A few years ago, a friend of mine suggested I visit Texas to check out the XC scene that gets going every summer.
But I wasn't interested.
I love mountain XC.
Now that a couple of superb pilots have more than doubled Larry Tudor's 1983 mountain XC record of 221 miles, it seems to me that a lot of people in hang gliding have bought into this mania that flatland open distance flying in very strong winds is now the gestalt of XC hang gliding.
In my opinion, this is damaging to the sport.
Compare what is needed to break an existing record in mountain XC compared to flatland XC. Flatland XC record attempts require ever stronger winds. This increases the danger level on a geometric scale (as the force of the wind increases as a square of the velocity). The challenge to the flatland XC pilot is to stay up and be carried farther by the strong horizontal winds. If you carry this to its logical extension, loser pilots will eventually get killed in turbulent, high wind landings and winner pilots will be the ones lucky enough to survive. We are moving HG XC accomplishment from skill to luck.
This is not a good idea. We are losing sight of what hang gliding is and I fear we are harming its appeal for many potential new pilots.
But in mountain XC, stronger winds create too much turbulence and tear up the thermals. Mountain XC is done in milder wind but with substantially greater booming thermal conditions. The challenge to the HG pilot is to learn the thermal generators along mountain ridges, find the strongest areas of lift and skillfully work them for as short a time as possible, then continue along a (usually) familiar route at the best l/d until the next thermal.
Yes, there are similarities, but mountain XC presents a dramatically greater quality of thermal flying, a much more intense, beautiful, faster-changing and interesting view-shed and less landing risk from strong surface winds compared to flatland XC. There is also an important element of purity, timing and skill demanded in footlaunch XC. This is missing entirely from towing up from Zapata.
What I am getting at is that tow-up flatland XC seems to be heading off down a path that has less appeal and requires a different -- and in my opinion, a substantially lower skill set -- than footlaunch mountain XC. Sure, you can go farther... but is that the goal? Are we trying to show new pilots that flatland XC is the new holy grail of HG? Is this good for the sport?
I don't think so.
OT, the abbreviation of Cross Country Flight into "XC" is an attempt to make it sound more extreme?
IMO, CC is just like comp flying but without the benefit of a gaggle of others to work the wind with. I've gotten to do a little of both and are eager for more.
I've heard it called XC since I started flying. Nothing to do with attempting to make it sound extreme, just an abreviation. _________________ Paul H
U2 160 USHPA # 51178 KE7VOG
H4, FL, AT, PL, FSL, RLF, TUR, X-C, CL, AWCL, 360, HA,
USN ret. A & P mechanic
"Yeah, and Everest ruined mountain climbing."
There is a corollary.
Compare the incredible purist first ascent of Everest by Edmond Hillary and Norgay Tenzing in 1953 to the weird, complex, expensive and ridiculous mania of today. Is this mountain climbing? Climbing ladders up a mountain in a line of hundreds of people? It's not the same thing. The purity and quality of mountain climbing have been sacrificed for quantity of climbers. Compare this to my argument that the purity and quality of mountain XC has been sacrificed for the increased distance potential of (boring) flatland XC.
The cross country flying in Texas (IMHO the best cross country flying area in the world), is not confined to starting in Zapata. Cross country Texas style takes place in Big Spring, Luling, Hearne, Columbus, Austin, Georgetown, and other sites.
Even this pilot's hero, was towing from flatlands in Wyoming and New Mexico (right next to Texas, and he flew his record through Texas) for world records.
Flatland XC record attempts require ever stronger winds. This increases the danger level on a geometric scale (as the force of the wind increases as a square of the velocity).
We love to fly in strong winds in Zapata. Why? Because the land goes by so quickly below us as we fly in the smooth air, air much smoother than you will find in mountain site on much less windy days.
The winds in Texas from the Gulf over the flatlands are just so smooth that there is rarely a problem with landing. Only when you come to the hill country north of Uvalde is there a concern as the hill sides cause turbulence, i.e. when you aren't for a moment actually flying in flatlands. I've never had a problem.
The winds here are not a safety issue. I've flow in 40 mph winds and thoroughly enjoyed the air. I was flying in 25 mph winds a few weeks ago in a Falcon 3 170 and the air was great. It only got bad in one thermal and it was the thermal that was the problem, not the wind.
This ranting pilot has no experience with or knowledge of the conditions that we fly in in Texas and in Zapata. He is talking through his hat.
He has the perfect right to his own ignorant opinion, but not to his own facts.
