Wednesday, April 27, 2011

News Item Oddities

I must admit, I'm a bit biased against Powered Paraglider pilots. . . Most of the ones I've met have been, well, a bit, um . . . odd.  They are the recumbent bike riders of paragliding.  A few of them have insisted on the title, "Captain" or "Super-(insert-name)" and generally, they have not impressed me with their flying judgement nor people skills.  But that bias aside, I'm betting you'll wonder what this guy was thinking - especially his choice of flying attire.

From the Buenos Aires Herald:

A man was arrested in Puerto Madero this morning, after having managed to paraglide around the city centre for a number of minutes, attracting the attention those pacing the streets, Naval Command officials reported (PNA).
A spokesman for the PNA said that “around 9AM this morning a man landed after paragliding and was swiftly arrested by PNA agents.”
“The paraglider managed to fly for a fair few minutes around the centre of Buenos Aires, including over 9 de Julio avenue, Teatro Colón, San Telmo and finally landing in Puerto Madero,” the source added.
Hernán Pitocco, the sportsman in question, said in an interview that he took off from Venezuela and Belgrano streets where there is a little park. He mentioned that the “glider isn’t regulated,” and furthered that, “at no point was I endangering the lives of others.”

I've spent quite a bit of time walking the Avenues of BA and wonder what this guy was thinking.  There is very little open space in that city and LOTS of wires, but he managed to find a way to get in the air and back down.  Maybe he's a dapper lawyer whose car wouldn't start that morning, so he decided to take the ole' Powered PG to work.

One of the few open areas in the city.
Apparently Hernan is a skilled acro pilot who was participating in some kind of Red Bull 'event' over the city.  Here is some video of his short flight - I think I can see why the authorities were concerned.  No matter how you present it, this isn't good for our sport.  The problem with PPG is that they can exhibit their stupidities over large metro areas, over crowded beaches, or over events, souring the taste of the sport to many, in one flight.

Here's a video of his takeoff:  According to Ad Age, Red Bull was filming an ad where a businessman was stuck in traffic and decided to fly above the traffic - after all, "Red Bull Gives You Wings."
Bad use of judgement by the Red Bull Producers in my opinion.  How do you feel about this abuse of the "publicity machine"?
Y'all fly safe out there.

Friday, April 22, 2011

NorCal XC League - Dunlap - April 2011

In his new book on XC competition flying, “Flying Rags to Glory,” Mads Syndergaard writes extensively about the subconscious and its ability to process more information and react many times faster than the conscious mind. This weekend, at the first gathering of the NorCal XC League in Dunlap, CA, I tried my best to use the principles mentioned in the article, with some success. I also proved that there is a bone-headed, impetuous, 25-yr-old lurking inside this brain that I need to get the reins on.

Waiting for a cycle at launch - Photo by Bad Patrick

Saturday we assembled on launch and Jug lead an informative pilot briefing. Over 30 pilots from All over California, Colorado, and more than a handful of foreign pilots were in attendance. Notably missing was Eric Reed who had made an epic vol bivuac journey through the entire length of Nepal and was finally released from a month of house arrest in Sikkim, India, this weekend, after all charges regarding “permits” were dismissed.

Cloudbase was 1000‘ above launch, so Jug built a short task that kept the pilots within the Dunlap valley and had 3 valley crossings. I launched early and explored the area while feeling out any conditions that might be hazardous. It was a buoyant day with slow climbs but dependable lift. The start went well and I made it to Hill 49917 and Last Chance in the lead gaggle. I got a bit low at last chance before finding lift and I watched Josh and his armada of GTOs heading back to the ridge to tank-up before the crossing to Granny’s Knob.

Note the hard right turn to "Damn Kitty"
As I climbed to near cloudbase, I caught a glimpse of a bird circling in lift West of my position (on a direct line to Granny’s) and decided to head directly to Granny’s. I had company as Natalia, Max and I headed out on a low-percentage glide on course. Our move paid off as we contacted some nice lift near Granny’s and we tagged the fix and glided across the valley to the ridge at launch, before the other gaggle had headed out for Granny’s. When we climbed up at the ridge I was feeling pretty good and was contemplating the best route at the next crux in the route - the glide to Airstrip. . . but I had completely forgotten about the need to tag Big Cat on the way to Airstrip. I rolled out and pushed some bar, drank my water and futzed around to get a granola bar out of my pocket, when I noticed my 5020 pointing 90 degrees to the right of my heading - “OH Fudge!” - I had spaced on Big Cat. This blunder cost me dearly and was the beginning of the end for me. I tagged the (now renamed) Damn Kitty turnpoint and, instead of taking a deep breath and reminding myself to reassess my situation, turned to cross the valley to Airstrip. This move was my undoing as I arrived with very little altitude at Granny’s with which to find a thermal. I was low, alone, and whether I was leading or not, I was in terrible shape. The flight was extended with short, trashy, drifty climbs, but soon ended in the valley with two turnpoints to go.

I should not have let this blunder cost me as much as it eventually did. I should have taken a cleansing breath, marveled at the beauty of nature, and taken the time necessary to climb on the ridge and make a sensible crossing. I also had completely missed the cues that the day had matured and the winds had picked-up from the West.

Note to self - When you screw-up, reassess and recover intelligently.

Three pilots made it to goal and deserve congrats for using the day well. Results for day one are HERE.

