Friday, February 23, 2018

Little Black New Site Record

San Deigo pilots Phil Russman and Ryan Bloom set a new record from the 300ft launch of Little Black on a windy, cloudless winter day.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Paragliding Worldcup Superfinal - Task 2

My live action commentary from the action at the Superfinal in Rondanillo, Columbia.

The Live Tracking App is available on Google Play for $3.49.

To give you idea of what it's like to fly in these races, here is a video from a French paragliding team pilot, Teo Bouvard. I've added my best guesses of the time in the video around about where the screenshots were taken during the race. Teo posts video after each race. There is no commentary as as I'm sure editing takes him a long time already, but the videos are perfect to see what it's really like flying at the highest level in paragliding.

Task 2 - Jan 11 2018
Jostling for position at the start. The start line is the red line at the bottom left. Climbs were to 2000 m, the valley floor is at about 920m.The red exclamation marks are pilots where there tracking devices were not working for some reason.   Video -  0:56

It's 1pm local time and the race starts!  Pilots must fly from within the start circle (red shaded area) outside of it to start, then backtrack to get to the start circle, which is about 5km away to the top right.

 The field converges back on the good lift, then dives out over the flats to tag the 1st turnpoint.
  Video approx  1:34

Turnpoint one is reached in just a few minutes, and the leaders are already back in the mountains racing south to turnpoint 2. According to online commentary, there is little wind, so they'll be flying between 30 and 55km/hr, depending on whether they are slowing down to thermal, or going straight line on full speed bar. Video approx 3:20

After about 45 minutes, the leaders have picked a fast line down the mountains to tag turnpoint 2 and are already on their way back. The group of three on the right took a route not so deep in the mountains, and were 500m lower than the main group and just about to tag the turnpoint.
Video approx 5:25

After turnpoint 2, the race returns north, then pilots must cross the valley to turnpoint 3.

After flying back up the mountains along the same route they came down, the leaders head out over the valley. Climbs must be easy and fast, with the leaders up at 2300m, which is probably cloudbase.

At 1hr 40 minutes after the race start, the main gaggle is charging across the sugarcane fields in the valley to Zarzal at about 1200m, just 300m above the valley floor. Other pilots took more direct route across the valley, hoping to save time with the more direct round and gambling that they will find thermals without the main group to show the way.

At turnpoint 3 in the low hills on the east side of the valley, Russel Ogden looks to be in the lead, at about 1900m. There must be lift everywhere for these pilots to fly all the way across the valley barely without stopping to thermal.

The race slows down as commentary says there are fewer clouds in the next section of the course. I can't see that from home desk of course! Pilots gaggle up wherever the lift is working.

Zooming in to one of the groups, you can see how disciplined the worlds best pilots are. Lots of even radius circles, everyone turning the same direction.... The thermals must be fat and wide.

Halfway through the route up the valley to turnpoint 4, it looks like the whole field is pushing hard along the direct line up the low hills to the next turnpoint.  The turnpoint is to the north over the flats.
Video approx 6:10

Turnpoint three reached. The pilots that are still high (over 2000m) should be able to just tag the turnpoint and go on final glide to the end of speed (green circle), as it is only 7.5 km from the turnpoint. Anyone else may have to climb again or risk bombing on the race to the finish.
Video approx 7:13

As the field storms to goal at 50+ km/hr on full speedbar, I saw some sink rates up to 3.5m/s. That will probably mean a few pilots will underestimate how much height they need and end up landing a few km or even just few meters short! Video 7:40

The field piles into the goal field.  Ulrich Prince crosses the line with just 26m over the ground! That's not a lot of height to spare! These guys are pros and know how to calculate their final glide just perfectly. Video 7:50

Looks like an amazing race from USA pilot Cody Mittacnck, just 15 seconds away and two places from a top ten placing. After a three hour race and 94km, just three minutes separate the top forty pilots!  It's amazing that with this live tracking the results are available instantly!

That's all for today, have to get back to work!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Rat Race 2017 - Small plane flys through competition pilots

Just one of the many interesting things that happened at this year's Rat Race was this incident. Where a small plane flew right through the middle of competition pilots directly above launch.

