So, what's up with hang-gliding!?
For starters, last Sunday, I've had the longest, highest flight to date: a 15 minute flight from the top-launch at Ed Levin park, which is 1750 feet above the landing zone. This was done during some rather inclement weather, but it also meant there was enough appropriate wind to get some ridge lift, so the usual "sled ride" at Ed Levin (the park is called "Sled Heaven" by hang-gliders for a reason) turned into a respectably long flight!

In fact, the HG observer I was going with scored himself a over-2-hour flight! He was VERY pleased. Or, rather, there are insufficient words to describe how pleased he was, getting such a flight form a normally sled-ride park. He was packing up his glider in the rain, but nothing could wipe the smile from his (and mine, come to think of it) face.

And that day might not have happened. The weather was predicted to be far worse on Sunday than Saturday, so I scheduled some time with Karl (the observer) on Saturday morning. Things weren't looking all that great, but it was marginal enough to go to the park for a "look see". We drove to the top of the mountain, but the wind direction and speed weren't really suitable for either of us, so after a while we packed it in and drove to Mission Ridge instead.

Now, I can't fly at mission ridge, but I decided to assist Karl in being his driver (the usual compensation) for his efforts in the morning. Mission Ridge was immanently soarable, and Karl got in a nearly-hour flight in. Could have done more, but by that stage we were all getting a little cold and energy-sapped. I'll have some video of that flight up on-line at some stage... its 8GB of high-def work :)

So, after that day was done, Karl suggested "Shall we try for tomorrow?" Well.... "Sure!" I said. And the day turned out to be awesome. Even though thunderstorms were predicted for the afternoon (and yes, it did end up pretty dark and rainy), the morning was awesome.

Unfortunately, because the day was going to get more and more weather-active, there was some pressure to get set up, prepped and launched in a hurry. So, I don't really have any video of my OWN Flight to show for it. I Do have the flight track logged in my vario/GPS unit, so I'll get that up online soon :)

Other awesomeness:

* I found the missing pitot tube for my vario: Turned out it had fallen somewhere in my harness, and "fell out" during the set-up at the top of the mountain.
* I found my watch... which had been missing for some time... it had "fallen out" of my chair at work: I've no idea where it had stashed itself.
* Saturday night was a nice party at the hang-gliding shop... got to meet a bunch of interesting folk who are super-eager for me to fly at their favorite sites. The hang-gliding community is pretty awesome :)
* I'm about 33% of the way towards my hang-3 rating. I've done the written exam, my "hang-3 spot landings" and I'm pretty sure all the other "discussion work" about flying techniques are covered... now it's just getting enough flying time in. I need 10 hours, and I've had 3 hours 17 minutes.
* Two co-workers are now interested in doing some hang-gliding (to the horror of our altitude-fearing boss)

Other sub-awesomeness:

* still need to extract the flight-logs from the vario/GPS. Looks like I might have to power up a windows box to do this :P
* My glider is dirty, and needs a wash! ("Shron! My appearance is degraded 5%. I need to be cleaned!")

Rock Band review
Several weeks ago I briefly played rock-band at a friends place. I thought "hey, this is pretty fun".

The very next day, showed a deal from Hot Topic, of all places, of the complete Rock Band 1 kit, plus the Rock Band 2 game, all for $100 shipped. I thought "what a great deal!". So, I bought it.

It's a surprisingly awesome game! Now, I'm not really a big fan of rock music; "harmonic trance" is more my style. (which includes most computer-game music, too... Chris Huelsbeck rocks... pun intended ;) ), but this whole game has given me a whole new appreciation of rock music. I still wont load up my ipod with it, though :)

In particular:

* Being able to effectly play the game requires you to listen/analyse the music. In so doing, a lot of the technical complexities of each song become apparent, and I'm left with "wow, that bass/guitar/drum riff was compelx and challenging and really interestingly structured)

* Being a little animated when playing - "getting into the song" so to speak - makes it easier to play the part accurately.

* Probably to a small extend on the guitar, but I can imagine a large extent on the drums, this appears to be pretty good practice for playing real instruments.

* The character animations going on in the background are actually playing/singing-to the song being played, right down to fret work on the guitars. Couple that with very human-looking movement during the song, and in between songs... some really clever engineering going on there. ALl rendered real time: you can change the look and the "attitude" of the characters depending on your own wishes, and you may get different locations/looks for the same song, depending on what's been picked, either randomly or part of a "tour".

* Especially in rock band 2, the artwork shown during the menus, all zoomorphic, looks awesome.

All in all, its a marvelously produced game! A+! Would buy again!

Hang-gliding at Ed Levin, from the 600'
Attached the Flip video camera to the keel of the glider and flew off the 600 foot launch at Ed-Levin park.

Unfortunately, I need to find a better way of mounting the camera... this one rotated slightly during flight.

Video under the cutCollapse )

I'm gliiiiiding in the rain....
... oh I'm gliiiiiiding in the rain....

Okay, I know I can't sing :)

Today I took a "delayed" day at work to do a little more hang-gliding at Ed Levin Park. The goal here was to do a flight from the 600 foot launch, and then 3 from the 1750 foot launch, all in preparation for my Big Sur trip in early december.

