Saturday, June 15, 2013

PPL Lesson 27: Misadventures in Little Planes

At the end of April my instructor and I took an XC flight to Columbia Airport in the Sierra foothills to get some mountain experience.  At a measly 2120' above sea level, it is stretching the term 'mountain', but for our little 152, fully loaded with two adults and fuel, it turned out to be more than enough of a hill.

We flew a straight line from KPAO to K022.  Winds aloft were lighter than forecast and in the middle of the central valley I found myself off course and a little lost.  Having just recently learned how to use the airplanes VOR (thats VHF Omnideractional Range), I dialed in the the Linden and Manteca radials and triangulated my position.  I was about 5 miles north of course, and with that new reference in mind I was able to locate my next waypoint and continue on to Columbia.

We overflew the airport high, avoiding descending until I was certain I had the airport in site.  Columbia is in a bowl, with rising terrain on both ends of the runway, particularly off runway 35.  We had checked the pilots operating handbook for the C152 prior to departure to confirm it's takeoff performance at 2000'.  We had enough performance to safely depart, but we decided that prior to landing we would execute a go-around to make sure we wouldn't get stuck there.

Entering the pattern for 35, I was nervous due to some turbulence, proximity to the hills, and sparse emergency landing options.  At 20' off the runway, we initiated the go-around, full power, mixture full rich, flaps slowly up, best climb at 67 knots.  The climb was meager.  At the end of the runway we were a few hundred feet above the trees (maybe it was more, but it felt low).  As I mentioned, the terrain slopes up off 35, and the sloping terrain seemed to almost match our climb.  This gave the unnerving impression that we weren't climbing at all, though we were.  I was white knuckling the yolk, my instructor told me to relax, keep it right at 67, and that we still had options.

I took a breath as we cleared the terrain, and turned out over the river.  I looked at my instructor and said "so I guess we're not going to land there then...", he "let's land.  We can take off going the other way."

Columbia was nice, quiet and scenic.  We took off on runway 17 which gave us a slight downhill runway, and less terrain to clear.  The wind was basically calms, maybe a 1mph tailwind.  Again, the climb was noticeably weak.  I was really surprised how much difference 2000' could make (Density altitude was 3000).  Again, I was a little uncomfortable on the climb out, but soon we were off and away.

Now, we had figured we had enough gas to get to Columbia and back without refueling.  But at Columbia we checked the tank levels and they were lower than we expected.  Maybe not enough to make it to KPAO with reserve.  We certainly didn't want to add weight to the plane before taking off, so we decided we would divert once we got to the valley and get some gas along the way.  So to Oakdale, O27 it was.  Used the VOR again and headed straight to it.  Circled down, checked the wind and had a nice landing.  It wasn't clear where the fuel station was, but eventually we found it.  What was less clear was how to make it pump gas.  A hand written sign on the pump said "Lower handle to prime.  Slow ok after start."  I get the first part, but still don't know what the second part means.  In the end, we wasted 30-40 minutes trying to fill up.  We were able to pump gas onto the ground, but not into the wing.  Oh, and there was a hornets nest in the gas pump.

Maybe if I stare at it long enough...
We left Oakdale shortly after sunset and now headed to Modesto.  We arrived in the dark, with strong, gusty winds.  Unfamiliar with the airport, we asked the tower for directions to the fuel station.  We were told to taxi via a few different taxiways, and head somewhere back behind the hangers.  The controller mentioned we would see a lighted fuel island on the way, but not to go there because it was just a decoy.  Uh... ok.

15 minutes later after taxing all around the airport in the dark we found the fuel station.  Filled up and hurried out of there.  This wasn't planned to be a night flight, and climbing out in the turbulent pitch dark, I realized I was unprepared for the remainder of the flight.  No flashlight, no flight plan, and unsure where the high terrain around Livermore is without a visual reference.  I told my instructor that if I was alone right now I would head back to Modesto and figure out what to do on the ground.  Instead we decided to cheat and he pulled out his ipad and we flew that nice purple line to assure we stayed over low ground.

