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

FLIGHT SCHOOL for PARAGLIDING

  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)

NWS Sta Teresa Station (current conditions Santa Teresa, NM)

NWS SPC Balloon Soundings  (go here for forecasts)

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

Jet Stream &
4 day forecast

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El Paso NWS - Deming, NM

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

 

Current & Future Events

July 18 - 20 -- There will be no training this weekend because of the chance of thunderstorms. 

August 8 -10 -- Closed

October 24 - 26 -- Extremo Airshow -- Chihuahua City, Chih. MX -- All PPG pilots from our region are invited to fly in the air show.  The state of Chih. and Chih. City have generously offered to host all pilots from the El Paso/southern New Mexico area.  We are joined every year by the balloonists from Albuquerque, NM.   Contact us for more info.  For a photo sample of what it is all about, go here.

November 1-2 -- Amigo Airsho 2014 Santa Teresa, NM -- The El Paso Paramotor Demo Team will flying in this year's show.  Come see us!

November 30 - December 14 -- Valle de Bravo, MX -- Every year we go to this premier world-class thermalling site.  VB has amazing weather during this time of the year.  Pilots can fly every day in the beautiful volcanic mountains of central Mexico.  In early December the thermals are well formed, big, and less intense than in the early part of the new year (when the international competitions are held).  Our host, Jeff Hunt, takes extra time to help new pilots, even P2's with a dozen flights.  Pilots will learn how to thermal while enjoying the friendly ambiance of a rural mountain town that is off the tourist map.  Want to fly at cloud base and experience that which only the birds can?  This is the place....   Please go here for more information and to make reservations. 

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 on as needed basis.

Recent Events

July 14 Monday's Storms -- It's a beautiful sky but not particularly friendly to ultralights.

July 5 - 6 Saturday - Sunday -- Training -- Saturday worked a bit but Sunday AM was much better.  Winds were north around 6 mph at the surface.  The air was buoyant, as well.  The tow operation was particularly smooth and without glitches so there were a dozen+ flights.  Pilots who were able to train were: Tom Bird, Daniel Rivera, Natalie Adam, Hunter Davis, and Oscar Chaparro.  Lee Boone visited us Saturday morning.

The wind was high enough to catch the leading edge of the gliders when pilots moved about the field.  If the air had been stronger, a pilot must take special measures to prevent the glider from fully inflating and being torn out of his hands.  Oscar's glider below almost looks like an orange Nautilus.



This was the air late Sunday afternoon and why we could not be in it.  The sky was rapidly overdeveloping and the danger of high winds was increasing.  View is southeast with the Franklin Mountains in the distance.



Natalie practiced spiral dives on Sunday.  The air was strong at launch, buoyant, and pilots got very high.  This means lots of altitude and time to do fun maneuvers.  She is approaching the LZ after doing (2) deep dives in her Paramania Revo glider.  Deep spirals are a controlled and quick way to get out of the air quickly.  If the air gets really rowdy, a pilot can spiral out of it as well as reduce the chance of collapses because of the greatly increased loading on the wing during the dive.



Hunter preparing for launch.  Marilyn has just brought the end of the towline with the drogue back from the other side of the field.  Hunter is flying the UP Makalu 3 -- a race car compared to the usual gliders used for (safe) training



Hunter going up under tow.  This is a telephoto shot of him about 400' off the ground.



Natalie with friend Tomas waiting in the queue to go up.



Daniel preparing to launch.  He was Mr. Lucky today as he towed at least two times when the air was going up.  So what?  It meant he was able to stay up twice as long.  Later in the morning the thermals were just beginning to release from the ground.  About every 10th thermal is really big and well organized.  In Valle de Bravo, MX in December, they are almost all that way which means it's easy for pilots to get up and stay up.



Tom Bird helping Natalie at launch.  Tom was the most experienced pilot there and, for the first time, he had his first try at thermalling at the sod farms.  Only two pilots have thermalled away from the sod farm since we began training there: Lee Baker and Lee Boone.  Tom had a good taste of it this morning and he wants to be the third.  Good thermalling requires making perfect circles 30m in diameter and then moving them accurately in any direction.  Lee Boone once went 75 miles across central Florida using such maneuvers.  It takes a great amount of skill.  The longest XC thermalling trip done in southern New Mexico was by P2 student Brad Gray when we launched him by tow on Hwy 9 and guided him to near Columbus, NM -- about 40 miles.



