2015 MLK Day Hang Gliding

The Saturday of the MLK weekend was a forecasted to be wet and…..well, bleak, but I headed out and got to the Wharton airport around 10am…..although my hopes were up to get a good tow up to 2k and rinse myself from the stench of life on the ground. There were a couple of eager students there hoping the ominous conditions would clean up and one of the students wanted to learn how to set up a glider, his name is D. I can’t say his name right, much less spell it right. Never the less, I showed D how to set up the falcon and it started raining, and getting cold. We finished the setup in the new hangar and I talked to D about the importance of the preflight. Unfortunately, it started raining more and more and then it was thunder and lightening all around us. Sir Rich was also there and we went outside and we were amazed by the mamma on the clouds. Anyways, Sir Rich got the scooter out and we proceeded to clean up most of the connections on the scooter tow unit. I have to say, Sir Rich did a proper job and the inside of the scooter no longer looks like a rats nest of wiring. As we were half way through the wiring, I was down in the dumps with the rain and all, so I cracked open a beer. The rain went on for a couple of hours then it cleared up, I mean this weather front peeled back and revealed a sunny afternoon. I was beginning to feel regret for drinking that beer…However, after the rain, the field was a bit wet. This was verified by Sir Rich using his Pontiac to check the field… using his own technique of feeling the splash of the puddles against his wheel wells he determined it was not flyable.

On to Sunday funday. Sunday was clear and light wind all day. Believe it or not there were some thermals out there and Makbule was keen on hooking into the light thermals throughout the day and she had multiple extended flights. She flies has been flying a WW Eagle glider with much grace and finesse that has been the talk of the club. Her husband Chris spent this day putting together his Aeros Discus that had been shortpacked. What a perfect day to put a hang glider together!

Jeff Bohl was also present Saturday. He had another one of his days where he just specks out into the sky. Except he got down low, I mean LOW LOW probably around 200′ and he was just working that thermal over the hangar. Well I thought he was going to be landing soon so I didn’t pay no attention to him, and son of a gun Jeff was determined and he climbed out and skyed out AGAIN!!!

Of course, Mick was there, he is a thermal connoisseur. But, the day was not his. That fine Sunday was all Jeff B. with that low save. But, Mick did have a pair of 40min flights.

Tandems, students, flying all day on Sunday really. Carl flew in with a very nice decathlon airplane. Everyone was a little bit dumbfounded that many of the club members were not present. Anyways, I had a couple of extended flights on sunday that were fun but left more to be desired. I had left a good lift to follow Mick and Jeff…turns out those guys were just exploring and I can’t glide as well with my Falcon and I got shot down after about 25mins.

As the Sunday funday was winding down, I had the wild idea to get some scooter tow action going on. Sir Rich was really keen on dragging me with that thing again… this time I wanted to have more on the throttle. I borrowed a Koch release from Mick and despite Tiki’s persistent fault-finding badgering I was able to get 5 scooter tows in which I practiced releasing. We had some success and we are getting sharper on running the scooter tow more efficiently.

Every had a super fun time and we wrapped up the night with a pizza party/silly youtube video shenanigans. Little did we know what the next day would have in store for us.

On to Monday, today. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day. WHERE WAS EVERYONE!?! As I am typing this, I kinda feel like I am spinning although I am sitting still. I don’t even know how to really explain this day but I’ll try. Another clear day, and the wind died down to about a mile an hour. The Jeffs (Kannard/Bohl) were set up and I could overhear them talking about the conditions/strategy. They had spotted a haze dome to the south. Students had already seized the early calm conditions and by lunch things were really heating up. My game plan was to try the area north of the hangars by the highway to see if I could find that lift that was there yesterday. The Jeffs skyed out right off the bat exploring the haze dome. I had not found anything on my flight and was on the deck pretty fast. I got a relight from an apologetic Tiki and she got me back up again. I released North of the highway and searched with no reward. I was sinking out again. As I got down to 900′ I made a pass over the hangars and hit a bump. I focused on not landing and thinking UP. I struggled finding the edges of the thermal and the hangars were invading my periphery vision. Finally, I tagged that thermal and got in the core. I was in, but I didn’t let myself get too excited..1200, 1500, 2000, and this thermal just kept on giving all the way up to a brisk 3500′. I was, and still am, just brimming with excitement from catching that thermal. up at 3500′ I see the Jeffs and sprint over to where they are and we just all lock in to a sweet thermal again…Soon, Mick, Makbule, Sir Rich join the mix. Tiki really had no problem and she was just slingshoting pilots into out gaggle.

We were skying out and exploring everywhere. But low in behold, I was sinking out again, and I glimpsed at my vario and it was at 1000′. “Oh man, I don’t want to get low” I thought. 900′ was approaching and all my fellow pilots were too far out of reach for my Falcon wings. There I was again low…getting lower. “I’ll try the hangars again” nothing…shoot…well how about this field wuooooooUP. Bang, I hit another one! This one was a bona fide thermal. I got a good turn into it and wow I was going UP! I was averaging 4 on my vario, non stop all the way back up to 3500′. I was, and still am, feeling on top of the world. The other pilots came to my thermal as they pleased. Everyone was flying fantastic and the thermals were abundant. Bart’s tandems came to visit me up at the 3000′ nook I had found. I rode those thermals till I could feel them start to break up and dissipate. I was going on a 2hour 30min flight…time to land this thing with a nice no wind landing.

As I get back to the hangar everyone was pumped up about the awesome day of flying and Amber was getting set up to solo. We pretty much inundated her with good vibes and positive mojo while she waited to get her first solo tow. It went off without a hitch. Perfect conditions, perfect solo, and an overjoyed emotional Amber landed safely not too far off from the wind sock.

Today goes down as the best day of flying so far in my life. My previous longest duration was 1 hour…I have smashed that now.

What a day!!!

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