Waiting on the Wind


 

Saturday afternoon, we returned to the mountain launch  at the Lookout Mountain Flight Park.  We called first and learned there was about a 50-50 chance that the wind would quiet down as the sun got lower.

We stood at the top of the launch for the second time that day.  I stood on the steeply sloping concrete ramp and imagined the steps I would take to launch.  I even took the first few steps, pretending I was holding a glider on my shoulders.  I managed to get almost up to the “fall line” without getting gelatin knees.  Normally, being close to the edge of a precipice makes me feel faint.  Today, with my eyes on the horizon and the imaginary glider on my shoulders, I barely notice how close I am to the edge.

I feel invincible.

I hear my husband in the background, “Careful–don’t forget you don’t have a glider!” He knows exactly what is going through my mind, having stood here himself more than once.

The windsock doesn’t turn my way.  It continues to blow “over-the-back,” as they say.  In other words, a tailwind.  Launching in a tailwind is not an option.   We hang out on top of the mountain for an hour, walking Tisen in the woods and watching the sun get lower in the sky.  But, the wind only gets stronger.

We return home.   I’ve been cleared to launch from the mountain 3 times now, but this is the first time I’m disappointed the weather kept me grounded.

The next morning, we get up early and head on over to the mountain again.  Now that I’m ready to launch, I want to launch.

On the way, I do a calculation.  I have done approximately 150 training hill flights of 7-12 seconds each, or about 1500 seconds of total flight time.  So, in exchange for 150 landings (the part that’s hard on my body), I have gotten 25 minutes in the air.  By comparison, I should get at least 5 minutes in the air in a fledgling flight off the mountain launch.  That means I only have to land 5 times to get the same amount of air time I’ve had to land 150 times for in the past.  My knees are also excited about the mountain launch now!

But, alas.  The wind is no more cooperative Sunday morning.  I stand poised once again on the ramp, visualizing my flight plan.  We even go so far as to assemble a glider and have it ready to go just in case the wind turns around.  But, by the time of the morning where the valley is in the sun (an event that can make the wind change direction), the wind is still blowing the wrong way and far too strong.  Even the tandem flights that are towed up are grounded.

We return home disappointed for the third time in a row.  But I retain the feeling of excitement anticipating that first launch.

Tisen wags his tail listlessly on the drive home as he cuddles Minnie Teddy.

Ready for the Mountain

I hop out of bed Saturday morning looking forward to hang gliding.  The weather is supposed to be perfect.  Even more exciting, I had an epiphany on Thursday that I am ready to go off the mountain.  Oddly, I don’t remember why.

We arrive at the training hills and get up on the big hill as quickly as possible.  There is a gentle headwind that makes launching an absolute breeze (I know, bad pun).

I have 3 fantastic flights.  I launch strong, control the glider well, and land on my feet like I have been doing this for a long time.  Since I”m on about my 150th launch, maybe I have?

Then, the wind that is supposed to be calm today starts to misbehave.  It picks up speed and strength and starts to cross.  When it’s my turn, the instructor has decided we will wait for a calm cycle so we can fly back down to the setup area, but no more flying today.

I wait and wait.  Then, the wind calms slightly and stops crossing.  I call, “clear” and start the approach.  I’m 3 steps into the approach when a crosswind grabs my glider.  I run to my target and try to straighten it out on the ground, but the wind carries me off the hill–I am airborne and headed for the trees.

I attempt to turn, but the glider doesn’t respond to my inputs.  For a split second, the thought, “I could actually die doing this” pops into my head.  Then I say to myself, “DON’T PANIC!” (yes, this is an exact quote from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”).  Instantly, the magical words that have been drilled into my head follow: “Pull in for Speed.”  And this, my friends, was the moment when I knew I was going to be OK.

Not only today, but on the mountain.  Because in a moment when my brain might have completely frozen, I gained control and was able to turn the glider away from the trees.

But my ride wasn’t quite over.  As I approached for landing, the wind picked me up again, lifting the entire glider.  I was a bit torn on whether to pull the nose down again this time since I was awfully close to the ground to try to pick up speed.  I compromised by pulling in the nose slightly and then pushing out just a little as I got close to the ground, managing a nice gentle landing on the wheels.

Ironically, I came out with fewer bumps than when I walk from the bedroom to the bathroom.  Maybe I should just do dangerous things all the time?

Tisen came running down the hill to greet me a few minutes after I’d started carrying the glider to the break down area.  I’m not sure if he was afraid he was about to lose his new mommy, but he certainly seemed happy to see me in one piece.

No photos or video from today, so I’m afraid this is a re-run:

Here’s a new one of Tisen doing Yin and Yang with Pat:

Head Banging Hang Gliding

 

Ah.  Another Saturday, another 5:30AM alarm, another drive to Lookout Mountain Flight Park.  Today is supposed to be a big day.  Pat will re-clear for his mountain flight, we will each do a tandem flight with a real hang gliding pilot, and then I will try to set aside my fears enough to play photographer while Pat jumps, I mean, flies off the mountain.

The gate to the training hills is already open at 7:40AM.  When we get to the parking lot, it’s nearly full.  Between the crowd and the newly formed stream running through the breakdown area, nearly every semi-dry area for set up is occupied with a glider in some stage of assembly.  We feel like we’re behind schedule.

Once my glider is assembled, I decide to carry it up to the top of the big hill instead of riding up on the trailer–I need to warm up my legs.  It’s quite a warm up!  I’m sweating and out of breath by the time I get to the top of the hill.

I do not fly well today.  I manage to do a 90 degree turn successfully and start working on reversing 45 degree turns (you turn 45 degrees to the right and then 45 degrees to the left in one 10 second flight).  I keep messing up my landings and end up banging my head a couple of times.  Thank goodness for the helmet.

Pat re-clears in three flights.  By mid-morning, I’m spent and have only passed 3 tests.  I don’t know who’s more tired, me or Tisen.  He’s been running up and down the hills all day and both of us are gimping.

We head up to the office to check in and see if Pat will be able to fly.  They send us down for our tandem flights immediately because the wind is picking up.  By the time we get there, the wind has a mind of its own.  A lone pilot bounces around in the wind, trying to land.  She gets dropped and picked up by the wind, creating the impression the glider is on an invisible string and someone up on the mountain is playing with it like a yo-yo.  We won’t be doing any tandem flights and Pat won’t be flying off the mountain today.  We head on home, me relieved.  I’m not sure I’m ready to watch Pat go off the mountain launch.

When I review the videos from today, I have to laugh.  On several flights, the helmet cam tipped over and filmed my face.  Because of the stabilization in the camera, it gives the appearance that my head is perfectly still and everything is moving around it.  For some reason, you can’t see when I hit my head, but these are funny enough (at least to me) I thought I would share a couple of rough landings from this view.  I also threw in a regular video just for good measure.  Enjoy!