July 4 Friday -- Training at the sod Farms -- We want to welcome our newest PPG student, Oscar Chaparro, from La Junta, Eto. Chih., MX.  Oscar is just 18 -- one of our youngest to begin training.  Bienvenidos!  Daniel Rivera and Phil Ehly also joined us for continued training.

Oscar (L) and our assistant instructor, Jose Muñoz.  Before we go up in the air, we spend some time in the simulator learning how to control a paraglider.



We had a full slate Friday.  (L-R) Jose, Oscar, FlightBabe1 (Marilyn), Daniel, and Phil



Daniel preparing to launch.  It was a hard day for the students because the winds were high.  The benefit is that students learning a lot more when they must control their glider at launch.  However, he had lots of help!



Phil going up under tow.  The challenge?  Pilots must steer their glider in a straight line -- it is harder than it looks.



Oscar getting kiting tips from Jose.  Before we do anything in the air, it is a good idea to learn how to kite well first.



Soaring in the White Mountains east of the Owens Valley, CA.  This is big air -- even bigger than our region.  The views are spectacular.  In the distance are the Sierra Nevada range rising up to over 14,000'.

July 3 Thursday -- Training -- Phil Ehly made it out to a perfect morning for training.  Winds were right at the top end for new students -- east at 12 mph.  Phil practiced kiting and launch technique.  The unique feature of learning under tow is that new pilots who do not know how to do a reverse inflation can do a forward in strong air without having to worry as much about being dragged backwards.  The tow line is engaged and just the right amount of force is applied to keep the pilot stationary during and after the glider comes up overhead.  He then can apply brake, move left or right as needed, and make plenty of mistakes without taking a trip on the ground downwind.

All of our training slots have been filled for this weekend. However, please come out anyway as help is always appreciated – and needed. The next open weekend is July 18 – 20.

Phil ready to launch.  Marilyn, left, is assisting.

June 27, 28, 29 Friday, Saturday, Sunday -- Training - We want to welcome our newest PG pilot, Greg Wacker, of El Paso.  Friday afternoon was a time for flight school.  We were unable to fly Saturday because of high winds all day.  However, we could do some kiting early in the morning at the sod farm until things blew out.  Sunday AM was our first time in a while when we could safely fly.  Tom Bird assisted Greg as well as taking a few flights himself.  Winds aloft near dawn were high -- 20+ knots about 500' up.  Thankfully, they were getting less as the morning went on.  Tom was the first to launch and got pulled up right into the high winds.  I (Had Robinson, the winch operator) could tell because the winch began to pay-out rather than pay-in as Tom went up but not forward.  The air, though fast, was very smooth.  The transition from the surface air to the high winds was also not particularly rough.  Greg's first flights were remarkable as the higher winds aloft allowed him to get very high (800'+ AGL), as well.

Greg just after his first flight.  Congratulations!

 

Sometimes the air is just sinky everywhere and pilots have to walk and walk to get back to launch -- but not today.  In the photo below, Greg is ABOVE launch boating around, burning off altitude.  Some days are just better for training (more time in the air) and some are not.  We take the good with the not-so-good.



Tom getting ready to go up.  It was a great day for us.

June 20 Friday PM -- Training - We had to cancel training this afternoon.  After arriving at the farms, we noticed high winds.  They were a result of virga falling from a storm on the east side of the Franklin mountains.  Training will resume Saturday early.

Below, virga falling out of the clouds.  The sudden change from rain drops to vapor absorbs a tremendous amount of heat, cooling the air quickly.  This cold air falls from thousands of feet in the air and creates dangerous high winds.  Best to stay on the ground when virga is near.

June 15 Sunday AM -- Training - Southwest Airsports is happy to welcome our newest student, Daniel Rivera of Midland, TX.  His area of Texas has fewer flying days per year than our region.  However, Midland has far more days when the air is buoyant and safe.  Imagine thermalling in strong conditions with a minimal amount of turbulence?  Every part of the earth has its plusses and minuses when it comes to soaring aircraft.

