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Friday, November 8, 2013


Back from Monument Valley and going in for surgery tomorrow. no drama and a little chase cam action.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Gathering at Monument Valley 2013

I packed the truck with everything except the perishables on Monday.  Tuesday was easy, Dawn and I loaded the coolers and were on our way by noon.  We took old Highway 6 instead of I-70 to enjoy the fall colors and avoid the heavy traffic leaving Denver and arrived in Glenwood Springs around twilight.  It  was abnormally quiet,  there was very little traffic and hardly anyone on the streets.  I thought that there might be a big event that had emptied the town, but it turned out that it was just the slack time between summer tourist season and hunting season.  

Slack is good because I had no trouble finding a parking place right in front of The Historic Colorado Hotel and they kindly gave us a room overlooking the truck. Perfect because I had the paramotor locked but it wouldn't be hard for someone to help themselves to our gear.
The Colorado is a special place with memories going back 4 generations. I remember photos of my great grandfather standing outside in the garden with my then, teenage grandfather, on one of their piano business trips.  The hotel has seen good times and bad.  At the turn of the Century it was the choice of wealthy Europeans who would take the train up from Denver to soak in the hot springs and enjoy the clear dry air.  It was the favorite of presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Taft and for awhile became known as the White House of the West.  During WWII it was commissioned by the United States Navy as a convalescent home and served over 6500 patients.  
Not wanting to leave the dog alone  we decided to order room service and hope for the best. Wow! It was the same meal we would have had in the main dining room, beautiful presentation and excellent food.  The new owners are working hard to bring the old place back to it's glory and I wish them success, because the Hotel Colorado deserves to be preserved for future generations.

The next morning we bathed in the famous Glennwood Hot  Springs.  Usually there are crowds of laughing children but in October the hot springs are populated mostly by visiting octogenarians, many from Europe.  I'm approaching 60 and changing into my swimming suit, I felt like the young buck hanging out with the grown-ups.  
After a good hot soak we went for breakfast at a favorite hangout, the 19th St Diner.   In the 80's when I was selling bicycle parts  it was a great place to have breakfast with friends before heading up to Aspen or sometimes I just stopped to load up on caffeine before the long drive to Salt Lake City.  
After breakfast, we took the dog for a walk and loaded up for the long haul to Monument Valley. The weather was beautiful but predicted to turn bad and... right on schedule, it started to blow. By the time we hit Moab, dark clouds were developing,  the barometer was dropping and the wind was gusting past 30 mph.  Hoping to keep the gear dry, I powered on and we arrived at Gouldings Trading Post at 9:00 pm.   I hurried to unload the truck and just missed getting drenched.  

Thursday it was cold and rainy. Dawn lounged in the condo while I made the rounds and checked with the campground, restaurant and lodge making sure everybody was ready for us. The big disappointment of the day was that the restaurant had double booked our banquet with a wedding.  There was nothing to do, there were no other restaurants within 20 miles so the plan was changed to have a pot luck up at the campground.

 Late in the afternoon, we were treated to a tremendous hail storm.  It came down hard and heavy for about 20 minutes and for about the same time afterward the mesas were coated with a sheen of ice.   I was on the IPad checking the weather forecast every 20 minutes. The low pressure cold front was suppose to pass through that evening,  with high pressure and light breezes for the next  5 days.  I hoped so, because looking across the flats at Sentinel Mesa all I could see was a huge ice covered rock.  The last 5 years had been lucky,  occasionally  the wind came up and spoiled a session, but for the most part, every gathering had been warm and flyable. 

Rain and Hail the day before The Gathering

This year the, "Officers Quarters" were in a different condo.  It wasn't as easy to see from the road so I put out the wind sock out at the turn off and by 6:30 guys started showing up for the Kick-off spaghetti  dinner.    Dawn was great, she made 8 batches of Pasta and sauce and served it up cheerfully as the different groups arrived. First came the Salt Lake contingent with Russ Bateman and his family, then Paul Anthem showed up with the Indy Airhogs followed by Bob Hannah and the Seattle gang. About 8 o'clock Jeff Goin showed up to claim his room and Chad and Lee Anne arrived in time for a special plate of gluten Free pasta.  By 9 the place was full of pilots swapping stories and sharing food and drink.  We broke up at 11:00 to prepare for the next morning flights.

