[ 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.
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.