Powered Paragliding in the most rowdy air ever

Dawn and I arrived at Titan at 6:30PM. The winds were blowing 5 to 8 from the NNW and seems to be coming down. I was disappointed that the FRS was not working, I had allowed the battery to run down . It was certainly not a show stopper but I would have liked to have communication with Dawn so that she could be in on the action. While we were fussing with the radios I watched the winds that were cycling every few minutes 150 degrees from NNW to WSW. There were clearly high winds aloft, but down low it looked fine.  No puffs… just a smooth shifting in direction.

When I kited the PP 250 it came up clean and stable so I built a wall and set-up for launch.  The take off was normal, but as soon as I was in the air, I realized that it was going  to be bumpy.  Almost immediately the wing was swung hard to the left and I was in a huge pocket of lift.  I climbed out over the neighborhood and found the air was now moving from the southwest… 180 degrees away from where it was on the surface.  When I got over the field east of the LZ the air smoothed out but the winds were still strong.  I continued around and was soon  back into the bumps over launch area.  This time I turned to the left and found myself in some incredible sink.  I was at full power and descending at over 100 feet / minute.  South of the horse ranch I hit the lift and was climbing 300ft/min at idle.  Now I was too high to set up a landing without hard maneuvers, so I decided to turn east and make a slow descending circle but the wind picked up and I found myself parked just south of the LZ.  At this point there must have been a hard wind shift because the wing folded on the left side.  It was at least a 1/3 collapse but it popped right out and I was still pointing toward my selected landing spot.  My decent was vertical and fast, I flared at the last second and touched down.  It wasn’t a hard landing but the wing pulled back and to the left, rolling me to the side and dragging the trike a few feet, which bent the foot peg that was damaged at Bubba’s last year.  On the ground I looked over the trike and found no other damage.  Dawn saw the collapse but did not see the landing or roll over because I was out of sight on the other side of the Rush Building. …. That was a good thing.

Looking back … Perhaps this could have been avoided … A test balloon might have shown the twitchy air.  I knew there was high wind aloft by the blown out edges on the clouds and… I should have been alerted when I saw the dramatic wind shifts.  BUT … It looked so good…. the next time I’m faced with similar weather signals I will try to be more patient and if the wind is shifting wait  to see if it is a pattern.

It was a short hairy ride … the good thing was … I didn’t freak out and kept flying the aircraft until I was able to get down without real damage to man or machine.

Author: JoeO

Powered Paraglider pilot since 2005

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