Since I wasn't really navigating at this point we decided to get some simulated instrument time in.  I donned the hood and flew back to KPAO under simulated IFR conditions.

I can't remember what time we landed, but it was late.  All in all, a very fun flight.  For me anyway.  I'm not so sure my instructor felt the same.
This is all so new to me, I still find the hornet filled fuel pumps fun.

Friday, April 19, 2013

PPL Lessons 7-25

OK, new plan.  I'm not going to document every lesson, or even most of them...

I'm at about 38 hours total time now.  Lots of stuff has happened.  Here's some highlights-

Simulated instrument failures:
Flew out to Hayward Executive sometime around lesson 10 to do pattern work.  I was worrying a lot about my speed during the pattern and approach, a bit stressed about getting too slow.  Rich reached over and put stickers over pretty much all my instruments.  Airspeed, VSI, Altimeter, all gone.  It was much easier flying like this to my surprise.  No stressing about the airspeed, just fly the plane by it's attitude.

Wake Avoidance:
(the flying kind)
Headed over to San Jose International to do pattern work.  I was surprised and excited to find out that it is totally cool for a little Cessna 152 to use SJC's 11,000' runways.  With two miles of runway were were able to simulate engine failures on takeoff, engine failures in the pattern, and all sorts of weird grown effect stuff.  At one point, to get me used to the reversed coordination needed to slip a plane for a cross wind landing, we came in to runway 30R, and leveled off about 5' off the runway.  We stabilized there and then flew the length of the runway shuffling 150' from one side to the other, back and forth.  Always keeping the nose pointed straight down the runway with rudder, and using aileron slide us left to right.  I wondered what this looked like to the passengers waiting for their United flights in the terminal.

After a few laps in the pattern, the controller moved us from left traffic to right, which put us in the pattern with the heavies.  Was alerted to traffic "757, 3 o'clock", and directed to turn base following the 757, cleared to land #2.  I laughed when I hear the 757 pilot confirm they had us in sight (plodding along crammed into the 152 at 80 knots).  Made sure to stay above the 757's approach path and land beyond his touchdown point to avoid any wake turbulence.  Lot's of fun.  A total blast flying the pattern with the jumbos!

Been to lot's of airports now.  KPAO, KSQL, KHAF, KSJC, KLVK, KHWD, KOAK, KRHV, KLHM.

Instrument Work:
On one flight, spent about 1.5 hours 'under the hood', with a visor on which blocks my view outside.  My instructor acts as ATC providing headings, climb and decent directions.  The whole flight is done only by instruments.  The attitude indicator being the main, and glancing briefly at Altitude, Speed, Turn Coordinator, etc as needed.

It is very disorienting and fun.  Your ears and other senses give weird inputs without a visual reference to calibrate to.  At one point I felt like I had to keep turning left to keep the attitude indicator straight.  I even had to ask "Are we really flying straight right now".

Flew all the way back under the hood until I was on my downwind leg.  One aspect that was surprisingly challenging was re-adjusting my senses after taking off the hood.  I was already in the pattern so had to get re-aligned quick.  Suddenly having so much to see after staring at the instruments for an hour was a bit overwhelming.  This was intentional by Rich and meant to simulate what it's like to break out of the clouds on final.

Night Flying:
Did my first night flight about a month ago.  KPAO-KRHV-KLVK-KPAO.  I liked it a lot, but it was harder than I imagined.  In the pattern, everything seemed to happen a little quicker and I struggled not to get behind.  In retrospect, I think it was the extra time it took me to scan the instruments in the dimly lit cockpit.  Normally I can check airspeed, altitude, power, pressure, etc without even thinking about it.  But with the low lighting in the plane I had to stare at each instrument for a second or two before I could register it.  More to come.

