Wednesday, September 4, 2013

First Impressions: U2 160

It's the middle of Team Challenge 2013. I’m not competing but the forecast was awesome so I headed out to get some goodness with the assembled sky brethren and sistren. I started the day with a sledder on my new U2. First flight on this U2 for me, and only my second fight on a U2 with one test fight I did 2 years ago. I really enjoyed it. Hit the morning calm just as the sun was hitting the ground. It felt a little sluggish compared to the Sport2, but also very stable in comparison. I did a simple flight practicing a few coordinated turns along the way. Honestly my launch and landing kind of sucked. I popped the nose on launch. There was no wind, and the U2 is a bit more tail heavy than the Sport2 is. Actually the U2 is a bit heavier in general. Landing was also unsatisfying. I had a nice approach but I hesitated to flare and ended up going late. Ran a couple of steps and set the base tube on the ground.

The second flight was in active mid day so I busted out my trusty Sport2 155. Good launch and landing. I got up in light ridge and a nice thermal straight away. In my mind I decided it was a good day which is the point at which I blew the flight. In reality the lift was inconsistent at that time and as soon as that climb faded away I needed to be in survival mode. Instead Brandon and I flew South looking for something under the clouds but all we got was flushed. I headed over to the ridge for a refill and found nothing! I was barely able to squeak enough lift out of it to get back in range of the main LZ. I missed a thermal on the way back which Ethan was able to find and climb up to cloud base in.  The difference was that he was willing to execute a search pattern and risk losing his glide to the LZ while I was playing it safe. I guess there comes a point when one simply has to commit. There’s always the bowl field.

Third flight of the day, and the second on my U2. This time the valley was glassing off. Smooth 10 mph wind blowing straight in. It was fantastic. A really smooth launch. Based on the first attempt I was much more aggressive with the nose and I had a very strong launch. There was lift everywhere. I suppose it was ridge lift but it extended all over the place. I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity to get to know my new glider. I noticed a few differences very distinctly. It is definitely stiffer in turn. It doesn’t require a whole lot of extra effort, but it takes a moment or two before it responds. If you try and muscle it around you’ll be over-shooting your turn every time. The Sport2 responds almost instantly, while the U2 has a momentary lag. As a result I had to always be thinking ahead of the game just a bit. Make a turn input, then back to center and wait for it to happen. If I held my turn input until the glider started to respond it would end up swinging around much steeper than I wanted and I would have to jump to the other side of the frame to get on track again. It is certainly not going to be as forgiving for flying up against the trees and such.

The second thing I noticed was that this glider loves to climb. I’m closer to the middle of the weight range in the U2 160, closer to the top on the Sport2 155, and maybe this has something to do with it. I felt that I was thermalling very sloppily, and I know I’ve got some time to put in before I’ll be truly dialed into the U2. Even so, I was able to climb just about as good as anyone. Brandon and I were in one thermal where he came in about 100 feet below me and I was able to keep him there. Ultimately I left it about 1000’ to early because the cloud looked to be darker out front. Sadly the lift didn’t fit my plan and I saw Brandon up at cloud base a while later. I never did get there on this flight. Sing it with me… “Love the lift you’re with!!” Throughout the entire flight I was able to keep up with everyone and was at the top of the stack for a good long while. The U2 likes to climb, what can I say? I can’t wait to see what I can get up to with this glider when I’m in the zone!!

The final thing I noticed was the glide speed and associated sink rate. It was really nice. :) No doubt that it out glides the Sport2 155.  It’s wrapped up with the VG being a lot more meaningful as well. There’s a lot more rope to pull, and it makes a big difference. With the Sport2 I felt like 50% VG was default, and the only other setting was 100%. With the U2 there was a distinct difference in feel between 0, 50%, 75%, and 100%. Each step gets tighter and tighter. At 100% VG the U2 was definitely a bear to initiate a turn, and a bit skatey in yaw, but man I could fly at 40MPH and the bar pressure was minimal, as was my sink rate. The Sport2 would be plummeting out of the sky at that speed. That doesn’t appear to be the case with the U2. Perhaps it’s not really anything to brag about, but I was able to overtake all of the PGs at will without ever losing a foot of altitude on them, and some SS gliders as well. I was also able to make the 2 mile glide across highway 111 into the wind and arrive at the north face there with plenty of altitude in reserve.

