Worth The Wait
After patiently – and not-so-patiently – putting in time since my last flight (i.e. 12 days ago), today began with what looked like a promising day for flying. The winds had calmed down. The sun was shining. And the midday temperatures were expected to be in the low-to-mid 20s (that’s mid-70s on the Fahrenheit scale).Since I hadn’t flown for a while, I thought I’d do a couple of morning flights as the air is typically smoother at that time. As often happens, that plan didn’t work. However, it wasn’t because of the weather but rather glider availability. Jim, another pilot was finally getting his chance at doing his first solo tows – and since we both use the same glider, that meant one of us was staying on the ground. As you may have guessed, that one was me. I really didn’t mind as it just made more sense for him to get some flights in while the conditions were more manageable.
The end result meant that the morning came and went and the furthest I got from the ground was when I climbed the stairs to the clubhouse.
Fast forward to about 1:00 PM and there were now a plethora of gliders and pilots ready to go – and some already in the air. It looked like 12 days of being grounded was about to come to an end.
About 45 minutes later I was securely in my harness, hanging from my glider and sitting comfortably in the cart ready to launch. After smooth launches by JB and Kate, it was my turn. A simple “Go Go Go” from me was all that was needed to signal the tug pilot (Timothy) to lead me to the open sky.
To say that the tow was a little bumpy would be a bit of an understatement. I left the cart smoothly enough and the initial climb went equally smoothly. Then we got higher. As we did the air got significantly less smooth and the task of maintaining my position behind the tug was very much a battle. Despite being tossed around quite a bit, I managed to follow the tug to the standard release height of about 2,500 feet. A press of the release handle later and I was flying free.
Despite having hopes of finding the perfect thermal to take me higher, I managed to find nothing but sink and it didn’t take long before my 2,500 feet was down to 1,750 feet. Disappointing, but not all that surprising – and flying at 1,750 feet is still better than not flying. That said, what happened next was significantly more surprising.
As I approached 1,700 feet, my vario (the device that indicates my rate of climb or descent) started beeping. For those unfamiliar with a vario and its beeping, there’s a happy high pitch beep when climbing and a lower (and sadder) beep during rapid descent. At 1,700 feet the former beep began. It continued for a while at which point I started to turn. The beeping continued. As did my turn. After two complete 360 degree turns of continuous beeping I thought, “Wow, that’s new!”. And still the beeping continued. As did my turn. Round and round I went. 360 after 360 after 360. And the beeping continued. Fast forward several minutes and several 360s – I don’t really know how long it was because I was too busy flying the glider to check the time – I had climbed from 1,700 feet to 4,200 feet. For those mathematically challenged, that’s a climb of 2,500 feet. As you might imagine, I was more than little happy. Not only was that my biggest climb, it was also the highest I’ve ever been in a hang glider.
From there I was able to find a bit more lift and at one point managed to get as high as 4,750 feet – which is about 2.5 times the height of the CN Tower. By that point I was starting to drift away from Quest and while I knew I had LOTS of altitude to get back to the field, I opted not to stray any further. Instead, I turned back towards the field to see what else I could find. I didn’t find much. However, I did manage to stay at around 4,000 feet for about 25 minutes. Again, I was more than a little happy.
Eventually the lift disappeared and it was clear that the flight was coming to an end.
In my limited flights since my arrival at Quest, my landings have not been as smooth as I would have liked (gross understatement). Given how great today’s flight had gone, I was hoping to end with a great landing. I did. Sort of.
My goal is always to land gently on my feet. Spoiler Alert: That didn’t happen. However, my approach was good, I had lots of speed (that’s a good thing) and came in for a very smooth landing on the wheels. And I was more than okay with that. I mean, the wheels are there for a reason!
The only downside to the flight was that it ended with no photographic or video souvenirs to commemorate the experience. In the grand scheme of things, I’m okay with that – which is good since there’s nothing I can do about it anyway.
Number of Flights: 1
Best Climb: 1,700 ft to 4,200 ft.
Highest Altitude: 4,750 ft.
Flight Time: 55 minutes