Posts Tagged hang gliding

How not to fly

The background:
This summer I’ve been busy, and every weekend I can, I go hang gliding. I went on a such a trip to Hull this weekend, up in Lake County, near Lake Pillsbury, about 45 miles north of Harbin Hot Springs.

Lately, I really haven’t been flying that well. Oh, sure, I’m safe (aside from one scary launch), but I don’t stay up as well as the other pilots. On Saturday, I sunk out after 20 minutes, while Mike stayed up for 2.5 hours (without a variometer!). It doesn’t help that I’m heavy on my glider, but still: I kinda suck.

So, on Sunday, I borrowed Anthony’s bigger glider. It’s much like mine, but a little newer and noticeably bigger. That means I don’t fly as fast, but I don’t go down as fast either. I was hoping that would help me thermal better and stay up longer.

The story:
I didn’t fly well on Sunday. I foolishly left lift (I blame it on some distraction), and then I found a little more, but after a short gain, I lost the altitude again. My altitude was low enough at that I headed out toward the landing zone, taking the usual flight plan down the ridge (where you’re most likely to find lift). On my way, I hit a lot of sink. The ridge has a high knob at the end, and I found I was going down too fast to get over the knob! I went left around the knob (bad idea: I should’ve gone right), and was still going down too much to make it to the landing zone.

Going down at several hundred feet per minute, unable to land where I should, I had a few options. The ground was mostly pine forest, which is not a good place to land. There was a patch of low bushes on the side of the knob, and I didn’t see anything better. There’s a feeling I’ve had where everything is going wrong and there’s only one right thing to do, like being in a slow car accident or making a mistake in a performance. I did what seemed the only right thing, and combined two techniques I’d learned but not practiced: First, to do an uphill landing, I dove down to land up the side of the hill; it’s always best to land uphill, since that takes away your speed quickly. Then, to land in bushes, I just acted like the tops of the bushes were the ground, and landed on top of them.

The landing went more beautifully than I could have expected, though the bushes were also higher than I’d expected. I ended up as an undamaged pilot, hanging under an undamaged glider, which was resting on the tops of the 6-foot-tall manzanita bushes. I managed to stand on the bushes enough to detach myself from the glider, and radioed to the others so they would know I was down and safe. (It’s possible that I yelled, “I’m alive!,” but I’m pretty sure no one can verify that.)

I made a GPS track of my flight, but the relevant part is this picture. The airstrip below the knob is where I’d meant to land, and you can see I landed pretty far from that. Unfortunately, there’s a registration error with the GPS and Google Earth, so the last part of my landing looks like it’s inside the hill. Fortunately for me, that’s just an illusion.

A GPS track showing me landing in the bushes

After having to make that emergency landing, things started going my way. A pilot in the air above me pointed his glider in the direction of a path he could see, and the path was easy and clear. I recorded a GPS track of my walk, so the glider was easy to find later. I had great supplies: enough water, a makeshift hat, some granola bars, a pocket knife, a working radio, and a GPS-enabled phone. I easily walked out, and, once Barry and Mike landed, they hiked the 2000 vertical feet back to my glider to help me pack it up and carry it out. It’s not easy folding up a glider in 6-foot manzanita bushes, but the scratches I got from that were the worst injury of the whole day.

The embarrassment:
In the end, the only injury was to my pride. I should definitely have done some things differently: It’s important to use your launch lift, and it’s best to go right around the knob at Hull; that side has fewer other hilly structures, and the dry creekbed is a better emergency landing zone than any bushes.

But, given my failures, this was the best possible emergency landing I could have made!

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Failblog learns about hang gliders

This video shows why you need speed when you do a loop in a hang glider. At the end, you see the guy come down on his parachute (that’s the line trailing up in the video), so it’s a survivable outcome, but really he should’ve started with more speed.

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Hang gliding with Caely

Caely came on a second hang gliding trip last weekend. She didn’t fly with me (I’m not rated for tandem flights), but she got some really good pictures.