The flight ended with a very nice landing. I think the 2 hours of getting used to flying the U2 set me up very well for a much better landing. I got popped a little bit on final and ended up overshooting the cone by about 50’. My landing was a smooth and gentle 1 stepper in no wind. The light bar pressure is going to take some getting used to on landing as well. I was keeping a gentle touch, but when I thought it was at trim and gave it a little push to test it out it turns out there was still some energy left in there. I climbed up a couple of feet. As soon as the climb stopped I paused a moment and flared and it was nice. I actually flared a little weakly or else I would have had the no stepper. Next time!!

All in all I am very pleased. I will miss the easy handling of the Sport2 and the almost careless way I could toss it around the sky with precision. I probably won’t be so bold in flying close to stuff, be it terrain, trees, or other gliders. The Sport2 is an amazing wing. I think Wills Wing has squeezed out as much performance as physics will allow while keeping single surface-like maneuverability. On the other hand I am going to really enjoy being able to stretch my legs a little bit. The U2 definitely is going to get me higher, farther, faster. I think it will be worth the trade given the increased climb and the fantastic glide. I am really excited to get dialed in and see what we can do. I think my playground just got a little bit bigger!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Spring is Breaking Out All Over!

April 20, 2013. Epic forcast. Confab with Dean, Barry, James, and me about flying XC. We were talking about Marion County, or maybe even Lookout Mountain. Conditions on launch were strong but the gusts were predictable and the between cycles were quite mild. It looked good, although totally blue. A few people launched and were fighting ratty and inconsistent ridge lift. James Dean launched and got over the ridge, but shortly after that got flushed out into the valley and went to land. Bummer.

7000'... what a cool place to be
I launched about 30 minutes later right around 3:30. I got up in ridge lift and it was squirrely. There were lots of lift bubbles but they were impossible to work in a full 360. It was a matter of milking it until you got a couple of grand over and from there you could catch a real boomer. I eventually found a thermal south of launch. Tipper came over and helped me max it out and we climbed to 7000’. Dean Funk, Jeff laughrey, Rob Dallas, and Mark Bolt had already headed south. I pointed my nose that way and followed suit.

The glide was painful. Nothing but sink the whole way. From 7k I was only able to glide about 5 miles despite going downwind. I hit another little thermal there that got me to Dr Dales. I found another little climb that was drifting fast and wasn’t really turning on. South of Dales the LZs weren’t good so I wanted to get high before moving further down range. While I’m working this little fart Barry Klein comes blazing through below me. He flys by me and manages to spot some birds working a thermal about half a mile ahead. It’s a better one and he soon climbs through my altitude. I leave my piece to go join him. I hit it and start climbing reasonably fast. I think “I’ve got it made... another climb to 7k”. Well, after about 4500 it starts to get a little squirrelly. There’s a strong core but I find myself doing half a turn in lift, the other half in sink. Barry calls that he’s averaging 700fpm and is out over the ridge while I’m a bit over the back. Right there is where i blow it because I decide to leave my climb to find whatever Barry is in. I can’t find it, and neither is my climb still working when I go back there. It’s all fallen apart.

Dr. Dales in my sights
I play it safe and head out into the valley towards Dr Dales. It’s an upwind glide and I want to make sure I get there with extra altitude. The glide is slow and I find almost no signs of lift anywhere. I get there with just enough altitude to do a single 360 before bringing it in on final at speed. I get a wing lifted and try to run it out but I end up dropping a corner of the bracket onto the ground. Not pretty, but workable.

Overall I give myself 9.5 miles on this flight. If I had made good on that thermal I would have easily had 16 or 17 miles. Most likely I would have gone all the way to Marion County Airport where Barry and Mark landed for a 25 miler. Rob and Jeff landed at Lookout. Dean pushed on and made it 10 miles short of Fort Payne... call it 60 miles! Somehow I didn’t think that I was prone to making such rookie mistakes, but the fact is... I’m a rookie when it comes to XC. I love it. I can’t wait to try again.

Raptor Heaven

April 22, 2013. Me and Marc Fink setup down at the Whitwell PG launch. It looked a little nicer for self launching. Marc launched at 2PM and had an extended sledder. There had been cycles coming in all morning but it got quiet just as we got set to launch. I launched half an hour later and hit a nice one right off of launch. I counted to 3 and banked up hard climbing well. Then I fell out the back and did an unscheduled launch dive. I tried to get back in it but by then I was below launch and too close to the trees. Not a single bump all the way to Castle's LZ. There was something breaking off over Castle's and I managed 3 or 4 turns in zero sink at about 200' over the ground. It didn't pan out and I landed.