Solo Pattern Work:
I had my first two solo flights not long ago.  They came at the end of other lessons, we would do a few landings and Rich would hop out and send me off for 3 more.  Exciting.  A little scary.  Mostly just flying.

Last week I did my first dual XC, 94 NM each way to Lincoln.  The planning phase was interesting, though a little burdensome.  With all the airspace in the area, I had to plan for several short climbs, followed by a cruise, followed by another climb.  Calculating the estimated time, necessary heading (compensating for indicated airspeed, wind speed/direction, and altitude) was time consuming.  A good lesson on how to do it, but it took my an hour just to plan the flight to Mt Diablo.  From there it got easier, and quicker as I learned how to use the tools.

The flight itself was great.  Not much to say about it really.  Lot's of radio communication and handoffs, but that is typical in the Bay Area and I'm used to it by now.  We flew most of the way out at 5,500', and back at 6,500'.  The latter was about all the little 152 could muster.  It was a struggle to maintain altitude without redlining it.

Solo Flight Away From Airport:
That was today.  First time doing a solo from preflight to tie-down, and first time soloing outside for the traffic pattern.  Got to the airport and checked the weather.  Winds were 10 knots at a 30degree cross.  That put the crosswind component at about 5, which was just under my solo endorsement limit.  Talked to an instructor about it and decided to go ahead and preflight, and then waited 10 minutes for the next weather update.  Conditions hadn't changed so I decided to give it a go.

Started the plane, called the tower and departed runway 31 and headed West.  Flew out over San Gregorio along the coast and did some basic airwork practice.  Steep turns, slow flight, power off stalls.  Easier doing that solo, the plane just performs a bit better.

Coming back to the airport, I check the ATIS again.  The winds had increased a couples mph, and the crosswind angle was down to 20 degrees.  That sounded fine, and still within my limits.  On short final the windsocks told a different story.  The windsock at the far end of the runway was about as expected, but the windsock at the runway threshold was showing 5-8mph at about 90 degrees cross.  I made a quick determination that the conditions were safe for me and proceeded.  It was gusty as expected, and I had a fair amount of right aileron on touchdown, but it was smooth.  One of my best.

Still to go I have another daytime dual XC, this time combined with hood work.  A 100 mile night dual XC.  A 150 mile solo XC.  Some other odds and ends, and then my checkride!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

PPL Lesson 6

Finally got to fly again after numerous weather cancellations.  Switched to a C152 which I like a lot, and is easier on the wallet.  Nice and cozy with my instructor in the 152, but hey, I'm an intimate guy.

1.6 hours of engine time today.  Stunning scenery with the hills all green, and lots of clouds in the sky.  Headed over to the coast again to practice maneuvers.  We worked on some steep turns, with around 45 degree bank angle.  We pull about 1.4Gs to keep a coordinated turn with steady altitude at that angle.  Slow the plane down a tad, roll into the turn, add power to keep the speed constant as drag increases in the turn, roll out, back off power, check heading and altitude to see how I did.  It was fun.  A little disorienting.  I have to focus a lot on the nose of the airplane and horizon to keep from climbing or descending and would lose pitch attitude a little when reaching for the throttle.  Looking forward to practicing this more.

Headed back over the hills and did some more slow flight over the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC).  Minimum controllable airspeed in the 152 is down below 40knots.  It's weird.  Nose pointed at the sky, stall alarm blaring, and plodding along slower than the cars on the surface streets below.  We did some slow speed turns, which are mostly rudder inputs, with very little bank.  Then we progressed the slow flight to a simulated power off stall.  The stalls were less frightening than I imagined.  Nothing much happens other than the nose dropping and the elevator buffeting a bit.  And you can continue to control the 152 quite well with the wing stalled, and the elevator full up with the yolk against the stop.  Recovery is as simple as dropping the nose slightly.  I'll need to do this some more to get comfortable with the slow speeds, high nose attitudes, and stall indications.

