paraglider being inflated on the rim at Kilbourne Hole 
				maar, Dona Ana County, TX

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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


  Training & Discovery Flight Information - go here  

Flying Site Info for Pilots - go here

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 &
6ZN Santa Teresa (current conditions Santa Teresa, NM)

SPC Balloon Soundings  (For the OP40 soundings forecasts go here)

UoW Balloon Soundings - usually available before the SPC soundings 72364

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

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4 day forecast

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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

Training October 20-27 -- Training is on for Thursday afternoon.  We will setting up after 4PM at sod farm #4 on the north side.  Let us know if you can help or want to train.

November 1-2 -- Amigo Airsho 2014 Dona Ana County Airport, Santa Teresa, NM -- The El Paso Paramotor Demo Team Air Dolphins will flying in this year's show along the Golden Knights Army parachute team, the Thunderbirds, and many other top aviation performing groups.  Come see us!

January 24 - February 8 -- Colombia Cross Country Paragliding Adventure -- Sad to say, this tour is now completely booked.  If people drop out, spaces may become available.  Let us know if you want to go.  You cannot beat the cost, the friendly locals, and the amazing air.  It is better XC than Valle de Bravo and is lower key.  The cost is $1,300 for (15) days and includes everything except airfare, lunches, and dinners.  It is only for pilots who are P3 rated and have some cross country experience.  Thermalling skill is required.  If you do not make it this year, you can reserve your spot early for 2016.  It is important to plan ahead.


Contact us for information about paragliding, events, or flying in our region.  Visitors are always welcome at our training sessions and at our flying sites.  They can also assist pilots.  Directions to our training site (the sod farms) are here.

Recent Events

October 8 Wednesday -- AGAVE HILL PG & PPG -- It is always good for pilots to get familiar with a new site.  It increases the safety factor.  Tom Bird and I (Had Robinson) hiked up to launch once again to fly the Franklins.  We had thought conditions would be stronger today and the opposite turned out to be the case.  We both were able to successfully launch and land.  Being that our PG flights were rather short, we re-launched by paramotor and were able to enjoy the evening air in the Franklins.

Tom taking off from a perfectly good mountain.  He is flying over Deep Sink Canyon -- a place of (you guessed it) deep sink.  He made it to the LZ over a mile away.  These short flights (sled-rides) are important ways to gain confidence.

Tom landing after a nice flight in the Franklins.  We carry the required strobe lights when flying at the end of the day.  Winds were westerly.  Then why is he landing to the east (downwind) towards the mountains?  Near sunset the katabatic flow begins in the mountains.  If the winds aloft are weak (as they were), the katabatic winds will dominate.  In this case, they are 180 degrees opposite the winds aloft.  We have to be careful and post windsocks in the LZ because we must be sure to land into the wind.  The LZ in the photo below is the main road coming into the Tom Mays Unit of the Park.  It has a stretch that can be used to land in either direction safely.

October 7 Tuesday -- AGAVE HILL -- We have had but few days when we could soar the Franklins.  Unlike Dry Canyon, we have to wait for west winds that go up thousands of feet.  If they change directions near the earth's surface, we can expect a lot of turbulence which can be annoying and uncomfortable while flying in the mountains.  When conditions are right, we can enjoy both ridge lift and thermals at the same time.  Because of cooling late in the day, a pilot cannot wait too long to "bench up" from launch.  If the winds are strong enough to soar Agave Hill, they will be way too strong higher up.  Instead, pilots must ride thermals up from Agave and THEN get into the ridge lift higher up which also is mixed with thermals.  Today was the day to fly in the Franklins.

