Thursday, December 22, 2011

President's End of Year Report

Northwest Paragliding Club
President’s End of Year Report
December 22, 2011

It’s been a remarkable year for paragliding in the Northwest.  In many ways, particularly for cross-country flying, it has been a terrific year.  Records were set and broken and many pilots had new personal bests.  If you saw Dave Norwood’s posting of the results of the North West Paragliding League, you have a feel for what a great year it has been for XC flying.  And while we are used to seeing big XC flights from Baldy and Chelan, many of the really fine XC flights this year originated at Tiger, Blanchard, Saddle and even Kiona. 
In past years, a good day at Tiger meant you got up, flew around the towers, maybe over to Squak and landed back at the LZ or maybe on the Sammamish Plateau after a couple hours.  This year a good day meant many pilots flying to Fall City, Carnation, Redmond, or North Bend; or south to Covington, Black Diamond or Enumclaw.  On those days a few pilots might get to Monroe.  Matty Senior’s flight from Tiger to the Blanchard LZ, 78 miles away, was possibly the highlight of the year; although Matty and Steve Pieniak’s dual-flights from Tiger across Snoqualmie Pass to Cle Elum were huge accomplishments.  Unquestionably, 2011 produced an inordinate number of long, memorable flights.  Improved wing technology has made some of this possible, but pilot attitude – the willingness to go for it – may have resulted in many of the great flights. 
In some ways 2011 has been a frustrating year.   Many of our plans to improve Tiger have been on hold pending the completion of land-use-license (LUL) agreements with DNR.  For months it seems we have been a signature or two away from being able to improve the Cut, drive directly to launch from the LZ, and install a container and improve instrumentation on north launch.  Despite the Herculean efforts of Rich Hass to deal with DNR, we still do not have the necessary LUL agreements. 
And it has been a tragic year, with the loss of Ken Blanchard in the first-ever fatal accident at Tiger. 
We have had our successes in 2011 as well.  Just keeping our sites open and flyable by maintaining good relationships with their owners and managers was a major accomplishment.  The parking lot at Tiger was expanded, and we were able to trim many of the trees around the Tiger LZ and around both launches.  Although not our doing, construction is underway at Blanchard which promises to improve the launches and provide additional parking.   We also dealt with Mike Miller’s accident which totaled the van and left us short of shuttle vehicles.  Bob Hannah helped secure a new shuttle van for Michael and the Club stepped up to help Michael financially. 
As usual, the Club sponsored several fly-ins this year.  The Tandem fly-in at Tiger raised about $9,200 in revenue for the Club while providing a great flying experience for about 80 non-pilots.  The Baldy Butte Fly-in was not blessed with the best weather but still, many pilots had good flights.  By all accounts the Women’s fly-in at Chelan included good weather, fun flights and a great Saturday night party.   Many of our pilots also enjoyed the Beach-N-Fly and the Bike-and-Fly at Chelan, the CAN-AM Fly-in at Black Mountain and Rat Race. 
The Holiday Party at Pogacha’s on December 13, 2011 was a great success, as more than 75 of our friends and family members enjoyed each other’s company and a very good Italian Buffet.  Tom Allen announced the following awards for 2011:

·         Two Rookie of the Year awards: to Travis LaMance and Ken Swenson;
·         Two Flight of the Year awards, to:  Chris Amonson for his 143K flight, and Conrad Kreick for his flight from Saddle to Oregon;
·         Pilot of the Year: Matty Senior who had a number of awesome flights, including Tiger to Blanchard and Tiger to Cle Elum;
·         Presidents Award: Rich Hass, for his relentless efforts to advance the Club’s interests with the Washington State DNR and King County;
·         Two Volunteer of the Year awards, to: Roger Brock for his work with DNR and numerous landowners in developing and maintaining flying sites in Skagit and Whatcom counties.  And Rick Hubbard for his work maintaining and improving our flying sites.
·         Tech Mentor of the Year award, to: David Wheeler for his efforts with the north launch camera, airspace education, and the fantastic Spot page for tracking pilots.
·         NWPC Ambassador: Meredyth Malocsay, She knows and is known by pilots all over the world. 
·         Perpetual Poo Poo Point Outhouse Trainee:  Marc Chirico – few people realize how much they should appreciate Marc’s efforts, and
·         NWPC Old-Timer and Mr. Fix-It: Wally Adams, another behind-the-scenes worker who improves our flying world. 
In a surprise appearance, Matty Senior’s award was presented by Tom McCune, a Tiger Mountain pilot once ranked No. 1 in the U.S. and winner of several international flying competitions.
Club Officers
In November, a new board of directors was elected to serve for 2012.  The new officers include the old officers with two exceptions.  Scott Stabbert replaced Beth Friesen as treasurer and Keith Papenthien replaced John Schnebeck as secretary.  Beth asked to step down after three years as club treasurer.  Beth did a fine job keeping track of the Club’s finances and paying its bills, and we greatly appreciate her efforts.   John was reelected to the Board in a director-at-large position, replacing Rob Leonard, who had served us well in 2011.  Keith and Scott are new to the club, but both bring welcome enthusiasm and expertise. 
The NWPC Club’ officers for 2012 are:
Ralph Boirum - President; Lawrence Wallman – Vice President; Keith Papenthien – Secretary; Scott Stabbert – Treasurer; and Directors Paulo Escobar, John Schnebeck and Ken Swenson.   Andy Wood remains our Webmaster, and Chris Amonson will continue his fine work as the Club’s Blog Editor. 
The Board meets monthly, generally on the second Monday of the month. 