Also started doing some of the radio communications with Palo Alto Tower.  I was sufficiently clumsy, but managed to convey who we are, where we are, and what we're doing.

PPL Lessons 4 & 5

Rained out for the last two lessons.  Lot's of ground school, but nothing fun to report.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

PPL Lesson 3

1.5 hours in the air today, this time focused on steep turns and slow flight.

Departed Palo Alto and headed out to the ocean in a steady climbing cruise.  Leveled off around 3,200' and spent an hour or so doing maneuvers.  45deg turns first, then moved on to slow flight and turns at minimum controllable airspeed.  The steep turns were fun.  Slowed the plane to 90 (attitude, throttle, trim) and entered the turns.  A little disorienting for me without the wind in my face feedback I am so used to.  At times it felt like the plane was just spinning on a wingtip.  I think this will get to a more normal feeling with time.

The slow flight I found a bit more intimidating.  Have to hold the nose high and drop power to slow down, then bring the power back up to maintain level flight.  We slowed to 60mph or so, both with and without flaps, then executed some shallow but rapid turns.  Lot's of right rudder needed to keep the plane straight in this high power, high drag configuration.  So much right rudder that left turns were accomplished by simply applying less right rudder.  The stall alarms going off freaked me out a bit, and I kept thinking "what if we slow down too much?"  But my instructor wasn't worried, so I tried not to worry and just focus on the tasks he gave me.  Carb heat, power, mixture, flaps.

Next lesson Monday.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Adding Power

I decided to take the plunge and get my private pilot license.  It's a new thing for me, so I figured I would use my defunct blog to chronicle the experience.  No one reads blogs any more, and even fewer read this blog, so I realize I am just blogging to myself.  But that's ok, I like myself a lot.  Go me.

I've had two lessons so far, with a couple hours of ground school and about 1.5 hours stick time.  For now I am training in a Cessna 172K, which is very familiar to me having spent many hours in the right seat of my dad's 172.

At this point we have only done very basic stuff.  Takeoff, climbs, descents, level turns, climbing turns, and descending turns.  I am enjoying learning the fuel mixture, power, and trim basics since I've never really touched any of those controls before.  I don't have a good feel for proper rudder inputs yet, but that will come with time.

I think my biggest hurdle for now is going to be letting go of my hang glider instincts.  I'm very used to having direct and instant tactile feedback on how the glider is flying in the form of wind on my face and sound in my ears.  I'll need to learn to rely on the airplanes attitude, yolk position, engine sound, and instruments instead.
Landing I expect will be the hardest for me to get comfortable with.  I'm used to the idea that "speed is your friend" on my glider.  When I get ready to land on my glider I speed up to increase my control authority and give me extra margin above stall speed to account for any gusts.  Slowing down when we enter the approach pattern in the 172 freaks me out.  I get that we don't want to land at 120mph, but it just feels wrong.  It might take a while to get used to that.

Next lesson in 2 days!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Who Doesn't Like a Drought?

What can I say? It's been dry. There's no snow. And flying has been great this winter.

Flew over 5 hours last weekend. Started on Saturday with a fun day at Mission Peak. Loaded up with Chris Valley and crossed the bay for a noon arrival at the site. It looked foggy and windy as we drove, but by the time we arrived at launch conditions had cleared and the wind was moderate.

Dropped my glider in the mud while setting it up, but the sweet conditions made me not care. Launched smoothly into some cold air. Lift was turbulent at time, but abundant. Aside from one small flush cycle it was easy to stay up, coring wide thermals which could be found both over the peaks and out away from the hills.

Ventured half way to Ed Levin, but mostly stayed around Mission, just enjoying the day and the glider.

After a little more than an hour I got cold and came in for a nice smooth top landing by the car, broke down my glider and had a beer. Chris and others flew for another hour or so and we ended the day with food and drinks at a local watering hole.

