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  

Flying Site Info for Pilots - go here

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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This site designed and maintained by Hadley Systems

Warning to pilots considering purchasing flight suits from Sky Wears

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

El Paso National Weather Service - start here!

Meso West Region (Current conditions at stations in our region)

Santa Teresa NWS (current conditions)

Anapra Mesa (current conditions)

SPC Balloon Soundings (every 12 hours)

OP40 balloon soundings forecasts

UoW Balloon Soundings - usually available before the SPC soundings 72364

NWS hourly graphical forecast - temp, winds, & gusting at the surface

Jet Stream &
4 day forecast

El Paso US Airnet winds & temps aloft

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)

ADDS - wind & temp forecasts at various altitudes

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

Wind Map - animated map of winds over the surface of the U.S.

Wind History Map - actual vs. forecasts

Midland, TX weather tools

 

Current & Future Events

December 17-21 -- Training --  We will have some high winds during the week but can train around them.  Wednesday is a blow out.  Thursday looks good but for PPG only as it will calm. The weekend is coming soon so let us know about training.  - Had

Contact us to schedule training.  Space is limited.  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, I will attempt to text scheduled pilots.  We train at sod farm #4 unless otherwise specified.  AM training begins at 9AM and 3PM.  Pilots can always arrive earlier than the scheduled times to setup and practice kiting and inflations.

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 ahead.

Recent Events

December 16 - Tuesday -- Anapra Mesa -- Tom Bird and I (Had Robinson) went out there this afternoon.  The winds were pretty fast at launch (16-19 mph).  So we waited a bit and I decided to launch.  Rather than risk getting blown back into the barb wire fence (we are paranoid about that stuff) I went way down the hill to launch.  Not sure why I went so far....  As Tom later pointed out, a bad idea because the lower you go at Anapra the more south the air is because it has to go around the north end of the Mesa.  Anyway, short flight, very turbulent, and no lift.  The good news was that the launch and flight went well in a 60 degree cross wind.  Well, at least, somebody flew in Texas today.

December 15 - Monday -- Transmountain -- Christoph Clemens and I (Had Robinson) did some more testing on the Transmountain site in Franklin Mountains State Park.  Christoph lives in Florida and travels widely around the Western Hemisphere because of his job, including visits to our out-of-the-way region.  Note: I learned the other day that our hang gliding pilot, John Theoret of Saskatchewan Canada, was the first and only hang glider to foot launch in the entire state of Texas for the year when he test flew this site back on Nov. 10th. Franklin Mountains State Park is a special place, indeed.

Winds most of the day were NNW and light.  Flying the site with winds this cross would be a good indicator of its overall safety and usefulness.  Winds from the north always means that we can expect modest turbulence as air rolls down the front of the Franklin range, hitting the fingers that swoop out from the base of the mountains.  Mix this with normal thermal activity and sites in the Park can be challenging.  Thankfully, the fall and winter months have much weaker thermal activity than other times.  The site works best, as would be expected, with winds from the SW and W.

We both launched off the NW face of the Transmountain finger at about 2:30PM and got right up.  I encountered the expected but modest turbulence from another finger north of Transmountain.  Being that the winds were light, any lift would have to be thermic -- and so it was.  We knew from the start that it would be a sled-ride and a hike but that was what we both were happy to have on a day when every other site in the region would not work.

The site is so appealing because sled-rides are easy per the hike back up -- a nice trail up from everywhere below.  Pilots who want a challenge can turn towards Dragons Mouth and should get the lift they need to get up and out in order to soar the Franklins.  This is our next test!  Less experienced pilots can choose to soar the ridge in front of the Pass and have as much challenge as they like and then land easily anywhere out front or top land.  Having so many choices is a plus.  It is also higher than Agave Hill and closer to the Pass which means that it is soarable much more often.

Christoph ready to go.  This is the only patch of ground that is not covered with cacti where a pilot can lay out his glider in order to launch.  When we find the best area to launch from NW and SW, we will ask the Park for permission to clear/move the vegetation.





December 13 - Saturday -- Training -- It is not too often that we get a group photo when training at the sod farm.  Pilots Tom Bird and Max Bennett came out to fly PPG.  Jason Tilley continued his P2 training, doing some tough maneuvers (spiral dives and simulated collapses) and perfecting his landing technique.