Dave Pugh was around with some visiting PG pilots and he drove Marc's truck down and picked us up. Marc threw in the towel but I set up again at the HG launch and got off again at 4. Once again Dave came through for me offering to drive my van down to the Church where he and his friends were going to be kiting their PGs.

Wasn't strong enough to ridge soar. Got nothing much to speak of and headed toward the church. About halfway there I got something over a clearing with a house and pond. I worked a search pattern and finally found a broken climb. It was mostly parallel to the ridge and very slow going.

Star Gap
It slowly edged me closer and closer to the trees. I was drifting closer to the LZ so I didn't mind just hanging out. At the exact moment I reached ridge height it turned over the back and started to increase in strength. I rode it up to about 4500' before it fell apart. I flew back out and caught a new bubble in exactly the same spot. That one did exactly the same thing. Finally topped it out at 5500'. There was a stiff inversion there and I tried for literally 20 minutes to punch through but I was unable to get it. It was late and the thermals weren't strong. From there I could see Galloway's and I knew there would be lift enough in the valley to get me there. If I got half way there and hit another decent thermal I could have probably made Henson's. However it was getting late and my car was at the church and I hoped to get home in time to tuck the kids in bed.
Time to go to church

After that I headed out into the valley and that's when the magic happened. Right in line with the church LZ are those brown fields. There was a sweet little lift line that was working between 2500 and 3500. It was some of the smoooothest air I've ever had the pleasure to have flown in. It was close to 6PM and the sun had that amazing golden evening color. After a few minutes a few black vultures broke off of the ridge and came out to join me. Then a hawk I didn't recognize came right out and started swapping turns with me up close. About 8 or 9 turkey vultures came out and started messing around on the ridge. A while later 2 bald eagles flew over. Within a mile of me in any direction there were a dozen soaring birds of varying species all just floating around enjoying the same beautiful glass I was in. It was one of those life moments when you just have to say "Damn, is this possible? Am I really experiencing this?" It was better than in my dreams.

This was pure freedom and joy.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My Life is a Cliche

Have you ever felt like your life is a cliche? I don't often, but Sunday afternoon I fell head first into a couple of notable hang gliding cliches. The end result comes down to several fractures in my nose, a moderately cool looking black eye, a healthy slice of humble pie, and some lessons I'll not soon forget.

It was Sunday. The first day of the Tennessee Tree Toppers Team Challenge. Other than that fact it was unremarkable. We decided it would be a good day to get a sled run or two in. Mitch decided to set up his electric scooter tow rig in the LZ to help people get familiar with the technology before his landing clinic scheduled for later in the week. I flew... it was nice. Contrary to expectations I didn't have a stone cold sledder but was able to stretch it out for an extra 5 minutes in a little thermal over the LZ. Top it off with a very nice landing and I was feeling good. I walked up to where Mitch was running tows from and watched what was going on. A friend was about to tow up using an aerotow dolly. His tow went well and was unremarkable. He pinned off over the middle of the LZ and that's when it started to go weird. I'm not here to tell his story, but suffice it to say that he ended his flight with a less than beautiful landing... I imagine some stitches were needed. After the dust cleared Mitch stepped up and asked "Who's next?" Enter cliche #1

There are Old Pilots, and Bold Pilots, but Few who are Both. 

I didn't hesitate to step forward. After all, I certainly wasn't going to do what that last guy did.... and I have wanted to try this for a long time. Never mind that the wind is alternating between calm and lightly tailing.... never mind that I've never done a static tow before. After all, I've seen this on youtube, how hard can it be? 

I rigged up my tow release and stepped into position. We decided to try a foot launch. I have been eager to give this a go ever since I first learned about it. I was really looking forward to the landing clinic and I hoped to get a jump on the game by starting today. Mitch gave me a ground school lesson on how it's done. He explained the differences between Static Tow launches and mountain launches. I understood what he was telling me. Launching is all about Angle of Attack. The theory is always the same, however the implementation differs. I am ready... I shout "GO! GO! GO!". Mitch echoes my shout and starts pulling the line. I run. I run some more. Still running. Just as the glider starts to lift off my shoulders I feel the line tension increase and it's as if the hand of God grabbed my by the chest and pulled me through the control frame. Enter cliche #2

Never Land On Your Face.

