Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Big O Loop begins!

I want to revolutionize hang gliding in Southern California. Helping Owen Morse and Len Szafaryn get the some income out of the Cross Country Ranch House property will do that. Owen and I are building a system to take hang gliders on carts to a new launch 400 feet above the LZ, without having to break them down. This will greatly improve training for all levels of pilots and general enjoyment for those who want to get more flying in when they go out to Andy Jackson Flight Park (AJX).

This new venture is called the Big O Loop in honor of Owen Morse, one of the property owners and captain of this ship, so to speak (I'm the XO, to extend the metaphor).

Dusty Rhodes prepares for the first flight from the F'O' Hundred Launch

Three other sites gave me the inspiration for this: Morningside, Torrey Pine, and Yosemite. I paid a lot of money to rack up flights at Morningside and Torrey so I could fly at Yosemite. It's easy to get airtime in Southern California, but it's hard to get the 250 flights you need to get your Advanced Rating, required for Yosemite.

So, In June of '08, I spent just under a grand and a weekend short packing my Falcon 3 to fly to Morningside to get as many flights in as possible. I got 22 in a day, but only one day out of three was flyable. A year later, I paid $195 for a "lesson" at Torrey and got 10 more flights in. I got my advanced rating in June and flew at Yosemite in July. It was a lot of work to get there, but it was worth it.

What, I wondered, if we had a cart system like Morningside out here? That would make it so much easier to build up skills! In October, I pitched an idea to Owen and it turns out he had already wondered about launching from his property and had a spot already picked out for a launch. I explained the cart system concept and asked him if we could build a system like that on the XC Ranch House property. Owen enthusiastically gave the thumbs up, checked with Len, and it began.

We have three main goals:
- Provide a system to allow for "all you can eat" flying in Southern California, improving enjoyment and safety of the sport.
- Reduce the principal on the loan for the Ranch House.
- Support hang gliding instructors by allowing them access to the system free of charge.

Gene dozes the trail - day one
from knumbknuts on Vimeo.

As it stands now, we're cutting the road and prepping the property. The website is up. Up next: buy and build a cart system to get as many wings to the top of the hill as easily as possible.

Hang gliding is fun. This will make it even funner.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Volunteerism and hang gliding clubs...

Time for a non-flying post, as often, in the world of hang gliding, there is much that goes on that is not related to flying... or much that *can* go on if you want to be helpful. It's surprising how much is needed, in a way. There's a lot of work required to get to good launches and land in safe landing zones. Most of that work is local, some is national.

On the national front, it amazes me that USHPA (the nat. org.) requires so much of its regional directors. RDs have to travel, partially at own expense, twice a year (during the work week!) to conferences around the country. At these conferences, there are all kinds of meetings and breakout sessions. That's a sacrifice I can't make, my time is just tooooo valuable.

Much of the best work is done by individuals who just take a load on their back and carry it far down the road. Two individuals who spring to mind are SG and Owen.

SG started and made it the top hang gliding website in google search results. It's a fantastic forum where I have made a lot of friends and learned a lot. SG didn't even solicit financial help with the considerable costs until we begged him to, but we can't account for his even more valuable time.

Another prime example is Owen Morse, who single handedly coordinated and funded (he got slight financial assistance that he mostly passed on to the photographers) an art exhibit at the John Wayne airport, where hang gliders now (still!) hang above the baggage claim, and hang gliding pictures and videos greeted passengers for months.

On that note, I'm looking forward to doing a project that is mostly private, mostly under the... authority... of another pilot (and better man than I). It is my goal that hang gliding on the West Coast become easier, especially the learning part. We'll see... it's a lofty goal, but worth aiming high for.

On a final note, volunteering for an all-volunteer, non-profit club doesn't really work with my personality type. I just don't suffer fools gladly enough, nor should people have to suffer me. I'm old enough, I'm not going to change, and I just am not wired to stay above the fray.