Tom Bird, Max Bennett, and I (Had Robinson) made the trek to the Tom Mays division of Franklin Mountains State Park and up to Agave Hill.  The walk with gear from the parking lot to launch takes about 15 minutes.  I launched first.  This was Tom's first launch from a mountain site.  It was a time to get away from the familiarity and comfort of the sod farm.  Launching 1.5 hours or less until sunset runs the risk of not being able to get up and over the top of the Franklins.  I launched at about 5:30PM which was 1.25 hours before sunset.  I did find one little thermal but it was just a tiny bit too weak to take me up. Tom launched shortly afterward.  By that the atmosphere was calming down = becoming dead near the surface.  If you can get away and up from Agave, the winds are enough to stay up and are not affected by the daily inversion.  While we were at the LZ, the wind changed at the surface and began its nightly flow down the mountain slopes.  While Max did not fly, he was a great help in picking Tom and I up at the various LZ's scattered around the base of the mountains.

Tom packing up after his first successful free-flight from a mountain site.

Sneed's Quarry --- a popular rock climbing spot in Tom Mays.  It also was generating the small thermal that I almost got out in.

Had congratulating for his milestone in the air.  In the background is the top of the "Triangle".  A pilot has to make it up the Triangle in order to get high and over the top of the range.  In the far distance, the summit of N. Mt. Franklin can just be seen.  Well done Tom! (Photo by Max Bennett)

October 5-6 Sunday - Monday -- Flying in Fast Air -- We have been blessed with a great mass of cold dry air that has ended our season of quirky monsoon air.  At altitude it was moving along at about 15+ knots which is fast for paragliders but it was smooth.  It is the same direction up for thousands of feet.  This means less shear turbulence = less getting bounced and thrown around so much.  While the surface of the earth is getting dark at the end of the day, the atmosphere above was still brightly lit.

Gliding peacefully along without power and with the moon....

The U.S. - Mexico Santa Teresa border crossing just after sunset.  The border runs right up and down the middle of the photo.  It is not as dark as it looks.

October 3 Friday -- Training -- Shawn Goggin soloed today for round 2 of his PPG1 training.  He had amazing flights under tow.  What was unusual (and I do not remember ever seeing before) was a new pilot having dead-on control of the glider while under tow.  All new pilots zigzag across the sky when they first tow as they must learn how to finesse glider input. Not Shawn....  Now to be fair to other new pilots, Shawn told me that had some 500 jumps as a skydiver.  This explains some of it -- he knows about canopies.  However, A paraglider is probably 10X more sensitive than a parachute so he still had an amazing first set of flights -- nailed every one.  Congrats, Shawn!

Beside our winch that allows pilots much more time in the air to train safely compared to launching from a small hill.

September 30 Tuesday -- Training -- When it's good, it's hard to get pilots to land!  We want to welcome another new student, Shawn Goggin of El Paso, who is training for his PPG1 rating. Shawn was accompanied by student pilot Marcey Gillespie and pilot Tom Bird.  We had fast but outstanding air in the late afternoon and early evening.  It was too north for any of our sites but for the sod farms -- no problem!  Marcey launched first and went STRAIGHT up.  She could have gone -- from a static tow -- over 5,000' AGL which is about the limit of a winch, regardless of how much line there is (drag becomes a problem after around 10,000' of release line = about 5,000' of altitude above ground).  If it had not been getting towards dark, had she a reserve parachute and a bit more experience, I (instructor Had Robinson) would have let go.  It would have been a record by 4X.  The winch only paid out line (as the pilot went up).  There was no pay-in.  When I instructed Marcey to release from tow, the drogue floated down from altitude just in front of the winch -- a first.  A great flight for a new student to get so high.  Shawn assisted the other pilots.  Thank you for the help.  Marcey had a smooth and easy second launch and flight.  Last to fly was Tom Bird who landed just as it became dark, about 1/2 hour past sunset.  We put a new type of strobe on him which is much more visible than the usual ones PG pilots use.  We will stock for sale these new safety devices (about $22).  The winds were NW at 7 on the surface and went up to 18 just above.  The pilots all noted how smooth the gradients were as they went up -- not a bump.

Our happy three: Tom, Marcey, and Shawn.  We flew until we could not see any more -- when you are having so much fun, why do you want to stop?  It's a good question....  The white line going through the photo is the tow line that goes across the farm for 1/4 mile and then back.  It is now time to pack up.