My feet struggle to keep pace but I just can't run that fast. I begin to fall forward... and that's when time slowed down. As I fell the base bar touched earth, dug in, and the power whack commenced. I watched the nose of the glider come down in front of me like a white curtain. It seemed to take about 4 seconds for it to fill my vision. During that time I watched my left hand come in front of me to break my fall. I watched the ground slowly swing up to meet my face. I flinched away and felt my helmet hit the dirt. I actually had enough time to think "Oh, that wasn't bad at all". I thought the crash was over... I honestly did. Then my face hit the dirt and the weight and momentum of my body behind it squashed my right eye socket into the ground.

Then time returned to it's ordinary pace. I felt fine. I didn't think I was hurt at all. I knew that my spine and neck were fine... it all happened so slow I didn't even question it. I also knew that I was going to have a heck of a bruise on my right eye. I raised an arm to signal to the crew that I was OK, and began to get up. James, Mitch, and Ollie showed up right about then and told me to just sit still. Right about that same time blood started gushing out my nose.     Oh.       bugger.

Angels were with me. In particular, Marie the Amazing. She brought me a towel. She sat and made chit chat while blood streamed out of my face. As the background noise of people packing up droned on I sat in a surreal space grounded by Marie's conversation and the occasional reassurance of The James Dean. Cliche #3.... this time a good one:

The Hang Gliding Community is Awesome. 

Many, many thanks to everyone who helped me out, tried to make me feel better, cleaned up my blood, broke down my glider, brought me ice, and generally took the time to make my life better during a down moment.

So what happened? Everyone I've spoke to has had an opinion. This is the nature of pilots to dissect an event... try and glean any tiny bit of truth from it that can be had. We all live with our choice to pursue this sport. It is dangerous. I think it makes us feel better to try and understand 'what went wrong' when somebody screws up because it will, hopefully, prevent the same thing from happening to us.

So here's my technical analysis. I had my angle of attack too low. I would have been flying sooner if I had gotten the nose up a little and when Mitch had fed the last bit of juice I would have flown smoothly away from the hill. I believe that 3 years of mountain launch experience has conditioned me to keep my nose down... always keep it down. If it starts to go bad get the nose down even more!! It didn't help that I was using a release configured for aerotow, designed to assist with keeping the nose down on those fast tows. Nor did it help that we were towing downhill which added further to the forces pulling the nose down.

However there's a much more important lesson to walk away with. When learning a new skill, approach it cautiously, and ease into it with an incremental progression. I was attempting to launch using a method I had never tried before. The wind was working against us. The field was crowded and smaller than ideal. I was flying my intermediate level glider. I was brimming with confidence. In retrospect, I only gave these factors a glancing consideration. I was a fool! It's humiliating. I don't mind making a technical error... hey we all do sometimes. A gross and obvious lapse in judgement is something I have difficulty accepting about myself. These kinds of mistakes have serious consequences in the world of aviation.

So that's my story. Time to reassess. Time to dial down the brashness and remember cliche #4:

You Will Be Able To Fly For The Rest Of Your Life. Make Sure It's A Long One. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Landing Reflections

I guess some people just need a little push. I suppose I am one of those. I have been flying close to three years now and have never landed out. All of my cross country flights have been 'out and returns'. Then came my adventure a couple of weeks ago... there's nothing like jumping in at the deep end!

The forecast conditions were ripe for a trip down to The Point and back. Strong winds early picking up a little bit during the afternoon and only dropping off late in the day. Ideal! With some sunshine we should get some nice thermals to keep it spicy but basically it looked like an all day soar-until-you're sore kind of forecast.

3 minutes and 1000' into the flight
When we arrived at launch the wind was light. Lighter than forecast. We started setting up confident that it would pick up soon. Sure enough, before I was ready to launch it had picked up to the point of being a fail-safe ridge soaring day. I launched and started climbing quite rapidly. I shouted in glee. Within 3 minutes I was 1000' over and feeling great! I didn't hesitate but pushed North towards the point immediately.

My plan was to get to the point, then turn around and head back south meeting up with everyone else part way. I'd then turn around and fly with them the rest of the way to the point one or two more times. There was lift everywhere and I was leaving the climbs before reaching the top because I knew I had it in the bag... or so I thought.

