Friday, 4 November 2016

X-Rated

So a few different gliders and bit of a lifestyle change since last time...

I'm having a break from the renovation game for a while and spending a season back teaching Paragliding and doing commercial Tandem work which has been a breath of fresh air after breathing in sawdust and hitting my thumb with a hammer for the past 6-7 years.

I'd sold my trusty Alpina 2 and updated to the Niviuk Peak 4 briefly before moving onto my current wing, the Skywalk Poison X-Alps (Poison 4). Although the Peak 4 flew well enough I found that in scratchy and light climbs that it wasn't quite equal to similar and even lessor wings which was bugging me a little. I would have been happy to keep it but I got a good offer for the sale of it and managed to trade up/down to a Skywalk Poison X-Alps of similar hours with some money left in my pocket.

The Peak 4 was easy to launch, fairly solid in rougher air, the tips tended to surge back and forth a bit but to be expected with a 7 aspect. I didn't particularly like the long and vague brake travel and I didn't like the B'riser handles finding them a bit small to grip properly. The speed bar was slightly heavy for my taste, it turned on a dime but required some work to get it to turn flatter. I was flying the 25 at 108kg and being 7kg under the top I would have expected a better climb rate.


                                                                        The Peak 4

The Poison X-Alps is a lightweight glider similar to the Omega X-Alps and the GTO2. It can be tricky on launch in wind wanting to blow around on the ground and comes up a bit snakey on the initial inflation. Once overhead its easy to control and launches nicely. In the air it moves around a bit more freely than the Peak 4, more like a traditional EN-D wing as it is indeed a 3 liner.
The brake pressure is good with a very quick and direct response which I like very much. Bar pressure is medium with no big degradation of glide on bar. It doesn't have the top end speed of Peak 4 or similar gliders but that doesn't bother me as I am not competing and racing on full bar these days anyway.
Once underway the Poison seems to just glide and glide and so far I have actually had to search for large patches of sink if I want to land. It also doesn't want to enter spirals easily so I find myself just doing lazy 360's in sink to get down. I don't like putting high G maneuvers on my wings to avoid stretching lines and getting it all out of trim. I'm flying the medium at 107kg.
I'm in Bright, Victoria this season which is known for its punchy air so I'll put a few more hours on it before deciding to keep it or not.

                                                                 The Poison X-Alps

My current harness is the Woody Valley X Rated 6 which is a heavy comp/XC harness with provision for 2 reserves, an anti G, large ballast container and has an inflatable rear fairing. Its certainly comfortable with plenty of storage pockets for drinking water, radios, cameras, snacks etc.
I don't particularly like carrying all the extra weight after flying with the Advance Lightness 2 but I need it to stay in the middle of the loading for the Poison. I might have to try flying with the Lightness 2 but will have to carry 10 litres of ballast water.



                                                             Woody Valley X-Rated 6

My current brains are the Flymaster SD NAV and a Kobo GoFly 4. I find both instruments easy to use with good varios and some cool features like the "black dot" on the Flymaster to help me with the core, the Airspace Maps on the GoFly and also the snail trail on the GoFly when thermalling to show drift and strength. I'm still very much a seat of the pants flyer so I mainly just listen to the vario and only occasionally look at them preferring to look at the sky and landscape for my next transition.

Anyway, finger crossed for a good season and hopefully I'll have a chance to go big once or twice..


Friday, 8 January 2016

Time flies...

Wow. I can't believe it's been nearly a year since I last posted anything...Sometimes life gets in the way I guess.

My partner Kirsty had a couple of minor injuries early in the year which left me holding the baby for a month or two so not much got done on our home renovation to sell.
Apart from that the past year has been pretty uneventful. Some paragliding here and there. Nice flights but just local stuff. I ended up selling my Hang Gliding gear as I was finding it a bit too labor intensive and the retrieval logistics were a pain in the ass. I guess just Paragliding for the last 10 years has made me lazy and I do enjoy the freedom it brings of flying pretty much anywhere I like and hitching back home if I can. Maybe if I lived on the coast I would be more enthusiastic to just go for a blast along the cliffs and do some dune gooning now and then in the Hang Glider. 10 years ago I thought it would never happen but I have to admit that I think my Hang Gliding days are finally done. It was a certainly a great time of my life and I will cherish the memories forever.
Not much gliding in the sailplanes either unfortunately, but I have managed to stay in touch with an occasional flight in the two seater and my Instructors are still happy for me to fly solo. I just don't have the free time to go hard at it due to work commitments so I'm still not sure where that's going to go. It's one hobby or the other, and at the moment Paragliding is a quick and easy fix with a flying site just 10 minutes up the road.