Kick off Dinner

Friday....Beautiful morning.  A bit chilly.... 
The briefing was well attended and the message was short.  Respect the Terran ... Respect the Residents ... Use your head and know where the wind is coming from.   
Once again Dawn was a trooper overseeing omelets in a bag.   We went through 90 eggs and thanks to Donna at the restaurant, buckets of coffee, while the guys flew and wandered up and down the flight line.   The Moment was saved by Byron who flew his quad copter all over the flight line.  

About 10 o'clock, Scott Laws, the new manager of Gouldings came down to welcome us.  He started at Gouldings shortly after last years event and has done a great job upgrading the property, they have remodeled  the lodge and shops and upgraded the campground.  The whole attitude of the place has improved along with the accommodations.  This year we were welcomed rather than tolerated and it made a huge difference. 

When it was time to fly the wind was  nil from the South.   I set up at the very top of the runway and did a down wind launch taking advantage of the smooth asphalt and the downhill grade. It was smooth but chilly.   It felt good to be heading east across the flats.  I stayed up for about 40 minutes and only landed to visit with my friends.   Later that morning, Tom Spears, an instructor from from Glenwood Springs, took me up in his delta wst. It was a little bumpy and without a flight suit, damn cold but it was a great flight and I enjoyed every minute.  Thanks Tom! 

The View Hotel at Navajo Tribal Park

That afternoon while Dawn was sleeping, Jeff and I hung in the officers quarters and chatted about the USPPA, Obama Care and his new Air Space Video.  He and Tim are moving away from the cold of Chicago and relocating somewhere in Florida.  They have made an offer on a house in an air-park with room for the business and all the toys.  It's an exciting time and I wish him well. Around 4:00pm we headed down to the airstrip for the afternoon flights. 

 It was my best flight of the trip.  90 minutes with great sunset colors. Here is the video...

Late in the day Ryan Southwell and his friend Scot launched to camp on the top of Eagle Rock. As far as I know, this was a first.  Several years ago John Fetz did a top landing but he only stayed a few minutes.  These guys landed and camped out.  I await the video and photos from Shane and the Team Halo crew.

Ryan Southwell on top og Eagle Rock

Dinner was in the condo followed by a session of paramotor troubleshooting with Jeff, Chad and Lance Marzec,  who was rousted out of bed someplace many time zones away.Before it was over we had a brand new mini plane apart and Jeff was polishing a piston with a pot scrubber, nail file and  toothbrush.

Jeremy Langejans right side down

Saturday ...  The winds were blowing  steadily from the direction of the Tribal Park .  It was a little too strong to attempt flying close to the monuments, so we stayed close to the patch and were treated to an air show out in the flats, East of the airstrip.   The highlight for me was when Ryan Shaw, fresh from the international Slalom competition in Europe, flew his new comp wing the Dudek snake.  Going at least 40 mph he caught and passed a Cessna as it rolled in from landing.
By 11:00 it was getting cold and windy so a bunch of us retreated to the condo for a pot luck lunch.  Spirits were high and it was hard to get a word in edgewise while everybody shared the mornings events.   John and Mary invited several of us to go up in their Cessna after lunch..   Dawn and I were on the second flight with Jeff Goin.  It was wonderful to be back in the park and it was the first time Dawn and I had flown it together.  I expect that one of these days we will own a PPC and fly together all the time but until that day it was a rare treat.

 Dawn's photos from the Cessna

When we landed the French group were packing for the next leg of their tour.  The group leader, Dieter Debaque, had discovered us a few years earlier and put The Gathering into this years tour.  They added 17 pilots and an international touch that was fun. It looked like the altitude was a bit higher than they were accustomed to.  There were a lot of aborted launches and some extremely long runs, but the did just fine and since they bought a lot of t-shirts I think a good time was had by all.  

The French Connection

The afternoon was too windy for most of us but several did get up and found it very flyable..  I stayed on the field and enjoyed the show while Dawn hung in the officer's quarters and rested.  There were several aborts and more than a few exciting launches.  Russ Bateman took his son for a tandem flight and not to be outdone, Mo Sheldon took his dog Rosa up in his specially modified and "dog legal" , trike.  The evenings flights were capped off when Paul Anthem did a wonderfully benign turtle on landing.

