2013 was a great year! Got some great flying in, had a couple personal bests for distance in paragliding, got to spend tons more time with my family in the second half of the year after I changed employers, and lived through all 365 days. I think the highlight of the whole paragliding year was having the opportunity to land at the soccer field by my instructors home. A long dreamt of flight – achieved. Outside of paragliding the highlight of the year was spending a week camping with my family in the Uinta’s near Sheep Creek Reservoir, and the long weekend spent camping with my family in the Spring down near Torrey Utah – memories made. Ahhhh…
What’s in store for 2014? More time with family, camping, paragliding, and fun. If todays fun is any indication of what 2014 has to bring I think it’s going to be a GREAT year. Had the opportunity to fly today at the “V” above Bountiful, Utah. A friend and I actually managed to make it up the road through the snow to launch, and were rewarded with a beautiful New Years flight! Bring it 2014!
I posted my first SIV video awhile back, and then I did a second SIV clinic and never got around to posting the video for that. Here are both videos together. The first includes frontals, asymmetric collapses, big-ear wing overs, spirals, etc. The second video is a couple stalls I did during my second SIV with one successful tail slide. I was really happy with the way the wing performed, and was surprised at how well it recovered without input. If you are a paraglider pilot, and haven’t done an SIV, then get out and do one. It will do wonders for your confidence! You’ll be surprised how un-scary those big scary maneuvers are!
The 2013 Open Distance Paragliding Nationals – my annual, greatly anticipated event! This was my third year participating in the event, and probably the best so far. The first year I broke my ankle at no fault of the act of paragliding itself. The second year was a bit of a sink-out fest, and this year I had a couple GREAT flights and learned a ton! The competition was very well-organized, and although the weather kinda stunk we got a few really good flying days in!
Originally I was going to write a daily blog throughout the competition, take tons of pictures, run my GoPro camera every day, and basically work myself to death while I flew. In the end I decided to crawl into a quite place, and live in the moment throughout the event. I didn’t write, take any pictures or video, and didn’t really get all that involved in much else other than the flying and learning. Great Choice Me! I thoroughly enjoyed the week because of this choice. My stress level was lower, my focus was higher, and my fun factor was off the charts. I didn’t get grumpy once! I was able to learn a ton throughout the week as well because my focus was centered. In the interest of that attitude I’m not going to ramble on and on with a play by play of the week, but basically just give a quick summary.
What were the highlights? First, even though I live locally to the competition I decided to drag my camp trailer down to the campground that is right behind launch, and live up on the hill all week – 1st good choice. My nights were peaceful as I was serenaded to sleep every night by a million croaking frogs. At least I think they were frogs. Someone told me they were crickets, and if they were I would NOT want to meet them. The base notes that were emanating from the trees would have made for crickets of epic proportions! I got to meet a really interesting gentleman, Lance, who was the campground host. He and I had many long talks about Backpacking, Paragliding, Nature, and solace in the evenings. It can be quite interesting to get into deep discussions with a total stranger that has followed a completely different path in life from your own. After a few evenings of discussion I concluded that although we were on totally different paths in life, the roots of life itself were very similar. Long pause to ponder…. Of course there was the flying as well! How could we leave that out! Out of the entire week I was able to get two really good flights in. One was my personal best to the South – just over 22 miles, and just three tenths of a mile shorter than my personal best.
