The forecast was iffy enough that one pilot who was already on the highway had a phone conversation about the weather with another pilot, and turned around and went home. Apparently there was more than one option that worked, as I heard later that the flying was good at Ascutney, but Jeff C and I went up to Rutland, as did a ton of other pilots. It’s a longer drive, but I was getting a little tired of the hike out to launch at Ascutney, as opposed to Rutland, where vehicles can drive right to the edge of the spacious, sheltered, shady, grassy setup area.
It was one of those days that I’ve seen a lot of lately, where the windsock is only halfheartedly inflated, and switching around a bit. This was fine for the tandem PG and the new H2s who were in the air when we arrived, but for those of us who wanted to soar, it didn’t look promising. The sky was solid blue, and though a couple of wispy clouds formed, they fell apart very quickly. About every half-hour, somebody would decide that the time had come to take action, and would head out for a ten minute extended sledder. We were keeping an eye out to the west, where there was a solid cloud deck that was drifting toward us. We were all concerned that when it arrived, it would shut down any remaining potential for the day.
Finally, at almost 5 PM, one of the students launched for a second flight and stayed up despite not particularly fancy flying. That initiated a sudden cascade of wings taking to the air. Within about 20 minutes there were 14 of us crowded onto the ridge in about 1000 feet of vertical space, a mixture of hang gliders and paragliders.
(click for larger version)
The cloud deck had arrived, but with it came a steady breeze, pretty much straight in, and there was lift available everywhere. Turning wasn’t particularly more helpful than just making passes back and forth between launch and the west end, and the most important thing was to keep your eyes open for traffic. I got a little bit of sloppy, noisy video while I was up there.
I had been figuring that my flight would not last particularly long, so when I suited up, I just stuffed my jacket into my harness and didn’t bother hooking up the radio. Short sleeves turned out to be not so bad, the temperature never got below 70 F. I probably could have stayed in the air longer, but circumstances called for me to head for the LZ after about 90 minutes.
I’ve seen several close calls lately, and heard about some others. Talking to pilots while we were waiting around, I got word of a couple of hang gliding incidents that happened last weekend. On one of my recent flying days, I saw a friend do a very bad launch that came within inches of being an accident. And today, I saw two landings that had all of us biting our nails: one that almost came up short (the pilot had plenty of room to set up a good approach but instead just missed splashing down in the swamp), and another that involved setting up too high, and which ultimately ended up with the glider in the perfect spot right next to the road, but that really looked like it was a lucky break that almost turned into a collision with a telephone pole (who knows, maybe he landed exactly where he intended). And the last launch of the day, which I watched from the air, was classically, horribly bad, and maybe just a hair away from being a fatality. I’ve still never seen anybody get seriously hurt while hang gliding, but it feels like these incidents came a lot closer than I’d like.
flights: 1, airtime: 1:29