Paul Anthem joins the "Order of the Desert Turtle"
The Banquet was less than ideal.  Instead of fancy food and speeches in a private dinning room, we had a Pot Luck BBQ  at the campground.   Plan B was a poor substitute but we made the best of it and enjoyed the company. Jeff Goin was planning to leave early and drive to Phoenix but opted to stay for the campfire and I cannot thank him enough for being so generous with his time.  Thanks Jeff, you serve the USPPA well.

Sunday is was blowing 5 and gusting to 10.   Those foot launching were reporting steady winds with moderate bumps.  It was chilly and less than perfect but it was also the last opportunity to fly for perhaps several months so I decided to go for it.  
I timed the cycles and launched when the breeze had dropped.  Once up, I enjoyed the clear cold air and when I'd had enough of the bumps, I turned back and approached the LZ from the North West for landing.   About 200 yards out I flew into sinking air and dropped 100 feet quickly.  I stayed on the power to maintain my glide so that I would clear the trailers. and spectators.  The wind started picking up but I adjusted and knew that I would still able land safely. The approach was a little bumpy but the landing was going fine, right up until I tried to killl the engine.   Stupidly, my gloves were too thick to reach the recessed  kill switch and I had to let go of one of the the toggles to shut down the motor.  I Iost control of the wing and the trike was pulled and threatened to roll. By the time I was back in control, the trike had been spun180 degrees back toward the direction of the landing.  By putting down a boot and sliding while turning the nose wheel against  the direction of the tip I kept the trike from rolling but it was very close. The wing fell in front of the trike and I slid right up to it's tip, wrapping lines in the front wheel.   Facing the spectators, I made the cross hands sweep signal that baseball umps use to signify, "runner is safe".  I don't know if anybody else got it,.... but, ... I enjoyed the moment.   Kurt  Mozer got the whole thing on video and I can't wait to combine it with the video from my helmet cam to see exactly what happened..  No harm no foul.

The wind continued to rise and everybody began packing up for the ride home.  No injuries ... plenty of airtime and good company.  I can hardly wait for next year.
If you cannot see yourself... You are probably flying

Thursday, October 3, 2013

691 .... 692 ... 693. Tortuga

Good flights
One turtle when the AAssists failed.  No damage.
I forgot the wind sock and did a cross wind landing and take off as a result.   The slight breeze wind shifted 240 degrees after my first launch.
Changed oil and overfilled.  Result in loss of  350 RPM ...running fine now.
Said good bye to the balloons for the season.  It's going to be cold tomorrow and possibly snow the next day.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Three flight day

688.... 689 ... 690
I had a hard time getting out of bed but still made it to the field by 6:30.   It was a chilly 41degrees but there was no wind and the sky was clear.  The grass was soaking wet with morning dew and yesterday's rain.  I didn't feel like tromping around in the mud so I laid out the wing on the blacktop between the hangers heading west.   It is so nice to launch from a hard surface.
Good clean flight with lots of climb.
Later I came out and cracked off two more.  I landed in the middle of the field reset and launched.  Later looking at the video I realized that I had left the helmet cam on.   Maybe I'll turn out a short how to....

10 more to 700 !

Saturday, September 21, 2013

686 & 687

Our big plans for the weekend had to be cancelled so I took the opportunity Sat afternoon to get some air.
Nice flights ... Two clean launches ... I am back on the brakes when the wing is overhead and it's all good.
Only Drama was when one of the skydivers had to pull his reserve when the main failed.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Flood of 2013 #682 -685

Flight 682 and 683
Last week we received 12 inches of rain in 3 days.  Boulder Longmont and Loveland got hammered.   The Sylvandale was devastated.
The first day after the flood I went out to the field but it was still too wet to launch.
Yesterday I got in a sunset flight with no drama and this morning, the same except for some bumps.

Flight To Lyons ... Flood of Sept 2012 from Joe Onofrio on Vimeo.

This was a good one.  I launched at 6:00 and flew for an hour.  There was plenty of gas so I followed the St Vrain River upstream to Lyons which has been evacuated due to contaminated water and flooded roads.

Calm clear morning.  I flew up the south St Vrain Creek and saw the flood damage.  The only notable moment was a long long taxi before the wing had inflated and stabilized overhead

Monday, September 2, 2013

Lazy Launch makes for NO Fly Day

Everything was perfect.  
The weather was beautiful with blue skies and a light breeze.

