Monthly Archives: April 2008

Road Trip to Las Vegas – Day 5 – 1st

[ Happy Mood: Happy ]
After waiting around the house all morning we finally made the decision to head to Good Springs. When we (Radwhacker, Ron, and I) arrived it was blowing over the back. Ron decided to fly his paraglider off of the backside launch. He had a nice little flight. Rad and I picked him up at the bottom and we then headed over to Table Top.

After a bumpy ride up to launch we were greeted with nice straight in winds. Rad and I setup our hang gliders while Ron took a nap. Ron was kind enough to drive for us. By the time we were ready it was about 3pm. Some high clouds were around so we were a little worried of things getting shut down.

Rad launched first off of the nice ramp. He got off after a step and a half and was working the ridge lift waiting for a thermal to come through. I hooked in as soon as he launched and Ron helped me over to the ramp. The wind picked up a bit so I waited a couple of minutes for it to let up a bit. Shortly it did. I got to the end of the flat part of the ramp. I picked up and yelled "Clear". Ron moved out of the way and I dove down the ramp getting a real nice launch in on my very first ramp launch. I quickly got above launch in the ridge lift.

I made two passes between launch and the bowl to the left when I hit a thermal. Rad was still working the ridge as well. I started going up nicely. I gained about 500 feet when I noticed Rad heading in my direction. He must have liked what I had and wanted some for himself too. Smile

I kept circling and kept going up. by the time I was about 1500′ over launch Rad had gotten up close. I maxed out at about 2,220′ over. Somehow Rad had blown past me and was still going up when I lost the thermal. I went from "Yippee! I’m doing great" to "How the f#@$ did he blow past me like that?" in a matter of two minutes.

Now I had a big decision. Do I head back toward the ridge and try to find another thermal and risk sinking out to the less desirable LZ with a long turn-around, or do I head over the back and head for the "cross-roads" LZ that we had walked and talked about earlier? I was a little higher than the suggested altitude to head over the back so I decided to go for it. My first time to leave the comfort of a ridge and a primary, out front, LZ.

I could see the LZ at this point and realized I had it made on glide unless I hit massive sink the whole way. Happily I only had big sink briefly. I found no lift on the way out at all. I arrived over the LZ with a 1000′ or more. So I boated around looking for lift and planning my approach once I got low enough to see the nearest flag.

The LZ had telephone poles near one side. Two sides had roads close by. The LZ was a small clearing surrounded by a lot of small bushes and plants. But it was plenty big enough to land in if I didn’t screw up the approach. I setup a wide aircraft approach. Once on downwind I made adjustments and made a tight base to correct the fact I was wider and lower than ideal. I turned onto final and landed just fine near the edge of the clearing. I landed on my feet but didn’t take an extra needed step. The glider settled down on the base tube and just barely came over onto the nose. I’m not sure if the nose touched or not. It may have but very lightly.

So my first over the back and my first ramp launch came to a successful ending. Ron showed up shortly after. Once we loaded my glider on the truck we went off chasing Rad who was having a great flight dodging airline jets heading into Sin City. I’ll leave his flight story for him to tell.

So in the end I guess you can call this my first XC flight. Straight line distance from launch to LZ was 3.65 miles. The whole flight was only 15 minutes or so. I rode one thermal up 2,300 feet. While I would have loved to find more thermals, stay up longer, and go farther, I’m quite happy with the day and the flight. Small steps lead to bigger ones. thumbsup

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Road Trip to Las Vegas – Day 4 – Truck Towing

We woke up in Vegas to more strong winds. But there was reason to hope it would lighten up later in the day. About 1pm we decided to head to the Jean Lake Bed to do some payout winch truck towing. Radwhacker and I were met with Ron, Wayne, and Carl. Ron is Rad’s next door neighbor. He’s a biwingual pilot and instructor and all around nice guy. Great person to have living next door.

By the time we arrived and setup the thermals were about gone. We had a good time but all of the flights were mostly sled rides. This was a new experience for me not having done this sort of towing before. Rad went first then Wayne. I got ready and headed to the cart. We went over all the details and I was set to go. I gave the "go to cruise" command and Ron headed down the lake bed in the truck. Moments later I started rolling in the dolly – just like aero towing. I got to speed and let go of the handles and shot up into the air.

