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Weather Info For
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July 28 - August 3 -- Training -- Training will continue this
week as weather permits. Please let us know if you can train.
August 8 -10 --
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
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.
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.
July 22 Tuesday -- AM Training -- Conditions were not as good
this AM for training. Tom Bird & I went out early to practice.
There were strong winds aloft that came down early and started mixing
with the surface air = rowdy air. Tom bringing up his glider in a
July 21 Monday -- PM Training -- Thanks to the NWS and their
sophisticated weather radar, we were able to train in a safe window in
the afternoon. New P1 pilot Jason Tilley continued his training.
Jason is in the Army and was recently stationed at Ft. Bliss. We
had about an hour and a half of very good air before the storms took
The air, of course, was buoyant as anything and a pilot could only go up
everywhere. This meant that flights were high and long -- a
pleasant event. The huge storm in the background is something that
would normally scare us out of the air because of the hazard of
downbursts that cause very high winds at the surface. The NWS
radar was able to see the moving boundary and was able to warn us when
it would hit us. This way, we could enjoy the otherwise good air
of the late afternoon.
Pilots must always stand up when they land. It sounds obvious but
about half of new pilots decide that it is more interesting to sit down
as they land. Jason had a perfect landing here because of strong
but safe air near the surface. When winds are steady from the
surface up a thousand feet we have the same conditions as the coastal
and Midwest sites. After Jason landed, we had some kiting training
and then had to hustle as the storm was moving right for us -- and with
lightning. Lightning is extremely dangerous and we wanted to be
out of there.
July 21 Monday -- Border -- Desert air is always mysterious as no
one know how it will behave. The balloon sounding from 6AM showed
high winds (25 knots+) right off the deck. Having flown this air
for years, I knew that it could change in a few hours -- and change it
did. It went from high winds to pussycat air in less than 2 hours.
In fact, the winds aloft were among the calmest I have ever flown in.
However, the only way you can find out is to fly up into them, ready at
a moment's notice to dive out of them to the ground. The risk is
minimal because turbulence from high winds aloft and strong thermals is
very different. Rough air is different than air going up and down
with great force near powerful thermals.
What's special about this photo? If you look closely you will see
cars lined up for miles right at the border. These are all used
cars and totaled-vehicles that Mexicans buy from all over the U.S. They
drive them in pairs (one towing, one being towed) in order to import
them into Mexico. Mexican taxes on new vehicles are so high that
few can afford them = get used and crashed vehicles from the U. S.
This has become more popular than ever and there are a thousand cars
that cross the Santa Teresa border every day. It did not used to be so
organized (I fly right over the border often). As the traffic
increased, so did crime, fights, and other types of disorder. The
New Mexico governor issued an order for the State Police to regulate it
which they are now doing -- for a fee charged to each vehicle so NM
taxpayers do not have to bear the cost. It is like the liquor tax.
The wonderful sod farms where we train pilots how to fly paragliders --
our thanks to Stan Gardner and Gardner Turfgrass, Inc. They could
tell us all to get lost but they haven't.... In the distance are
the East and West Potrillo Mountains of Dona Ana County, New Mexico.
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
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
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
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
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,
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
A beautiful sunset after training. However, the color is from
smoke that has blown down from the Gila Wilderness fire northwest of
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
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
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
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.