Beau was tied to the wind sock and I was ready to go.  No cam and only the Garmin to distract me.  The wing came up quick, I didn't feel the momentary, "push me pull you",  when the wing is fully in the prop wash.  I checked the mirror and there it was fully overhead and looking good. I was at full power and decided to go for it.  Next thing I see in the mirror that the wing is going frontal and before I could pull some brake the lines were in the prop and it was all over.  
I was lazy, I should have pulled enough brake to feel the wing as soon as it passed through the prop wash. The A Assists were tight but not any tighter than the last few launches.  They might have contributed to the frontal though. Whatever ... The cage is bent in 3 places and I have several lines to replace.  It's a good thing I've scheduled Wednesday afternoon to do welding with Mike Bennett.  We are going to replace the nose wheel and now we will repair the cage as well. 
Just as I was finished packing up, Marek showed up with Robert.  We motored over to the South West end of the field and Marek set up to do some foot drags in the swoop pond.  On his first attempt he got in a little too deep and submarine d.  Luckily there was no damage to man or machine.  At least nothing a little time in the sun couldn't cure. 

Not a good morning for flying but it was nice to see the guys. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

#681 Vance Brand

Gotta watch that cam buckle.
I had to reset after blowing a cross wind inflation and missed that the trim cam buckle had slipped below the hang point rings ... again.  The wing came up crooked and I wrangled it  overhead and launched.  Almost immediately I recognized the problem as the wing turned left toward the manufacturing plant.  I was able to free it but had to fly with lots of right brake to stay over landable terrain and climb high enough to use both hands to work the cam through the ring.
Dumb Chute!
Once that was sorted out I chased the Balloons and did a fast tight turn around the one at my altitude.
I could probably fly a lot closer than I do but my proximity tolerance is about the same as my bump tolerance .... not too high.
When I landed I noticed that the nose wheel seemed a bit sloppy and upon inspection discovered that the hub was out of true and the castor had far too much play.  One gofer hole or hard landing and its going to be spitting bearings. So... I visited Harbor Freight and bought a new wheel which came with a caster assembly.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

680 Vance Brand 8500 feet

8500 feet ....Carter Lake in the distance.
This was much better, I tightened the belt one full turn and the problem was solved.  There was even some tiny belt slap so I know that it is not over tightened.  I climbed to 8500ft. MSL (3000AGL) and was able to see Carter Lake in the distance. 
 It is 13 miles away ... good cross country... someday.

#679 Vance Brand

This was a very nice morning.  Warm and almost nil wind... Not a cloud in the sky.
Climb rate was below 100ft/min.  and the belt was squealing above 3200 rpm.
I put up with it and flew with the balloons for 20 minutes climbing to 8000 ft. then turned back to the field.  The return was noticeably different because rpms were below 3000, the machine was quiet and I was able to enjoy some of the smoothest air of the season.

When I arrived at Vance Brand there was a light breeze from the south so I flew around the hangers and did a short final to land by the truck.  At the last minute I decided to make it a touch and go where I experienced a very long run and very slow climb out.  The belt was screaming and I barely had the power to clear the southern fence.  This has to change!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Vance Brand # 678

Good morning.
EXCEPT ... I did it again,. left the key in and had to jump the Falcon.  I'm getting good at it now.  I had walked the wing 200 yards away from the truck and was thinking about starting the motor and taxiing out to the wing and hooking it up with the motor running..... BUT reason took over and I did it the right (albeit risky) way with the motor off.
It rained last night and it has been hot hot so the air was humid and the density of altitude was probably around 10,000 ft.  .I was glad to have gone to the far end of the field because it was one long run to get airborne.  There were 4 balloons up but they were climbing above 9,000 feet and I didn't feel like listening to the belt squeal while I climbed, so I made do with 6,000 feet and some wing practice.
The Eden III had come back from Paramotor city.  It's all clean and crispy.You can't even see where the repair was.  It seemed to want to pull to the left and I had to use trimmers to keep on course.  I'll fly it a few more times before I call Michelle to see what she thinks.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Flying the Easy Long with Ion Flights 676. & 677.

