Word went out that, although Morningside was not yet open for the season, they’d have a truck available to take interested pilots up the hill for some practice. Not having flown since September, I was interested. Looked to me like the wind was going to be light and quite cross from the south in the morning, but better in the afternoon, so I took care of some other things before heading up there. When I was approaching, I saw a glider launch and do a few turns with some birds, which turned out to be Jon A and a couple of eagles.
Dana H and Mark G also each got a flight in shortly after I arrived, but the wind was as predicted, so nobody was staying up for very long. I set my wing up as the wind picked up, and after a while it started to look uninviting, so everybody took a break. After lunch, things were looking better, so a couple of us headed up to the 450. John S was already up there, and moved out to launch. There were four of us available to be wire crew, and it turned out we were all needed, as the wind escalated to scary levels. John waited out there for a little while before backing off and moving his glider behind the building, pancaking the control frame, and looking around for something to ballast it with. It was strong and gusty, enough for a master pilot to know better.
We sat around for a while telling stories and enjoying the sunshine as the afternoon wore on, until John finally decided that, despite thoughts that conditions might get good at the end of the day, it didn’t look likely, and he moved his wing back down by the turnaround and started breaking it down. He had his car up there, and offered to drive my wing down, but I had left the bags in my car, so I hiked down to get them. By the time I got back up top, it was looking a little more civilized, so despite Marilyn’s advice to give it another half-hour, I decided to get in my harness and at least see how it felt on launch.
It didn’t seem too scary standing on the ramp, so what the heck, might as well break down at the bottom. Launch was a little wobbly (I actually thought it was terrible, but those watching didn’t seem to think it was so bad), and after I got off the ramp, I went up, up, up. Likely I should have just started turning right away, but I didn’t like the way the air felt, I was getting tossed around a bit and having trouble getting the glider to turn the way I wanted it to. The problem with a small hill like Morningside is that you’re low enough to have to think about setting up a landing as soon as you launch, and if you are going to try and soar, you have to be making turns very close to the trees. I’ve done that with a Falcon when I was flying the site a lot, but coming off of six months of no flying, I wasn’t comfortable doing it with the U2, so I just concentrated on getting down safely. Given the circumstances, I opted for the conservative option of landing across the road, and the landing went fine.
As I packed up, Mark went up for another go, and as I left, it had calmed down to the point that a paraglider was having a nice sustained flight. Maybe I should have just waited, but getting in a launch and landing to shake a bit of the rust off was fine. I also flew with my new Kali Prana helmet for the first time, and didn’t have any issues with it. More on that later.
flights: 1, airtime: 5 minutes