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So long and thanks for all the fish!

Thu Mar 19, 2009 7:52 am




Thanks to everybody who made this place great. The cats, monkeys, and jokes put a smile on my face everyday. I'll be blogging over at http://overtheback.wordpress.com/ from now on.

Posted By: TomGalvin    8 Comments    (Post your comment)
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Back in the Saddle

Mon Mar 09, 2009 6:57 am




The week after my blown launch I took a flight. The launch went smoothly, and I clawed at the anemic lift for an extra two minutes. I capped the sledder with a fly on the wall at the training hill. The flight did it's job of restoring my confidence, but it barely scratched my itch for airtime.

Dawn on Saturday announced the arrival of SPRING! From the forest critters, to the birds under a clear blue sky, life blared in a cacophony of sound. Warm rain from the night before, combined with 60 degree temperatures, had eradicated all but the last dregs of dirty snowbanks. Less than an hour after rising I was at the shop.

I was not surprised to find only Manuk, Dave Hopkins, and myself on launch that morning based on the iffy forecast. Woody Allen says 80% of success is showing up. Thermals alternated between the West and Northwest launches as we setup. Dave Hopkins launched first off the west launch, and worked his way up with no problem in abundant light lift.

The west launch at Ellenville is a tree lined slot. You have three tricky steps down from the road embankment to the launch. Sharon held my nose as I navigated them. A cycle was building and I was ready for it, maintaining my angle of attack with wings level. As soon Sharon cleared my nose I barked clear, and took a step. In a firm grapevine grip, I fought to keep my nose down, but my second step was on air. After levitating a dozen feet in a second, I transitioned to the base tube for more leverage, and began creep forward. The end of the west launch grass is only 50 feet away. I reached it in about ten seconds, easily a hundred over, and then I fell out of the core. I crabbed back for more.

Less than a minute later I had found the top of my lift. 800 over launch. The thermals drifted too far back over tiger country for me to chase them all the way in my Pulse. Dave Hopkins topped out only a thousand higher so I did not miss much. The cores were tight and punchy, with occasional snot ripper shots of lift. Manuk and I spent a half hour bouncing around, as Dave watched on high, zooming up and down the Shawangunk ridge in his ATOS.

I headed out for the valley to see if I could find something to take me higher. Just out a little way out I got smacked again. I cranked it over and as I centered up, I saw Manuk zeroing in. As he slipped in just above me, I saw a Redtail Hawk less than a hundred below join the circle dance. We climbed together in a tight little gaggle for a few hundred feet before I jumped out. I decided to end on a high note and headed for the LZ. As I reached it I could see that the wind was strong, but smooth with all the socks and streamers aligned. I put it down with a no stepper, in the only dry spot...the parking circle.

The blown launch has made each launch since more focused, and I don't think that is going away. I bought a very valuable lesson at a bargain basement price.

Posted By: TomGalvin    4 Comments    (Post your comment)
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Naughty

Thu Feb 19, 2009 8:24 am


[  Mood: Embarrased ]

It had been weeks since my last flight, and I had been checking the weekend forecast with anticipation. By Friday night it showed a holiday weekend, with three soarable days in a row. Pigs might be flying this weekend at Ellenville. I arrived early Saturday morning to observe a few students, and take my new glider out for a morning sledder to get dialed in. While I had a few flights last summer on this Aeros Discus, this was my first flight as it's owner. After checking the forecasts again for the umpteenth time we headed up to launch around 9:30am. We hiked our gear up to Greg's launch and began to setup. The wind was light and variable, but the sock on Tony's launch, showed a steady 6-8mph straight in. As I watched, a Bald eagle popped out from behind the knoll, flew out into the valley, where it rode a smooth elevator up for 500 feet.

We talked and joked as we setup. I told the guys that I had come up with a name for my glider. Since Aeros is Ukrainian, I thought Nadia would be a good one, since it means hope. Jonathan asked how do you spell it? N-A-U-G-H-T-I-A? That sealed it for me.

Naughty Nadia


Each day has it's own pace. Sometimes the stars align, and you can do laps with your sledders, while others have the elements conspiring against you. This was one of those days. The morning was eaten up with twitchy winds, glider gremlins, and a general sluggishness. By the time the students took their flights, I finished my setup, and did a pre-flight it was almost noon. Both student pilots had hit mild thermals, which had raised my hopes, as well as my concerns. This was supposed to be an easy flight to familiarize myself with this glider. Manuk had stopped by to watch the students launch and I asked him to stay, to give me a full hang check, and watch until I got off.

While I stood on launch waiting for the switching winds to stabilize, I began to review my situation, and the certainty of flight evaporated. I said aloud to Manuk "I think I might breakdown.." along with a litany of reasons from weather to expectations. I was just not feeling my customary hunger to launch. After a bit of chatter I overrode my fears, regained my resolve, and settled in to wait.