Marcey boating around in the buoyant air after a ten minute flight.  Flying at this time of day is always magic.  The view is west.  In the distance are the West Potrillo Mountains of southern Dona Ana County, NM.  It is getting dark.

About ten minutes later Tom landed.  The moon and some planets are visible.  Sadly, we had to stop flying for the day.  But there is next time!

September 29 Monday -- PPG high flight -- Getting high over the ground at dusk is not possible except with a paramotor.  Today was the official end of our monsoon season.  The air is tamer after this time but not as much fun.  The barometer was in the 29.9" region which means that it was going up -- generally.  On the ground it was getting dark but high up it was much brighter which can give some notable contrasts.  As I was gliding down from altitude I saw a lightning show in a huge cloud over the Tularosa Basin -- here is a video of it.  It was nearly dark at that time.

The moon peaking through the remains of the moisture in our region.

The atmosphere was cooling off and the clouds were sinking into warmer air and disappearing.  These were at about 10,000' MSL.  The Chiracahua mountains of Arizona are visible in the extreme distance.  It was too bad that I had to land....

September 27 Saturday -- Training & Air Show at Rancho Santa Maria Polo Club -- Nancy Meyers and Marcey Gillespie continued their P1 training at the sod farm.  This is the best time of year for us to train because the weather is a bit calmer and temperatures are more inviting for outdoor sports.  At the crack of dawn, Lee Boone and I (Had Robinson) went out to Rancho Santa Maria Polo Club to practice for an air show later that day.  Early morning is always the best time of day for air shows with late afternoon the next best.  The former is best because the sun has not had time to boil the air and get it churning and moving in every direction.  The end of the day is OK but there is still a lot going on from thermal inertia.

Below, Nancy getting setup to launch

Lee Boone practicing a foot drag across the polo field (try that in an airplane).  After the polo match was over in the late afternoon, we did some stunts and streamer displays in front of the crowd that had gathered to watch the match.  Our host, Arturo Bujanda, was very gracious and we enjoyed a fine dinner after the day's events.  Our team is known as the Air Dolphins.  We were accompanied by our communications operator, Marilyn Robinson, and crew chief, Daniel Rivera, also a student at Southwest Airsports.  It may sound surprising but it is impossible to have an air show without help that is on the ground.  The entire show is about 10 minutes or less and timing is everything.  That is where the help for the pilots is essential.  Thank you, Marilyn and Danny for your support!  They want us to come and perform next year -- of course! 

September 25 Thursday -- Weather to the South
-- One of our PG students, Fredy Neufeld, lives near Cuauhtémoc, Chih. and he took this photo of a tornado near his home.  The weather has been lively this year in our region.  This one did not damage anything other than some crops.  It is easy to tell what color the soil is....

September 25 Thursday -- Training & more Anapra Mesa -- Another new student pilot, Nancy Meyers, has joined our ranks.  She also resides in Las Cruces.  Nancy had her first flights late  today, launching and landing safely.  This is the best time of the year to train because the air is more relaxed, the ambient temperatures are cooler, and we can be in the air longer each day.  While we were training at the sod farms, Tom Bird was at Anapra Mesa soaring the ridge.  He is thoroughly hooked with ridge soaring.  We have been recently obliged with the right kind of air to do it.  (The photos below are quite late in the day and are not as sharp as usual -- our apologies.)

It was dark when finally got pilots and gear back to launch.  Below, Nancy (L) and Marcey (R) are helping put the glider away.

It's getting late but why land as long as you can see? In the distance are the evening lights of Juarez, Mexico.  The Mesa is along the lower right of the photo.  The U.S. Mexico border fence is the dark line along the ground.  When Anapra is "on" -- it's really fun to fly!

September 24 Wednesday -- Training -- We want to welcome our newest PPG student, Marcey Gillespie, of Las Cruces.  Many moons ago, Marcey did some serious hang gliding in the Albuquerque area and is now learning to paraglide.  After she gets her skills honed, she will begin her training with a paramotor.  It is the only logical way to safely learn how to do PPG.