She got me preparing for launch.

cut for pictures

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Protected: Hang gliding and priorities

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Flying this weekend

I didn’t take any pictures at Slide this weekend, but I had a 50-minute thermalling flight. It’s become clear that I have two main problems: I tend to fly too fast (I think my glider is still trimmed fast, though it’s as slow as it’ll go), and I have trouble getting started in a thermal. Once I’m circling in one, I can usually manage not to fall out of it, but figuring out whether that bump I just went through was a thermal or not is hard, and I can’t usually afford too many circles to try to get it right.

But all said, I think I’ll consider it a success.

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My car and a hill

By the way, when I went flying this weekend, I drove my car up this road.

Can you believe I got my Honda up this hill? In the dark?

I did this at 1am, when we arrived on Friday night. There were a few times when the car scraped the ground more than I’d have liked, but otherwise I’m damn proud, both of myself and my car.

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Flying trips

I’ve spent the last two weekends on flying trips. First, I went to Hat Creek for the BHGC’s annual 4th of July celebration. There was a great quantity of tasty pit-barbecued goat, and I got another launch video. Some of the pictures were also quite good. I also got 4.5 hours of airtime, which just goes to show how pleasant the site is. If you’ve heard of “glass-off,” that’s a regular phenomenon at Hat Creek, so there’s lots and lots of easy lift.

Jonathan over Hull.

This weekend, I went to Hull Mountain, and because it was too windy for me to fly on Sunday, I got some decent pictures there, too.

All the happiest times are out there, not down here

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Flying at Dunlap this weekend was good. Saturday had very good weather, and on Sunday I borrowed Jonathan’s variometer and stayed up for 1:15. I even got to 800 feet above launch height. I felt like a lord of the air. I could look past the launch ridge and see dry brown hills giving way to the snow-covered Sierras. It was my longest flight ever, and I was so very happy about it. My landing wasn’t great (I didn’t flare in time, so I scraped my shin a little), but everything else was wonderful.

On Sunday morning, we were woken up by the LZ owner’s dogs. Johanna got some good pictures of me in various stages of alertness.

me yawning with a dog

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Flying at Lookout Mountain

My family was kind enough to spend a whole day letting me fly at Lookout Mountain in northern Georgia, near Chattanooga. I’ll tell the story with pictures.

For starters, they have a giant concrete ramp–much fancier than the (still sturdy and impressive) wooden ramp at Dunlap.

The ramp has a pretty nice view, even if the mountains are small and green.
cut for pictures

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Quick update

The frequency of my updates has been dropping lately, so here’s what I’m up to:

I’ve been dancing a lot. Now that the SwingCal class is over, I’ve been going to the 9:20 Special, a swing dance on Thursday night in San Francisco. I’ve also been going to Lindy on Sproul as usual on Saturday, and I’ve made it to a few blues classes and dances; I hope to be a regular at Friday Night Blues.

However, dancing takes a back seat to higher priorities. The next higher priority is hang gliding. I’ve only made 2 trips this spring, and the weather wasn’t quite amazing on either of them. Still, I’ve been getting as many flights as I can, and soon I hope to soar like a pro.

Of course, the highest priority, putting a hold to both those hobbies, will be my trip to Johnson City to visit my family for two weeks. I leave on Wednesday. If I’m lucky, I’ll actually get to do some flying in Tennessee, at Lookout Mountain, but with possible changes pending in my mom’s treatment, it might not be possible. My brother has synchronized his visit, so it’ll be a bit of a reunion, though as always, my pesky little sister isn’t a team player 😛

All this is complicating my move. Because I had trouble finding a new roommate, I’m moving into a 100-square-foot bedroom in a 2-bedroom apartment with someone else who plans to graduate in December. It’ll save me some rent, but moving is always such a pain. I’ll be spending the weekend cleaning and packing, so when I come back from my trip, I’ll be ready to move immediately, I hope. So far, that mostly consists of taking the things I have and giving them away to Goodwill and neighbors, or selling books for pennies to Half Price Books.

I guess I’m busy. Fortunately, I’ve still been making progress on code I need for my thesis. That’s something, anyway.

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