A damn good day

The morning flight was a combination of screw ups.
A combination of events made for a a crosswind launch.  First I made the mistake of leaving the key in the on position and had to jump start the Falcon.  When I got it started I noticed that the wind had picked up and was coming from the south which was exactly the wrong way for me to get a decent run out.  I didn't want to shut down the motor and start all over with the jumping the truck so I looked things over and decided it was probably light enough to go for it.   Inflating the wing 90 degrees off the wind should have been challenge enough, what I didn't notice was that in the rush to get unhooked from the truck the port side riser had slipped leaving the cam below the hang point loop. During the inflation this mistake worked in my favour because the wing started turning into the wind right away with very little brake input  I was a little surprised that the strange crosswind launch was going so smooth and didn't realize the reason why until I was up.  With the port riser riding low the wing naturally turned to the left The safety strap had been pulled into the hang point loop and the cam was bound inside of the strap.  I stayed on the throttle and climbed to 250 ft and used both hands to pull on the strap.  When it finally pulled loose the cam was still jammed and I had to worry it until it slipped through the loop.
Once that little bit of drama was over the rest of the flight was SOP.

That evening I met up with Ion who took me up for a flight in the Easy Long.  There were big thunder heads with the classic anvil shape to the east and west.  We flew out to Lake Granby slaloming between the clouds.

It was a great flight!  We topped of at 18,000 feet and were in and around the clouds.  Returning to the front range Ion flew level with the hogbacks and pointed out old Indian animal traps.  Places where they would drive the animals to a dead end where they would be taken by the hunters.  These were developed over the thousands of years prior to the "Indian Horse Renaissance", when they had to do all of their hunting by foot.  

Flying the EZ LONG with Ion from Joe Onofrio on Vimeo.

Very Cool...Flying the fast and low.  Air Time 1 hour and 20 minutes, cost 30 bucks.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

#675 Beautiful Sunset Flight

No Drama ....
I learned that when there is no wind the AAssists need to be tighter and because the attachment at the frame is on a ring the clip moves up on the circle as the wing inflates and comes overhead.  It doesn't get so tight that it puts extra tension on the A lines.

The air was interesting on landing.  There was a cool downslope from the west on the surface and 10 degrees warmer from the East.  I had a hard time deciding which way to land.  Was the inversion so low that I would be downwind even after I touched down?  It turns out not and at about 5 feet I slowed down cones rabble as the wind passed through the layer suddenly going into the wind.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

#673 & #674

Aug. 14th

Two mornings at Vance Brand
Yesterday was good except that I melted a hole in the wing with the muffler.  I did a long low approach in nil wind on landing and the wing took a little downwind puff at the last moment I saw it change direction during deflation and tried to scoot the trike forward but just wasn't fast enough.
Bummer !
I did have some repair tape and a nice large patch so it was no problem to repair it.

Aug 15th

This morning was also a nil wind day.  At least until I got to 500 feet where there was a 10 mph breeze from the NNE.  I tried to catch the balloons and followed them all the way to Louisville before I turned back.  Outbound leg was 40 mph ... home leg was 20 mph.  It was 8:30 when I got back to the field and the thermals were starting to pop.  By the time I'd folded the wing and loaded the trike it was blowing hard from the NNE.  Long flight!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

# 671 & # 672. Vance Brand

Two short flights.  It rained last night but the field was dry enough to lay out the wing.  This was the first flight since I shredded the Eden III.  The A Assists worked great and my shoulder was spared.  The winds were gusty but not too much to keep me from going for it.  
Strong currents in the air were pulling the POWER PLAY SWING all over the place.  The brakes felt mushy and I just wasn't comfortable .   So... I landed and tried again when it seemed was not.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Joe & Dawn's Most Excellent Adventure

Villa del Palmar. Loreto, Baja Mexico

So far we have had 5 dives including a night dive.  The conditions are OK.  Certainly not the best diving but, like some things in life,  even the worst of it is wonderful.  Visibility is about 30 feet the water temp varies between 75 and 95 and the Marine life is abundant.  We have seen the typical assortment of angle fish, puffers, needle fish, stars and urchins.  There are also moray eels and last night we saw sea cucumbers and an unusual bottom fish  called a guitar fish (Rhinobatidae).  It looks like a cross between a ray and a shark.  The one we spotted was about two feet long and grey in color.
Dawn was a little spooked before the dive but she had suited up and did great.  We stayed down 54 minutes and went to 55.