In the past 3 years, I have, as an official officer and simply as a member of the Crestline Soaring Society:
- hosted at least a half dozen BBQs outta my own pocket

- assisted with 3 fly-ins

- completely hosted two (including one where I cooked for 125 people)

- organized trips to Big Sur, Dunlap, Mingus (though I couldn't go), and Funston (didn't fly, weather)

- attended officer meetings, often on non-flying days (i.e. spent time and gas just to make it)

- joined in on 3 work parties

- tried to deal with troublemakers.

That last one is the sticky wicket and the reason I am listing the work I've done. I want to point out that I'm trying hard to contribute, hopefully earning the right to rant a bit here (of course I can, it's my blog and hardly anyone reads it). There's a guy or two in the club that have really bristled at me when I've tried to implement safety rules or edit personal attacks off the forums.

It takes an almost Solomonic wisdom, respect of you by others (which I have some of, but I'm too much a loudmouth), and patience (which I will never have) to be a *good* volunteer for a member-driven hang gliding club.

Why is all that necessary? Hang glider and paraglider pilots are pretty strong willed individuals from all walks of life. They have a strong desire to fly, but not always a matching desire to do what it takes to help that happen. They also bristle at authority more than I think the non-flying population does, on average.

Why is authority necessary? Because of this thing called responsibility. The club is responsible for maintaining safe launches, safe landing zones, insurance, and good relations with governmental agencies.

If not enough step up and/or the don't-mess-with-me-I'm-just-here-to-fly-man sentiment prevails, you get a situation where you lose most everything and find yourself getting chased out of LZs by land owners, as has happened with a famous site... a site famous in part for the don't-mess-with-me sentiment (which I love, it's just not panning out).

If some step up and carry the burden, you get a great club. I will list a few from Crestline:
- The cornerstones (the McKenzies) have led with that Solomonic wisdom and Herculean strength (they deserve two metaphors). They have done so much more than their share, it's not even funny. Even as non-officers (Rob started stepping back after *decades* of carrying the load a few years ago and Dianne is on her last as site coordinator and fly-in coordinator), they will do more than most officers, just doing that which they see a need for on a daily basis.
- Another strong cornerstone, Owen Morse, has done more as a non-officer than most officers, as well.
- Ken Howells has been a standing board member for decades without a break, keeping the website, windtalker, and technology going (and being a strong, calm presence in disciplinary matters).
- Mike Zeller has not missed a work party in the three years I've been there and volunteers as a board member.
- Alan Crouse led the club through a couple of hard years dealing with development next door, all the time with a quiet class we will miss when he steps down at the end of the year.
- Mike Blakely and Megret Oleweiler also make many work parties, carry great loads at the fly ins, and contribute in their way board.
- Dusty and Cathy Rhodes do countless quiet, little things that add up to making them irreplaceable
- Mark Hoffman often shows and just does what needs doing
- Brent Landrum has done quite a bit for the club while staying at the LZ, mowing the lawn and helping out in general.
- Rebar Dan welded our shelves in the storage containers, make hook-in reminder signs, and led the Marshall Road clearing... because those things simply need doing.

Then you get the assholes, the guys who stick a finger in your eye when all you are trying to do is get the job done as well as you can. I'm not quitting as activities director because of them, there are other things I am hoping to do that will be bigger and better (and where I'll have to put up with less shit), but I'm not going to miss having to deal with the hecklers.

Here's a forum post where one of these assholes is giving us a hard time for trying to implement a helmet rule, which is hard because there is some question as to whether it's required by USHPA (turns out it is). No one likes telling a guy to put his helmet on, but someone has to be responsible and make sure we don't lose our insurance.

This jerk and I have a history and I just don't have it in me to ignore him. Obvious Troll is Obvious, but I'm not going to stop trying to kick him back under the bridge. Anyway, here's the thread. I am really looking forward to working on a project where I am not as susceptible to this kinda crap. I wish I were a bigger man... but I'm not, so I am going to refocus a bit.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Why I Fly - Crestline - 09-25-09

Sled rides at scenic sites like Big Sur or Yosemite are the topping or the cherry, but days like last Friday are the cake... they are the reason I hang glide.

