Friday, December 14, 2007

December flying at Whidbey

By Iain Frew:

Hopefully a lot of the new pilots who haven’t yet managed to get out to Whidbey to fly will take the opportunity of the off season to try this site. Winds need to be just right, not too strong and not too light and it can be a little difficult to predict. But with all the weather information available on the internet these days and local pilot “El Diablo”, there’s enough info to reduce the risk of a trip out there without getting to fly. This year I’ve had 12 visits and only 1 day of not flying so not too bad a record.

Whidbey in DecemberYesterday was another great day. I got there just before 11:00 am to find only 1 other person there, Derek Baylor who learned at the ranch last year. He had been there since 8:00 am and had been kiting but not yet flown. The wind was a little light and blowing from the south. I walked up the south bench a little and could see the bald eagles soaring further down the coast. The wind was light at launch but looked to be stronger along the bluff. I got out my glider, kited it, walked up the bench and flew off. Time 11:05. I love it when you just turn up and fly. I hugged the bluff and started to rise. As I flew down the coast and got a little higher the lift got stronger. I was surprised to find myself about 450-500 feet over the bluff. Almost to cloud base! I got out to just before the point at the lagoon and turned back. Derek had unfortunately managed to put his glider into some cactus bushes on the south bench whilst walking up it and was still struggling to get it freed. I started to fly back north to the launch thinking I would be motoring but I wasn’t going much faster. Hmmm. Why was that?. I should have known, but it didn’t occur to me at the time. Anyway, time for speed bar. I noticed my speed bar had got tangled in my stirrup and wasn’t fully functional. Not a good sign. Anyway I managed to get back to the launch and decided to come down and fix the stirrup.

Got that fixed and was hoping to take off again. Derek had got his glider free by this time and was trying to kite it without luck at the south bench! Huh. That’s strange we thought. So we walked up to the crest of the slight hill in the middle of the launch zone to find the wind now coming from the NW. Ah…the wind had switched when I was in flight, thus the reason for my slow return. Doh!.

Anyway we took off north and I flew to the lighthouse and back and then up and down the coast aways a few times before landing. The wind was getting lighter and it turned off around 12:00pm. It didn’t turn back on again until 2:00pm. But it was on from then until I left at 4:00pm. “El Diablo” had come out to play too so we flew together for quite a while at one point getting a Red Tail hawk blocked off between our gliders and I’m glad the hawk took Jim’s path to escape as it flew out with the bird’s wing hitting his!.

All in all a great day. Hopefully with more notice some of you can make it out there soon. It may be back on at the weekend, looking like Sunday, although it could be a tad strong.

And if you want to know my secret, apart from linsider info from Jim, I also use MM5, Smith Island data and the fantastic weather site links available at TJ Olney’s home page..