This was the shallowest dive of the trip.  It's interesting how much deeper we dive these days.   On both of the two tank dives we hit 100+ feet and it was no big deal.  Twenty years ago that would have been huge.  All of our dives have been off Corinado Island North West of Loretto.
The most notable thing about diving here is the dramatic changes in temp.  There must be a serious upwelling from deep water.  The current has been consistently 2 to 4 knots and its like going from a warm bath to an ice chest in the blink of an eye.  Certainly it was warmer near the surface but even at 50 feet you could go around a rock and find the water 20 degrees warmer or colder.
The sea lions were found in groups of 10 or 20.  They were on there backs with their flippers in the air.  I didn't know what I was looking when I saw what appeared to be clumps of black bird wings sticking above the surface.
There is only one serious PADI Dive Shop in Loreto (Dolphin Dice Center) and even they use a panga instead of a big expensive dive boat.  The pricing is about the same as anywhere else.  $120 for a two tank dive and lunch and $65 for a night dive.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Mini 12 meter racing yacht "Little Force"

I put the Little Force into her slip yesterday.  There is some push back from CLSC but I don't think that it will come to anything.  Who could turn away such a cute little orphan?  My prospective buyer backed out so I may be taking her home this fall.  Anyway, it was good to get out on the mini 12 again.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sail, Balloon Flight Video Music by AOLNATION

I've been trying to find a way to do this for a long time.  Thanks to AOLNATION for the great song.!

Sail from Joe Onofrio on Vimeo.

This is not commercial and I claim no right to the audio track

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dumb Chute Story ... Flight #670 Vance Brand

This one I'll be kicking myself for a long time.  The flight was nothing dramatic.  No Balloons ... No Bird strikes ... just a nice AM flight.
BUT... After I landed and bagged the wing I was driving the trike back to the truck and saw Ian was at his hanger so I thought to go over there and shoot the breeze with him.
Well,  as I was along side the truck I tossed the wing off to the side and as soon as I did it I heard that horrible sound of a wing getting parablended.  Apparently it took a bad bounce and I didn't toss it hard enough because the prop sliced right through the wing bag and took out two top panels plus a rip on the bottom.
Another technical note:
The belt has been squealing more the last few flights so I took Terry Lutke's advice and removed the belt, washed it with soapy water and applied conditioner.  Well, now it's not making any noise but I noticed that there was rubber on the pulleys.   Maybe it was the conditioner.  Maybe it's too tight.  I'm going to fly one more flight and evaluate it then.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

668 & 669 VB

Calm at the surface with a 10 mph Westerly breeze at 100 feet.  There were two nasty thermoclines at  5800 and 6300 feet MSL.  Over 200 feet it was at lease 10 degrees warmer. First flight with the balloons and then a short one for practice.  On the second launch a slight wind dad come up and when I powered up to launch the wing was popped up and overhead before I even started rolling.
Taxi practice went well until I hit one of the sand pits and slowed enough for the glider to stall

Thursday, July 18, 2013

# 667 A Assists

Notice the A line is pulled ahead of the rest of the rest

For the last two weeks I've been experimenting with A Assists.  The idea is to have the A lines uniformly pulled during inflation with an attachment just forward of the hang point loops.  The line that hooks to the A Mallon is adjustable and can be released in flight.
So far I'm undecided, the wing comes up slower than if I'm the one controlling the A's and unless I'm doing something wrong they don't always come up as straight as advertised.  One time it was because the assist line got snagged and another time the lines might have been uneven.  Another thing I'm not to fond of is that unless they are detached on landing the wing is prone to inflate itself.  This morning while I walked back to the truck to retrieve the wing bag, the wing inflated and built a nice little wall.  One little puff and I think it would have launched itself.   Yesterday it did!  If there is any breeze at all I'm going to have to remember to release the tension on the A's.
I like holding the A lines during inflation.  It allows me to feel the wing and adjust with brakes or steering the trike.  Using the Assists I can only monitor the wing by watching it.  That may be better if my helmet doesn't get in the way.  On the next flight I'm going to pull the A's out another 1/2 inch and see if it does n't come up a little faster.
This morning there was a light breeze from the south  I could see 4 balloons that had launched from the Gunbarrel area.  It was perfect, I could fly into the wind and meet the balloons half way, and then, hopefully, they would come back to Vance Brand to land.  The take-off was good and I passed through two layers of bumpy air, one at 300 ft. agl and another at 1600 ft. agl.  The breeze changed direction at 300 ft and died completely above 1600.  There was no way to know where the balloons would land.  So... what I thought was going to be a headwind toward the balloons turned out to be a tail wind.  When we met at about 2000agl  I couldn't tell what direction the air was moving.  I did a few fly-bys and headed back.