A view of launch on Saturday morning.
On Sunday the early cloudbase was lower and we considered doing the same task as Saturday’s. A ‘do-over’ was popular last year since it allowed those of us who had mental lapses to refly the same task. As the sun warmed the valley, cloudbase rose substantially and we decided a task similar to the first 3 waypoints on Sat with a run down to Sand Creek and back to the pizza place in Squaw Valley was doable. I launched early and found the lift to be very weak and sporadic. I eventually found some lift on the correct edge of the start cylinder about 5 min. before the start. The climb took me away from the cylinder and when the start time came I was forced to penetrate back to the start against the traffic of, what seemed like 25 wings, all passing me on their way to the first turnpoint.

I made the start cylinder and caught a good climb which allowed me to get back into the hunt. By the time I had hit the first two turnpoints I was running just behind Josh and was feeling good. The crossing from Granny’s to Big Cat (Damn Kitty) went very badly for me and I spent the last 35 minutes of my flight trying to put together a decent climb on the ridge behind Damn Kitty. I eventually landed at the St. Nicolas ranch in defeat.

Meanwhile Jug and Alex were the only two pilots to get beyond the ranger station and they eventually landed in the Sand Creek area. Josh landed at the Ranger Station, no doubt in disgust that I had blown it so bad in the crossing ;-)

Congrats to Jug and Alex for the best flights of the day! Sunday's results are HERE.

It was a great weekend with many pilots in the air and many first-timers. There was very little drama and no incidents.

My personal struggle to fly well but not take stupid, low-percentage risks will be foremost on my mind next month. I need to take Mads’ advice and listen to my subconscious (The Force, if you will) but temper the crazy 25-yr.-old that wants to dash around the course without the intelligence to fly with my buddies and not venture out on my own early in the task. I need to mature as a XC pilot. When I was a kid I wanted to be a pilot when I grew up.  Since then I've heard it said that, “You can either be a pilot OR grow up . . . but not both.”

Well, I’m going to try.

Fly Safe -


Friday, April 15, 2011

Himalayan Odyssey - Update

A recent dispatch from Antoine Laurens indicates things are going well for the guys.  He writes:
The other day , i had a call with Brad….
First of all, they are fine, and they are expecting out of Sikkim very soon…Maybe , he will be able to make it at the Ghana Festival.
Brad and Eric were participating at a flying festival, organised by local Sikkim pilots, and I supposed, they were a bit the “stars”. They really enjoyed, as many pilots came, especially from Nepal for the venue.
So, everything is going well, and it s again only a timing question…
their case are in the hands of Politics…Mainly, their  relation with Sikkim police is very good and they are treated like special guests.
wish you good luck guys and hopefully, you ll make it out soon.
 Good Luck Brad and Eric!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Cuesta Flight 4/8/11

Driving past Cayucos at 11 am
The XC Skies forecast models all said Friday might be sporty so I headed up to Cuesta for some rodeo action.  On the way to the mountain I snapped a couple of shots along the coast.

The development was already fairly active by 10:30 so I knew it wasn't a question IF it would overdevelop, but WHEN.    

Ready for aviation on launch at Cuesta
The conditions at the hill were looking good, with nice strong cycles blowing up launch, but cloudbase was only about 1500' over launch.  The clouds in the gap across the grade were even lower.  I talked myself into thinking the base would go up when the temps increased and proceeded to set up my gear.   Today I used all the goodies - hand warmers, good gloves, balaclava, and I was still cold.

The flight wasn't spectacular but it was quite interesting as I negotiated my way along course (up wind since that route was clearer) around and often through graupel.

Some might say that today would have been a good day to stay on the hill - If my timing hadn't been what it was, I might agree, but today was all about timing.  I was there early enough to get in the air before life got complicated with dark cells over the launch.  I also was in the air before it got gusty on the ridge.  Visibility was good and the big clouds weren't an issue until later in the flight, when I flew into a large bit of precipitation that covered me and my gear with graupel.  Other than that bit-o-fun the flight was enjoyable and interesting.

Today was my first experiment with my Helmet Hero HD camera and the imovie software that came with  my new Apple MacBook Pro.  I hope you enjoy the bit of perspective that a half mile of altitude and very little protection from the elements can provide.  The 90 minute flight has been trimmed to a little less than 11 minutes.

Cuesta flight from Tim O'Neill on Vimeo.
A chilly flight with some overdevelopment and precip. It was more fun than it looks!

EDIT - Here's my flight track -


Thursday, April 7, 2011

2011 U.S. Paragliding Team Fund-Raising

The U.S. Paragliding Team Inc. is a non-profit corp. set up to help subsidize the expenses of our U.S. PG team.  They have made it easy to make tax-deductible donations to the team and the fund raising has begun.

The team consists of Brad Gunnuscio, Josh Cohn, Jack Brown, Nick Greece, and Meredyth Molocsay.  Team Leader is Rob Sporrer assisted by Jeff Huey.  Our standing in the international stage has been improving over the last few years and these pilots are the standouts in US Paragliding and responsible for much of the improvements in our US ranking. 

If each of us threw $20 in the pot it would take a large bite out of the costs and overhead incurred by the team as it attends competitions in Spain this Summer.  To make a tax-deductible donation go to and click the 'donate' link.

Fly Safe -