L-R: Had Robinson, Jason Tilley, Marilyn Robinson, Tom Bird, Sarah and Max Bennett.  Marilyn runs the ATV for the winch



Prior to launching, it is imperative that a pilot have perfect control of the glider.  Too many pilots bring the wing up and turn immediately before the glider is stable, hoping that it will stabilize as they move forward.  This is backwards.  Below, Jason is checking his glider carefully before turning -- it ensures that launch is under control.  Also look at his hands.  Rather than let go of the A's and the D's, he has them firmly in hand.  That way, if things change and the launch must be aborted, he can do it safely and immediately.  If he lets go of the risers and has only the brake toggles in his hands, there is no way to safely stop the launch routine.  If most accidents did not happen at launch, we would not pay as much attention to this....

December 12 - Friday PM -- Kilbourne Hole -- Pilots Tom Bird and Max Bennett with instructor Had Robinson set out in the afternoon to try some soaring at Kilbourne Hole.  We all hurried out because conditions were marginable and the day was getting on = conditions will always weaken.  Arriving at the maar, I (Had) was able to have two short flights in the weakening air that was turning more and more south.  We could have re-located to the north end of the maar but, by then, the air would be too weak to stay up.  Max and Tom were able to see how easy it is to fly the maar.  Next time, we will get out there when conditions are a bit stronger.

Had at the east launch at Kilbourne.  It was getting dark.  Photo by Max Bennett.



Tom & Max standing right behind East Launch.  It is almost too dark to fly but what a beautiful place.



December 12 - Friday AM --Training --
Phil Ehly was joined by pilots Lee Boone & Tom Bird as Phil made his maiden flight with a paramotor at sod farm #4.  He had spent many months learning to fly his paraglider before adding the substantial complexity of a motor.  Thanks to dogged practice, he had a flawless first flight.  Congratulations!

Lee & Tom discussing aviation (most likely) near launch -- which is always where our hydraulic winch is.



Phil with a big smile, just after he landed from a 40+ minute flight.

December 8 Monday -- Anapra Mesa -- The winds were just strong enough to soar the Mesa so Matt Hayes, Lee Boone, and I (Had Robinson) headed out to our favorite east facing site in the late afternoon.  We all had about 2 hours of air to fly.  So much fun!

Lee kiting his glider at launch just before take off.  It is great practice to just stand at launch not moving in any direction so the pilot can get a good sense of the air.



Lee launched above, then top landed, and got ready to launch again.  Matt is helping lay out Lee's glider.  There is enough rotor at launch so a pilot has to lay out his glider back and up.  There is a convenient patch of benign cactus near the rear of launch where you can park your glider high enough to get out of the rotor.



Matt flying out in front of the Mesa



Lee coasting along out in the front of the Mesa.



Matt took this photo of me kiting at launch. Lee Boone and I kited together at launch for probably 10 minutes.  As it was really getting dark, we decided to stow it, and go home.  Anyway, it is hard to land in the dark because you can't tell where the bad bushes are.

December 7 Sunday -- There was no training Saturday because of high winds but Sunday was perfect.  Pilots who trained:  Max Bennett, Tom Bird, Dave Jensen, and Daniel Rivera.  At one point, we had (4) pilots in the air at the same time.

Max built himself an ingenious paramotor carrier.  The platform can swing out to allow access to the rear of the camper shell.  We all decided that we want one, too 

 

Daniel enjoying an easy evening flight in a powered paraglider.  He noticed that it was a lot different than free flight.  The paramotor allows us to fly when the winds are not good for any of our sites.  Way down near the earth is Tom in his light colored glider.



Tom flying high...

December 5 Friday -- Pilots who trained today included:  Phil Ehly, Daniel Rivera, Tom Bird, Max Bennett, and Dave Jansen.  Today was Daniel's first time to fly his paramotor.  He was towed up with the engine off, released from tow, started his engine, and flew around the farms for 40 minutes.  This is always the safest way to get used to the paramotor.  Otherwise, pilots are usually overwhelmed and make mistakes that can damage their equipment.