At the field the wind had turned 180 degrees from when I launched and was picking up quickly.  I should have guessed it from the bumps I encountered returning.  Good Flight

 Egil came out but didn't fly due to a tear in his wing.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mark of the Devil #666 VB

No Drama ... The only real moment of interest was after landing.  The Eden III had laid down nicely and just after I I stepped out of my seat it inflated and decided to fly.  I think that soaking and fluff cycle at the field brought back some life to that old wing.   It felt so good that I hung around another 20 minutes and did some good kiting by 8:00 the wind had built to a nice steady 10 mph.

Chip,  it was good talking with you yesterday.  Here is a picture from THAT flight to Red Rocks.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Steamboat Springs Balloon Rodeo #665

The 2013 Steamboat Balloon Festival 

right place right time 


Dawn and I had planned to visit some friends in Steamboat and it was only a lucky break that it was the same weekend as the Festival.  We had a concert the evening before, so I wasn't able to attend the pilot briefing on Friday night. I spoke with Debby Standefer the Balloon Meister earlier in the week and knew I was welcome but little else.

So, with little information and a gut full of butterfly s I arrived at the field on Saturday morning.  I had expected a large park and was hoping for plenty of room to launch but was disappointed to find a small rectangle surrounded by vendor booths.  There was no chance that I would be able to launch early and even after the mass ascension it would not be an easy launch.  There were too many obstructions and not enough room.  Debby suggested that I look around for an alternate site and I found a spot on the other side of the jump pond where a couple of the local balloonists were beginning to set-up.  

Steamboat 2013 LZ

It wasn't great, there was a narrow runway of hard pack that ended abruptly into a field of tall weeds.  There were some trees to avoid and of course the pond that separated us from the rest of the festival. It looked possible but I was going to have to get the inflation right immediately and make the go- no go decision within 30 feet of the start. 

I spoke with Ian, the senior balloonist, who explained that the visiting pilots were concerned about a large cell several miles off and the possible winds that it might send our way.  The plan was for him and another one of his balloons to launch at this site and act as "Pie Plates" for the others to gauge the air.  He wasn't too encouraging and told me that it might be a very short flight.  While we were talking a slight breeze came up from down valley which was in exactly the right direction.  I took it to be a good omen and set up.  

Ian launched quickly and his second balloon set up and inflated in record time.  It was now or never.  When I powered up, the wing only need a quick tug on the right side to bring it in-line with the runway.  It felt good from the start and once I was rolling I had no doubts.  Just before I got to the end of the hard pack I lifted off and started a very slow climb-out.  When I got to the trees I did a couple of turns between the largest groves and it was all good.  Dawn said that it looked close on take off and because of the trees they were not able to see where I was until I had climbed up and around the trees.  

Once up, it was a great flight.  I cruised over the Balloon field a couple of times and saw only one balloon that looked like it was going to launch.  The rest of the field was loaded with people milling around.  There was no way I was going to do a fly-by on the field, so I circled at 75 feet and waved before heading up valley to play with the two locals.  

Steamboat is a beautiful place to fly and I look forward to coming back.   The valley air was calm and the ski mountain looked like a great climb 3000 feet to the top.  There was a freight train rolling down the valley and lots to see.  I could have stayed up all morning and would have, except that it was starting to sprinkle and I was worried that it was only going to get worse.  After flying around the smaller balloon I turned back to check out my landing options.  I used the radio to ask Dawn  to clear the field and by the time I had circled once it was free of spectators.  

The landing was much like the take off,. narrow with obstructions to avoid.  There was no clearing turn before final,  I just set up over the Yampa and followed it in.  As soon as I cleared the trees I went to idle and touched down exactly right.  It felt good,

Time for showers and breakfast

This is a place I want to come back to, the area is flyer friendly and the view is wonderful.  At 6800 feet it's not to high for a reasonable launch but with the ski area there I could do some serious climbing and never be 50 feet agl.  

Till the next time Steamboat.