We were joined by pilots Tom Bird and Natalie Adam.  Tom was a great help to our new student.  Natalie flew this day for the first time in many months.  We only had a little time slot all weekend when the winds were not crazy.  Even then, we had to watch the air carefully.  The good news?  Today the air was particularly buoyant = it was easy to get up and go high and far!

(L-R) Tom, Daniel, and Natalie



Daniel preparing to launch for the first time.  Every new pilot has a million things going through his head which is why we put two radios right next to their ears.  It does help to have the instructor's cheery voice in stereo....  In the background is the all-hydraulic static winch that pulls up the pilot.



Daniel was able to make it all the way back to launch in the buoyant air.  He told us that it was not until his 4th flight that day that he began to really enjoy it.  "I could see the grass and other things on the ground!"  All pilots confirm that there is nothing like paragliding and hang gliding.



Daniel setting up for a landing.  When there is a good wind coming in and the air is buoyant, it is so easy to land a paraglider.  He landed on his feet every time.  Nice job and good flying, Daniel!  Welcome to the club.

June 4-12 Training at Gardiner Turf Grass farms - We want to welcome new PG student pilots Phil Ehly of Las Cruces, NM and Daniel Rivera of Midland, TX!  They were later joined this week by PPG student pilot Haytham Alodan and PG pilots Max Bennett and Tom Bird.  Max and Tom not only flew but graciously assisted the newer pilots.

Learning how to hang glide or paraglide is one of the hardest forms of aviation to master.  It is impossible to buy a book, study it carefully, and then go out and fly well or safely.  It is like wind surfing, mountaineering, caving, cave diving, deep water scuba diving, or sky diving.  The pro's make it look easy, but it isn't -- as all new student pilots quickly learn.  Only (1) in (5) who begin training finish the course.  It is what it is.  However, there is nothing in the world like becoming a bird.  That's why we do it.

Phil ready to go....


Haytham (L) and Daniel (R).  Daniel had joined us Thursday morning to assist and see what training was like.  We all hope to continue training Sunday morning, the only time when winds will be safe.


Haytham getting ready to go.  Look at his form -- a charger at the starting gate of a racetrack.  The more energy a pilot puts in at launch the higher he will go.  When we launch, we give it all we have.  This is a reason why pilots should be in shape.


The presence of virga and rain were good reasons to quit flying on Thursday in the late morning.  These events in the desert can generate high winds.


Haytham coming in after a beautiful (and high) evening flight.  Note that the altitude here is at the end of his flight.  He is learning on an advanced glider.  It is like suddenly driving your car at 150 mph.  Everything is different at those speeds.  The slightest touch on the steering wheel or brakes can send it out of control.  But this is the wing he will be using for the future at this home in Saudi Arabia so he must learn how it flies, a longer task than on a training wing.  Not all pilots have the clarity of mind when they first begin training to follow instructions while in the air.  This is why most new pilots should begin with training-type gliders.


Max assisting Haytham at launch.  To the left, Tom is kiting a glider.  The winds were high Friday so pilots got very high.  Technical problems with the tow line prevented them getting even higher.  The downside of high winds is that once a pilot goes up a few hundred feet, the speed increases and he can wind up flying backwards.  That is the speed of the wind is greater than the speed of the glider (about 21 mph).  Thankfully, the sod farms are good place to do this sort of thing.  The valley is downwind and the air is always much less than on the mesa.


May 31 near Ft. Hood, TX - This is hilly country that is at near the edge of the Edwards Plateau.  At this time of the year, the temperature is pleasant, even cool at night.  This photo was taken in the late afternoon near cloud-base.  Thermals in this part of the world are much more organized compared to the southwest.  This means they are more fun to fly.  However, the flying season is short compared to here.  Each region has its own advantages.  It is also why soaring pilots travel around a lot...