What did I learn? Wow! Too many things to list. The highlights? First, I learned that I, or we as a local fling community, are probably leaving a lot of good, flyable days on the table. I wouldn’t have left the house to fly on any of the days that I flew during the competition. Through education, sound decisions, and constantly watching the changing sky a few of those days were perfectly flyable, and were actually really good, perfectly safe flying days in the end! I learned that supreme patience and determination are two big requirements of flying far – Don’t give up on a flight until BOTH feet are on the ground. The biggest lesson I learned during the competition though was “Living in the Moment.” Bill gave a really good talk about living in the moment during one of our classes, and it really hit home. We as paraglider pilots, and even in our normal lives, often get a set idea of how something should pan out in our heads. It may be a specific line we are trying to fly, a specific wind direction or velocity we expect in a certain area, or any number of other pre-conceived notions. By living in the moment, and only using those pre-conceived notions as guides, we can fly much more efficiently. Wind not what you would expect? Adjust, and don’t try to bend it to your will. Is the line you are trying to fly heading North under a blue sky while there’s an amazing cloud street off to your East? Open your eyes and grab the could street. Abandon the pre-conceived line – if it’s safe to do so of course. This notion of “living in the moment” directly relates to life in general as well. Another long pause for a ponder…
So enough of my rambling. It was a great event, I had tons of fun, and learned a lot. Enjoy the pictures! I’m going to go live in the moment now… (A BIG HUGE thank you goes out to Terry for taking the time to snap thousands of pictures throughout the event. Thanks for your superb photography and your willingness to share Terry!)
It was the 15th of August. It was a beautiful day and the sky was begging me to come join it. The texts and tweets were flying by mid-morning as my friends started to make flying plans for the day. Where was I? At work, sitting at my desk, madly organizing the days of 9 service technicians. I finally decided I’d had enough. I jumped up from my desk, walked briskly across the office to my boss, and told him I was taking a “brain relief day.” He looked up at me from his desk and asked – “going flying?” I grinned. He replied – “Be Safe!” What a great boss…
There I stood at my favorite launch – Inspiration Point. A few people launched early and got flushed into the landing zone (LZ). I waited for the terrain to heat up just a bit more hoping for the perfect launch cycle. It wasn’t looking good. The day just shut down – no decent cycles to speak of! There I was standing on launch in mid-summer dressed like it was snowing anticipating the high altitude temperatures I would hopefully be enjoying soon – sweating like mad – no cycles. Then my radio crackled to life. It was Ric down in the LZ. He’d been flushed earlier, and was just relaxing in the shade on the nice cool grass enjoying the day when he’d felt a good, strong cycle move its way through the LZ directly toward Launch. “Hey! If there’s anybody still on launch there’s a big cycle coming your way! Should be to you in about 5 minutes!” I didn’t think twice. It’s certainly not every day you have the luxury of a generous pilot on the ground below you calling in the cycles. I got set up to launch and waited. Sure enough the bushes below me started to shiver with the power of mother nature as the cycle made its way up the hill to me. Ready… set… there it is… pull the wing up into the cycle… launch! The best cycle I’ve ever had the pleasure of launching into. A quick turn to the right in the cycle to get some height above launch, above launch within about 100′, then a quick J-hook turn to the left to start my first 360 into the lift. BooYaa! 5 minutes later I’m sittin’ pretty about 5000′ over launch, thanking Ric over and over quietly in my head, and looking North to decide on my route.
I flew North across Provo Canyon with another pilot who, unbeknownst to me at the time, snapped my now personal favorite picture of all time – thanks Blake! (picture below) We were high, had a tailwind, and were having a great glide across the canyon. It Looked like it was going to be an epic day after all! Whew! That brain day I took wasn’t going to be for naught. Blake and I made different line choices after the transition across Provo Canyon – mine worked out, his didn’t. Happens to all of us. I eventually ended up heading North toward Salt Lake City by myself. This was my first flight to the North from Inspiration Point. I was alone in my thoughts, my interpretations of conditions, my decisions, and my own choices. No following anybody around on this flight. I would fail or succeed on my own terms.
