Category: Photos

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 🙂



Streaking

No, I’m not running through the quad naked…

I’ve had a growing curiosity about doing some night time star time-lapse photography… and finally had the time (and energy) to experiment with it.  Here’s my first crack at it.

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With a good camera, Photoshop, and After Effects… it’s pretty easy actually!  Just need the right tools…

Star streak photos are cool.  But what really grabs me is SEEING the swirling action in motion.  Here’s the same 1 hr time lapse (111 images) in motion:

EDIT: And here’s one from the following night, about an hour and a half worth of photos

 



Contest Entry and HG Publicity

If you follow me here on my blog, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or stalk me from the bushes (must be cold this time of year) you already know I do a bit of aerial photography and videography using a small quadcopter.

Well the company that makes the quad and gimbal I use, DJI, is running a contest where users of their products tell the story of how we’re applying the technology in our personal or business lives.  I suspect it’s a strategic and very smart move that they’ll covertly use in lobbying law-makers to make “drones” as loosely regulated as possible, but maybe that’s just the conspiracy-theorist in me…

Anyway, I shared my story- how a “flying camera” has let me capture some pretty inspirational images and videos of hang gliding, which I think really convey what it’s like to get up there and fly.
You can read my entry here: http://event.dji.com/dji-stories/content/what-it-feels-fly

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The FAA’s Proposed UAS “Drone” Laws are Available for Public Comment

Link to the complete set of proposed laws, and where you can comment:
http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FAA-2015-0150-0017

Summary of proposed laws:

Operational Limitations • Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. (25 kg).
• Visual line-of-sight (VLOS) only; the unmanned aircraft must remain within VLOS of the operator or visual observer.
• At all times the small unmanned aircraft must remain close enough to the operator for the operator to be capable of seeing the aircraft with vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses.
• Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly involved in the operation.
• Daylight-only operations (official sunrise to official sunset, local time).
• Must yield right-of-way to other aircraft, manned or unmanned.
• May use visual observer (VO) but not required.
• First-person view camera cannot satisfy “see-and-avoid” requirement but can be used as long as requirement is satisfied in other ways.
• Maximum airspeed of 100 mph (87 knots).
• Maximum altitude of 500 feet above ground level.
• Minimum weather visibility of 3 miles from control station.
• No operations are allowed in Class A (18,000 feet & above) airspace.
• Operations in Class B, C, D and E airspace are allowed with the required ATC permission.
• Operations in Class G airspace are allowed without ATC permission
• No person may act as an operator or VO for more than one unmanned aircraft operation at one time.
• No operations from a moving vehicle or aircraft, except from a watercraft on the water.
• No careless or reckless operations.
• Requires preflight inspection by the operator.
• A person may not operate a small unmanned aircraft if he or she knows or has reason to know of any physical or mental condition that would interfere with the safe operation of a small UAS.
• Proposes a microUAS category that would allow operations in Class G airspace, over people not involved in the operation, and would require airman to self-certify that they are familiar with the aeronautical knowledge testing areas.
Operator Certification and Responsibilities • Pilots of a small UAS would be considered “operators”.
• Operators would be required to:
○ Pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center.
○ Be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration.
○ Obtain an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating (like existing pilot airman certificates, never expires).
○ Pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months.
○ Be at least 17 years old.
○ Make available to the FAA, upon request, the small UAS for inspection or testing, and any associated documents/records required to be kept under the proposed rule.
○ Report an accident to the FAA within 10 days of any operation that results in injury or property damage.
○ Conduct a preflight inspection, to include specific aircraft and control station systems checks, to ensure the small UAS is safe for operation.
Aircraft Requirements • FAA airworthiness certification not required. However, operator must maintain a small UAS in condition for safe operation and prior to flight must inspect the UAS to ensure that it is in a condition for safe operation. Aircraft Registration required (same requirements that apply to all other aircraft).
• Aircraft markings required (same requirements that apply to all other aircraft). If aircraft is too small to display markings in standard size, then the aircraft simply needs to display markings in the largest practicable manner.
Model Aircraft • Proposed rule would not apply to model aircraft that satisfy all of the criteria specified in section 336 of Public Law 112-95.
• The proposed rule would codify the FAA’s enforcement authority in part 101 by prohibiting model aircraft operators from endangering the safety of the NAS.

 

I think the important parts are that this DOES open a practical and feasible avenue for people to operate a UAS (“drone” is a stupid, ominous name so everyone stop saying it!) commercially… something even I have seen could be a great boost to the US Economy, with many new creative job and career opportunities created.

I also think it’s VERY important, to anyone that flies *ANYTHING* else, that these proposed laws make certain things unmistakably clear.
1. UAS can only be operated via line-of-sight (you need to see the damn thing, can’t fly it miles away using ONLY a live video feed… although live video feed CAN still be used while flying LOS).
2. UAS must operate under 500 ft unless proper authorization is obtained (doesn’t prevent some bone head from taking out small or large aircraft, but it makes doing something likely to produce that result illegal… what more can you do?!)
3. Cleary defines that ALL UAS must yield right-of-way to all other manned and unmanned aircraft.  This includes hang gliders and paragliders!  Does this mean you’re any less likely to get hit by a bozo’s Christmas present?  NO.  But at least it clearly makes the Bozo in the wrong, legally.  Again, what more can be done?!)

 

All in all I find these proposed rules agreeable- both as someone who often occupies the NAS (National Airspace System), AND as someone who really enjoys aerial photography and is hopeful to pursue such commercially some day…

Well played Washington, well played… Now, when will these actually go into effect?!  AND… when will that FAA UAS Operator Exam be ready?!  Sign me up!



Winter Play

Having worked through physical therapy for my shoulder, and being fully cleared by my doctor… I’m officially a healed, rehabilitated, physically able-bodied person again!  And despite record cold and getting trounced with snow, I’ve been doing by best to get out and fly when I can.

Here are a couple recent shots from doing some winter flying in my Falcon 4 and my new (used) harness

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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…)



Sunrise

One nice thing about these short winter days… it’s a lot easier to get up to watch the sun rise!  Inspirational.

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Color, or Black & White?

As an avid photographer, this is a choice I often struggle with… Obviously there is no definitive answer, it’s pure preference.  The world we live in is full of color, and often we want images that capture and represent that well… but every once in a while, there is a photo that just seems to tell it’s story a bit better in black and white.

Black and white is a look not all appreciate; It seems most of the people that appreciate have at least some interest/experience in photography.  I think it’s these people that appreciate black and white when it’s used “correctly”… sometimes the lack of color ads some metaphorical meaning to the art… and other times, the color is just a distractor from the subject or the storyline of the image.

Anyway- here is a photo I took back in October, with a little help from my very good friends Jimmy and Davie…
Do you like it better in color, or in black and white? (click the image to view full-size)

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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!