Marcey by our wonderful winch -- it allows us to train much more often than at a hill.  At the sod farms, we do not pay much attention to what direction the winds are in the high desert -- we can handle pretty anything with the winch.

Marcey coming in from her first flight.  Nice job!

September 23 Tuesday PM -- Anapra Mesa -- Hang gliding and paragliding are often last minute adventures:  when the air is good, you drop everything and go!  Tuesday afternoon was one of the those.  Anapra was ON so Tom Bird and I (Had Robinson) set out for the Mesa.  We both launched and had almost an hour of delightful soaring in the late afternoon.  On top of it all, this was Tom's first real free-flight soaring outside the sod farms = he earned his Birdie Award.  Congratulations Tom!

Middle launch at Anapra Mesa.  Tom is about to go up.

The new Birdie!  Tom successfully soared the Mesa and, too boot, did a good side hill landing near the bottom.

September 23 Tuesday -- Low Clouds and Fog -- The enormous quantities of moisture that have been dumped into our region have made for some of the most interesting air we have seen  in recent years.  Early today was unique.  The nightly inversion over the Rio Grande valley trapped the moisture of the rain storms yesterday.  When the sun came out and heated the surface of the valley, the warm moist air rose up and reached cloudbase (where the dew point = the ambient temperature) at a relative low altitude for here:  about 5,200' MSL.  It was sort of a fog that formed a thousand feet off the ground.  When I (Had Robinson) saw it, I made a beeline for it all to take some video and photos.  This is something we do not see too often around here in the high desert.

This is not smoke from Juarez but a fog.  At the very top of it (5,200' MSL), it is possible to see clouds forming as the moist air rises by convection -- and then cools and stops.  This event may last an hour or less so I had to get out there.  I went almost full speed - about 35 mph -- in my Paramania GTR reflex glider.  I did not go flat out (over 40 mph) because my motor is not powerful enough to keep me in level flight because of the greatly increased drag.


As the moist air warms up from the sun, the fog dissipates leaving a few clouds or fog patches.  The air in the inversion was rowdy at 10AM.   Above the inversion, the air was dead even though moving slowly west and sinking (subsidence).  The reason for this is that the thermals must stop at the top of the inversion where the air is warmer.  It is like they hit a brick wall.  As I was flying up through everything, the turbulence from the thermals became worse, and then -- in just a few seconds -- the air became completely still.  It is just more of the magic only those who paraglide or hang glide can experience.

Approaching the remains of the fog from above...are we going to have fun with this!  It is possible to see the turbulence the thermals experience hitting the brick wall at the top of the inversion.  Clouds and fog patches will roll like water hitting a wall but it is in slow motion.  I am descending into the little patch that is in the middle of the photo below.

To be safe: 1.) I carefully checked for miles around to be sure there were no other aircraft in the area.  2.)  The fog was 50 yd. in diameter and I could see through it.  It's a brief white out and another great day flying in the southwest.

September 20 -21 Saturday - Sunday -- Hwy 9 High Tow Part II for the Birdies
(Part I is the next section down) -- Student pilots Jason Tilley, Phil Ehly, and Daniel Rivera (L-R) made it out for a second day of high tows on Hwy 9.  A post-storm atmosphere is always more organized and docile than at most other times so it was a good time for student pilots to get UP and OUT!

Daniel is on deck and is setting up for his first high tow.  It's an adrenaline rush of the first order.  It never goes away when pilots leave the earth, especially for paragliding and hang gliding.  It lessens a bit and we learn to deal with it.  Adrenaline is not good for clear thinking which is way practice, practice, practice is SO important.  The more "routine" launch, flying the aircraft, and landing are, the safer it is for us.  We need all of the mental power (100%) we have to deal with possible issues while in the air.  We can also enjoy the stunning vistas and experience much more if we are not busy trying to think how to fly.  We will never equal the eagles, the swifts, or the vultures but it is will do for those who, by design, are terrestrial.  There is nothing like it in Creation.

Daniel preparing to launch in light winds.  Will he have to run through the water or will he do his launch well enough to avoid it?  He missed the drink by a step -- well done.