This happened about 30mins after the meet director had advised the local airport tower that paragliders would be in the area.

The viewpoint in the video is almost identitical to where I was when this happened. I was probably a few hundred feet higher and a little further back than the pilot that made the video.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Elsinore from 9000ft

Some amazing photos shot by Aaron Price of me flying above lake Elsinore in Southern California. We climbed to about 9000ft in the Elsinore convergence, then went cross country to the east on the convergence line. Alex Chiang is in one of the photos on the green glider.

From that height the views are amazing,  you can see Los Angeles in the haze to the north, San Diego is to the south but too hazy to see, and the marine layer was rolling in from the ocean in the distance.

Climbing out over launch, which faces east. Launch is into thermals coming up the mountain from Lake Elsinore. The launch window is limited here, as soon as the sea breeze blows in from the West, launch is impossible as it blows over the back.

Looking south towards San Diego. Hazy summer conditions and incoming marine air means the visibility was only about 40km in that direction.

Looking west over the plateau which is at 3000ft, marine layer rolling in from the ocean is visible in the distance. Alex Chiang is to the right.

I got about halfway to the mountains in the distance, Aaron eventually made it to the base of them, landing in a tight spot. Gavin Freidland took his time, making sure to connect with the convergence clouds forming over San Gorgonio, climbed to 13,000ft and flew over the back into the desert, a truely epic flight.

Crossing the green, murky waters of Lake Elsinore. This is busy airspace for paragliders to be in. A popular skydiving dropzone is at the south end of the lake.  Flying over the lake we are over the flight path of the ascending and descending jump plane. Sailplanes also tow up underneath us, and private light aircraft and commercial helicopters flying VFR tend to follow the freeway to the right at between 5000 and 7000ft.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Proximity flying at full speed on an Enzo...

Amazing video showing how one of the worlds top racing pilots train. Full speed, less than 20ft from to the ground, on an Enzo2. Do not try this at home....

They are training for this sort of top level racing

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Rat Race 2017



Track Upload


OK Landing/retrieve notification 541-646-0501 ATT

SOS Emergency Notification Tom Chesnut 541-915-0187 Carrier is SPRINT


1. Send SPOT/In Reach Message:
 (Pilot Number) LOK (Pilot Name) 
 Example: #101 LOK Mike Haley
Do not turn off SPOT

2. Once you are picked up send a text message/SMS to 541-646-0501:
 (Pilot Number) PUP (Pilot Name)
Once PUP Message sent you can now turn off your SPOT

3. Make certain you have been acknowledged.
Check the bitly pilot page on your/anybody's smart phone. You should be green on the chart. (Info for bitly page will be available at HQ)
Or Come into HQ and sign the book.

Pilot List


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Self Made Touchscreen Gloves

Here is a typical modern paraglider pilot problem: You've downloaded XCTrack or another flight app to your smartphone and installed it on your flight deck. You feel very cool and up to date because you didn't succumb to that $700 flight instrument....

But now when flying, you find you can't navigate the touchscreen because you have gloves on.

Smartphone screens use conductive technology, which means they detect the current in your skin based on the fact that your skin is slightly moist. Sometimes if your fingers are too cold or dry, you might have noticed the touchsceen not working because there isn't enough moisture on the skin.

Touchscreens won't work at all with gloves. You can buy special gloves with conductive fabric on the tips, but who knows if those gloves are the right ones for paragliding, and who really needs yet another set of gloves. I keep losing paragliding gloves, the pair I currently like the most cost $10 at a gas station on the way to go flying one day.

Here is the low budget solution to make your gloves touchscreen compatible.

1. Go online and search for Conductive Thread. It took me about 5 minutes to find some for about $5 and it was delivered in 2 days.  You don't need very much. The thread has strands of silver or stainless steel in it. I paid $5 for 35ft  shown below, but the one from Sensa Thread is $2.59 and even comes with a needle.

2.  Thread a sewing needle with at least 8 inches of the conductive thread and knot the end so the thread is doubled up.  Stick you finger in the glove, because you need to be sure that the thread will actually make contact with your skin.  Carefully work the needle through the glove so you can feel the needle. Don't prick your finger! You need to be able to feel the needle and thread, because your finger needs to be in contact with the thread to conduct electricity from the screen to your finger. It's no use just sewing threads in the top layer of fabric.

