Final. I remembered some of Rob's instruction on the 80' hill (I'd recommend those Gator runs for anyone, they're fun) and decided to run it out. No swing at the pitch (i.e. flaring). I was taking a base on balls.

I was tempted to go back up, but watching topless glider pilots kiss the ground upon safe arrival killed that notion.

Here's the video. Follow the link and click the high quality option.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Spring forward

This morning, I figured I'd play hooky for a sled ride and some R&D on some camera setups and another project at the LZ.

11:00, I barreled outta OC and made it to the LZ with 15 minutes to spare, and spent 10 of them mollifying a distressed client. phsaw.

Running into a rolling McBus, the cast of characters was light, with Mark Hoffman & Gene (& Liz as a return driver).

Rebardan was already up top with his ATOS (Dan have you landed yet?).... and Dusty ran the McBus off Marshall Road to beat us to the top (okay, we dropped Diane off at the last fork for a hike).

Typical late winter / early spring weekday, I thought. Not so much.

Rob was out having fun, shooting top landings, one of which I got on video (pesky pause button got another). Gene showed his love of Rotorville & buzzed launch like Maverick in a full pattern, time and again. Dusty flew off into the distance and scared the bejeebers outta the locals ("people! they be fallen from dah sky"). Firefighters who showed up at the LZ just to watch said there was a hook and ladder chasing a distressed ultralight through town. Or something.

On that note, if you see a fire engine in the LZ & the lights aren't on, they're just smokin' pork chops, no emergency. I saw it and kept an eye out for the X in the Circle, figuring a paraglider had gotten hammered by some cross winds.

What a fun and different day. I decided not to borrow a jacket from Rob and got high enough to get cold. I brought three cameras out, but forgot something for each, and it was a clear and high day. I didn't pack my bags in my harness and it would have been a great day to explore a little more than I could without them.

I took the Marshall house thermal to about 5,600 and started back toward Crestline. I chickened out, got back on the elevator, and tried again.

"Ruh roh," said Astro, I was pretty sure I was heading into North winds. That pipe-filled U-Turn in the road looked pretty close. I could read "ACME Pipes and Fittings" on the side of one of them. In for a penny, in for a pounding. I was thinking about that bailout LZ and how to store my glider without a strap of velcro while I walked back to the LZ (lesson there). I looked at the Crestline windsock and it was either torn or pointing the wrong way.

Boom! There were two thermal factories there, though, on the spines on each side of the launch. Rob sauntered by and zipped up and away, fun to see him in the air without a student.

At 6800 it was time to explore again. I did a half circle to the front of the Pine spine and fund lift to 7,800. I last saw Gene heading toward Arrowhead and wanted to go that way, but was down to 6200 by Crestline, so I punted back to Marshall for another lap back to Regionals, Billboard, and Pine, nice thermals at each.

Topping out at 8,500 at Pine, I decided to see if I could reach the 215. I got there a bit above 7K & went down it to the golf course. There, I hit the inversion layer and felt like Saddam Hussein falling through the floor and called it a day.

My landing must have been amusing to watch, I thought the ground was a foot or two higher than it was and ran in air for a while, mushed out, and skidded to a stop on my knees.

Didn't care, though.

Rasp/blipmaps look better for tomorrow, though the winds look a little more westerly.

PM me for a link to some quick & dirty video. No torrent crap, high def. With Kyle's help, I got a lot of Gene, some dan & mark, and even a paraglider (Doosty). I got a bit of Rob, but I wish I had gotten more. He's just so relaxed. It's like watching Perry Como fly.

Hope I can play hooky again. My first non-sledder in quite a while has fueled more than my loquaciousness. (ooh big word)

Here's a youtube video of the track (follow link for high quality option):

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Big Sur

15 years or so ago, I saw my first hang glider pilots... and they whacked hard.

It was at Big Sur, they were landing in the small, downslope LZ by the stairs to Sand Dollar beach. They both enthralled me and scared me. Since my first tandem, I have been dying to fly Big Sur, so I scheduled the campground 10 months out.

It was well worth it.

Hazzard Boys of Big Sur from knumbknuts on Vimeo.

4 flights, all short but memorable. The first was in a beautiful sunset. The second, I punched through clouds. The third, Dave and I flew wingtip to wingtip in another great sunset. The fourth, more clouds.

The camping was fun, the food good, the beer cold, and most important, the guys on the trip great.

Pilotguy taught me the best lesson I could possibly learn. He flew across the country, rented a car, stood at launch... and waited... for 6 hours. Then he broke down and didn't fly. The glider had some "issues" and he didn't feel right. I loaned him my glider the next morning, but the clouds rolled in while the bacon cooked (and cleared minutes after his departure).

Jeff, you have carte blanche use of that Falcon on a trip to So Cal, in payment for the "cheap" lesson you taught me. I would have launched. You made the right call.

Big Sur Dream Flights from knumbknuts on Vimeo.

I highly recommend the site. My next flight, on my return, was of similar sled ride length... and the only flight I have yet to be disappointed in. It was just too hard to accept 11 minutes over the Inland Empire after similar sled rides over one of my favorite sites on Earth (you can also scuba dive, hike, fish, mountain bike, and surf there).

All pics pop.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Dream flight

Everyone has them: the dreams that they are flying.

Today, I lived that dream. Not because I set any personal best, not because I flew long or high, but simply because the air was smooth and buoyant... simply because I almost gave up and sank out, but held on to find idiot-proof lift. Wherever I flew, the steady, almost constant chirp of my vario assured me that I was the envy of raptors.

Sixty miles to the West, the Sun bounced off the Pacific Ocean on a wedge of water between the Cleveland National Forest and Santa Catalina Island. Below me, chumps, suckers, and the better part of the Proletariat Class schlepped down the the Ortega Highway on the way home from oppression. Winding down the same road, invariably stuck behind a truck, motorcyclists looked for a way to pass and put their lives in the hands of housewives in SUVs. My life was in the hands of God and today He favored hang gliding.

While I floated, as relaxed as Gilligan in a hammock, my only concern was a mild twinge that I started this sport too late in life... coupled with the sad knowledge that I would have to wake up before sunset and land, to join the chumps on the Ortega Highway.

But, I am not a sucker; I picked the right day not to work.

Here is a video of a fun weekend:

California Flying in January from knumbknuts on Vimeo.