Category: Flight Report

Comparing the 2016 T2C with my 2011

This season I sold my 2011 T2C for a brand new all-options 2016 T2C.

It’s a very different machine!

Compared to my 2011, my 2016 is noticeably lighter weight.  ODL04 sail cloth and the carbon front leading edges are expensive, but they do reduce the weight a tad.

In flight, I would say that my new wing glides notably better; I’ve been saying the new glider isn’t a hang glider at all, it’s a space ship- it just goes and goes!  Sink rate is improved as well- as measured by flying the same site in the same conditions with all the same people I’ve flown hundreds of hours with in all variety of gliders.

Handling is better without a doubt.  In the stock tune configuration, which is how I generally like my gliders, I would not say the roll or pitch pressures are much reduced as compared to my 2011 model.  But I would absolutely say the wing just seems to “behave” a lot nicer.  It does what I ask it to better, without talking back as much.  Flying a slippery high performance glider, there is always a degree of instability in the wing.  Thermalling requires a bit more pitch input than say a Falcon, and climbing with some VG on requires a bit of high siding.  I’m finding the new wing does what I want it to with less input or effort.  Not lighter control pressures, per se… but better behaved.  This more compliant and docile nature of the wing really shows itself when coming in to land.  I have a Falcon and T2C and fly both pretty even amounts… and the new wing seems to be more similar to the Falcon in the forgiveness department.  My 2011 model was a great glider, don’t get me wrong, but I kind of knew in challenging conditions I had to be completely on it, and if I had to make corrections during final, I then had to manage the yaw that comes with roll inputs.  The new one doesn’t feel so eager to spank me for being off my game.  I still have respect for it- it’s a high performance glider, which means it still trades forgiving tendencies for performance efficiency… but, compared to my 2011, it’s just better behaved- no other way to say it.

If you have an older T2 or T2C, you might be asking if it’s worth it?  That’s only a question you can answer!  How much do you fly, how often will you use this new toy… versus whatever else you might spend the money on?  How important is flying to you… and how badly do you want to incrementally improve your enjoyment of your flying?  I will let you do your own cost/benefit analysis… but if you want to know what I think… you already do- I bought a new one, didn’t I?!

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Conclusion: The 2016 T2C is more than just a little better than a 2011 model… it’s very notably improved in what I consider the most important places- more go, more fun, less work, more forgiving (still a high perf topless though, for all the newer pilots reading this and hearing it’s “easy”… that’s a relative and comparative statement!)



I got Paco’d… and it was awesome!

Yesterday I met up with our local paragliding ambassador and all-around cool dude, Paco, for a tandem flight.  He had a demo wing on loan, and was looking for some baggage to fly with… er… I mean, a willing pilot-passenger.  There’s a pretty short list of people I will fly with as the passenger… but Paco is on that list.  He’s a great pilot- but that’s not why.  He’s smart, SUPER smart… he’s calculating… and he’s conservative.  Flying “safely” is a fine art of blending self awareness, critical analysis, and brutal honesty with yourself… with managing decision making and flight choices that keep one *well* within reach of 100% reliably positive outcomes.  In other words, know your limits, stay within them- and know how much you might not know, and stay at the very least that much farther within your limits.  I’ve seen and flown with Paco long enough now to know- he “gets it”.  And he’s a good pilot, flying good (docile and reliable) gear for that just-in-case “shit happens” scenario…

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Hanging out in front of Ellenville Flight Park launch

Anyway- it was a morning of great fun and many smiles.  Lots of story sharing and general friend-finding that comes with the awesome people drawn to flying off mountains with kites.

If anyone in the NY area is looking for a tandem guy, or an instructor who really gets it, I can’t endorse Paco enough.  He’s not really teaching or tandemizing as anything but a hobby… but that makes him even better, because it’s purely about the love of flight and people…

Turning on final for a soft landing

This was actually my first paraglider tandem… and with my tourist hat on, I couldn’t help but fly with the GoPro-on-a-stick 🙂



Landing Last Sunday

Here’s a short clip, thanks to John Morse, of my first hang glider landing in 2016.  It’s great to be alive! 🙂

Last Sunday was a decent flyable day at Ellenville.  Not the first of the year, but probably the most friendly air I’ve had yet this year. (more…)



Freeing Scotty T

Today I released Scotty’s ashes from a couple thousand feet over where he loved to fly.  It was a beautiful day to be out and up in the air, he would have been so excited to fly today.  It was pretty surreal flying “with” him… and it was hard to let him go, too…

But I think he’d be really happy to know we did this for him… Fly forever my friend!

