Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Arizona Trip

Stinky Rob C, Scooter Jeff T. and I took a quick weekend trip to Arizona to fly the Craters near Flagstaff. The Craters was where I first learned to fly paragliders under the instruction of the great Dixon White and Marty Dieveitte.

Pictures Here

We didn't get much flying in, as the winds were howling all weekend, but we did play a hell of a lot of PSP. I think we all got about 3 extended sled rides over a 4 day period. Was fun to visit the old stomping grounds, but since Deb White sold the 2-Bar and Dixon passed away, its just not the same. Here is a shot of the memorial to Dixon at the north bench of Merriam Crater (the big one above).

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Baja Trip - Day 3 (Part 1)

Friday, July 15, 2005 (Morning)
After the past 2 days, we were itching to fly. We awoke to the entire coast fogged in, but we expected it to lift. After breakfast we did some motoring as we waited for the sky to clear. The winds were slightly South and by 10:00 cloud base was up to around 800 feet. With the southerly winds, the La Salina ridge was out, but we figured that once the fog burned off thermal heating in the flats in front of launch would have it blowing in.

On a previous trip Jeff and Stinky had soared a small hill with condominiums and houses on top at the golf course about 2 miles to the south. It’s a small site, definite bandito territory as you have to get past the guards to get into the gated community. The site is slightly south facing so we hatched a plan where Jeff and I would motor down and see if there was enough lift to stay up while the rest of the crew avoided the guards in the truck.

Jeff and I launched and we flew down the coast. Once we were past the La Salina marina, the coastline changed drastically, becoming rocky and gnarly. On the way down we saw some interesting things, including some very expensive homes hidden in with the typically Mexican shambles. We even saw the fuselage of an old prop powered airliner that was up on stilts and being used as a home.

Upon arriving at the golf course hill it was obvious that there wasn’t enough wind rolling up the hill for us to stay up. We made several passes, waving at the condo owners having breakfast on their balconies. On the way back to Brent’s, I swung over to the ridge to test the lift and found the wind starting to turn to the west.

Once the truck crew made it back, Steve and Brad did some motoring. Steve headed back to the ridge and found it starting to pick up. We load up the gear and headed to the top, with Steve electing to top land with the motor and wait for us. (No small feat for a guy with zero PG flights, but Steve is a great motor pilot and he had no problem.)

Getting kinda long here, so I will post the afternoon activity in a seperate post.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Baja Trip - Day 2

Thursday, July 14, 2005
Still wake up early, as do most of the crew (obviously seasoned pros at drinking, as no one shows any ill effects from last nights fun). While Rob C. (Henceforth known as ‘Stinky Rob’, or just ‘Stinky’) motored on the beach, Jeff, Steve and I headed to K58 for some breakfast. When everything is closed at K58, we swing north a few miles and find a great little place in La Mision – 3 tables, 1 lady working there (cooking, waiting tables, and cleaning). A hearty breakfast of chorizo con huevos and beans ensures we have adequate propulsion for flying later in the day.

The ridge at La Salina is still socked in and the weather reports don’t show it clearing. So we elect to head south to try and find the ridge at San Antonio del Mar. This is supposed to be a primo soaring spot, with a 200 ft cliff right on the beach. We have the GPS coords and a general idea of where to go, so we head south. We pass through the tourist town of Ensenada (first stop for all the south bound cruise ships out of LA) and a couple of small villages before hitting our first military checkpoint. They waive us through, but the experience freaked out Brad. Supposedly, you are required to have a tourist visa to go south of Ensenada. We didn’t have them, but it really didn’t matter.

A little over 3 hours after heading south, we find the turn off to San Antonio. The GPS says we are 10 miles away, but we spend the next hour trying to find the spot. The coast is completely fogged in, with only a couple hundred feet of visibility, making it hard to get our bearings. Steve works the GPS and naviates like a pro.

We finally find the lower launch (60ft) and on it, 3 old-timers from LA camping. These guys have been coming to Baja on an annual camping trip for over 20 years and they had the coolest restored 1946 Army bus. Check out the photos.

