Three day weekend?

AAS: accidental airborne selfie

The word went out that Rhett would be towing on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I had to work Friday, and there were orienteering meets on my calendar both days of the weekend, but I came up with a plan to get in at least a little flying. I figured that if I went to the airport after the orienteering, and I could skip the time it takes to set up my glider, that I could make it work. So I got off work a little early, cruised home and loaded up my gear, and headed for Tanner-Hiller. The idea was to set the wing up Friday night, then stash it in the hangar so it would be ready for the weekend.

When I rolled in, there were a few pilots still around after a good day of flying, with climbs up to 5000-6000 feet. As I was setting up, they asked if I was going to fly, and though that wasn’t the plan, I said, “We’ll see”. Rhett had a tandem flight scheduled, and he said he could pull me up after them. I looked at my watch, and thought I might be able to get into the air by about 7:45, and that seemed okay. I got a cart and wheeled my wing up to the NE end of the runway, and watched Rhett tow the tandem up.

It had been over seven months since I’d aerotowed, and after a winter break like that, I’ve usually stepped back to my Falcon for the first flight, or at least put the fin on my U2, but with the calm evening air, I decided I didn’t need that. On the ground roll, the cart drifted a little to the right, and instead of bumping it back to center, I just lifted off, a little out of line. That shouldn’t have been a problem except that I was rusty, and that misalignment was all it took to get me yawing and oscillating. I’ve been around enough to know that I just needed to let it settle out, so although the first couple of hundred feet was pretty klutzy, I was fine after that. Rhett was ultra gentle, pretty much just towing me in a straight line. The sun was getting low and the air was very stable, so I neither expected nor found any lift, but I took a few pictures and played around with slowing the glider way down to try and get it to stall (it really doesn’t want to stall) and enjoyed the view. On landing, I waited a bit too long and my flare was on the weak side, so the last few feet were rolling in on the wheels. Then I was able to deposit the glider in the hangar and head home without having to fold it up.
Saturday I was off to southern Connecticut with my friends Nancy and Stephen for orienteering. We got some lunch and some ice cream on the way back, then dropped Stephen off, and when we got to where I had left my car in Worcester, Nancy headed home and I went back to Tanner-Hiller. It was later than I was hoping, and again, most of the pilots were done after a good day and were about to head home, but there was again a tandem scheduled and Rhett said he’d take me up right after, which turned out to be an hour or so earlier than the day before.

This time I had the glider under control from the beginning, and Rhett gave me more exercise, taking me up in a sinusoidal path to give me practice following him in both right and left turns. After pinning off, I had smooth air ahead of me again, and I went on a tour of nearby landmarks: a couple of solar farms, the athletic fields, the sandpit, the derelict factory, and then back around to the airstrip. Setting up to land, I was paying too much attention to my altimeter and not enough to what I was seeing, and I went on final with way too much altitude. Instead of landing in front of the hangar, I kept going toward the SW end of the runway, finally landing all the way down by the numbers. I overcompensated for the previous night’s late flare by flaring too early, so I ballooned up, then settled down onto loose gravel where the wheels wouldn’t roll, and the nose went over. John M was still around, preparing for one last tow, and he was nice enough to bring me a cart with the ATV. Then back into the hangar with the glider, and I was off.
Sunday morning I woke up, and checked the internet to find out which parking area we were using for the orienteering meet in New Hampshire. Hmmm… what orienteering meet? It had been on the schedule when I put it on my calendar, but at some point after that it apparently got canceled. OK, that meant I could go flying earlier!

John M, Peter J, Justin P, and Pete P were already there in various states of readiness when I arrived a little after noon. I pulled out my glider and got in line behind them while John went up for the first tow. I was chatting with one of the other pilots when he heard a plane coming and asked, “what’s that?”. I started to say, “That’s Rhett coming back for the next tow”, but then I looked up and saw that the aircraft coming in had lights, and Peter was scrambling to get his glider off the runway. It turned out to be a DeHavilland Beaver with floats, and we all went over to admire it, and the proud and amiable owner invited us to hop up and take a closer look if we liked (and I did).