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Inaugural Ramp Launch

Photo by Jorge Grey

Photo by Jorge Grey

If you haven’t heard, New York State has been working on giving many of the scenic overlooks in the area a face-lift.  One of those overlooks is home to the Ellenville Ramp, which we use when wintery conditions prevent us from driving up the dirt road to our usual launch(s).  In addition to revamping the scenic overlook, the State of New York built for us an entirely new ramp… and paid for the whole thing (materials + labor, everything!). (more…)



Happy Frozen Voights

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It was a great, cold and challenging day at Ellenville today… and it’s really special to get to share it with Dad.



Perspective

Today concluded the longest break I’ve taken from hang gliding since my first flight with my dad in 1988.

My last flight before the break was August 17, and I had my left shoulder surgically reconstructed the next day.  Which means I went 4 1/2 months!

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Today was “just” a sled ride… but with my perspective, I have to say the ability to launch into the sky with just a few steps, cruise around effortlessly, and end the flight with a graceful return to those same feet that started me going, but a long ways away from where they last touched Earth…

It’s a stunning privilege we enjoy, to say the very least!

And now I’m back, refocused and invigorated more than ever!  Let’s FLY!



Got my feet off the ground!

Monday will make it 3-weeks since my shoulder surgery, and I’m already getting pretty tired of being one-armed, and not being able to do much “fun” stuff… like fly.

My friend Jimmy made a generous offer to take me up in his plane, to which I eagerly accepted!  It was a fantastic morning of driving around the sky; I am supremely grateful!

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Definitely, definitely a good drrrriver…

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Jimmy and the Tappan Zee Bridge off the left wing

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A look at the construction of a NEW Tappan Zee Bridge… and they’ll tear down the current one when they’re done!

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Looking North up the Hudson at the Bear Mountain Bridge

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Can you name that runway?

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Hint: C-130’s and C-5A’s live here.  Usually a couple C-17’s, too… but I didn’t see them this time

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I finally got to fly the Gunks! 🙂

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And a scenic view of Lake Minnewaska as we crossed back over toward Ellenville

Thank you again Jimmy D!!!



Blind Squirrel Finds a Nut!

With a forecast for light wind but decent lift I had high hopes of Saturday being a great day to fly Ellenville… despite the North/North-East forecast.  I got up to launch around 11 and Jay-Bird was already set up.  Griffin and Scotty T arrived about the same time, and Griff and I decided to set up.

At this point there were nice cu’s popping, everywhere but near launch.  My suspicion is the cu’s behind launch were coming from the sun hitting Pine Bush, Walker Valley, and the back side of the ridge all morning, while launch and the Ellenville valley remained shaded.  There were also nice cu’s across the valley, and again my theory was that the sun had been hitting over there for longer, causing convection.

Being a North-West facing site, Ellenville is best suited as an evening site because that’s when the sun hits the valley and ridge the best.  But for getting off, up and away on a light-and-variable day we wanted to hit the peak of the day to have the best chance of getting up.  We knew if we DIDN’T get up that meant landing mid-day, not a risk I accept lightly… but that was our plan.

We waited a few hours until clouds were starting to pop over launch, filling in the blue hole.  The general winds seemed to be North/North-West at launch, but North-East (as advertised) in the LZ.  Thermal cycles were coming through and would influence the wind speed/direction.  About 1:00 I was liking what I was seeing and started getting dressed… and talked Griffin into doing the same.  He got ready quicker and was on launch ahead of me.  We were talking strategy and I was sharing what I was looking for in a good cycle to launch.  I feel it’s important to be at-the-ready to take what might be the only great cycle on a day like this, but also to be patient when waiting there.  That’s really hard when you’re hooked in, standing on launch, and it’s blowing in.  Wearing layers and jackets doesn’t help either.

