Explanations of the tools below and more weather info
El Paso National Weather Service - start here!
Meso West Region (Current conditions at stations in the SW - view profile without logging in)
Santa Teresa NWS (current conditions)
SPC Balloon Soundings (every 12 hours)
UoW Balloon Soundings - usually available before the SPC soundings 72364
NWS hourly graphical forecast - temp, winds, & gusting at the surface
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)
Wind Map #1 - animated map of winds and other data over the surface of the world.
Wind Map #2 - this animated map loads faster but is the US only
Wind History Map - actual vs. forecasts
February 8th - to be announced for this week.
Contact us to schedule/confirm if you want to train at the sod farms or fly our sites.
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, we will attempt to contact scheduled pilots. We usually train at sod farm #4. Training times can vary because of weather or equipment issues. Pilots can always arrive earlier than the scheduled times to setup and practice kiting.
Training at the sod farms was excellent, the air was buoyant, and the calm winds added a challenge. Students Jason Tilley and Heather Coulon came out along with Steve, a new P2 who helped the others, but chose not to fly. Ken Hunkus, Heather's husband, was scheduled but Army duties prevented his coming -- we missed him! Both pilots got very high on their flights -- over 800' on tow.
Jason perfected his landing accuracy, something extremely important when flying complex sites, like Dry Canyon, the lake LZ in Valle de Bravo, Inspiration Point in Provo, UT, and Windy Point, Ruidoso, NM. Pilots must be relaxed and confident when they set up to land. Heather (a new P1) worked on glider control at launch and getting within a 100 yds. of the LZ bulls eye. She learned the advantage of landing in light or calm winds when a pilot can use the spiral technique to dead aim his landing. For very tight LZ's, calm/light winds add to the safety margin for nailing a target using the spiral technique.
Heather, for a new P1, made a superb landing here in this YouTube video. She is a natural for the sport. Watch her hands carefully.
There is no substitute for the general aviation practice called "touch and go" and why those pilots who want to fly safely must practice it diligently. Yes, it's fun to fly around but it is the launching and landing that, more than anything else, get's us in trouble.
Heather on tow -- perfect control. Both pilots got very high under tow today because of the buoyant air and stronger winds aloft.
Jason preparing for launch. The winds were all over the place at launch which added complexity and difficulty. Why is this important? When doing a frontal inflation at a mountain site in dead air, pilots must be able to quickly add control inputs at launch, as needed. Heather learned this lesson today: the most important thing a pilot ALWAYS does is to maintain both DIRECTION and CONTROL of the glider. When a pilot starts to fall to one side while launching, the tendency is to put his hand out in the direction of the fall. This is always very dangerous because it adds instant brake to the direction of the fall and increases the glider's dive in that direction and worsens the fall. To put a hand out is an instinctive reaction that all pilots must overcome. FLY THE GLIDER AT ALL TIMES!
Very good jobs, guys! It is always a delight to see pilots increase their skills safely.
Ken Hunkus & Heather Coulon came out in the late afternoon to continue their PG training. Both pilots have breezed through the P1 certification and are well into the P2.
We also had plenty of visitors including Erika Castillo and her Carpe Diem team from KFOX-TV. The team was doing some filming of our operations. We were all happy to share with our community what paragliding is all about. Other visitors included Ken's dad, Ken Hunkus (sr), his little brother, and Doak Hoover.
The Carpe Diem team and friends (L-R) Erika, Aja, Sean, Courtney, and David.
Doak comes out to the sod farms often to fly his remote control aircraft. Here he is helping Ken, get ready to launch.
Student PG pilot, Heather Coulon, flying past us at launch. Recently, the air has been buoyant and pilots have had long and high flights, always getting enough altitude to make it back to launch.
Ken coming in for a landing as his dad watches. He was able to fly why past launch. This is the advantage of training under tow: pilots have much more time in the air (sometimes 10 minutes) to do maneuvers and just enjoy flying. When students launch from a hill, they may only have a minute or less to fly.