Rhett chatted with the Beaver pilot for a while, thinking that we needed to wait for the day to heat up, until we realized that John was still up, so the air must be pretty good already. Peter J went up and was back down in short order, and Justin and Pete P hung on a bit better. I was next in line, and Rhett warned me that this was going to be more active air then the previous two evenings. I said something to the effect that that was what I was afraid of, and he said that I’d be fine, and I should take whatever was there and ask for more. Okay!

The start of the tow was straightforward, then just off the end of the runway we went into a left-hand spiral climb that was a bit of a rodeo ride. I knew I could pin off at any point if I was uncomfortable, but I was able to stick with it, though I had trouble keeping myself low enough (might be that I was turning a slightly smaller circle than the tug, and was in stronger lift). Compared to the night before, where the rate of climb during the tow was 1240 fpm, this one was 1640 fpm — we were getting 400 fpm out of the thermal. After Rhett waved me off, I was able to keep climbing in that thermal to about 4500 feet before I lost it.

Thinking that lift was going to be relatively easy to come by, despite the solid blue sky, I casually checked out a couple of the nearby spots that seem like they should be good sources of warm air. Over the sandpit I found some zero sink, but it seemed like I should be able to do better than that, so I went southwest to a big patch of blacktop (no good), then back to near where the first climb had been, and finally over the airfield. The whole way, I was getting crushed, 500-600 fpm down wherever I went. Up near the NE end of the runway I was down to about 1000 feet and figuring that I was going to be landing soon, and my vario started beeping, so I turned.
And turned.
And turned.

It wasn’t fat easy lift. I was banked up pretty tight, and made a couple of dozen circles while climbing nearly 3000 feet over the course of the next 15 minutes. The lift was strong and concentrated enough that at times I’d hit it with one wing, and that wing would get yanked up and I’d get turned away from the thermal more strongly than I could counteract with weight shift. When that lift died, I hunted around, and after losing 1200 feet, I got another climb and gained it back.
I had been keeping an eye on the other pilots: Justin and Pete P were pretty low, but Peter J, who had come up again after me, had worked his way north and was now off to the west of me, a little higher than I was, and climbing. Since my thermal seemed to have fizzled, I pulled on VG and hightailed it over to where he was. That turned out to be a disappointment, as it was all sink on the way there, and as I hunted around I couldn’t find the lift, despite the fact that he was above me and still climbing. When I got low enough that prudence said I should give up, I headed back and tried once more where my big climb had been, but it wasn’t working any more, so I did a few circles and landed (still not a great landing, but better than the previous two). There was enough time for another try (Larry G and Mark H had arrived in the meantime and had just gone up), but I was satisfied with what I had, and decided to pack up. I spent some time first chatting with Carol C, a prospective pilot who was going up for a tandem flight later on. Peter, Larry, and Mark all found some great lift after that, and got so high it was hard to see them.

Quite a bit of fun jammed into what was really a two day weekend!

Flights: 3 (in three days), airtime 0:18, 0:23, 0:58

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Secret passenger

Saturday had a reasonably promising looking NW forecast, which presented a few options. Nancy was interested in going orienteering that day in Mt. Kisco, NY, which opened up an interesting possibility. We could drive down and do the shorter orienteering course as a team, which would be about right for her and not too exhausting for me. After that, it would be a manageable drive to Ellenville, where I hadn’t flown in about five years, and she could drive my car to pick me up.

The orienteering went quite well, as did the drive over to Ellenville, Michael S and Mike A were in the LZ, having had flights earlier. I got signed in and headed up top to set up. There were a bunch of PGs in the air, but no HGs. A few HGs did launch while I was getting ready, and at least one of them climbed out, so that was encouraging. The wind was coming in pretty cross from the left on the main NW launch, and a couple of pilots (including Jim D) waited quite a while for a good launch cycle, while a couple of others moved over to the W launch, where it was coming in straight. As I changed into flying clothes, I figured that was probably the smart move, and decided I’d try that myself. But when I was ready to get into my harness, it seemed to had straightened out, so I carried my glider over to the more convenient NW ramp.

