Delayed opening

Ryan, the local meteorologist of doom, had predicted that the first group flight from Ascutney would not happen until June. He was pretty close. The first time since last October 11 when conditions were suitable was Memorial Day, which is pretty late for Opening Day at Ascutney. As of the night before, I didn’t know whether anybody but me was interested enough to go, but emails appeared in the morning showing that there would be some others.

I was the first one to arrive, followed by Pete J. We stashed my car out front, and got back to the park entrance as the rest of the gang showed up. Most of the usual suspects were there: Jake, John A, Greg H, Jeff B, Dennis, and Pat M, plus Ryan was along to drive retrieve. (Z came as well, but he arrived after the rest of us launched.) I’m too much of a lightweight to carry all of my gear at once, so I zipped out to launch with my harness and battens, then ran back to make a second trip with the glider. That put me near the back of the setup area, and the way things turned out, last in line to launch. That meant that I did wire crew duty for everybody, which provided a useful opportunity to watch everybody else’s techniques.

There was a little waiting around, though not as much as I’ve seen in the past. The wind was light, but there was concern that it was going to clock around to the north, so nobody wanted to wait too long for the sun to heat the bowl and miss a chance to fly at all. Jake, being the site director, stepped up first to inaugurate the flying season.

John, Greg, and Jeff followed him, and all gradually lost altitude until we were soon looking down on the tops of four distant wings. Enthusiasm dropped a notch, but the pilots in the air found some good climbs and got well above launch; that was enough to encourage the rest of us. After everybody else got airborne, I suited up, and with assistance of Ryan and a hiker, moved up onto the platform. Conditions were mellow enough that I didn’t need much help, and there was a good cycle coming in as I got into position so I didn’t wait.

And…. I slud. I sleddereded. I went down, down, down. I did manage to stay level with launch for one brief pass through the bowl and back, but after that, I never got back. I did find a few bumps, but I didn’t manage to exploit them. There wasn’t opportunity to take any pictures from the air, but at least I had time to zip up my harness (not that it was really necessary). Before I lost too much altitude, I headed out over the fields, to make sure that I wouldn’t have any trouble setting up my approach. There were some thermals coming off the fields, not enough for me to get a low save, but enough to make the landing challenging. Jake was already breaking down when I landed, and Pat came in right behind me.

Greg, Jeff, and Dennis went over the back and flew south for 27 miles, to somewhere south of Bellows Falls, I assume. I believe the other three pilots all did out-and-back flights. The season is on!

flights: 1, airtime: 0:13

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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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