Another new site... Kagel in the middle of the workday...
Tue Aug 12, 2008 8:59 pm
You know you are in Southern California when traffic is a major consideration of where you fly when you live equidistant to two sites. Because going up through the middle of LA is the only thing that is worse than going out the 91 to San Berdoo, I had never flown Kagel in the year and a half I've been flying.
Today, I finally got to Kagel/Sylmar, though I had to game the traffic like Steve Martin in "LA Story" to get up there by noon. I didn't pull out of the driveway until 10:40. It's 77 miles the way I went, 64 at the shortest. I made it in an hour 10.
I am glad I went today and I look forward to getting some mileage out of my 90 day visitor membership. Variety is the spice of life and Kagel has it for me.
The inversion layer kept me on the first ridge, but there were some thermals to work there and I got to get a little oil on my technique, which was a bit rusty after one thermalling flight in the last month (at Dunlap).
I was glad I was not there on a crowded day, as I felt my way around the ridge, I only had one ATOS to keep track of.
The LZ at Kagel is an interesting one. The grass is a Hang 4 spot, as they are concerned about lesser pilots overshooting into the the storage containers and picnic benches. That left me in the wash, a long, narrow riverbed with some spots nicer than others. A long, fast DBF got me right where I wanted to be with plenty of speed. Turns out, though, I nipped the edge of the "Sylmar Triangle." The wash has some funky geometry to its geology and I encountered the lowest wind shadow I've ever felt. I was maybe 15 feet off the ground with good speed and hands on the downtubes, rounding out, when suddenly I was 5 feet off with not so much speed.
"Flare!" I thought to myself, thinking possibly ballooning would be a better risk to take than flying into the ground. My timing was actually pretty good, but my wings were not very level and I couldn't give it a full flare.
I didn't whack, though, and I recovered it pretty well, so I am giving myself a passing grade on my landing... based on the new site, the well known "triangle," my perfect approach, and my good save.
I am not letting myself buy a new wing until, among other things (like having money), I have landed my Falcon well 30 straight times. By well I mean I can not do anything that would disqualify me from a spot landing contest or anything unsafe. That was my 6th such landing and 28th out of the last 29.
Fun day, nice people, great site... though working afterward took some of the sheen off it.
15 years ago, I was flying an RC glider near where I lived when a couple of guys unfolded hang gliders, hooked in, launched, and went up. I was really surprised at their soaring capability.
I started poking around about lessons, but I witnessed a pretty rough bailout landing at this site and a medevac flight picking up a guy who got rotored behind the ridge. Then, a friend who had flown hang gliders as a French Foreign Legion commando (and tumbled one at altitude) said they scared the hell out of him. That cooled me off.
But, once I got into flying, I really wanted to fly the site. It took three trips, but I finally got the combination of help from the local instructor and the right winds to be able to fly it. Said instructor was very helpful, as always. It is definitely not a site you want to fly without help from a local. As a matter of fact, it'd be about impossible, as you need a gate code and a few other items or information.
The video shows the fun I had and we topped off the day with dinner at a Brazilian BBQ.
My trip to Morningside ended up solidly in the "Win" column, a big relief after much travel and a "Loss" at Funston three weeks ago.
After being rained out the first of two days, I got 22 flights in on the second. I got to practice dead, cross, and strong wind ramp launches. Ramp launching in a tree gap is noticeably different than launching from a nice, rounded hilltop. The varying conditions allowed me to practice a number of different approaches and landings. Along with my best crosswind launch in my short flying career, I also affected my best crosswind landing, keeping the glider crabbed into the wind and running it out at about a 30 degree angle.
More importantly, I got to spend a lot of time with my Brother, Brad, allowing us to catch up on quite a bit. After flying, I finally saw his nice house in Storrs, where I had not visited in 7 years. All that house cuts into his flying budget, so we brainstormed how to get a university professor rigged for hang gliding on the cheap. If anyone has a Falcon 225 and/or a harness for a 6'1" 220 pounder, let me know.
Morningside Flight Park was a real sleeper hit for me. I was very impressed by the facilities:
- A nice, carpeted hanger to reassemble my shortpacked glider
- Lots of spare parts and equipment (see previous post for why that helped)
- Helpful, friendly staff
- Gatorade for sale! Man, was I thirsty in the 90 degree 90% humidity weather
- ATVs to get you to launch in a couple of minutes
- A slope that is perfect for working your way up in training and is also perfect for flying down in ground effect on final
- Aero tow operations & lessons (which I will do next time)
- Lots of enthusiastic students
Variety is the spice of life. After averaging an hour per flight in California, but only flying once or twice a day, it was a blast to get in almost 2 dozen "Mountain" flights in one day. I know you can get that many at a beach site or at Point of the Mountain or winch towing, all of which I look forward to doing. But, for this trip, getting that many flights in felt like cheating.
Well, it felt like cheating until the next day, when I tried to get outta bed. No matter how easy the ATVs and facilities make it, 22 times of putting the glider on the cart, carrying down the crest of the hill, launching, landing, and taking it back to the cart... adds up.