The first mistake I made was dressing warmly enough for altitude. There’s a concept called “applied Murphology” that holds that the best way to get high is to underdress, so that you spend your whole time shivering. The wind was in fact coming straight in, and the velocity seemed friendly enough, so I did a rusty, but successful, foot launch.

J-J launching, hands high and nose high — doh! Photo by Nancy

My second mistake was turning right. There’s a fine stretch of ridge between Tony’s launch and Greg’s launch, and I’ve found lift in there in the past, but on a day when it was tending to cross from the left, I should have turned into the prevailing wind. Instead, it was sinky sinky the whole way there and back, and I was down at road level when I got back to launch. Uncomfortable with the idea of scratching close (I was a little light on the glider since I had thrown all of my bags into the car instead of into my harness, and the wing felt a little unresponsive), I aimed out into the valley and crossed my fingers to find some lift where I’d have more room to work it. As I got down there, I was glad I was flying my U2 instead of my Falcon, because the LZ looked like it might be hard to reach. I pulled on an armful of VG just in case, since the Pumpkin Patch, which looks very inviting these days now that the weeds are all gone, is strictly off limits, having been converted to an organic farm.

Down to 300-400 feet, I got beeps out of my vario, and went into a turn. This looked like a chance to get an impressive low save, or so I optimistically hoped. For the first turn I was climbing, but then for the next two I was just maintaining altitude. Maybe it would have turned on if I had stuck with it, or maybe I would have stumbled into sink. Buy my margin of error was small enough that I didn’t want to risk it, and I headed for the LZ. I had enough extra altitude for one back and forth over Tony’s training hill, while I looked at the flags that appeared to be giving me conflicting information about the wind direction. I split the difference and had an uneventful landing, despite mistake #3: I still had a lot of VG on. I didn’t run out of room, although I didn’t have a ton of space left.
Jim had landed shortly before me, while the pilots who had launched just after me were on their way up to 5000 feet. Nancy came to pick me up, and we gave Jim a ride back up to fetch his car on our way out. I could have set up again and given it another try, but assembling and breaking down a glider is a fair bit of work, and we had a long drive home ahead of us (plus, we were hungry).

I likely would have stayed up a lot longer if I hadn’t been so rusty. But a flight is a flight, and if the only thing wrong with it was that it wasn’t all that long, there’s not much reason to complain. As my friend ARt said when he asked about my day, “It’s seven minutes more than I got!”. Also, unbeknownst to Nancy, I had brought her little pal Winston along for the ride.

flights: 1, airtime 7 minutes

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(May the Fourth, get it…?)

For a while, Woz has been working on getting us permission to use a field at the base of Talcott Mountain, for both an LZ and a base of operations for towing.  (The other guys see an advantage in the prospect of towing up and them soaring the ridge, but I think hiking a glider up to launch is not a big obstacle.  However, I’m not fond of the small LZ at Talcott, and definitely like the idea of a bigger field.)  The new real estate is a farm field, partially cultivated, and the rest was until recently full of tall weeds, but the farmer ran through it all with a harrow or something, so now it’s clear, though part of it is under the high water levels of springtime.

Meanwhile, Greg has been trying to drum up interest in hang gliding in Connecticut via an online meet-up group.  He had gotten together with some people to talk about hang gliding, and was hoping for a weekend day when the weather would cooperate so that they could see some actual flying.  Saturday looked like light north winds and overcast  skies, which does not work at all for soaring the ridge, but looked fine for some towing practice.

For miscellaneous reasons, I brought three gliders with me, though I used only one.  I bought a new car about a year and a half ago, and hadn’t yet had more than one glider on the roof, and that with a sketchy setup that didn’t work very well.  But a couple of weeks ago I spent an evening the garage fiddling with the rack parts from my old car, and worked out a way to get them onto the Subaru.  The result was rock solid even with the three wings, despite the fact that it doesn’t look very classy.  I have a plan for a better rack setup, but now at least I can carry my stuff until such time as I get the new one together.

While we were getting the winch set up, Greg showed a glider to the newcomers and had them practice picking it up and running a few steps with it on level ground.  Then it was show and tell time, and I was the test pilot.  We bought 1000 meters of Spectra line over the winter, and Woz also had a new line retrieval chute made up from a used auto airbag, and this was our first time trying them out. Mark spent the day as our expert winch operator, as he’s nursing a minor injury and didn’t want to fly just yet.  Everything worked just fine, and it was good to get my feet off the ground for the first time in six months.  Not very high, mind you, just 150 feet, a little under a minute, and one lap of the field.  But a landing is a landing.