Below, a telephoto of Daniel at about 1,000' AGL.  He remarked how very different PPG is from PG, the latter being the only flying he ever did until now.  He had a safe launch, tow, flight, and landing.  Congrats, Daniel, for your first powered flight!



The happy four of the late afternoon training session L-R:  Max, Tom, Daniel, and Dave.  Phil was not able to train in the PM.  The bright white dot behind the pilots is the moon.  It was a fun time for everyone.

November 30 -- Kiting Practice -- Do you want to become a better, safer pilot?  Kiting on the ground is the safest way to become skilled in the air.  When I (Had Robinson) travel, I take along my usual glider and my harness so, when I have some spare time, I can kite.  One cannot fly safely unless he learns to kite safely.

Below, PPG student Dave Jensen improving his skills with his glider over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Kiting must be from muscle memory, something which requires many hours of practice.  Remember piano lessons when you were a kid?  Everybody knows when you spent the time at the keyboard practicing.  I know when pilots spend time working with their glider!  When our students spend time kiting, they will have dramatically improved launches and landings.

November 24 -- Tyler Francis -- Today we learned that Tyler, owner of Francis Aviation at the Santa Teresa airport, died in a crash near the Las Cruces airport.  This is a tragic loss for our community and follow pilots, in particular.  We will miss him terribly.  The only good in this is that he died doing what he loved. -- Had Robinson

November 20 Transmountain Pass -- I (Had Robinson) went out around 3:30PM to test a new site that should be very promising for PG soaring and thermalling in the Franklin Mountains.  Most of our sites in the State Park are not very accessible.  If our gliders were not so heavy and bulky the distance from some parking lot to launch would not matter much.  Pilots who are older, have physical handicaps, or who are not strong enough to carry their gliders to launch are effectively barred from flying in the Park.

Why haven't we been interested in this site until recently?  All of us more advanced pilots have gotten close to the Dragon's Mouth (the Pass itself) and seen how it can suck an aircraft towards it -- and past the point of no return.  Sites near the Dragon's Mouth (DM) have always concerned us with this danger.  This site, thankfully, is about 1/4 mile north of the Pass which provides an ample distance away from DM.  Because access is easy, pilots can first drive right to the Pass and measure the wind velocity and make a decision to fly or not.

This new site (5,100' MSL) will eliminate this problem because it is just a few minutes from the parking area at the top of Transmountain Pass.  The launch area is about 40 vertical feet below the level of the highway and slopes gently from SSW to NNW.  Unlike Lee's Lookout south of the Pass, the launch is without any precipitous cliffs in the vicinity which makes it a safer site for newer pilots to launch from.  The  launch area will have the most lift with the prevailing southwest winds (240 degrees).  Today the winds were coming in at 270 degrees which made for less lift.  SSW winds should also work.

I explored the air all around launch successfully, looking for areas of best lift with today's winds.  The winds at the DM were about 9 mph and the winds at launch were about 10 mph.  Because the site is so high, we will have fewer problems with the inversion which sets up so early in the Valley.  The lower the site, the sooner the daily inversion kills the winds coming in.  This has been the problem so often at Agave Hill.

The area out of front is clear, unlike Agave, so turbulence is minimal.  Pilots can choose to launch close to the highway (stronger air and more chance of getting out) or walk down the finger to find weaker air and be farther away from the highway.

I have top landed at this site a few times over the years.  Today was unique -- the first time to launch a paraglider from Transmountain Pass so I would not be top landing.  Instead I made "S" turns from launch gradually out until the site began to shut down when the sun got low.  At that point, I went out as far as I could -- about 1/2 mile.  There was nothing at any time which caused alarm, I am happy to report.  There are some large fingers coming out from North Mt. Franklin north of the site which pilots should be wary about if the air is coming in great than 270 degrees.  They can expect some rotor and turbulence if conditions get strong.

The site, as a whole, offers the greatest safety and convenience of any site we have in the Park, even for hang gliders.  Less experienced pilots will be able to enjoy a minimally imposing launch environment with an open and accessible LZ out front.  I hope the Park will grant us permission to open the site up for public use.  Pilots who fly the site must register with the Park and pay the daily use fee at the Tom Mays Unit or present a Park Pass (which I have).

Soaring near launch.  View is southeast.



