My flying 2000 to 2003
This page continues from My flying 1998 and 1999.
Hang gliders: Airwave 166 Magic 4 and Aeros Discus 148
Harness: Solar Wings Edge 2
In-flight camera: Ricoh FF-9 compact 35mm film
Although no other hang gliders are in view in this photo (a digitized slide) many flew that day. When the lift band shrunk, the resultant crowding imposed the need for keeping a good look out — and disciplined flying. (The ‘rules of the air’ are similar to those of the sea, but with an extra dimension.) After I flew, while standing on the hill I heard a muffled bang from above. Looking up, all I saw were hang gliders apparently flying normally, but a piece of something small and light fluttered downwards. It turned out to be a nose cone of stiff fabric that had come off a hang glider.
Then a hang glider flew past at ridge height, its female pilot shouting “I’m going down to the bottom,” while the pilots on the hill crowded around a hang glider that had just landed on top. Its control frame base tube was bent back and it sported a dent in its centre. The other pilot landed safely at the bottom despite her glider having a broken leading edge!
Back home, I completed a BHGA incident report form, which in those days was on paper (or card). Nowadays BHPA IRFs are online. See also Collision avoidance training in Aviation computer-based training and Dangers of hang gliding.
The cluster of buildings by the river is part of Aberfan, where 34 years earlier, in October 1966, a coal tip disaster killed 116 children and 28 adults (figures from the Wiki). The buildings just discernable far down the valley, with two (possibly three) intervening ridge spurs on the right, are those of the Polytechnic of Wales (formerly the Mid-Glamorgan School of Mines and later Glamorgan University). Twenty years earlier, in 1977-79, I obtained a Higher National Diploma in computing there. For photos of my flying at Merthyr during those college years, see My flying late 1970s and early 1980s.
My life lacked purpose after my mother died in December 1995, but two weeks after I took the preceding photo at Kimmeridge in September 2000, Rebecca arrived in a wooden crate from California. See Rebecca — the early years.
Lucy’s wing is a Pacific Windcraft Vision Pulse. Its red streamer on the king post indicates that, at this time, she had less than 10 hours flying time after qualifying.
If safety had been a factor, who would have considered launching into thermal cycles with peak gusts up to 30 mph, a direct crosswind, and lulls which dropped the wind to zero?
— Michael Jones writing in Glider Rider, August 1979, on the Owens Valley (California) competition in which experienced pilot Brad Laffaw was killed.
That’s me in the orange puffer jacket. I was co-organizer, or ‘meet head’, of this inter-club competition in 2002.
I also co-organised the 2003 competition. At a Mercury hill in Hampshire, conditions deteriorated and, wary of the lesson from the 1979 Owens Valley comp in which ‘competition fever’ overcame good judgement (I wasn’t there, but I read about it) I called off my competition. The wind was too strong and gusty. ‘Free flying’ continued though, and one of my friends stalled on climb-out after take-off in a rotor of air caused by a sharp edge in the landscape. His glider did not have sufficient height to recover and he hit the ground hard, sustaining a serious concussion.
See also Dangers of hang gliding.
Ron’s glider, although a ‘topless’ high performance wing, could not get up with me in the Discus (see farther on) so, for the 2004 season, he bought a new Airborne C4.
For an older photo of Ron Smith flying, see Firebird in Three-sixty degree appraisal (my flying 1976) and for a photo of him standing on the hillside with two other pilots, see under Celebrate monks in My flying 2004 and 2005.
Philosopher’s hang glider
(Discus reads like discuss, geddit?)
The Aeros Discus outperformed even contemporary ‘topless’ competition gliders in 2003 and up to about 2007, when the newer crop of rigid wings started to appear. Although some pilots disagree with my assessment (not all) I found the Discus somewhat stiff in roll and it seemed to have an odd feel that I call ‘power steering’. It always responded, but, whenever I wanted to increase my roll rate and shifted my weight farther over to effect that need, the glider’s roll rate stayed the same. The Discus has a narrow control frame, as if in recognition of that characteristic.
However, its main drawback in my estimation was its excessive tendency to ‘wind in’ to turns (spiral instability). I largely cured it, initially by using a wider control frame base tube, then by refitting the original tube and adding longer side flying wires. With that minor change, its handling overall was good. And its performance was simply amazing.
Warning: If your glider relies on reflex bridles for emergency dive recovery, increasing dihedral in that way (or decreasing anhedral) is likely to reduce the bridles’ effect. The Discus relies partly on inboard reflex bridles, but the more important outboard struts are unaffected.
This topic continues in My flying 2004 and 2005.