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paragliding past the south rim of El Penon, Valle de Bravo, Mexico in a UP Summit 
				XC paraglider SOUTHWEST AIRSPORTS paragliding near cloud base in Valle de Bravo, Mexico - pilot is Had Robinson

FLIGHT SCHOOL for PARAGLIDING

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We are based in Santa Teresa, NM where we can fly year round in our beautiful desert terrain and high mountains. We offer USHPA (paragliding) and USPPA (powered paragliding) certified training.

We are proud to train warriors of the U.S. Armed Forces - Please view I Fought for You.  This website is dedicated in memory of the heroes of U.S. Navy SEAL Team 10 and the SEALS in Operation Redwing who perished fighting the enemy in Afghanistan, June 2005.  Southwest Airsports is a U. S. defense contractor.

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Weather Info For explanations of the tools below and more weather info go here.
 
Intro to Weather in the southwest

El Paso National Weather Service - start here!

Meso West Region (Current conditions at stations in our region)

Santa Teresa NWS (current conditions)

Anapra Mesa (current conditions)

SPC Balloon Soundings (every 12 hours)

OP40 balloon soundings forecasts

UoW Balloon Soundings - usually available before the SPC soundings 72364

NWS hourly graphical forecast - temp, winds, & gusting at the surface

Jet Stream &
4 day forecast

El Paso US Airnet winds & temps aloft

NOAA Satellite image of clouds over west Texas - NM

National forecast of fronts, pressure & weather - easy to read

Soaring Forecasts - (go here for the thermal index)

ADDS - wind & temp forecasts at various altitudes

Dixon White's Notes on Desert Flying (courtesy of Eagle Paragliding)

Wind Map - animated map of winds over the surface of the U.S.

Wind History Map - actual vs. forecasts

Midland, TX weather tools

 

Current & Future Events

January 19-February 9 -- No Training -- No training scheduled until the week of February 9th.

Contact us to schedule training.  Space is limited.  All training is 100% dependent on weather conditions. Before coming out, check your email and the web site to be sure training is not canceled.  If something comes up, I will attempt to text scheduled pilots.  We train at sod farm #4 unless otherwise specified.  AM training begins at 9AM and 3PM.  Pilots can always arrive earlier than the scheduled times to setup and practice kiting and inflations.

January 24 - February 8 -- Colombia Cross Country Paragliding Adventure --  no training during this time

February 18-23 -- SIV Clinic Elephant Butte, N.M. -- Max Marien and Karina Gomez have organized an SIV Clinic in mid February at Elephant Butte in NM.  Max Marien is the current U.S. acro champion, so this is a special SIV clinic for PGs.  Sean Buckner will be supporting the towing.  There will be two tranches for the event. The first is Feb 18-20 with 21st as a rain delay and the second session is 21-23 with the 24th as a rain delay.  The event is $900 with a 50% deposit required for registered pilots.  Contact Arizona Paragliding to sign up at (480) 294-1887.

Recent Events

January 26-28 -- Titiribi, Jerico, & La Pintada - We took off and headed across the Andes and visited these three sites.

Titiribi launch - The Cauca River is visible below launch in the distance.  A little town, Bolombolo, is visible in the distance which is located right on the river and is the choice LZ.  Lift from this site is strong.  About 1/2 mile in front, the air was easily doing over 1,200'/min.  The launch area was clear and suitable for both hang gliding and paragliding.  Why aren’t PG & HG pilots flocking here from all over the world? Getting to launch is difficult and long and the distance between launch and the LZ is probably over an hour drive. On top of that, there are no hotels in the area = remote but really nice!  Here is some YouTube video of some launches and landings at one of the sites.



Bolombolo -- the LZ is the long field right next to the river.



The LZ.  The locals rarely see paragliders or hang gliders so it is quite an attraction.  They always want to help.  We saw a boy there of about 12 who had badly maimed his hand with a machete a day or two earlier.  It was obvious from the stitches that medical care is not the best but adequate.