Soon the winds began to straighten, and steady. A 20 degree cross wind, at 6mph, held long enough for me to make the decision to launch. I checked my wings, locked my gaze on the horizon, and committed to flight with my first step. By the second step I felt the glider begin to float up and relieve a little of my launch anxiety. To hasten my peace of mind, I responded by relaxing my grip even more, and the glider snapped my hang strap tight as it went to trim. In an instant, my world became a tumultuous storm of heightened senses, as my left wing lifted high. I was frozen for half a second, before my brain re-engaged. By that point it was too late to correct, as I had taken to the air in a tight turn. My glider was about to embrace a boulder during the second half of the aforementioned second. My reptilian brain commanded my limbs into a fetal position just before impact. I experienced the crash simultaneously, in time dilation, and time compression. I was facing back up the hill, adorned with a boa of twisted aluminum that had been my control frame. Instantly I knew I was okay except for a bruised bicep. I could see that Manuk had only taken his first step towards the wreckage, as I started yelling "I"M OKAY MANUK, I'M FINE.." in a constant sing song until I finally made eye contact. He let out a huge sigh of relief, and visibly relaxed. I then dug out my cell phone and called the guys in the LZ. They were already in a car heading up the mountain. They heard the crash from a mile away as sharp crunch. Two bald eagles flew overhead as I waited, and caught a thermal just north of launch. For the couple hours, while extracting the glider, breaking it down, and taking it to the shop, I was in a jangly distracted daze. I was very lucky. My glider only needed minor repairs, and all I had was one bruise.



I've had a few days now to relive that morning over and over. I could focus on the technical aspect of the launch and crash, but it's not really necessary. I know how to launch, but that day I didn't execute. It was not a failure of technique, but rather a lapse in judgment. The salt in the wound is that I knew it before hand. To paraphrase Eddie Van Halen...If it feels hinky, it is hinky.

I should have just broke down.

Posted By: TomGalvin    12 Comments    (Post your comment)
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The view from above

Mon Jan 12, 2009 5:55 am




The snow storm began Saturday afternoon and proceeded to blanket the Shawangunk Ridge with several inches of snow. Sunday dawned with blue skies and brisk temperatures in the low teens, that would eventually soar to 21. Freight trains rolled through all morning long, accompanied by a background murmur of 10-15 mph winds. The cotton candy cumulus clouds of mid morning, melted away by noon as the winds began ever so slightly to ease off. After perusing the rounds of weather sites for the umpteenth time with the H2 pilots, we headed to the road launch with shovels and hope.



Thanks to the Ellenville highway department, the overlook was clear for parking, and glider setup . As an instructor I was flying last, so I attacked the snow bank at the guard rail as Chad , the designated wind dummy, began to setup, with the H2 pilots. While fashioning crude steps up and over the guard rail, I heard an expletive as Chad discovered he had left his battens at the shop, so off he went. A short time later, Greg showed up to launch the H2s and I was bumped up to the head of the line.



I setup quickly, and threaded my glider though pilots, cars, and wuffos so I could "jump" off. A full wire crew helped me over the guard rail. Once on the platform and in the air flow, the ramp suck demanded my complete attention. The streamers smoothed out, I lifted my glider, barked clear and took one step into the lift band elevator.



My first minute or so, were spent on a roller coaster of lift/sink/lift, until I was able to nudge my glider in lift clear from the terrain. I stuck a tip in a strong pocket that put me up 500 in a less than a minute. With a bit of breathing, room I heading out to valley, to see if smoother lift could be found, and for a little peace of mind. In a Pulse, I am picky about the days I drift back on the ridge, over tiger country. Today was not one of those days. To my delight, the valley was mellow and going up. As I climbed I relaxed more, and took time to look around. Other pilots had taken off from the upper launch, and were climbing up the ridge. I also noted that a mile out, I was higher than them and still mostly climbing. The wind aloft was more northerly, and as I flew into it the Catskills were dead ahead.

I was in wave lift.



In time other pilots had taken note of my progress and joined me. About a half hour into my flight, gliders were everywhere, and I saw Greg start to launch the H2s. The first one scratched a bit before sinking out. I watched the second one launch and turn down wind away from the LZ. I felt a knot begin to form in my stomach. From 2500 feet above it is difficult to tell how close someone is to the trees below. The pilot eventually turned back to the lz but was out over the wooded portion of the valley. For minutes that seemed like hours, I mentally urged the glider back towards the open fields for bailout. The pilot scratched back and forth instead. Finally they turned for the bailout, but by this point their shadow on the trees below had closed with the glider. Just as glider and shadow were about to merge the pilot cleared the trees.

Whew!

Then they performed a 180 and flew directly into the tree line. I saw the glider rotate like it was flaring, as the trees shook. I waited for the pilot to step out and wave, but at least a minute ticked by with no movement. I saw the first H2 pilot begin running from the LZ half a mile away. The knot in my stomach moved to my chest.

I was flying without a radio and vowed it would be the last time. I stuffed the bar and started to descend. I spent 20 minutes fighting my way down. Alternating my slipping, with stalls and dives to relieve the burning in my arms and the dizziness in my head. By the time I was on final approach my triceps were wet noodles and my brain was sloshing in my head. In a final burst I flared. I dropped my glider at the breakdown area and started to take off for the downed pilot. A shout stopped me in me tracks.

The downed pilot was alright, with not a scratch.

By the time I got there a crowd had built, and the glider was already packed up. The only damage was one busted leading edge. The pilot was laughing with the rest of us in the LZ at the end of the day, reliving the flight and eating some humble pie. For a very cheap price, they had learned some important lessons.



Posted By: TomGalvin    10 Comments    (Post your comment)
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Overlooked

Mon Sep 22, 2008 3:00 am




Overlook Mountain sits at the southeast corner of the Catskill Mountains rising above the Hudson River Valley. It has been flown since the early days of the sport, but to the best of my knowledge no one has flown a hang glider there in a decade or more. I have been pestering the locals the past year or so about all the others sites within a few hours drive. This one was always recalled fondly by anyone who had ever flown it. There was just one problem. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation had purchased most of the land, and closed the road to the top. Hiking in was the only way to launch now. This would require some sweat equity. A little over two miles in, and 1400 feet up.

