Airborne Again

I’ve been feeling grumpy all day.  Not sure why.  Just moody.  I was so happy to see the wind forecasts were very favorable for this afternoon.  Sure enough, when I got out to New Jerusalem (where the earth meets the sky) there was only a hint of thermal activity and very little wind.  I laid out my wing, warmed up the motor on my trike, strapped in, and had one of the best launches I’ve had in a while.  Slowly advancing the throttle, flying the wing first, then squeezing in the throttle more and more until the wing lifted me into the sky.

I flew over to the Tuolumne River to see how high it was running.  It’s still well within it’s banks but still running much higher than normal.  It’s a reminder of it’s former glory before the dams and irrigation canals were built.

There was one house that was completely surrounded by the rising waters.  Their barn and equipment were under water.  Hopefully the waters will recede before the snow starts melting in the mountains.

I flew along the river until I started getting cold.  I turned back toward the airport and decided to do a few touch and goes.  All four touch and goes were really good so I decided to call it quits.  My hands were starting to cramp so I was just done.    I rolled to a stop in front of my truck.  I sat a listened to the birds and felt so much lighter than I did when I took off.  There’s just something about flying that frees me.

Broken Hip and Finally Flying

It’s been an exciting few days.  I got home from work yesterday to find my mother-in-law sitting on the floor.  She had “fallen and couldn’t get up”.  Poor thing had been there for an hour or more.  I felt so bad for her.  We had to call an ambulance to take her to the hospital because she couldn’t walk to the car.  Turns out she had broken her hip.  She got a partial hip replacement today.  Now she’s on the road to recovery.

Since we had been at the hospital most of the night, I decided to call in sick.  Cristy would need help and support while she was helping and supporting her mother.  Later in the day after things had calmed down I decided to head out to New Jerusalem (where the earth meets the sky) and see if I could finally get a good flight in before the next storm comes in.  The winds looked very favorable on the ground as I was preparing to launch but the atmosphere was still pretty thermally. I took off and immediately found out how thermally.  It was controllable but not comfortable.  I landed and kited a while then decided to stop and wait for calmer air.

img_20170125_171352Finally as the sun dipped behind the Diablo Range the already light winds stopped and all thermal action ceased.  I launched into the air again and found some nice silky atmosphere to play in.  However, the sun was going down and it was CHILLY.  I came back and made a great landing and sat and just enjoyed the airport noise as is my custom after a flight.  It was a wonderful end to a crazy two days.

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More Flying

There is something about Sunday afternoons that makes them just perfect for flying.  This past Sunday I finally got to hitch the trailer up to my new truck and see how it tows.  Not surprisingly I couldn’t even feel the trailer back there.  I drove out to New Jerusalem and set up my powered paraglider.  This was the second day in a row I drove out to the airport but unlike the day before, I would be able to fly this day.  The day before, there was a student doing pattern work (practicing take offs and landings) with his instructor.  I didn’t want to get involved with that so I elected not to fly.

The weather was near perfect.  Winds were light but the air was cold.  No matter, I wanted to fly!  I spent about 30 minutes patrolling the local farms and a short stretch of the Stanislaus River.  I was too cold to stay up much longer than that but it was a very enjoyable flight. Even the late Autumn haze was somewhat enjoyable. Great takeoff, no turbulence, and a picture perfect landing.  Here’s a quick video of the flight.

After I landed I just sat in my seat and listened to the sounds of the airport.  The birds, the wind, the traffic in the distance, and the “tinking” sounds of my engine cooling down.  This is something I used to do in my airplane too.  I just like to sit and reflect on the flight before I get out and pack up.  It’s one of life’s most peaceful moments.  Here is video so you can enjoy the peace and quiet of the airport as well.  Ignore my commentary. 🙂

Here are a few pictures of the amazing sunset and one of my “portable airport”.

 

Another Pleasant Valley Sunday

What a beautiful Sunday today was.  It started with a wonderful church service, then grocery shopping with my wife.  After that we had lunch and took a nap.  After a quick check of the wind I packed up the powered paraglider and headed out to New Jerusalem Airport.

There was a gentle breeze just barely causing the windsock to move as I pulled up to the gate.  I pulled up and parked between the taxiway and the runway.  As I got out I enjoyed the warm autumn breeze and listened to the redwing blackbirds call to each other.   I retrieved my wing from it’s stuff sack and laid it out near the end of the runway.  A family pulled up on the other side of the fence and watched me setting up.  I walked back to the trailer and offloaded my trike.  I did an engine runup and then drove the trike over to my waiting wing.  Trike centered between the risers, clip on the risers, check to make sure the clips are locked shut.  Leg straps, shoulder harness, chest strap, anti-torque strap, radio clipped on and secure.  I called on 122.9 Mhz announcing “New Jerusalem traffic, powered paraglider departing runway 30.”

I gently squeeze the throttle and guide the wing up with my thumbs, as it starts to come overhead I pull on the brake lines to keep the wing behind me.  Wing looks stable so I squeeze in full throttle and my wing gently swings me into the air.  At 50 feet off the ground I begin a right 180 degree turn.  I fly over the family parked on the other side of the fence, I wave, they wave back.

