Return of the Stiffies

It was all Tom G.’s doing.

He sent out an email with the subject line “Return of the Stiffy” to some pilots who he knew had an interest in flying at Brace, including some H2s and some people like me, and the message got forwarded to still more pilots. Brace is almost exclusively a PG site, due to the 1.9 mile hike from the parking lot, but the forecast looked good for HGs, and it looked like a surprising number were willing to give it a shot. At least one got a jump on things by bringing his glider out a day early so that he could rest up overnight. There were a bunch of travel logistics that we worked out by email and cell phone, and the rest of us arrived Saturday morning. I got a ride up from Kermit, along with Tom L., John B., and a couple of PG pilots. Kermit was driving a big van with a roof rack that we were able to toss the gliders onto, and he wasn’t flying (but did help us schlep gear to launch — thanks!)

I brought my cart again (I forgot to take a picture of it), and for the first part of the hike, I carried my Falcon, my harness, and John’s harness. Kermit carried Tom’s harness, and Tom and John each carried their Lightspeeds (oof!). When we got to the spot where the trail gets steep, we caught up to the Ellenville crowd, who were working together to carry their gear, leapfrogging it all from pile to pile. We got in on the tail end of that, receiving and giving assistance, and soon we were all up at launch.

It has been suggested that this was the largest number of hang gliders to ever fly at Brace in one day. I don’t know what things were like in the olden days when it was possible to drive to launch, but I bet it was at least the most in the “modern era” where the hike is required. I believe we counted 12 hang gliders, and there were probably about 20 paragliders as well. What a party!

Unlike when I flew Brace in June, this was a day that definitely had some wind. It was coming straight in a lot of the time, but it was occasionally gusting to over 20, and the PGs were being wary. The HGs set up, and Jeff C. went first, with a big audience.

He did a lot of passes out front, and we all cheered him on any time he got a bit of a climb. Chad W. went next, and then one of the H2s. Those three eventually headed NW, where they caught a good climb up to cloudbase at about 4500′. That was the highest anybody got all day. I helped wire off a couple of more H2s, then Tom L. launched. That’s a good sign, if he thinks it’s time to go, then it just well may be, so I grabbed my glider, turned it around, and got hit by a gust that threatened to flip me over, but I got a foot on the bar and held the nose down.

Some PGs helped me walk over to launch, and I waited for a good cycle. I was determined to do this right, rather than than the inept job that I did back in June. This meant keeping the nose down and running hard, to make sure I had plenty of airspeed. I didn’t realize it at the time, but there was somebody there shooting video, and he got my launch (I’m the second one off, at 2:40 into it). I was reasonably satisfied with it, and the vote of confidence from the cameraman helps, too!

I’ve been meaning for a while to try out my wing-mounted camera with IR release. I did at Plymouth a week earlier, but in that case I had it on the keel, pointed sideways to take picture of houses. This time I put it on the wing so that I could get pictures of myself flying with stuff in the background. Like this:

It was also the beginning of foliage season, and I really wanted to get some kind of a foliage flight this year. Last year my last northeast flight was on October 4 (I did get one more sledder a month later in southern Pennsylvania while on a road trip), so this could be my last chance this year. And there were some nice leaves here and there.

Well, watching Tom isn’t always a prescription for success. Once I got into the air, I spotted him below me, which wasn’t a good sign. I looked around for lift, and managed to get modestly higher than launch, while he kept going down. The air was chunky, and there were times when it would turn the glider in some direction that I wasn’t planning on going, but I wasn’t able to turn these bumps into altitude gain. Ridge soaring kind of worked, but it was tough work. I was joined in the air by Dan, an H2.

Neither of us could hang on for very long, and we wound up in the LZ. About 35 minutes for me, which isn’t epic, but isn’t anything to complain about, either. The folks who launched a little bit later got treated to some wonder wind flying. By the time I broke down and was ready to leave, I counted 18 wings in the sky, both HG and PG. Quite a fine little traffic jam up there!

flights: 1, airtime: 0:33

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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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