Thursday, August 2, 2018

2018 Mansfield Encampment

In the past I would often try to put together daily reports on our flying in the Columbia Basin, honestly... I'm getting lazy...  Seems I would rather sit out on the lawn chairs with a beer watching amazing sunsets than hash out stories of the last bit of airtime. 

Truth is we fly allot less then in the past. I'm not getting any younger and this place is so industrial its hard (and sometimes not that much fun) to huck yourself at the sky on a daily basis. 

The expression, "Quality over Quantity" seems to have become the goal. We no longer have a big group of pilots, we seldom put more than two gliders into the air at once. Most days its only one glider. Of course this allows for some quality ground support and of course, Class A pampering on the "rig". 


This year's 2018 season had been pretty typical. In the early part of July, the PG pilots had a big contest at Chelan Butte. I'm always blown away with how well the Paraglider pilots do in the big air of the Basin.  Nicole McLearn has an excellent blog on much of the activities, well worth the read:

This years Paragliding Contest saw some interesting lines up the Methow Valley and a pretty cool run up to Orville at the Canadian border.  Once cancelled task saw a small group head off to the Idaho border (200+ kms from the Buttte)

Primarily, we are after the big triangles. The "Big One" is the 300+. Mike Bomstad has the official best from our crew, I've come close but not yet claimed the prize (298 and a 317 non-FAI flat triangle). Mia's goal remains the 200... Or just having fun! Regardless, we no longer bother flying if the wind or forecasts won't allow us to make it home.  Much of this years trip saw triangles confined to the area around Mansfield as forecasts and winds made anything big to the SE unlikely so we stuck close to home, or as we call it, "on top". 

There is one exception to the triangle attempts.. The run to Wilbur WA for a the Classic drive in experience at "Billy Burgers"! We make the goal, Wilbur airport, say hi to some friends at a crop duster facility and head into town for the Billy Burger combo.... of course, anybody sinking out in the area is always a good excuse to at the very least take on a shake for the rest of the retrieval. 

I will followup this post with a couple posts about some special flights from last week but will say that like in many of the past years, smoke has put a damper on this years encampment.  Not too many local fires (been a pretty good year considering how dry it is now), but fires up north in Canada have been drifting their smoke in the light NW winds.  The biggest issue with smoke is it causes the day to start later and end earlier then the soaring models predict.   To break the 300 out here you need a good 7-8 hour day.... especially when you fly as slow as I do!



Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A.I.R. ATOS “Q” Series Set Up Error….

The “Q” series by A.I.R. represents all of the model ATOS’s that use the “Quick Setup System”.  Typically the set up process includes connecting one wing “half” to the other and connecting a sweep cord that stabilizes the two halves during the setup process.  Recently, posted on the Yahoo Rigid wing forum there was an incident where a set up error was made and miraculously did not have a fatal outcome. For clarity, I thought I would post an example of the mistake and point out a minor change that would greatly reduce the likelihood of this sort of mistake being made.

Here is an example of the correct configuration of the control rigging during the setup process:

Correct Rigging

Here is an example of the error made during setup:

Ok, for sure this is bad news for the control system. And yes, a proper preflight and control system check would have turned up the fact that something obvious was wrong. Still, the pilot got into the air with the glider rigged incorrectly (and was very fortunate to have maintained enough control to get the glider back onto the ground…. )

Apart from the improperly rigged glider and the poor pre-flight, how did this happen?  I assume one of two possibilities could have resulted in the control system being rigged wrong:

-The Sweep cord fell back into the wing/sail prior to its connection to the keel. The pilot then reached into the sail to the anchor point of the sweep cord and located the cord but was “in front” of the control cable and pulled the cord out of the wing but on the wrong (front) side of the control cable.

-The second possibility was the control cable was accidently pulled through the sail opening during the setup (control bar end of the cable). The cable, now loose inside the sail was incorrectly re routed back through the sail but overtop of the Sweep cord.. (Of course, it could have been a combination of both mistakes?).

For sure, a proper PRE-FLIGHT-INSPECTION would have discovered the problem. Still, even if the the problem was discovered the mistake could have resulted in damage being caused to the sail or cable during the rest of the assembly process.

