Hangin’ with the paras

Word went out on the intertubes that there was interest in flying at West Rutland on Monday, and things at work were not in crisis mode, so I dropped an email to my boss and a couple of my coworkers saying that “I had the flew”, and I’d see them on Tuesday. (My relatively new boss didn’t understand what I was referring to, and sent a reply telling me to get better.) At first it sounded like I might have to drive up to Vermont by myself, but as it turned out, Jon was picking up Tom, and then they could swing by and get me and Roger (who lives in the same small town as me, but we hadn’t yet met). And that’s how I found myself in a truck heading for a flying site with three pilots who had all brought paragliders.

Now, Tom has been a HG pilot for many years, but has recently taken up paragliding as well. He’s a H5, but only a P2, so he needs an observer (Jon) for mountain flying. And Jon also flies both types of wings, and in fact had brought both along — he really likes it when he can fly both on the same day. Tom was hoping for mellow conditions that would be suited to his developing skills, while I wouldn’t have minded for the air to be more vigorous. We waited at the parking lot for Barry to arrive, and we all squeezed into the truck and drove up to launch, where we found Pete with his hang glider already set up.

Conditions looked great! (well, not so much for Tom), and I asked Pete what he was waiting for. He wasn’t sure it was soarable yet, and didn’t move to launch until I was almost set up.

Since nobody was breathing down his neck, he took his time waiting for a good cycle, but even so struggled a little bit soon after launching. Before long he was comfortably high, and Jon joined him with his Falcon to get a flight in while the PG guys were waiting for things to settle down.

Barry and I were both ready, but after a couple of inflation attempts that weren’t to his liking, he waved me through to launch first.

I waited just long enough to get a sense of the variations in the wind, and I was off. Plenty of lift just off the end of the ramp, and I had no trouble getting up. Pete was above me, and Jon was well above him, but he didn’t stay up there too long because he needed to meet Tom who was driving down to pick him up. Barry launched, but didn’t stay up too long, and landed in time to also go up for a second flight. I didn’t get very high, but for a while I was able to maintain altitude above the mountain. Pete headed down to land (Beth had come along to drive his truck down), and Roger launched while I was still flying, so we were able to share the air for a while.

As sometimes happens, there was a weak period, and I started gradually dropping. There was some lift to be had over the bare rock areas to the left of launch, and Roger was able to exploit it, but I couldn’t quite hold on. I decided to try my luck out over the valley, and I did find a few spots where my vario beeped once or twice, but nothing that really qualified as a climb. The air in the LZ had gone completely dead, with the windsock hanging limp, so I set up to at least land uphill. As I came into ground effect and the glider slowed to trim speed, I was a little concerned, because with the hot, humid day, there wasn’t a lot of air density, and I still had a lot of ground speed. Nothing like what western pilots deal with all the time, I know, but it still meant I had to be on my game. Fortunately for me, the hayfield had been cut a couple of weeks earlier, so I was able to take a number of steps on landing without doing a faceplant. Pete and Beth said the landing looked pretty good.

I packed up pretty quickly so that I could ask Pete for a lift over to the gate at the base of the road to launch. I knew that everybody left up top had a PG and would be in the air soon, so I could make myself useful by retrieving the truck, and get some exercise at the same time. I mostly went up the road, though when I got to the tight hairpin, I just went straight through the woods, which involved some steep sidehilling, but I saved some climb and popped back out on the road just before launch. Perfect!

I was slightly perplexed when I stepped out onto the launch ramp to take a look, and saw one more PG than I was expecting. I hadn’t known that Sue had arrived around the time that Jon landed, and she caught a ride up with the gang. The day had mellowed nicely, and folks were having a relaxing time up there. I drove the truck down, and one by one they landed, with Tom staying up the longest and getting over two hours.

Most of us headed over for a fine dinner at the Birdseye Diner in Castleton, and finally hit the road for home. A long day!

flights: 1, airtime: 1:21


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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