Greg did three tows after that, the first of which was watched by the newcomers (then they all had places they needed to go), and I did two more.  With everything working fine, it was time to try the next new thing, a turnaround pulley.  We parked a truck where the winch had been and attached the pulley to the trailer hitch, and brought the winch back to park it next to where the glider was launching from.  This way the winch operator could be right next to the pilot, for improved communication.  We also had somebody at the pulley to watch it, with a machete to cut the line in case of emergency.  I was the test pilot for the pulley setup as well, and it went okay except that at the very end, I felt a shuddering.  We looked at the pulley, and at the video that the pulley monitor had taken of the pulley, and reckoned that the pulley had been binding up.  We had installed plastic shims to make sure that the line couldn’t jump off and jam itself next to the axle, but those shims were covered with aluminum dust, and either the pulley sheave or the shims or both had probably heated up and caused the pulley to jam, so we took out the shims.

Woz ready to launch

The other advantage of the pulley is that it allows us to put the anchor in a place where we can’t get the winch to.  The place where we had originally parked it was at the end of a dirt road, but there was 120 yards of plowed field beyond that.  We couldn’t drive on the plowed field, but we could walk across it and tie the pulley to a tree, which extended our pull length by almost 40%.  The red arrows in the diagram at the top of this post show our initial tow length, and the extended tow length using the pulley. The purple arrow shows the potential for an even longer pull in the future.

Woz had been serving as winch assistant up to this point, but we swapped places and he went for the first extended length tow.  It seemed to go okay, except that he wasn’t climbing very fast at the beginning.  Greg reported back from the pulley with the reason why.  We hadn’t brought enough rope out to the tree to run a full loop from the tree to the pulley, so we had put a loop around the tree and then run a single strand of rope to the pulley. It turned out that the rope had some inherent twist in it, so when tension was applied, the pulley immediately spun numerous times around the line axis, twisting the tow line around itself. Surprisingly, the line was still able to slip past itself, and Greg grabbed the pulley and untwisted it. For reasons I don’t recall, we did a second tow with the same setup, and got the same result (of course). At this point it was late enough, and the pulley situation was problematic enough, that we decided to pack up.

There was one other issue with the winch, and that had to do with the way the line was wound onto the drum. We’ve got 1000 meters of Spectra, and then some additional length of braided poly rope in case we ever need more. But that poly rope was wound onto the drum kind of loosely, and it looked like it had the potential to snag the Spectra and cause a drum tangle. So we decided to pull all of the line off of the drum and rewind it. That should have been a piece of cake, but we didn’t think the process through carefully enough, and while winding it in, the Spectra… somehow… got bunched up in a couple of places and… we got tangles…

Well, an hour or two sorting that out, including cutting the line in two places, and I took one big wad home to unknot as homework. Not a disaster, as we have the ability to do nice smooth splices in this line. But I’ll be spending some time wrestling with an angry shoelace.

flights: 4, airtime: almost 5 minutes

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2018 in review

“Not much flying” reaches ever greater extremes…

Last year Mom passed away, this year we had to get the house ready to sell, which turned out to be an interesting and epic project which ended very satisfactorily. But that took a number of weekends, and limited my airtime. I did get two mountain flights this year, so that was at least better than last year. Let’s look at the stats:

By the numbers:
Months flown: 6 (Apr, Jun, Jul, Aug, Oct, Nov)
Flying days: 6
Days when I showed up with my gear but didn’t fly: I’ll call that 3, explanation below
Flights: 14 (2 foot-launch, 5 aerotow, 7 static winch; 2 soaring, 4 longish sledders, 8 short sledders)
Sites flown: 4 (Pfeiffer/Nejame, Tanner-Hiller, Ascutney, Talcott)
New sites: 1 (Pfeiffer/Nejame)
Gliders flown: 3 (Falcon 170 belonging to Greg S, Falcon 2 170, U2 145)
Longest flight (time): 1:42:37 (Aug 15, Talcott)
Longest flight (XC distance): 3.04 km (July 7, Ascutney)
Total flight time: 4:58
Max altitude: 4873 feet (Jun 30, Tanner-Hiller, but that was the release altitude)
Damage: hey, none!
Injuries: none of them either!