 I'm planning to attend the 2016 XC Camp and NZ Open this year both held in Manilla NSW consecutively and possibly venture further South to Bright Victoria for a bit of a getaway/flying holiday, so maybe then I will have something a bit more interesting to write about....


Monday, 9 February 2015

Far out man!

Thursday 5/2/2015

You never really know when the big one is coming. You just need to always be prepared.


I've just come home from Manilla NSW and the infamous Mount Borah which has been a flying mecca for Paraglider and Hang Glider pilots from all over the World for the past 20 years. It was made popular mainly when local Instructor Godfrey Wenness flew 335km from there about 17 years ago creating a then World and Australian distance record which stood for many years and a local site record which stood until, you guessed it, just last Thursday when myself and another pilot Che Golus flew 355km straight line (363km optimized) from the Mount Borah South East launch.

Godfrey incidentally flew on this day as well beating his own personal best (and site record) by flying 337km straight line (359km optimized). A couple of other pilots also flew just over the 300km mark.

A few days previously I had been sitting at home feeling miserable after a long stint of wet weather and poor flying conditions at home where I live in South East Queensland. A group of pilots had been camped out at Deniliquin NSW where they were towing and regularly flying 250km+ flights and a couple of 300km+ distances. Which is great for them but kind of depressing for me.


My ever suffering partner Kirsty took pity and encouraged me to head down to Manilla NSW where the "XC Camp" was due to start for a few days "R and R" to see if I could crack a couple of decent flights before the season starts to wind down. The XC Camp is a casual event which encourages pilots to fly as far as they want on any given day and just hang out with similar minded flying folk for fun. In reality it's still a competition where pilots are scored by km's flown and quite a few take it very seriously.


So long story short, I had a couple of OK flights (160km, 70km, 80km) prior to the big day and prepared myself like any other day and launched into a moderate breeze before climbing out to 1700m and heading off over the back West toward Narrabri. I'm not known for hanging around and waiting (some call me "Racing Jason") so I left by myself before any large gaggles and was on my way.

Regular small cumulus dotted the first the 80km which was pretty straightforward until I met a large blue hole and my first dilemma for the day. There was good cloud 10km crosswind to the North but I had good speed on my current heading and there was cumulus roughly 20km ahead downwind. I saw a large dust devil blowing through some plowed paddocks about 6-7km ahead which indicated thermal activity so the the decision was made and I went into survival mode in preparation for passing through the blue hole.
It was a bit scrappy here and there but I made it through after a couple of mediocre climbs and was joined by Che Golus in his Delta 2 just before Wee Waa (who had been following about 10km behind) after I got stuck down low.
Che and I then flew together for about an hour until Che left a climb early to push ahead while I stayed back to try and max out my height a bit. Che got punished and lost a lot of height while I meanwhile made it up to 2800m and found a good buoyant line. I remained ahead of Che from this point by about 5km until we met again at the 300km mark.

It wasn't a radical day. I had a 20km ESE, 2-4mps climbs with low turbulence. The ground was pretty dry and although there were regular dust devils to be seen I didn't have any really crazy air all day and had only one minor tip collapse leaving a thermal. I'm flying the Ozone Alpina 2 at the moment which I feel very comfortable on and it has excellent performance in the Sports Class (EN-C) category.

At the 250km mark near Walgett there were some crossroads with an option of West, North West and North. Looking to the North it appeared that there was some tiger country about 50km away and I was concerned that I could run into a dead end if I was to head in that direction. I reluctantly chose the West road with a slight cross tailwind which would mean losing a bit of ground speed, but possibly having better landing options for a longer distance. I was still getting around 65kph ground speed on half bar glides so I went for it after conferring with Che about which line to take.


