Monday, May 14, 2012

Busy weekend

Finally, we had the possibility of XC weather this weekend. On Saturday, Rudy and I left early for Beauraing and launched around 11h30. I had some light thermals (Rudy got them better), but never got really high, while the sky was turning completely overcast. After an hour of trying, most of it scratching low, I was tempted into the valley (everything is relative on a 80m high ridge) by three birds and had to land soon after. Rudy also had to land a bit later.

I was pretty annoyed with the behavior of some of the paraglider pilots. Some of them had no respect for the priority rules at all and close to the terrain that's even more dangerous than up high.

But, the sky was predicted to clear up in the afternoon, so we decided to go for a second flight. Soaring was easy now, because the wind had increased, but again, it was not easy to get any altitude. I was constantly looking for thermals and whenever I started to turn, I was immediately engulfed in paragliders. Usually, that's not a problem, but just like a few hours before, quite a few of the pilots did not bother about anything else than their own flight. People were switching turn directions without looking around them at all or decided to soar right through a circling gaggle. People did not give way to pilots who were climbing faster and the result was two near misses for Kurt and one for me. I guess I've never been that angry in the air before. A loud shout in French was the result. I left the thermal and decided to look elsewhere on the ridge. I really hope people were not paying enough attention because they were doing their first flights of the year (not an excuse though!) and not because they don't realize what annoyance and danger they are to others.

On the west end of the ridge I finally climbed after searching a while in cooperation with two other paraglider pilots. Not wanting to need a retrieve, I decided to try to go upwind, but it was a bit early to do that. I hit some very light lift a few km's out, but it wasn't enough and I was on the ground. A bit of a shame, as the conditions were improving. I should have been a bit more patient I guess.

The weather predictions were a lot nicer for Sunday. A cold night and day promised some serious thermals although the air pressure was very high. The sky was active very early on, but the clouds were low and pretty flat. A 90 km triangle was set. Tom launched behind the trike for a tandem flight and I planned to launch immediately after. Planned, because the trike's engine stalled on take-off. Tom turned around and landed on his wheels, the trike landed in the field behind the runway. That didn't look good!

You have to know that a Belgian guy ordered a Dragonfly in January and that the German Dragonfly dealer promised us to deliver it early March. The container arrived in Germany in February, but the fully paid aircraft is still in his workshop 3 months later. This now resulted in us maybe losing this nice day of flying and that did not make me happy. It's not the way things should be.

Anyway, after retrieving the trike, some mechanical checks and a static test run on the ground, everything seemed OK. William had the courage to do a test flight (he had bent the steering bar with his belly on landing!) and around 2 PM we were ready for towing again. The tow was nice, with a few bumps due to the active sky. I released and had good thermals, but with an initial working altitude of 800 m, I was quite careful. I flew 30 kms south to Beauraing and spotted a lot of paragliders on launch. Two were soaring low on the ridge a one was maybe 300 m above the ridge. Cloudbase had improved and I reached 1200 m AGL above Beauraing. However, everybody else was low there and the sky was absolutely blue south and east of Beauraing. Not good. Again, I wanted to avoid retrieve so I headed back north, against the 15-20 km/h wind. After two blue thermals, I flew straight into a known sink hole, as I was told later. That was a pity. On the ground at 3.30 PM, while the day was flyable until 7 PM...

But, it was good to finally have done a XC flight in Belgium again. And the colors were sublime. Green grass, yellow flowers and a blue sky with white fluffy clouds. I enjoyed it very much. This was true free flying :-) Sorry I've got no pictures for you.

Thanks for the tow, William!

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