3. Make eight to ten stitches in a random pattern, with at least a couple of stitches going right through the material so that you can feel the thread with your finger inside the glove. You can be very neat or tidy, or just make it random. It won't really make much difference to the performance. Just make sure the threads are near the tip so that when you use the touchscreen, they will be in contact with the screen. Trim off any excess thread when you have enough stitches. Make sure some of the stitches go right up to the tip of the glove.

4. Test the finger on the smartphone app, and add a few more stitches if it is unreliable.

Worked perfectly!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Nearly threw my reserve today....

Close call today while flying XC from Elsinore. We had fairly strong east wind and I was heading out into off the plateau towards Murrieta.  I got a 50% asymmetric collapse on the left side, and very quickly rotated nearly 180 degrees. The collapse didn't come out because of a cravat in the wing tip, which sent the glider within seconds into a strong vertical spiral, with the leading edge facing straight down. GPS analysis showed maximum descent rate of -12.9m/s. That's like flying directly towards the ground at 30 mph while spinning around in a amusement ride.

I could immediately feel the g-force pushing me back into the harness. For a couple of seconds I thought of pulling my reserve as I was probably only about 1000 ft over the ground and a locked in spiral can be very hard to get out of very quickly.  Then instinct kicked in and I pulled hard on the right brake to counter the rotation.  My Delta 2 came out of the spiral as fast it as it went in... violently, and almost immediately. No smooth controlled SIV spiral exit here.  Then I had to get the cravat out in strong sink with a 3:1 glide into wind, over a golf course and expensive homes, and with my heart rate still doing about 150 beats per minute.

The huge sink got even worse to about a 2:1 glide, then I blundered into a beautiful fat strong thermal just on the last scrubby hillside between a subvision with only a single possible landing area.

It was the best thermal of the day, no turbulence at all, and the only thermal of the day that actually went straight up! It took me backup to 6500ft again, more than enough to fly back over the plateau and continue to work my way down the mountains.   But the whole adrenaline rush of collapse, recover, then intense thermal had me mentally too taxed to go on flying over complex terrain in these full on conditions.  I was feeling dehydrated and nauseous from the sheer intensity and unpredictability of the conditions and the collapse.  I had to admit to myself that I just don't fly enough for this amount of flying drama to not be really mentally exhausting.

I turned back into the wind to get out into the valley and went straight into huge sink as soon as I hit the east wind again. Burned though 5000 ft of altitude to get just 3 miles further down the course!

Looking at the tracklog of the thermal, it starts to show some west push from the sea breeze at 5000ft. Possibly what caused the sink and turbulence was the sea breeze starting to blow through and crashing into the east wind flowing up from the valley, Forcing it down or to compress.  My experience with Elsinore is that it is often like this,  - either huge thermals or huge sink, with little in between.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

GPS Dump on Android

A couple of weeks ago for the first SoCal XC League event of the year, I realized that I didn't have any Waypoints in my GPS.

Reavis saved the day for me by using his phone to upload the .wpt file to my Flymaster from his Android phone.

I'd heard of pilots using phones as flight instruments and have been running XCTrack for a while. However I'd never seen anyone actually use GPSDump on phone.  You need the Waypoints already installed on your Flymaster for this to work. This will score you lots of kudos on the hill when pilots turn up to fly and haven't got the right waypoints (Thanks Reavis!). Just make sure you carry the cables with you.

 I haven't found a way to install trackpoints into GpsDump from the phones file storage.

It does seem like some phones don't like GpsDump. I tried this on my old Samsung Galaxy S5 and GpsDump refused to communicate with my Flymaster. Possibly old drivers or Android version.  Recently I upgraded to a newer phone and it worked immediately.

Step 1. Install GpsDump
1. Search for and install GpsDump from the Google Store

To Download Waypoints from Flymaster to GPSDump (assumes waypoints are already in the Flymaster)
1. Connect a MicroUSB On-the-Go cable to your Android phone
2. Connect the flymaster USB to the On-the-Go cable, and plug into the Flymaster
3. Open GPS Dump and tap WPT
3.Tap READ
4. GPS waypoints will download
5. Waypoint list will display.

