Failure to hook in?

Well, that title got your attention, didn’t it? Not to worry, nobody died. What did happen was that I realized that I was ready to take off, but was not connected to my glider. I wasn’t on launch, though, I was at home, sitting on the toilet. I had been loading up the car, and just after putting the glider on the rack, I got distracted by something, then went back into the house, and realized when I was in the bathroom that I had not strapped the glider to the rack. No problem, I did strap it down before opening the garage door, but it is possible to forget in a situation like that. I usually (though perhaps not always) do an “idiot check” before getting into the car whenever I have anything on my roof (gliders, canoe, bicycles, etc.) where I grab the items in question and shake them to make sure they’re secure. I don’t know any way to do the equivalent of the “Aussie method”, though, since I can’t put the glider on the rack before I put the rack on the car.

As to the real story…

What the heck was I doing trying to fly, anyway? When I left the house, it was drizzling. Things didn’t improve that much on the way up to West Rutland, and this is what the sky looked like somewhere up north of Ludlow:

In fact, I couldn’t even see the summit of Okemo, it was all socked in. I ran into Bob R and Beth at the convenience store, and we shook our heads, but figured we might as well see who else showed up. Jim M was at the parking area, and after loading the gliders onto Bob’s truck, we waited another few minutes for Tor S and Jim C to show up, tossed their PGs into the bed, and headed up the mountain.

There had been a few patches of blue sky drifting through while we had been waiting, and it was starting to look hopeful when we got to the top. In fact, there was enough sun that Beth took fully organic precautions against getting her nose sunburned.

The wind was strong enough that Jim C and Tor launched right away. Jim almost sank out, but got a low save near the highway and got back up. Their flights weren’t long, as conditions were pretty light, but the sun was increasing and we hoped the thermals would pick up.

Jim M went next and was able to soar for a bit, but by the time I got suited up, he was landing. I waited on the ramp for a while, figuring that I was in no hurry and might as well pick the strongest cycle I could get (and I could always step aside if Bob wanted to play through). When I finally got wind on the ramp as well as some shaking in the trees down below, I decided to go for it, and Bob was just a few steps behind me. I was able to milk it for a little while, getting my best climb off to the left (east) of launch, and I did get high enough that I was willing to do one complete turn a bit later, but most of the time I was too close to the terrain to be comfortable with that.

I’m sure that someone with adequate skill could have stayed up, but the lift was too elusive for me, and after I spotted Tor and Jim C at launch for a second try with a couple of other PG pilots, I got too far below launch and decided to follow Bob to the LZ. Just like last time, I found myself frustrated with the poor L/D of the Falcon. I was carefully adjusting my pitch, trying to get the LZ to drop in my field of vision rather than rise, and figured that I would probably get there provided I didn’t run into any sink, but probably isn’t good enough for me, and I considered my alternatives.

The bailout field where I went last time was an option, but a better one was the New Dome field. Before I started flying, the primary LZ at this site was called the Dome Field, due to its shape, but that property has changed hands and is now strictly off-limits because it’s inhabited by horses. There’s a smaller adjacent LZ called the New Dome, which is where the PGs usually land. It’s preferred by some HG pilots, but takes a bit more skill, and I had never tried it. It was within easy reach, and Jim had already landed there and was breaking down. Light conditions seemed like an ideal situation for trying an uphill landing, something I had discussed and thought about considerably, but had never attempted. I wasn’t sure where the windsock was, but it didn’t matter, because uphill is the only way to go here. I did know enough to do S-turns out front until I was lower than the top of the hill, in order to be sure that I wouldn’t overshoot. I then pulled the bar to burn it in and aimed at the center of the field. Although the Falcon doesn’t glide very well, it sure is easy to land and the flare went very well, with just a few short, quick steps as I reached the ground. I somehow managed to find the spot with the shortest grass in a field that was otherwise chest-high. Turning around, I saw the windsock, which was pointing right at me. Downwind-uphill, and pulled off quite nicely, how about that?

One of the PGs launched for a short flight as we were breaking down, seemed like all of the flights all day were on the order of 20 minutes, which isn’t great, but when they’re good safe flights, I’m not going to complain. There was enough time for us to have tried again, but we had managed to grab the one sunny time window, and the sky started looking really awful again, so we headed on home. That makes five consecutive months in which I’ve had exactly one flying day — I’ve got a bunch of stuff going on for the next few weeks, so it could turn out that this is all I get for June. On the drive home, I did manage a little bit of mischief, though. My friend Jeff had ordered a new glider that had arrived at the flight park, but that he hadn’t seen yet. And, well, I couldn’t resist the temptation to check out how it felt.

flights: 1, airtime: 0:21


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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