About 2/3 of the way there I noticed that I was slipping down in altitude to ridge-lift height. No problem, I thought, the ridge is going to be working all day! Well, the forecast was one thing but the reality something else. Within 10 minutes it went from BANGIN! to flat. Without much warning I found myself clinging to scraps of light lift right at ridge height just hoping that it was a temporary lull. If conditions picked up again soon, I could still make it back to the LZ.

No Dice

The thing about flying to the point is, there are really nice LZs all the way. Big sprawling pastures are the norm... that is until the last little bit. The last couple of miles out there is only one field which is at the Chattanooga Nature Center... more specifically something they call Reflections Riding. This riding has a horse pasture in it. It's not very big... it's basically just big enough to put a hang glider down into. When flying to the point, we always have our eye on that tiny looking patch of grass and we always hope it doesn't come to that. I'd scoped out the field on a previous visit with Zoe and I knew it was very do-able.  It would require a precise approach and the margin for error is slim.

LZ right over my helmet
A closer look
As I turned away from the ridge and pointed my nose at Reflections Riding I wasted no time getting my legs out of my harness, into the full upright position, and my VG set at 1/4. I didn't want to have to think about anything other than setting up a perfect approach and getting on the ground safely. I arrived with enough altitude for a single 360 to survey the area. Given the forecast conditions of the day I was relieved to see absolutely no wind blowing across the field. This allowed me to set up my approach from the ideal direction without any concerns for possible mechanical turbulence from the surrounding trees.

On final... the ducks disperse
I flew southwest, over the creek. A Great Blue Heron startled and flew along the waters surface. I gently banked onto my base leg heading over the pond. Then I pulled into a steep diving turn over the pond, cutting between the trees on either side that serve as a gateway to a good landing. Entering ground effect just past the debris pile I know I had it nailed. Wait for it... wait for it... flare! And I'm down. It was as good a landing as I could have hoped for.

This one distracts me as an ominous shadow approaches my camera...
Then the residents of the field stopped by... 3 horses. 3 very curious horses who weren't above trying out the flavor of glider fabric, or camera casing either! When the staff of the Nature Center arrived they couldn't have been friendlier. They helped me pull my glider over the fence and away from the teeth of the equine welcoming committee.

So there you have it. Having turned down opportunities to land out in larger, easier fields on earlier flights I had finally been forced into it by fickle conditions. What's more I had landed a fairly tight field and had done so with precision and grace. It was just what I needed to get over whatever unspoken blockage was keeping me close to home. I felt elated, and proud, and my confidence was boosted quite a bit.

To watch a video of this flight, go to Landing Reflections on Vimeo

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Monday, August 22nd at Lookout Mountain. Forecast was for N winds at 11MPH. We're in the midst of a little draught which, coupled with some Northerly cold fronts rolling in, has been good for the thermal outlook. Arrived in the LZ at about 1:00 and met up with Brandon and James. Conditions up top already looked really good so we hurried up, and once we got there it looked GREAT so we set up right away. For such a nice day, there was only one other pilot.... Steve.

Steve launched first. Great launch but the air looked rough. He was getting his butt handed to him for the first couple of minutes. After that he was approximately 400' over and it seemed to smooth out. He was climbing fast. I launched second, about 10 minutes later, and didn't have nearly the amount of turbulence that Steve got. I quickly ascended in ridge lift and in less than a minute had hooked the first thermal which would take me to about 2k over. James launched right after I did but I was already skying out when he got off. Brandon had to wait through a gusty cycle and couldn't get launched for about 10 minutes.

It was a blustery day. The wind was blowing about 10-20 mph anywhere from NW to NNE depending on your altitude. The thermals were strong. I saw moments of 900 feet per minute and 600 fpm on the averager was the norm. Despite their strength, the thermals didn't have the kind of cohesive cores I would expect. You could climb fast and well for 1500 feet and then it would slow down to 100 fpm. Look around for a bit and you could often find the core again somewhere else. It may be that the thermal drift was snaky because of the varying winds at altitude?

Anyway, once I got up there was no going down. There were clouds everywhere and almost every one of them had lift under them. I got up to about 4k, then 5k. At about 20 minutes into the flight I hooked a nice smooth thermal at about 5k and it carried me up through 6k before it started to peter out. My previous best was 6400' and I really wanted to break it so I clung to that area hoping to reconnect with the core even though the lift had all but gone. I went into a clover leaf search pattern. I hit mighty sink for a moment and was down around 5500' and losing fast.... just as I was running to escape that I hit the core again.... YEE HAAWWWW a nice strong climb about 500 fpm all the way to cloud base at just over 7k!!! I eventually had to run out of it because I was right up in the cloud. There wasn't evidence of cloud suck as the lift got progressively weaker the higher I got... although I was still climbing at an average of 300 fpm when I finally pulled VG and ran for the patch of sun.

