Had's SPOT track page
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Weather Info For
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Training Week of April 13 - 20
-- Training will be hit or miss this week because of high winds and
storms. Contact us if you
want to train.
Visitors are always welcome.
March 29-30 Saturday-Sunday -- Rancho El Plan de los Alamos,
Chih., Mexico -- Our assistant instructor,
José Muñoz, yours truly
(Had Robinson), and other PPG pilots from El Paso were graciously
invited to El Plan de los Alamos ranch in Chihuahua., Mexico for a
weekend of PPG flying. Only José and I, however, were able to attend.
El Plan's owner, Alberto Terrazas, is a direct descendent of Sr. General
Here is the Wiki
(translated from Spanish) introduction:
War of Intervention. He
the country. He was one of the
great leaders of 19th century Chihuahua. There is a monument
to him and his wife in Chihuahua City.
General Terrazas' estate in Chihuahua circa
Albert had also invited a number of personal friends to the Ranch for
the weekend. We all enjoyed a weekend of ranch activities, great food,
and drink prepared by Albert and José. There were no women in
attendance. But not to worry, our host and José were professionals in the kitchen --
even doing all of the clean up. I was impressed....
Even though the weather forecast was not the best, I was able to make at
least one flight early Sunday morning in my foot-launched PPG. A
2.5 minute YouTube video of the flight can be viewed
José brought his trike along but the winds were too strong for that type
of aircraft. The rest of the time this region of the world was
Plan de los Alamos from the air. View is north northwest.
Altitude is over 5,100' MSL. It is just high enough that there is
a permanent rio flowing through the ranch. This is complete
dark-sky country. There is no electricity, no gas lines, no
telephone in this region. The ranch is entirely self contained
with solar power and, at night, a diesel generator. The well water
is as good as any I have had -- probably due to the size of the aquifer
which has no large population pulling on it.
The front of the hacienda
José preparing the grill for the Saturday night east. The arbor
above is lined with ocotillo stalks -- a very practical use of this
otherwise useless plant.
José and Albert near the north corner of the hacienda. Dark skies
and quiet -- it is quite different than life near any city.
José, a professional chef when not flying, help prepare dinner.
Albert tends the flank steaks on the grill. Fresh corn tortillas,
salsas, guacamole, onion, cheese -- makes for some great comida!
The stables. There are many handsome horses on the ranch.
The vaqueros are some of the best cowboys in the world. They live
a life here that has not changed much in a hundred years.
The ranch guests. Albert Terrazas is third from the left.
The main entrance to El Plan
José with one of the beauties in the stable.
It is a vast place. The rio going through the center of the ranch
is just visible. "Alamo" is Spanish for the Poplar tree
which grows along the banks of the rio. José and I are thankful for being
invited to the ranch. We will return and fly it, including the
surrounding mountains, sometime later when the air is not so rowdy as it
often is in the spring. We hope everyone will see the general
utility of a powered paraglider. Launching early in the morning
(possible nearly every day of the year), a pilot can check out a huge
ranch in a fraction of the time it would take to do it in any other kind
March 26 Wednesday -- Flight through Transmountain Pass --
Back on March 3, Had Robinson did a promotional flight to help efforts
to get Castner Range given to Franklin Mountains State Park. The
idea was to contrast the east side of the Franklins with the west side.
There was a lot more video that was used by various groups but this
contains the gist:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSUel4ByGy4 Please enjoy!
March 24 Monday -- Sod Farm Soaring Delights, Part II -- This
was day two of supreme weather conditions for flight training.
Sunday was a day of strong but laminar winds so pilots got very high.
Monday afternoon was a day of light winds but organized thermals.
Pilots Bill Cobb, Max Bennett, and Tom Bird were present. One of
Max's employees, Chad, was a helpful visitor. Light winds allow
thermals to nicely form on the ground and then lift off in a more
organized way that pilots can safely use, especially in the later
afternoon when there intensity is lower. Today, Max was the lucky
pilot who launched at just the right time to have one of the longest
flights ever from launch under tow. He was 8-10 minutes in the
Max near the end of his amazing flight in a huge thermal that let go
near the north edge of the sod farm. Most thermals in our desert
region are narrow but this one was huge -- a few hundred yards in
diameter so it was fairly easy for new pilots to stay in it.
Tom getting the lines correctly in hand. It is critical to pilot
safety to instantly identify the lines and know what each one does.
Students must spend many hours getting this right.
When a pilot is ready to launch at the sod farms, this is what he sees.
The white streak in the lower right is the tow line going out 1/4 mile
to the turn around pulley mounted on a truck and then comes back to the
pilot. Launching a pilot is just the same as pulling up a kite
into the air.
FlightBabe1 (Marilyn) and Bill. Marilyn goes out and retrieves the
drogue parachute (which is connected to the tow line). She brings
it all back to launch so the next pilot can launch. She is an
expert rider of the ATV. We thank her for her valuable help in
making training efficient for our pilots.
