I didn’t bother to write up a report from Friday because it seemed that Bee had stole the show going XC and Ben had his first XC too…but it’s 6am and I’ve been up since 4, and I can’t resist when someone asks for a report. So here it goes…
Friday I didn’t get to the airport until 2:50 and by this time Bee was already in his harness and putting his glider on the cart. Mark and Ben were already set up and I hustled to get a glider set up. It wasn’t too long before all 3 Mark, Bee, and Ben were up at cloud base. I was frothing with excitement as I saw Ben and Mark carving circles directly overhead the Cowboy Up compound.
The temperature was starting to rise up into the 80’s and I had a good sweat going while I put the glider together. I looked back up to see where the boys were and I noticed Ben headed out towards the S end of the runway to look for his own lift. “Adventurous” I thought as Ben glided out on his own. If that was me I would have been glued to Mark and let him do all the exploring. Anyways, Bee is out of sight, Mark is still overhead and circling under a cloud. I’m trying not to hurry and at the same time super excited.
Out of nowhere I hear the distinct rush of air that a hang glider makes, and it’s Ben coming in on final. Been there done that, I thought as Ben’s Falcon makes a nice landing. Ben gets right back in line for another tow and I am there to get my first(tow). “Dude, Ben, you should have stayed with Mark, that guy has tons of hours flying he knows where to go!” I said to Ben. He had a huge grin on his face, “Yeah I wanted to see if there was something at the end of the runway, there wasn’t!”
So after hooking in I realize I forgot my sunglasses on the couch in the hangar and before too long I’m on takeoff. It was smooth sailing, out on the S of the airport the big fields provided us with a nice lift, and Tiki and I circled only a few times when I decided to pin off at 2100′. I held it in that thermal up to 3200′ and Mark came over and we both got high on that one. There was a drift that was blowing us W and up towards the thin cumulus clouds above. 200-300fpm stuff.
I came into Fridays flying with my mind set on having a light touch on the glider, and a having a focus on finesse. So I was really trying to stay comfortable…legs, arms, hands everything relaxed…light inputs…let the glider fly. There was a moment when I “clicked” and my mind took over inside the thermal. I was focusing too much on light controls and I wasn’t really getting into the core of the thermal. My mind realized that I need to do something better, I banked over a bit more and pushed out a bit and boom “there it is” and I was thermaling like it was 2nd nature. It felt right, everything was clicking and soon I was outclimbing Mark quite substantially.
The thermals were decent and kind of oscillating around on us and I noticed Ben getting towed up and S over the plowed fields. There was a tractor out there digging a hole, doing some kind of work, and I thought for sure it would have potential as a trigger but I never made it back that way to make a pass.
Anyways, Mark and I are up over 3000′ and I see Ben heading our way, “BOLD MOVE” I thought. Unfortunately, Ben headed right underneath us, and our thermal wasn’t vertical but diagonal. Soon he was, by the looks of it, in a pretty desperate search pattern. “C’mon Ben hook it!” I thought as he circled the tree line on the W of the airport. Soon I see Ben make another move down low W headed over the trees. Then 1 circle later, he was nowhere to be seen. I thought he would have just landed in one of those big fields right there but, NO, I couldn’t see him….ohhh no he’s in the trees!…I didn’t know where he was. Within a couple of minutes I see Tiki’s yellow draggin’ fly out on reconnaissance.
Next thing I know, with all this looking for Ben, I lose track of Mark. Luckily I catch a glimpse of him upwind E and his grey upper surface and grey harness blended in perfectly to the smoggy Houston skyline. On my way upwind I hit another thermal that was radiating off the hangars and the airport and made another climb back up to 3000′. Mark and I met back up and we worked some marginal lift together until we broke off in different directions.
Glided upwind again, still no sign of Ben, and now Mark is nowhere to be seen. To the north, I caught a glimpse of a buzzard. Then 2 more, then there were 5-6 and a Falcon in there too…so I headed over to them and enjoyed another nice climb out to 3500′. After that one broke up, I pulled in for glide back to the airport. By the time I reached the hwy59 i’d lost a 1000′. “Where’s Mark?” I thought…
Finally back over the airport and I see Mark setting up a great big long final approach. That grey T2 is really hard to see…anyways it’s looking about time to land and I decided to try the barn. Yes, the barn provided again but it was weak 100’fpm and it was easily blown around. I noticed the direction of the wind from the windsock…and the thermal was parallel with the wind coming off the roof of the barn. I was able to stay up a bit longer and had a 500′ climb with it and few birds came up to join me. The birds were all over the place not really marking lift just cruising around and soon enough they went upwind. I was tempted to go with them, but I wasn’t getting sucked into that. So I set up a good approach and had a fantastic spot landing.
Turns out Ben had an unintentional XC and was a mile down the road.
Also, Efrain came out for a tow and unfortunately he sank out and time restraints forced him to pack up earlier.
Ben made a really cool Map that explains his XC adventure, I’ll post that here for those who don’t see the Facebook posts…as well as my footage from my flight.
Cheers and happy flying!
Thanks again Cowboy Up!