Fledglings


The inevitable committee meeting on the launch ramp.

The email lists were full of comments about how conditions looked favorable for West Rutland, particularly from some new H2s hoping to get first (or at least among their first) mountain flights. I had the day free, and decided to give it a try myself. My original plan was to just drive up on my own, but a call came in the morning from Jeff C and John B, offering to carpool, so I met them in Manchester NH and we headed up together. There were some traffic delays, so we arrived a bit later than we had hoped, and the first loads of gliders had already headed up the mountain. Jeff’s car is not the wild and woolly 4WD sort of vehicle than can negotiate the climb to launch, so we had to wait for someone to give us a ride. There were already a couple of wings in the LZ when we arrived, new pilots who had launched for early sledders, and a couple more flew while we waited. A couple of trucks drove down, and were able to load our wings onto one and get a ride in another. PK turned up in the nick of time and also came up with us.

Everything looked favorable as we rigged our gliders, and PK, who has the most experienced eye for the place, hurried right up and got the first launch. He claimed that he had places to go and might just take a short flight down before we even got a chance to launch, but he turned immediately after leaving the ramp and corkscrewed his way up to the sky. That was a good enough sign for the rest of us.

A couple of the H2s launched while we finished preflighting, and one was on the ramp just as Jeff and I were ready. He seemed to be intimidated by what the wind was doing, and decided to back off. And so did the wind. I wasn’t excited by what I was seeing, and told Jeff that he was welcome to go ahead of me if he wanted. A clean launch for him, then… not so much climbing. He hunted around for lift, and I decided to stay put where I was until things looked more favorable. After maybe 10 minutes, somebody reported that Jeff was climbing out in the valley, and the other pilots in the air seemed to be doing a little better as well, so I decided to take my turn.

The breeze had picked up to a much more encouraging level, and I found a good moment and had what started as a fine launch. When I was most of the way down the ramp, though, I got hit with a sudden gust from in front that yanked my wing into the air, and me along with it — I almost had trouble hanging on, and figured I must have given the people standing on the ramp a heart attack with what probably looked like an aggressive nose pop. No problem, though, I had airspeed, so I turned left and climbed up toward the towers. I returned above launch, but then things started to deteriorate. Lift was not as easy to find as I had hoped, at least not lift that I could exploit, and Jeff was sinking toward the LZ. After hunting around I found a thermal in the valley that I managed to hang onto back up to launch height, but my rusty skills weren’t good enough to stay with it any longer than that. Meanwhile, John launched and fared better.

No sense in putting myself in peril by scratching, so I looked for a climb out over the valley again, and didn’t find one, so I set up a pattern and pulled off a sweet landing right in the middle of the field. If I couldn’t show ’em how it’s done in terms of staying up, at least I managed a well timed flare. I carried my wing over to the edge of the road and started breaking down as I chatted with Dave B, who had brought some of the H2s. Meanwhile, PK was still up at 5000 feet, John was up in that vicinity as well, and Ed (the other chaperone for the newcomers) launched last and apparent caught some sweet wonder wind. PK eventually landed with frozen hands (he had gloves, but they weren’t enough for that altitude at this tie of year), and the other two came down soon after.

PK on his way in

PK on final

John B displaying admirable flare form

Ed demonstrating an excellent landing

One interesting thing was Alden B’s vintage wing. It’s apparently in good enough shape, and works well enough for this kind of flying!

Quite a crowd, and it was great to fly with the new pilots, all of whom had great flights of varying lengths. My own flight wasn’t very long, though it was certainly longer than the first time I flew at Rutland, and I still remember that time (not so very long ago) and always appreciate any successful flight. Particular appreciation to Bob for coming out on a day when he didn’t fly because he had a cold, to drive people up the mountain and help out as an observer. That’s a dedicated pilot.

flights: 1, airtime: 0:14

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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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