The coffee plant -- Colombian coffee is the finest in the world.  The pen hanging in the plant is to give everyone an idea of the size of the plant and its fruit.  As the coffee fruit ripens it turns red.  The reason the Colombian coffee is so good is because the beans are picked by hand when they are ripe -- just the correct shade of red.  The fruit does not ripen all at the same time.  The actual bean/seed inside the fruit is colorless and tastes like hay at this stage.  All coffee is roasted and that is what gives it its special flavor.  Remember that these plants grow on the sides of the Andes Mountains where the terrain usually a 45° to 55° slope.  I cannot imagine the work required to pick these beans.  Banana trees are often seen among the coffee plants.

When the beans have the outer fruit removed, they are dried in the sun on special floors in the farmer's barn.  The dried bean is then packed in bags and sent to a processor.  The 3rd photo (R) is the owner of a coffee processing business in Jerico, about 6,000' MSL or so.  He opened his place just for us.  The machine to the far right is a coffee hulling machine.  It was made in the late 1800's.  The processor told us there is nothing as good as this machine for hulling the bean, even today.   


   

The beans before before and after being hulled.  The machine the coffee-master in showing is the roaster.  It bakes the beans at around 450°F.

   

The coffee beans at different stages of roasting.  The far upper right beans were cooked for about 16 minutes at 450°.  These dark beans are the typical beans we find at Starbucks.  The cost of the unprocessed beans is about $2/lb -- not much.  The correct processing of the coffee beans is critical to their flavor.  The guy here is an expert in the subtleties of how to bring out the correct smell and flavor of the coffee bean.  Of course, the smell of this place was heavenly.



The launch at Jerico with yours truly.  We do not need to fly to cloudbase -- we are above cloudbase!  So far, only Titiribi has an LZ that would work for hang gliders.  The other LZ's are all cramped and hilly and hard enough to land a paraglider in.



Facing out from launch.  I was ready to launch from here but we got there about 1/2 hour too late and the little hole in the clouds was closing.  It would have been one of the most beautiful flights I would have ever had. 



We left Jerico and moved on to La Pintada and our hotel gorgeous hotel.



The launch at La Pintada.  It is about 5,000'MSL and much closer to the valley floor than the others we have visited.  This is simply that there are no roads to the tops of the peaks in this region.  Roger, a retired firefighter from Washington state launches in dead air late in the afternoon for a little fun.  We all had to run hard to get in the air.  I followed him right after -- one of (4) that day who launched.  Because we are near the equator, dawn and dusk are very quick.  We only had about 30 minutes before it would be dark.



This is the La Pintada LZ.  It is hilly with switchy winds, especially just now when it will be dark 15 minutes.  I landed just where the white glider landed.  There are more flat areas to land but they are not near any roads.  This is country is up and down.  The landing area I picked was 30 yards long and 10 yards long -- a lot smaller than we are used to in the southwest.



Safely down in the tall grass at the end of the day.  Roads in Colombia are few because they are so expensive to build.  That is why we try to land near them unless we want to walk for miles.

January 25 - Sunday -- Santa Fe de Antioquia - We traveled from Medellin, Colombia north about 50 miles to this town founded in 1541 A.D.  This is a vertical country located in the Andes Mountains.  Paragliding launch sites, as one can imagine, are abundant in Colombia despite most of them being undeveloped.  That is, access and being clear of vegetation are minimal.  The site below is located at the north end of Cauca River valley.  The river flows through Santa Fe.  On the east side of the river the Andes tower up above cloud base.  The enormous mountains (+3,000m) eliminate the effects of winds aloft (which are light in any case) at the surface.  Translated: flying sites here are thermic with winds at launch determined by the location and intensity of the sun.  When the sun pokes out from behind clouds, the winds at this launch changed 180 degrees from west (and over the back) to east.  This is due to the powerful thermals in the Valley at this time of year which tend to suck in the cooler Pacific Ocean air over the mountain passes to the west of the Valley.  As launch faces east, we had to wait for the right cycles as launching downwind off the side of a mountain is not recommended.

Launch N6.60427° W75.85669°  Plug these coordinates into Google Earth for a view of this region.