Sunday I was thinking Ed Levin was the call. But a fortunate conversation with Tom Low keyed me in to the improving conditions at Fort Funston. I changed my plans and headed to the coast, arriving at the site surprised to see only one glider set up.
Got my glider together quickly and launched into very North conditions. It was nice to fly conditions like this without stress. My new glider gives me a lot of confidence.

Getting Sideways Over Westlake
I played around at the fort for a while, flying fast, doing some energy climbs and mild wingovers, then I headed down to Westlake to play with the paragliders. Had a nice flight, and felt content after an hour+ so I landed back at the fort. I was going to break down, but then my friends Tom and Chris showed up and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to chase them around the sky.


We all met up at Westlake, flying close, getting video and photos, doing some mellow aerobatics and just boating around in the super smooth lift. I didn't want the flight to end, and flew till the sun was setting. As the day got later, the cliffs lit up with red light and long shadows. Amazing.




Chris put together some video of the day, chasing me around the sky

What a weekend!

Flights: 3
Airtime: 5:07

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Big Fat McClure

A spectacular weekend at McClure. 3.5 hours of flying, topped out at 4,500', and many tours of the valley were had.

Met up with CRV Saturday morning for a day trip, with camping gear along just in case. Picked up Ryan Goebel and Chad in Dublin and continued on. There was a big turn out unexpectedly with around 16 glider on launch.

Saturday was sweet. The winds were light, sky was clear, thermals were smooth, and lift was everywhere. It was easy to get up and stay up. We cruised around in the sky until we got tired. I made an attempt or two at Horseshoe, getting about half way there, but mostly hung around the main hill.
Finally started to sink out and headed to the LZ before the 3 other gliders at my hight. Tried to dive it down, but found lift over the LZ at about 500'. Decided not to fight it and took a slow, pleasant clim back up to almost launch height. After letting the other two gliders land I brought er in for a no stepper.

Sunday was more of a challenge and a lot of fun. KM and CRV launched first and got up. CRV made a fateful launch buzz and continued the buzz right to the deck. It was hard down low with tight, weak thermals. Once you got up, things got a little easier. The lift was scattered and seemed to move away from the hill, upwind, as we got higher. It was definitely a day where it paid to be curious. Leaving the crowd and exploring the valley repeatedly rewarded me. I would find a thermal, scattered and weak like the others, but without crowds could core it easily. Top of lift was about 3,300'.

Flights: 2
Airtime: 3:30


Our morning view from camp

Just 3 guys in the back of a truck...

This is his tough look...

CRV calls it

Brian Horgan's downtube. Starting the smack talk for Ed Levin Speed Gliding 2012!

ACP, ready to dominate

CRV Slayin' It

KM. 70 years old. Gets higher, and flies longer than all of us, every time

Monday, January 9, 2012

Becoming a Mountain Man

1 fallen tree + 1 Husqvarna 18 inch, 50cc chain saw (thanks Mom & Dad!) = 1 cut up tree

1 cut up tree + 1 Fiskars 36 inch super splitting axe (thanks Bert & Sharon!) = 1 big pile of fire wood

4 hours straight of chainsawing, hauling, and splitting wood + 3 Aleve = Brian barely able to walk today

Monday, January 2, 2012


It's a new year and I for one am happy to see it. I didn't want to say anything while 2011 was still within earshot, but I never really liked 2011. We just didn't click. 2011 was a bit too pretentious for me. It was always complaining about this or that, and always wanted to borrow my tools. I can already tell that 2012 has a better sense of humor and isn't nearly so needy.

I did not get to fly much in 2011. Work kept me away from family, away from friends, and away from hang gliding. I don't know if 2012 will be different, but it at least got off to a great start.
CRV, Wayne and I headed down to Big Sur for the new years bash early on Saturday. We arrived to find the biggest turn out of pilots I have ever seen there. The McClure crowd was in full force, as well as the Funston boys and WOR as well as a number of other pilots. Saturday we got skunked with over the back winds all day, but made up for it with a campground full of happy partying pilots new years eve. Sunday we were able to find lulls in the SE winds and get off the hill. Beautiful flying as always at big sur.

