Santa Teresa, New Mexico -- El Paso, Texas
Explanations of the tools below and more weather info
El Paso National Weather Service - start here!
Meso West Region (Current conditions at stations in the SW - view profile without logging in)
Santa Teresa NWS (current conditions)
SPC Balloon Soundings (every 12 hours)
UoW Balloon Soundings - usually available before the SPC soundings 72364
NWS hourly graphical forecast - temp, winds, & gusting at the surface
NOAA Satellite image of clouds over west Texas - NM
National forecast of fronts, pressure & weather - easy to read
Soaring Forecasts - (go here for the thermal index)
Wind Map #1 - animated map of winds and other data over the surface of the world.
Wind Map #2 - this animated map loads faster but is the US only
Wind History Map - actual vs. forecasts
Training, tandems, and towing will resume July 26th after I return from Oklahoma.
Contact us to schedule/confirm if you want to train at the sod farms or fly our area sites.
All training is 100% dependent on weather conditions. Before coming out, check your email and the web site to be sure training is not canceled. If something comes up, we will attempt to contact scheduled pilots. We usually train at sod farm #4. Training times can vary because of weather or equipment issues. Pilots can always arrive earlier than the scheduled times to study the weather, setup, and practice kiting.
Most countries love adventure sports like hang gliding and paragliding. Switzerland, for example, even put an image of a guy paragliding on their 50 Franc note. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has opened the doors of Texas parks to USHPA pilots. Other public land administrators in the U.S. should do the same.
Buzz Nelson caught the east winds just right late Wednesday for some soaring at our closest east facing site. Congrats!
The early morning (twilight prior to dawn) is the safest time to launch a tandem. the Pilot in command and the passenger can be assured that turbulence (especially near the earth's surface) will be minimal. There is also a much lesser chance of wind direction changing during the crucial climb-out that occurs the first hundred feet. Keighley Hastings of Las Cruces once again made the trek to the Gardiner Turfgrass farms in Santa Teresa. The temperature of the desert air at this time of day is in the low 70's -- almost cold. Keighley is planning to being PG training soon – we are looking forward to her being a part of our hang gliding and paragliding community here in south central New Mexico and west Texas.
Our launch was flawless. As we climbed out, we headed towards the chili pepper fields of the Rio Grande river valley. Once there, we did some chili-checking. After that, it was a tour down the Rio Grande River, a climb-out to way above the Valley, and then a power-off descent and landing back at the sod farms. A great morning of flying for us. Here is a 40 second YouTube of our traverse of the chili pepper fields.
New tandem PPG passenger, Iliana Hernandez, made it to the sod farms at dawn for a flight around the region. We traveled west, right along the U.S. Mexican border and then did some low/slow mesquite slalom through the desert. An enchanting morning for the passenger and the pilot in command (Had Robinson). Iliana is a senior majoring in biology at NMSU in Las Cruces, NM. For the first time ever, I saw some new type of small deer in the desert. At first, we thought it was a coyote -- but it had long ears! It also ran like a deer. An escapee? Who knows....
Iliana as passenger -- front row. In the far distance (+20 miles) are the East Potrillo Mountains. The road visible is Hwy 9.
Ken Hunkus, Jake Hendrickson, and I (Had Robinson) made it out to the sod farms near dawn to continue training. Jake and I did another tandem -- so much fun launching the Ozone Magnum II airship and exploring the monsoon air layers. Ken is just dogging this sport (PPG paragliding) and it shows. This morning, his first launch was perfect -- and in light winds, the hardest there is. He also nailed the LZ on his first try. Good work! We are so proud of our students at Southwest Airsports. Safety is our first consideration -- everything beyond that is extra.
Ken preparing to launch. There is a lot going on when a pilot launches with a paramotor....
Our training location, the Gardner Turfgrass farms in Santa Teresa, NM. (The foot in the photo belongs to Jake.)
Jake Hendrickson & I (Had Robinson) were out at sod farm #4 just after dawn to do another tandem flight. The winds were 5-6 from the south and SE. North of us were a lot of interesting clouds and dense air that looked almost like fog. We kept an eye on things -- and launched doing a forward inflation!
This was Jake's second flight and he was able to take the controls and get the feel of flying a paraglider. We spent about 45 minutes in the air, visiting the border, doing some low fly's over the sod farm, and practicing turns. We both felt a few drops of rain which demanded that a close eye be kept on the weather. We had an easy and safe landing. A bit before we landed, we were joined by Iliana Hernandez, a senior at NMSU in Las Cruces. The air was a little quirky so we postponed her tandem until Sunday AM.
Flying towards the U.S. - Mexican border with Jake at the controls. There was a lot of moisture in the air -- everywhere.
This is the view north from the border. It looked like fog. Visibility was under 3 miles.
Iliana practicing for the tandem flight tomorrow. It's always RUN, RUN, RUN! The passenger has to help us launch into the air. Jake was the official "tandem bar" holder. The (3) of us practiced inflating the huge glider. There we were: (3) of us running along together across the sod farms. I wish I had a video....