I added it to my wish list, and waited. This past Saturday everything came together. Cool autumn air so I would avoid heat exhaustion, and thunderstorms. A gentle southeast wind, clear skies, and all on my day off. I dropped a post to our local list inviting others to join me on my lark. Dave C. and I met up at the base of the mountain in the town of Woodstock(Yes that one). We packed up my car and headed for the trail head. I had a compact kayak carrier, that would fold up and fit in my harness. We lashed our gliders and harnesses to it and began our trek.



After only a hundred yards it became clear that this would not work. While the monstrosity would roll smoothly back and forth, it still required us to drag the it uphill. Between two gliders, harnesses, water, lunch, various electronica, and the carrier itself, we were pulling 200 lbs. We shuffled gear, walked 30 yards, reshuffled, walked a little more, until we split the load in two. Dave took the harnesses and set off for the summit. I got the glider rickshaw. The next two hours were a blur of burning calves, and growing thirst, as my water was in the harness bag with Dave. The main relief was my sudden rockstar status. Every hiker that passed me, stared perplexed at the ungainly contraption, until I uttered the magic words.

HANG GLIDER

Then the trail magic began. I would set my load down for a minute, and while I caught my breath, I answered their questions. Most wuffos on the east coast have never seen a hang glider in person, so they tend to be in awe. You can't help but soak it in and rediscover the initial wonder that drew you to this sport in the first place. Then just as quickly they would continue on up the trail and I would resume my slog, but renewed by the encounter.

Eventually I reached the ruins of the overlook hotel just below the summit. I set my load down just as a hiker headed down the mountain brought me water. Dave had reached the summit, and sent it down with them for me. I sucked back the liter in two swigs, and headed out to find Dave. I was operating on the memory of pilots who had not been here in 10 or 20 years. When I came across a side trail that vaguely matched a recollection, I veered off into the brush. Twenty yards on I came to a clearing in the forest with a steep drop off. I had found one of the launches!

I had also found that some trees had grown up to block it. It would only require a small pair of lopers and about 30 minutes to get it ready to launch, IF I had permission from NYS DEC. With a heavy heart I resumed my hike to the summit and the fire tower.



Where I found Dave walking down to meet me. We broke out the food and ate under the tower. I don't remember what it was, just that it was amazingly good. We then climbed the tower to check out the topography and the true wind direction. Dave had talked with the fire tower stewards and gotten directions to the old cliff launch. My spirits lifted, we set off down the trail to retrieve the gliders and get setup at the cliff. The hikers at the summit were buzzing as we gathered our gear by the cliff. Dave and I began to tune them out as we focused on our preparations. That's when Murphy struck. Dave discovered that one of his base tube bolts had fallen off, and we had no spares.

NOTE TO SELF!

My heart sank as I looked at Dave. We had no safe Plan B for him. Then Dave did an amazing thing. In an instant, he put it behind him, and focused on helping me get ready to go.

Just back from the cliff is a small area where people camp, that will allow no more than two gliders at a time. Even then you have to thread them through trees to get to the cliff.



As I setup up thermal cycles blew straight in to the cliff and rustled the trees overhead. My breathing slowed as I forced myself to relax, focus on my routines, and ignore the gathering crowd. By the time I was pre-flighted, hang checked and ready to go, dozens of hikers had packed the cliff area.



While moments before, during my hang check the conditions were perfect and straight in, I was greeted with a cross wind as I moved to launch. The wuffos oohed with each step closer to the precipice. I approached with trepidation. This was to be my first cliff launch, and I would only go if ideal conditions resumed. Dave had cliff launched many times before at Talcott mountain. Yet we were practically pioneering a new site. Hazy memories and a decade worth of vegatation growth, made it so. I would launch if everything was just right. I spent the next half hour perched on that cliff, watching the winds hold true at a 90 degree cross. Eventually, I backed off and made the decision to break down. The chance of a cycle before sunset was becoming more and more remote, and I did not want us stuck hiking out in the dark.

The next day, as the memory of the hike receded into a hazy memory, Dave and I agreed that, one day, we would go back.

Posted By: TomGalvin    11 Comments    (Post your comment)
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* This is a test *

Thu Aug 07, 2008 7:43 pm


[  Mood: Shocked ]

On Friday I pulled a brand new Aeros Discus out of the shop and headed to launch for an evening flight. Up to now, I have been flying only novice level gliders. The wind was slightly cross at 2-3mph. I sat there for 10 minutes, apprehensively confronting my fears. Once I was calm, I visualized a good launch sequence in my head, picked up the glider and went. As I headed out over the valley I kept a featherweight touch on the bar. With a hundred yards clearance from the terrain, I started a gentle turn to parallel the ridge. This was my first indication of the performance I was to experience. The bar slid like a hockey puck on ice. I boated down the ridge to the LZ in the evening glass off, practicing progressively sharper turns and arriving with plenty of altitude. I mushed the glider and dove into a mild wing over. A huge grin lit up my face, as I leveled off and began to setup an approach. I was mindful of the warning about the glide slope of the Discus. I setup my final with a shallow turn, far out from the lz, and landed with a flare in only a few steps. This glider compared to my Pulse, is like a Corvette to a Honda Accord. I needed a soaring flight with before I walked away.

