Bonus celebrity

Wednesday looked like a nice day to be outside, warm for early November, and PK was trying to get people to come up and fly with him. I had a lull in responsibilities at work, so I decided to drive up and join him. I left my house, and had driven about a mile and a half, when I glanced over at a particular house. I’ve driven, bicycled, and run past that house numerous times, and I’ve never seen anybody in the yard before, but this time I saw a fellow with white hair talking to a couple of workmen. I immediately pulled over and hopped out. The guy turned around and I saw that he was wearing a Wills Wing 30th Anniversary hat. I asked, “Are you Walt?”, and he said yes. I told him my name was J-J and I was on my way to go hang gliding.

On the day of my first lesson back in 2004 at Morningside, when Jeff Nicolay was signing me up, he saw that I was from Lunenburg and asked if I knew Walt. I told him no, and he said if I ever ran into him I should tell him that “Bruno says hi”. I looked up Walt’s address in the phone book and saw that he lived close to my house, but in all these times going by, I never knocked on the door. But this was my chance, and we had a great chat. Walt has been flying since the early 1970s, I believe, and I had assumed that he had given it up, but he said that he had flown as recently as Columbus Day (more recently that I had!), although he hasn’t foot-launched since 2002. Now that we’ve made contact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I see more of him, and maybe carpool to go flying sometimes.

But I had places to go. Rutland, in particular. Despite it not especially looking like a flying day.

Just four days earlier, there had been 16″ of heavy wet snow in my yard, accompanied by widespread power outages, as limbs with leaves still on them, weighted down by the snow, snapped off and took down power lines. But the intervening days brought warm weather, and Vermont didn’t get nearly as much snow anyway. I arrived right on time, a few minutes ahead of PK, and I set my vario in the parking lot while I was waiting. We had hopes that at least one other pilot would show, but it was just the two of us driving up to launch.

The wind was alternating between healthy and a little light, sometimes straight in and sometimes cross from the right. There was a weak front rumored to be on its way, so we didn’t want to delay too long and didn’t take our time setting up.
PK was ready first, and took his position on the ramp.

After waiting for a few minutes and watching the streamers, he offered to let me go first, and said that he’d just pack up and drive down if I didn’t get up. Now that’s an attitude bound to inspire confidence! I shrugged and moved onto the ramp. Not having flown in a month and a half, I was feeling a bit cautious, but the cycle I picked was fine and I started climbing immediately, gaining all the way to the first big spine. I returned above launch and a minute or so later there were two of us in the air.

Unfortunately, in the process of setting up, I had realized that I didn’t seem to have my vario. I guessed (correctly as it turns out) that I had put it on the seat of my car after setting it, and it was still down at the bottom. Lacking anything better, PK loaned me this fine piece of vintage equipment.

It was a generous offer, but it didn’t do me a bit of good. I looked over at it once in a while, and gleaned no helpful information from it. I could fly okay without a vario, but I was less efficient than I could have been with one. When things were good, I could put some altitude in my bank account, but not enough; when things got subtle, I wasn’t doing a good enough job of keeping from sinking. A few times I encountered what seemed like mediocre thermals, but I couldn’t map them out well enough to really exploit them. While struggling with a flush cycle after about a half-hour, I had dropped below the level of a particular evergreen tree that I use as an indicator that it’s time to wrap things up. An easy glide out put me in position to land in an LZ that I hadn’t used before, the one known as “by Jake’s old house”, and that went fine.

PK flew for about another half-hour, and landed just as I was done packing up. I drove around and hiked up to get his car (mine can’t negotiate the access road), and of course, when I got to the top, the wind was blowing straight in and perfect…

flights: 1, airtime: 0:35


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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