To avoid/reduce the potential of making this mistake I suggest all Q series owners make the effort to use a small velcro or Neoprene protector on the control bar end of the control cable. Not only will this protect the sail and flaps from damage caused by the hardware on the cable end it will help prevent the control cable from accidently being pulled through the sail opening during the setup.


For those inquiring minds that want to know if this is something that I did…?…. Nope, not me but I do thank the pilot that posted the incident on the Yahoo Rigid Wing forum.  A pilot who I’m sure will be more then happy to do a proper pre-flight the next time out!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Barry Bateman, HPAC Member #1

In the month of November 2017, the Canadian hang gliding community lost one of our “old timers”. A true driving force of the early days of the HPAC and flying in Canada, Member #1, Barry Bateman.

After what Barry himself defined as a “full life and can’t complain”, he accepted his fate and lost a short battle with an aggressive cancer. Barry caught his ride to what-ever might be awaiting him on the “other side”.

Thinking back about Barry’s contributions to Hang Gliding in Canada I should start by clearing up the story behind Barry’s HPAC #1 membership. No, Barry was not the first member of the HPAC. The truth is, Barry had learned to fly in that far off fog bound little country of proper queues and a stiff upper lip; England.

During the mid 80’s, the HPAC was going through a bit of renewal with many of us, including Barry were participating in the various HPAC/ACVL director positions. Barry insisted, core to a national organization should be a “News Letter” (a method to communicate and bring this vast country together). We also needed reliable membership services that included ratings and a membership cards (Barry brought over from England the values of “Clubs”… very British….). Barry insisted that rather than relying on volunteers, the time had come for the HPAC to have a paid administrator. A few of us argued, but like all things involving discussions with Barry it was futile, so it was agreed, Barry (who was looking for a little part time work…that would, of course allow him lots of flying time!) would take on the first paid position of HPAC Administrator.

The first order of business was to update and create a new database (something super high tech… I think it was a high jacked copy of Lotus 123?). According to Barry, there was no logical way to translate the old numbers into the new database. Trust me… the explanation seemed reasonable as Barry did seem to spend days hunkered down in front of his IBM 386XT working on the data base … or maybe he was just playing pong?

Like all great nations and organizations, rebirth would include “corruption, collusion and opportunity”. Barry made his first entry into the database: Barry Bateman, membership #1 !
I protested… so I received #2 (personally I believed my protest was valid, after all I was the President/Emperor of the HPAC/ACVL at the time….). In the end I gave up and let Barry have his #1. I figured if those pesky members got restless the first lynching would involve #1.

Barry also took on the role of National News Letter Editor. He was a true ink stained wretch of the Fifth Estate. He took the task “full-on”. He hounded every director and member for material and he published on schedule, no exceptions. In the late 80’s, he taught himself to use the cutting-edge software of the day, Aldus PageMaker. I remember on several occasions the newsletter was coming up short on content and I made the big mistake of suggesting, “why not delay the publishing date”? Yikes!... with clenched teeth he responded with “I will publish blank pages before I push off a print schedule”! That was Barry.

I remember one year, Barry booked a vacation to one of his most favorite places on the planet, Australia (I thought I should mention his love of Australia because if there was one place on the planet he could drone on and on about, it was the wonderful land of OZ!). The thing is, the HPAC did not offer any sort of Union labor standards for time off and he still needed somebody to put out the newsletter. Skillfully, he sucked me into learning how to use his Pagemaker template. Somehow, we (the HPAC) survived (I think I can still taste the glue of hundreds of licked stamps and envelopes!).

I must say, with this being my first and albeit short tenure as HPAC editor, Barry did teach me a very important fact regarding the publishing of a periodical. The actual content of an article is unimportant! As long as the number of words filled the allotted space and did not interfere with a nice picture you were as good as gold (More than few times I heard Barry use his favorite phrase “no problem” ! ) Based on what I see in the various periodicals that I read today, “word count” over “content” is king.

Of course, when Barry returned from Oz he offered up his traditional “Bateman appreciation” … he complained I was 2 weeks late getting out the first of my editions… ungrateful little….
For well over a decade, starting in the mid 80’s Barry doggedly pumped out 4 national newsletters and made sure “paid” members got their membership cards.