It was blowing in slightly and you could almost see the beach, so Brad decided to try his luck. A 60 foot sledder later and he was packing his glider up and hiking back to us. We packed it in after that and started the journey back north.

The drive back didn't seem quicker than the one down, but maybe that was because Skybrake was driving. Again we were waved through the checkpoint, and again Brad was pretty nervous about it all. We did stop long enough to buy some cups of fresh sliced mango from the lady’s selling them at the checkpoint. They squeeze a bit of lime over them and dust them with chili powder. Yum!

We stopped at Ensenada for groceries and made it back to Brent’s by 4:00 pm. We could just barely see the top of the ridge so we decided to do some recon to try and find the road to the top (and hopefully save us a hike when it was flyable).

Jeff and I strapped on the motors and the rest of the team went in the truck. The plan was for us to fly up and find the road and radio control the truck to the top. By the time I covered the mile between the beach and the ridge, cloud base had dropped to almost ridge level and more low clouds were blowing in from the north. Jeff and I radioed the truck through a few back roads and a gated subdivision before base dropped to about 350ft and it got too rowdy for us to hang. We headed back to the beach and left the guys in the truck to finish the task of finding launch on their own.

Turns out, we didn’t even have them close, but instead we had them on a dead end road up the wrong side of the mountain. Thankfully, when they crashed the gate into the subdivision, the security guards noticed them and were in hot pursuit. With Stinky’s asi-asi Spanish skills, the security guard was able to give them directions to launch. All this took about 2 hours after Jeff and I left going back to the beach, and we were out of radio contact the entire time.

Finally, Jeff and I gave up waiting on the other guys and walked down the beach to the Baja Seasons for some dinner. We got in contact with the truck guys after they made their way down and they meet us for a late dinner.

Not a great PG day, but everyone but Steve did fly at some point and we found the road to launch as well as how to get to San Antonio del Mar.

Baja Trip - Day 1

Wednesday, July 13, 2005
I wake up very early (my body still on Central time) so I do more work until the Mexican place next to the Hampton opens up. At 8, I head over for a plate of churizo con huevos (hmmm, pork fat and eggs!). The boys won’t arrive until noon so I kill more time working on a proposal and doing paperwork.

Around 11:00 I get a call that Jeff, Rob and Steve have arrived, Brad’s flight is delayed. I head over to meet Rob at Avis where we load all my swag from Wal-mart into the Expedition and return my rental car to Hertz. We pick up Jeff and Steve and head out to the El Cajon airport to pickup the motors Jeff and Steve shipped out. We get to check out the shop of Steve’s competition in the prop business (nice folks) and we transfer the gliders and other assorted gear to the roof of the truck so we can load in the motors in the back.

After getting everything loaded, we head back into San Diego, to the North Park area to meet Phil Russman for lunch. The great sushi place I ate at last time was closed at lunch so we settle for Thai next door. After lunch we head back to the airport to pick up Skybrake and then head south for the border.

On the way south, we stop off at an ATM for Rob C to get cash and I am thoroughly ridiculed for wanted to stop and buy toilet paper before crossing the border. We then hit I-5 south and are soon in Old Mexico. Once we get south of Rosarito, the coast is fogged in and it gets worse as we drive south. Within an hour we arrive at Baja Brent’s beach house and unload most of the gear and put the motors together.

We also find that the house is completely out of toilet paper! Vindication!

We then head north to the sand dunes about 10 miles north in hopes soaring twin tuned exhausts, burning nitro. The kid on it was racing up the dunes at around 70 mph. After realizing that he is a pretty good rider (and we won’t get to see any carnage) we head to the liquor store and then to dinner at a local place. After dinner, we engage in some moderate social drinking to the tune of a couple cases of beer and a bottle of rum and them hit the sack.

Baja Trip - Day 0

Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Get up and do some work, head to the airport for the 5+ hour (and 2 stop) flight to the west coast. Arrive in San Diego around 2pm and head out in search of supplies. Quick stops at REI and Wal-Mart nets me new sunglasses, a battery for my Sunnto watch, 6 cases of bottled water, and a cheap cooler. Head to the hotel to finish some work and then fish tacos for dinner followed by more work.