Daniel on his way up at about 1,500' AGL.  The view up high has no equal.  The very high stratus clouds are known as "mare's tails".  They indicate that winds very high up have some speed.

Phil getting ready for his first high tow.  It's an exciting event.  It actually is probably safer than flying at the sod farm because there are even fewer obstacles out on Highway 9 and we are further away from turbulence present near the west rim of the Rio Grande river valley.  The water from the rains keeps the temperature down so that thermals are less intense -- a good thing in desert climates.

Phil at the end of his rope -- so to speak -- and going up!

Phil after his successful high tow flight.  Congratulations!

On one of the flights, the tow line broke at a weak point, the pilot pinned off from tow, and dropped the drogue.  It falls out of the sky and lands in the desert somewhere.  Thankfully, Phil is avid radio controlled model airplane pilot and those guys are always having their aircraft go down at unexpected times = they learn how to locate them in relation to easily recognizable landmarks.  Phil watched the drogue come down from a mile in the air and noted where it landed out in the desert.  If we could walk a straight line we would find it 500-1000 yd. out.  I turned on a GPS, set the direction he specified, walked about 500 yd., and THERE IT WAS!  That this was eyeball work on his part, I was impressed!  Thanks, Phil, for the help in finding our drogue parachute.

Jason was the last to fly today and is here going up in the early evening -- a magical time of contrasts in the desert.

He landed where we stopped the tow.  The drogue came down a few hundred yards from us and we have to fetch it by hand.  A great day of flying by our student pilots!  Well done, guys!  - Had

September 20 -21 Saturday - Sunday -- Hwy 9 High Tow Part I -- Student pilots Phil Ehly, Daniel Rivera, and Jason Tilley volunteered to come out to Hwy 9 and do the high tow.  It is one of the few techniques new pilots can get very high off the ground (about 1 mile) without the skills that experienced pilots use to thermal such heights.  Happily, each pilot earned his "Birdie Award" -- given to those student pilots who choose to be booted out of the sod farm "nest" and get up and out.  Because we launch from a public highway (with the gracious permission of the New Mexico State Police) we must be very careful not to get in the way of the little traffic that there is.  This is where teamwork comes in -- everyone who is not flying must focus on and help the one who is.

Instructor Had Robinson making sure the birdie is ready to go!

Daniel helping to get the launch equipment squared away.

Phil was making sure there were no vehicles coming in any direction.

The beginning of the journey -- up!

View from the ground: If you can find the little black circle, Jason is inside it -- a tiny speck.  Unless you are looking directly at a paraglider or know where to look, it is invisible. 

Jason at cloudbase.  We are on top of the world.  The cloud in front is dumping water over a portion of west El Paso.  The tow vehicle is almost invisible to the pilot - about 1.5 miles away.

The view up at a bit under 9,000' MSL.

Jason safely back on the earth after his high tow.  As it was getting dark, we opted to have Phil and Daniel fly Sunday morning.

September 19 Friday -- Lake Sod Farm -- I knew that the farms would be soggy but this?  Suffice it to say, there was only one way to get to farm #4 and that was through the loose sand in the desert.  Every dirt road into #4 was flooded at some point.  The other farms had too much water to even get a line across for towing.  Farm #1 was even worse than #4.  To safely fly and land we need it to be dry enough so that no one will be in water.  Until it soaks into the ground, we will not be able to train.  There are dry spots where a pilot could launch PPG which is what I did to get up and take these photos and do a little thermalling.

However, I did get a chance to do some thermalling with the engine off.  Because of subsidence and high pressure in our region the thermals were narrow and disorganized so they were not much fun to be in.  The bouncing around was pretty severe.  Nonetheless, it is always good to go up without power.

Highway 9 goes along the southern border of Mexico and New Mexico.  It is great for high tows because there are no lights, stop signs, cross roads, power lines, nor much traffic.

