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Post your flying stories and flight reports here. Make sure to attach pictures if you got em!

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By NateHallahan
#400059
https://youtu.be/AIf7kChC9fs

Saturday 8/19 I went out for my 3rd solo flight and it ended up being my first soaring flight, lasting 49 minutes from foot up to foot down with a pretty good landing. Launch was about 5pm in "moderate turbulence" with wind speeds in low and high cycles from 11-13 to 15-17. I timed and chose the lighter cycle to launch in.

I haven't done much flying prone (it was my choice to go prone) so when I got to the ridge I had crappy flying that I smoothed out over many passes. After a few minutes Tom, who assisted me with launch, joined me in the air while giving me plenty of breathing room. Sharing the sky with him added enjoyment to flight and gave me a chance to work on staying aware of where he was and being sure I checked my turns. (In all honesty I knew where he was about 50% percent of the time, he left the area a few times). Passing each other and making eye contact at one point was a fun experience. After 14 and a half minutes of ridge soaring I managed not only to stay up but gain a little bit of altitude. The technical work and focus it took to do this was very satisfying.

Next step was to head down to the landmark they call the volcano to work on some 360s. I started with left 360s and managed to catch some lift and took it up to about level with launch (about 3,500 feet) before I drifted to my boundaries. I went back down a bit to work on right 360s, I gained very little and then got dumped. Generally I went up on left turns and down on right turns, I realized later in my flight that during right 360s I was pushing out unevenly, almost entirely with my right hand.

I thermaled up to or above launch several times, I'm guessing the climbs were a little over 1,000 feet, the other pilot suspected I got up to 3.8-3.9k. I don't have a vario so I don't really know. Near the top of one of these climbs I started laughing because I suddenly realized how freaking enjoyable this is! I also noticed that bright spot that shows up around your shadow... except the shadow was hardly visible. I pointed this out to myself on camera.

As I'm sure the story usually goes, eventually I got low and had to head to the LZ. I spent about 28 minutes thermaling. On the way to the LZ I transitioned to upright and attempted an upright dive. I failed, only reaching 28mph, but nailed it the next day.

I went to staging, circled down and did my DBF approach rounding out to a nice and gentle 4 step moonwalking landing with a little flare (best landing yet). That felt really good.

My instructor congratulated me saying that was the best student flight he had seen in a long time. I was pleased and surprised that it lasted more than 45 minutes. I remember being on the ridge getting tired, hungry and thirsty... but it all went away at some point.

As I was moving my glider into the shade I got some words of encouragement from the other pilots:
"You suck Nathan!"

The next day I did another flight but didn't launch until after 6 because the winds were unpredictable (to me) gusting to 22, I launched in 10mph. Unfortunately I didn't find much lift and only got a 10 minute flight but had another good landing and the flight was still very enjoyable.

It's late Monday night right now and this flight still has me feeling good. I think I might like this hang gliding thing!
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By red
#400072
Nate,

Sounds good, man! Now all the work starts to pay off for you. Fly high, fly long!
It's always a good idea to talk with other fliers there after you land, and get their take on the day and conditions.
How high is Kagel? MSL? Launch to LZ?

Your YouTube video comes across as HTML5, and YouTube says my browser can't play it.
I do have HTML5 capability on the browser, though. I have the newest FireFox.
Never had a problem with the YouTube stuff before.
By NateHallahan
#400074
red wrote:
Tue Aug 22, 2017 8:36 pm
How high is Kagel? MSL? Launch to LZ?
Hi Red,
Kagel is 3,540 MSL. The distance from launch to the LZ is about 1.6 miles with the LZ at 1,365 MSL, giving a glide ratio of about 4:1 and the LZ is in direct line of sight from launch.

When tearing down my glider I ask anyone nearby how their flight and their landing went, which always ends up with a conversation about the conditions.

I've read through your website before and I did make use of some of your free tools during this flight. Since my task were to circle and hold bank angles I didn't map out any thermals but later on I did start making adjustments to try to take advantage of the stronger lift.