I only climb to about 150 feet this evening.  The sun was just sinking behind the tops of the Diablo Range on the west side of the valley.  Over the Sierras I could see the super moon starting to rise.

I didn’t really want to fly anywhere in particular, just fly around, enjoy the feeling of being up in the air.  Sometimes I just want to be up, it’s my happy place.

I flew around the orchards for a while and then took a couple of turns around the airport.  Then it was time to land.  (I didn’t want to get home too late, after all, Sunday is Columbo night at our house.)

I slowly circled back to the other end of the airport where I took off.  The family was now out on the runway flying a model airplane.  Not a good idea guys, this is an active airport.  No matter, I decide to land between the taxi way and runway where I am parked.  When I am sure I will hit my landing spot I shut my engine off.  There is small child with them.  I don’t want my engine running anywhere near them.  They are about 100 feet from me when I set down.  As my trike rolls to a stop I pull my brake lines all the way down and my wing gently rustles to the ground behind me.  I sit and listen to the the evening for a moment.  The sounds of the family talking, the birds,  the buzzing of a late bee trying to make it back to the hive before it gets dark.  A wonderful end to a wonderful weekend.

Airborne Checkin On HAM Radio Net

On my morning drive in to work I usually tune in and listen to the SARA (Stanaslaus Amateur Radio Association) Morning Traffic and Information Net on my HAM radio.  A net is when a group of HAMs get together on the radio and take turns speaking to each other.  This net is used to talk about the weather we can expect that day and any traffic information for the commuters.  Otherwise people just talk about what they are going to do for the day, their Aunt Edna, or whatever.  I check in every now and then but mostly just listen.

This week I decided to check in from my powered paraglider.  HAM radio operators get a thrill out of new or unusual contacts (contact with someone via radio).   So here is a short video of that flight.  I added my usual artistic flair by adding some music to make it less boring.  Enjoy!

High Sierra Fly-In 2016

This past weekend I traveled to the High Sierra Fly-In as I have for the past several years.  These last two years I have travelled by ground as I don’t have my airplane any more.  This year I brought my airplane with me in the car.  That the beauty of having a powered paraglider, you can take your aviation with you anywhere.

HSF 2016 was held in the same place as last year, Flanigan Playa a.k.a. Dead Cow Lake.  It can be a challenge to drive there.  The shortest ground route takes you over some majorly washboarded roads.  There is however a much smoother route that can be driven at freeway speeds almost all the way to the lake’s edge but it is also much longer.  I took the bumpy route going in, and the smooth route when I left.  Actually getting there was quite an adventure this year.  We entered the lakebed from the north side this year rather than the south side and the directions were a little terse causing me to make a wrong turn.  I ended up on a two-wheel track that was deeply rutted and was surely not the kind of road my mini-van was designed for.   As the road deteriorated I decided I must have made a wrong turn.  I found a place to turn around and headed back, making sure to keep my speed up so I wouldn’t bog down in the soft playa dust.  I finally found the road I should have turned on and all was well.

I found where my friends Rich and Hawk were camped and set up camp in the lee of their motorhome.  The first order of business was to unpack and assemble my PPG.  This took about 15 minutes.  Then I set about rigging my mini-van for motorhome mode.  I had already taken the seats out, I just needed to rearrange things to give me a place to sleep.  It was too late in the day to fly so I just drove my PPG trike around enjoy the amused and slightly jealous looks of the other pilots.

 

img_20161022_094127As evening rolled around some fellow PPG’ers wanted to go fly and invited me along.  I was not certain I wanted to go with all the air traffic flying around.  So after they took off and I was certain wake turbulence was not going to collapse their wings, I decided to set up and fly.  I got to enjoy a very nice sunset flight around camp and out over the sagebrush.  I didn’t take any pictures.  Some moments were meant to just enjoy.  Besides, all I had with me was a brand new cell phone and I wasn’t interested in dropping it.  This was my first time taking off at this density altitude (about 4500 feet).  It took more speed and time to get the wing to fly, and for the trike to leave the ground.  In my head as a pilot I knew to expect this, but when it happened I was still somewhat surprised.  At any rate I enjoyed my flight and landed just before sunset.

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After sunset I headed over to the the nightly bonfire to catch up with old friends.  I’ve noticed that the type of pilots showing up is slowly changing.  The guys that have been around for years are their same friendly selves.  But there are new pilots showing up who gather in clusters and aren’t really there to make new friends but only to impress each other.  I guess HSF is what you make of it.

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The next morning some of the PPC and PPG guys went flying but it was just too cold for me.  I would not enjoy flying in 30 degree temperatures so I stayed on the ground.  It was fun to watch the intrepid souls who did fly.  Including this helmet cam footage of my friend Edward Ang who almost flew through a tent!

Later in the day we gathered for the STOL Drag Race.  The idea is two place line up side by side at the start line.  At the start signal they fly 3/4 mile and land just beyond a line and try to stop as quick as they can.  Once stopped they are allowed to turn around take off and fly back to the starting line.  The winner is the first to land and stop beyond the start line.