Along with his major contribution to the early operation of the HPAC Barry was one of our leaders in the flying community on the West Coast of Canada. He contributed as an instructor and dealer of UK gliders like the Magic and Magic Kiss. He was also a competitor and organizer of many of the hang gliding comps that occurred during the 80’s and 90’s. One of the more notable contests, the Cache Creek Team Meet. The contest would often be the seasons wind up bash. It promoted team flying… or at least creative team names!

Well visiting Barry in hospital, we reminisced the “old days” and both agreed that the 90’s (and slipping into the 2000’s ) for Hang Gliding, was the “Golden Age” for the sport.
The contests, the politics, the organizing and the flying, Barry through his heart into to all of it. As a pilot he was always the “little guy” on a “big glider” that would tenaciously out sink, out scratch anybody who tried to climb to the top of the pack. Like I said, everything was done with passion… and a little English “Bull Dog” pride.

I will always remember Barry’s “No problem” attitude toward flying and its community. He worked with great passion to bring this great big country of Canada under the umbrella of one national organization. He could drive people a little nut’s in the process, but after all, deep down…. He was English!

In later years Barry drifted away from hang gliding and onto the new passion of sailing. He married, bought a boat and sailed the “the big blue”. His adventures had him sailing the many distant ports of the Pacific.

Barry would often chastised me for not getting out of my flying rut…. “there is more to flying than just hanging around here, you should get out there and see the world”!

My reply would always be the same, “the dirt in Mansfield Washington is no different than the dirt of the Ozzy outback… and ….of course, without all the infamous Ozzy snakes and spiders” …. he would laugh.

Which brings me to this…..

In sports, a team will often show respect for key players that help define or contribute to the history of the team by retiring a players Jersey and number. I think it would be a fare tribute for the HPAC and its members to at least symbolically recognizing Barry’s #1 “virtual” Jersey up into the rafters. A bunch of us old timers from back in the day would be more than happy to hoist a glass and say “Cheers”.

Martin Henry
HPAC Member #2 😉

Monday, November 9, 2015

Why I Paraglide…..

With both Mia and I passionate rigid wing pilots we often get asked by my hang gliding buddies “Why do you Paraglide”?  (or sometimes…. why the “F” do you fly a bag ?)

True, I’m not a huge fan of paragliding, I’ve got an immense distrust of any aircraft that requires “re-assembly” during flight. Don’t get me wrong, I without question have massive respect for what good dedicated pilots can do with these aircraft…At the same time I fully admit that because my first choice is my Atos VR and not my Ozone Buzz I simply do not have the time it takes to achieve that level of skill on a paraglider. With that I have learned to be extremely selective of when and why I fly my paraglider. I do my best to pick those days that equal the safe skill sets that I have worked on over the last few years, trying never to get in too deep.

November 8th a Woodside this year was just one of those reasons the “Bag” got dragged out and not the rigid wing.

Nothing spectacular about the day. Just a break in the Fall’s rain fronts on the West coast and the need to get out for some fresh air and catch a few rare rays of sun. (Mia standing at Woodside launch)


As much as I love flying my rigid wing,  there is no way a day like this would inspire dragging out the 100 pounds of carbon. Today was a sack of fabric day!

Both Mia and I managed a couple nice launches. Scratched for a few extra minutes with some of the local experts (the feathered ones) and sunk out to the Riverside LZ. 

(Video of Mia landing slight tail wind in the “switchy” Riverside LZ)

From there with full gear we did the trek back up to launch (2200ft vertical) to retrieve our truck.  Sweating big time as we reached the top it was blowing down… big deal the reward was in the cooler! Two Becks and two cold slices of homemade pizza… Life is good.

And that was why… for Nov 8th 2015…. I decided to fly my Paraglider… only 5 more months and we kick open the doors of our shack and chase out the mice and start all over again at L+13…. on a rigid wing Winking smile

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

And, Now… for Something Completely Stupid…


August 2nd…Bored pilot looking to find trouble.

August 2nd, the smoke was getting bad, so much so that even Mike seemed resigned that the day had very little to offer so we were up for something different to do. Jorge for this visit had brought is fishing/ski boat along, so with beverages, snacks, fishing rods and a wake board we were off to Banks Lake to go do what regular folks do.