Status of the Club’s projects:
·         We have received the proposed LUL agreements from DNR.  (There are three.) The agreements appear to give us permission for most of the improvements we want to make; however, we have concerns about the insurance requirements demanded by DNR.  Rich is attempting to get DNR to revise the insurance requirements.  Once the LULs are completed, the Club will proceed with the improvements for which funding has been approved by the Club’s membership. They include widening and paving the entrance to the Cut at Tiger Mountain Road, installing a new gate, and grading and placing gravel on the road, and placing a steel container near north launch. 
·         These improvements will make the Cut a legal entrance to the interior Tiger Mountain road system, allowing emergency vehicles and the Shuttle to drive through.  The agreements and improvements will not allow commercial pilots or others to drive through the cut, but the Club will be able to lease keys for a new lock at the Highway 18 gate. 
·         Funding for the purchase and installation of a steel container near north launch has been approved by the Club’s membership, and completion of the LULs will allow that project to proceed. 
·         The LUL will also provide DNR’s permission for us to erect a tower on north launch.  A used tower has been purchased and re-conditioned by the club.  We hope to install the tower on Tiger’s north launch.  It would allow us to fly a windsock well above the 65-foot-tall trees on north launch so that it will indicate wind from any direction.  We also plan to install web cams on the tower and move Wind Talker to the tower, improving its usefulness.  Funding for installation of the tower has not yet been approved. 
·         The floor of Class B airspace ceiling at Tiger was recently lowered from 6,000 to 5,000 feet.  Lowering the ceiling forces hang and paragliders at Tiger and general aviation aircraft passing through the area into reduced airspace, greatly increasing the potential for dangerous encounters.  The Club and USHPA formally opposed lowering of the airspace; however, our cries went unheeded.   We now may not fly higher than 5,000 feet until we are about 2,000 feet east of the Tiger launches. 
·         Thanks in large part to Chris Amonson, the Club’s blog editor, there are several new articles and great photos on the club’s blog.  Chris has kept the blog active and it is a good place to go to read about other pilot’s experiences.  Feel free to write up your flying experience and share it with the rest of us. 
·         Andy Wood continues a good job of keeping the Club’s website up to date.  It is a great source of information about the Club’s flying sites and activities.  It also has links to weather information, USHPA, Leonardo and other useful sites.  Andy also makes voting on-line on club issues possible. 
·         The AED (defibrillator) has been temporarily located under the outhouse at north launch.  It will probably be moved to the container if and when the container is installed. 
·         The Club is awaiting a decision by the Washington State Parks Department which may open up Ebey’s Landing (on Whidbey Island) to paragliding.    
·         Paulo Escobar continues to represent the Club in efforts to develop a recreational site near McDonald Mountain.  By our participation, we hope to have a designated landing zone included in the park.  If we are able to acquire access to a landing zone, DNR will allow us to use launch sites on the mountain, opening up McDonald Mountain to hang and paragliding. 
·         The Club has been looking into placing carpet on the upper slope of Tiger’s north launch.  Improving that area could significantly shorten your wait by providing a better secondary launch site. 
·         The Club is also considering the possibility of sponsoring an USHPS-sanctioned paragliding competition this summer at Chelan.  This proposal is still in its infancy and is waiting for a few volunteers who are willing to put it together. 
Looking Ahead to 2012
This coming year we plan to change the monthly meetings to have greater emphasis on flying and less on the Club’s business issues.  Each month we will devote most of the meetings to topics like understanding the weather, using a GPS, and mountain and flatland cross-country flying.  We will have technical talks on thermaling, flying etiquette and techniques to improve your flying; and we will have orientation-type discussions about each of the sites we fly.   More photos, videos and discussions about flying should make the meetings more interesting and informative. 
Your Club officers are always ready to hear new ideas to improve our flying experiences.  Please feel free to share your thoughts with me or any of the other Club officers. 

Thanks, and have a great 2012. 

Ralph Boirum
President, NWPC