After the STOL drag I learned I was coming down with the flu.  Dang.  I relaxed as much as I could the rest of the day and waited for the evening bonfire, dinner, and fireworks. I busied myself with breaking down my Cruise Carbon Trike to get ready to pack it in the van in the morning.  I had planned to enjoy the fireworks that evening, however all I could manage was dinner.  I started getting the chills and headed back to my minivan to crawl into my sleeping bag to warm up.  I tossed and turned fitfully as the fireworks and tannerite were set off.  So, sadly I couldn’t enjoy this portion of the fly-in this year.

The next morning I packed my trike into the van and caravanned out with my buddy Joey.  We took a different way out than we had come in and the roads were much smoother.  But longer.  It added an hour to the trip for me but that was fine.  I wasn’t feeling up to washboard roads that morning.  The rest of the trip home was uneventful.

If you are a pilot or just love airplanes and things aviation, this is a great event to attend.  Just make sure you are set up for desert camping AND cold weather camping.  Bring an RV if you can.  Makes life much more bearable there.  And THANK YOU Kevin Quinn for coming up with this event and moving mountains to make it happen.

 

 

The Calm Before The Storm

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Red sky at morning…

The west coast of the USA is about to get a one-two punch from a set of storms that are bearing down on us from the Pacific Ocean.  We can really use the rain here in California where we have been in a 7 year drought.  The winds were calm this morning so I decided to get in a quick flight before the storms this weekend.

I pulled into New Jerusalem Airport just before 0700 this morning.  The air was completely calm with just a hint of frost on my breath.  The airport windsock hung on it’s pole like a discarded rag.  When I put my windsock up on top of my van it was in full agreement.  Not even a hint of wind.  I was grateful because this morning’s early Autumn air had a chill to it.  I pulled my wing out of the van and dropped it on the ground.  It landed with the sound of a laundry bag thumping down.  There was just a hint of “dairy air” in my nose as I set up.  Not an entirely pleasant smell.

I rolled my trike down off the trailer and primed the engine.  It took a couple of tries to finally start it but once running it purred.  After a full throttle run-up I shut the engine down and walked out to the runway to set up my wing.  I glanced back over my shoulder at my windsock.  It was just starting to show a southerly breeze, I was setting up to take off to the north.  There would be a slight tailwind.  Noted.  I spread the wing out and untangled the lines.  Satisfied that all was in order I walked back over to bring my trike over.   I donned my helmet, jacket, and gloves and drove the trike over to the wing.  Backed the trike in, connected the risers, one last look at the wing… alles goed.

I strapped myself in… legs first, then arm straps, chest strap, anti-torque strap, reserve parachute, throttle strapped to my left hand.  Good to go.  Strobe on.  I call on the radio “New Jerusalem Traffic, powered paraglider, departing runway three zero, 2 minutes”  Left brake handle in my left index and middle fingers, right brake handle in my right hand, press start on the throttle, the engine buzzes to life.  “A” lines hooked under both my thumbs, one last look around, deep breath, squeeze the throttle half-way.  The engine strains against the billowing wing  behind me as it slowly climbs above me.  I drop the “A”s and pull on the brakes to keep the wing from racing ahead of me.  It settles just above and behind me.  Alles goed.  I squeeze the throttle all the way and start letting up on the brake lines.  The front wheel starts getting light and then I feel the wing pull me up into the air by my suspenders.

The air is smooth and cool and crisp… and still smells slightly of cow.  As I climb the air freshens, no more cow smell.  The sky is grey to the north telegraphing the coming storm.  The sun shines bright red in the southeast.  Not high enough to warm me yet but high enough to hearten me.  The air is still dead calm, my trike glides easily through the air.  I head out over the San Joaquin river.  There are wisps of fog here and there on the river and in the farm fields on either side.  There is a man standing next to his truck parked along side the river, he is fishing.   We’re both having a good morning.  I pass over tractors slowly crawling along the fields.  Farm trucks meander down the roads, early morning commuters scurry around them on their way into the Bay Area.  I don’t share their sense of hurry suspended up here in the sky.

I take my hands off the brake lines and stow them.  I let the torque of the engine take me in a slow lazy circle back to the airport.  As I descend I feel the air getting cooler.  I drop through 500 feet, 400 feet, 300… 200 feet, my airspeed of 25 mph never changes.  I fly downwind, base, final.  I pull the brake lines about 5 feet off the ground and lightly touch down.  Still rolling I lightly squeeze the throttle to keep my speed up and keep my wing flying overhead.  I steer towards where I parked and as I roll to a stop.  I pull the brakes all the way down and my wing slowly crumples to the ground.

I sit for a moment and just listen to the metal in my motor make “tinking” sounds.  I unclip my reserve parachute, anti-torque strap, chest strap, leg straps, chin strap on my helmet.  I slowly shed the harness over my shoulders and stand up.  I toss my helmet into the seat.  Unclip the wing’s risers, and slowly coil the lines.  I stuff the wing back into it’s back and toss it in the van.  Load the trike back up on the trailer.

Sailors take warning.

I pause before driving away.  Alles goed.  Everything is still calm.

And now we await the storm.