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Training September 19 -
21 -- I (Had Robinson) went out to the sod farm to test the air
after the great storms we have had. Instead of sod farms, we had
lakes. We will not be able to train at the farms until they dry
out enough to allow us to set the tow line, launch, land, etc. without
going through water. However, Saturday and Sunday PM we can do
some high tows from Hwy 9 for intermediate students (well into your P2
training). Please contact us right away if you want to high tow
(+5,000' AGL). We would do it late in the day (after 5PM or so).
That way, the air would be appropriate for this skill level.
September 27 - Saturday
-- The Air Dolphins of the El
Paso Paramotor Demo Team will be performing at the Rancho Santa Maria
Polo Club in Vinton TX.
October 2 - 4
--International BMW Motorcycle Convention in Creel, Eto. Chih.,
Mexico -- This is Copper Canyon
country, one of the largest canyons in the world, and a perfect site for
approx. 600 BMW's ... and a few paragliding demonstrations. If
conditions are appropriate, I might try to fly to the Gulf of
California. Our PPG instructor for Mexico, José
will be our host for the trip.
October 24 - 26 (canceled) -- Fiesta del Globo -- Chihuahua City, Chih. MX
-- The promoters have decided it would be better to change the
date to later in November. We will keep you advised.
November 1-2 -- Amigo Airsho 2014 Santa Teresa, NM -- The
El Paso Paramotor Demo Team Air
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!
November 30 - December 14 -- Valle de Bravo, MX -- Every year we go
to this fabulous thermalling site. 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. Go here for a photo montage, 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. Directions
to our training site, the sod farms are
CLICK HERE for the SLIDE SHOW of the
trip to MENNONITE country in N. MEXICO
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 thernalling.
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 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
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
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
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.
August 16-17 Saturday - Sunday -- Training -- Pilots Jason
Tilley, Bill Cobb, and Phil Ehly were able to train this weekend.
Saturday was one of the best days we have had in months as the air was
steady at around 6 mph and buoyant. Sunday was not as good as the
higher pressure made things more sinky everywhere, especially over the
sod farms. Training is hard work and, like any other sport,
progress is slow. The rewards are: increased safety when
flying. It is a great concept....
Bill coming in after a long high flight. When pilots can set up to
land downwind of launch (as here), they are always thrilled -- it means
they walk less and have more time in the air. Jason (on the
ground) is getting ready to launch.
Jason, too, was able to set up to land behind launch. Bill Cobb is
watching him come in.
Sunday was not anywhere near as buoyant as the day before. Phil is
getting ready to be pulled into the air. We launch pilots just
like a child would launch a kite. This is the closest description
of what we do at the sod farm. Because winds were light and the
air sinky, pilots on Sunday had to run hard to get in the air.
August 5 - Tuesday PM -- Training -- Student pilots Jason
Tilley & Phil Ehly came out Tuesday afternoon to be challenged by the
air. Unlike Sunday which had the upper limit, the winds Tuesday
were light and variable. These conditions make everything
difficult -- launch can be rough and fast, there is less time in the air
to do maneuvers, and landings can be exciting. They both got a
Below, Phil does a perfect launch with Karamba glider with no wind
coming in. He had to run!
Here is a short video of the
launch. Nice work, Phil!
The photo below looks like Jason is about to bomb-out to the left -- not
at all. This was a launch in a 90 degree cross wind, one of the
most difficult launches to do under tow. (However, he did have to
practice this a few times to get the glider just right.) In this
launch, the pilot must face into the wind as much as possible which is
about 45 degrees (and is cross that much). As he brings the glider
up, he has to resist the tow line direction with as much strength as
possible by running at a 45 degree angle to the tow direction.
While doing this, he has to bury the right brake enough to stop the
glider from careening to the left (which is what it wants to do when a
pilot launches crosswind). He then has to accelerate as fast as he
can in the tow direction because, in a 90 degree crosswind launch, he is
almost running downwind. What's the advantage of doing something a
pilot will probably never do anywhere else? It teaches him to do
many things at the same time. This is a critical part of learning
to be a safe pilot. He must control the wing, but not over-control
it. He has to stay on his feet UNDER the glider. It was a
hard task. Nice work, Jason.
Here is a short video of the
August 3 -- Sunday AM -- Training -- Phil Ehly and Daniel
Rivera made it to the sod farms for training in air that was at the top
end for new students per speed. On the other hand, such air was
buoyant! The pilots were accompanied by Phil's daughter, Vic, who
helped the pilots. It was a hard day because ground handling
required more advanced skills, as the pilots discovered. It is
like driving a tractor at 15 mph (light winds) or managing a BMW at 140
mph (strong winds). In strong air, the slightest nudge on the
toggles will send the glider careening. Despite the challenges, it
was an awesome training day and the pilots did very well. For a
fun video of one of the pilots hundreds of feet over launch coming down,
Prior to training today, I (Had Robinson) made a test flight over the
area and was able to get a photo of our happy gathering at the 4th sod
farm. Phil is visible with the orange glider and Daniel with the
blue, red, white. The 4th farm is the most westerly and remote of
the farms and completely free of hazards (power lines, public roads) but
for the irrigation sprinkler system. It is further away from the
rim of the Rio Grande valley and, accordingly, has less mechanical
turbulence when the winds are high.
Daniel helping Phil at launch. When pilots are not in the air they
should be kiting or helping other pilots. It adds a factor of
safety. Vic stands at the ready to help spread out her dad's
glider. Helping other pilots is also a great way increase
August 2 -- Saturday -- Training -- It rained off and on
during the morning but things opened for training during a few hours in
the afternoon. The winds were right at the edge. Student
PPG2 pilot Daniel Rivera got a workout keeping his glider overhead.
It's a lot of work when conditions are strong but pilots learn about
finesse in controlling their gliders. It was a good afternoon --
well done, Daniel!
FlightBabe1 (Marilyn) racing out on her ATV to retrieve the drogue
parachute. Thanks to her help, we can launch double the number of
pilots during a session. The video is
Daniel had to bring up his glider in strong air, kite it briefly, then
turn and launch. It all happens very quickly. The pilot must
keep everything under control. The only way to learn is by doing
-- much like playing tennis. You can read all the books there are
and watch a dozen videos but it cannot replace doing it repeatedly until
your skills are perfected.
August 1 Friday -- Training -- It was raining Friday AM so we
canceled training for the morning. The air was not turbulent or
particularly hazardous but wet grass is not easy to launch from.
Late Friday afternoon a deluge occurred in the foothills of the Franklin
Mountains. A cold front from the east hit the humid warm air in
our area = weather. Below, a view east from the west rim of the
Rio Grande valley. The Franklins cannot be seen because of the
rain coming down. About an hour later, the whole thing died and
went away. New pilot Daniel Rivera and I (Had Robinson) practiced
kiting at the sod farm. We had to be wary of outflow from the
storm going on near the Franklins.
The view at the sod farm towards the west was inviting. Daniel was
getting to used to kiting while wearing a paramotor. Because of
the weight pilots have to be much more careful about being dragged or