When we say "high tow" -- we mean high! Buzz Nelson decided to go for it late Tuesday afternoon out on Hwy 9, our best place to tow for the miles it takes to get pilots up to new heights. We launch near the defunct race track because the road is particularly wide with a shoulder. As always, we notify Air Ops of the U.S. Border Patrol because this is a high intensity drug and people smuggling area.
The pilot's view at the beginning of the tow. The orange wad of cloth is the drogue parachute. When the pilot disconnects from tow, it falls away and drops the tow line slowly so I (Had Robinson) have time to reel it in. This day we had a line break when Buzz was approaching 8,500' MSL and he had to jettison the tow line and drogue. It fell to the earth we knew not exactly where. After searching for an hour, we gave up. I came back the next day at dawn in a powered paraglider and spent an hour crisscrossing the desert -- and found the drogue parachute and the line attached to it.
Is this fun or not getting so high? I just ordered 2,000 more feet of Spectra tow line so that I will have almost 10,000' of line on the winch. This will allow pilots to climb up to almost 10,000' MSL from launch which is at 4,000' MSL.
Here is the drogue I spotted from the sky. It was like being an eagle looking for prey as I flew across the desert. They have to be patient, and so did I.
Sunday was one of those special days when many things come together. It all began at dawn with 2 PPG tandems at the sod farms done by yours truly (Had Robinson). Passengers were Jake Hendrickson and Keighley Hastings. Jake and I did a short XC trip to the valley and landed in an abandoned alfalfa field near the west side of the Rio Grande river. Next was Keighley's turn. Ken Hunkus practiced his touch 'n goes.
As the winds looked good, Buzz Nelson and I decided to see if Agave Hill in the Franklins would work in the afternoon -- and it did. We both had good, safe flights. I was able to bench up the Triangle but chose to not top out because of high winds aloft. Launch winds were around 7. There was severe gusting most of the afternoon (22+ mph) so we waited until conditions softened which was around 6:30PM (this is the high desert). We both landed and got out of the Park by 8PM. Past that time, there is an $8 fee for being in the Park after hours.
Here is the field Jake and I landed in -- lots of tumbleweed.
Ken and Keighley at the sod farms after the morning's flights.
Buzz Nelson making the final trudge up to the Agave Hill launch from the parking lot far below.
The view north from in front of the Triangle that is just below N. Mount Franklin, Franklin Mountains State Park, El Paso, Texas. The sun was blocked by clouds late in the day, giving things a surreal effect.
If pilots want to get up and out from Agave, they must get to the Triangle where they can slowly bench up from thermals drifting in from the valley. Behind is the shadowed top of the range, N. Mount Franklin. It was so much fun working the Triangle and moving into the powerful lift which starts around 6,000' MSL. Pilots have to work hard for the delights of the Franklins.
Buzz working the house thermal north of Agave Hill.
Launch at Agave Hill (arrow). It is a shallow slope that allows errors.... In the far right is the top of Deep Sink Canyon. When you fly over it, you go down.
After a 40 minute flight I decided to come down -- and play around near launch. If you wait too long to land, you will have to deal with the daily katabatic flow down the mountains (translated: winds aloft and near the ground are going in the opposite direction). Photo by Buzz.
On Saturday, Ken Hunkus & Heather Coulon were out EARLY at the sod farms for training. The air saturated with moisture so the dewpoint and ambient temperature were close. When the sun was just coming up, there were some clouds at just 500' AGL. They were small and mostly transparent so Ken and I (Had Robinson) had some fun in them. It is another other-worldly experience we have as paragliding pilots to be able to move about clouds. The ones we flew in/around were the transparent ones so we were sure where we were going and could see clearly enough to spot any other aircraft around. It would be more accurate to call them "wisps."
When Ken launched, he also understood why it is always good to keep running until well away from the ground. Here is a short video of his launch and what happened! Nice work!
Below Ken does a perfect reverse inflation. Fully inflated gliders under control is paramount for safety when launching.
The light fog, wisps, near the sod farms in Santa Teresa, NM.
Ken flew through this wisp -- and pretty much destroyed it!
Later on Saturday we did a high tow on Hwy 9 with Buzz Nelson as pilot. It was his first high tow and Buzz had a successful launch, tow up to altitude, and then a safe landing. It goes completely against our natural frame of mind to know that the safest time any pilot is in the air is when he is being towed. Why is this? Because of the physics of the tow, either a collapse or a stall is impossible, despite our natural (and incorrect) feelings.
Buzz's glider can just barely be seen inside the black circle. There is about 1 mile of tow line between the tow vehicle and him. Buzz was not on tow long enough to get really high. He did reach about 7,000 MSL before he pinned off and went hunting for some thermals.