You tow at a much higher nose angle than aero towing so it takes some effort to not pull in too much. I was pulled in too much at the beginning but got better as the tow went on. It’s easier to PIO when pulled in because you are flying too fast. I also over corrected a few times to get the wings level. Overall it was a good first tow and I released once Ron got to the end of the lake bed.

Once off tow I needed to pull in a bunch since you are so nose high and gravity is now along a much different vector. No big deal but you need to remember to pull in right away. I did a 180 and headed back in the general direction of the gang on the ground. There was no lift at all to be found so I just boated around and setup a nice approach. The wind was blowing in nicely and I was able to pull off a nice no step landing.

I walked back and got right back on the dolly and went up for another tow. This 2nd tow went a little better. I had better pitch position and only over controlled a little. But again, there was little lift to be found though I made a couple of 360’s near the landing area. I did a bunch of S-turns and turned on final. I turned too high and boated further than I wanted. No problem due to the immense LZ but I’m trying to work on my spot landings for my H3.

Shortly after Ron and Carl towed up in their paragliders for some sled rides. We all had some beers as we broke down and we got to hear some interesting flying stories.

Thanks a lot to Ron and the gang for getting me in the air today. The forecast is looking good for flying one of the mountain sites south of Las Vegas on Monday.

Here’s a few shots of our own Radwhacker – he didn’t earn his nickname today thumbsup

Road Trip to Las Vegas – Day 3 – Blown Out

Our first day in Las Vegas was met with lots of dust and wind despite a forecast for light winds. Given the direction we headed out to a dry lake bed used for towing. Most of the time we were there you couldn’t see too far. LOTS of dust blowing around. But you sure could see the thermals well. So after sitting around for a couple of hours we decided it wasn’t going to get any better.

Radwhacker discovered he was missing a tip wand from his last flight. So he and I drove to the CA state line (about 15 miles) and picked up the wand. We then went on an LZ tour of the two likely sites we would be flying when the wind cooperated. All the LZs are interesting. Lots of Joshua trees, Yucca plants, and other small desert fauna. The LZs are basically small area with no Joshua trees. Anyone used to big grassy LZs would not be happy here Wink

The launches (which we didn’t drive up to) are at the top of desolate mountains. It’s a humbling area to be in. There is NOTHING around for miles. You better have water with you if you land out at all.

Rad then took me to a little biker bar down the road a bit. It was pretty busy. They have a BBQ a lot of weekends. We had filling lunch and headed back into town. We had a relaxing evening eating some really good pizza and watching "Hell Boy".

The forecast for Sunday isn’t looking too good – more strong winds. Time will tell.

Road Trip to Las Vegas – Day 2 – Flying Hurricane

[ Happy Mood: Happy ]
Spark and I left Richfield, UT this morning and drove to Cedar City, UT with a plan to fly the "K-Mart" site. But it’s not a K-Mart anymore, it’s a Staples. We setup a windsock in the LZ and got a weather update. They were calling for 10-20 out of the west. But most important, launch may not have been reachable due to snow. So we decided to head down to Hurricane after all and try to fly there. So we retrieved the windsock and headed down to Hurricane.

The main LZ is almost gone now. There is a gravel pit and houses. We drove around a while and found a nice field just to the north, almost directly below Molly’s Nipple. So we left Spark’s car by the field with some streamers and we headed to launch in my car. It’s takes a while to drive from the LZ to launch. Maybe 45 minutes. The road is 2WD except for a short stretch near the top that requires 4WD low and some clearance. My little 4-door Suzuki Sidekick did OK. As we climbed up the hill I was surprised to see a pickup behind us with 3 gliders on the roof – cool.

We got to launch and were greeted by Bruce, Greg, and Chad (I think it’s Chad) from the greater SLC area. They had just arrived today as well. We walked to launch and it was straight in at 15. Perfect. We all quickly setup, too quickly really. There was talk of it getting stronger later. Being the least experienced pilot I didn’t want to launch last and Bruce was kind enough to wait for me. The other three launched just before I was ready.

I let all of this rushing get in my way. I misplaced my sunglasses and had to borrow Bruce’s at the last minute. My motion sickness "watch" went dead. Crap. This isn’t going to be good. I had spare batteries in the car but no time to deal with them. I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast 6 hours earlier. At least I had my camelback on me for in-flight water.