By about 3 o'clock, the winds had picked up to the point where you needed two wire crew to launch and I was too tired to do so safely. I ended on a 7 minute flight that got me above launch.
The wing went back to Storrs on a ladder and I spent a scant 1:20 the next morning short packing it and the rest of the day playing with my nephews in the pool.
Even Delta was nice to me, only charging me $25 for the wing, making that cost $200 for the round trip... fair enough. And no tubbies crowded my "airspace" on the way back.
Work bit with a vengeance, though, and I stopped by a client's on the way home from LAX and recovered a failed RAID array until two in the morning.
When do I get to fly again? How can I make it back to Morningside this summer?
Open the link and click on Watch in High Quality for the video.
Needless to say, on a supposedly full flight, I get stuck next to a 350 pound man. Delta's response was something to the effect of "sucks to be you." Ugh. So, for 6 hours, I tried to doze while shifted to the left out into the aisle... getting bumped by the flight attendants and passengers every time. Worst... flight... ever.
Fortunately, it was a straight shot and 6 hours later, I was on the ground in CT with my bro and it's great to be hanging out with him. He's a fun guy and a good big brother to have. I wish he lived closer.
Here's a tip for the shortpack of a Falcon. DO NOT LET ANYONE DISTRACT YOU WHILE DOING IT. The one time I was hurried while dissembling it was when I was putting the battens in a few days after having done most of the packing. My wife was anxious to leave for the gym... and I ended up dropping the kingpost luff line dongle, a 6 inch cable that hangs out of the kingpost to hook the luff lines to. The way the dongle works, it can twist and slip out of the kingpost if there are no other cables in the kingpost to help hold it in. It was in the grass of my backyard as I was in New Hampshire. Profanity ensued this discovery... next time I'm putting it in a ziploc. Fortunately, the helpful guys at Morningside crafted a spare from old parts (shortened one from a previous WW Glider) for me. The cost was some beer. Great guys.
I spent about 4-5 hours reassembling the wing in their great hangar, protected from the rain and the South winds which kept me, along with being too tired, from flying.
After going back to the nearby hotel, which is cheap and clean, showering and taking a cat nap, I walked with my brother to the top of the 450' launch. Morningside is such a nice place... what a great setup.
My policy of not liking to travel, especially by air, is well founded, though it's going fairly well so far.
Delta cut me a minor break... only charging me oversize ($150) and extra bag ($25) and not overweight (would have been $85) for my glider.
Man, I wish Morningside rented wings... I'da soooo much rather rented, especially since weather there is so fickle. But, the ticket wasn't bad and the trip will be worth it...
Now I am sitting in LAX at the bar... wondering if I am going to pull a Radwhacker. I drove up early to beat the traffic. Dockweiler looked quiet, though a Condor was unfolded, nobody was flying. So, I am drinking a Sam Adams, waiting for the Celtics game to start, watching the birds go by... could be a lot worse.
Security didn't open my glider bag... they just wiped the latches with some kinda of chemical wipe... phew.
By 11, I had already been to 3 client sites & the rest of the day was Fubared. My daughter & wife were out for the day, it was too early to drink (barely), and no other work projects were good for a Friday.
I called Rob, the McBus was full, then I got an email: MikeB & Mike Z were driving up at 12:30. I left my driveway at 11:25. I left the gas station on the corner at 11:29. I hit the lot at 12:30, not easy to do in 67 miles of So Cal traffic.
The relief to be above the smog, literal and figurative, held me up for 3 hours and took me to an unexpected 6,800. Crestline, Pine, Crestline, Cloud, Crestline, Pine, Marshall, Crestline, Marshall, the University Flags, Marshall... whack! (ugh) (I need to drill procedures in for landings)
I bummed a ride up early to work on a video project (and the SD card needed formatting so the video was corrupted, among other things blah). Thanks Whack.
Marshall was the killing fields as the winds switched from North to East and back and forth. My wing got tipped by the wind when it was on the basetube with the velcro still on the wings. Then, even with a good wireman, I got turtled by a dust devil at the launch point, as winds went from 5 mph East to 15 mph West in a matter of seconds.
Thanks Rob and Dan for the help.
It was worth it.
10 minutes later I was at 8k. It seemed like there was a lot of lift and a lot of suck, so I didn't take my Falcon too far afield, as some did in their new sport 2s (**cough** Dave ** I-15** cough ** cough**). I guess my acrobatics on launch were scary: it took quite a while for everyone to launch after I did.
After 2 1/2 hours, my shoulders were sore, my hands cold, and my day complete.
Here are some pics:
Bracing for impact
Face down, *** up, that's the way we like to be ****ed.
Here's my video of the day. I'll render a high def version sometime today, pm me for the link.
I was experimenting with three cameras. My verdict: it can be done, but it's a pain in the ***, worth doing for the most scenic of sites. The overhead camera records onto to a little portable recorder I got, on which I have to rerender from divx to mpeg to edit, as the divx it records to is too compressed for my edit software and causes it to freeze (Vegas, Pinnacle, & Premier, ugh!).