September 16 Tuesday -- ANAPRA MESA -- The Mesa was ON so Tom Bird & I (Had Robinson) set out to Anapra to enjoy some soaring during a break in the regional storm activity.  At 5:30PM Winds were straight east at 12 mph -- perfect for soaring but not too strong for newer pilots.  There were some surges in the wind but not excessive.  Both of us launched just below the center launch area just in case there might be some problems that could blow a pilot back into the fence behind launch.  This was Tom's first foot launched flight at a soaring site.  CONGRATULATIONS!

It's late in the day so the light was not too strong -- but we didn't care!  Below is a good view of center launch.

Tom about to launch.  The recent rains firmed up the sand so it was easier to navigate the ground.  Recent winds also blew away most of the stick debris that so often gets caught in the glider lines. 

Tom soaring along the lower part of the Mesa.  A pilot's first flight from a soaring site is a major accomplishment.

September 10 Wednesday -- Franklin Mountains (and why we fly)
-- Tom Bird and I (Had Robinson) set out to the farms at Santa Teresa in order to enjoy the late afternoon air.  Winds were west to WNW so none of our nearby sites would work for a foot launch so it was power-launch time -- at least we could fly.  Flying near the end of the day gives us some beautiful contrasts -- the clear air and setting sun was beautiful.  It was a first for Tom to leave the comfort of the sod farms where he and so many other pilots first learn how to fly.  Flying over jagged mountains and deep canyons can be daunting -- but only mentally.  It's the game our minds play on us and why mental discipline is not only important for safety but for having some of the most unique experiences anyone can have.  Walking on the surface of the moon is cool -- but so is flying over the earth in little more than a simple harness with a small engine (in this case).

North Mount Franklin at sunset

Looking through the pass.  Only at the extremes of the day can you see the subtle shape of the land in front of the mountains.  The Transmountain Highway is an important part of the road system around El Paso but it is a gash across the landscape just the same.

Tom and I heading back to the farms after visiting the Franklins.  The sun had set and we needed to get down.  The air at the surface was de-coupling from the strong winds aloft which made it easier to fly "up wind".  View is south.  It was clear enough that we could see over 100 miles into Mexico in the sparsely populated area west of Villa Ahumada in Chihuahua, Mexico.

September 5-7 -- Buenaventura, Eto. Chih., Mexico -- Wedding of Fredy & Helena
-- Marilyn & I were privileged to be invited to the wedding of one of our pilots, Fredy Neufeld and (now) his new bride Helena.  Fredy is from the Mexican Mennonite colony just north of Cuauhtémoc city in Chihuahua state, Mexico.  Helena is from another colony of Mennonites, Buenaventura (30.099000° -107.334600°)  that is about two hours north of Cuauhtémoc in a remote area WSW of the town of Villa Ahumada, the location of the wedding.  This area of Mexico, like southern New Mexico, is high desert but it gets at least twice as much rain as we usually do during the year.  Marilyn and I were two of the four foreigners who were invited to the celebration.  The region has never been flown by anything.  There are plenty of low mountains, mostly covered with grass, that would be ideal for training/flying for hang gliding or paragliding.  Cross country would be an adventure.

Headed down the toll road in open country southwest of Juarez.  It is not a particularly busy road with great views of ranch country.

Here is a slide show of the rest of our trip to Mennonite country --

The dunes of Salamayuca -- a national park south of Juarez

Southwest of Villa Ahumada -- the foothills of the Sierra Madre are in the distance

Hotel el Valle -- the only hotel in the region. Owner is Abraham Enns. Rooms were perfectly neat and clean.

The hills around Colonia el Valle. They surround the 100 square mile agricultural area. Water was everywhere....

The reception hall/gym next to the church

The Mennonite church where Fredy & Helena married.

Everyone spoke low German, Spanish, and English. There were many relatives who came from Alberta, Canada.

The newlyweds are playing the popular shoe-game. You get asked a question and then stick a shoe up of yours or your spouse in answer.

The happy couple at the reception where everyone shared a sit down meal

The wedding group - bride, groom, bridesmaids, and groomsmen.

Fredy, his parents, and two sisters (one of which is getting married herself soon).

