Most of us were at the field by 6:30am. The sky was showing first light and the Monuments were coming into focus in the east. At 7:15 the winds were light on the surface and my launch was clean in every respect. This was the best flight of the trip. The winds aloft were between 10 and 15 mph and I encountered both lift and sinking air that was rather dramatic, I was glad that I had decided early to get high because it was definitely the right place to be. Heading north east I flew toward Eagle Rock and circled around it to Brighams Tomb and Bear and Rabbit Summit. I was level with the buttes and was starting to feel the bumps from mile away, so… I added some thrust and climbed 300 feet higher where it smoothed out. I wanted to take a picture of my shadow against the face of one of the buttes but it meant going down into turbulent air to be low enough for the sun so I made do with shots from above. In the picture below you can see my reflection which is the bright spot above the butte.
The ride was smooth and fast, when I realized that I was heading back at close to 40 mph I wished that I had used the extra gas to go all the way around the Big Indian. When I got back over the LZ there was still plenty of fuel So I stayed high just boating around and doing circles, watching the wings below me and generally enjoying the view. The surface winds were from the south and swinging around the southern Mesa at Gouldings so I decided to land at the northwest end of the apron to avoid the worst of the twitchy currents. Jon Zucala and Jim King were setting up and watching me come in. At 200 feet I caught the headwind and my glide got allot steeper… FAST. I modulated the throttle to smooth out the glide. At 50 feet I hit a bump and instantly dropped another 20 feet. Talking to the guys later, it looked alot worse from the ground. But the bump was over before I could do much so I just took it for what it was and stayed on short final as planned. The landing was nice, almost no forward speed and touchdown was light as a feather. Jon asked me, “How did you do that?”, I wasn’t sure what he meant but later I figured out that he was just paying me a compliment for the nice landing.
During the next 45 minutes most of the guys landed and at 9:30, right on the button, the first of the commercial tourist aircraft began to land. Jeff and Phil were the last guys down, they quietly packed their equipment and left before I had a chance to chat with them. I wanted to know where they went but from the amount time they were in the air, I’m sure they covered allot of ground. I expect that I’ll see their footage on the next Light Touch DVD soon.
A couple of the commercial pilots came over and were asking questions about our sport. One of them seemed very interested and I think that, had he been alone, he would have stayed longer and hooked up with an instructor. We were teasing him about coming over to the “dark side” and from the look in his eye I wouldn’t be surprised to see him at a fly-in someday.