Linda Salamone's Blog

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Labor Day Weekend Update

Saturday, August 30th
It began cloudy and rainy, but the forecast promised clearing (and lift) later. Mario Luppa was back in town for some XC experience, so after a trip to the Public Market, we all headed to Hammondsport. There was quite a crowd when we arrived. The Canadian paragliding AND HANGGLIDING contingent was well represented, and soon more regular RAF members turned up. The launch was beginning to like the Hammondsport launch of old...

I think Mark launched first, then Katrin and Karl, then Mario, then maybe some PGs while I was putting Mario's video camera in the car, then I launched. Mark's launch was scary, Mario's looked good- and I caught it on video to prove I have actually taught him something (more on that later)- and my launch was pretty good, too. Karl and Mark were getting high in one big thermal and that had me scrambling to get going. But now that I was scratching with the rest of them, it seemed they took the last ticket out of there. At just 70- 150 meters over for the first hour of the flight, I thought mine and Mario's chances of going XC were totally shot. I was duking it out with a Canadian PG in front of launch, Mario was behind the church REALLY low, Mark was stuck under a big cu with Karl. Finally, I get something solid to get up in and I see Mario doing well now too. The PG and I were really getting in each other's way as the two of us clung desperately to this first, and maybe only, big climb. But eventually it got big enough for the two of us to give each other room and get high. When I searched the west ridge for Mario, I couldn't find him so I called on the radio. He reports that he is setting up for a top landing and when I comment he asks for silence so he can concentrate. Well, I considered the flight to be just beginning, but after having a long look at the LZ by the church, Mario was determined not to land there (can't blame him!) and he took advantage of his newly aquired altitude to land in a better field.

I decided to try to hook up with Mark and see what he was up to. He said he was around 3300' at cloudbase and pretty soon I was nearby but he was in some shoulder pain so even he decided to land. That left me, and my PG buddy to share the air (at a huge distance from each other now) so I just started to cruise around. When I got back to the main ridge at one point, I saw a glider in the trees just north of launch. In the same place from where I have dug other gliders out. Obviously a blown launch. Mark confirmed it was Joe, and that he was okay and had help. The air way above was getting nicer and nicer and the lift more widespread. No handed flying... climbing at 1-2m/s... so sweet. Since Mario was no longer in the air to go XC, and at 1200m over launch I was getting cold, I scanned the ridge for some company. I assumed no one else was launching because they were getting Joe's glider unstuck but soon more gliders got into the air. I waited a while for this one unfamiliar topless glider to find something to get up high in, and finally Jim Ramsden was in the ozone with me in his T2. He chased me around for a while and then I figured I should go land after 3 hours in the air. Mario and Mark were waiting at the airport for me anyhow. I had to search for sink (isn't that how it always is?) and even though it was a less than stellar landing, it was likely better than what I could have done at the church LZ. I have been pretty stressed about landing lately.

On the way home we happened upon the Dansville Balloon festival- 50 hot air balloons all began launching just as we were going through town....
Oh wait, that's a different bag of hot air.... (actually it's Jim Rizzo introducing me to his girlfriend...)Okay here are the balloons...
and one that was really strange (The Purple People Eater...) but I couldn't get a shot of it's face...
The evening was capped off at a Ribs Contest in Caledonia, hosted by the Genesee Sun...

So really a great flying day, no XC but still a lot of fun.

Airtime: 2:58

Alt2: 1250m

Sunday August 31-

We all head to Hammondsport again but knowing it will probably be cross from the north, we don't even take the gliders off the car. A Canadian HG pilot was struggling in a strong cross so we headed to Mossy Banks. It was a bit strong when we arrived and the launch needed some trimming anyhow. By the time it was clear and we were set up, it was blowing in pretty sweet. Karl got in the slot and waited through way too many nice cycles- hawks and kestrels soaring just out front. But that launch is so intimidating I could hardly blame him. Finally he backed off when it was just about dead, and Mario stepped up to the cliff. I told him that the glider wouldn't be flying for some time after leaving the cliff, so he would have to have the glider in a perfect flying attitude, with a little extra speed, while shoving off the launch. He executed it well (maybe a bit too pulled in) and dove significantly low away from the ridge. He scratched valiantly for maybe 4 passes then headed for a near perfect landing below. A PG had also managed a launch out of that tiny notch in the woods...