 

Waiting for the winds to switch at launch.  At the moment, they were coming right over the back of launch(!).



The LZ near the Cauca River.  The lift was going away in the afternoon and it was time to land.

January 20 - Tuesday -- E Potrillo Mountains -- PPG pilots Tom Bird, Max Bennett, and I (Had Robinson) headed out to our favorite PPG launch site that is just southeast of the south end of the Potrillo's for a late afternoon adventure.  The winds were light out of the west/southwest.  Launching outside the sod farms requires caution because the desert is, generally, a huge thermal generator and, as the winds get light towards the end of the day, they can change quickly as thermal releases of air masses nearby can change the wind direction.

There is another maar south of Hwy 9 which sits right on the U.S. - Mexico border and best seen from the air.  We were able to fly up the west face of the mountain range about 1/2 way.  It was a pleasant evening flying west of the East Potrillo Mountains.

Tom high above the southern tip of the Potrillo's.  View is northeast with the Organ Mountains far in the distance.



The west face of the range.  In the distance (L-R) are Mt. Cox and Mt. Riley.  It is a secluded region. The white spot in the distance is a dirt tank that has water in it.



January 16-17 -- Training
-- Hunter Davis was able to get into town to continue his PG training at the sod farms.  We are all glad he made it back safely from an overseas tour.  On Saturday, Hunter was joined by Max Bennett who is continuing to hone his powered paragliding skills.

Hunter getting towed up at the magic time of day.  The winds aloft were good Friday.



January 15-Thursday -- High Winds Aloft -- I (Had Robinson) have an assignment to video the top ridge of the Franklins close-up from north to south.  Today looked like the right day to do it.  Taking off from the sod farms, I headed east, climbing the entire time.  As I got around 7,000'MSL near the Rio Grande River, it seemed that the aircraft was slowing down as I did not seem to be moving.  Looking down at the instruments, I noted that I was moving around 7 mph.  But something was amiss.  I looked again and I was going 7 mph but backwards!  Well, that explained why I felt like I was "parked" up there.  Climbing to over 8,200' MSL, the headwinds increased even more.  It was surprising that a 22 mph difference in the winds near the surface and at altitude did not create more turbulence than it did.  It was bouncy up there but not more than I would expect close to a mountain range.  I had to forget filming the Franklins.

It was getting dark and I was still going backwards so I turned and went downwind.  Looking at my GPS, it registered 56 mph over the ground, the fastest I have ever been over the ground in a paraglider.  What was novel was looking at the ground from almost a mile high and watching it move.  If I had had more time, I would have flown downwind a few hours, maybe beating a state record for distance covered by a paraglider in a single flight....

I snapped this from altitude.  The beautiful Organ Mountains west of Las Cruces, NM are visible in the distance.  I could see Sierra Blanca clearly from my clear perch in the sky way away to the north.

January 11 Sunday -- Magdalena Rim -- Jason Tilley and I (Had Robinson) went out to Mag in the late afternoon hoping conditions would be strong enough to stay up over the Rim.  When we arrived at around 4:00PM, it was blowing a steady 20 mph out of the west -- too much for PG but just right for HG.  We waited around until near sunset before launching in the weaker conditions that usually occur at that time.  I went up first and, just when the sun was about to go down, the winds shifted to the northwest.  If Mag did not have the Uvas Mountains north, it would not particularly matter but as it is, winds from that direction will cause rotor and turbulence at the Rim.  Jason also launched and we both experienced the expected turbulence.  To be safe, we both headed out and landed near the tank in front.  It was a long hike back but the scenery and views cannot be beat around here.

Jason at middle launch. 



It was getting dark when we launched so we headed out, away from everything, which is always the best option when the air is not the best.

January 6 Tuesday -- Training -- Phil Ehly continued his PPG training, gaining more confidence during the launch routine.  All pilots find it easy to become overwhelmed at launch by the engine at full power, the glider overhead, wind direction while running, etc.  That is why it is best to learn & practice single events as much as possible until they become routine.

Phil circling the sod farm after a successful, well done launch.

