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Training October 29 -
November 2 -- We will be training at the farms Thursday PM at
approx. 4PM. We have opening for additional students. Let us
Friday – Sunday is the Amigo Airsho so there will be
no training doing that period as we will be participating in the show.
Wednesday PM - Thursday PM are the only times when training will be
All training is dependent on weather conditions. Before coming out,
check your email or the web site to be sure training is not canceled. If
something comes up, I will attempt to text scheduled pilots. Location is
sod farm #4 unless otherwise specified. We have water. Snacks & bug
spray are highly recommended. Contact us to schedule training.
It looks like both Friday & Sunday will be a blowouts so we will not
flying during those times.
November 1-2 -- Amigo Airsho 2014
Dona Ana County Airport, Santa Teresa, NM -- The
El Paso Paramotor Demo Team will be flying in this year's show along the Golden Knights Army parachute
team, the Army 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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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 --
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
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
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
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
(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
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.