I love Septembers... the heat from summer is still pushing against the sky, but, occasionally, as the jet stream plays around, we get some pushback against the marine layer... allowing us to fly without an inversion layer. The muck and gunk gets pushed out to sea and before it comes back in, and just after the Santa Anas fade, we get high.

Why I fly - Hang Gliding - Crestline 09-25-09 from knumbknuts on Vimeo.

This is a year for getting dialed into my U2 and Rotor Vulto harness. I am not going to take significant risks, go XC, etc. I want to fly well, launching aggressively and landing with good technique, until it is second nature. I am reminding myself that guys like Owen have flown a decade longer than I or guys like David fly twice as often... and both are better natural pilots. I need to fly my own flights, take my own trajectory.

On 9/25/09, I got to stretch my legs and get a little confidence built in terms of going places, without taking much of a chance. I never got worse than 7:1 from LZ, yet I flew a 16 mile out and back one direction and a 18 mile out and back in the opposite direction. Flychart gave me credit for a 33 mile triangle. I hit 13,000 MSL and was, at one point, over 2 miles above the ground... as I watched cars crawl up I-215.

Turning slow circles 10K above the ground, with airliners on approach to Ontario well below me, almost endless views in each direction, and very cold hands on a hot summer day, I could only be thankful for such an amazing sport. I will say it again: I just don't understand why more people don't fly hang gliders.

Photo of my landing on 9/25/09 by Dave Aldrich

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hang Gliding Yosemite... what a privilege!

Yosemite - 2009 from knumbknuts on Vimeo.

Yosemite is an amazing place to hang glide. The views cannot be beaten in the US... flying by Yosemite Falls was my personal favorite. While it would be amazing to fly there and soar, I can understand the early morning limitation... I could see that place getting pretty wild mid-day.

It's quite an ego boost to have the tourists watch you launch or to have a little kid run up to you and tell you he saw you flying in front of the falls. The rest of the day, driving around, I couldn't help but reminisce and be a little proud of the morning flight... some of that ego is on display in this flick.

There's a lot of monkey business involved with flying there. Take a driver! Getting back up to your vehicle can be done by booking the 10 AM Yosemite Lodge to Glacier Point tour, but the day I took it the driver took 2 hours to get up there (loved the sound of his own voice, he did... ugh). Definitely, the fly - then - hit the river plan is a good one. Yosemite West condos are a good place to stay, though a bit small and you've got to vent the heat out of them pretty efficiently on hot days.

Got my keel bending landing in this video... time to get back to basics. I've been working so hard to get my hang 4 to fly Yosemite that I feel like I'm at the end of a chapter and there's a little bit of a vacuum in terms of flying focus.

That's probably good timing. Now that I have reached my goal of flying Yosemite, I need to throttle back on the flying and pay more attention to my business, which has suffered under my addiction, my family, who have been patient, and my pocketbook, which has taken too many hits from busted up equipment. When I do fly, I am just going to focus on the fundamentals of launching, landing, and flying my u2 with good form. I've had 4 instances where I've had to get my glider repaired to some extent and that's 4 too many. I'll probably fly a new site or two in San Diego, but I'm not going to step too far out until I go a year with consistently strong launches and consistently excellent landings.

My self assessment of my skills as a pilot is: I do well once I get something down, but I have a tendency to vapor lock or use below average headwork when I am in situation that is new or daunting. I really need to address that, since such situations will always be coming down the Pike. In this case, the adrenaline was pumping coming into Leidig Meadows and I cracked a great flare off, but i didn't use my head in terms of my footwork.

It's been quite a ride... to think 3 years ago hang gliding scared the bejeesus outta me. Now, I've flown over the site where I saw my first HG launch (and first bailout landing and first medivac LOL), I've flown over my favorite campground / view (Big Sur), and I've zipped past the face of Yosemite Falls.