The three days with no flying were a day at Wellfleet that was blown out, a nice day at West Rutland when I just assumed that other pilots would be showing up, but nobody did, and one adventure. At the end of the year, my friend Nancy and I went to the Canary Islands for a week for an orienteering competition. The races were on Gran Canaria, which is short plane ride from Lanzarote, which has some epic flying. I brought my harness and helmet along on the trip, and there were two days that I had free where flying could have been an option. I made contact with an outfitter/guide from whom I could have rented a glider. I blew off the first one because our flights got changed and that made the schedule tight, and on the second day, it looked like it might be too strong, so I opted not to risk going over to Lanzarote for nothing, and we did some sightseeing and hiking instead. No hang gliding, but a great trip nevertheless.

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November delight

Nearly a week ahead of time, Woz was looking at the forecast and thought that Sunday might be a good day for more practice towing. Depending on the wind we could go either to Tommy’s field again, or take the winch up to Tanner-Hiller airport, assuming Rhett wouldn’t be towing that day. As the day drew near, it kind of looked like either site could work, because the wind forecast was fairly light (though cross), and I put in my vote for Tanner-Hiller, because it’a a much shorter drive for me. On Saturday Woz got in touch with Rhett, who said it was fine for us to bring the winch out. Then a little later, we got word that enough pilots were interested in flying that Rhett would be towing.

I initially thought that it would be best to get an early start, but the last forecast that I looked at suggested that it would be a little strong in the morning, particularly at altitude, so I took my time and showed up a little before noon. Pete J was already set up when I pulled in, and Noel was putting his glider together. I set mine up while Mark H and John M prepared the tandem. Pete and Noel both went up, and there was enough lift to keep them busy for a while — Pete got about an hour or so of airtime.



Rhett pulling John and Rachel up in the tandem

I had brought the U2, which I hadn’t towed with in over a year. But it’s just like riding a bicycle, you never forget, and I had towed with my Falcon a few months earlier. But it’s not so routine that I remember everything: the U2 has VG, which I normally set to 1/3, but I forgot to do that. Not a big deal. The lack of practice was more of an issue, though, because as soon as I lifted out of the cart, I was a dope on a rope. I was all over the place, oscillating left and right, and I thought Rhett was going to give me the rope (I even thought I saw him give the signal to get off when we were about halfway down the airfield, but he said later that he hadn’t). I got it settled down, and I wasn’t doing a great job of flying, but I got my spasticness down to a tolerable level. Rhett was turning some, so I figured we might be in lift, then at about 2500 feet, the tug dropped abruptly. That could have meant that he hit sink, or that he had just towed me through lift, but in either case I wasn’t interested in diving to chase him, so I pinned off and looked for the thermal.

There was some lift, enough for me to climb a couple of hundred feet until I lost it. I hunted around at the other spots in the vicinity of the airport where I’d found climbs in the past, and at some of them I found zero sink, at least. Finally down under 1000 feet, I was hanging out over the woods just NE of the end of the access road, and I was getting enough beeps from the vario to keep circling, on the principle that you shouldn’t ever land in a field that you can soar over. That lasted for a few minutes, and I think I had a lot of eyes on me. My landing was… not too bad, but not as stylish as I’d hoped.

I took a little break to clear my head after that interesting tow, and to chat with Rhett, then I fetched a cart and wheeled my glider back up to the NE end of the field. I waited while Pete and Noel towed up again, followed by the tandem, and chatted a bit with CT John B, who was setting up. When it was my turn Mark came over to give the launch signal, and this time I remembered to pull on the VG. A little fresh practice goes a long way, and the second tow went much better, so I was able to stay with it the whole way up. The day had quit, though, and there was no lift left to be found, though I did slow my descent in a few places, and it was still an enjoyable time being up in there air. If it had been a couple of weeks earlier, there would have been some spectacular foliage, but I still did have some pleasant views.