Sunday was a very active day. People were ridge soaring before 9 AM and thermalling well before noon. A few adventurous souls braved the midday air for rodeo flights. I headed to launch in the late afternoon with the Discus and was setup by 5PM. The winds were subsiding, but the sky was overdeveloped with rain and virga scattered across the horizon. As a few more pilots launched...

I waited.

A shower passed overhead and after wards the sun came out. Pilots on launch got out towels, shirts and shammys to wipe down gliders even though more rain was visible in the distance. A few more pilots launched in the break, but as I got to launch I could see a shower bearing down on us. I turned the glider around and prepared to wait it out. After it passed, I wiped down yet again as everyone else started to breakdown. One lone pilot in a litesport who had flown through the shower performed wing overs a thousand above launch to shake the water off his wing. I moved to launch at 7PM just as the wonder wind kicked in. I punched off in smooth air, rising steadily with each pass on the ridge. I was 1500 over in a few minutes. One lone patch of rain lay a few miles out. I decided to pull on the VG and see what the discuss could do on glide. I left launch at 2700 and made it 2+ miles to Ellenville, without losing a foot of altitude, in a quartering headwind. I LOVE wonder winds. I also was in love with the Discus. This glider is fast. As I turned around to head back, I saw the litesport, slightly lower and further back on the ridge, had followed me. Later, the pilot said he could not keep up with me, and I had pulled away fast. I was completely oblivious.

Flying slowly with a crossing tailwind I climbed up another 1000 feet as the sun sunk towards the horizon. I flew out over the valley to do some wing overs. I dove steep and long to my greatest airspeed ever. My energy retention was substantial as I initiated my turn and began to push out past trim. I was pressed firmly against my harness the whole way as the glider smoothly carved the 90, and I began another dive. This time I relaxed and really went with the wang to about 130 degrees. As I dove out, I bleed off the energy in a turn and returned to level flight. My heart was a jackhammer against my ribcage. I had never been past 90 degrees before.

WHEEEE!!!!

I was still above 3000 and took a minute to recover and plan out my next few maneuvers. I did half a dozen more steep wangs and stopped well above 2000 feet. I burned off altitude to land while there was still enough daylight. I decided to cap off a wonderful flight with a landing at the training hill. I turned onto final about 500 yards out and realized my glide would take me to the foot of the hill. I have done plenty of uphill landings in my Pulse, but I did not know how a Discus would respond to a strong flare. I figured I had better be safe and land in the big LZ instead. As I passed the foot of the LZ, I made another turn to land there like I would on a Pulse. A 120 degree diving turn 70 feet off the deck. The ground was suddenly rushing at me while I PIO'd twice frantically trying to correct.


AAAAAHHHHHHH...TOM YOU IDIOT, YOU'RE DEAD!!!

I pushed out with all I had and leveled my wing just in time to collect a bale of grass in my harness. There was no damage to the glider. The look on everyone's face told me that the landing looked just as scary as it had felt. I spent the next 15 minutes hearing how stupid that maneuver was from many pilots, and I had rightfully earned those lectures. I did not pull it off, I got lucky, and got away with it.

The Discus is a fantastic glider, and I am pretty sure it will be my next one. Just not for a while. There is still plenty to learn from my Pulse.

Posted By: TomGalvin    7 Comments    (Post your comment)
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Sledding

Mon Jul 21, 2008 4:17 am




I've been taking a few early morning sled runs on the weekends this summer, to start off classes with a little motivator for the students. I did not expect to be having such a blast doing them. The air is calm, silky smooth, and buoyant most of the time. I have no expectations of soaring, so I am not hyper vigilant for thermal signs. I am able to look around and soak in the view in a calm and relaxed way. It's perfect conditions to practice a wang or RLF landing. The bonus is that you are starting your day with a pilot smile already plastered on your face.

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All by myself

Sat Apr 26, 2008 4:46 pm


[  Mood: Angelic ]

I've been going through a bit of a rough patch in my flying the past month. It was to be expected. I was stretching my boundaries, going XC, and making changes, without fully absorbing them. I bought a vario, changed my hang point, tightened the sail, adjusted my crossbar. The cumulative effect had me regressing. The last straw was landing in the pumpkin patch.

Twice in a row!

The pumpkin patch is a bailout field that attracts para gliders when there is a valley wind. If a hang glider lands there, he made at least one bad call. I have always made the LZ. I spent the week in contemplation and went to Ellenville again that weekend. Greg asked me to do a test flight of a new Northwing Horizon 180.

Yet another change!

If I had not spent the week in review, I would have said no, but I took him up on it. I only got an early morning sledder, but it was enough. I was on a glider I had never flown before, but it was like coming home. I was relaxed and soaking it all in. I played around a bit to get a feel for the glider's handling and performance, then shot my approach for a no stepper at the training hill.

I took the Horizon up again on Wednesday to give it a full checkout. There had been a lot of chatter on the local club list, so I had expected company, but the sky was empty that evening. I had the vario mounted, but silenced. I launched and found a thermal waiting for me over the road launch, which to took me up to 3k. It just confirmed my gut feeling from the weekend sledder. My head has to be in the right space to fly well.

Just relax!

I spent 40 minutes boating around in a lovely warm spring evening all by myself...