I landed way down the finger in a flat area.  One can encounter obstacles on the ground when gliding in from altitude like the Sotol bush here.  The dry stalks can stick up 15' above the ground.  The stalk on this one was going to nail me as I came in so I stuck my foot out and whacked it, breaking it off before it hit me front and center.  Those who regularly fly in these parts can face odd challenges.  But like good pilots everywhere in the world, you assess the situation as quickly as you can and then deal with it appropriately.  This was not the first time for the "cactus dance."  I took this photo as I was hiking back to launch.  It was already getting dark.



Down at the end of the finger.  Our goal is to put the glider in the clearest area possible when you land.  Picking the lines out of a mesquite bush can take (40) minutes....

November 16 Monday -- Anapra Mesa -- Looking at the forecasts, it appeared that the Mesa would be good for soaring.  When I (Had Robinson) got out there, things were right at the minimum for a good glider to stay up ~7 mph.  The flight was under (5) minutes.  There were visitors -- Sunland Park City Police on ATV's.  Thankfully, the launch and side hill landing were perfect and I was able to give a good impression to law enforcement.  So what?  It is their business to maintain public safety and we ultralight pilots have enough clowns running around us who endanger themselves and others, as it is.  It is always good, therefore, to demonstrate responsible conduct so that our sport has a future.  Our flying record in the region is 100% and, as a result, we get privileges from the authorities, including our local State Park.  I hope everyone will continue to conduct themselves properly and do the utmost to fly safely.

Southwest Airsports just received permission from the regional FAA inspector to conduct night training at our main training site with certain requirements.  This was a result of our perfect record adhering to FAA regulations.  It is also why we are invited to fly in air shows.  I am working on procedures and a curriculum at this time.  During the time I worked for the Army (JTFN), I was able to develop techniques on how to safely (!) land in the pitch black.  I can only describe night flying in a paraglider as a one of a kind experience.  It is eerie looking up at the stars or moon as one glides along.

If a windsock is almost straight out, the Mesa is soarable.  Today it was within 10° of straight out -- barely soarable.



I spent 45 minutes cleaning up the launch area.  Tom Bird had worked on a week ago and it now is more friendly to gliders and launching.

November 15 Saturday -- Training -- Pilots Daniel Rivera and Dave Jensen came out in the afternoon to see if the winds would die down enough to safely launch.  Pilot Tom Bird of the NWS forecasted that they would die down at 4:30PM at the surface and, not surprisingly, that is just what they did.  Up until then the air was coming in around 18 mph.  At 4:30PM the winds went to about 5 mph.  However, the winds just 100' above the ground were cranking: over 20 mph.  I (Had Robinson, instructor) convinced Daniel that it would be safe to launch and he did.  The next two flights he had were extraordinary.  Note how the wind speed dramatically increased as he went up 500' and then changed again as he entered different layers of air.

In all this Daniel set a record today for maximum towed height at the sod farm: over 1,800'.  The most recent record was set by Jason Tilley at 1,200'.  Once launched, he went almost straight up, then backwards, and then forwards again.  Usually, the winch reels in line to get the pilot up.  Today, it reeled in until he was 50' off the ground and then paid out the rest of the time.  It was an unusual experience for a pilot which made him a little uncomfortable the first flight.  But he was eager to go the second time.   Here is are the paths of the two flights.  They were close together.  Dave Jensen was a big help in getting Daniel off the ground each flight.



Near the top of the flight.  Daniel is just a speck and getting smaller.  Congratulations, Daniel, for being at the right place at the right time and willing to stretch your skills.  The sod farm is just the place to do this.  Well done everyone!

November 14 Friday -- Training -- The winds were good today!  Pilots included: Daniel Rivera, Max Bennett, and Tom Bird.  Daniel was the only one who towed today (and had the most number of flights).  The others brought their paramotors and launched with them.  Daniel had a first for the school today -- instructor Had Robinson (yours truly) put a small cravat in Daniel's wing before launch.  A cravat is when the tip of the glider becomes tangled in the lines.  This causes the glider to dive to the side of the cravat.  The pilot must keep his glider under control and be able to fly a straight line regardless.  Cravats happen when a pilot encounters air that is quickly sinking (negative G's).  These knots in the fabric of the wing can be so severe that the pilot must throw his reserve parachute.  Small cravats and collapses will happen so it is good to be prepared.  Daniel went up two times with a cravat and was successful at getting them removed each time. CONGRATULATIONS, Daniel!