To say again what I've said before, I can't believe fewer than 10,000 Americans do this sport. I feel I'm in on a secret or something.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

U2 Review.. the U2 160 vs. the Sport 2 155 vs. the Falcon 3 195

The Wills Wing U2, in my opinion, is the perfect wing for the weekend warrior, advanced-rated hang glider pilot.

Setting up at Crestline Launch...

Primarily, this is a review of the U2 160 after about a dozen flights, following 2 dozen or so on the Sport 2 155. Most of my flights have been on the Falcon 3 195, which I stayed on for over a hundred mountain solos. My weight, which was 200 pounds through most of the flights on the Sport 2 and now is 185 pounds, before gear, is very relevant to this review. It is my opinion that it makes all 3 wings easy for me to handle and accentuates the importance of being able to find and take advantage of lift when conditions are light. I should also mention that I primarily fly at Marshall/Crestline, with 300 flyable days a year, two launches within easy glide of the LZ, and fairly predictable weather... and predictably few true XC opportunities.

So, at this point, if I had to pick one of those wings for the next 5 years, which would it be? First place would certainly be the U2 160 and a surprisingly strong second would be the Falcon 3 195. Sport 2 fanatics, of which there are many, may be reaching for the w, t, and f keys on their keyboard as they read this. I still have my Sport 2 and I enjoy flying it, it's just that (to oversimplify) the U2 does performance better and the Falcon 3 does fun & easy better.

The U2 of which I write is the 2009 version. At the end of 2008, Wills Wing made some sail cut changes and other tweaks to the U2, about which they give no specific information. I have not flown the "older" version. What I will say is, the version I fly has no hint of the quirks I heard about U2s when I first looked into them... that you have to high side them and they are stiff. I only have to high side in a thermal if I am thermalling with 3/4 VG on (and then not always). Aside from then, it actually holds my bank the best of the three wings. Whether or not it's "stiff" (I don't think it is), I'll cover in a second.

The U2 takes more defined and assertive control inputs to turn than do the other two wings, but it also rewards me with a beautiful track carved through the air and better performance in those turns. I don't find it "harder" to handle any more than I find my 350Z "harder" to steer than my Quest. Any tendency I had to boat around a corner, so to speak, has been squashed. I try to do a Pagen-textbook turn, increasing speed a bit, rolling into the turn, wait out a tic or two for yaw, then apply pitch up pressure to carve the turn, rolling out the way I came in, with good speed and purposeful control inputs. With my Falcon, heck, I can just chuck the bar to the side and push out, all at once in a strong thermal, and - boom! - that bad boy is standing on its wing. With the U2, I carve it into the thermal and then tighten it up in the core. The Sport 2 doesn't crank like the Falcon does, so I have to try to do what I do with the U2. But, the U2 holds the bank in the thermal and tracks better... at least for me at my weight.

Landing is the highest hurdle to clear when running down the track laid out by a new, higher performance wing. Fortunately, this is where the U2 really shines. I actually have found the U2 easier to land than the Sport 2 or the the Falcon 3.

My Sport 2 155 in front of my Falcon 3 195 on Edwards Launch above Lake Elsinore

Don't adjust your monitor, some clown just wrote that the U2 is easier to land than the Falcon 3 (not to mention the Sport 2). Hang with me while I flesh that out. Sure, the approach has to be set up more carefully, because you can't just pull in the bar and burn it out of the sky like you can on the other two (yes, even the Sport 2 drops quite fast with VG off, one's body upright, and the bar stuffed). On the U2, stuffing the bar hard has sent me down the LZ with surprising efficiency and / or gotten me a bit squirrelly from the speed (if the VG is full off). But, assuming I set up the approach competently, I have found that the U2 has an absolutely beautiful propensity to track straight in ground effect and provide me with a nice, wide flare window. The sweet spot of the flare window is very easy to find... it practically announces itself like the arrival of a train to a station.

