Monday, 25 September 2017

First Flights from Skyport and EJ Bowl

We were hoping for some mountain flights near Santa Barbara and the first two days delivered! It was the weekend so there were lots of people flying. 

We met the group at Parma Park, the landing zone for the Skyport and EJ Bowl launches. We'd heard a lot about the Parma LZ . . . and how sketchy it can be! Lots of trees and rocks to navigate on your way in. 

We, along with some other new and new-to-the-site pilots, got a site briefing from Mitch Riley (who we watched compete in this year's Red Bull X-Alps). Yep, the LZ has many hazards! But Mitch gave really good info on how to approach it and, fortunately, there is a lower LZ just down the hill that you can bail out to if things don't go exactly right. 
A pilot just after launching from Skyport.
Site briefing and the lower landing zone at Parma Park
A very full van on Saturday. There were even more people on Sunday!
It was a long, winding, steep drive up the hill (nicely paved the whole way) to launch. Cyclists were slowly making their way up and absolutely whizzing by on their way down. Which looked way more scary than paragliding!

The launch area at Skyport is . . . well, "not the friendliest" would be a good description. It's steep and not very big. And crowded with over a dozen paragliding pilots (plus the hang gliders taking off from a pullout in the road just above). One of the experienced pilots was very kind to help lay out wings for all the pilots that went before him. Basically he kept them from sliding down the steep slope. Mitch helped the new students launch and it was a bit nerve wracking to watch! Thankfully, both Andrew and I launched without issue!
The small "get ready" area at Skyport.
Steep launch slope at Skyport.
Once again the air was "spicy" but we're starting to get a bit more used to it and feeling slightly more comfortable in the air. And had no problem getting enough height to clear the huge power lines between launch and LZ!

We both had great flights (Andrew was up 1.5 hours) and managed to navigate through the trees and rocks and land safely in the main LZ. Everyone else landed safely but some in various locations. One on a plateau in another area of the park, one with his wing in a tree below the lower launch, and one who barely missed a tree in the main LZ but fell, got scraped up a bit but was okay. The next day, a new pilot sunk out and landed on a road near the park and even one of the tandem pilots landed in a small tree with his passenger.  (I'm so glad we did our first mountain flights from VOR which has a nice launch area and a huge LZ!)

Sarah and Logan, a couple from Santa Barbara that we'd met on the SIV course the previous week, arrived just as Andrew was taking off. I landed first and when I thought Andrew was approaching the LZ I got on the radio and let him know what conditions were like. Humorously, Andrew said no that wasn't him and then Sarah thanked me for the information as it was her coming in.
Sarah approaching the LZ. 
Sarah and another pilot losing some altitude before the LZ. 
Logan approaching the landing.
Logan making one last turn into the LZ.
Love the colors of these hang gliders!

Andrew and a hang glider. 
Andrew approaching the LZ.
The next day we launched from EJ Bowl which is a higher and much nicer launch area. Which was good because there were at least five more pilots on Sunday than there were on Saturday. Again, there are some terrain hazards to be aware of and you need to ensure you clear them or get high enough that they aren't a concern. As it was our first flights from there, we cleared the hazards with plenty of room but then found no thermals afterwards so we both had shorter flights than the day before. Thankfully though, the air wasn't quite as rough. Looking forward to more flying days this week!
It's starting to look like busy skies already but the area is large enough that people spread out pretty fast.
I landed at the lower LZ this time and got photos of Andrew landing at the higher one.
In this photo you really have to wonder where he's going to land!

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