I'm not sure why you'd have an issue seeing the video. Maybe this link can help https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/questions/1139832 Or you may have to try updating Flash, use a different browser, or view it on a different computer. If something is wrong with the link you could try searching youtube for "First soaring flight (3rd solo flight off Kagel) - shortened" hopefully you can view it somehow.
User avatar
By red
#400075
NateHallahan wrote:
Tue Aug 22, 2017 11:31 pm
I'm not sure why you'd have an issue seeing the video. Maybe this link can help https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/questions/1139832 Or you may have to try updating Flash, use a different browser, or view it on a different computer.
Nate,

Okay, the video plays now. I updated Flash; the older version may have been the problem. I didn't know YouTube had any connection with Flash, but I never argue with success. Still learning, here. 8)

Is that knee-hanger harness yours?
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By red
#400080
NateHallahan wrote:
Wed Aug 23, 2017 1:30 am
red wrote:
Wed Aug 23, 2017 12:49 am
Is that knee-hanger harness yours?
Yes sir, do you have a suggestion?
Nate,

Actually, what you have there is rigged fairly well. You can tune it up a bit, if you want, for comfort on longer flights. Most HG pilots have a poor opinion of knee hangers, but that usually comes from improper rigging, not a real problem. They can be fine, and yours looks about right. For comfort, you may wish to add a foot stirrup, but this is for comfort only, not anything to obsess about, especially after launch. You certainly know, you do not need the stirrup to fly well. Anyway, hang in the shop for any harness tweaking; everything you will need to know is on my web page. Questions are welcome, of course.

Watch the video again, and notice the times when your head goes to one side, and the feet go to the opposite side. This is called "cross-controlling" around here, and it's a fairly common glitch. It weakens your turn authority, by a lot. The cure is simple, "lead with the feet" for all turns. To turn right, put your feet to the right first, keep them there, and bring your head and shoulders to the right also. This will be a far stronger turn control move. For gentle turns, you may not need to move your head much, because your feet will do most of the turn command. As an instructor, I can tell you that it shows me a lack of HG Simulator time (also on my web page), before lessons. Sometimes, I tell ya, a guy can't GIVE it away. 8)
By NateHallahan
#400083
red wrote:
Wed Aug 23, 2017 10:26 am
For comfort, you may wish to add a foot stirrup, but this is for comfort only, not anything to obsess about, especially after launch.
I've found prone to be fairly comfy, in this flight I spent a some time arching my back but learned that while relaxing the harness supports me pretty well and in a good position when moving around. At this stage I'll hold off on adding a stirrup just for the sake of avoiding complications.
red wrote:
Wed Aug 23, 2017 10:26 am
Watch the video again, and notice the times when your head goes to one side, and the feet go to the opposite side. This is called "cross-controlling" around here, and it's a fairly common glitch. It weakens your turn authority, by a lot.
You're absolutely right! The primary reason I record these flights is to analyze and look for things that can be improved. There's so many things you won't notice or remember during the flight. At this point I hadn't flown prone for more than a sled run. The next day's flight my turns were tightened up a bit better, but I see that it still happens, just not as much. I'll be making a conscious effort to improve that for my next flight!
red wrote:
Wed Aug 23, 2017 10:26 am
As an instructor, I can tell you that it shows me a lack of HG Simulator time (also on my web page), before lessons. Sometimes, I tell ya, a guy can't GIVE it away. 8)
You called it. What they have here is a static control frame rigged to a beam on their gazebo, which is a good place to check adjustments but not great for simulation. One guy had a simulator in his garage nearby for parachute training but that's no longer available.

Thanks for the advice Red! I'll take all the help I can get!
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By AIRTHUG
#400171
Congratulations, and welcome to the soaring club! I still remember my first solo soaring flight... it takes quite a while for that glow to wear off! It's a hard earned accomplishment, and one so very few humans have or will every experience... so be proud and feel fortunate!

Now I'm afraid I guess I get to be the wet-blanket on this stoke party...
Hang gliding is dangerous (no duh, right)... and the thoughts that follow are meant to HELP you enjoy this activity for a long, long lifetime.

I'm not sure if it is your decision making, or your instructors... but reading your report there were some red flags for me, regarding safety and your progression.
NateHallahan wrote:
Tue Aug 22, 2017 4:47 am
I went out for my 3rd solo flight and it ended up being my first soaring flight, lasting 49 minutes from foot up to foot down with a pretty good landing. Launch was about 5pm in "moderate turbulence" with wind speeds in low and high cycles from 11-13 to 15-17. I timed and chose the lighter cycle to launch in.

I haven't done much flying prone (it was my choice to go prone) so when I got to the ridge I had crappy flying that I smoothed out over many passes.

