Not so great Friday


Second day at Quest, I got up and had breakfast and started waiting for good conditions again. Tom was going to be mentoring sport pilots at the Green Swamp Klassic, and to get some practice in, he was willing to shepherd me along if I wanted to head off somewhere. We both thought that the sky looked pretty promising, so we got in line fairly early. Tom towed up first and found a good climb, I was close behind him and got dropped off in something that seemed to be going up, but I had trouble getting a good grip on it.

I lost the push-to-talk button for my radio last fall, and haven’t yet gotten it back from the person who found it, so it was a little inconvenient for me to transmit, but I let Tom know where I was. He misunderstood me, though: I said I was over the RaceTrac (a gas station and convenience store in Groveland), but he was looking around for a literal race track. He did spot my wing as I got closer to his altitude, and headed my way to help me out. But it was right around that time that the climb I was in sputtered out, and I had a decision to make. I could see a cloud that was downwind, but it looked a little questionable. My other option was to head back to Quest, where I might or might not find lift, but if I didn’t, at least I could tow up again. So as Tom headed my way, he saw me turn around and head back the other way.

Around this time, we both started to wonder why nobody else was coming up to join us. We had seen some gliders get in line, but they didn’t take tows, and eventually all went back to the staging area. It wasn’t booming but it seemed good enough for people to want to fly. I figured they were being really picky and were waiting for the day to get even better. Meanwhile, I was sort of struggling a little north of the airfield. There was another glider with me, and we were working something that was keeping us off the ground, but not getting us any closer to the sky. I really felt like I ought to be able to climb out, but I just couldn’t find the core. Tom watched me for a while and said he was impressed by my tenacity, but eventually I sank too low and had to head back, while he flew off to the northwest.

My landing went fine, I carried my glider back to the tiedowns, and then I found out why nobody had been towing. Shortly after I went up, one of the tugs had had engine trouble at low altitude. The tug pilot quickly waved for the HG to release, and started a turn back to land. As soon as the pilot being towed realized what was going on, he did pin off, and landed safely. The tug, however, came in without power, and had a rougher time of it, getting rather bent up. The tug pilot was taken to the hospital to be checked out — bruised, but not seriously injured. After that, everybody decided to take a break for a while and take a number of deep breaths.

I was kind of thinking that would put the kibosh on flying for the rest of the day. For several hours it did, but later on we were willing to go up again for late-day flights. I got a tow from Russell, who I had not towed behind before.

The tow was okay up to about 1100 feet, at which point I got far enough off line that I wasn’t interested in trying to correct, and just released. There was some hope of finding enough lift at that point, buuuuut… not enough hope, and I was soon on the ground, with a landing that was pretty far down the field, and not all that elegant (I stayed on my feet, but I think I may have dragged a wingtip).

Flights: 2, airtime: 0:39, 0:07

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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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