Daniel ready to launch -- he is well equipped and ready to go!



Tom coming in for a landing.  The white line in the foreground is the tow line going across the field.



Max kiting his glider just after landing.  It was a successful day for all of the pilots.





Thursday -- Anapra Mesa Hang Gliding & Paragliding -- There were a gaggle of pilots of both kinds at Anapra this afternoon: Bill Cummings (HG), John Theoret (HG), Nathan Wreyford (HG), Robin Hastings (HG), Dave Jensen (PPG), Tom Bird (PG), and yours truly (Had Robinson PG).  Winds were cold and strong all afternoon, sometimes gusting to the middle 20's.  Around 3PM conditions were good for hang gliding.  John launched and then Nathan.  They got very high over the Mesa.  It was not until 5PM that conditions began to moderate just a little.  If winds at Middle Launch are less than 20 mph, it is possible for PG pilots to move down the hill and launch in lighter winds.  It would not be safe to launch even in light winds down the hill if winds are over 20 at launch.  This is because of the risk of getting blown over the back of the Mesa if the pilot should suddenly get high.  Going over the back would not be a disaster but it would not be fun.  Just before sunset, I (Had) launched from half way down the hill.  But as the winds started to calm down, they turned SSE and we had a severe crosswind coming in.  This made for turbulent air as the winds rolled along the undulating slope of the Mesa.  I only flew a few minutes and then decided to land -- but at least I flew.

John flying high out in front of the Mesa.  One of the delights of Anapra Mesa is the wave-lift generated by the mountains in front.  It is independent of the Mesa but can only be accessed by launching from the Mesa.  Out in front and to the east is Mt. Cristo Rey.  In the far background are the Franklin Mountains and the State Park.  We hope to be flying more there soon as the weather calms down.



Both hang gliders were in the air.  View is southeast with Anapra Colonia, Mexico, in the background.



Had says: "FLY MORE, WORK LESS! You will be glad you did."

November 11 Tuesday -- Training -- Jason Tilley came out early to train and try out his new Ozone Buzz paraglider.  Everything performed well.  It went so well this morning that Jason broke the record for the longest tow-launched non-thermal sod farm flight to date: over 15 minutes.  Daniel Rivera held the existing record of 10 minutes made earlier this year.  Staying up so long after being towed into the air is, nonetheless, more luck than skill.  This was the moment for a long and high altitude flight.

What exactly happened, no one is completely sure.  Tom Bird, PG pilot and a senior NWS meteorologist, believes that a hole in the daily inversion that forms over the region suddenly opened up over a small area west of the Rio Grande Valley.  The warm air near the ground rushed up through this hole and provided the lift in which Jason -- luckily -- found himself.  The air over the sod farms was moving up at around 200'/minute -- enough to keep a pilot from descending.

Jason about to launch.  Winds were high -- steady at about 13 mph out of the west.  High winds (<18 mph) are not dangerous to PG pilots once they get the wing over their heads.  What is dangerous are winds that change speed or direction quickly.  Once a pilot is in steady air, he will not notice wind speed except how he moves over the ground.



A telephoto shot of Jason boating around in the rising air.



Jason did not have any instruments but we are guessing he was over 1,200' AGL in this photo.  Visible (just barely) are "cloud wispies".  When warm air rises suddenly, as here, it expands and cools forming the "pre-clouds" which are visible here.  When we paraglider pilots fly often enough, we can be in the air when unique events like this happen.  The event today was something I have never seen before nor flown in.  It was not particularly long-lived. Jason launched again within minutes of landing and the whole thing was over and the air was back to its usual sinky self.  This is why paragliding or hang gliding can be so much fun -- when you are at the right place at the right time.  Congratulations Jason for being such a lucky guy (and a reasonably good pilot, too)! 