My instructor congratulated me saying that was the best student flight he had seen in a long time.
Safety in hang gliding- or anything for that matter- is mostly about statistics and odds. Flying always is a risk, but when that risk is minimized where possible, and actively managed when unavoidable, the reward of experiencing flight can be well-worth the risk. The level of risk is also hugely variable, for every pilot and on every day.

Your story reads a bit like a seen-it-too-many-times-before accident report. Inexperienced pilot on 3rd mountain solo launches into active conditions. Pilot had even less experience flying prone, yet went prone after launching. If that story ended with "pilot lost control and impacted hillside" would people be surprised by that conclusion, or would they have kind of a well-what-did-you-expect sort of reaction?

Luckily it sounds like things turned out ok- well even- but unluckily this can be one of the most dangerous aspects of all in aviation! The old saying that aviation is unforgiving is a LIE... but the truth is that aviation forgives capriciously. Some people can make a whole string of pretty MASSIVE mistakes, and all still ends well. Then someone else can make just one or two relatively small errors and get seriously injured or worse. It's really hit or miss, pardon the pun. One of the biggest dangers of all is what's called NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT, which is when a statistically poor odds choice turns out positive, we are more likely to repeat that choice... or maybe even push it a little further next time.

You flew your 3rd mountain flight in moderately turbulent conditions. You had a wonderful flight and experience. Are you likely to accept flying in similar conditions another day? Probably. Does your positive outcome last time mean you are likely to have a positive outcome next time? No. It's a single data point, it tells you what you did and how it ended, but nothing about what you could expect next time.

I am writing this because I do not want to see you get hurt. I want you to having nothing but ENJOYMENT in hang gliding. And not just you, but anyone and everyone else who might be reading this. And all of your instructor's students, too! It's a bit interesting he said that was the best student flight in a long time... is that because he's launching students into turbulent conditions very early in their flying careers??? Is that because he's allowing them to fly prone in these conditions, with very little experience flying prone to date (even in smooth conditions)?

It sounds like you are a bright guy and have become a skilled pilot- probably better than an average 3-mountain-flight new pilot. But like I said, your story reads like an accident report... and the people in those reports just become another statistic in the "dangerous" history of hang gliding (where most of those statistics follow equally obviously avoidable situations had the deceased or those nearby paused to consider the circumstances).

Whether I've opened your eyes or just made you think, thank you for reading through this, and at the very least considering these thoughts. If you can and will take them to heart and embrace them, dude thank you and well done... that is a greater accomplishment in my book than even a first soaring flight! It's very hard to take other's opinions or experiences and incorporate it into your own, without having actually learned "the hard way" yourself. That's why so many people repeat the same mistakes again and again throughout history (in hang gliding, and everywhere else).

Anyways- congrats again on the awesome flight, and I am sorry if I killed your buzz. Better your buzz gets killed than.... :shock:

Cheers dude, and welcome to the addiction we call a sport but it's more like a calling, a lifestyle, a drug... it's pure living! :mosh: :mosh: :mosh:
By NateHallahan
#400175
Hey AIRTHUG, I hear your words and thank you for them, your point is well made. I’ve read many accident reports, tales of caution, and resources on risk management. Everything you’ve said lines up.

I’d like to think I can evaluate risk correctly and exercise good judgement, but I know that I’m inexperienced and therefore have a limited ability to do so. I’ve studied a lot of material and even put together simulations but I found out on the training hill that knowledge does not equal skill/experience/technique, it just provides a reference.

I think I should make some clarifications and provide a little more context about this flight and the flights after it. To me this doesn’t diminish or make anything you’ve said less important. Does it make things less dangerous? No, just slightly different dangerous.

In southern California there’s very little in the way of training hills. There are coastal sites (smooth air and limited) and mountain sites (rough air). Where I’m learning most of the training is done on the beach and tandem training is done on the mountain. You get your H2 and continue solo training, over radio, from the mountain. Since practically every site around here is a thermal site… we have to learn to fly in “moderate turbulence. “ During the tandem flights (avoiding the most active part of the day) I’ve experienced a limited range of turbulence.

“Moderate turbulence” seems pretty subjective (which is why I wrap it in quotes), it could be that my idea of moderate is higher or lower than others. Putting it on a scale of smooth to the most turbulence I’ve experienced at noon during a tandem flight (before it actually gets strong), which is strong to me, this flight had “moderate turbulence” with winds predictably changing about 5mph over a minute and holding steady for several minutes at a time a little after 5pm. I am absolutely restricted from launching before 4pm, and was uncomfortable with conditions that early.