Well… how shall I put this, the only experience I have with any sort of water sport (other then swimming) was water skiing (when I was 7 or 8 years old). All I can remember about the experience was there was an awful lot of water involved…. most of it trying to shove through any orifice that you could shove water through. With this history of (un)successful water sport experience … I found my self floating in Banks Lake, Jorge hammering his 90 hp up to speed netting pretty much the same success as my previous attempts, lots of water, all of it through me, with very little of it passing under me! Oh well, after getting my arms stretched and multiple attempts it was back in the boat for a beverage.

There was some discussion that perhaps speed was a problem for us newbies, Mia gave it a go (with Jorge providing a much softer start). After only a few attempts, she was up like a pro! (look at that style!)


Mike, competitive as always, got dragged a few more times then Mia, but he to, got up… and down… success non the less! So… that left stupid (me). Not satisfied with having failed at this little endeavour I just had to give it one more go.

First try, close…. but no cigar. I should have quit…. Nope, one more stab and…..hmmmm, the human body should not be making noises while attempting any sort of sport? On this second attempt, I swear I heard a loud “pop” in my left leg… followed immediately by sharp pain (also not a good thing while attempting any sort of athletic adventure). The short of the story, I pulled my hamstring, (and probably a few other neighbouring posterior muscles). Several days after the “incident” I was towelling off from a shower and noticed for the first time that the back of my injured leg had turned all black, blue, green and yellow.


Yikes… so after a consult with Dr. Internet the bruising is the result of blood from the torn or damaged tendon finding its way out of the muscle, pretty typical for a medium level of damage. It looks like all that can be done is something called “RICE” (Rest/Ice/Compression/Elevate). After a week of keeping things light, Sitting on a couple bags of Ice and gradually putting the leg back to work, things were improving. At the two week mark, I decided that PG flight off good old Woodside could not hurt…. or could it? First pull up pretty clearly proved there was more rehab still to go, still, I committed to another pull up and a tentative run and I made it into the air for some local airtime.

Looks like its going to be another week or two of this RICE thing. Toss in a bunch of free advice from the cheap seats suggested  suggesting the addition of some stretching? Ah, but stretching is an awful lot like Yoga… Real men don’t do yoga! I substitute stretching with Scotch and Ibuprofen (just kidding)

Oh well the last several weeks, my employer has been happy to have me back, the flying has sucked with Chelan and all of the Pacific NW is going up in flames, so its looking like my season has come to and end. Still hoping to get Mia a couple more OLC flights but in all likelihood is going to be up God’s of Fire.

As far as  any more water sports?… I’m going to drive the boat!

Late Updating the “Encampment”

(Mansfield Encampment 2015, Flights up to August 1st)

A late bit of catching up on some of our most recent flights.  When we started this year, we knew that it could be a very bad fire season. Washington State is in a “State of Emergency” for drought conditions.  Snow packs are unbelievably low. Forests are incredibly dry. It was not “if” there was to be a fire, more as to “when” and how many. I consider the fact  that by the beginning of August the whole place has not been turned to ashes as a bit of a miracle.

Unfortunately, it only takes a few fires to drastically effect the air quality of the basin to hamper flying. One such pesky fire has been a small fire in the Cascades called the Wolverine fire (Its gotten so big it has its own web site). Back in the beginning of July a lightning strike sparked up a small 350 acre fire in a difficult to access canyon up the NW end of Lake Chelan. It smoldered, for many weeks, and the inevitable happened, weather stirred the beast and it is now well beyond 34,000 acres and is having a drastic effect on conditions on the upper basin (and… if you have been following the news you will know that all hell has let loose in and around Lake Chelan).

So, back on August 3rd we put our camp on hold…. here are a few of our flights flown in the last week of our encampment.