But the sun sets early in November…

Flights: 2, airtime: 23 min, 27 min

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Cherry picking

Woz wanted to get us back out using the winch again, so he asked if people were available, and we arranged to meet at the same field where we towed last spring. Over the course of the summer, a bunch of renovation work was done on the winch, so it looks nicer now, and works better as well.

In addition to the obvious paint job, there are some mechanical improvements. The big noticeable one is the level-wind mechanism that Peter B built, a cleverly designed gadget that’s driven by a belt from the spool, and engages the shuttle with one or the other side of a loop chain, automatically switching when it gets all the way to one side. There’s also a foot brake for the drum, so that we don’t need to use a tomato stake held against the drum flange, and some adjustments to the exhaust to make it quieter for the operator. And there’s a comfort enhancement in the form of a seat for the operator so that he doesn’t have to sit on a stepladder.

Although we got there early, we had some things to work through with the equipment. The crankcase oil for the winch motor seemed to have gotten gas in it, so we had to work out how to drain that to change the oil. Then there was a little fiddling with the rope, setting up the gliders, and figuring out how to rig the releases to our own harnesses, since we no longer had Michael’s training harnesses to use.

We thought it might be a good idea to do a bit of practice towing without a glider, to give the operator some refamiliarization time. I had brought a mountain bike, and there was a dirt road running the length of the field, so I rigged a release to my waist, pulled out some line, and we did a simulated tow with me on the bike. To some extent, that worked great, everything went as it was supposed to. But from my point of view on the bike, it was scary. Since I didn’t present any aerodynamic drag, I needed to use the brakes to keep the bike from going too fast, and that meant I couldn’t let go to hit the release. And I didn’t have very good communication with the operator — we hadn’t thought through whether the normal signals would work, and taking my feet off the pedals to wave my legs as a signal to drop the tension didn’t seem smart. But the operator was on top of things, and let up before I went crashing into the winch. Seemed like a good plan, but we decided we’d had enough of that.

By midday we did get started towing, and things went well. We were pretty much all doing full tows. I was flying a borrowed Falcon again (brought my U2 but never set it up), but I did fly with my own harness — I worked out a good way to attach the release to it, that, after I make some adjustments, will allow me to get it on and off quickly. On my first tow, I forgot the proper way to position my hand when pulling the first release, so I inadvertently released both lines at around treetop level. No big deal, just land and try again, and the second flight went according to plan.

I had been manning the signal flag for a lot of flights, then one of the other pilots stepped up when someone else was on flag duty, and the flagman looked at how the pilot had the release rigged (this was his first flight with his own harness), and asked me to come take a look at it. It was the same kind of harness as mine, and I could see right away that it wasn’t going to work the way he had it, the tow lines would be up in his armpits. We pulled his glider aside so I could help him add a lower line, and one of the other pilots stepped into his place. I was cutting some cord for him, and told him to hang on for a sec so I could watch the other pilot launch. The takeoff went fine, and I watched him up to around treetop height, then went back to helping rig the release.

And I heard somebody say, “Uh oh”.

I looked back at the field and saw:

I told the pilot who I was helping with his harness that it would need to wait, and ran over toward the tree to join everybody else. I could go into this in detail, but the short story is that the pilot had dental floss, we were able to use that to get a dubious-looking rope up to him, and got him on belay so that he wouldn’t fall out of the tree. That kept him secure until the fire department got there, and we let them take over. After a bunch of debating what to do, and sending up different harnesses and other gear, they ultimately got a tree guy with a bucket truck to show up. The bucket was able to retrieve the pilot, and then remove the glider from the tree as well, with no apparent damage to either. (Then it took a while to get the bucket truck unstuck in the soft cornfield…)

The whole rescue operation took quite a while, and it was getting to be late afternoon, so after all of the emergency personnel were finally packed up and gone, there was nothing left for us to do but to…

… start towing again.

flights: 3, time about 4 min

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Sunset cruise

Woz had had a nice weekday evening flight at Talcott the week before, and, seeing a similar forecast, was encouraging others to come out and join him. Now, it’s easy for him because he lives only a few minutes from the mountain, but for me, it’s more like a five-hour round trip. It did look promising, though, so I packed up my car before heading to the office, and knocked off work a little early to head for Connecticut.

