Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Another Good Rick Hubbard Tour, by John Kraske

Sunday, 12 Apr 2009, Marina, California

Ross J., Cort M., Mike F., myself and, of course Rick H. arrived in Marina Thursday afternoon. You'd have thought we were still in Seattle with the drizzle coming down. We were all jacked up to fly the dunes that stretch from Seaside (just north of Monterey), past the former Army post of Fort Ord, to Marina. We checked in the Holiday Express Motel in Marina and booked for the beach. It was drizzling and Ross was right, it was too light for my extra small Ozone Addict. A bit wet as well. Ross and Cort got a little soaring in and I sunk to the beach.

Back at the motel we stretched our wings out to dry. At least I didn't soak my medium Nivuik Artik. The weather forecasts for Friday were calling for more rain so we were quite surprised to awaken to blue sky. We all were under wing by 10 a.m. We parked at the far north end of the dunes where all pilots are required to register. Ross took off kiting his wing to the south and was e...ven...tual....ly air born - it was quite a task sustaining lift against these lower lying dunes with only about 8 to 10 mph winds. Cort was next to raise his wing overhead and I was soon to follow, wanting to get away from Rick's, "we should have gone to the regular launch...", bitching. Actually we should have listened to that Hubbard wisdom as I was huffing and puffing by the time I got into the air at some higher dunes, quite a kiting jaunt south. I was soon flying with Ross and another unknown pilot above the regular launch. The unknown pilot top landed and got drug into a large expanse of ice plants in the gully north of the launch. I flew around investigating the varying lift patterns before deciding to top land and talk to the guy who I assumed was a local.

Not. Dean, his wife and daughter were visiting from Colorado. Dean helped disable my wing as I was getting drug across the top of the dunes in an easterly direction. It was pretty obvious that then winds were picking up. We opted for the beach. By now Mike F. had driven our rental van to the normal launch. Did I mention we should have listened to Rick?

Ross took off towards Sand City, to the south where he had a close encounter with a well decayed, fly infested sea-lion on the beach. I launched from half way down the dune and made my way south about a mile and a half before turning back at the camera towers. I believe the two cameras are there to monitor anyone violating the fenced off cliff faces. Signs along these fences warn everyone to not disturb the bird nesting areas. Something new since my last visit and certainly a detriment to launching from beach level in the majority of this nine miles of dune.
Rich Parawaiting.

By noon it was well apparent that the winds were going to be nuking. Out on the bay white caps were becoming more and more active. We hung low, launching from beach level and staying low and out front. This is one of the few stretches that is open and not fenced. At one point we witnessed Cort lifting rapidly and being blown back where he was rescued by the resident ice-plant in the venturi gully north of the launch. He lived.

Later Cort got on my x-small Ozone and soon was ripping up the wind, keeping low and fast. Very sporty flying that little thing. A real hoot, like flying a racy little sports car instead of a boaty pickup truck. This "beach wing" I bought from Meridith a few months ago.
Cort takes to the air on John's x-small Ozone Addict.

We had a ball on Friday and were all pretty much worn out by the time the winds got too strong, even down at beach level. At the top of the dunes in must have been blowing 30 knots. We were well sand blasted on our way to the van.

Saturday we were a little more optimistic as the winds were forecast to be less than they were on Friday. We packed our guts at the motel free breakfast feast. Not too bad for eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy...and of course our packed lunch of bananas, bagels, cream cheese, sausage. Look out LDL, you're on the rise!

A quick stop at a local espresso, Coffee Mia I believe it was called, where the barista wanted to know what happened to the other guy. "Ross? Oh, he got para-dragged into a fly infested sea-lion and we had to leave him on the beach." I reported.

"I don't want to know the details!", responded another espresso customer.

"It was a very intimate moment for him." I countered. "We don't like him anymore...ah...but we'll miss him."

This time we listened to Rick and drove to the regular launch. Actually we didn't listen to Rick so much as Rick was driving and not listening to us. All of us were soon in the air. Immediately I took off for the south, hoping to get out and back before the winds came up too strong. No one followed and it was a long and lonely flight to Sand City. I could see whitecaps on Monterey Bay so kept testing my forward penetration to the west, being cautious to not get too high. When I felt too much lift I would fly out over the surf, lose some altitude then fly back downwind to the dune faces and recapture the ridge lift. I continued my zig-zag course to the south and finally lost all my lift at Sand City where I went for a vigorous dragging up the shallow sloped dune before gaining control of my wing. My boots and every orifice was packed with sand. The winds were now too strong to attempt much of anything. I untangled seaweed and ice-plant from my lines, emptied sand from my wing.

I was considering packing up and hitchhiking back to launch when I noticed a couple paragliders flying the dunes in the far distance from where I had come. Looked like Ross and Cort. So much for packing up. I took to the air at the base of a shallow dune and proceeded to work my way back, cautiously staying low and out front.

Mike prepares as Cort and Ross soar.

Ross staying low and out front.
A shallow ridge of sand, created by the punishing surf created some interesting lift off the shallow beach, about 20 to 100 yards west of the dune faces. This ridge helped my ride home. Because the wind velocity was fluctuating from 15 to 20 plus, it was an interesting 2-hour struggle. In a few places along the expanse of sand dunes there are some canyons with gaping hungry looking mouths. These venturi monsters are like giant vacuum cleaners that want to suck you in and back. Been there before. I think Ross was snacked upon three or four times on his attempts to fly south the day before. I kept recalling the Lust Lizards of Melencoly Cove*. It's best to stay clear of these by either fly high over them or way out in front of them. Landing in front of them is like offering up yourself as a snack.