July 30th….., Hot, blue, less smoke and 10-15 mph south winds. Soaring numbers looked ok with top of lift forecast to be around 9000ft asl but the south winds and poor soaring numbers down to the SE would keep me “on top” (the higher plateau that surrounds the Mansfield area).  On our own, Mia crewed and ran the rig. Just after 12:30, I took a nice 2000 ft tow south, pinning off in light lift. After a bit of bumbling around I was able to establish a nice climb over 9000ft asl, but that would not be the early trend. For the first hour I struggled attempting to head south into a 10mph headwind trying to reach the Dry Falls turn-point at the South end of Banks Lake. Pretty typical for these “on top” days, the closer I got to turn-point, the lower I was getting. Pretty soon it was a challenge just too stay up.

I decided to turn short of Dry Falls and head west toward Waterville, clinging to what ever lift I could find there were a few tense moments below 5000ft asl (well 3000 ft agl sounds like plenty of height…500 ft sink can put you on the ground in 6 minutes!). Finally with Mia sitting at a good emergency LZ a short distance away, the God’s decided that I had been tortured enough, relenting with a nice back up to 9500ft asl… and I was able to jump Jameson Coulee. The air was Jekyll and Hyde, with lots of hang on rough stuff. At Douglas, just short of the Waterville airport I was having my ass kicked and I figured it was time to start heading north east for home.

There is something nice about looking for lift while flying downwind…  way less stress! Changes your attitude, the free kilometers just roll on by. No wonder Paraglider pilots spend most of their time drifting down wind! With the winds shifting to SW, the air was smoothing out and I soon found myself bumping over the 10,000 ft asl mark.  I ended the flight with a small detour up to Peril Hill north of the tow site and at 10,500 glided back to the tow site (arriving stupid high and lift everywhere). Good landing in a nice SE breeze, followed by a late sunset trip Park Lake for swim. Even a mediocre day on the flats can be a joy! (5:48 hours, 141km FAI )

July 31st….. Blue, smoke, SW light winds and very light soaring numbers. Mia’s turn to fly what would turn out to be very scratchy conditions. Nice long south tow but Mia had to demonstrate a few very low saves to prove how good her VQ is… A couple 1200 ft agl saves that eventually got her up over 7000ft asl.  The flight was allot of work, but some real patient efforts (with some real long drifting session) she was rewarded with several climbs up to 11,000 ft asl…..just not that much incentive to go anywhere.

Its a little hard to explain Mia’s task or plan… but just like Mia’s previous flight there was almost a creative artiste flair to her Spot track log.  Nicole McLearn sent me a Spot track image of todays flight laid on top of her previous flight… if I drink (which I do) and close one eye?… I see a dog howling at the full moon Winking smile(very creative)

Screen shot 2015-08-02 at 11.15.18 AM

For some excitement, on her way back to the towsite, Mia spotted a fire caused by some harvest machinery 15 miles to the south (near Jameson Coulee). A big black plume of smoke made me detour into the Mansfield grocery store and call in the fire (they reported that Coulee City fire response was already dispatched… with things so hot and dry they jump on everything real quick). From Mia’s vantage point she got to watch another piece of farm equipment rush over from a nearby field and begin tilling the ground over to prevent the spread of the fire… eventually corralling the flame onto another fallow (dirt) field. By then Coulee city fire was on scene and the fire was being extinguished.

With the excitement over, Mia arrived back at the towsite for a good landing, quick breakdown and another sunset swim at Park Lake.  (Mia’s Flight)

August 1st….. Jorge Cano and Mike showed up from Spokane. Today we had thick smoke from the Chelan Wolverine fire and I was sceptical it would be any good…..still the boys wanted to give it a go… so out to the tow site.

Even with the smoke and bad visibility the ground at the towsite was active, dust devils would come and go with no real drift or direction defined for towing, so we decided to tow from the less then desirable center tow area. As it turned out, for Mike on his ATOS, we towed south, he connected and was up. When I arrived back to tow Jorge on his Moyes LS we towed North, and after a bit of a struggle he was up and away. It did not take long for both pilots to report abysmal visibility and a pretty stiff breeze from the south. Jorge was not enjoying the air and 20+km to the south reached Hwy 2, had enough and decided it was time to land (perfect stand up landing beside the cooler of beer and my waiting windsock).

