Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
OMFG Totally Epic Hang-gliding Weekend!
In this thread:

* Site tour of Marina Beach and first time coastal soaring
* Nearly 2 and half hours of mountain soaring at Ed Levin in a single flight!
* Some more google earth flight tracks!

I had such a great weekend I hardly know where to begin! OMG!

Okay... so, the big plan for this weekend was to find another site to fly at, since me and Ashley had been doing way too much Ed Levin and towing at Hollister. Ed Levin is usually "okay, kinda" (but we'll find out differently in a bit) and Hollister just ends up costing a lot of money for a handful of short flights. (Which has its place, definitely... great place to come back to for practise after a dry spell).

So! About a week before the weekend, I called up one of my flying buddies and asked for some contact details for Marina Beach, and Waddell Creek. The first to respond was Darrell, the "el' presedente" of the hang-gliding club down there. The report was for "marginal" flying conditions, but he was planning being at the site anyway to help out with a group of folk that do planting along the coast.

So, this was a great opportunity... head to a new site, get a site tour (on foot) on how to best fly the site and what to watch out for (although this ended up be ironically incomplete), and also to help out with some site maintenance (the planting) right on day one. And, perhaps maybe, get a couple of short-ish flights in, since I'm more concerned about getting flying days in rather than hours.

As an aside, the requirements for the "hang-3" proficiency rating include requiring 90 flights (check!), 10 hours (gettin there really fast!), and 30 flying days. I only had 19, so, it's the flying days that I'm going to be catching up on. So, even getting a single, minute-long flight in is worth unpacking the glider for.

So, we met up with Darrell at Marina. Planting was quite fun, and the help was sure appreciated. Gliders are generally very keen about looking after the flying sites. Makes for a more pleasant environment, and keeps the gliders in good stead with the land owners (be they private or government). The tour was also fun, taking a walk down the beach, over some sand dunes and getting a grey lay of the land.

What was very great was that towards the afternoon the wind shifted around from being an off-shore wind (no good for flying at all) to being on-shore. Since it was visibly coming around, we'd set up the gliders and waited... it didn't take all that long for it to be useable and since I was more interested in getting a short flight in, "usable" was perfectly fine for me.

Here's a google maps reference to the launch ramp, and you can see several of the gliders "parked" just south of the car park there.

However, the day started to become perfectly soarable, so after a few short practise flights, getting the hang of what it takes to soar a ridge line, I had a great 12 minute flight!

I have a Google Earth flight track. Of that flight.

One interesting thing... I was hogging the dune around the launch ramp for some time, trying to get enough altitude to "cross over" the setup area to the south to the next dune.. Since I didn't seem to be getting any higher, I just "went for it". And, lo!, I made it... and then almost immediately ran into a kite string! Gah! I knew there were several kites about - I'd dodged one right around the launch area, and also had asked another person to move to the next dune to the south - but in my elation of crossing the gap successfully I totally spaced on watching out for kites!

Incidently, it was the kite hazard that Darrell didn't tell me about, and we had a good chuckle about this later on.

Fortunately, apart from the aborted flight, there was no incident. I'd turned around immediately, flying towards the kite operator just in case the string had been entangled on something and landed on the beach... landed on my belly, because I'd forgotten to extract myself from my harness, so the landing was not particularly pretty. No damage to either person or property. The operator had leg go of the string pretty quickly, which was smart. Apologies all around, and I called it quits for the day.

Lots of interesting chatter with the locals, who started turning up to grab the usable part of the day. Trading some great stories... talked to Darrell again on the phone and had a laugh about the incident. Also made arrangements for me to grab a aircraft (the powered kind) and do some aerial photography of the site, which they've been wanting for some time!

6 flights, including one 12 minute flight, an extra flying day, and experience at a new thing and a new site, great talks with the locals, including contributing a couple of significant items to the site! Quite a successful day! This was to pale in comparison to the next day, though!