July 4 Monday was for tandems! Keighley Hastings once more came down at dawn to learn more about what actually flying a paraglider is. Winds at dawn were light so I decided to do my first powered paraglider tandem forward inflation. Normally, we must have winds above 4 mph but Keighley had some experience now flying tandem so she would have a good idea of what to do = run even harder during launch.
Keighley was all smiles. Flying tandem is soooo much fun.
Well, that is what it seems when we fly west of here. It is just all open space and, to the native, a land of enchantment. The desert is full of wonders and, as often as not, air that is going bonkers from all of the heat. Today was a good day to enjoy the immense amount of moisture in the air and low cloudbase. The forecast was for conditions to get really strong in the late morning so I had plenty of time. I launched from sod farm #1 and headed due west to the East Potrillo Mountains and the Torrey Paso, LZ, in particular. Going out, I got in some very strong lift under a cloud at 8 in the morning -- still trying to figure that out. Our resident meteorologist, Tom Bird, might know what THAT was. The lift was over 800'/min. This value is expected in the middle of the day but when it's early and cloudy? It could have been atmospheric ridge list (one layer colliding with another in a sort of convergence).
I landed at TP, took a break, and then launched in what was then increasingly strong and horsey air. I started back but then changed my mind and made a beeline for Hwy 9 about 5 miles to the south. On the way, I had to land because of high winds. They calmed down briefly and I continued to Hwy 9. Why towards Hwy 9? I knew that if I had to abort the journey, it is much easier for someone to pick a pilot up off of Hwy 9 then some dirt back road. On hitting 9, I started east. Things continued to deteriorate and, when I quit moving forward in the air, I knew it was time to land. Rod Burton -- bless his heart -- was so kind and picked my sorry backside up and took me back. Thank you Rod for rescuing your instructor!
Below, looking up at the clouds that were at 9,000' MSL. The lift under this one was intense.
Looking west towards the East Potrillo Mountains. You don't want to go down here because it is a LONG walk to anywhere.
I walked about mile with all of my gear to get to a good place for pickup. It was not necessary but I needed the exercise anyway.
My hero, Rod Burton, after we arrived back at the sod farms and exchanged vehicles. He drove my Tacoma out to the Potrillos. It would have been a very long walk, otherwise. Thank you, Rod!
Early Sunday morning we had one of the largest crowds we have had to date for flying and training at the sod farms. Those attending: Ken Hunkus (PPG), Daniel Rivera PPG), Heather Coulon (PPG), Keighley Hastings (tandem), Robin Hastings (HG), Nancy Hastings (expert witness), Jason Tilley (PPG) and yours truly, Had Robinson.
The tasks were two: 1.) Be able to ground track while keeping a constant altitude. This sounds easy but isn't. To do this successfully, pilots must practice enough so that the throttle is a part of muscle memory, like the gas pedal on a car. Who thinks about the gas pedal e.g. 1/3 now 1/4 now stomp on it! etc. 2.) Be able to land within 10 miles of the LZ marker. Actually, everyone is getting better at this. Flying anywhere but in the high desert is easy, like learning to swim with a life jacket on. Any pilot can nail the LZ if the winds are not light variable or raging, as is often the situation here. Again, practice, practice, practice.
Keighley Hastings also had her first PPG tandem with yours truly. She is the first passenger I've had who got it all right the first flight: Ran hard in the right direction (LOL), did not sit down when launching, nor did not throw up. Well done! To be fair, she did take a tandem HG ride a while ago, which is good prep for a PPG tandem. Here is 1.5 minute video of some highlights of her tandem flight. The guy who is waving at the camera is our eminent vice president of the RGSA, Robin Hastings -- and father of Keighley. Ken Hunkus supplied the video equipment and footage for the video. Thank you, Ken! Robin took the photo below of Keighley and I.
Students Heather Coulon, Ken Hunkus, Jason Tilley, and our best pilot in the region, Lee Boone, showed up for PPG training and general flying at the farms. On Friday at dawn Lee Boone began tandem training, the best time of day. That same morning Lee tried my tandem motor, the Polini Thor 130, and my favorite solo wing for all but the most advanced pilots -- the Ozone Buzz. Since the air was weak, he had to do a forward inflation with the heavier motor. Here is the video of it. Nice work!
Heather getting ready to do an unassisted forward launch. That is, a PPG launch that is not done with the assistance of the winch.
Ken just ready to launch. There is about six things every pilot must do the first 15 seconds of launch -- and why practice is so important because you don't have time to think of them all in an individual way.
Lee after flying his Paramania GTR reflex glider. These gliders are very fast and very responsive.
Sunday morning had high winds at the sod farm -- but within the limits of newer pilots. Jason is in the reverse position prior to turning forward and launching. He is examining his glider to be sure it is ready to go. In high winds it is easy to blown over when carrying a paramotor so things have to be perfect before turning forward. Once turned, the pilot must apply power and go during high winds or quickly get blown about, usually falling down and getting dragged.
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