Posted By: TomGalvin    3 Comments    (Post your comment)
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Country Roads

Mon Mar 24, 2008 8:52 pm


[  Mood: Happy ]

It is rare to have three soaring days in a row at Ellenville. I was not even supposed to be free to fly today, but luckily my schedule cleared itself at 9AM.

I was on launch before 1PM. Lindsey had arrived 15 minutes before. We marveled at the cumulus lining up in streets as we setup. Winds were a very light 5-8MPH, but thermals would roar up one of the launches about every 10 minutes and stand the windsock at attention.

Lindsey launched first and got 100 over immediately, but then was stuck there making passes back and forth. I did a hang check and settled in to watch and wait. I had no intention of a sledder today, with a sky like this.


After five minutes of boaty purgatory, Lindsey found lift just to the right of launch. His climb accelerated with every turn. I had my glider on my shoulders before he had gained 500 feet. The windsock was still anemic. I was torn whether to launch, on the hope that I could catch it, or wait for a sure thing.

I launched.

It was the sweetest thermal I have ever had. I centered the core and rode it effortlessly 6000 feet directly to cloudbase, which coincidently, also put me over the back. The clouds were lined up, but heading close to the restricted airspace of Stewart Airport. The cloud above felt huge and the suck was unnerving. I pointed my glider north towards the next street over and New Paltz beyond.


The wind at altitude had more north in it, which slowed my progress. I passed Lake Maratanza, Mud Pond, and Lake Awosting, before heading out over the valley. I hit sink, and within a mile was down to a 1000 over. I caught a weak thermal over a dairy farm, and worked it back up 800 feet before losing it. Still low I scanned for another generator and spotted mounds of rubble next to stacks of bricks and cinder blocks a little ways off.

I arrived at the cinder block graveyard 300 over and sure enough there was lift, but ratty and broken. I spun around a dozen times for a 50 foot gain before I gave up, and entered landing mode. I went downwind, did a 180 onto final, with a nice landing alongside a road. I radioed that I was down. Total time 50 minutes over a distance of 10.5 miles. Lindsey topped out at 8000 feet and made an nice attempt at a 50km triangle. He got within a mile or so of the upwind point before turning for the third point.

While breaking down, I noted the absence of traffic. I stashed my glider near the edge of the field. I did not know exactly where I was, but I knew the general direction to launch. So I started down the country road intending to hitch a ride.

After the first mile with only a handful of cars, I modified my mantra to "I will only attempt low saves near MAJOR roads..." I finally came to a T intersection, and caught a ride in minutes. That took me halfway back, and I was dropped off just in time to catch another ride that dropped me right at launch. Several other pilots had shown up afterwards and some were still in the air. I drove back to the field, picked up my glider and was off to Manuk's for the post flight review.

Posted By: TomGalvin    2 Comments    (Post your comment)
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The Brick House

Sun Mar 23, 2008 8:17 pm


[  Mood: Happy ]


The T-Skews were promising for Saturday. The wind was a brisk 10-15mph but fairly steady. Several of us had XC on the brain. Once again, The Golden Otter in New Paltz was the goal of the XC newbies. My launch cycle had me climbing out quickly to join Chad and Lance well above launch. While the lift was abundant, it was drifting over the back only 500-800 feet over the terrain. I jumped out of lift several times to maintain a conservative glide slope for my Pulse to the LZ. While the lift was going higher, I would not be.

I started working my way upwind along the ridge, and tried to entice others to join me, but it was not to be. Once I reached downtown Ellenville I started working some weak lift. It slowly came together into a solid core, that took me to my highest point of that day, at just over 4000 feet. Dave Hopkins had launched as I was working my way to town. He joined me in that thermal as mentor, and was able to reach just over 5000. Had I stuck with it, I could have made it over the back, but I don't regret my conservatism.

I continued my bee line down the valley, along route 209, as the Shawangunk ridge flattened out to small hillside. I used everything I could remember reading or conversations I had heard. Plowed fields, tree lines, junkyards, and circling hawks all gave flight sustaining lift. Dave gave me pointers and reports of the air he was in. I made it 12 miles fighting the headwind when my will gave out. I was wrestling broken lift low over a huge field along the roundout river when I threw in the towel. I setup my final for the first time without a windsock or streamer, using only my drift to point me true.

My landing was on a slight uphill slope with an abrupt flare, for a sweet no stepper. I looked at the road 1000 yards away, and repeated a mantra as I walked "I will only attempt low saves near roads..."

After the slog to route 209, I was greeted by the owners of The Brick House who wanted to take pictures of my glider, and a sailplane trainee who was heading home from a lesson at Wurtsboro airport. I know that it is what it is called, because the sign out front says The Brick House


Dave flew on down the valley to the Mohonk Mountain House, before turning back and landing in the same field. Sharon, Chad, and Zack showed up for retrieve. Then we went to Manuk's restaurant, where we celebrated with a meal and beverages.




Sunday promised to be even better than Saturday, and for many it was. Twice the number pilots showed up, and most had great flights. I however clawed and scratched my way to the deck, not once, but twice, in glorified 10 minute sledders. I was offered a ride up for a third attempt, but by that point I had figured out the problem was in my head. Soaring is a mental activity. My head was not in the right space.

Chad popped his XC cherry and landing in the same field by The Brick House, albeit next to the road. As I hear it, Jimmy D at 3000 feet, decided to land there too, to join in the celebration and simplify retrieve. They were again treated to adulations from the residents of The Brick House, who could not believe their luck in having gliders visit two days in a row!