The new couple, Marilyn, and yours truly

The entire weekend it was dark sky with rain. The land was soaked. The crops of cottom and maize loved it....

It's wonderful watching clouds that actually dump that wet stuff.

The cotton was 4' high

The farmers dug these trenches through the farmland to drain the torrents that occasionally come out of the mountains -- as here

South of the colonia looking into the hills -- nice HG or PG country (when not raining)

Some of the 60 sq. mi. of amazing farmland in the high desert

It is called "mud" -- this variety is full of clay = 4 wheel drive country ONLY

Salamayuca Dune Fields

Marilyn and yours truly -- imagine being able to drive around White Sands? It does not hurt anything -- wait a few weeks and every track is covered.

The verdant mountains northeast of the dune field

If we had the time, we would have visited the high dunes in the distance -- good for PG, I think.

Hope you enjoyed the show!

September 3 Wednesday -- Flying high above the earth -- Winds were weak enough the night before that the smoke from Juarez stayed in the region until the next day.  As I cannot tow myself up (I am the only certified tow operator in the region), I have to have the assistance of an engine to get up.  Southeast, just at the pass where the Rio Grande river goes through the gap in the Franklin Mountains (the southern tip of the Rocky Mountains), it is white/gray with smoke.  Thankfully, much less of the smoke enters the valley going north to Las Cruces from El Paso because of the nightly "drainage" of colder air from the north flowing down the river bed (instead of water).  There was also a significant inversion which trapped the dust and smoke, keeping it all below about 5,000' MSL.   The square thing in the middle of the photo is a huge solar panel assembly to generate electricity at something like a $1/kilowatt hour.

This photo shows, on the other hand, not smoke/dust but moisture in the air as I looked south from altitude over 40 miles and focused on the Samalayuca Dune Fields of northern Chihuahua, Mexico (right at the center of the horizon in this photo).  They are like the White Sands of New Mexico but two to three times higher.  Located between two mountain ranges, the wind is squeezed and greatly accelerates, taking the landscape with it.  It is on our schedule to fly in the near future.

Looking NNE from the US Mexican border.  The verdant Rio Grande river valley wanders north to the Colorado border.  Our training area, the round turfgrass farms, are visible to the left.  The beautiful Organ Mountains east of Las Cruces are the city's most notable landmark.  The north side of these desert mountains has pine forests and springs.  Hope you enjoyed the show from the air!

September 1 Monday - Labor Day - Training -- The afternoon air was perfect for training: SW @ 8 mph.  Pilots Tom Bird (PPG), Phil Ehly, and Jason Tilley came out to practice their skills.  Winds aloft were strong -- in the 17+ mph range.  The net result was that pilots got high -- really high = almost 1,000' over launch.  The main task for the session was to land at the LZ cone within 30 feet.  We all flew (even the instructor who launched himself later in a paramotor).  The later it became, the smoother the air so we all flew until we could not see anymore.

I gathered together some short clips of the launches from the day and posted them here.  Please take a close look at what the hands are doing.  Pilots must not: touch the risers ever, stick their hands out like they are flapping their wings, make sudden movements with their bodies, nor sit down.

Jason and Tom enjoying the magic of the evening air high above the desert.  The black line is the winch line going out and back about 1/2 mile.  It is what takes the pilots up into the air.  The mountains in the lower right are the East Potrillo Mountains in south central Dona County, NM.

August 29 - Friday -- Training and Record Flight -- Daniel Riviera showed up Friday morning for what we all thought would be just another ordinary day training at the sod farm (though training in a paraglider or a hang glider is never ordinary BTW).  It was not to be.

We did not know it but northeast of us was a huge dammed up mound of cooler air a hundred square miles in size (at least) that wanted to expand.  At around 10:30AM, expand it did!  The air in our region was warm and mostly calm and it did not take much for a cooler mass of air to slip under it and force it up, just like a razor blade under a windshield sticker.

