948 Shell Creek … Fog

The flight deserves a good write up.
16 minutes duration
1300ft max. alt

It was 68 degrees before first light.  When I left the house it was just hazy but got thicker as I went inland, it was pea soup as I pasted Hwy 75… it was so bad that I missed the turnoff to Washington loop.  I tried to gauge the wind but couldn’t get a view of the flags, atop the derrick at the water treatment plant.  Surprisingly at the airpark it wasn’t so bad, I could see across the runway and figured that I could probably see well enough to launch and climb into clear air.

While setting up, the fog lifted slightly and I could see clearly from the surface to about 50 feet.  The wind was out of the ENE at 4-5mph.  I inflated without issue and turned down the runway launching about 70 degrees off the wind.    Almost immediately, (50ft/AGL), I was blinded by the fog.   At 250 ft the wind direction changed to ESE and I raced toward Shell Creek at 50mph.  Every once in a while I was able to get a glimpse of the creek meandering below me.  Turning into the wind I steered toward the radio tower which was the only visible landmark.

I was hoping to see through some holes to navigate but was just barely able to make out a few high contrast shapes.  At 1300ft it was cotton candy as far as I could see and it didn’t look like it would get any better,  and…. could possibly get worse.  I didn’t want to try a blind landing.  The GPS was great for flight data but as a map and navigational aid, not so much.

So… While I could still make out the where the airstrip was I turned back and circled down at the south end of the runway.  I spiraled down at 450ft/min and held my breath.  Finally, I could see Richards house from 100ft AGL.  I turned onto final and glided in.   I overshot the wing bag by several hundred feet but that was just fine compared with landing short and maybe hitting a fence.

This was a really marginal flight but I’M GLAD I DID IT.

Beautiful night that turned out to be a pucker # 653 at Vance Brand

I labeled this post with bad launch and Hairy Flight but really it was not bad just challenging.

It was hot all day and 89 degrees when I got to the field at 6:45.  I took my time setting up to let the air mellow.  At 7:15 I had set up with my new A Assists and blew the first launch.  The keeper I had used to attach the ratchet to the Assist wasn’t strong enough and it blew out.  I reattached them with heavy zip ties and tried again.  This time I wish I had someone with a video camera.  The wing hung back and so I reached up and gave the assists a little help.  I must have got a better push with the right arm because the wing shot up but was only flying on the right side.  I looked to the left and the whole left side was hanging down like a limp dick but the air was still and I had lots of room so I backed off the throttle and coaxed the wing back up with a few pulls on the brake.  It was the longest roll out and take off since the time in Meadow Lake with the 23 hp Briggs.

The air was OK until I got to 500 feet where there was a layer of rowdy air.  I powered through that and found good air at 1000 feet AGL.  I went South and West until I found my self at Boulder Reservoir I was at 6000 feet MSL and there wasn’t a puff on the lake so I descended to about 200 feet AGL and cruised the shoreline.  When I got over the Marina area it started to get bumpy so I climbed out and started back.

About half way home I encountered a headwind and was flying at 10 to 15 mph.  The air temp dropped several degrees and I was feeling “puffs which is not normal.  I was able to pick up speed by crabbing but it still took a long time to get back to Vance Brand.  The wind had shifted from Northerly to Easterly and I was about 1 and a half miles west of the field when I encountered some really nasty air.  I was starting to get some minor tip collapses and being bounced up and down 50 to 100 feet at a time.  Earlier I’d flown through some patches of big lift and sink but that was at 6500 ft. It was a whole different story at 300 feet and it stayed that way all the way back to the field.

The landing was very steep and after touch down I pulled a couple of yards of the right brake to disable the wing.

579 580 581 Thermal evening at Vance Brand

It was one of those nights that just wouldn’t settle down. 

I got to the field at 5:00 sharp, the wind was blowing 5 MPH from the East.  Like yesterday I went to the west end of the field and set up.  The launch was clean and I headed off to the South where I encountered some bumpy air.  The wing was being pulled to the right and I let it go.  I did use some left brake to slowly bring it around but not enough input force the issue.  Once on course, I flew to the High School where I could see the football team scrimmaging , it was still kind of bumpy so I turned west toward the reservoir.  More bumps and shifty winds.  Now mind you…. the sky was clear and it looked like it should be steady winds but it was mixing at all altitudes.  So… I turned back to Vance Brand and set up to land.  There was a Yellow War Bird coming in at the same time as I so I went around the swoop pond and let him have the right of way. 

The second launch was clean.  The wing came up and was well overhead before the cart began to move forward.   I ran about 10 yards before lift-off and instantly encountered some big lift.  The wing was pulled to the right and I allowed it to climb and go over the swoop pond.  Even though it looked calm at the surface there was serious thermic air.  I was climbing at 300 ft/min at 50 ft AGL.  So… I turned back toward the field and set up for landing.  It was great I was pulled from one side to the other but still landed right next to the truck.