Friday, July 01, 2005

New Snap 100 Prop

Fresh Breeze has released a new Snap 100 prop and I just got mine and did a quick test in the backyard. The prop is slightly shorter than the original, but I haven't measusred it yet, but it is much wider. I put it on my Snap and wound it up. Its a bit quieter and boy, does it kick up the thrust. I would guess it in the 115lb range now. My normal full throttle RPM with the original prop was 9650, well with this one I'm only getting 9070, but I may need to do some carb tuning. Its raining now, but I will test fly it tomorrow and report back to the troups.

Full-size images-> Image 1. Image 2.

Update: Had a chance to fly the new prop this past weekend. I got 4 flights and 2 hours total time on it. It delivers as promised. I would guess thrust is in the 115-120 pound range. Max RPM's dropped from 9500 to 8950, but that is normal. My fuel efficiency also increased slightly. Good points - Its quieter, more thrust, and less fuel burn. The only slight negative is that it takes a bit longer to spin up the wider prop than it did the thin one.

Note to those Snap owers NOT flying a Fresh Breese, to upgrade to this prop, you will also need to get the custom mounting plate that Fresh Breeze bolts onto the prop flange. This plate is machined to fit the flange and bolt on to the 4 holes and then allows the mounting of the 6 hole bolt pattern Fresh Breeze prop.

Don't Tie Knots in Your Lines

Gin test pilot Norman Lausch died last week testing a protoype glider. He wanted to test it with shorter lines so he tied 3 knots in every line. They broke and tragicly, Norman could not get his reserve out. Tying a knot in a line weakens it by 50%. Tying 3, well, you get the picture. In response to questions asked about this accident, Gin Gliders has posted some info on line strength that all pilots should take a look at. Here is the Link.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Titanium Fresh Breeze Cages

News from Fresh Breeze:
Fresh Breeze is now offering prop cages and suspension frames made from high grade Titanium instead of aluminium. The first Titanium cage will be made for the Simonini 122 ORC. The main advantage will be a much higher strength of all frame parts and a decreased weight. An additional feature are streamlined tubes which reduce air drag and noise. The prop runs in smoother air with an increased efficiency.

Southern Skies has new Simonini's with is cage in stock. It is a $500 upgrade over the standard cage, but it weighs 3 lbs less. Contact your local Fresh Breese dealer for more info or to purchase.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

New and Improved PPGInfo

Matt Unger has brought his PPGInfo website back online with a great new format and a pretty comprehensive set of links and other great info. It's worth checking out. Kudo's to Matt for providing the PPG community such a great resource.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Suspension Options and Weightshift for PPG

Many PG pilots are making the transition to PPG these days. One of the most frequent discussions with those making the transition is the harness setup and weighshift. Here are my thoughts on the different harness suspension types and their ability to initiate a weight shift turn.

I was a PG pilot first, and the majority of my PPG flying is of the launch, climb,shutdown, thermal variety. For a PG pilot that is hoping to move to PPG as a means of getting air timeand soaring, there are two main things to consider.

The first is obviously weight shift, but the second (and more important) is the ability to feel the wing. As PG pilots, we get lots of input from the wing transferred to our hips via the harness. This input is more important than you would think, andits something that most motor harness can't provide, regardless of weighshift ability.

A third issue is how the weight shift is engaged. In a PG harness, a quick roll of the hips will initiate a turn, that is not the case with most motor harnesses and takes some getting used to.

First, there is the common misconception that a low attachment point on a PPG means better weight-shift. Low attachment points have ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with weight shift. It just happens that a couple of motors with good weight shift have lower attachment points. To get good weight shift, you need to separate the pilots weight from the motor, and have the risers as close to vertically aligned with the hips as possible. Lower attachment points are often associated with increased ability to weight-shift turn (though not always the case) because several brands that have low attachment points are also good weigh-shifters. Good weight-shift can also be found in mid-level and higher attachment points (depends on the manufacturer).

Good weight-shift is observed when the suspension allows differential movement of the left/right riser attachments relative to pilots center of gravity.