Posted By: TomGalvin    4 Comments    (Post your comment)
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Flying Irish

Mon Mar 17, 2008 7:23 pm


[  Mood: Happy ]


This Irish American*, flew a sledder today, as a Saint Patrick's Day celebration. Éire go brách

The Equinox is Friday. Daylight will last longer than darkness. Spring is here! Almost all the snow is gone. The ground is drying out. Any day now we will be getting the boomers and cloud streets. XC season is upon us.





* Mom & Dad live here.


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Force and Finesse

Mon Mar 10, 2008 6:16 pm


[  Mood: Happy ]

I flew Monday and Tuesday, and they were as different as could be.

Monday was strong winds with huge areas of lift and sink. Staying up was easy. Staying out front was a sustained bench press on the bar. I had the mountain to myself for a half hour jumping back and forth from launch to the north knob, while everyone stood on launch watching.



When I tried to jump the gap towards town, the sink sent me scurrying for the LZ, just in time for a spin cycle. I was able to maintain zero sink while the thermal kicked off. Once all the socks and streamers were in agreement again, I stuffed the bar and took the express elevator down the last hundred feet. I then watched the other pilots launch, including our Polar Bear. Afterwards we headed to Manuk's for food, drink, and recounting the feats of the day.


Tuesday was a sledder interrupted by a anemic thermal. With patient coaxing I was able convince my glider to climb from just above the trees to a little bit over launch before resuming my scratchy journey to the LZ.

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Got Chains?

Mon Mar 03, 2008 6:15 pm






The pilots who launched on Sunday all had a little gleam of crazy in their eye. One look at the four foot snow bank blocking the road to launch, would have had any sane person turnaround.

We got out the shovels and chains.

After about an hour we got two vans, six gliders, their assorted gear up the 3/4 mile to launch. Launch was blanketed in 6+inches of snowball packing snow. Chad ran some tests to confirm the snow's consistency. The windsock was pointing in with a steady 10-12mph. We all setup, bundled up, and geared up, as a few other pilots trickled in. Every couple of minutes a thermal would roll through and get the blood pumping a little faster.

Jimmy D got off first, climbing quickly to confirm the promise of the day. Dave Hopkins followed right after and joined the aerial circle dance.

Within 30 minutes there were nine gliders in the air hopping from thermal to thermal. Only one pilot made 4K(Dave Hopkins, who else) and everyone else topped out between 2800 and 3200. It was not an XC day, but very soarable, with a couple pilots pulling wing overs every now and then. Everyone got a healthy chunk of airtime and went home happy.



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An unexpected jaunt

Sun Feb 24, 2008 9:11 pm


[  Mood: Happy ]


Yesterday everyone got sledders at Ellenville. The forecast for today was about the same, just not as promising. Since I was expecting another sledder, I took care of some chores and was out the door around 1PM. I thought there was a good chance I would be the only one to show, on a weekday, in the winter, the day after a sledfest. I was right, but my car was spotted in the LZ, which was the tipping point for Dave Hopkins. He said the t-Skews had the lift topping out at 2600. No way I would make it over the back. When we got on launch it was blowing in good. The birds were soaring and squawking over our heads.

DAMN! We were late.

We punched off at 3:30 and had plenty of lift, but I kept losing it 400-500 feet above launch(~1800MSL). After about 40 minutes Dave radioed me about a circling buzzard by the north knob. We joined our feathered friend for a smooth 3-400fpm climb without an inch of drift. Dave topped out at 3400 and I hit 3200, when we set out down the valley. I milked some ridge lift along the way and hit some bubbles and zero sink, but thermals were gone now. I hit the deck four miles down the valley at the Ellenville Airport for my first intentional out landing. Dave joined me about 10 minutes later, as Sharon our driver arrived.

There were smiles all around for an unexpected jaunt.



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It was creaking cold

Fri Feb 22, 2008 9:12 am





It was looking like a good day to me. While I setup Dave Hopkins says "You can't go XC with me, without a vario" as he drops one at my feet. That pretty much confirmed it. I'll be shopping for one this weekend.

I was the first to launch. Nothing but lift. I zeroed in on a core and started climbing. Dave Hopkins needed to see no more, and was right on my tail. I had half a dozen 360s maintaining our vertical distance, when he pulls off this screaming banking climb by Bear cliffs and he was a couple hundred above me in no time. I felt like Snoopy in a bullet ridden doghouse shaking his clenched paw at the Red Baron. An Atos in the hands of the right pilot is a thing of beauty.

Note to self: Don't futz with zipper when Dave is climbing below you.

We rode that thermal back over the top of the ridge. Dave made it up to 5 grand, but I topped out a little above 3500 when I lost the core or fell out the bottom. In the mean time, Jimmy D, Gavin, Dave L had launched into ridge lift, working their way up while they waited for the next thermal to roll through. I had gone hands off and entered hunt mode looking for that next one. That was when the creaking started.

It's normal that every once and a while my glider will make a little noise. This was different. It was not a single creak. It was like rusty sign swaying in a breeze. My setup and preflight flashed through my head. I had been interrupted several times, and restarted several times. I had found that my haul back cables for my crossbars were crossed around my king post and I had fixed that. Did I miss something else? A little voice in my head, said "It's nothing keep flying you wuss." I told him to shut up. I radioed that something did not feel right, and I was heading in.

