The saga continues!
Weather continues to be an issue in getting my training done. I booked an evening, a full day and a morning in hopes of getting my flights in. It seems like a little thing - the sun's out, go fly right? Wrong.
Sun is good, but wind and thermals are key factors. You simply can't fly if the wind is howling, and you can't fly if there are up and down drafts - certainly not if you're a new pilot like I am. Thermals are great if you're looking for them because you don't have a motor strapped to your back. For me though, I have a throttle that lets me climb.
Anyway, Tuesday was a little blustery - I arrived early as usual and got my gear out. My instructor arrived shortly after and we killed some time by adding an upgrade to my cage. The pull-start rope was located just slightly below below my left shoulder near my neck - not particularly easy to reach in flight and should the motor cut out, or I shut it down myself, it would be a good thing if I could reach it easier. Now the rope is about a foot higher giving me much better leverage.
The wind eventually eased up enough to reverse inflate. Sadly, on 4 tries I aborted my take off - On my last one though it was just from being tired of carrying the motor for so long - the wing was fine I just didn't have anything left in the tank to go forward. Lame.
After a little rest, the wind died and I took off with a forward launch. Unfortunately the sun was dipping low on the horizon so I got in a single flight somewhere around 1,100 feet and just enjoyed the view. Something about those forward launches, they just seem to come easier for me. Who knows what it is - I clearly need to practice reversing more. I can do that on my own though until I nail it. No actual getting airborne of course - just to the point of being about to lift off!
Unfortunately Wednesday was a complete bust. Rain and gusty winds kept me grounded all day. Very frustrating but safety first. With the whole day to myself I took a little trip to the Falls again and I can say with complete confidence that any more than an hour or maybe 90 mins and I'm completely done. I'm just not good with tourists even when I am one.
Last night was an awful sleep - bumming around my Airbnb (which was fantastic by the way), I nodded off a few times so I suppose I just didn't need sleep. The alarm going off was sweet relief. One 5-Hour Energy and a quick bite and it was off to the field. We agreed that I would get there a little early to assemble the Paramotor so we'd be ready to go when he got there - no problem there.
It was unfortunate when I arrived at 7am that the previous day's rain combined with dew from overnight left the grass sopping wet. At 8:30am the window for flying was closing quick. At best I'd get 2 attempts to launch successfully. If one or both failed, the paraglider would be too wet and that would be it. So the decision was there - Try or wait another half hour for the grass to dry under the sun. It was very important to rack up as many flights as I could so I decided it was go-time.
We laid out the glider, hooked up, checked lines and gave it a shot. Boom! Flawless forward take-off. The air was a little bit bumpy but I stayed up for 10 or 15 minutes to get a taste for the air and a couple of photos. Tuesday night I had hoped to get a couple of shots, but it's a funny thing letting go of the controls. When you hit the bumps, not holding on to anything is a little funny on the nerves. I'm alright with letting go on the left side because I've done it a hundred times to use the radio, but not so much on the right.
I'm not the prettiest guy on the planet and I could definitely use a shave, but I finally managed to snap a selfie under the wing at about a thousand feet. While I was up there I though I should probably turn it around and get a quick shot of the area.
Yes, I know the horizon is tilted. Bad photographer. BAD!! But to be honest I was just happy to get a shot. Below is the airfield I fly from - I'd guess the whole area is about 100 acres. At that point I was flying over the dreaded bean field I mentioned in a previous blog. In the distance is the Queen Elizabeth Way, and way off in the distance is Lake Erie. Behind me is Niagara Falls which is easy to see if I had been turned the other way.
After I got these shots, it was time to come down. The point of my flying now is to get in as many take-offs and landings in as possible. The flying part is the easy part. Incidentally I did get a good reminder of something important from Andre, my instructor. Never ever make a left turn at full throttle. It's possible to twist lines which would result in me facing the opposite direction. Guaranteed to cause a crash. That's a lesson I definitely won't forget, even if I have to put a label on my risers.
Now, as I mentioned, flying is the easy part, but now it was time to land. With a chunk of altitude it took a few minutes to descend to where I could come in. As luck would have it, the wind was coming from across the runway again. Wonderful - I still have fresh memories of the taste of the bean field. Lower and lower I came until it was time to kill the motor and slide out of the seat. This time I wouldn't be short and with that a little instruction on timing the brakes, I had a solid 2 foot touchdown, a quick turn around (in the wrong direction I might add) and down came the glider. SUCCESS!
No time to celebrate though - time to reset and do it again. And again. And again. 6 flights in total. The second and third flight I continued to land and turn around in the wrong direction. Not a gigantic big deal, but it does mean having to correct my lines in order to fly again. Whatever. 6 flights. Did I mention SIX FLIGHTS?
By the time I got to #5 I was starting to feel the beginnings of thermals. Those moments where you're suddenly lifted 5 or 10 feet, or suddenly drop 5 or 10 feet. It's a funny feeling - not really frightening, but surprising because they come without warning. When it's time to land and you're only 100 feet off the ground, to suddenly lose 10 feet is a bit eye-opening because a second one could mean the difference between landing where you want, or knee deep in someone's vegetables. Anyway, this landing was a little harder than the last - That familiar feeling of when you jump off something just a little too high and you feel it rattle in your heels.
By the time that flight was done it was decision time - one more flight or call it a day. ONE MORE!! It's a numbers game now. To be qualified, you must have 30. This flight was a very good take off. All morning all take offs went very well. No circling, just up, around, check the windsock and right back down. For my final landing, the Gods were smiling and they let me have one where I could land straight down the runway. Hallelujah! I haven't had that since my initial training on my very first flight. I have to say that one was nice and soft touchdown, and as if I knew what I was doing, it was right at the beginning of the runway, so no lugging my gear back to the car. I was already there!
Today's flying was exactly what I needed. It's nice to get a flight or two in, but things don't get etched into your brain until you repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat. Repeating every few weeks just doesn't cut it. Those take offs were particularly important to me today because of all the aborts on my previous outing. Aborting for safety is very important, but as Andre said, aborting because it isn't perfect isn't the right mindset. "Sometimes good enough is good enough."
I'm looking forward to my next return. Each time I do go, I have to admit I miss my fellow students Art and Vince and wish I could have been in the air with both of them together and succeeding together.
Until next time though, I'll be returning to the local school to practice reverse takeoffs with the motor strapped on. I'll be powering up, but not taking off so I know if I'm successful or not. Without the motor on, forward kiting just isn't good enough - finally, it's too easy.
If you've ever had a dream of flying, you're in shape (it definitely takes some strength and endurance), you really should consider giving this a try. You can talk to Andre about a tandem to give you an idea of whether you want to do it. It's not the cheapest extreme sport in the world, but without question, it's the cheapest and safest way into the air.
Please feel free to comment below. I'm hoping my series ends at IV, but I still have quite a few flights left, so the story will probably end at Part V.