He appears to be unaware of the fact that we have been flying cross country in the flats for decades (Chelan Butte, for example, or in Wyoming). It is not something that is suddenly ruining hang gliding.
Jonny Durand has been attempting to get the world distance record from his site near Canungra, Australia, and he's essentially flying over flatlands. Even when we launch of hill or mountain sites we are often flying mostly over flatlands.
It obviously takes flying skills to fly cross country whether in the mountains or over the flatlands. How is our ranter able to measure the differences in skills required and come up with an objective measure of what "skill levels" are required?
What is hang gliding? For me it is flying cross country. It is flying for records and racing to goal. You may have different opinions.
As I recall flying at King Mountain is done in very high wind conditions. The locals wait for the winds to get really strong before they go. I remember that and I also remember the top US pilot saying that the US Nationals there were the most turbulent ever (and that was after we flew in the Nationals in Telluride). I remember just how excited I got in the air in an original Laminar.
Now I feel no need to refute all of his other opinions that he likes to state as facts. They aren't and they are so shallow that they reflect badly on him. _________________ Davis Straub at the Oz Report
WHATEVER sport it is....its ALL about progression!!! So on that note, the MegaRamp ruined skateboarding. I try and relate hang gliding to other sports.
we are no better than anybody else. The "go Big or go home" mentality makes people envious because of their own inabilities to do so..I am envious of big Cross Country pilots, pro megaramp riders, people how walk up Everest with ladders, pilots who do good loops, anybody who is good at ANYTHING.
there is a danger factor for everything and some people push those limits and thats how progression is born...without progression sports become stagnant..I'm all for progression and plus its human nature to do so..and theres nothing wrong with being human...I guess some people are aliens ..
I didn't notice a boat load of tourists trying to fly out of Zapata during the WRE this year or any year. It takes guts to fly here. Just like anywhere else. _________________ Davis Straub at the Oz Report
is GUESS WHO suggesting also that we should not venture "over the back" in the mtns.? doesn't the term "strong winds" depend on where you are? is GH's objection actually an aversion to towing? hmmm, sounds like .....
I'm not a personal fan of the HG competitive mentality, but I don't let it ruin my own enjoyment of flying. To me, XC is about the freedom of soaring over new terrain, using my own judgement and skills to fly more closely like the birds - not about racking up points.
Competition and record-chasing don't mean anything to me, unless it somehow inserts itself into my personal sphere - which rarely happens. It does bother me sometimes, however, when I see new pilots equating XC with competition. XC is only competition if one makes it so.
" Compare this to my argument that the purity and quality of mountain XC has been sacrificed for the increased distance potential of (boring) flatland XC.
What purity??? XC flying is whatever you make it, there is no "purity" to anyone other than yourself. If you don't like flat land flying, dont' do it. _________________ Paul H
U2 160 USHPA # 51178 KE7VOG
H4, FL, AT, PL, FSL, RLF, TUR, X-C, CL, AWCL, 360, HA,
USN ret. A & P mechanic
Guess Who, you shouldn't speak for others. Twice you speak for/down to new pilots. I soloed a couple of weeks ago(sorry to tell you, aero tow, please don't hold it against me, no mountains in FL). I was glued to the SPOT page during the incredible flights and I assure you, it simply inspired me to make sure I learn as much as I possibly can about all the different aspects of hang gliding so that I can be the best overall pilot possible and keep myself safe.
it seems to me that a lot of people in hang gliding have bought into this mania that flatland open distance flying in very strong winds is now the gestalt of XC hang gliding.
I don't think that is the case. The XC meets are usually in the flat lands because you can fly in any wind direction (ensuring more flyable days), there is ample room for everyone, and LZs are everywhere. The same can't be said for just about any mountain site. Don't get me wrong, I love mountain flying and in fact, that's all I really fly except for the occasional Florida trip but when you have a comp, the factors I just mentioned are critical.
When it comes to records, the only way you can really quantify them is with mileage and the best way to get that is flatland flying in high winds. This doesn't mean anyone thinks high wind flatland flying is the only kind of XC that means anything.
What are the mountain cross country sites in the US? I don't mean sites where you launch from a mountain side and then fly most of your cross country flight over the flatlands. And I mean mountains, not hills. I mean mountain ranges that you fly down and go cross country for big miles. Or you fly over the back to the next mountain range not far away and then keep going to the next mountain range, and on and on.
Golden, BC into Montana? (Randy Hainey, 199 miles)
King Mountain into Montana
What others? _________________ Davis Straub at the Oz Report