Saturday, CRV, Wayne, JT and I hit Ed Levin. No spectacular conditions, but fun flights regardless. Chris and I hit a top landing on the 1200' hill and got fly-bys from JT and Wayne. Beer and food followed the flying.

Made a simple video of the flights. Hello 2012!

Edit: Now on Vimeo!

First Flights of 2012 from Brian Foster on Vimeo.

Friday, August 26, 2011

New Glider

Finally, finally I get a day off from work to finally fly my new glider.

Me like!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

King Mountain - Day 2

Day 2 and route #1 was called again. Team ACP got up the hill quick so we could set up together and satisfy the requests of all the fans by taking the long awaited team photo. It was a candid shot, catching us all in natural poses. We didn't even realize the camera was there

Photo Curtesy of John Taylor (See John Fly)

Shortly after this photo was taken, the day was cancelled. The said it was due to high winds, and unfavorable direction, but we suspect it was really because everyone wanted to have time to look at our color coordinated gliders, and get our autographs.

A few pilots did some free flying later in the day and had turbulent, short flights. Tomorrow looks to be dryer, but the winds remain a question mark.

Regardless, the week has been a blast so far...

Monday, July 11, 2011

King Mountain - Day 1

Arrived in Arco, ID late saturday night after a 13 hour drive with John Taylor. Spent Sunday getting our gear organized and generally getting ourselves ready for 6 days of big air. There is a big crowd of friends at this years comp. The Bubbleheads are here in force and we total 10-12 strong from the Bay Area alone.

Team ACP (me, CRV, JT, Ryan and Trey) are ready to dominate. "Putting the 'I' back in team"

I've been pretty anxious about this meet, due to a lack of airtime recently. I was unsure if I would fly. But I went up the hill, setup my glider, and when my team started lining up to launch I suited up and joined them. There was strong lift and strong sink. I worked what I could, keeping myself far from the terrain and generally trying to re-acclimate myself to my glider.

Before long I found myself drifting towards the bail out LZ. I brought it in for a nice landing and was joined by Chris. Not a big flight, but I got what I wanted out of the day. Ready for the next 5 days!

Slayin' The Bailout LZ

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Bitter Sweet Birthday

Myself and others have been devastated by the loss of our dear friend Crystel Stanford. She was taken from us suddenly a week ago in a bicycle accident. She was the kind of person you feel instantly close too. Adventurous, happy, outgoing, kind, and constantly inviting friends into her life. My words feel so inadequate to describe her. Christina and I, and many many others have been profoundly affected by her death.

And so with a sad heart I headed to Funston on my birthday to fly the blues away.

It was friday, and only a few people were there. I met Tim (aka, CapTim America) and Urs. We were all friends with Crystel, and Tim has had some other painful losses this month. We shared some hugs (manly ones), appreciating our friendships a little more than usual. Looking to the South we brightened up and decided we should all head down to that nice looking shear cloud forming over WestLake.

We launched in nice smooth air and soon I was heading South. Urs was already above the shear cloud as I arrived at the WestLake cliffs. I was below the shear cloud and it occurred to me suddenly that I had never actually flown a shear cloud before, and I was not entirely sure how exactly you get from below the cloud to above it, without going through it.

I drifted along on the underside of the cloud for a few passes, and then found a spot on the North end of the cloud where I could slowly climb out in front of it. Climbing at 20 feet a minute I made pass after pass, and soon found myself above the cloud in butter smooth air.

Can you find Urs in this photo? Way above me, as usual

It was amazing. Like surfing a giant, white wave in the sky we cruzed up and down the coast. I was on my slow glider, but fortunately winds were fairly light for a shear, only 20mph or so, making it no problem for the Pulse, and allowing paragliders to join us as well.