Griff got a decent cycle and took it.  His two-step launch was lame (sorry dude!) but I think he did a great job of scratching and working the light and broken lift he was presented.  He had one bit right in front of launch that he got a few 360’s in, not really gaining or losing much.  That seemed to fizzle out and he headed out into the valley toward the Kelly’s farm hoping to catch “the big valley thermal”- not at all a bad strategy given the general NE wind direction and that we saw clouds signifying lift out there.  He found another something and got a 360 or two but made a smart/safe decision to head toward the LZ and get there high enough to check the streamers and set up a proper approach.  Again, landing mid-day at Ellenville is to be much respected.

I waited on launch for what seemed like forever, and just wasn’t getting the cycle I wanted to see… so I moved away from launch and took my harness and jackets off for a bit.  Greg Lindy was behind me, and he waited on launch a while until it started to blow down, and he too backed off.

Normally blowing down is not something to celebrate… but I was wishfully thinking it was being caused by a giant thermal out in front of launch that was sucking air in to replace the lifting air.  After a while I noticed it was blowing in towards the mountain in the LZ, so I started getting dressed despite blowing down on launch.  Again I was hopeful it was a sign there was a thermal in the vicinity.  I was standing on launch when it started to blow in again very lightly.  I picked the glider up a few times but something just didn’t feel real promising so I put it back down.  It started to blow in a little better, and the trees and bushes below launch were showing some action.  I checked the LZ windsocks and they were still blowing straight at the hill.  This time when I picked the glider up the air felt much liftier, and off I went!

I floundered a little in broken lift in front of the North launch.  It was strong enough to turn tightly in, but I couldn’t get a full 360 without falling out of it.  And it felt like it kept shifting around and wouldn’t stay in one place.  After maybe 4 360’s I lost track of it and opted to head for the trailer thermal.  I pulled VG and tried to find the liftiest line to get me there the highest.  Greg’s big windsock in the LZ was still blowing straight toward the mountain, which is basically pointing at the trailer in the woods.  I had high hopes but low expectations of finding something worthwhile.

But I did!  It had to be about 300 fpm, and just barely big enough to turn in.  I had to bank pretty steeply, and fly as slow as I could without stalling or losing the ability to steer and stay centered.  I latch on to that little thermal and clung to it as it tried to lose me, shifting around or lifting a wing and trying to push me out.  It felt not unlike convergence lift.  As I got higher and higher it got wider, smoother, and faster.  I was reading 7-800 fpm on the averaged for a while, and I climbed to about 6500 ft before the lift lightened up.

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The clouds were stellar; perfect flat-bottomed puffies with 5/8ths coverage (right Shaddo?!)

I jumped one cloud over because I could see that one was still building, and it was in the direction I wanted to go (I wanted to fly Greg’s Up the Valley challenge).  That cloud was even better taking me to my highest alt for the day of 7660… and the lift kept going, I could have easily gone higher but then I would have been IN the cloud!

The journey up the valley was an exciting one, pushing upwind with several low saves (two so low that I was preparing to land)… But this is already a long post so I’ll leave the rest of the story to be told over beers at the campfire or something.

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Mohonk Mountain House, as seen from the Ellenville end of the ridge

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Mohonk Mountain House, as seen from the Kingston end of the ridge

The story ended when I got to Kingston, still a little over 1500 ft, but that wasn’t high enough for me to comfortably make the next LZ I liked… so I decided not to press on.  I happened to be right over the NY State Trooper barracks, which had nice manicured grass and flags to show the direction of what little wind there was.  Plus I just thought it’d be fun to land there.

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Google Earth says it’s a total straight-line distance of 26.13 miles from takeoff to touchdown.  I think that might be the farthest Up the Valley Run this year… but I’m not very confident it’ll hold, either.  I’m super happy with the result considering I was pushing upwind (NE) the whole flight… but on the right day I could totally see someone smashing that distance, too.  It’s a great route with LZ’s aplenty!