December 31 Wednesday -- Alpine, Texas Ice Storm -- There were many reasons not to fly today and here was one....  The photos below of the ice storm that gripped central Texas were taken near and on the eastern rim of Marfa plateau that is just west of Alpine.



I was driving a sturdy 4 wheel drive truck with off-road tires.  Nonetheless, I just poked along because the road had a coating of pure ice on it.  Thankfully, the TX DOT had spread some cinders on it.  I stopped once to test the surface.  It was like stepping on a skating rink.  Thankfully, the storm's edge was just southeast of Alpine.  The roads were clear from that point on to where I was headed -- Dryden, TX where I participated in a deep-cave expedition.



I thought, "What if these were paraglider lines instead of grass?"  A recent article in Cross Country Magazine noted that ice/water on a glider causes it to deep stall more easily.  I once launched in a wet glider and I would say that about 50% of its lift went away.  CC Mag was right....



December 29 Monday -- Kilbourne Hole
-- Jason Tilley, Jeroen Kusters, and I (Had Robinson) continued our marathon weekend of flying the sites of our region, despite the weather.  Today it was Kilbourne Hole maar.  It was not a good day as a disturbance was passing overhead and caused the Jet stream at 30,000' MSL to mix down to the surface.  When air going over 120 knots meets surface air, it is not pretty.  For us in ultralights it means TURBULENCE.  As a result, we had to wait around at launch until dusk waiting for the Jet to go back up to where it belonged.  Even then, the air was a bit quirky and in the process of changing from west to south.  Thankfully, Kilbourne can be flown from just about any direction.

With Mt. Riley in the background, Kilbourne is a beautiful place.  Where Jeroen (R) and I (L) are standing, the winds were coming in at a steady 20 mph and gusting to 25, thanks to the Jet stream.  The LZ in the lower right is a full 1/4 mile across -- hard to miss, even in the dark.



Jeroen inflates his glider in strong air ready to take off.



Off he goes....  It is not as dark as it looks.



Jason preparing to launch.  Today was a first for him:  His first foot-launch from a mountain site or, really, from a maar.  There are not a hundred pilots in the entire world who have launched from this peculiar volcanic formation.  The white dots are from the flash reflecting off of blowing dust at launch.  Both Jason and Jeroen landed at the bottom of the maar and had to make the hike back out to launch.  Hiking out from the bottom is a ritual that all flyers of Kilbourne must do at least once.



 

December 28 Sunday -- Transmountain -- It was off again to challenge the weather-gods to see if there might be some thermals somewhere.  It was sunny and the winds were light and out of the west so Transmountain looked the best -- and closest.  Jeroen Kusters and I (Had Robinson) headed out.  Magdalena Rim would have had similar conditions but it would have been a 140 mile round trip if there was not enough air to stay up.  Jeroen did find a thermal out front but he was close to the ground and deep turns are not recommended and he had to let it go.  I did not find anything.  It was a sled-ride but it was still fun to fly in the light conditions.  We were the only ones to foot-launch an ultralight in the state of Texas that day.  Here is a short video of our flights that day.



December 27 Saturday -- Mt. Riley & Torrey Paso
-- Jeroen Kusters and I (Had Robinson) headed out to do a double trip to Mt. Riley (AM) and then to Torrey Paso launch in the East Potrillo Mountains (PM).  These are BOTH hike 'n fly sites with significant vertical.  With a standard PG harness and glider we are talking about some weight that has to be carried.  Like the day before, it was cold, cloudy, and conditions were weak.  As we hiked up Riley, it began to snow lightly.  Above 6,000' MSL, it was below freezing and the earlier ice storm had left some beautiful signs.   We made some videos of the highlights of both trips here:  Mt. Riley & Torrey Paso.

NM County Road A14 which goes west to Mt. Riley across the desert.



Approaching Riley from the southwest on one of the jeep trails.



The LZ near the base.  We have used this relatively clear area for years.  It is far enough from the mountain to minimize the effects of rotor and turbulence caused by winds swirling through the pass between it and Mt. Cox (to the left of the photo and unseen).  View is northeast.