It was all good for another 50km until I found myself under a large dying cumulus and was joined again by Che where we scratched our asses off for 20 min and started to get blown off course towards some pretty barren looking country with very limited road options and a guaranteed long wait for a retrieve. Fortunately the lift slowly improved and we climbed back up to 2900m and were able to continue on Westwards into the setting sun for what turned out to be our final glide for the day. We chatted on the radio celebrating first our 300km flight, then shortly after, breaking Godfrey's 335km site record before landing on the road 355km from where we began 8hrs 30min earlier.


It was a perfect day made even better by sharing it with an old flying friend who just happened to have bought a can of beer along for the ride which we drank on the side of the road while waiting for our retrieve car which arrived shortly after.


Only problem is now, can I ever be satisfied with anything less than a 400km flight??

 Here's my tracklog for the day.

 http://www.paraglidingforum.com/leonardo/flight/1095255













Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Weapon of choice

So, Spring is pretty much done and although there have been some excellent flying days the "big day" has been thus far a bit elusive. I've had a few 100km flights from the local sites and one 135km flight from Beechmont to the base of the main range at Toowoomba but thats about it.


Meanwhile I've upgraded my "tools" for this season and am currently flying an Ozone Alpina 2 which is a lightweight sports class glider and is ticking most of my boxes for what I need in a glider at the moment. It's responsive, climbs really well and glides pretty damn good without the demands required to fly a high end EN-D which wears me down on longer flights.
I've also got a Moyes Litespeed topless hang glider now sitting in the shed taking up space for when the urge arises to fly head first instead of feet first. The Hang Glider is a lot more labour intensive to fly and a logistical nightmare to retrieve so it's not getting as much use as I would like. Maybe I'm just getting lazy in my old age...



I finally made it back out to the gliding club at Warick for a bit of a tune up in the dual seater after a 4 month break thanks to the arrival of a baby girl and found that my base skills are still pretty good and my CFI (Chief Flight Instructor) is happy to have me back flying solo if I desire. It's just the old "time and money equation" stopping me from getting too serious in the sailplanes at the moment so I just have to be happy with an occasional quick fix now and then until my circumstances change and I wind up a couple of building projects.



Looking forward to a long, hot, dry summer.



Sunday, 14 September 2014

Border crossing

 Managed to sneak away with some flying buddies during last week for a cheeky fly from my local site at Beechmont Qld. The gliding forecast was good so we were all excited the night before but as it goes with weather forecasts...it's only a forecast. Conditions proved to be much more difficult than anticipated and our grand plan of circumnavigating the Lamington National Park and flying along an ancient volcanic rim were scrapped for a modest task of just staying airborne.
 While my comrades cowered on launch I took off into the blue yonder and after a few shaky moments managed to find a decent 2m/s climb and was away. There was a 120 degree wind change at 800m which made things interesting and absolutely no cumulus as you can see in the pictures. Nevertheless I left the hill and started out West and found the conditions to be actually not too bad. 20 minutes later my buddies launched and flew in the opposite direction so I was once again on my own in the deep blue. Not to worry. I'm used to flying alone. Less distractions that way.
So long story short. The National Park runs Nth-Sth and while I flew down the West side my "buddies" flew down the East side. We remained in radio contact and the plan was to head towards Kyogle across the NSW border about 70km from launch. I didn't fair quite as well as the others and landed about 20km short with the others landing 5km short. I covered a greater distance thanks to a dogleg earlier in the day but my buddies definitely got to take the pretty route along long escarpments, past extinct volcanoes and over lush rainforest. I've been down the East side on previous flights but have never had a camera handy.

Maybe next time...

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Last day of Winter

The last day of Winter has been and gone and unfortunately a good flying friend has gone with it.