"Now arriving, Andy Jackson Landing Zone, all pilots who are flare window challenged, please flare now..." rang over the intercom on my last couple of flights.

Seriously, the Falcon's flare window is quite short, especially if you do anything other than burn that bad boy right down into ground effect. The Sport 2's is longer, but I couldn't feel the flare window as easily. I am a bit ham handed and am almost as likely to balloon on final as I am to land on my knees... each too likely a scenario for my liking on the Sport 2.

With the exception of a disastrous XC attempt and a downwind, uphill landing into rocks in rotoring air (aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?), I have landed well every flight on my U2. The last 5 landings, I've had no-stepper flares. Suck it, Mary Lou Retton. Since I got the U2, I have flown my Sport 2 twice and my Falcon 3 once and a quick review of the logs shows that the U2's landings occupy the Top Ten in the rankings of "Landings I Would Want Others to See."

So, it thermals well, it lands well, let's cover the obvious last... glide. Of course, the U2 glides like nobody's business. It really is a sick amount of performance to have access to at this (early) stage in my flying career. I have yet to quantify it with measured polars or any useful statistic, so I'll have to keep it anecdotal and say that I try... and easily pull off... glides that I wouldn't consider on the other two wings I own. A little local talk here... wanna leave Billboard at Billboard height and go for Pine on a cold day? Give it a try. Nothing at Pine? No sweat, go to Cloud. Want to try for Cresline from Marshall with the inversion 5,000? No worries, if there's nothing there, just come back.

Why wouldn't I be smiling?

The single biggest difference between the Sport 2 and the U2, IMHO, is the VG. On the Sport 2, it's nice and it helps, but on the U2, it gives you a whole 'nother wing. The difference between zero and a quarter is noticeable when you land. It also seems to help the wing track better. Cranking the VG on full not only has a great effect on glide and tracking, but it's downright hard to do. That sail gets very, very tight. I am very comfortable thermalling anywhere up to half on and 3/4 on is a nice spot for cruising for the next thermal. Full on, I save for longer hauls between landmarks or to get out of a tight spot.

In sum, I recommend as strongly as I can the Wills Wing U2 for the foot launch, mountain site, intermediate/advanced hang glider pilot who is not yet ready to go topless. And, if the U2 is just too beucoup, then I recommend the Falcon 3. My final recommendation is for the Sport 2, which I recommend as a way station on the road to the U2... or for the lower-intermediate pilot whose home LZ is more than an easy glide from launch.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Advanced Hang Glider Pilot, Hang 4 at last.

It took 2 and a half years, but I finally achieved Advanced Hang Glider Pilot status. Sure, the mountain doesn't care what the card in my wallet says, but the observers at Yosemite and the staff at Torrey Pines do. The prettiest sled ride in the US (the early morning launch from Glacier Point) just became an option. The price to ridge soar the most famous site (that one by the golf course in San Diego) in the US just dropped $188. Another little gem is the freedom to land on the beach in Santa Barbara, with all the apparent advantages of that and the less apparent one of not having to land at Parma.

The 250th flight was a strange one for June. It was 100% overcast with cloudbase at 4,700' MSL. I popped in and out of the wispies, the ground sometimes getting very faint, for 3 hours. I couldn't go anywhere like Pine or Crestline, much less beyond, so I contented myself with little challenges like getting low and getting back up and diving through a stack of dozen PGs, all walled up. Fun day.

Spaghetti Junction

Image swiped from Dave

Sunday, April 5, 2009

XC into Rotor, 0 for 2 on XC

Hmm... where to start on this?

I am like Beaver Cleaver, watching Wally and Whitey go XC and trying to go along, before I am ready. Sure, most days, I could have gotten away with trying to fly to Sylmar from Crestline with only 4 previous flights on my U2. April 4th was not like most days.

