Musings of an aging hang glider pilot

(Sept 30, 2022) “Mama Walker” (Big Walker Mountain) is a fickle lady. One day she can take you to incredible heights, other days a hard smack down to earth. With Covid and other things in life, my visits to her have been rare in the last few years. Last weekend was the Big Walker Fly In, and I paid her a visit to see what she might offer me. At my age I am no longer interested in the often rock and roll rowdy thermals that can take you to the incredible heights (and sometimes severe pucker when coming into a turbulent LZ at the end of a flight). After over 40 years of flying, and a body that is slowing down, I am more than happy to experience the magic of stepping off a mountain again, but into gentle evening conditions. If one is lucky, a Wonder Wind will kick in as the sun is sinking - a gentle and widespread lifting of the last warm air as the valley below cools.

For younger and bolder pilots, mid-day thermals can be wondrous things - finding the center of one and turning tight, high banked circles can take you to great heights at 1000 or more ft/min. In a matter of minutes the mountain you launched from can seem to flatten as it recedes below you. But what goes up must go down, and where there is rapidly rising air, there must also be rapidly sinking air, often very close by. Flying out of one into the other can result in “going over the falls”, which is exactly what it sounds like, as you find your glider nose suddenly pointing at the ground (modern gliders will recover quickly). Or encountering turbulence that leaves you feeling weightless while you hear the sail being smacked down on the frame above you. Modern gliders are built to safely handle this, [Read more…]