In my words I’ve had limited experience flying prone. The flights at the beach were not high enough to go prone. When flying tandem 1/3 to ½ of my time was spent prone. About 1/3 of the previous 2 solos were prone, those included 90, 180, and 360 turns. I’ve flown prone in similar conditions tandem, but the experience is different. Therefore I don’t have much experience prone, but I have some since the majority of my time has been upright.
AIRTHUG wrote:It's a bit interesting he said that was the best student flight in a long time... is that because he's launching students into turbulent conditions very early in their flying careers??? Is that because he's allowing them to fly prone in these conditions, with very little experience flying prone to date (even in smooth conditions)?
Yes, and most of them don’t make it far… It’s a bit unnerving flying over their corpses littering the mountain side. Not only did I not die but I didn’t even crash! :roll: Okay, let’s be realistic here. The lessons are tailored to the student’s abilities and to work on skills suiting the conditions. Flight plan is thoroughly discussed and includes alternatives. He probably considered it a good student flight because I improved skills during the flight (such as prone flight), performed more items on the checklist than normal due to the extended flight, and encountered the expected lift while working on 360’s and managed to stay in it. Then finished it off with a good landing.

I had another flight the very next day with the same flight plan. The truck gets to launch at 3pm, this time the wind hung around 15mph with gust up to 22mph over a few seconds and would hold for a few minutes at a time. I certainly couldn’t time when a gust would happen. Eventually the gust became less from 13-17 but still sudden and unpredictable to me. I waited until 6pm when conditions became comfortable for me, which happened to be a much smoother 11mph. Did I feel the need to launch in higher winds because the conditions worked so well for me the day before? No, it was a different day and I didn’t like the way it felt. I launched and went out to the ridge and made a few passes, but I didn’t encounter much lift and went prone when it was clear the air was stable. Did I try to work harder and really push it as I slowly got lower? No, I moved out front where the student house thermal is to continue work on my 360’s. I encountered very little lift and eventually fell out of it. Did I try to push it because it looked like I still had the altitude to give it one last shot and soar as long as the day before? No, I headed to the LZ and had a very enjoyable flight and landing. The next flight was even shorter. I was actually supposed to fly in “moderate turbulence” again but waited longer than I needed to and launched in 8mph winds and took a short sled ride and had a good landing.

Fortunately for me I don't feel the need to push myself and break my own records at any cost. But I do feel the need to improve and build. Maybe soon I will do this again but with more refined skill and better judgement when the conditions are right.
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By flybop
#400176
Quoting you above. You seem to have a good attitude. A pilot with a good attitude will gain respect and more invites to fly more sites. Keep up the good work.
By NateHallahan
#400178
Thank you Flybop.

Airthug,
Hopefully my last post didn't come across as disrespectful or dismissive. I really do value the input of anyone willing to point out anything unsafe, so please continue to do so. It's still early enough for me to remove bad habits and reinforce good ones.

I'm sure it's pretty common for students to view their instructors as infallible gods, even if it leads them down a bad road. There are three different instructors here and they all have their own way of doing things. But they do discuss things with each other. I've observed what seems to me a high level of safety and consideration in the way that they do things. Safety and evaluation of conditions is a constant discussion.

There are several H4s that fly at this site with topless gliders that have the type of launches and landings that worked out this time. I watched one guy get tossed around like a leaf on a slow approach but still land safely. The group cheered but I watched my instructor walk over and give him a long talk. I've heard him tell one pilot that she is flying a glider beyond her skill level, she has had many crashes. Despite this very few take a step back. One former student says that these instructors will not sign you off prematurely. Here they require 40 hours of flight before an H3 sign off, more than what USHPA requires. I spent a long time at the beach perfecting small skills because they were not perfect, I thought I was doing fine but my instructor was not satisfied. And I think I will go back in the next few weeks even though I do not think anything is wrong, but I can bet there will be something to improve. Because of this I have faith in my instructors, and we all know that even if they have confidence in me but something makes me uncomfortable I am to back off, and that is the right decision.

You are obviously very safety oriented and wish to see others stay safe. You've probably also developed an expertise in safety and judgment. Since I am going to be at this site for a while and you know the conditions that exists at the site available to me, and hopefully the instructions don't seem so reckless as I think you thought, and you know a bit about the way I think... Do you have any additional thoughts, methods, techniques, or resources you would like to share to help me progress safely?

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