I got word that a pilot was heading down from Ellenville to Florida and was looking for people who wanted to have their gliders brought down there for the winter. Seemed to me that looking for a few weekends when the weather looks good down there and a cheap airfare can be had would brighten up the cold part of the year for me, so I loaded my wing on the car Saturday morning and headed to New York. As often happens with these things, I didn’t get as early a start as I would have liked (I had things going on Friday night that kept me out late), but I was able to exchange some text messages and arrange to drop the glider off at another pilot’s house that was closer for me and saved me having to drive all the way to Ellenville. One of the messages that I received mentioned that it was “super flyable”, and I’d be missing out. I knew that, but I had an alternate plan in mind.
Woz had posted a note that he thought conditions looked pretty good for Talcott, so I had loaded two gliders on my car. The one that I sent to Florida was my U2, but I also had my lightweight, easy to set up Falcon. On my way back through Connecticut, Woz confirmed that the wind was right, and that he was heading up. Although I had had aspirations of getting there at noon or earlier, it was well after 1 PM when I pulled into the parking lot. As I was changing into warmer clothes, there was a knock on my window, and somebody outside said, “C’mon, hurry up!”. I was pleased to see Kermit, who had arrived just a few minutes earlier and was about to start hiking up. As quickly as I could manage, I loaded up my gear on my new glider cart.
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My first cart was an old Cannondale Bugger bicycle trailer, and this one is a modified Harbor Freight firewood cart. The wheels are a bit smaller (20″ vs 24″), but the weight is the same (22 lbs.), it’s a lot more solid, and it keeps the glider higher off the ground. I’ve had the new cart for about a year, I think, and this was my first chance to use it. I was quite pleased, and was able to get up to launch in short order without much wear and tear on my body.
Woz was already in the air, and I set up my glider as quickly as I could, no sense in wasting time. It was a very nice day, though rather chilly, and about a dozen hikers stopped to watch. My experience at this site was extremely limited: I had flown here only once before, in 2007, a three-minute sled ride. For years I had been looking for an opportunity to get back again, and had pretty much resigned myself to the notion that this wasn’t going to be the year, but now I had an unexpected late-season chance. There were some pretty strong wind cycles coming through, and when I looked up at Woz, he was often parked, nose directly into the wind, which made me a little cautious since he was flying a U2, and my Falcon doesn’t have very much speed. Still, he didn’t look like he was pulled in very far, he seemed to be just flying slowly on purpose. One of the spectators was pointing out where Woz was finding the best climbs, and I explained that I wasn’t worried about finding lift, I was concerned about the wind being too strong. I asked Kermit what he thought of the freight trains blowing through, and he just shrugged and said, “Most guys wouldn’t fly in these conditions” as he continued setting up.
I didn’t see any point in waiting around for things to get better, so I got myself buckled in, and moved up to launch with the assistance of Kermit and a hiker who we recruited. Launching into a lull looked like a good plan, so I moved as close to the edge as seemed prudent, picked the wing up once to get a feel for things, set it back down, and about a minute later I picked it up and went. This was the kind of launch where you step over the edge into lift and climb straight up, which according to Kermit elicited a “Holy shit!” from the other wire man.
I had forgotten my camera mount, so I just put my camera in a pocket on a short leash, and this is the only usable picture I got from the air (I had to hold the camera upside-down, and I couldn’t feel the shutter button very well with gloves on). That’s the Heublein Tower, and yes, the white stuff on the ground is snow. Typically when I fly I spend a bunch of concentration looking for lift so that I can stay in the air, but this was an unusual flight in that I didn’t do that at all. The ridge lift was plentiful, and there were stronger climbs mixed in that kept lifting me higher and higher. I had a social engagement scheduled for the evening, so I wasn’t particularly looking for a long flight, but the air was ready to give me as much as I wanted. I decided that I’d stay on the ridge for 30 minutes, or maybe a little longer if Kermit hadn’t launched yet. When he did, I flew out into the valley toward the LZ as he climbed up to my altitude. When I got over the LZ, I wasn’t really going down, my vario kept beeping intermittently, and I flew back and forth trying to decide what to do. The windsock in the LZ was periodically switching from south to north, with some lighter periods of west mixed in. Swell, a formula for an unpleasant downwind landing. I was anxious about that, and a little unhappy about the bumps that I kept encountering. As I gradually worked my way down, I looked for a good opening, and when I was down to about 300 feet, I got it. The wind was pretty steadily out of the north, which gave me the ideal approach direction for this field, so I made a dive for it before the wind got a chance to change its mind. The forgiving Falcon made for an easy landing.
Woz had called his wife, who stopped by and gave us a ride up to the parking lot to get our cars, and I jogged back up to launch to fetch my cart and Kermit’s. He had landed by the time I got back to the LZ, and when I was packed up I gave him a ride up to get his van, then continued on home to go to the birthday party. Hang gliding usually consumes a whole day, but it was nice to be able to squeeze in a flight between other things for a change.
flights: 1, airtime: 0:39