About half way back I began seeing the hangies. They were coming out in force, sleek fast devils that they are. Some of them would just stay put hanging suspended in the air above a certain dune; parked in winds much too strong for bags.

I continued kiting my wing when I could, being careful to not violate the fenced bird nesting areas, the watchful cameras from the dune tops threatening my compliance. Sometimes I was able to let my wing and strong winds sand surf me along in the direction I dictated. Like making first tracks.

Ross kiting from north launch.

A few times I wasn't so lucky. A couple times I wrapped my wing on the bird fence. Finally I reached an unrestricted dune face and was able to get up in the air. By the time I reached my destination, Rick, Ross, Cort and Mike were all sand lounging and the wind had dissipated to a manageable level. Time to have fun. The boys joined me and we had about a half hour before the wind picked up again. We played our butts off. The winds switched to a manageable cross from the south which made me a little skeptical about horizontal rotor. I landed and folded up. By the time we had all packed up the wind had switched back to the west and began nuking. Nice to have a little help from the wind as we climbed up the steep faced dune, up and over the top. At the top it must have been 30-40 knots.

We headed back into Monterey for dinner. Our second go at the Italian Trattoria Parimiso. Pretty busy, relatively affordable and some pretty good eats. Their famous $2 shrimp cocktails are pretty good. If you order off the local menu you get several courses and much more than I can eat. Our first night, Thursday, we went to a place we remembered in Marina. We thought of it as the Cowboy bar. I recalled their calamari steaks as being "the best". Well they're under new management and it's now some kind of Hawaiian place. They were busy, but we all found the cuisine to be expensive, and lacking at best.

Ross and Cort are off for some morning flying at the beach. They just got back as I sit here pecking away. "How was the flying, light, strong?" It was guise to find Ross' lost camera. "Didn't find no camera.", said Ross. "Got a couple in.", said Cort.

My synopsis: First I'm concerned that I maybe over the Alaska Airline weight restrictions with all the sand I picked up in my gear. We all are tan, stiff and sore. We all are wearing smiles and ready to take off on Rick's next flying mini-vacation. Ross still has that rotting sea-lion ambiance about him.

*THE LUST LIZARD OF MELENCOLY COVE, by Christopher Moore (a must read)

All photos courtesy of John Kraske. Maybe someone will take HIS picture next time??

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Going Bi-wingual: A Revolutionary New Paraglider Design

by David Byrne and Kingsley Wood

The week after the Chelan XC competition in Washington last August, a group of paraglider designers from South Korea met with a team of Boeing’s aeronautical engineers and some software specialists from Microsoft to create the next generation of high performance paraglider designs. This meeting was a landmark event which brought together the top talent from each industry for the sole purpose of advancing paraglider evolution. Their surprising conclusion is that the past informs our future, and that we may all be gliding around on modified bi-plane type gliders in the not to distant future!

Microsoft’s programmers created a genetic algorithm to optimize the airfoil and ran over 500 million mutations on the “cloud” computers at Amazon Web Services. Next, they tweaked the lines of code in Boeing’s Aeronautical CAD program and preloaded the resultant algorithms into the menu selections so designers could easily edit all the individual parts of the glider and then simulate those changes in a virtual environment to achieve the best flight characteristics. Working with the Boeing’s Joint Strike Fighter jet engineers led the paraglider designers to consider the use of a canard wing as part of the overall design to help stabilize the gilder in flight, particularly at high speeds and in turbulence.


The new glider is made with Porcher Skytex, and uses classic diagonal segment construction on both wing surfaces. The lower canopy acts to provide additional bracing between the segments of the upper canopy. This distributes load and power evenly throughout the upper canopy, thus, the two wing sections act in tandem to provide a high level of stability, particularly when climbing in thermals. There are four risers, each with three main lines. What is unusual is that the top surface of the lower, or “canard” wing, provides most, but not all, of the attachments for the upper wing. The third line on the fourth, or “D” riser is attached directly to the trailing edge of the main canopy. This allows designers to build both wings with higher aspect ratios than would normally be considered for single wing gliders. It also provides the pilot with a direct means of control over the upper canopy and is vital for precise turning and landing. Because the canard canopy is smaller, similar to a speed glider, it has only 41 cells while the upper canopy has 61. Additional Edelrid “cross lines” are used between the additional cells in the upper canopy and are routed internally so they have no negative impact on the aerodynamics of the upper wing.


Gliders with a high aspect ratio are generally tricky to launch. This is not the case with a canard design. Shorter line lengths to the first canopy give the pilot an unprecedented amount of control when inflating the glider, wing reactions are immediate and precise. As the canard wing inflates, it provides an equal amount of tension on the lines leading to the upper canopy, steering it evenly across the entire span and cleanly over the pilot.

In flight the new glider is a pilot’s dream come true. The canard design allows the construction of a glider with a very high aspect ratio and significantly better glide performance. The canard wing also provides sufficient lift to negate the line drag found on standard gliders. The cell openings of both wings have been optimized by the addition of a vector band on the lower surface to add rigidity to the leading edges and provide stability at high speed.

Because the two wings are inherently more stable, this glider turns flatter in rising air and thermals more efficiently. High bank angles were not easily achieved on the solo or tandems wings because of the inherent stability, so the team has altered the original design on the acro prototype shown below.

Turkish test pilot Epril Faloul throwing down at sunset

With a top speed of 65 km/h, and a glide ratio of 10.5:1, this wing should appeal to competition and cross country pilots alike. Test pilots who have flown the prototypes remarked that they no longer feel at home on mono-wing designs. One of the Turkish test pilots, Epril Faloul, had this to say: “Once this technology reaches the rest of the paragliding community, our sport will never be the same”.

Tandem prototype on scenic mountain flight

Technical Data: Click for larger view.