Unfortunately, the weather intervened, and put a literal damper on it all. However, i did get a couple of flights from the 600 foot launch, the last of which was in the rain, since it started to really rain, rather than just threaten to, just after I set up the glider.

We waited under the shelter of the gliders for about 40 minutes. The rain let up a little bit, enough for Harold, the person observing all of this shenanigans, to say "okay, you up for this"? Given that the glider wasn't noticeably heaver, and still had the right "heft" to it, I said "Sure!". And sure enough, it glided just fine, without any noticeable speed increase: heavier loads won't change the glide hangle, but will make the speed at that angle faster. Also, wet gliders behave slightly differently, but I didn't really notice anything.

What I did notice was the propensity for the glider to want to "float" about the ground much more significantly than normal, which made my landing longer than normal.

(just a few photos from this trip, which I'll upload soon. No videos yet).

All in all, a great couple of flights, and a really enjoyable morning, even if packing up the glider in moderate rain is one of the most miserable experiences I've encountered, right on par with pitching a tent, the old kinds with ropes and frames and stakes, during rain.

The hang-gliding plan!
The Goal

Flying at Big Sur in early december.

What I need to get there

1. My "hang-3 spots", which are accuracy (spot) landings required as part of the hang-3 certification. I'll work on and get those on my tow-launched flights this coming Sunday. The task requires three consecutive landings, either within 50 feet of a target, or on a 200 foot by 40 foot "runway".

2. At least three flights from the 1750 foot launch at Ed Levin park. And before I do that, I'll need:

3. At least one flight from the 600 foot launch at Ed Levin park.

Those last two I'm going to tentatively schedule for Saturday the 29th, but that'll depend on Harold (a registered observer) being available that day. I could also schedule something mid week, either before or after the 29th. I'm pretty sure I could shift a day to go gliding in the morning.

So, there it is! A nice, but aggressive plan!

Update: Harold's not available that Saturday, so I've scheduled in something Wednesday morning.

For next weekend.
I've just received one of the new Flip Mino HD video cameras, with the intent on attahing it somewhere to the glider. I'd previously got myself a new Canon point-and-shoot camera for that purpose, And at some point i might try both out, but the Flip has a much better resolution: 1280x720 at 30fps. The quality is outstandingly good.

I've got a mounting bracket, and it should attach just fine to the keel of the glider, somewhere behind and above me. We'll see how things turn out next sunday: more tow-winch launches then!

Also, I've nearly 2 hours of flight time and 78 flights logged, which is a significant chunk of the 10 hours and 90 flights required for a Hang-3 rating. Clearly the number of flights is not a problem at this point... the goal now is to get another 8 hours without spending a huge chunk of money and energy on tows or hauls-up-the-hill. So... let's get better at soaring :)

Hang-2 Get!
I'm now a qualified hang-2 hang-glider pilot! woot!

Went back to my original training site, near Hollister, to do some more tow-winch launch operations. I was kinda antsy about switching modes, especially since I was so close to getting my hang-2 at Ed Levin park, but I'm really glad I did this.

No huge amount of walking up hills, or packing and unpacking my glider for each flight.

And, at the end of the day, I had 20 launches, with a flight of about 3-4 minutes each. Yes, TWENTY. The record for a day is 21, but I was too tired/heat-struck/dizzy to do one or two more. Good judgment should reign supreme :)

MoviesCollapse )

Hang-gliding at Ed Levin Park
So, since lessons using the tow system aren't going to be happening for a couple more weeks - the instructor is on vacation - time to do some flying at Ed Levin Park, in Milpitas.

The park has several launches, and they all use the same Landing Zone, which makes things a little easier as you progress to higher and higher launches.

Here's a KML File you can load into Google Earth to see where the launches are. There are several more, a 40 foot, as well as a 60 and a 1200, that I haven't marked, because I don't know where they are.

For today, it was a single launch from the 50 foot, presumably a "warm up" flight, then the rest was from the 150 foot, which is probably the highest I've flown to date. That gives me nearly a minute in the air, and plenty of time to do training maneuvers.

The downside is that you have to haul you, your glider, and harness up a crappy little path up the steep hill, and over two sets of crappy steps to get over the fence line. Six times. Totally tiring! (But still totally worth it!)

Hopefully, the instructor will start driving us from the Landing Zone to the 300 foot launch, when we get to that point.

Oh pooh, and darnit.
The tow machine broke, and they didn't get it working again till about noon (lessons starte at 8am).

Still, I got a couple of "getting used to the tow" flights in, and that was good. Fel had a great, productive time with his own lessons too, so all in all a pretty good day!
Details on how their tow system worksCollapse )

A little flight reading.
Woo.. today's a day to be in the air!

Saturday: Biannual Flight Review. Pass! Okay, that's not usually a big deal: anyone who's piloting has to take a BFR every two years, but I haven't flown a 'real' plan in over two years, so I was quite rusty. Passed without much concern at all.

Joy flights around the bay for all.. first time's free :)

Sunday: First day of training for my hang-2 rating. I'll be strapping myself into the school's tow/winch system... sure beats pushing the big kite up the hill. Unfortunately, for the first several flights, it'll be substituting that for a much *longer* walk.

However, I should be able to progress to much higher operations, giving me enough altitude to do a full pattern, and land near where I take off.

Off to bed now: have a 5am start. Will report in tomorrow night!


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