Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The phone rang

Today I was working as usual when the phone rang. A 2 minute call and after that I looked down on my draft paper and saw this:

Strange, what hang gliding does to you...

Long trip to Serrig for a 2 hour flight

Last weekend, it looked like there was not going to be any interesting flying again. We canceled the Benecup (a good decision, it wasn't flyable in the Northern Netherlands). But, on Saturday morning, it looked like Sunday could be very nice just across the German border. I left a birthday party on Saturday night early and woke up at 6:30 on Sunday morning, heading for Serrig, together with Rudy.

We arrived in Serrig and the winds were lower than predicted and the same was true for the clouds. I definitely wasn't going to be a record day, but it looked very good for flying.

Launch and the initial climb-out was easy, but 500m above the ground, it was pretty turbulent. It took me a while to get to cloudbase at 1400m (1000m AGL). I decided to try to fly to Hinterweiler. Cloudbase was rather low, but the wind was helping me.

I soon got low and couldn't leave the spot where I was flying due to a lack of landing options. Lots of pretty steep little valleys and lots of vineyards, not a nice combination with a low cloudbase... And then there were the airspaces. When I decided to follow a gap between the airspaces, I hit sink and wasn't sure how much I could deviate from the route. I landed after a 65 km flight, 30 km short from the goal I had in mind. But I was happy to have been flying again.

My landing had a nasty surprise. There were a lot of cultivated fields where I landed and in the middle was one rather small patch with tall grass. The patch was surrounded with barbed wire. I had noticed that from above, but was confident I could land it in the patch. If necessary, I was going to use the drogue chute. I had the chute ready and decided to come in rather high, also because there was some wind. Everything looked fine, but I quickly noticed to wind was less than expected and I was going to overshoot slightly without the chute. So I threw the chute and expected to land right in the middle of the patch. However, the expected braking effect didn't happen and I was going to land just about right on the barbed wire. A few long seconds passed, not knowing whether the chute was eventually going to deploy or not, but I just managed to clear the fence and landed with the wing tips less than a meter behind it. A big sigh of relief!

I looked a the chute and noticed that the rope on the harness which opens the zipper was entangled in the drogue chute's ropes. I'll remember that one. Next time I have the drogue chute ready, I'll make sure the harness ropes are fixed to the harness!

Rudy and I started the drive back home and stopped at the aerodrome in Spa for dinner. The Eifel area had turned blue 3 hours before, but in Belgium, the sky still showed some activity. The view was nice and some spectacular skydiver landings provided a good show.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Got some nice flying

Last Monday, conditions were nice, with a 30 km/h north wind up high and a 15 km/h NW wind on the ground. That looked like a problem, because it looked marginal for foot launching from our N-faced ridge (80 m) and we had called off the towing the day before, because moderate N winds were predicted.

I picked up Rudy near Brussels and we headed south, towards Beauraing, our N launch site. The light winds made us make some phone calls and drive by the towing site anyway. Conditions were perfect, but, the local towing pilot could only start towing at 2:30... Rudy convinced me that Beauraing would work (I had my doubts), so we made a decision and drove there.

Rudy turned out to be right, but I had to work for it. A 10 minute battle close to the trees was rewarded with a broken climb to 1500 m. Our towing site was 30 km north so, the battle against the 30 km/h north wind started. I took me 3 hours to get there, but I really enjoyed the experience. The tough part was 10 km north of Beauraing, where the terrain rises 200 m. The glides were bad there and the thermals broken, it took me 2 hours to get through those 5 km. The rest was piece of cake with a very nice view. The return only took 30 minutes. The plan was to try it in one glide to test the numbers, but halfway I flew into a solid 3 m/s which I could not ignore. It took me to 2000 m which is not common in Belgium. Loved the view, above the overcrowded Lesse river. Hundreds of kayaks were floating on it. Good flying, my best flight ever in Belgium...

Yesterday, we were in Maillen again, our towing site. The ultra-light field had their annual Fly-in, so I headed there despite the overcast forecast. A lot of funny little ultra-lights were there, but the nicest plane to me was this 1936 glider. It was built in France to take part in the '36 Olympics and will be in the 2012 Olympics as well (exhibition I guess).

A little miracle took place and the sky opened up. Tom, Jean, Kurt, Eric and me launched between 15:00 and 15:30 and we had a really good time flying in gentle, but broken 1 m/s thermals. The people at the Fly-in got a good show as we regularly got low and managed to thermal up again.

It was good fun and I couldn't resist the temptation to dive at Tom's glider on this occasion :-)