Installing an LZ


One of the most popular flying sites in these parts is Mt. Greylock, the tallest mountain in Massachusetts. Because the launch faces east, which is not the most common wind direction, there aren’t too many flyable days there, and when there is one, the place can be a zoo (because it’s about the only place that works in that wind direction). When I was first flying, the site was closed for a while (I think there was construction going on at the state reservation, and the whole place was shut down), and then last year, it closed again, because somebody bought the farm.

That’s not as bad as it sounds, because it’s not a euphemism. Somebody literally purchased the farm that included the field that was our bailout LZ, and the new owners were not amenable to our continuing to land there. Without it, it wasn’t practical to fly the site, because if you didn’t find lift, it would be very difficult to reach another field. Some local pilots worked with the state officials to find a new LZ, and they were successful, but it had one problem: it wasn’t a field. Oh, it had surely been one at some time in the past, but now it had a fine supply of large trees and other smaller vegetation

Now, pilots tend to be really fussy about this detail, we really like for the places where we land to be fields. For some reason we find it just too inconvenient to be busting our way through trees on final. So we did the obvious thing: we installed a field. With the appropriate permissions in place, a call went out for a work party to do some clearing. It had to be postponed due to rainy weather, but on the appointed day there was a remarkable turnout of pilots armed with gloves, loppers, chainsaws, bow saws, a tractor-pulled brush mower, and an excavator.

I don’t have any real “before” pictures, because you couldn’t see very far anyway, due to all the trees. Take my word for it, though, it looked like a pretty daunting task, and the two days of work that we had scheduled didn’t seem like they’d be enough. But as the morning went on, and more and more pilots kept arriving, the work kept happening faster and faster. We were charged with the task of cutting all trees over a certain diameter to chest height, and smaller ones and bushes flush with the ground. Small enough stuff could be left for the brush mower, and the larger stumps got pulled out by the excavator and buried. State regs didn’t allow for any wood to be removed from the site, so the larger tree trunks were cut into bite-sized pieces for burying. The state had bulldozed a road through the area (following an existing route) and we dragged anything that would fit to the edge of the road to feed into a chipper, with the resulting mulch dispersed across the field.



Those who weren’t in a position to do the physical labor found other ways to help out. Doughnuts arrived in the morning, and pizza later on. Eventually we reached a point where quite a few people were relaxing in the shade of the large willows at the edge of the field, because all that was left was chipping, and there were plenty of folks standing in line to feed wood into the chipper (we had to take breaks because the chipper was overheating). I left partway through the afternoon, because the mission had basically been accomplished, and there wasn’t enough left to do to warrant coming back the next day. (There was still a bunch of excavator work, but we had to leave Gary T to finish that up, because he only brought one excavator.)

I think it was the following day when a few PG pilots got to be the first ones to use the new LZ, and not too long after that, Gary did a solo flight with his tandem HG and was the first to land a hang glider there. It’s not the best LZ in the world (kind of oriented the wrong way and on the lumpy side), but it should be adequate, and anyone with the required rating to fly Greylock should be able to handle it. I’ll still be looking to get up and away and land at some more distant field, but having the new LZ there will make it work.

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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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