Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Flying Around El Paso (Part 1)

Andrew and I kept heading south in search of warmer weather and paragliding sites. We were still in snow-covered northern Arizona when we emailed Hadley Robinson at Southwest Airsports in El Paso, Texas. His response was very welcoming and encouraging so we headed that way and have been here about a week now.

Nelson's Launch at Franklin Mountains State Park, El Paso

Our first meet up with Had was a bit mixed up. Andrew and I thought we were late and, not knowing the launch or having seen the landing zone, headed up to launch (a 20-30 minute hike) without our gliders. After Had arrived up there and we chatted for a bit, and two other pilots arrived, we went back to the car, got our gliders and headed back up again. In the end, I decided not to fly that day. With not having my wing out of the bag since October, a new site and not having a close-up look at the LZ, I was a bit hesitant and decided to play it safe. The site is a new one, only established a couple weeks ago, and line snags were definitely a problem so I helped get people untangled when necessary.
The LZ is the lighter patch of ground just left of centre.

Andrew getting ready to go.
Andrew in the air! 
The Sod Farm, Santa Teresa, New Mexico

The Sod Farm is a great place to do some kiting and is where Had starts off his students with tow flights. We joined him and one of his students for the day. Had's wife Marilyn plays a very active role in the operation as a retrieve driver for the drogue/tow line.

It was a good day to practice skills and Andrew managed to eek out a 28-minute flight with some weak thermals lifting off the heat of the highway.

I used some of the relatively unexciting footage and photos to make a fun little video (1 minute) with an iMovie trailer template.

This is a stationary tow set up. The line goes out to another vehicle parked at the opposite side of the field. Had stays at this end to instruct and operate the tow; Marilyn uses a quad to retrieve the line between each tow.
Thanks to Andrew for the photos of me.
Photos can be deceiving! It looks like I'm right on target to land by the cone but in fact I got lifted up at the last second and landed about 30 feet further along. 
Andrew in flight.
Magdalena Rim, Las Cruces, New Mexico

The next couple days we headed an hour and a half north to Magdalena Rim near Las Cruces, New Mexico. The first day was far too windy for Andrew and I. 

Twelve - 15 mph is recommended for pilots of our skill level. Winds were blowing away at 20+ mph. Had is ever the optimist and just after sunset it slowed enough for him to launch at about 18 mph. It gradually slowed a bit more but Andrew and I decided not to launch in the fading light with the risk of trying to land at an unfamiliar place in low light (or dark) conditions. 

Cows near launch . . . where they're not supposed to be!
A sundog.
Parawaiting -- The strong wind was cold but the setting sun provided beautiful light!
Had took off in the sunset.
The next day Andrew and I went back early to Magdalena Rim with the idea of heading to a nearby climbing area first. But we thought we'd check out the conditions at launch first (Had thought winds would be way too light at that time) but it seemed quite good so we both flew. I had a 40 minute flight, Andrew about 1:40. 

Had and some other pilots (both paraglider and hang glider) arrived after this and launched later in the day in stronger wind. I was really pleased with the video I took from launch with my iPhone 7 plus. Again, thanks to Andrew for contributing photos to this project. (3 minutes)

Nelson's Launch, Franklin Mountains State Park, El Paso, Texas

Then we were back at Nelson's launch and another long afternoon of more parawaiting with another local pilot, Steve. No flights but a beautiful sunset. 

Last check of the wind speed.
The next day Andrew and I and Steve again headed up to Nelson's launch in the morning and this time we flew! I wanted to launch before the winds picked up too much so had a short but very pleasant flight. Andrew and Steve waited for slightly stronger winds and were able to stay up longer. I used Andrew's big camera with long lens to get some surprisingly good photos despite the distance and how shaky I thought I was while trying to hold the camera steady! 

(Andrew's wing is the one with red at the front; Steve's wing has red at the back.)

Andrew still getting lots of height.
Steve heading to the LZ.
Steve getting ready to land.
Agave Hill, Franklin Mountains State Park, El Paso, Texas

Later that afternoon we went to Agave Hill, a lower launch area. Steve managed to take off during a lull and got a high and long, but somewhat difficult, flight. Andrew and I waited for things to calm down and got sled rides to two different landing areas.

Again, fairly impressed with the video quality of the iPhone 7 Plus to make this video of Steve flying. (1 minute)
Warning sign at launch . . . almost being overtaken by a cactus! 

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