I got to 9,500', turned West, cranked the VG, and went on a ten mile glide into rotor coming over the back of Mt. Cucomonga, drilling me into a large, boulder-filled field. Worse, I mentally vapor locked, trying to follow Dave instead of flying my own flight, and overflew good LZs for a bad one and completely lost track of the wind. To be fair to myself, after I landed, it was blowing from directions all along the North side of the compass, from 270 to 120 degrees. I landed heading 280. I should have landed heading 90 for the best odds.

Uphill was the only choice I was sure of... and that mitigated the damage to my glider to some aluminum and minor scuffs in my wing. Thank God, no injury to me. I have not skiied in 20 years, thanks to a knee injury in the Navy, so even if I had to replace my brand new U2, it would be better than an injury. As it is, it's fine now, I just have to live with the scuffs, which I'll cover with dacron sail repair tape. They will be a reminder of the need to be humble.

Turns out, that Saturday was a very tough day, with Rebardan making it one mile further than I in his ATOS and being very happy to be on the ground in one piece. He got on the radio to warn people (too late for me). Dave landed in a field out of the rotor after taking a rodeo ride through it... his radio was out. Owen got drilled into the Cajon Pass.

Mother Nature said to me: "Welcome to the NFL."

My biggest mistake was not flying my own flight. I also made the antithesis of the right decision I made at Dunlap... this time I went for it even though I could see Dave sinking out and things didn't feel right. I didn't get enough good landings in on the U2 at my home field before striking out. I didn't keep a mental note of the wind. I didn't apply my previous experience with Rotor and head out from the mountain to get clear of it.

When I reported the mishap to my instuctor/dealer, he and I worked out a plan to get to my XC goals. I am going to:
- Get to where landing my U2 near my intended spot is no problem at my home field... automatic.
- Practice on outlying fields near Andy Jackson. Pick a spot from the air, land in it, have someone come get me. This way, distance is not a factor.
- Get some short XC flights at Elsinore, if possible, as there are more open fields around there.
- Then go for distance.

XC is about reading the wind and picking an LZ well, the landing is gravy, I was told by the Kung Fu master with the green eyes.

As I was packing up, Saturday, a hang glider flew overhead, its pilot seemingly oblivous to the trials that had just convicted me... it was like watching Peter Pan fly by. He magically floated downrange with a skill that made me feel like a wuffo. Turns out, it was US team member Zac "Zippy" Majors on his way to setting a site FW record of 95 miles. I'll never have Zac's mad skill set, but his fly by was a nice motivator to work that direction, smartly.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

CSS goes to Dunlap

A dozen or so Crestliners made it to Dunlap Friday. It was like seeing a family of hobbits out of the Shire.

Everyone warmed up with some good soaring flights Friday, on the main ridge.

But the real story was Saturday. Dave pointed to the West like Babe Ruth to Left Center and hit it out of the valley, landing 20 miles away down the 180. Tom and Chris got just about as far. I wimped out and turned around after pointing my nose in the general direction of XC.

Coring thermals with a wingtip down, listening to the vario howl, every few minutes as I got higher, I'd see Mark Zahn casually bop by in his Harrier, getting higher and higher.

Igor was all over the valley, the Mikes had great flights, Jack looked down on all... lots of laughing and smiling in the very green and purty LZ.

I got in a nice glass off flight Friday night on my Falcon and Saturday night on my Sport 2. Sat. night, I was pretty tired from guys' night in town the previous evening, so I made 3 mistakes setting up my wing. None critical, but I chose not to fly Sunday and just get home to the fam. I have also decided to consciously avoid conversation during set up. Yakkin' with my best man didn't help.

I also got to get a shot at my new Rotor Vulto harness, which felt more comfortable than I expected. I really need to work on getting upright and my flares in that thing. If you could only get more upright, it would be the perfect harness. It's actually easier to fly in than a cocoon, because you don't have to fight all those lines to shift your body weight. Some people call that squirrelly, I call it manueverable. Luckily for me, the twice-used (Tony D and Fast Eddie had it before me) harness fits perfectly.

