Airtime wins out

The closest flying site I know of to my house is Skinner State Park. I can get there in under 90 minutes, and I’ve wanted to fly there for a few years now, but I haven’t had a chance that worked out. The park welcomes hang gliders, in fact, Massachusetts recently introduced a passport program that allows park visitors to get stamps from places that they visit, and the one for Skinner has a hang glider on it.

Randy and I met Rodger in the LZ after picking up some tasty lunch at Barstow’s. We carpooled up to the Summit House, then lugged our gear out to launch, which is a somewhat less onerous hike than the one at Ascutney. It was another day where we set up in dead air, and it was hot! Over 90 degrees, and we were sweating and trying to stay in the shade.

After we were preflighted, wind conditions picked up to the level that had been forecast. There wasn’t much on launch, but we could see the leaves rattling around elsewhere. Skinner has an intimidating launch, pretty much a cliff that you’d like to get as close to as possible before starting your launch run, but with trees out front that aren’t very far down, and more trees on both sides. So it’s a slot and a cliff launch, but not a clean, sheer cliff launch. Randy was the only one of the three of us who had flown there before, and he said he had seen a few pilots clip the tops of the trees with their control bars. After watching Randy show how to do it, and armed with a healthy concern, I made sure I had a very strong launch and had plenty of clearance. Rodger was the last off, and had to do it with no assistance, but reported that he had no problem.

Despite our aspirations of climbing to 6000′, the clouds didn’t form near where we were, and we were mostly stuck below 2000′ (launch is at about 850′). It was one of those days when you could stay up pretty much as long as you liked, though. The flying wasn’t that interesting in itself, something like 55 passes back and forth on a ridge that’s 3/4 of a mile long. (It’s possible to venture further in both directions, but probably not a great idea with the limited altitude that we had, since the LZ options get dicey.)

There were other things to make the day fun, though, including some good birdwatching. A bald eagle came through, and I got one distant blurry photo, plus a hawk of some sort did an aerobatic maneuver about a wingspan away right in front of me — I got a slightly better picture of him.

I headed for the LZ when Rodger started folding up his glider, and Randy decided to see if he could reach the airport (he came pretty close, landing in a field near the end of the runway). We stopped for some food in Noho, and had a comparatively brief drive home. I think I probably managed to achieve something I’ve been aspiring to since I started flying: more time in the air than in the car. I didn’t time the driving up and down the mountain, or crossing the river to pick Randy up, but figuring that it’s 90 minutes each way from home, and I flew for 3:20 (second longest flight ever), the flying at least beat the commute.

flights: 1, airtime: 3:21

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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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