Ok, here's the run-down. There are 4 types of harness suspensions out there that are known to give good weight shift. This may not be an all inclusive list, but these are the ones that I am familiar with and have personally flown. So, in no particular order:

1) PAP/Airfer/Bowles System
The PAP style system, also used by Airfer and on modified Fresh-Breeze units by Chris Bowles. This was one of the first harness suspensions to give good weight shift. It consists of low mounted distance bars that pivot up/down independent of each other. The bars attach to the harness where the normal biner connection would be and the glider is clipped into a shackle or biner on the distance bar (where depends on the pilot weight).

This system allows a standard PG harness to be used, assuming it has been modified to provide points on the back to hang the motor. The best advantage of the Pap style system is that it closely mimics the feel of a PG harness and does a good job of transferring input from the wing to the pilot. PG pilots are used to a certain about of feedback, and its not just feedback from the brakes and this system delivers that. It also allows more natural PG style weight shift, initiated by a quick roll of the hips. This is the system that Will Gadd used on his XC across America.

This system gives the best combination of weight shift and feeling that a PG pilot would be used to and does a moderate job of reducing motor torque. Launches are sometimes tricky due to the torque twisting the motor around since this is a relatively loose harness setup.
Available on PAP, Airfer units standard, and an upgrade to a Fresh-Breeze unit (Chris custom machines the parts for his mod)

2) Fresh-Breeze Floating Suspension (soft j-bars)
The standard suspension on all Fresh-Breeze units. It consists of an aluminum boomerang that you attach a biner to clip the wing into, along with a short webbing connection to the motor and a longer webbing connection to a biner in the normal hook-in position on the harness. Just about any PG harness can be used, but back protection and airbags could hang down and restrict airflow over motor (needed for cooling). A Thin Red Line harness, or any other harness without a seat board, should NOT be used. The results are not pretty, not comfortable, and not kind on the family jewels.

I feel that this over shoulder suspension gives the best weight shift of any suspension out there. Torque is moderate on this suspension, and can be lessened by loosening the shoulder straps after takeoff and with weight shift. This system gives a good 'feel' from the wing also. The method of initiating the weight-shift for this suspension (and the rest of the list)is quite different than the PAP system or a PG for that matter. Instead of rolling the hips, you have to push down with your thigh, and then roll your hips. Takes a bit of getting used to.

Another benefit is that this suspension allows the pilot to ditch the motor if necessary but remain connected to the glider. The main disadvantage is that it is a relatively high hook in point and most pilots lower their brakes to give a more comfortable hand position. Pain in the butt if you fly the same glider PG and PPG and move between the two often. This is also a very comfortable harness that allows you to recline more than most.

Available on FB motors stock, and can be retrofitted on just about anymotor.

3) Movable Distance Bars
Moveable distance bars are similar to the Pap system, but instead of the glider hooking in into the distance bar, it hooks into the harness at a point along the hypotenuse of the triangle formed bythe distance bar and the upper frame of the harness. Decent weight shift and really good torque reduction. Another good compromise, and its comfortable.

One down side is you can't ditch the motor. Another is that you are sitting very upright, something that PG guys have a hard time adjusting to, and probably sours as many on motors as the weight and the noise. Paralite (out of business now) developed a version of this system that has a mechanism that physically forces the distance bars to move opposite each other, rather than being independent. So, if the right side goes down, the left side is forced up. This gives incredible weight shift and great response to WS inputs. This mod is availalbe from ParaCruiser and can be adapted to call Paralite, Paracruiser or FB units.

4) Ridged, Low Attachment Points. (ie. Walkerjet)
Even though it has a ridged attachment point, the WalkerJet motor has such low attachment points and a wide seat board that it actually does allow some weight shift. I've only got 2 flights on a WJ, and I didn't observe as much WS as the other systems, but I was able to get around 3 inches of riser differential. Another pilot I trust says he can get about 4. Others claim more, but due to its low hook-ins, it a more natural system for PG pilots and its a comfortable harness setup.

Available only on WalkerJet units (that I know of)

In Summary:
  • Best Weight Shift: #2 FB Suspension
  • Best 'PG Feel': #1 PAP Style