Fun times... probably will become an annual thing.

Crestline Soaring Society - Dunlap Trip - Spring 2009 from knumbknuts on Vimeo.

Here's a gigapan I did of the LZ:

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The drought is over...

Winter is ending, spring is beginning, thermals are returning to Crestline. Ahh...

Today was pretty breezy, but a great lapse rate help the thermals hold their shape in the wind and I got two very fun flights in. The first was on my Falcon 3, the first time I had flown it since "blackhawk down" day. I knocked on the door to the white room above Crestline at 5,700 ft. and slowly worked it back out front.

I had to burn it down after an hour to catch the ride for my next flight on the Sport 2. By then, the wind had picked up even more and pancaked the thermals. They were still there and their tops were higher, as were the clouds. I did two laps to Crestline and Pine, getting cloudbase on the second one at 6,900 ft. I changed to warmer (but harder to grip with) gloves at this point.

It was great to dial in the sport 2 in thermals and do a few runs with the bar stuffed and vg full on.

Having flown the Sport 2 and the Falcon 3 in the same day, the advantages to each are the obvious ones. The Falcon was very easy to thermal... it's so fun to stand that thing on its wing and push out. The Sport 2 was as easy to fly or easier in just about every other way and it was great to have that VG to get me out of the canyons, with those crazy-strong winds aloft.

This flight, getting down plain 'ol took effort... I was hitting lift everywhere... heck, my vario was chirping on my downwind leg... I really had to dive for the deck. I came down because of failing light and numb fingers, but it would have been easy to stay up for hours and hours. The lift was all-you-can-eat and the only strain was from stuffing the bar.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Torrey at Long Last

Torrey Pines is a well known and scenic flying site, catering heavily to the paragliders that fit the "normal" winds there better than hang gliders do. But, occasionally, it's "on" for the "bones" as well, and fun times can be had by all.

Sadly, Earth's climate is not the only obstacle to a hang 3's enjoyment of the site. There has been a human cold front parked over the site for quite a while now, from which all levels of paraglider pilots are insulated but we HG pilots are not.

To fly Torrey, you must have an Advanced Hang Gliding rating, while a Novice Paragliding rating suffices. As a well-experienced intermediate HG pilot, you can take a $195 lesson and fly that day. That is what I did... it's well worth it the first time, it just sucks that I'll probably have to do that every time I fly there until I am "hang 4" (then I'll pay $7/day).

So, enough with the politics, on with the day.

My instructor, Steve "Stack" Stackable was the old pro from Dover and gave me the rundown on landing and launching. His advice on launching, "sneak up on it" (among other things) was probably the best launching advice I've ever gotten. He watched me land a couple of times, giving pointers on radio, and cut me loose, keeping an eye on me the rest of the day.

It was a perfect day for learning the site. Baby Bear was at the Zoo and Papa Bear was at the bar. Mama Bear and I had a great time enjoying the "just right" conditions. Hmm... I think I just made myself Goldilocks.

I went far up and down the range once, the rest of the time being careful not to stray too far my first time at the site. A few hundred over was easy to get to and landings were not too turbulent. I self launched 9 times, the most satisfying aspect of the day. I learned a bit about flying a ridge... boy is there cause to keep your eyes peeled.

Most importantly, I knocked out ten more flights toward my hang 4 rating. 22 to go.

It was fun to see Joe Spinney in action and fly another new site with Dave D-by-D Aldrich. Old pros Heiney and Beardslee, and Beardslee's fellow 'fugee (and new RD) Bob K. were all out. The staff were very nice, as well.

Didn't talk to one PG pilot though... I kinda felt like a looper during "Caddy Day" at the Bushwood Country Club pool.

It was a very fun day as the video below will hopefully show. The music in my video is what was in my head while I was flying.

Torrey at Long Last from knumbknuts on Vimeo.