I’m not going to bore you to death with a recount of every decision and turn. If I already have I apologize – you can stop reading any time. I pushed North, and eventually made it over Lone Peak and into Salt Lake Valley. I still had plenty of altitude, a tailwind, and good lift where I needed it. I was now about 20 miles North of Launch, and had a decision to make. Ken Hudonjorgensen, my mentor, lives in the Salt Lake Valley. Most of the time when I go out to fly I invite him along as he does me, and on the occasions he can’t come along he always says to me “Just come land at my house, and I’ll give you a ride back to your truck!” It’s always been kind of one of those jokes. Yeah, sure, I’ll get right on that. Haha. Well, today, on the 200th flight in my log book I was actually in a position to pull that off. On my way to fly I had called him to invite him along. He couldn’t come and he’d actually said that like he always does. On the other hand I was also in a good position to continue my flight to the North and make some more distance. What to do? If you look at my track, included below, you can see the indecision in my track plain as day. Farther North? Nah, it would be really cool to go land at Ken’s house on my 200th flight. No, further North to make more distance. Oh FINE! West it is! I ended up getting there a little over 9000′ which is about 4000′ above ground. I had PLENTY of altitude, and once I got there it crossed my mind to just “tag” his house, head back to the mountains, and continue North. While that would have been really cool I decided not to be greedy and spiraled down to the soccer field next-door to his house and landed. It ended up being the best decision I could have made. The feeling of accomplishment that I had just achieved by fulfilling that goal was immense! Not to mention the cool factor of having my mentor walk out his back door to greet me after I’d just flown my personal best – 22.8 Miles. If you so desire, you can view the details of my flight in Leonardo.
Well I finally did it. After four years of determination, tenacity, and refusing to give up, along with countless hours of mentorship from some of the greats like ken Hudonjorgensen, Bill B., Sandy C., Neil H., Jim H., Kevin H., Chris G., as well as countless others, I finally left the nest that is Inspiration Point (Inspo). I launched at about 1:20 in the afternoon into a nice cycle, climbed that thermal to just under 10K’, and then left the nest and headed South. According to Leonardo my flight lasted 2 hours 40 minutes with a linear distance of 32.5 Kilometers (20.2 Miles) and a cross-country (XC) flight distance of 41.8 Kilometers (25.9 Miles) – I landed just South of Payson Utah. A view of the flight which is a link to the flight analysis by Leonardo can be found at the bottom of this post.
It was a high pressure day with a barometer of just over 30.2. The relatively high pressure of the day made for some sharp-edged, fairly unorganized thermals that I found pretty tricky to work. As one of my fellow, and well-respected, pilots put it – “I’m pretty sure today was a new record for the amount of directions my glider was moving at the same time…” I certainly concur with him. I think that at times my glider was flying in four different directions on multiple axis simultaneously. Fun stuff! I experienced some pretty weird air a few times that acted on my wing in some interesting ways. In one instance I was turning in some fairly strong lift going up at around 800’/min when suddenly I had a sensation of weightlessness coupled with a sudden loss of air movement on my face. It was like I was hanging suspended in a sensory deprivation chamber for a few moments! My glider didn’t lose pressure, and my vario was still screaming at me that I was ascending. I still haven’t quite put together what was going on there, but it was certainly ‘interesting and disconcerting’ for a moment! Later during my first big valley crossing my wing started to accordion, or bounce back and forth like a concertina, above my head. After about 2 oscillations my tips started to fly faster than the bulk of my wing for a split second threatening to horseshoe above me. I stabbed the breaks and smacked my new Skywalk Chili 3 squarely on its backside reminding it that she needed to stay in a nice, pretty, inflated configuration over my head. After we got over that little argument and settled into rhythm with each other again all was well.
After heading South from my first climb to nearly 10K’, I found the lift to be capped at about 8200′. Every climb I found took me to about 8200′ and then got really disorganized and ratty – I never could find a hole to push through above that ceiling. I spent most of the flight low, picking a landing zone (LZ) downwind or along a specific route I wanted to take, and searching for lift on my way there. Once there I’d pick a new LZ along the next chunk of route, search for lift, and repeat. I pretty much spent a big majority of the flight thinking I was about to start setting up to land, begging for lift above that big brown field or that big rock outcropping along the way to the LZ, finding lift above that big brown field or rock outcropping, breathing, repeating. The whole flight was a huge lesson in patience, and NOT giving up until I was forced to earth.