Looking North Towards The Fort

Getting above the shear cloud was a first for me, and I am still living the flight. It was so smooth, and the contrast of cloud and trees and city and ocean was spectacular. I couldn't help but feel like our friend was telling us that we need to cheer up.

Playing in the sky, with Mr Tim West. CapTim America himself

It had been hot in the setup area and I foolishly took off my jacket before I launched. It was cold in the shear and I flew for an hour and a half before I finally started shivering and had to head back to the Fort to warm up. The LZ was smooth, the landing easy. I did a second launch and landing just because it was so fun. A perfect end to a perfect flight.

We miss you Crystel.

Flight 1 - 1:25
Flight 2 - 0:08

After heading home, my long time friends Wes and Natalie joined Christina, my parents and I at Cafe Gibraltar in Half Moon Bay for dinner. It was a wonderful evening, spent with people I love. A nice way to turn 33.

Monday, April 11, 2011


My previous bad landing, rain, speed gliding, and some really great skiing conditions have all added up to keep me on the ground the last 6 weeks. Sunday I got back on the horse, fighting a bit of anxiety, and had some nice flights at Funston. Nothing much to say about it. The conditions were perfect and I took 3 flights to blow of the cobwebs.

Flights: 3
Flight Time: 0:50

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

ACPs - Bound For King

Team ACP is descending on the annual King Mountain Hang Gliding Competition this year. Look out!

Team ACP. Putting the "I" back in "team".

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Powder Day With Christina

Christina and I headed up to Tahoe this weekend to catch some of the major snow storm blowing through. We had to resort to a super long way around getting up here and totaled 10 hours on the road after leaving Friday afternoon.

Skiing was great on Saturday. Deep, soft powder and very few people on the hill. Definitely worth the trip.
Christina is an amazing skier and way out of my league. It is lots of fun to try and keep up with her!

I dorked it up with a GoPro on my helmet, and got some decent footage of the day. (select 480p for best quality)

Sunday we hung out in the cabin waiting for I-80 to open. After about 10 hours of closure it opened at 4pm and we zipped home in record time.

A great weekend!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Lessons At Windy

Windy Hill can be a challenging site. Strong winds. Small LZ. I love it, but today it reminded me who the boss is.

Even this awesome pose wouldn't save me from Windy's wrath todayPhoto Courtesy Of The Westcoast Brit

The day looked great. Cloud streets as far as we could see, and snow on launch to give it even more of an unusual flare.

Ben and I were the only takers and we set up quick, planning our epic flight. Surely with such a great sky we would be flying over the back to Pescadaro. Surely it would all be great. Surely...

Snow At The Peak

Great Sky In Front Of Launch

Great Sky Behind Launch. Looking Towards The Coast

Ben was in the air first, climbing as he headed towards the tree line. I followed quickly. Launch was smooth and I hit lift right away. Things looked good.

Once over the tree line, the air was buoyant but not producing much in the way of climbs. I hit a few pockets that I thought might get me up towards cloud base, but none of them panned out. I kept looking at Ben and saw he was at the same height as me. So at least I knew it wasn't just me. The sky continued to look epic, but we couldn't find a way to get into it.

After 15 minutes or so I found myself heading to the LZ to land. A quick look at the streamers in the LZ and I knew it was going to be an interesting landing. The wind was strong from the North, switching between NE and NW. The combination of velocity, direction and variability was less than ideal. In our small LZ you only have two landing direction options. Either one was going to put me with a strong cross wind at best, and a quartering tail wind at worst. The active conditions above the LZ only compounded the situation.

I got my head together, planned out my approach and dove in. As soon as I entered my pattern, I hit lift. Not good. Planning for a short downwind leg and rapid turn to a crosswind final, I found myself too high. I made a quick turn to lengthen my approach and then I hit the sink. Quickly I found myself low and not in an ideal spot. Plan A & B gone, I moved on to a quickly devised plan C. In the end I came in crooked and mostly downwind. Whacked the glider good and ended up on my belly in the mud.