I had brought my cart for dragging all of my gear up the trail, but as I got close to Talcott, it occurred to me that I hadn’t used the cart in a while, and I also didn’t have a tire pump with me… sure enough, both tires were soft to the point of being flat. So I went for Plan B and parked up at the helipad. The hike is shorter and with less climb from there, as opposed to taking the big trail, but it’s rougher and wouldn’t work well with the cart. I’m not a one-trip kind of guy, so I schlepped the glider up to launch, then jogged back and did the second trip with my harness. It was a reasonably hot and humid afternoon, but I survived.

Woz had arrived early enough that he was already set up when I got there, and Digger was pretty far along in assembling his wing. When I returned the second time, Woz was ready to go, so we wired him off while a couple of spectators took pictures. After a few minutes, he was sending us text messages from the air. I was able to set up pretty quickly since I had brought my Falcon (easier to carry, and it’s not as if I needed performance at this site), and by the time I had it together, Digger was ready. He talked to a couple of wuffos about helping out on his wires, and the one who worked out was the Asian gentleman who had been taking pictures. There was a bit of a language barrier, but because he had seen one launch, he had an idea what to do. The wind was behaving nicely, and Digger had no trouble getting into the air.


I realized that I had forgotten something else besides the tire pump: my vario mount. It was still on the downtube of my other glider (I ordered a second one soon after). I considered my options, and decided to use the velcro of my camera mount to strap the vario to my control bar. I couldn’t read the display very well because it was sideways, but at least I could hear it. This also meant that I didn’t have a way to mount my camera, so I got no pictures from the air.

The Heublein Tower, but taken from the ground

I finished my preflight, and recruited a second bystander to help out. I spent too much mental energy on explaining what I wanted them to do, when I should have just said to hold onto the wires while I moved out to launch, then back off and I can handle the rest by myself. The wind was just right, and I really didn’t need any launch assistance, it was more or less like launching at Morningside, which I did plenty of times with no help. But since I was so preoccupied with explaining what I wanted them to do, I spaced out on doing my seven-point final checklist (from shoelaces to hang height). I had informally checked all of that stuff during the process of setting up, but it’s a good thing to go through the ritual.

And I had an… adequate launch. No sense in not admitting it. I definitely popped the nose, but I pulled it right in, and climbed right away. One short pass to the right, and I came back comfortably above launch height.

Aaaand, I settled in for some easy flying. Talcott is a somewhat short ridge, and the highest I got was about 550 feet over launch. The lift was solid, though; I could fly well out in front of the ridge without sinking, and I went much further north and south than I had gone before, from the helipad almost all the way down to Hoe Pond. Because I didn’t have a camera, I failed once again to get a good picture of the Heublein Tower, even though I flew right by it a number of times.

Woz went out and landed, and so did Digger. I had driven a long way to get there, and had a long drive home, so I stayed in the air to justify the time behind the wheel, and kind of wanted to see if I could fly for as long as it had taken me to drive there (I just about did). I like being able to wave to people on the ground when I fly, and as this was an evening flight on a west-facing ridge, there were plenty of people up there to watch the sunset. One “highlight” was watching with incredulity as a group of at least 10 people, who did not appear to be at all properly equipped, trying to climb the cliff. This is a real cliff, and the crack they were trying to go up looked like something I’d find interesting, but I’d want to be on belay with my rock climbing shoes, not in a conga line wearing sneakers. I think they finally backed down, but that didn’t look easy, either.




The limit that I set for myself was that I’d head out to land once I couldn’t stay above launch. The evening lift got soft, so I called it a day, and came in for a no-wind, no-step landing in the center of the LZ. My longest flight at Talcott by more than an hour, 25% more than my other flights combined. Digger said that he initially thought my approach was too high, then he remembered that I wasn’t flying a U2 like those two were. The other advantage of the Falcon was that I was able to pack up quickly. Woz brought Digger and me up to fetch our cars, and I was on my way home.

Flights: 1, airtime: 1:43

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