The net result was that air everywhere around us was going up at 250'/minute.  How do we know this?  When Daniel released from tow and headed back to launch for some routine maneuvers, he did not descend but kept level and then started slowly rising.  Gliders sink at about 200'/minute so that is how we know how fast the air was rising.

This lucky guy had the longest sod farm training flight on record: over 10 minutes in the air beating Max Bennett's recent record.  The only reason it was not longer was that I (the instructor) began to get nervous that maybe he had been caught in a Zorkan tractor-ray beam and we would never see him again?  What would Mrs. Daniel say?  Hindsight is always 20-20 and I am sorry I did not leave him in the lift to see how far and how long he would go.  The buoyant air was moving slowly SSW so, to attempt to get him down, I had him fly NNE and, sure enough, he finally began to descend.  (I was relieved that I was wrong about the tractor-ray beam.)  Below, Daniel finally coming in after his record flight.

Another happy pilot -- who was in the air at the right time.  If you never fly or never fly enough, you won't have the thrill of experiencing things only the birds know about.  If he had been carrying a reserve parachute, I would have sent Daniel up at least 3,000' (top of lift for that time of day).  CONGRATULATIONS DANIEL RIVERA!

August 28 - Thursday -- Training
--  Jason Tilley flies every time he has a chance.  The late afternoon air was buoyant and easy to fly in.  In fact, it was so nice, we once again pushed the limits into the evening until we could not see anymore.  Jason carried the required strobe light which should be used at before sunrise minus 30 minutes and after sunset plus 30 minutes.

Jason coming in for a landing just past sunset.  The Organ Mountains of Las Cruces are visible in the distance.  Peaceful, cool, with the world's best views ... not a bad place to train.

Jason after landing somewhere on sod farm#4.  Does he look happy or something?  We all love flying.  Paragliding and hang gliding, in particular, are the closest thing a man will ever experience to being a bird.  BTW, it is not as dark as it looks.

August 29 -- ASARCO
-- I occasionally do video and stills for Jackson Polk, our regional historian, to help keep track of changes in our region over the years.  Today my job was to take a bunch of video and some stills of what is left of the great smelter that provided hundreds of good jobs and raw materials to help make our country go.  There is not much remaining but a large flat area between I-10 and Paisano Dr.   The area to the lower left of the black slag pile is huge cemetery of the now abandoned Smeltertown.

August 27 - Wednesday -- Line Clouds in El Paso
-- The Creation is full of beauty and here is an example.  Moist air from the east is being pushed up by the mountains, cools, condenses into clouds, and then is reabsorbed as it goes back down again.  The clouds form and dissipate continually.

August 23 - Saturday -- Training -- Student pilot Santiago de Santiago resumed his P2 training after taking a break of a year or two.  It is hard to resume training after so long but he worked hard to remember the details of flying a paraglider -- and did very well.  Santiago's home is Chihuahua City, Chih., Mexico.  Currently, he is living in El Paso and is attending UT El Paso.  He hopes to pioneer flying sites near his home in Chihuahua City when time permits.

With the change of seasons, we have had better air in the afternoons at the sod farms.  Pilots get much higher at launch and are able to have more time in the air to perfect their skills.

The last flight of the day.  Santiago coming in for a landing.  In the distance are the Organ Mountains east of Las Cruces, NM.

Santiago (R) and his cousin, Sebastian (L) after a long afternoon of training.

August 21 - Thursday -- Training -- Student pilot Jason Tilley and PPG pilot Tom Bird were able to make it out in the afternoon for training.  As the air was really good, we decided to push the window (of twilight) to the limit.  Becoming 100% confident at launch and when landing.  As a pilot's confidence grows, he begins to sense the input the wing gives to his hands and arms.  Flying becomes -- eventually -- like riding a bicycle.

Cloud cover was heavy in the late afternoon.  Jason leaps into the air -- we love we do and the sky calls....

After Jason (R) launched, Tom (L) followed him through the air in his PPG.  Jason is just above launch and is doing his final base leg to setup for a landing.

Jason is the last to launch for the day.  The air was sooo good we had to fly until the last moment.  It is not as dark as it appears -- but almost.



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