So I got hooked in and walked to launch with Bruce on the nose. It was pretty manageable so I didn’t really need any help but was glad he was there just in case. I got into position and picked up the glider for my first foot launch since early November. It felt good and the wind was straight in. I yelled "Clear!" and took 1 and half steps before I was flying and going up. I made a left turn climbing a bit then I hit sink. And more sink. And I think some more sink.

I was now 400 feet below launch turning in the direction of the LZ thinking I was done after just a couple of minutes. But I stayed in close to the ridge. Just about when I was going to leave the ridge to setup an approach I felt the nose go up. The vario started beeping. OK, work it. I did a bunch of 180’s in the lift. Soon I was even with launch again – Yippee! Still going up. Now I could do 360’s. I rode this wonderful thermal up to 1650′ over launch. I was way higher than the other three guys in the air. Bruce launched just about this time. I was so much happier than a few minutes ago.

But just as suddenly the thermal was gone and now I was in big sink again. I sunk back down to a few hundred over and found another thermal. There was no ridge lift to be found. It was a thermal only day. For the next hour I worked from as low as 300 below launch up to about 1,000 over launch. I never got nearly as high as the first thermal got me. A couple of guys headed pretty far south on the ridge. One mentioned getting to the AZ border. I never went more than 1/2 mile south of launch. I was too worried about sinking out and not making our primary LZ.

About 30 minutes into the flight I got the first hints of minor nausea kicking in. I did my best to minimize head movements. But about an hour into the flight three of us were low and close so I needed to look around a lot while trying to work what lift I could find. At about 500′ above launch I did one too many quick head movements and what little was in my stomach made a mad dash for the exit. Oh what fun this is. I need to clean my helmet some. Luckily there was little in me but water. I actually felt a little better after the purge. I ended up flying for 20 more minutes before I was just too tired to try anymore. It was a punchy day. My shoulders were really tired. I had no energy left from not eating. And of course I had just been sick.

So I left the ridge and headed out the short distance to the LZ. The tell tales were showing light winds out of the SW. I made a nice approach and aimed for the corner of the field. I got into ground effect and could tell I had a little wind. I did a light flare and did a wonderful two step landing. I was very happy about that. And I landed very close to were I was aiming. I need to get my spots in for my H3 so this was good practice. Greg landing a couple minutes after me followed seconds later by Spark. Bruce was a few minutes later. A while later Chad called on the phone saying he top landed back near the corral. One less car to retrieve.

So we packed up, loaded Spark’s car and headed back up to get my car. It was 6pm by the time we got back up there. It was glassing off. Launch was straight in at 15 and smooth. Oh well. We were too tired at this point and we had to drive to Las Vegas. So we headed down to get dinner. We ended up stopping in Saint George instead for a quick bite. We then finished the drive to Las Vegas. I arrived at Radwhacker’s house about 9:15 PDT.

Despite getting sick and all the other little things I am very happy about today’s flight. It wasn’t an easy day. The much more seasoned pilot’s were commenting on getting turned toward the hill a few times and fighting the thermals a bit. I experienced the same and was very glad to hear it wasn’t just me. Saturday’s plan it to do some towing in Las Vegas and Sunday looks like a good mountain flying day near Las Vegas. Until then – enjoy.

Road Trip to Las Vegas – Day 1 – Driving to Utah

A few weeks ago I decided to head to Utah to fly for a few days. After some planning it was decided to meet some folks at Hurricane for the weekend. Pilots from Las Vegas, Denver, and SLC where thinking of going. But as it got close it was determined the winds weren’t going to be cooperative. I was also thinking of heading to SLC to get a day or two at the Point. But SLC was getting rain and snow.

So the plan was updated to head from Denver to Las Vegas with a stop in Cedar City. Today Spark and I hit the road leaving Denver about noon. We drove out I-70 and stopped for the night in Richfield, UT. The forecast is looking good for a flight in Cedar City tomorrow.

The drive went through some beautiful areas including the Glennwood Canyon, Colorado and Green River, UT. But the winds were tough all day. Strong cross winds most of the drive. I had the steering wheel turned 30-40 degrees just to drive straight.

So let’s hope for some good conditions tomorrow. It’s been almost 4 weeks since I flew at Wallaby.