November 10 Transmountain Pass Launch -- Visiting hang glider pilot John Theoret of Saskatchewan Canada became the first pilot in at least 20 years to launch from the top of the Pass.  He was joined by locals Bill Cummings (HG) and Had Robinson (PG) who assisted at launch.  For a short video of John's landing on the access road in Tom Mays, go here.  Why has no one (including paraglider pilots) launched from the Pass?  Everyone had concern about interfering with the traffic on the state highway and, more importantly, being sucked into the Dragon's Mouth.  Per the former, the south end of the visitor area is well away from the highway.  Per the latter, compared to just a few years ago, our knowledge of the peculiar flying conditions we find near the Franklin Mountains and in the Rio Grande Valley have greatly increased.  This all translates into an acceptable safety margin for flying this site and staying away from the Dragon's Mouth when it is unsafe.  Its great advantage is accessibility, something of great importance to hang glider pilots.  Another is that the Pass is above the ever present inversion above the valley floor in front of the range.  This means that we pilots have much more reliable air to fly in that is free from the constantly changing surface winds below.  I (Had) also did a new survey of possible PG launch areas near the Pass.  While I have landed near the Pass, I have yet to launch from this area.

A promising PG launch area on a finger near the Pass that is just below the highway (and out of the way).



John setting up near a cabana at the south end of the visitor area.



Bill putting away some gear.  John had just launched from the little ledge just in front of the concrete barrier.  The launch drew quite a crowd of onlookers.



John just 15 seconds after launch.  He was climbing up at about 1,400'/min -- like a rocket.  Why are there no photos of John taking off?  I was helping.... 



Below, John just after finishing his 40 minute flight.  The LZ is the access road for the Tom May's Unit within Franklin Mountains State Park.  The Park is unique among those in Texas because of its broad range of activities offered to the public, including hang gliding and paragliding.  Our congratulations to John for his historic flight within the Park!  Well done!

November 1-2 Amigo Airsho -- It was a stormy and windy weekend, so much so that the EP Paramotor Demo Team could not safely perform.  By Sunday afternoon Dan Buchanan's hang glider airshow and the Army Golden Knights also had to cancel.  But what can we do about the weather other than accept it?  It was sad that we could not safely perform but it was the best thing.  An accident at the airshow would greatly harm the long term reputation of all involved.  Safety is always the 1st priority for all airshow performers.  Approximately 10,000 visitors made the easy trek out to Dona Ana County Airport for two days of fun.

Lee Boone (red and black flight suit) & Had Robinson (all black flight suit) at the daily pilots briefing given by airboss George Cline.  Team member Glenn Tupper had to undergo some special training for his new commercial pilot position and was unable to make it this year.  It was an honor to be in the same room with the other performers including the Army's Golden Knights skydiving team and the Air Force Thunderbird pilots.  John Shaw (not pictured) was our official photographer and ground crew chief.  Marilyn (FlightBabe1) also helped and was our communication backup operator.  FAA regulations for air show performers are very strict in order to protect the public.



There were only (8) performing groups at the show.  Francis Aviation provided a hangar for our equipment that was next to the show line. Our paramotor gear was tucked in behind the other aircraft.



Lee Boone posing with Kyle Franklin and his Dracula biplane.  Kyle is the son of Jimmy Franklin, world famous airshow performer and the originator of Franklin's Flying Circus & Airshow.

October 30 Thursday -- Training -- Pilots Marcey Gillespie, Jason Tilley, and Shawn Goggin were able to come out.  Conditions were particularly good for new students.  All did well.  Practice, practice, practice!

Marcey got very high (she is a lightweight) and was able to get well behind launch before coming in for a safe landing.  Shawn (L) watches while Jason (R) prepares to get towed up.

October 26 Sunday -- Training -- Sunday AM was one of our busiest days in recent memory for training at the sod farms.  Student pilots were Daniel Rivera, Natalie Adam, Phil Ehly, Jan Richter, and visitor Arturo Bujanda.

Arturo (L) and Daniel (R) at launch.  Arturo was a great help to the pilots.  Thank you for coming out!



Natalie after a long and successful flight. 

October 26 Sunday -- Cristo Rey -- Early Sunday morning, the Catholic Dioceses of El Paso and Las Cruces celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Cristo Rey memorial.  Thousands of the faithful made the pilgrimage to the top.  I was asked to photograph and video the event by Jackson Polk of Capstone Productions.