While I enjoyed a nice flight from my local site, Mount Tamborine Qld and landed next to the pub to share a beer with friends, a good friend of mine in Newcastle NSW had a tragic accident while performing acrobatics at his local site, Strezlecki Lookout. Adam was performing loops and apparently pulled out of a maneuver early to avoid another pilot and tumbled his glider with no height or time to throw his reserve parachute and crashed into a beach side house.

Adam Parer was a special guy. Easy going and naturally gifted at anything he turned his hand to. Surfing, martial arts, dancing and his one true passion, flying. I was based in Newcastle for 4 years while running a flying school there and spent many hours with Adam on the ground and in the air laughing and just enjoying life. We socialized after hours from time to time and had some road trips with a gang of regular flying buddies and he was always a real pleasure to be around. After I moved to Queensland I didn't get to see him as often but still considered him to be a lifelong friend.

I'm going to miss him. I will always remember him. See you in the clouds my friend.

Here's an older video of Adam doing his thing only meters from where his life tragically ended.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7134W_G7Tpg&sns=em







Friday, 22 August 2014

My first "incident"

So, first day back on the home turf and keen to apply some new found knowledge from the XC coaching in Goondiwindi I had a couple of flights in the dual seater PW6 with my instructor to iron out some landing issues I was having and then was given the all clear to roll out the single seat Discus for some solo work. My flight plan(s) was to go for a short flight then come back to the airstrip to consolidate a landing then go for another longer flight. The first flight was a non event and after playing in some reasonable lift for 10 minutes I broke away and returned to the strip for a landing with no issues. The second flight however was not so uneventful....


After a good first flight I wasn't too concerned and was reasonably relaxed prior to launch. I don't think one particular thing led to what happened next but a lot of little things adding up to conspire against me. Long story short, I stuffed up the launch before getting airborne and managed to spin the glider on the ground (ground loop) and took out an airstrip landing light with the right wing resulting in some substantial cosmetic damage to the glider which needed a professional repair.
The main ingredients in my recipe for disaster were my inexperience, a lazy wing runner, long grass and a false start on the tow.
After giving the thumbs up for the tow to begin, the tug pilot took up tension a bit quickly causing me to roll forward suddenly and the wing runner released the wing early before I had any real momentum. This caused my right wing to drop into the long grass before I had any roll authority over the glider. If I had held some handbrake on at the start this would have eliminated the jumpy first roll. With one wing down on the ground I yawed off 30 degrees and then over corrected and put the opposite wing down on the ground causing me to yaw substantially in the direction of the left wing. I realized at this point it was going pair shaped quickly and elected to release the towline. The problem was I was still moving at speed and over corrected again putting the right wing back on the ground followed by me then putting the left wing back on the ground. I had full hand brake on at this point but the glider began to rotate quickly around the left wing resulting in a 180 degree turn which brought me to a standstill but unfortunately closer to the main runway where I managed to take out a glass landing light during my last meter of movement.
I exited the glider in a state of shock which quickly turned into embarrassment and personal humiliation. I could see that the glider was damaged and I now realized that I had just taken the clubs pride and joy out of action. Not a high point of my flying career that's for sure.
After an inspection of the glider with the wings pulled off it was decided to pack it up and send it down to the repair shop to have the damaged wing repaired.
Fortunately it was a relatively simple fix and within a few days I was able to return the glider to the airstrip where it was quickly assembled, inspected and cleared for takeoff. I didn't fly it again but instead jumped back into the dual seater to consolidate myself and assure the duty instructor that I was good to go solo again.
Now, several weeks later I am still yet to fly as my family dynamic has recently changed somewhat with the addition of my first child. A healthy baby girl. As expected it's been a bit of a game changer and although I have managed to slip away for a couple of local Paragliding flights I am still yet to return to the gliding club.
For the short term I won't be returning to gliding as it just consumes an entire day leaving my partner Kirsty to manage the baby which isn't really fair to her. So the plan is to stay closer to home and slip up the road occasionally for some sneaky flights in the Paraglider. My local hill is only 10 minutes drive away rather than a 2hr 30min drive to the gliding strip so that's a no brainer.
I've also decided to return to my roots with some Hang Gliding in the meantime to see if I've still got it in me.

Spring is here. Stay tuned....