Mt. Cox in the clouds.  We are about 1/2 way up Riley.  In the distance are the West Portillo Mountains. 



An ocotillo cactus near the summit of Riley.  In the distance is Mt. No-Name -- not sure why only two of the three peaks in the area were named....





At the summit -- a pleasant place to spread out a glider.  In the spring - fall, it is covered with grass.  View is northwest.  This is dark sky country.



Preparing to launch.  Conditions were weak (no sun - light winds) so we did not expect to be up long.  We were surprised, nonetheless as there were actually some thermals that had drifted in and located themselves southeast of the mountain.  If they had been just a little stronger and not so close to the rocks, we both could have gotten up another 500'-1000'.  Why not higher?  Thermals stop at cloud base or very near to it.  When we arrived at the summit, it was in the clouds but base was lifting.  If there had been much of a breeze up there we would have been very cold but the long hike with gear helped us stay warm for awhile.



Mt. Riley magic -- how else can anyone get a view like this except from a hang glider or a paraglider?  Jeroen is just about to launch.  He is barely visible.  His wing is just inflating just to the left of the summit.  View is SSE to the East Potrillo Mountains.  The bright spots are from the sun poking through the thick cloud cover here and there.



We are finally both in the air!



Jeroen working a thermal northeast of the peak.



Coming in to the LZ after pleasant and easy flights.



We jumped in the truck and headed to Torrey Paso launch in the East Potrillo Mountains.  We drove to the end of the jeep trail and began the shorter hike (than Riley) to the top of the spine of the mountains.  View here is ENE.



Torrey Paso launch is a postage stamp so everything has to be perfect before launch.  Conditions were getting weaker by the minute so we had no time to lose.  When winds are strong, pilots must be careful to not get close to the pass just above launch and risk getting blown over the back.  It probably would not amount to anything except a ten mile hike through the desert as there are no roads on the west side of these mountains.



Jeroen gets away from launch safely -- now it is my turn.  The little bit of ridge lift left in the day was in front of the slope to our right due to the NE wind coming in.  We both had little more than sled-rides as conditions were weakening quickly at the end of the day.  It was more challenging landing on the road below as the nightly katabatic flow began down the slopes.  Jeroen is also an experienced pilot and we both knew the risks of making turns near the ground when approaching an LZ, especially this one.



December 26 Friday -- Transmountain -- Visiting pilot, Jeroen Kusters of Houston, TX, visited us for the weekend to enjoy some time-off and sample the paragliding in our region.  We all knew that our weather would not be the best this weekend (either calm or storms) but we would try the air anyway.  Transmountain is still in the test phase so Jeroen and I (Had Robinson) went there first.  Access is an easy walk from the top of the Pass.  As expected, the air was not doing much.    Sinking-out requires landing out front but it is fairly easy to hike right back to launch.  This is another reason Transmountain is an attractive site.

The Franklins just south of the Pass.



Jeroen watches as I prepare my glider for launching.  We will be back when conditions are better.


 

December 24-25 Wednesday-Thursday Training -- Daniel Rivera (Midland, TX) came into town for the Christmas holidays and, while visiting family, continued his training right on schedule.  We have had very good days of stable air in the region so it was a good time to come.  Just the same, I (instructor Had Robinson) launched and sampled the air.  It was east at the surface and but 200' up it was from the south.  By noon, the high winds aloft had started to mix down so it was a good time to quit (and also to get back to the women).

On Thursday, Daniel did a first to our knowledge:  for a student pilot.  He came in for a landing with his paramotor off (always the best thing to do), landed safely, kited his wing for a bit, and THEN reached back and started his motor again while letting go of the brakes.  He then took off for another flight.  This is a difficult feat to do without losing control of the glider.  Watch the video here.

Daniel coming in for a landing -- power off (dead-stick).  Pilots must master landing w/o power for safety.  We had the whole region to ourselves today.  It was bit cold, however.



A great day of training.  While Daniel (R) and I (Had Robinson - L) posed for the photo, we heard a "thud" -- not sure what it was....  Merry Christmas everyone!

vulture

   

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