October 23 Thursday -- Training -- Max Bennett, Dave Jensen, and Phil Ehly made it out to sod farm #4 for more training.  It is impossible to become a good and safe pilot without practice.  At the sod farms we can make mistakes and learn -- all safely.

FlightBabe1 (Marilyn) fitting Dave with his communication gear.  We use duplicate radios with newer students to ensure that they can always hear the instructor.



Max helping Phil lay out his glider before launch.



Phil preparing to reverse launch.  Pilots prefer to face the glider and launch because it is safer:  they can see the wing come up and note any problems immediately.



Dave ready to go.



Phil coming in at sunset -- peaceful and slow, raw aviation at its best.

October 22 Wednesday -- Airsho Practice -- The EP Paramotor Demo Team (members Lee Boone, Glenn Tupper, and Had Robinson) once again was asked to perform with (7) others at the annual Amigo Airsho.  Our aircraft is so unusual which is why we are invited to this air show, among others.  Our most unusual stunt is flying very close together while towing huge streamers.  We have to practice carefully!

Lee Boone just above Had's glider -- formation flying.



Towing the 700'+ streamers

October 17 Friday -- Agave Hill -- Because of the great number of storms in the west throughout the last few years, Agave Hill has been lightly used.  We have had some recent test flights and today was one of them.  Please note the windsock below planted in the parking area near launch and the trails going over Mundy's Gap.  The air appears to be out of the east but it is only the daily katabatic flow.  When the sun gets low and goes down, the surfaces of the rock begin to cool rapidly, especially high up.  As the air cools it sinks and begins to flow downs the slopes and can reach speeds of  5-8 mph.  The flow is 15'-30' thick.  I landed near the windsock downwind, going downhill.  Was it dangerous or uncomfortable?  Note that paragliders come in at around 21 mph.  If the wind is 5 mph, that could mean a ground speed of 26 mph -- a bit fast for a man to run.  Well, this is why pilots who learn to fly in the desert mountains can fly anywhere, including the Himalayas.  Thankfully, I did not have to come in and do a face plant while landing.  Why not?  This is because my glider is about 20' over my head, almost 30' in the air.  The inversion had not deepened to that height (winds were still out of the west just above) when I landed so I did not come screaming in.  It was odd that, after my flare, the glider sank into the downhill flow and caught up with me.  If pilots wait too long to land after a mountain flight, they have to go far out in front and land in a high area in order to avoid doing a downwind landing due to the thickening of the inversion.  Sometimes, we will have to land uphill because of the inversion.  Windsocks in the mountains are very important.

In Mexico one time, I was worn-out flying across some mountains on a cross country trip and needed to land.  These were steep mountains with deep valleys.  To land at the bottom of some valley entailed a high amount of risk because of lack of any flat ground, rocks, trees, inversions, valley flow, and who knows what else.  Instead, I did something no other aircraft can do -- a side-hill landing just below the summit of the knife-edged peaks.  At that altitude, the winds are steady and predictable.  I stayed just below the summit because of thermals coming off and I did not want to go up again!  It was an easy, safe landing.  Mountain flying requires a lot of mental stability because of the dramatic scenery -- a skill anyone can have through practice.  Our minds play games and it is extremely important to know how to fly regardless of how one feels at some moment.

October 15 Wednesday -- San Antonio, TX -- San Antonio is on the coastal plains just below the edge of the Edwards Plateau, a huge elevated land mass that encompasses most of the central Texas.  Flying in the relatively humid coastal plains is a treat for us high desert pilots.  The air is dense and stable with slow moving, big thermals.  What turbulence?  Pilots will not learn to fly well in such a place but it is treat to not be so preoccupied with the condition of the air!

High above the coastal plain west of the city at dusk.  Imagine being in the middle of huge lake with dead calm air in a little boat.  It is completely flat here.  Our high desert is much more interesting but it is still fun to fly.  Just like in the Rio Grande Valley, an inversion will build as the earth's surface cools but it will be just a 100' thick, if that, rather than 1,500' thick as here.

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 katabatic flow 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 direction safely.




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 site.



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, Shawn!

Beside our winch that allows pilots much more time in the air to train safely compared to launching from a small hill.



vulture

   

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