So I stuffed the bar, and went hunting sink. When you want to come down, it's surprising how long it can take. Flying fast, banked hard, I did not hear another creak, and that little voice came back and said "See! It's fine. Keep flying" I told him to shut again. 5 minutes later I plunked down. I walked the glider over by Greg's shop and went over everything. He came out and checked the glider over too. The verdict?

It was creaking cold.

There were no structural problems. While I was toasty, with all my layers, my glider was not. At altitude, with wind chill it was probably below zero Fahrenheit.

I am no longer a vario virgin. I did not get to really put it through it's paces, but down low(>3000ft)it seemed to confirm what my senses were telling me. It will take a lot more flights to get used to flying with one.

The rest of the pilots went on to have great flights. Dave L. did not see me land in the big LZ, but noticed my glider over by the training hill, and he listened to that little voice in his head. I got a nice picture series of him coming in. He landed on his feet, but had to negotiate some frozen snow boulders at the end. Nothing like an RLF on a sheet of ice.

Tree Topper


Time To Turn


Camouflaged


In Ice Effect


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I got cold feet

Sun Feb 17, 2008 7:53 am





The past couple of weeks, Dave L. and I had been talking about going XC, conditions permitting. My flying skills had bumped up a notch recently from the frequent flying I have had. Practice, Practice, Practice. I was feeling ready. Our goal was the Golden Otter brewpub in New Paltz, NY. 16 miles as the crow flies.

Yesterday everything was lining up just right. A cold front had passed through the evening before, with a strong high pressure right behind it. Winds were 5-10 MPH from the WNW, and sunny. As I started my drive to Ellenville, fluffy cumulus clouds were already starting to line up. It was 20 degrees and heading up to 25. All in all, it was setting up to be a very good winter's day.

When I got there I met up with Chad and Dan, and joined them playing on the ice out in the fields by the LZ. Dave Hopkins called out to us from Tony's house, so we headed to the creek crossing. As I stepped on one of the boards...CRACK! I was standing in the creek up to my shins. I spent the next half hour, trying to dry everything out. As the rest of the gang showed up, my boots went from squishy to damp. I joined the migration up to launch with everyone else. Body heat, wool and the activity of setting up kept me warm.

Dave L. asked Dave Hopkins, if he would be willing to guide us over the back, conditions permitting, and he agreed. I would finally be living up to the title of this blog!

A couple of pilots launched, and scratched as best they could all the way to the LZ. Two of them were able to pull off low saves and get back up to just above launch, before they lost the thermal and returned to scratching back to the LZ. The clouds over the valley had dissipated leaving a bright blue sky. Things were not looking hopeful. Paul Voight waited on launch for his cycle. After about 10 minutes he launched with Dave Hopkins right on his tail. They wasted no time hooking one over the west launch, climbing out to 4600', drifting back over the top of the ridge.

Hope renewed!

Dave L and I helped a couple a new pilots launch and then launched very shortly after. I launched into a sink hole, and lost over a 100 feet in 30 seconds. I had been heading over to the pilots circling by the west launch. I was 200 below them with the treetops for neighbors, when I entered the lift. I knew that if I fell out, I was LZ bound, so I worked the lift with a vengeance. I had made it back to launch level when I hit a shot of strong lift. I popped my glider on it's tip, pushed out the bar, and felt the lateral G forces build as I started to whip around and climb out. As it snaked up the ridge, I coaxed and cursed my glider to stay with it. As I crested the top I could see Dave L. and Chad heading over to grab a piece of it. I rode that core up to Dave and Paul in a matter of minutes.

Over the top of the ridge it was just stupid lift, well above the sweat line. I felt like a bobbing cork in an ocean of air. I watched Dave and Chad work the lift a thousand feet below. The other side beckoned. On each lazy turn I searched out past the sea of trees for suitable LZs. Nervous excitement coursed through me. I was in position and ready to go. While I waited, I Dave and Chad were stuck. They did not have the altitude to go, and they were not finding the lift they needed.

After my rush of excitement had faded, Dave and Chad lost too much altitude and were flushed out front. Without the activity of XC tasks to keep my mind distracted, my damp cold feet were taking their toll on my focus. I radioed Dave that I was sorry, and that I was not going today.

I spent my altitude pushing the limits of the fishbowl I had been flying in the past two years. I went on to fly for well over an hour, dive, wang and generally whoop it up in the sky. I had a couple of hawks join me for a bit, went exploring parts of the neighborhood I had never been to before.

Once we all landed, Dave L said next time don't wait on him. While I am sure going XC with friends makes it all the more special, I will follow his advice. I felt bad that Dave Hopkins, gave up a great XC day. Dinner was on me, but it just doesn't make up for it.

If I had not been planning to go XC, this flight would have been just pure joy. It's now tinged with the coulda, shoulda, woulda. I know that I will be replaying it in my mind over and over the next week or two. We learn more from our failures than from our successes. Next time I'm staying out of the creek and not turning back.

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Practiced for over an hour today

Thu Feb 14, 2008 8:59 pm


[  Mood: Happy ]


Dave Lewis and I scraped yesterday's snow and ice off the road launch. Dave launched first and got right up. I hooked in, did my checks and by myself for the first time, maneuvered over the guardrail while hooked into the glider. Not exactly easy, but feasible if you think it through. The trick is to get the base tube over first without raising the nose. Then while the base tube is on the ground, and maintaining a nose down position, swing one leg at a time over the guardrail.