While I was looking at what to do this weekend, I noticed that the weather at Ed Levin park on Sunday looked to be "promising". So, Ashley and I thought "hey, lets just go, and see what's up". We were expecting to, perhaps, get the typical "sled run" at the site (The site is colloquially known as "Sled Heaven"), but, again, it would have been a flying day. Ashley is also keen to get his "sign off" for the top launch at that park, which I already have, so, if that was going to happen I was quite happy to do the driving, if necessary, and allow Ashley to fly. I made some calls to some observers and instructors, none of which were answered, so... things weren't looking all that promising.

In the morning one of them called back and said he was going to be at the site, but the road to the top was closed due to previous rainfall., so if a flight from the top launch was going to happen, the Rangers would need to be nice and open the road again.

Turns out they didn't. The road remained too wet, so we, the 6 or so glider pilots who were around, decided to go up to the 600' launch and see if the winds were favourable enough to ridge-soar up to the top. Not a common occurance, but certainly possible. Ashley decided to sit this one out, given he was coming down with a cold, and was a little beaten up with his own flying yesterday.

But, oh, my, were the winds favourable. A couple of pilots took off and started making their way up the ridge line without much problem. So, given that I'd already had some ridge soaring experience from the day before, I launched off as well... I pretty quickly climbed 300 feet above the original launch, hoping to get a bit more before moving over to other areas of the mountain face... This was already fantastic, but there was plenty more to come.

I went over to one promising looking face, but pretty quickly started to sink out, losing about 150 feet, so went back to the original face near the launch. I didn't want to hang around that area too much, since it might be preventing other pilots from launching.

So, I decided to go for the area I wanted to, and flew over to the "south bowl", which is a little enclosed pocket just south of the 600' launch. There was PLENTY of lift there, and from that point I quickly made it up the mountain, and in about 10 minutes was soaring 200 feet over the top launch! Woo! It was a fantastic feeling. There was plenty of lift to be had, even a significant way away from the top ridgeline.

I saw that several pilots were flying over the ridgeline to one of the other soaring sites - Mission Ridge - but decided that I wasn't going to be that brave on my first significant soaring experience. I mostly flew around the top of the mountain, back and forth, having a grand old time.

I'd made the decision to fly around for about 2 hours before heading back... however, the winds were picking up, and I had a concern about being able to penetrate the wind enough to avoid being blown over the back side of the mountain, and not making it back to the landing zone. Since I noticed I was looking at the flight timer a lot, I knew this was no longer being "fun" and started to head back. I was also hungry, and cold (note to self: bring warmer gear next time).

Getting back was a decent challenge. There was a lot of lift, from thermals and convergence and straight out ridge lift. In several instasnces I was "burying" the control bar - pulling in the bar as much as possible - and I was still getting lift. Wow... what a crazy day!

However, I DID make it down, and after a while I was less concerned about getting dowm, so started taking it easy and extending the flight. The approach to the landing zone was nearly vertical in some places, which made for a pretty impressive flight path... landing was nearly perfect, and I know someone video taped it too. What a great way to wrap up a flight!

2 hours and 20 minutes in total. 9 times the length of my previous longest flight (the 15 minute flight from the 1750' launch). You could not wipe the smile off my face :)

Here's another Google Earth flight track of that particular flight. This one is particularly interesting! Unfortunately the GPS wigged-out in the middle somewhere, and you'll see a straight line.

So, now I have almost 9 hours flight experience, one more hour for my hang-3, but I'm still short 9 flying days. Hours are NOT going to be a problem now, so its just a matter of getting some days in... more coastal or mountain soaring would be totally awesome, of course, and right now its about the only thing that could possibly come close to Sunday's experience.


(I'll get some video up on-line at some point... unfortunately, I'd forgotten to activate the helmet camera on Sunday. Bummer! Well, at least some others had taken video, so I'll get hold of that soon and post an update here)