May 28 Northeast Oklahoma - "Green!"  This is how this part of the country is summed up.  Launching and landing are amazingly easy because we pilots here in the southwest are used to a density altitude of around 7,000' MSL (what the air feels like regardless of actual altitude).  In the Midwest, the density altitude is around 1,000' MSL or less.  Wings come up easy, paramotors are more powerful, glide is better, and landing is slow and smooth.  The downside?  It can rain for weeks on end.  Flying in the winter is not particularly pleasant.  Other than that....

The view near Hulbert, OK.  When trees are jam-packed together, it is called "forest".  They have a lot of it there.

May 23 - 26 Endless Foot Drag - Arkoma, Oklahoma -- Marilyn & I (Had Robinson) headed out with our RV and gear to the EFD that is located on the Arkansas river near Ft. Smith, AR.  Like our training site in El Paso, our host, Britton Shaw, has the privilege of using some huge sod farms for operations.  It is a beautiful part of the country with verdant scenery in every direction.  It is also away from people and obstacles -- a great advantage per safety and being a nuisance.  Every day was sunny with afternoons in the 80's and the nights in middle 60's.  Unlike the southwest, it is humid here.  Saturday night Britton hosted a dinner picnic with fine home cooking made by some of the local gals.

This is a hot humid place.  For desert dwellers, nighttime in the Ozarks is a racket of critters having conversations.  Here is a sample.

The event had clinics to improve skills, scooter-towing of PG pilots, a sanctioned competition for PPG pilots, and lots of time to fly around the area and relax.  I had never attended a sanctioned PPG competition before.  In addition, I was asked to help judge the event which included a foot drag, pylon slalom, and making spot landings.  1st and 2nd places were taken by Jeff Goin (USPPA president) and Chad Bastian (TrikeBuggy.com), respectively.  Next year I plan to enter the competition.

We could fly every day except for a brief period one afternoon when it sprinkled a bit.  The most unique aspect of the event for me was the low altitude.  Engines have more power, climb out is easier, and wings have greater lift.  Everything is easier to do in the thicker air at low altitudes (400' MSL).  Many days were overcast -- a good thing if pilots would like to fly all day.  This is because thermal strength will be less, a desirable thing for PPG.

There were no mishaps, thankfully.  We can attribute this mostly to Britton's requirement that all pilots have at least the PPG1/P1 certification if they wished to fly.  Unlike other events of this kind, it helps keep out the reckless (and dangerous) pilots of which there are plenty in the U.S.

While I was there I also spent quite a bit of time fixing paramotors.  You see everything, including one pilot who had no idea that you must add oil to the gasoline that goes in 2-cycle engines.  (That formerly brand new engine is coming back with me to El Paso for a complete overhaul.  I also practice deploying a 750' streamer, something I do with the El Paso Paramotor Demo Team at air shows.  It is fun, safe, and easy to do with some practice.  The public loves it.  The hardest part of deploying a streamer is laying it back down to earth.  It is so long that it can get tangled easily in trees, power lines, houses, and the like.  The goal is to lay it down as a tight circle that is easily picked up and stuffed back into a deployment bag.

It is very fine event and we will be coming back next year, hopefully with some others.  Thank you, Britton, for hosting!

The sod and grain farms along the Arkansas river.  It is a green place -- something we in the southwest rarely see.


The view just after take off.  Unlike our training site, there is no sprinkler equipment to worry about and 1/2 mile in every direction of flat grass.  It is nice not having to worry about dirt or sand getting in your wing or in your engine.  View here is east.


Setup and launch area.  It was also the same place visitors were able to camp out.


Our host, Britton Shaw (center), giving a briefing to the competition pilots early Saturday morning.  The fog is just lifting.  The ground was covered with dew every morning and tended to soak your glider if you made multiple attempts at launching.


The three judges for the spot landing competition -- (L-R) Had, Dinny, and Dave.


May 15th Thursday -- Training -- We welcome our newest pilot, Haytham Alodan, who just completed his P1 (free flight).  Congratulations!  He is preparing to fly a paramotor and the first step is to learn to fly a paraglider.  Haytham just earned his Ph.D. in industrial engineering from New Mexico State University and will be returning to his home in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in mid June.



For all new pilots it is practicing launching and landing safely -- that is all that matters at this stage.  Below, Haytham coming in for a landing.


A beautiful sunset after training.  However, the color is from smoke that has blown down from the Gila Wilderness fire northwest of us..


