Fall risk


This winter season had a lot of good flyable days at Wellfleet, but none of them meshed with my schedule.  In fact, I hadn’t flown at the coast since the fall of 2013.  As the season wound down due to the upcoming arrival of piping plovers, the days were getting warmer and longer and there was still hope for some easterly days.

On Friday, I had to go in for a medical test that involved general anesthesia, so I wasn’t allowed to drive until the next day, and I was labeled with a wristband that indicated that I might be woozy.  The forecast for Saturday looked promising, but instead of heading down the night before to stay with my childhood pal George, who lives on Cape Cod, I waited until the next morning.  With a chance of the wind being reasonable strong, I took my Ultrasport instead of the Mark IV, my usual beach glider.  I’ve now got two sort of dated wings, and I’ve been thinking of promoting (demoting?) the Ultrasport to sand duty anyway.  I gave George a call, and he was busy, but said he’d meet me when he got done.

I passed Dana on the road, but he arrived before me because I stopped to grab a sandwich.  We both set up, not in a huge hurry because the wind was, as expected, pretty cross from the north.  We also kept an eye on the tide, as it was going to be high at around 3 PM, though because of the moon phase, not overly high.  Some other pilots arrived as well, so we had a few to help Dana on his wires when he was ready.  It was still quite cross, but not overly strong, and his launch went well.  John B opined that the wind was still cross, getting light, and the tide was coming in, and I said that sounded perfect.  I always like being the second one off, so as soon as I finished my preflight, I joined Dana.  There was enough breeze to lift the glider off of my shoulders so that I could launch from the control bar, and I was able to tiptoe my way into the air.

I wasn’t interested in being too adventurous with the crosswind, and even trying to cross the gap at Doane’s Bog Pond didn’t seem like a wise idea.  So I did three laps between there and launch, and after my third turn northward, I got a little low and fell out of the lift band.  Close to launch, so no big deal, and Dana landed soon after.  Fortunately, the bluff in front of the parking lot survived the winter pretty well, and we were able to carry our gliders up the path.


As I was carrying my wing across the parking lot, George noticed me (he was trying to reach me on the radio that I had left for him, but I had forgotten to turn mine on).  It was good to see him, and we spent some time catching up.  Meanwhile, John was trying to figure out how to fly his new Zagi, and a PG pilot entertained us with some spectacularly inept wing handling in the parking lot (not sure why he was doing what he was doing, but at least he didn’t get tangled in the power lines or anything like that). I pushed the wrong button on my camera, so I unfortunately didn’t get it on video.

A bit later, the wind straightened out somewhat, and Ilya took advantage of a gust to get into the air.  When John brought his wing out, I told him that if he sank out, I’d pack up, but if he soared, I’d see him up there.  He did, and so did I. It was a very sweet launch, I just told the wire crew to let the glider float up to flying height, and in a couple of steps I was off.  By this point the conditions had improved enough for me to cross the pond and fly up to Newcomb Hollow, then I headed south.  I decided to turn around at Marconi Beach, because although I was staying up, I didn’t feel like I had much excess lift, and past Marconi it’s a long walk if you sink out.

I made it almost all the way back, but then I got a little low, and realized I was out of the lift band.  I made a grab for the unzip cord, but with two pairs of gloves on, I couldn’t find it.  Okay, okay, I know how to handle this, just stay on top of the situation.  As I approached the sand, I eased the bar out and slowed all the way down, and made a reasonably dignified belly landing.  Dignified, that is, until I tried to move, because I was still hooked in and zipped up and now I was lying on the zipper.  I managed to get myself free and carried the glider back to White Crest, where everybody else landed in the fading wind soon thereafter.

Almost everybody who showed up soared, so that was good, and Dave even made it down to Nauset Light.  We did have one near mishap, when a pilot was carrying his glider across the parking lot, about to do a hang check, and suddenly the control frame came apart.  The plug on the corner bracket hadn’t been inserted all the way into the control bar before the bolt was put in, and it wasn’t caught in his preflight.  There was presumably a little sand caught in there that kept the tip of the plug wedged into the tube temporarily, and he was fortunate that it popped out when it did, rather than after he launched.

Flights: 2, airtime: 0:32, 0:29

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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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