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This is what the valley looks like once you get past Mohonk.  That’s 209 to the right of all these fields.  Each brown field had it’s own little thermal that kept me going, and the Trooper barracks is just to the right of the last brown field.  It gets pretty suburban after that…

And a major THANK YOU to Flyin’ Bryon who came to pick me up, in my own truck no less!  What a guy he is!



Sky Out Thursday

When my dad offered to babysit Scarlett so I could get some errands done, and maybe even fly… how could I say no?!

The forecast looked ok, not great… but ‘flyable’ to some degree for sure.  I got up to launch and no one was there yet, it was pretty cross from the N or even NE, but with decent thermal cycles coming through.  I flew my RC Zagi a bit to get a feel for the conditions and wait for others to arrive.

As more pilots rolled in, they began setting up their wings.  I didn’t.  I’ve been looking for just the right day to soar my paraglider at Ellenville… and this looked like it could be the day.  The winds weren’t the best direction, especially for making it to the LZ on a slow and performance-challenged aircraft… but the winds were light and it’s not often we get thermic days without much wind around here.  I decided to give it a shot, not so much worried about the conditions or my abilities, but worried about being able to soar since I’m not nearly as skilled in a paraglider.

The launch was uneventful, as was most of the flight.  But on my way to the LZ I was fortunate to stumble into a thermal.  It wasn’t very strong, but it was fairly well formed and big enough to turn in… so I did.  I was able to take that single thermal up to about 3600 msl, for my first climb-out and soaring flight on the paraglider at E!

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And from 3600 ft… I sunk out.  I was climbing under a nice cloud but was slowly drifting farther and farther back, and I’m not that comfortable being far from the LZ in the paraglider, especially at a site like Ellenville where I know there can be widespread areas of sinking air.  The thought of top-landing crossed my mind, but that seemed like asking for trouble so I let the feeling pass (maybe another time?).

I landed in a pretty active LZ, which required quite a bit of input to keep the wing overhead.  One last thermal at 10 ft and the wing slowed behind me slightly… I knew the following surge would not be kind to me and I’d be looking at swinging onto my butt at best… so I waited for the wing to start it’s move forward and checked it with brake- leaving me almost nothing left to flare with.  A few running steps and it was a safe albeit less than graceful landing.  Will have to work on that!

Shortly after landing, the resident XC god Dave Hopkins launched in his ATOS and was able to get up, so a few of us rushed back up to launch for another flight.  Having scratched the paraglider itch for the day, and with there being a little more wind now, I opted to fly the hang.

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There was some ridge lift, but it was still mostly thermals.  After a while of climbing near launch I spotted Hopkins headed up the ridge to the North so I followed.  I “let him” race ahead since he had the performance advantage anyway (not like I had much choice in the matter), while I flew as efficiently as a good and watched for where he found lift and where there was sink to be avoided.  We connected over the doctor’s house and began climbing in a pretty decent thermal for the day.  He was higher than me when we got there, and he opened separation even more as we climbed.  Damn good pilot on a damn fine wing, tough combination to beat!

We climbed to about 5k where the lift seemed to slow and I was able to catch up to him.  There were these really sweet low clouds over the back (over my house!) so I took a few photos of the clouds, the scenery, and of Dave flying next to me.  We hung out of there for a few, long enough that I got a little chilly, before Dave headed further North and I headed back to launch.

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When I got to launch there were several gliders in the air, but not as high… which seemed like the perfect time to practice some aerobatics to get down and say hi to everyone.  The lift was plentiful over launch, and I was able to do several sets of maneuvers, which was a lot of fun.  It was especially fun flying with my blue-and-yellow brother-from-another-mother Justin (he’s got my pervious T2).

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Hopkins and I ended up landing about the same time, around 6:30.  The LZ was still pretty bubbly.

All in all it was a great day in the sky (twice!) and an excellent example of how fun the community and the flying is here at Ellenville.  The site has never looked better, and the community is as active as ever (there were easily 15+ people there on a random Thursday, for example).

Thanks to everyone that made the day possible for me- Especially my dad for babysitting!