A Mid-winter Flying Fix

2008-01-28, Ellenville

I hadn’t flown since early October other than a 15-minute sled ride in PA the first weekend in November, and in particular I hadn’t been able to get out since I passed the H-3 test in mid-November, so I was itching for airtime. Next chance came on January 27, when the forecast looked good for Wellfleet, and I got up at 4 AM to drive down there. I arrived at dawn, and it was way too windy to even think about taking the glider off of the roof, so I drove home. I had missed an epic day at Morningside a couple of weeks earlier, and I really wanted an opportunity to fly. Since the glider was still on the roof, I decided that Ellenville was worth a shot. Some email exchanges with Tom G revealed that he was planning to fly in the afternoon, so I checked the forecast when I woke up and headed out.

I got there at about 1:30 PM, found Tom (who had just arrived), filled out the waiver, and got a a day pass from Tony. He remembered me from September, and asked what brought me down that way. He was pretty surprised when I told him that I had come down just to fly. Dave H was also going up, so we loaded the three gliders onto his van and Sharon drove us up to launch. On the drive up, I recognized the name and asked Dave if he was the guy who flew from Ellenville to Devens last summer. Yep, that was him! I set up my glider, and tried to pick what clothes to wear. I decided on a long underwear top plus a long-sleeve T-shirt, fleece vest, and running jacket, with just my regular flying pants, because it was “pretty warm”. I chose my 180s gloves, and I planned to wear the neoprene facemask, but I forgot to put it on before I flew.

Dave and Tom (pictured) had launched first and they got up right away, but I started out not as well. Turned left initially, but then on my next pass back past launch, I got a little slow, and the glider started to dip to the right, turning me toward the hill and getting me closer to the trees than I cared for. Pulled in and got out of there, and lost some altitude on my way to the Second Knob, but then got settled and started climbing. Once I was a few hundred over launch, I felt a lot more comfortable.

Almost all of my flight was between the Second Knob and the cliffs behind launch, and in fact most of it was over the launch area. The air was pretty nice, and staying up wasn’t tough.  The gloves that I had picked weren’t really warm enough, and my fingers got chilly.  I put my thumbs behind the control bar to keep them out of the wind, and for a few little stretches I also put my hands under my arms to warm them up, and just flew no-hands for a while.  Curiously, doing this (as well as other things that took my hands off the bar, like fiddling with the vario or trying to take pictures) resulted in my gaining altitude!  The glider knows how to fly pretty well if you leave it alone.  Taking pictures didn’t work, because the camera had shut down before I tried.  This was presumably from a combination of  my not having fully charged the battery the night before, the fact that I forgot to turn off the LCD backlight, and the cold temperature (just above freezing).

Dave got up and flew away on his ATOS pretty quickly, although I did see him come by briefly later on, and then he landed shortly before Tom and me.  We bounced around the launch area for a while, and later headed in when the sun got low, after about 90 minutes in the air.  When it was clear that Tom was heading in, I flew over to the ridge past the second knob, hoping to find a little lift on the sunlit hillside, but there wasn’t much going on.  I did a pass by the lower ridge without finding anything there either, then headed for the LZ.  Made sure that I flew over my intended spot a couple of times, looking for streamer/windsock action, picked a direction, and did a nice tight DBF approach.  I was a little apprehensive after my idiot landing in Pennsylvania, but this one was totally sweet.

I got to help Tom out a bit as he packed up, when he dropped a nut and I supplied a headlamp to help him find it.  He got to return the favor a little while later: I forgot my harness bag when I left!  Tom called when I was about 10 minutes down the road, so I was able to turn around without wasting much time.  A lot of driving in two days to pull this off, but I was pretty pleased that I got the chance to do it.

flights: 1, airtime: 1:27

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About cleversky

Hang glider pilot in New England since 2004. Also an avid orienteer, and an embedded systems firmware engineer. And some other outdoor stuff.
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