Having nothing better to do on Sunday, and knowing I’d be busy the next few weekends, I decided to make it three flying days in a row, something I had previously done only on my trip to Florida last December (and therefore had never done solo). Third time’s a charm, right? I got to Tanner-Hiller before any of the other regular pilots, just as Nick was coming off tow with an early tandem passenger. Despite the time of day, the air was already active enough to give them some trouble on final. They got popped up from down low, then hit the sink on the back and came down relatively hard. No harm to the people, thanks to the beefy landing gear, but the glider needed a little adjustment afterwards.
As I was setting up, I realized that my camera was missing. I had another one that I could have used, but I didn’t have the stuff to mount it on the control frame, and I didn’t care that much. I therefore offer my apologies for no pictures in this post. Thinking back to when I last remembered having it, I suspected that I had probably dropped it in the LZ at Ascutney the day before, but it later turned out that it had fallen out of my bag in Lee’s car when I pulled out my jacket, so I did get it back. I set up by the hangar because the wind kept switching and it wasn’t clear which end of the runway we were going to use. Vitaly and Krassi arrived and set up next to me, then Pete J and Matt C showed up and drove down to the SW end. But the wind started blowing from the SW, so Vitaly and Matt went up to the NE. While I was preflighting, they changed their minds and came back to the SW, so that was where I went.
Vitaly was the first off, and we could see from his flight path that he was getting kicked around a bit, but he didn’t find very much left, and was setting up to land about the time I was ready to follow him. The sky wasn’t looking all that encouraging, and some of the pilots sounded like they weren’t going to fly at all. This was probably my most challenging tow yet, in the middle of the day, on the U2 without a fin. The beginning was a little interesting, but I never felt out of control, and the rest went fine, though Rhett did give me some pointers afterwards. I found a little lift over the airfield, enough to extend my flight a little, but it wasn’t long before I had to think about landing.
The wind had continued to change directions; in truth, there wasn’t much overall wind, just variable breezes due to miscellaneous thermals. As I was setting up my approach, it was coming in perpendicular to the runway, and I considered landing across it (there is a clearing on the NW side that would make this reasonable). It did straighten out, though, blowing the opposite direction from what it had been doing when I took off. At this point, I did a lot of things exactly right. I had the VG off, I got upright, I came in with a lot of speed and got the glider down to round out for my ground skim. The last section of this was through some sink, but I handled it well and leveled off at an altitude when I could just about drag my toes, and then bled off speed to trim. Just right. Then wait one more second, and flare…
That’s when I hit the thermal. It was conditions like what Nick had faced, and just as I should have been coming to a stop, I got popped up 30 feet*. Nothing to do but hold it and grit my teeth for the drop. I dropped the control frame on the ground and the glider nosed over, although not very hard. The force of the control bar hitting the ground was too much for the left downtube, though. At first glance it looked fine, but a closer look showed that it is no longer straight and has a thumb-shaped dent in it. No big deal, better an easily replaceable piece of aluminum than a piece of me, and I have a spare downtube at home.
So, end of the flying day for me, though on the way home I went for a nice run on a rail trail that I had driven by a number of times. This was a minor milestone, as according to my meticulously kept logbook, this was my 400th hang glider flight. From what I hear, the day did improve, and there were some fine flights later on. Starting from the other end of the runway.
*No, it was 50 feet! I mean 80 feet! Okay, okay, Rhett was watching and he said it was maybe 10 feet, but he agreed that it probably felt like 30.
flights: 1, airtime: 0:33