It was over an hour before I got below 6k after that. I experienced every kind of thermal there is from light to strong, wide to narrow, smooth to rodeo. It was a kind of thermalling smorgasbord where you never had to be without lift... it was just a matter of finding the good lift pockets in the middle of the pervasive light lift of the day.

Total flight time was about 3 hours. After the first 1h 30m of epic fun things calmed a bit, got smoother, and it became harder to find thermals that would take us above 6k. I would have loved to have flown longer as the day was glassing off and getting smooth by then. Would have been fun to practice wing overs and just enjoy floating around but I was getting fatigued and knew that I should land while I had the energy to do it right. Three hours seems to be my cutoff point. I need to build more flying muscle so I can stay up longer!

There was a bizarre reverse wind gradient in the LZ I had never seen before. I'm guessing there must have been a thermal lifting off? It was quite smooth until about 300', then it got quite turbulent until about 50' and then it was just a strong, consistent head wind right down to the ground. I haven't experienced landing conditions like that since flying the South Side, POM. Easy to pull a no-stepper in that kind of wind, so I did.

All in all it was one of my best flights! I got higher than I've ever been before. I had a huge amount of fun riding those thermals. I can never find words to adequately describe the feelings I have during and after such flights. Imagine a combination of the feeling you get after a profound spiritual experience mixed up with the excitement and adrenaline of a roller coaster ride. Add to that the strong personal feeling of pride and accomplishment that come with excelling at something you've worked hard to perfect and you will begin to understand what it's like for me.

In short, it's good.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Rite of Passage

This Tuesday I accomplished a goal that has been on my radar for some time. I flew to The Point! The Point is the very tip of Lookout Mountain overlooking the Tennessee River at Chattanooga. It is a beautiful spot much adored by sight seers for it's views and it's history. I'm here to tell you that you've not seen The Point until you've seen it from 1000' over! Flying to the point is something that is done frequently from Lookout Mountain Flight Park, one of my home sites. It is not a highly challenging route, although it does have some technical aspects. There are pilots who will fly to The Point and back multiple times in a single flight!

So why was this Rite of Passage for me? I believe there is a critical step in the development of a hang glider pilot when you come to terms with the idea of landing out. Landing out means landing in a field other than a designated landing zone (LZ). A hang glider can be landed just about anywhere there's a field free from obstructions, and if you're planning on doing any cross country flying (XC) then you're going to be landing out. However there are many pilots who never reach that point. Landing out safely not only requires solid landing skills, but it also requires the ability to judge a field's size and terrain and vegetation from the air, determine the wind direction, and other more subtle skills that you don't learn landing in proper LZs. Flying is full of awe and wonder and challenge, and for some flying within range of a known, cared for, wind-socked LZ is adventure enough. For others the thrill of flying off into the unknown in search of new terrain, new lift, and of course, new LZs adds a completely new dimension to the art of hang gliding.

I've considered making this trip to The Point once or twice before. There always came a moment when I realized that if I flew any further I would be out of range of the designated LZ. At that point there was an invisible tether that held me back. Perhaps, I  mused, I am one of the first category of pilots, the ones who are happy boating around in the known? However this past Tuesday when that moment came I felt no hesitation at all! I looked ahead and saw some big fields and thought "Yeah, I could land that no problem.", and just like that, I had stepped through the door.

Hang gliding is a very dynamic activity. It can be at once transcendent and thrilling... heavenly and frightening. It requires that you constantly evaluate where you are, and where you are going. You cannot drift aimlessly into hang gliding. If you wish to keep growing as a pilot you must do so with focus, passion, and determination. This is not a sport that requires great physical prowess, nor does it require special intelligence.

What is does require is heart, and courage, and a willingness to take measured risks in the quest for higher heights. In my short time flying (just over 1 year now) I have been stretched, challenged, uplifted, and at least once pounded by my desire to master free flight. I am a much happier person because of it. More fulfilled.

I am constantly surprised by one simple facet of flying... it doesn't ever become normal, or mundane. Every time you start to get comfortable with flying, there is something waiting to lift you up to a whole new level.... and after all, isn't that The Point?