Mike, ever the competitive “pit bull” was grinding around in the smoke and at L-Road and the Hwy 2, despite the smoke took a climb up over 11,000ft asl. From there very little detail could be seen on the ground so navigating by the directions from his GPS he was pointed west across Jameson Coulee and heading west to Waterville. By this time there was a shift in the days wind and visibility dramatically improved, trouble was, after his last big climb at Farmer, the wind that had cleared the air was now scrubbing off the lift and that was to be his last big climb for the day. By the time he arrived NE of Waterville, it was time to see if he could drift, claw, scratch his way back to the tow site.  It was close but he ran out lift SW of town landing in a cut crop and a 15 mph NW wind. (of course next to my waiting wind sock and beer cooler…. more quality tow services by Towforce !) (Mikes Flight, sorry no upload from Jorge….)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

You Just Never Know….

(Mansfield Encampment 2015, July 28th)

Even as “long time” (expert?) pilots in Mansfield area, today we got “schooled”.

Mia was up for some flying and I was more then happy to oblige by running the rig. To be honest the last few weeks around here have been far from classic conditions so it was nice to see a day where the soaring numbers looked promising enough that Mia wanted to check it out. We headed out to the tow site with Jeff K,  an old friend tagging along for support. Nice having just one glider for the rig so it was a “Busch Lite” day for the “tow-meister”. 

By 12:45, under mainly blues sky with the occasional Q popping here and there,  I was pouring gas over the cylinders of our Ford tow rigs gutless 302 and Mia was quickly up and out of the cradles. The start of the tow was soft with a slow climb. After the first mile things suddenly picked up and she was quickly up to 2000ft agl, pinning off in 500fpm up. Perfect release with a perfect chute opening, two minutes later all the line was back at the rig, outriggers stowed and we were on our way back to the set-up area. By the time we got back and our gear picked up, Mia indicated she was over 8000ft asl and was heading west.

Mia, not on any sort of a mission was going head….. well sort of…. over there …or here… maybe…. Eventually she did get lined up west with a 25km run West to Withrow. After seeing nothing but blue sky to the west (in the direction of Waterville) she decided to head back to the tow site.  From there a quick 8km jaunt up Leahy Cut-off…. and back to the tow site. Last, a quick 14km drive down to Saint Andrews road (6th and L-road) and again… back to the tow site. After nearly 4 hours she had managed the most complex 70km FAI triangle you could imagine and seemed satisfied to call it a day.

Mia also mentioned that she had been totally under dressed for the flight and was freezing cold with several gains taking her up over 10,000. (always a challenge to get the right layer of clothing when flying our desert conditions !).

Landing was interesting as it was pretty early to be setting down (before 5pm). During her setup I could only give general surface conditions (everything from north through south, 0 to 10mph)…. as we say, things had definitely gone “light and vacuum” when she turned to final.  It was pretty evident that things were still cooking as she got a big pop of lift at a 100ft that caused her to go long and land in the cut crop on the west side of the tow road. When she got the glider into ground effect it was suddenly a quartering tail but with a very good hard run she pulled off a great nose up landing….climbing out of her harness she admitted that she was “done”, the flight had been allot of work had she was glad to be down. (Mia’s Flight)



Now, this is about when we got some higher education about flying this area….. It had been light and variable for nearly an hour in the goal field. There was the occasional dust devil that wandered by but nothing of the intensity we were about to experience. At almost the worst time possible, (sail released and not ready to be folded on her VQ) we got hit by a medium size dust devil from an entirely new direction (east). Not a huge problem at the moment but things were rapidly going to get worse.

Within a minute the dust devil had passed and we had a moment where we figured everything was going to settle down and be good for the rest of the take-down.  Nope…. just as suddenly, only a minute or two later,  we got hit by what could only be described as a clear air gust front. Normally a gust front out here is marked with plainly visible dust as it approaches, this sprang up without any notice, as if the area had suddenly lifted off.  Without warning we now had 20mph south winds with our biggest problem being the glider was not oriented properly for the unexpected south wind. Getting caught like this (glider partially broken down) is a little like getting caught with your pants down…. sail released and everything exposed at the worse time.  Thankfully with two sets of hands to haul things in we managed to get the beast into the bag….. Yikes… never saw that coming!

The wind continued to blow 15 to 20mph while we loaded the glider and headed off to Park Lake for a swim.

The Moral of this story… never drop your guard when dealing with “mother nature” Winking smile