We want to welcome our new PG students, Heather Coulon, and her fiancé, Ken Hunkus. Ken took a discovery flight a few months ago and now Heather and he are set to complete their P1 certification this weekend. Both pilots are active duty Army.
Heather (L), Ken (R)
Below, Heather during her first flight. She had one of those providential days when the air was going up everywhere. The inversion had been quite thick that morning and the land was cold and slow to heat up. But when it did, a huge bubble of warm air lifted off and Heather was in it. Instead of slowly going down, she went up. A year or two ago, Midland pilot, Daniel Rivera, got in one of these bubbles and was in the air after tow a full 10 minutes or more. There are times when the air is delightful and disobeys gravity....
Earlier that morning Lee Boone and I (Had Robinson) were in the air just after dawn. It was cold! Below, Lee had just landed for a quick break.
Lee (above) is test flying the Ozone Viper 22m, a competition PPG glider. Look at the shape closely - she is a fast beauty with long flowing curves. We would have flown longer but the air chilled us after less than an hour.
Jason Tilley and I (Had Robinson) had a great idea Sunday afternoon, "Where/how can we fly today?" Winds were generally east so it would be one of our two east facing sites: Anapra or the Potrillo Mountain range. Since Jason had never been to the Potrillo's, we decided to check whether they would be soarable? The balloon sounding and the stations at Columbus and Deming all were good so we took off -- an hour's trip to launch.
Here is a (3) minute video of our adventure.
Arriving at the base of the eastern side of the range, we hiked as fast as we could up the side of the mountain to Torrey Paso launch because about an hour before sunset the katabatic flow begins, blocking the winds aloft and makes launching very difficult or impossible. Once there, we had to resist being in a hurry because our sport weeds out the careless and those who are not obsessive-compulsive about safety.
Jason ready to launch. A launch site that is so close to a mountain pass requires precise control of the glider. A pilot cannot go over the back at any time.
I gave Jason the details of how to stay up when conditions were just workable at this hour of the day. He setup first with a perfect launch into good air (about 8 mph coming straight in) and headed north along the east side of the range. This was his first time getting in lift strong enough to take him above the top of the ridge of a site -- an exciting moment for him. On the radio, he asked me where to go? It's simple, I replied, "Go to where the lift is and stay in it."
Because the winds were laminar at that hour, we could fly very close to the terrain. The air was so smooth that we did not need to use the brakes nor keep our hands on them. It was a great time to practice flying using weight shift only and learn how to safely ridge soar.
If a pilot cannot bring his glider up under complete control, he should not be flying any mountain site, especially those in the high desert. Note how Jason's glider is perfectly inflated and lined up with his launch direction.
About 1/2 mile north of launch there is a big canyon that is difficult to cross because of the sink. For this reason, we did not venture up and down the whole range but stayed near the launch area which is in the middle. If you have a driver on the ground who does not mind driving for hours around the desert, then experimenting in the middle of nowhere trying to cross sinking air is not a problem. Otherwise, walking for miles in the dark, most likely, is not fun in January.
The only flying that was done in our region on this day -- in these lonely and isolated mountains.
I launched after Jason and we flew a bit less than an hour coming down from aloft right at sunset. Depending on the winds aloft, it can sometimes take 10-30 minutes to get down. We could have stayed up all night but landing in the dark is not a particularly a good idea (nor legal), especially if you miss the LZ. That is, there are canyons 20'-40' deep along the range on either side and they become invisible in the dark. It would be dicey to smack into the wall of one.
Jason got quickly above launch. Torrey Paso is a bowl and tends to focus the winds, much like a squeeze on a river increases its flow rate.
It was a great time to practice ridge soaring in weak conditions where one small mistake can send you to the LZ. Next time we will get up there earlier in the day.
It was getting dark and time to head south along the range and out to the LZ. The katabatic flow had already started and the air near the ground was flowing downhill towards the east. Where we are flying it is coming the other way (towards the west). We both landed going downwind a few miles an hour -- not too bad.