The third launch was a repeat … I was bounced up right after lift off and turned back to land.  This time the air was really active.  I was climbing and then sinking every few seconds.  It was like the flight at Titan last year when Dawn thought I was going to crash into the Rush Building.  When I was on final at 300 feet my glide slope was perfect except that one minute I was going to overshoot and the next I was way short.  It would have been great to see a video because I’m sure I was doing a Yo Yo but it all evened out and I set down by the truck with almost no forward motion.  One of the slowest and maybe cleanest landings I can remember.
God, I love this sport!

#527 Powered Paragliding in Turbulence Tonight

 I got to the field a little earlier this time.  There was a very light breeze from the East (Weather Underground predicted.)  While I was unloading the rig, the wind shifted to the West and increased to 8 knots. ( THIS WAS A 180 DEGREE SHIFT)  It didn’t feel like a good time to launch so I hauled my wing out to the center of the field south of the runway and kited for a bit.  The Eden III was dancing overhead, there was plenty of lift but it kept shifting 30 degrees from left to right.   I had no trouble keeping it up  but it wasn’t a stable air mass.  It continued to build with gusts every few minutes,  the air was bouncing between 6 and 12 knots and continued to vacillate.  It was not looking good.   There was a band of clouds running along the front range (mountain wave). There were also large lenticular clouds East of the wave that that I thought might indicate high winds aloft.  Whatever it was… the sky was not settled and I wasn’t comfortable.
I  didn’t think I was going to launch… but hope springs eternal.  The sun was behind the cloud band and I thought there might be a chance that when it dropped below the band that there would be a favorable change.  Sure enough it did… it was still from the West but it decreased slightly and the gusts were coming down.  I had walked back to the truck and was still uncertain…. So I loaded the kiting harness and powered out to where I had left the wing, that was built into a nice wall.  If I wasn’t going to fly at least I could get some good kiting in.  Picking my way around the swoopers sandpit I drove out to the wing.  The wind was manageable but I was still concerned about gusts.  Taking extra care I hooked-in, this time making sure that the the trim cam was above the hang point loops and not likely to slip and get caught hanging the trike from the cam buckle.
Beaver moon over the runway
The launch was clean,  I did use brakes to get a little extra lift but quickly let them go and was climbing at 200 ft/minute.  The air was unstable with pockets of lift and sink.  The wing was surging and the wind speed was increasing with every foot of altitude. At 400 feet it was 20 knots and at 600 feet it was over 30.  I was glad to have flown but it wasn’t a lot of fun. I was barely penetrating into the wind and being blown way over the hangers every time I turned downwind.  Eventually I was caught in some nasty turbulence and decided enough was enough.  Turning East I set up for final over the truck.  Decent was almost vertical and the touchdown was light as a feather.  I let the wing fly after shutting down the motor and kited from my seat for a couple of minutes.  If only the air had been as stable at altitude as it was at the surface.

Short but Satisfactory 

503 Titan

Got to the field at 6:30.  John was already up. 
The skies were full of high clouds, blurred and blown at the bottom.  The winds were light from the SW. 
While I was setting up John landed and came downfield to brief me.  He said it was not dangerous but it wasn’t much fun either.  Mixing air with lots of surges.  In other words ” Active Flying” 
I decided to try it out.  The launch was interesting.  The wing came up to the left,  I was able to right it and when it seemed stable I powered up.  Rolling at a high speed I got enough lift to bring up the front wheel but it didn’t feel right.  I powered down a bit … rolled …  powered back up and finally lifted off  way down the field. John was right it was smooth for 20 seconds then I’d get pulled, then it would mellow out for a bit until the next patch of mixing air.  There was big lift over the horse ranch and a huge swing south of the LZ.  I decided to call it good and get down.  I wish that I’d had a GPS to track the landing because it was a series of quick drops with long glides in between.
Even though it seemed smooth at the surface the air was disturbed just 20 feet overhead.
Equipment Note:
Order a set of o rings from Michelle for the PPS
Empty the dirt out of the cells

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.

When the Moron Speaks … Listen

Paul Anthem talks about meeting
“Monument Rotor”

Paul Anthem:

On the second morning of flying at Monument Valley in southern Utah four of us planned on flying together out to the monoliths and mesas so that professional paramotor photographer Franck Simmonet could get some photos.
“You don’t need to get close to the mesas” he said, “just stay close to me so that you are big in the frame”.
We launched into almost no wind. It could have been because we were in the wind shadow of the huge mesa beside the LZ. Whatever it was, as I flew out to the mountainous monuments, I was doomed to misjudge the winds.
The day before I had flown out to the large horse-shoe shaped area of monoliths and felt a few mild bumps when I was right in the middle and below the top of the mesas, some of which reach almost 1000 ft. Just about everyone was flying fairly close to the towering structures– but the wind was mild then.
Apparently, this day, the winds were much stronger AND I had completely misjudged the wind direction. I always stay away and above of the leeward side of any large obstruction but, as I slowly descended towards the largest mesa, I mistakenly thought I was on the windward side.
That’s when I heard Franck over the radio, “Go heighter, go heighter!” (Yes, I know it’s “higher” but he was saying “heighter”). By the time he radioed that warning I realized that I was NOT climbing very fast– in fact, I think I was sinking at full throttle.
Then, maybe 20 or 30 seconds later I felt my wing start to vibrate. This is not a very happy wing, I’m thinking. I can feel that I’m loosing brake pressure on the right side (the monolith was to my left several hundred feet). Franck and Matt are a few hundred feet above and behind me. My wing was deforming in such odd and obvious ways that it prompted Matt Witchlinski to radio his concern, “Paul, are you in some bad air ! ?”
I didn’t even try to answer. SOMETHING is going to happen soon, I thought. He had barely finished his sentence when my wing was smacked out of the air.
Now, I often play around with my wing and induce asymmetric collapses but the wing is STILL flying. This was nothing like that. My wing was batted down and folded up and I was falling instantly. It happened so fast all I had time to do was let off of the throttle and hope I didn’t fall into the wing.
The wing recovered with a few violent jerks as I checked the surge. I later learned that after seeing my predicament Franck and Matt instantly turned around to avoid the same fate– they didn’t get to see what happened next.
I’m pretty sure that Matt radioed back about ten seconds later to ask if I was alright. I didn’t answer. I was too busy concentrating and trying to control a wing that was dancing around and vibrating like I was on a drum. You know that feeling you get when you’ve vomited and you can feel it coming on again… I was waiting for it but nothing could have prepared me for the violent collapse that came next.
My wing was hit in the center and thrown back behind me and to the side. For a second I was laying back looking up at the sky. Then the balled up wing swung over to the other side and I was sideways. I dropped down and the wing swung me to the other side and on my back again. Then, next thing I know, it’s in front of me, below the horizon and smooshed up into a ball I could probably fit into my stuff sack. Well at least I can see the wing now. I drop under it again as I tense my arms in a braking position. The wing re-inflates with some rocking and surges, but thankfully, I’m flying again.
I look down and see that I still have several hundred feet of altitude. If I get hit again I might have to throw my reserve. I don’t want to do that while caught in a rotor with only jagged rocks and a cliff face below.
I don’t know if I can take another thrashing like that, I thought. I was lucky that I didn’t fall through the lines or get a major cravat… and I’m still being rocked.
I could feel that I was caught in the huge rotor- it was like a vortex. I couldn’t climb and I couldn’t get away from the monolith. The other guys had got away, maybe they can look back and see some way out. I pressed the radio button on my helmet,” I can’t get out! I’m stuck in the rotor! What should I do ?”
“Climb out”, they said.
“I can’t, it’s pushing me down!”
For a second, I considered going low but then decided that if I had another collapse like the last one that I wouldn’t recover in time. I thought about heading TOWARDS the mesa but decided that although it might get me under the down rotor, it might also suck me up and put me through the wringer again.
So I just kept at full throttle, heading away from the mesa, hands clenched on the brakes trying to keep the wing as stable as possible with every twitch and twist.
Finally, after what must have been 15 minutes, I felt the air smooth out and I started to climb again.
I headed straight back to the airport.
I had had my excitement for the day.

Paul is an accomplished pilot and the creator of the famous PPG for Morons Videos see more at:

#463 Titan

Spontaneous Aviator
My appraisal was done by 2:30 the sky had a thin skin of high clouds and it looked like it might glass off.  So.. at the last minute I decided to fly.  I hurried home, pulled on my boots and was at the field setting up 3:30.The wind was light from the south so I triked to the south end of the field and set up.  While I was going through the final checks the wind picked up freshly from the west.  I didn’t expect success but waited for a lull and gave it a try.  No Joy the wing did just as expected and came up way too crooked to attempt correcting it.  Moving to the center I reset and launched without brakes to the South West.
The air was smooth for the first 500 feet but at 600ft. I was starting to get buffeted by small puffs which could have been some rotor off the foothills.   Flying East over the big open fields I went downwind at a pretty good clip.  A couple of times I was swung fairly hard with the wing banking 30 degrees so I turned back and slowly made my way back to the field.  The throttle was not fastened as tightly as usual and it did not like going to idle so when I got to the power lines I was still at cruise and just barely penetrating.  I was actively flying the wing and didn’t want to let off brake to change the trim so I just tufted it out and took my time.  I was glad to be high when I caught some sink and dropped 50 feet before leveling off.
Below 200 ft.it was down right rowdy.  Twice I came in on final and bolted, once when I was popped up and then some serious sink had me dropping to fast for comfort.  The third try was nice. The breeze was strong and I came in at less than 10 mph and touched down as light as a feather. 

Steve Abbey flew by just after I landed, my wing came down behind ready to inflate and for about 2 seconds I considered relighting the motor and joining him.  He overflew me going East and when he turned back was parked right over my head.  I watched him slowly make his way back toward home and collected my wing.

By the time I was ready to go the winds were way beyond flyable.  I smiled at my good timing and threaded my way between the goose decoys back toward the highway.