I was off in a single step, but had to scratch about 10 minutes before I got up. For the next hour Dave & I boated around the fishbowl playing in the short lived thermals. We never got more than half a dozen turns in one, and topped out just under 2000 feet. I spent some time imitating Tobi. Dave headed in first. and I followed about 15 minutes later just before sunset. I lined up my approach into the wind, with a no step flare in the middle of the field.. Smack dab on the ice over the deepest slush. CRUNCH, CRACK, SPLOOSH! I was in water up to my calves. As I tried to pull a foot out, I lost my balance and went down on both knees in the slush. If were not for the pilot smile on my face, it would have been a very long walk to the breakdown area.

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Hanging with the locals

Fri Feb 08, 2008 1:51 pm


[  Mood: Happy ]

Friday's forecast was for light and variable winds, sunny and mid 30s. When I got to launch the windsock was pointing down the NW launch under a mostly cloudy sky. In the next 5 minutes it pointed every other direction at least once. Dave H., Sharon, and Manuk were already there.

I started to setup.

Jimmy D, Gavin, Dave C, and Ed all showed up within the hour. By the time I completed my preflight inspection, and socialization, the sock was blowing in pretty steady, with occasional periods of cross. An eagle soared out over our heads and into strong lift out front. Dave Hopkins launched shortly afterwards. He spent about ten minutes scratching along the ridge until he caught one by the North Knob. That was my signal to launch. By the time I got off, zipped up and soaring, he was gone, and I did not see him again that day.

I was a thousand over launch pretty quickly and soaring high back above the ridge for a good 20 minutes until a flush cycle had me scratching below launch in very light ridge lift for a bit, until I hooked another bullet just north of launch. After about 500 of climb, I looked down to see two bald eagles zip along the ridge, and begin to circle below me. I hope I never grow tired/bored/blase of their company.

I had a two hour flight with a half dozen friends in the air with me, and watched from the LZ as Jimmy D did steep wangs above us. A great way to end the week.

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Waiting for a cycle

Sun Feb 03, 2008 5:29 pm


[  Mood: Happy ]


After the sleet Friday night, Ellenville was glazed in ice on Saturday. I don't know how that groundhog saw his shadow with the complete cloud cover all day long. I got to the road launch late in the day and feathered1, had cleared the launch of ice, brought my glider up, and setup, his glider. I had never before setup a hang glider on an ice skating rink tilted 5 degrees. You have to step gingerly, and place battens down carefully(skitter, skitter, skitter). After serving on the wire crew for feathered1, I watched him scratch a bit before sinking out. My turn.


The minor stuff, that had been rolling in as I setup, had dissipated by the time I got over the guard rail. After spending a couple minutes watching streamers gently twitch to and fro, I stood up and took my sledder like a man.

...The Next Day...

Today, was bright and clear. Eight gliders launched throughout the day and scratched in punchy lift, and intense sink. While I never got more than a hundred over launch, I did it over a half dozen times. It was an enjoyable 15 minute rodeo ride.

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I Wonder

Wed Jan 30, 2008 12:00 pm


[  Mood: Happy ]


On Monday, I launched about 3:30PM and flew until Sunset. I topped out at about 2000 AGL and had no problem staying up. Once the shadows started to creep down the slopes across the valley a wonder wind kicked in and lift was everywhere. I relaxed and enjoyed the view. Two days later and I am still smiling.

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Looking for sink

Wed Jan 23, 2008 9:28 am


[  Mood: Happy ]



When I launched at 3:35 PM today it was blowing in nicely. I had to be on the other side of the Hudson Valley at 6:30 PM for a dinner reservation. So if I took 20 minutes to breakdown and stow my gear, an hour drive home, 20 minutes to change, and 20 minutes drive to the restaurant...

I could fly for an hour. MAX!

I got 2 steps with the bar pulled in before I hit the escalator. I went out front, I went up, I went north I went up, I came back in front of launch, ...still up. For a breezy winter day, it was relatively smooth, but strong. I have heard the stories of pilots who could not get down for hours at Ellenville. I started to worry I was going to be late.

I could NOT be late.

Dinner was for my son's birthday. This was the first flight that I was looking for sink. About a half mile north west of launch I found it and it was really good sink. I ended up on the ground in less than 15 minutes. The only other pilot to fly today was still in the air as I drove home. I don't think he went looking for sink.

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Last Licks of 2007

Sun Dec 30, 2007 5:20 pm




Saturday turned out to be a flyable day in Ellenville. It was sunny and got all the way up to was 40F. Just shy of a dozen pilots turned out. Some soared, and some sledded. I was in the latter category, but after a couple weeks earthbound, it was all good. After packing up, I went back up and got a couple of shots of the last couple of pilots to launch. These two were my favorites. I like sunsets, in case you can't tell.





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Basic Instructor

Sun Dec 23, 2007 7:07 am




I just got my card in the mail, so it's official. This is the only rating I have gotten that has given me pause. If this feeling of trepidation ever goes away, that is the time to stop instructing.

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Mmmm Snow.

Sat Nov 10, 2007 6:00 pm


[  Mood: Happy ]

The first snow of the season fell last night and coated the launch. I don't know why, but I love winter flying. There are fewer flyable days, and those days are very short. You are layered up with so many clothes you look like the Michelin man. The fair weather pilots are gone, so it's just the regulars. I guess it's just more focused on the flying. Why else would I be standing around in the snow on top of a mountain in 30° temperatures with a 12mph wind whipping through.



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