March 23 Sunday -- Sod Farm Soaring Delights -- Sunday
afternoon favored us with unusually good conditions: a steady east wind
of about 10-12 mph. Accordingly, this was a day to remember for
kiting and getting high under tow at the sod farm. Pilots were Lee
Boone, Tom Bird, Max Bennett, and Had Robinson (tow operator).
When winds are strong at launch, pilots will easily get 1,000 AGL.
It was a time to practice landings and basic maneuvers in the air.
Just before dark, Lee and Had took to the sky via paramotor in the
The (3) pilots -- Max, Tom, and Lee improving their skills while on
the ground. The best pilots are always the best on the ground for
that is where you learn the skills to fly safely in the air.
Max coming in. He has to land within 25' of an orange cone.
Tom boating around in the sky in the buoyant air. We are fairly
certain that there were mountain waves in the vicinity. Tom was
surprised how long he was in the air and began to wonder, "Will I ever
Our local ace pilot, Lee Boone, flying high after a long tow.
March 20 Thursday -- Mag Rim HG & PG -- Robin Hastings,
daughter Keighley, Bill Cummings, Jan Zschenderlein, and Had Robinson
headed out to the Rim late in the morning. The forecast was for
boomer thermals in the afternoon which would work well for HG. Jan
and Had (both PG) launched into light winds before noon and had safe but
short flights. Jan even flew a 2nd time. Bill waited for
conditions to ripen -- and they did. He was able to get well over
1,000' above launch for over an hour of good flying. Keighley was
our official photographer.
The south end of Mag Rim. It is about 5600' MSL here and just
moist enough to grow a few mountain junipers. Some of the stumps here
are over 3' in diameter.
Jan and Robin helping Bill at launch. The air was coming in great
for launching a hang glider.
Up he goes for an hour flight
Keighley, Jan, and Robin get the cart ready to take Robin's glider back
to the truck. It is a short 8 minute walk to the fence.
Walking back from the Rim
March 20 Thursday PM -- Training at the sod farms in the PM --
Student pilots Tom Bird and Max Bennett came out to the farms in the
late afternoon to work on the more advanced sections of their P2
training: landing consistently within 25' of a spot. The winds
were high and then weak during the afternoon which made this difficult.
Practice makes perfect....
Because of the stronger air, Max was able to get higher than he ever
had. He is behind launch in this photo and is burning off
Tom on final glide. It looks easy landing in a tight spot but it
takes (50) times to do it well.
February 23 -- west face of the E. Potrillo Mountains -- I
(Had Robinson) flew the west face and also encountered some turbulence
from virga in the area. This region is near the Continental Divide
which often makes it a place where the air mixes from east and west.
If the air is slightly unstable, this is one of the first places where
storms will form. Today it was a case of light virga. As
this pilot discovered, even light virga can be hazardous causing
significant vertical sheer in the atmosphere.
Near launch on Hwy 9. The virga above the East Potrillo's is
visible. Strong west winds pushed the moist air up the mountains
where it condensed into rain.
Coming around the south end of the range. The virga is visible
directly over the ridge.
Ridge soaring along the west face heading northwest. The air was
unusually laminar and smooth -- a delight.
The virga was easing off. Cox Peak, Mt. Riley, and the West
Potrillo's are visible in the distance.
And then this.... Notice that the glider is fully inflated.
It was going at top speed -- which is why it is always best to fly hands
up. The frontal collapse went from right to left across the entire
glider in about a second. It was caused by a dagger of cold air
from the virga going down at probably 10 mph. I do not know how
wide the turbulence was, but it was not more than 10 yards. I was
in and out of it in 3 seconds or less. Being a 1,000' above the
ground and not near the ridge makes collapses like this relatively
benign. The glider will return to normal flight quickly.
However, it is not enjoyable and is why I plan to stay away from virga
of any kind from now on. Nonetheless, part of our P2 training is
to simulate small frontal collapses at the sod farm which helps pilots
respond properly when it does happen. By learning how the
atmosphere works, a pilot can choose conditions which are completely
calm or very lively. However, in order to stay aloft in thermals,
pilots must learn how to manage active air.
Here is a short video of the collapse.
I then decided to land and take a breather. I was about a mile
west of the Potrillo's. However, it got too dark to safely
re-launch so I had to hike back to my truck (sans gear). It was
about 7 miles away on the other side of the range. However, a
friendly U.S. Border Patrol agent saw me walking along and gave me a
lift. I picked up my gear later. There is no cell service
here but I do have radio contact via the Ham repeaters and a SPOT
satellite communicator. It was a great experience -- and hike
through the desert.
March 19 Wednesday -- Heavy Dust over our Region -- Lee Boone
& Had Robinson launched from the sod farm late in the afternoon into the
thick haze over the region. We learned from the National Weather
Service that there had been a severe wind storm in the Texas panhandle
and northeastern New Mexico. A backdoor cold front that followed a
local upper level disturbance pulled in the dust-laden air.
Visibility was less than few miles. We flew to the border and
west, just as the sun was setting. It all made for some eerie
photographs and flying, somewhat like flying in fog near the ocean.