I learned a very valuable lesson after my flight while debriefing on the phone with Bill B. I have to say that man is so full of knowledge, and I am very thankful for his willingness to share that knowledge with me and others. Bill is a true mentor in every sense of the word. During the flight I couldn’t quite piece together why the lift was capping at around 8200′ when it was predicted to be around 11K’ – much higher. To make a very long discussion short, I was brought to realize that the Wasatch mountain range does not run true North and South as many people assume. It runs on more of a NNW to SSE track. So, when the winds aloft are coming from the North they are not necessarily running in line with the range, but coming over the back just a titch. To add to that if there is any Easterly influence at all, which I failed to recognize in my observations earlier in the day, then there is a very high probability that pilots flying on the West side of the range will be flying in Lee conditions (Flying on the side of a hill that is behind the wind direction). So, the East flow was wrapping, or rotoring, over the top of the Wasatch and holding down, or capping the lift on the West side of the range. I learned a very valuable lesson from this – I need to expand my observations of wind soundings earlier in the day much farther out than just the local area I will be flying, so that I can have a better view of the possible and probably conditions that may arise later in the day. Bill knew these conditions were possible because he had seen some Easterly readings earlier in the morning as far away as Evanston Wyoming, and some of the Utah mountain peaks to the NE. Lesson learned – Thanks Bill!
Well I’ve been off the radar here for a little bit (Sorry about that), and that’s because I’ve been out killin’ it with my new Skywalk Chili 3! Yes, after much deliberation I quit waffling and threw down. It came down to the Nova Mentor 3 and the Skywalk Chili 3 in the end, and to be honest it was a really close race. In my opinion the two wings are VERY well matched. It came down to glider weight and line consumption in the end. The Chili 3 weighs just a titch less than the Mentor 3, and it has a bit less line consumption – It was that close of a tie that it came down to the nitty gritty details.
I took my first flight on the new Chili 3 in some rather benign ridge lift just to get used to it a bit, then I took it up to the mountains and flew it at two different mountain sites before throwing down 2 tows and SIV! Let’s just say this… the Chili 3 LOVES to fly, wants to climb, and turns every little bump in the air into lift. The wing is really a dream to fly! A couple big things I’m getting used to. First, big ears, if pulled down to stop, are quite big. Of course I read the manual AFTER my first flight to find that Skywalk recommends only tweaking the big ear line/mallion/riser down to about 90 degrees rather than all the way down to 180 degrees – Much more manageable and reasonable big ears with this method. The second big thing I’m having to get used to, and adjust for, is the speed and glide in relation to landing. I keep overshooting, so I go farther out on my downwind leg, overshoot, farther still, and almost overshoot. This wing LOVES to fly! Next time around I’m gonna go farther downwind than I think I should, then count to ten while still flying downwind, and then and only then base and final – I’ll get her dialed in soon (Of course I’ll adjust for wind and conditions as necessary – relax)! Oh, and I shouldn’t forget to mention. One of the mountain sites I flew it at? Personal best at that site with the Chili 3 on distance. I’ve never been able to get away from that site in the past (XC – Cross Country), and yesterday on the Chili 3 I left and flew XC. It was a small XC, but an XC. The first one, personally, from that site. YES!
SIV (Simulation in Flight)? I’ll let the video below do the talking.
A ridiculously generous friend sent me a text yesterday as the weather conditions, unexpectedly, turned for the better. “Hey, I can’t fly this evening. Why don’t you swing by my house, grab my [brand new Chili 3 that I’ve only flown for about 45 minutes total], and take it for a fly this afternoon!” Seriously? You certainly don’t have to twist my arm there!
