paraglider being inflated on the rim at Kilbourne Hole 
				maar, Dona Ana County, TX

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paragliding past the south rim of El Penon, Valle de Bravo, Mexico in a UP Summit 
				XC paraglider SOUTHWEST AIRSPORTS paragliding near cloud base in Valle de Bravo, Mexico - pilot is Had Robinson

FLIGHT SCHOOL for PARAGLIDING

  Training & Discovery Flight Information - go here  

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We are based in Santa Teresa, NM where we can fly year round in our beautiful desert terrain and high mountains. We offer USHPA (paragliding) and USPPA (powered paragliding) certified training.

We are proud to train warriors of the U.S. Armed Forces - Please view I Fought for You.  This website is dedicated in memory of the heroes of U.S. Navy SEAL Team 10 and the SEALS in Operation Redwing who perished fighting the enemy in Afghanistan, June 2005.  Southwest Airsports is a U. S. defense contractor.

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Weather Info For explanations of the tools below and more weather info go here.
 
Intro to Weather in the southwest

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Dixon White's Notes on Desert Flying (courtesy of Eagle Paragliding)

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Wind History Map - actual vs. forecasts

Midland, TX weather tools

 

Current & Future Events

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 Muñoz, 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 Dolphins 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. 

Contact us for information about paragliding, events, or flying in our region.  Visitors are always welcome at our training sessions and at our flying sites.  They can also assist pilots.  Directions to our training site, the sod farms are here.

Recent Events

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 Samalayuca 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 future.



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 RIVERA!



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 workout!

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 launch.



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, go here.

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 know-how.



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 here.



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 falling over.


vulture

   

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