I got up to the launch as people were packing up to go back to Hammondsport. Now the cycles were decidedly cross from the NW, but I waited. And waited. And waited some more. Everyone was gone or almost gone when a cycle that was pretty straight started up the bottom of the valley. I tucked my glider's nose down a bit more and yelled CLEAR much to the surprise of anyone that was still on launch. My launch was sweet! and I headed right towards the overlook and I was going UP!!! A few passes just a hundred feet or so over but it was so nice!!! The other pilots were back at their cars at the overlook- surprised too to see me over their heads. It was great, but very short-lived, and a slight turn in my glider was scaring me out of scratching much. I landed with Mario and packed up.

On the way home we passed Dansville AGAIN while the balloons were launching, but we didn't stop since Karl, Katrin and Paul were joining us for dinner. A big feast ensued and many tales were told... But I had the Mossy flight of the day at 6 minutes 33 seconds so I kept my mouth shut for a change...

Monday, Labor Day, September 1st- Indian Cliffs

Nice forecast, except it looks like it might be really light. Up top, it's dead. I begin to set up, well just because I like to be ready for anything, and I know for sure it's not going to be blowing in anywhere else. By the time I am done, it is coming in NICE! Mario is ready, so he launches right after Scott, who is getting above the ridge nicely in his Falcon. Mario's launch was a little slow, but he recovered and pulled away from the slot with good speed. The rest of us ran for our gliders, and I was just pulling my speed sleeves on when I looked up and saw Mario way behind the launch just above the trees- NOT a good place to be. It looked like he was going to get out of there twice, but then we heard the all-too-familiar sound of glider hitting tree branches and watched as he put it in (conveniently) right next to the launch slot. He yelled that he was okay. Everyone ran the 15 yds over to where he was suspended, about 15-20 feet off the ground, right next to a pretty easy climbing tree. I shimmied up the tree and someone handed me a rope to attach to the dental floss he threw to me. The extraction of the pilot was more difficult than the glider extraction, but everything was down and unhurt in less than an hour.... which coincidentally is about how long the wind blew into the ridge that day. We left Mario to pack up the intact -looking glider and I got into my harness. Bill launched before me, and Doug in his PG, but it was very light now, and they were not getting high, until we saw a bald eagle climbing just below. I flung myself out at it and started climbing right away. Doug and I had our own little piece of the thermal but he left meat of it to me. The eagle showed me just where it was and soon I was 500 meters over and much happier than I had been up a tree. The wind was almost completely dead, so my track was straight up mostly. As I ran around the area when that thermal died, I found the wind was sometimes a light NW- that would explain why no one was launching. Doug had landed, Bill before I had even launched, so now I had the whole valley to myself. Well, just me and a couple of sailplanes. I tried to pimp off one that was turning behind Harris Hill, but when I got out there, I found only broken lift and he promptly left (must be he heard about me corkscrewing up through Jim Rizzo last weekend....). I went back to the east ridge and played around there til I finally sank out. My landing was perfect for a change- maybe because Doug was giving me the wind direction in the LZ- and I packed my glider and got back up in time for it NOT to wonder. A few sledders, but mostly everyone else packed up.

Airtime: 0:52

Alt2: 480 meters

So... what did we learn? Be ready, make sure your student is ready (already knew that). Launch like you mean it, and make sure your student does ( knew that too). Know what the wind is doing in the LZ (knew that, he knows that but he didn't need to know it on this flight!). Flare hard in no wind (check). Give your student ALL the information he needs to stay safe and have a successful flight (knew that too, but wasn't thorough....) After much discussion from- I mean WITH Mario, it seems he thought being closer to the trees was better for getting lift. Yes, well, up to a point to stay in the lift band. But he tested the point of wind gradient. For a tow park pilot, that isn't something he would normally deal with. Wind gradient near the ground, yes, of course. But I neglected to tell him the specific danger after seeing how well he handled scratching a ridge in July and again this past Saturday. I assumed he knew. So the thing I learned most is NEVER ASSUME. We also had a nice discussion about Intermediate Syndrome...

So we learned a very valuable lesson at a very low cost. A hang strap or two, an ego, maybe a bent batten, some flying, but all in all, it was cheap. And I have heard that there are 'pilots who have been in the trees, and pilots who WILL be in the trees' and now that Mario has joined the ranks of the former, he doesn't need to revisit that on some other occasion. For me, that adventure lies ahead, if the adage is true...


  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Tom Lanning, at 3:10 PM  

  • Here in New England we also have a saying; there are pilots that will land in the trees and those that will land in the trees again!

    Thanks for the write up.

    By Blogger Tom Lanning, at 3:11 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home