Over the desert looking east. The Franklin Mountains are not
Heading west along the border. I am but 5' above the road.
Here is a (1) minute video of
our flight --
we landed just after sunset.
March 8-11 Pecos River Ranch Expedition -- Combining my work
with Trail Life, USA, and paragliding I (Had Robinson) went out with (4)
Trail Life adults and (10) boys to the River Ranch located on the Pecos
River south of I-10. The boys learned many back country and
camping skills including canoeing, gun safety, and marksmanship.
It was also an excuse for me to help the ranch owner, Jim Perry, get
aerial photos of his ranch for various improvement projects. Only
a paraglider can safely cruise into deep and narrow canyons while
following the terrain. It was gracious of Mr. Perry to share his
beautiful ranch with the Trail Life troop. Thank you!
The Pecos River. To the far left is John Fausett, a Trail Life
The River Ranch looking southeast. The Pecos has carved a huge
canyon in the Edwards Plateau of central Texas
March 5-6 Wednesday-Thursday Training -- We welcome new P1 pilots,
Aaron & Katie Karmes from Killeen, TX. We were able to squeeze two
solid days of flying at the sod farms despite the week's less than
optimal weather. We hope that they will soon return to continue
their training! Continuing student pilot, Max Bennett (P2) was
also able to get away from work to join us. As a P2, Max had the
difficult task of nailing the LZ within 25'. It is one of the
usual qualities of a paraglider that good pilots can land regularly
within a 10' circle. Only when a pilot really knows the glide
angle of his wing and his speed over the ground at all times can he have
topnotch landing skills.
Katie (L) & Aaron (R) learning how to setup for launch at the sod farm.
Aaron ready to fly.
Katie ready to go. Note the pilot's stance -- she has to be ready
to run. Paragliding is an excellent way to stay in shape.
Aaron coming in on his first flight safely. We always want to land
on our feet going straight into the wind.
Aaron the "happy pilot" after a good flight. Like any sport, it's
all about how much you practice the basic skills.
Max ready to launch. The better a pilot launches his paraglider,
the higher he will get on tow. Experienced pilots have the skills
to get nearly twice as high as beginners -- which we would expect!
Max nailing the cone in the LZ. In order to qualify as a P2 pilot,
he has to be able to consistently do this. A lot is going on when
a pilot takes off and when he gets near the ground. To do both
safely, he must have skills that are fluent. His safety depends on
February 26 Wednesday -- Today, the air seemed inviting at the
sod farms but, lurking nearby, was virga which may often be accompanied
by turbulent downdrafts. On top of that, the NWS told us about a
convergence (layman's terms: a battle zone between two air masses) a few
miles west of the sod farms. Weather battle zones tend to be hostile to
ultralights. As a result of these potential hazards, we stayed on the
ground for training today. Accordingly, new pilots Max Bennett and
Hunter Davis honed their skills keeping their wings in the air --
sometimes for many minutes. "If you can kite well, you can fly even
Hunter (L) and Max (R)
What Mt. Riley looked like some years ago -- when we had rain....
February 22 Saturday -- Trip West -- XC travel is always a
joy. Early today was a good time to enjoy our vast deserts and
temperate climate. Had Robinson (yours truly) landed "out".
No one is ever in these remote places except an occasional cow or two.
The mountains in the photo below are (23) miles away. Except for a
few miles by the mountains, the entire space is what you see here.
February 21 Friday -- Towing -- This was to be a full day of
flying except for a short time mid afternoon. Winds aloft were
strong and the afternoon was forecast to have a lot of mixing with the
higher winds aloft. This not only results in high winds on the
surface but turbulence. However, there was an abundance of
moisture (clouds) up high and this shut down a lot the mixing -- so we
were able to fly basically all day. Student pilots Tom Bird and
Max Bennett perfected their skills, especially being able to
consistently land in the same spot. With winds being moderate to
high, they had a lot of valuable kiting practice, even playing tag.
In higher winds, kiting for long periods is more difficult. The
beauty of it is that a pilot will get the sense of his brake input range
without ever leaving the ground. As training advances, pilots
become more consistent in the required tasks. Every launch and
landing must be perfect -- every time.
Tom Bird coming in. The high moisture content of the upper
atmosphere played interesting tricks with the camera. The halo
around the sun and glider is due to refraction of light on ice particles
high in the atmosphere.
Pilots (L-R) Max, Tom, and Tom's wife Becky. Max is getting ready
to be pulled aloft by our hydraulic winch,
Tom (L) and Max (R) kiting. The best pilots are also the best
kiters. We can do nearly everything on the ground that we can do
in the air. Not sure who is "it". Instructor Had Robinson
(yours truly) is so proud of these guys -- they did a superb job of
controlling their gliders on the ground. The deep clouds darkened
things a bit.
This photo of Tom and Max kiting was taken from about 40,000' MSL by a
military drone. I have a buddy who works for the DoD and
occasionally sends me photos of interest. Glad to know somebody is
watching things down here....