The conditions were tough, but they are not an excuse. There was a safe landing approach to be had, but I didn't execute it.

Lesson learned.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Snow and Funston

With snow levels dropping below 2000' in the Bay Area, we headed to Tam hoping to fly above snowy peaks. We got to the mountain and found plenty of snow, and a closed road about 1/2 mile from launch. A few hearty pilots hiked out to launch and had great flights. Myself, CRV, JT, Urs, Enzo, Wayne, and George headed back down the coast to Funston.

And Funston was kickin!

After braving the crowds at the fort, I cruised down to Westlake. Got there low, and scratched up. Once above 800', the air was active, and there was a lot of thermal activity on top of the ridge lift. It was easy to climb up to 1200' and kiss the cloud streets.

Looking North Towards The Golden Gate
I played around for an hour. Playing tag with Wayne, dodging the paragliders, and taking in the day. I have had only a minimal amount of airtime so far in 2011 and it felt great to be in the air.

Coming back to the Fort, I saw the ridge was packed with gliders. I opted to avoid the main ridge and go straight in for a landing. Squeezing into the narrow west side of the LZ, avoiding the large rotored area present during North-West winds.

Over The Fort. Many Gliders Below

Hugging The Cliff To Avoid The Rotor

Posing For The Camera's. Goes With Being An ACP

A great day. I need more!

Flights: 1
Airtime: 1:12

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Flying 2/12 & 2/13

Some decent looking flying weather came over the bay area this weekend. And while it didn't turn out to be as good as hoped, it was a nice weekend with 3 flights and wonderful green winter hills.

Made the call to go to Tam, and headed up there with Dirk. Met Chris, John Taylor, Ryan, Ben, Gerry and some others on launch. It was a solid south wind, and looked good. Launches were easy, with a bit of rotor hitting us as we cleared the hill. The air was nice and smooth, which of course meant no going up.

Another cold winter day in California...

The beach was huge, so I decided to have some fun landing and do a fast approach over the surf. Chris, of course, had to show me up with a solid beat up approach.

After flying we hung around on the beach, enjoying the warm weather. Beer at the Mountain Home Inn overlooking Sausalito topped off the evening.
Dirk Morris. The man; The myth.

When you get bored waiting for your retrieve, putting flowers in your hair usually helps

John Taylor, sad to have a flower in his hair

John Taylor, proud to have a flower in his hair

Again, solid south winds, and this time we headed to Ed Levin. It was almost ridge soarable, but not quite. A few people were able to linger around launch, but we all ended up in the LZ sooner or later. Took two flights, with similar results.

Tried out my new wrist mount gopro housing and decided it mostly sucks.

Flights: 3
Airtime: 0:32

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Don't Stroke The Exhibition

I've been traveling out to the Tampa area a fair amount lately and staying in Saint Petersburg. Mostly I think Florida is kind of tacky. But I like Saint Pete. It's a clean, nice looking small city. There are harbors everywhere and a small but active airport I can watch out of my hotel window.

Last week the weather was just about perfect and I had some time on Friday to walk around and enjoy the sites.

You can't see them in this photo, but this badboy had 8' tentacles.

I took the opportunity to go the the Salvador Dali Museum. I didn't know anything about Dali, but the building itself is extremely interesting and I had heard good things.

The building was probably my favorite part.

Upon entering the building, a museum attendant greeted me and informed me that she likes elephants.

I couldn't take photos in the galleries, but the car being driven by an old-timey scuba diver on the main floor was fair game.

I started to get an idea what the place was going to be like...

Overall, I was left with the following impressions:
1 - I don't get it.
2 - Why is there a little kid in a sailor suit in the corner of that painting? That really creeps me out.