Initial impressions on the ground – This wing is very well made with a lot of nice little details. Covered speed system on the riser, rods in the trailing edge, a really ingenious brake gathering system, and an almost non-existent line set. After un-folding and folding the wing it doesn’t seem that the rods in the trailing edge will present a problem to packing the wing. They are very flexible, and don’t seem to resist bending much. They seem to be there more for added support to the trailing edge of the wing rather than providing rigid support – they are not as stiff as the rods in the cell openings. The brake gathering system is really cool for lack of a better word. I wish I had pictures, but other brake gathering systems I’ve seen pull from the center of a piece of webbing that is attached at two points on the trailing edge. So, if you can visualize, the brake line pulls on the webbing at its center, which in turn pulls two points on the trailing edge of the wing down creating a V or a pleat. The Chili 3’s system pulls on a piece of webbing from its edge, not the center, through a ring which gathers the two attachment points completely together creating a smooth surface, rather than a dimpled surface, on the trailing edge of the wing! My impression is this will, or does, create a much cleaner airflow over the trailing edge of the wing vs. other brake gathering systems. Is it better? I’m not sure. Is it different from the other wings I’ve flown? Sure!
Ok enough about the ground… How about launching? I launched the wing in moderate conditions – not light, not honkin’, and with a bit of texture in the air. The wing comes up very nicely and easily. In the stronger cycles it did want to come up pretty fast, and I had to keep it in check with a stab on the brakes over my head. Nothing extraordinary really – just telling the wing what I’d like it to do. One thing I noticed right off the bat. Even before I got off the ground. The Chili 3 feels really light! Light physically in weight, but also light like a feather over my head. I can’t really describe the sensation, but the best comparison I can make is that sometimes a wing feels like a big, fat bumble-bee over your head with marionette strings attached to you. The Chili 3 felt like a little, light hummingbird over my head daintily plucking at the marionette strings. Sorry – don’t know a better way to describe it.
How about in the Air (Small @ 93.5Kg)? The Chili 3 likes to talk! Not incessantly and unnecessarily like a teenager, but more like a college professor with very precise vocabulary and excellent grammar skills. When the wing feels it needs to tell you something it very accurately portrays that information to you through the risers. I say through the risers here on purpose. The brake pressure on the Chili 3 is very light. On the border of being too light in my humble opinion, but not over the edge. I didn’t find that the wing talked a whole lot through the brakes, and did most of its communicating through the risers; although, this may change as I get more time under the wing and get to know it’s language better😉 The wing communicates so well through the risers that I could discern, to within a couple of square feet, exactly where the little piece of turbulence, or lift, had effected the wing – insanely accurate communication. On that note, an interesting thing I noticed is that the Chili 3 does an excellent job of turning every little bump and hump in the air to a little bit of lift. It seems that every time it hits a little bump in the air you are now a foot or three higher. Control through the brakes is, like I said, very light, but it is also direct and precise. It doesn’t take very much weight shift to initiate a turn, and a little, and I really do mean a little, brake input really throws the Chili 3 into a nice carving turn. I am used to a wing with a bit more brake pressure, and I do have to say that, on one occasion, my muscle memory reverted to my old wing when I aggressively threw the Chili 3 into a turn, and I came very close to initiating a spin. This wing could get the unaware pilot that isn’t paying attention to what he or she is doing into trouble – just my opinion.
On glide? This is where the Chili 3 really blew me away. There were about 10 or so wings in the air, and I really apologize, but I didn’t do a very good job of taking a good accounting of what I was flying with. I did some glide comparisons to an Ozone Rush, albeit not a Rush 3, and the Chili was both faster and had a better glide. The comparison that really got me was when I flew wing-tip to wing-tip with a Sunglider Lava, Sunglider’s new C. The Chili 3 matched its speed exactly, but had a better glide. I watched the Lava’s pilot, although keeping up with me, slowly but surely sinking below me as we flew out over the valley – my smile getting bigger and bigger. The Sunglider Lava was a Medium being flown in the top third of its weight range, I was on the small Chili 3 at 93.5 Kg. I know that this is a completely ambiguous statement, but after landing one other pilot that I flew with made the statement that the Chili “blew everyone away,” and that “no one could keep up with its glide” – always a nice thing to hear…