Having 3 perspectives at once is too much, generally. I like three cameras only for the variety of angles they provide. Two cameras were hi def, one standard, not that you can tell on youtube.
I got some good in air shots of Dave's new Sport 2, Jack holding onto his glider at Crestline, Wisconsin Paul, and one of the Atos boys at Crestline. They look better on the hi def.
This was also a video where I experimented on using my gps track to help tell the tale.
I give myself a B- on it, getting above a C only due to the sheer volume of raw material (I was flying around like a %%(!&! EA-6B Prowler). It's almost too much and the conditions were kinda crappy for vid; it didn't turn out as well as I hoped it would.
As far as the flight itself... holy crap I need a DS glider for days like that. It was w-w-w-windy & gusty. The only reason I was glad I was on a Falcon is I got thrown around by the hand of God a couple of times and was wondering if I'da been tumbled or something on a DS glider. Probably not, but the stability of the Falcon was welcome. But, there were thermals I couldn't follow because they would have taken me back into the trees. I had to leave Crestline while the getting was good.
The landing is amusing. I have to do 3 in a row into that circle, the next one with a right hand approach. I've done two, both just barely reaching it.
I am beat. I woke up this morning and hit the gym, doing some upper body work that included lotsa reps of light weights in exercises to build up the ol' hang gliding muscles.
I was not planning to fly, so I thought I'd start getting in shape for the summer thermals and soar-a-thons.
Then, at a client site, the emails started rolling through... winds good, lapse rates good, driver available. My gear was at home, home is 67 miles from the hill. I usually have my gear in my van, but not today, so I went home and got it... and switched cars to the Z cuzza I was going to have to hurry. I made it... 15 minutes after the noon meeting time.
5 of us loaded up and launched Crestline, a few more to Marshall. Crestline was strong getting stronger. It was a warm day for Spring.
I figured the combination of ridge lift and thermals meant it was time to explore. I got as far North as I've ever been at the site. Any further and I mighta gotten sucked into the Cajon pass venturi effect. I was glad I had my bags in my harness.
I went back down the ridge as far South as I've ever been, or at least as far South that low. Gliding out of there on a Falcon is a tall order, especially in strong headwinds. The narrow ridge lift band saved my ass, cuz the wind was blowing out thermals.
The two hour mark approached and my arms were tired, so I started heading to the LZ, only to find a pleasant surprise. A thermal at Marshall popped me up to 7,700'. Though, the winds and sink at that altitude kept me from translating that into much distance. I got sucked down under the inversion layer. I tagged the flags at CSUSB and turned to try to try to do a mile long downwind leg...
Not even close, I hooked the strongest thermal of the day at 700 feet over and took it back up over cloud.
Finally, I wanged and slipped and spun my down to a passable landing.
There were a few very nice Moyes wings in the LZ... the Sylmar boys were flying over. I watched George Stebbins land and got in my Z and made it home in time for a 6:00 appointment (15 minutes late). I checked messages on the way home... pesky clients... I had forgot to turn off my phone before launching and my ring tones were driving me nuts.
I picked the right day to blow off work. I had a 1:1 drive to flight ratio. Not bad.
After a week of bungling weather forecasts, I was determined to get a flight in on Saturday. Looking at the Skew-T graphs, it looked like the clouds would be above Marshall but the wind would be growing in strength all day. My wiley scheme was to launch early, milk ridge lift, & enjoy the building energy in the air.
Dave, Mike Z and I left the LZ at 11:15 with Fez, a paraglider pilot. Marshall was honking when we got there, though lulls tempted Fez, he wisely waited for a more experienced paraglider pilot.
I recently wrote a letter to the editor of the national mag citing the CSS as an example of a club that's got the HG/PG thing right. (that letter was referenced in this month's mag) What I want to add to that is that HG pilots should love PG pilots... they drive your vehicle back down on blown out days. Thanks Fez!!!!
Dave launched and hooted and hollered. I had enough electronics on my glider to make an Intruder pilot shake his head, so I was holding up the show. Mike Z, the most altruistic man on earth since Ghandi died, was waiting to help me off. I was testing out a helmet cam (Fail)(Archos sucks). As I was hooking in, snow started to fall. Light, flakey, and quick to melt, it sped up the launch process. I didn't miss any safety items, but I did forget my second layer of jacket. Dohp.
There was some ridge lift, but the only strong lift I found was cloudsuck, which I circled out of and didn't find again. I scratched for 23 minutes (handicapped by a bit of extra bar pressure and terrain separation due to the wet wing) in the hopes of drying out my Falcon.
The windsocks were dead on downwind, boring on base, and doing a &^%$#@~! tango on Final. I remembered some of Rob's instruction on the 80' hill (I'd recommend those Gator runs for anyone, they're fun) and decided to run it out. No swing at the pitch (i.e. flaring). I was taking a base on balls.
I was tempted to go back up, but watching topless glider pilots kiss the ground upon safe arrival killed that notion.