 

May 12th Monday -- Training -- Max Bennett came out today to work on his transition from PG to PPG.  Free-flight is effortless compared to standing at some launch site with an engine strapped to your back.  In other words, it is a major paradigm shift.  Why do we do it?  It means we can fly much more often even though we must put up with the noise, in particular.  However, unlike all other powered aircraft, we can kill the engine at any time, like when we find air going up in a thermal or some convenient ridge soaring site!

Max sorting out his lines.  Kiting with this big thing behind you is a distraction which is why we practice at the sod farms.


View north of the sod farms.  The haze near the horizon is not some cloud formation but smoke from the fire in the Gila Wilderness.  The plume seen here is over 50 miles away.  When I saw it while flying, I had to do a double-take.  I was surprised how high and long it was.

May 10th Saturday -- Agave Hill -- Pilots Tom Bird and instructor Had Robinson set out for Agave Hill in the Franklin Mountains State Park early Saturday morning for a demonstration of paragliding. They were accompanied by National Weather Service meteorologist Lance Tripoli, Tom's wife Becky, Had's wife (and assistant) Marilyn, and Park guide, Adrianna Weickhardt.  It takes about 15 minutes to trek up the trail from the parking lot to launch. This was the first time this year that anyone would attempt to fly Agave as the weather has been so windy for so long.

For a 2 minute video of the flight, go here.

Had launched first and was to be followed by new P2 pilot, Tom Bird. The winds, however, were quickly gathering speed and it was best that Tom remain at launch. The winds aloft were so strong that, following launch, I (Had) had to engage Big Ears (a wing deformation maneuver used to dramatically decrease lift). As a pilot goes up in such conditions near the Franklins, the winds also increase in speed and there is the risk that a pilot could quickly get in air that is going fast enough that he might be blown over the top of the mountains. This is something that is not fun unless you want to do it....


Checking the winds velocity before launch.  Today we saw winds gusting into the upper teens and steady at 15: strong conditions for paragliding.


Setting up at launch.  (L-R)  Lance, Adrianna, Becky, and Tom.


With the strong winds at launch, the others had to make a dash for cover at launch.


Tom ready to launch.


Going up in front of launch.  In the shadow of the paraglider on the ground, the Big Ears maneuver is visible (the tips of the glider are forced down).  The pilot here started to go up with increasing intensity as the high speed winds from aloft began to mix more and more with the air below.


Pulling down on the outside A lines in order to induce Big Ears.


Coming in for a landing.  It was getting hot and the air was going up, even near the ground.  It is a good idea to land as soon as possible when conditions strengthen so dramatically, as during the summer season.  It was a pleasant morning and at least one pilot was able to fly!

May 9th Friday -- Sod Farm Training -- Student pilots Tom Bird and Max Bennett came out to the sod farm to celebrate their successful completion of the P2 course.  CONGRATULATIONS!  We were later joined by pilot Jan Richter.  All pilots were towed up for some test flights and then Tom and Max put on their paramotors.  They would be towed up with the engines off which is a far safer and better way to get used to the weight without also having to launch with them on -- and at full power.  Once aloft, they both started their engines and cruised about for an hour.

Below, Tom gets ready to be towed aloft.


Max was next -- and ready to go.


Max boating around the sod farm with his engine on.


Tom enjoying the sunset from a vantage point that only hang gliders and paragliders can share.

Tom was not supposed to be fiddling with a camera on his first flight with a paramotor and I scolded him accordingly.  Yet it is easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission....


Jan Richter discovering that the higher you go, the stronger the winds (the gradient effect).  He was going backwards and had to descend to get back to launch.  The advantage of the sod farms is that going backwards is not much of an issue as there are no hazards downwind.  In an emergency, a pilot has to merely fly towards the valley and descent.  The winds will be much less.


The happy pilots.  (L-R)  Tom Bird, Max Bennett, Jan Richter, and instructor, Had Robinson.  Well done, men -- another day of great flying in our great southwest.


vulture

   

This site was last updated 07/18/14  All material on this website copyright  © 2009 - 2014 by Southwest Airsports, LLC all rights reserved