To upload to the other pilot's Flymaster
1. Swap the cables to the other pilots Flymaster.
2. Turn on the Flymaster.
3. On the phone, Tap WPT 
4. Tap WRITE
5. The way points will upload to the Flymaster
6. On the Flymaster, push the menu button. Waypoints/Task should be highlighted. Press Enter/F3
7. Check the waypoints are displayed.

Download a track and submit it online

In competitions or local league events, it can be very useful to download your track and submit it online right after you fly. If you don't have one of the newer flight instruments with built in mobile connectivity, here is how you do it.

To download Tracklogs from Flymaster (Draft)
1. Connect the FlyMaster to your phone using MicroUSB and On-the-Go cable.
2. Open GpsDump on your phone
3. Click TRK
4. Tap READ
5. The tracklog will save in the location set in MISC/Preferences/Data Storage/Tracklog Data Storage
Note: I haven't managed to get this to work.  Any readers know why not? Email me at if you know what might be going wrong.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Laguna Meadows

Crossing Laguna Meadows at about 7500 ft in the first SoCal XCLeague race of the year

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Blossom Valley

Short film of the classic crossing to 'El Cap' from the Blossom Valley launch in the mountains east of San Diego.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

How to quickly verify .igc gps log files

Here is a very quick and easy way to check .igc files before you upload them up to Leonardo or XCContest.

This is an free online tool that allows quick viewing of a .igc tracklog file. There is no registration or other information required, just upload the file and click View.

The detailed flight analysis is quite neat. It has a useful feature that shows thermals and transitions with average climb rates, something Leonardo does not do.

Thermals are marked in green, transition or glides in red. The flight analysis even shows which way you turned in the thermals. From the table below it's clear I have a preference for turning left...

This is nice to provide a little big more analysis about the day and see how strong the thermals were. You can see in the screenshot from the Average Vs (m/s) column that this was a very slow day.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Thermalling with Sailplanes

Amazing video of a German pilot flying at the edge of the alps in southern Germany.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Paragliding World Cup Superfinal Videos

A collection of videos from the 2017 Paragliding World Cup Superfinal from French team member Teo Bouvard.

I went on an amazing two week flying trip here at this amazing flying site in 2006. Two days from the end of the trip, I tripped over in a rough landing field and broke my wrist. My only ever paragliding injury in 16 years of flying.

Task 1

Task 2
Amazing scenes of 125 pilots in the air at 0:35
Beautiful shots of the green hills of Valedares with huge field of gliders at 3:25

Task 3

Task 4
Great thermalling action at 0:50
Watch transition from thermal to speedbar hand positioning at 1:50
Full stall practice on an Enzo at 3:30!

Task 5
100 gliders at cloudbase at :30!
Huge gaggle on glide at 1:20

Task 6

Task 7

Task 8
Plenty of big gaggle thermal action in the first 2 minutes

Task 9
Watch two pilots under reserve after mid air collision at 3:16

Task 10

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Palomar Launch Upgrades

Recent hard work by San Diego club members has resulted in further upgrades to our Palomar launch site.

Its now one of the most amazing and well thought through dedicated paragliding and hang-gliding launches I know! There are now four different launch slots as this site is flyable from SSE through to NW winds year around. The newest SSE launch is small with only space to setup a single glider behind a row of scrub. The dropoff is quite steep so if the wind comes directly in this direction, the small size is not an issue.

In summer the sea breeze can get strong here. The sea breeze tends to funnel around the San Luis Rey river valley from the NW creating turbulence behind ridgelines.  Palomar therefore is often favored as a winter site, as the thermals reliably work, often up to 6000ft  whenever the sun is shining. The valley winds are lighter in winter, and the clear air makes the spectacular view even more enjoyable.

The latest work included widening the main launch access area on either side, removing rocks from the grass in the edges in the HG setup area and around the top landing area, and building a trail for the new toilet.

Despite the large size of the top landing area, top landing here requires confidence as when the site is working, there will be a lot of lift all around launch and also over the flat setup and parking area. Pilots are often popped up as they approach or uncertain about how deep behind launch to approach to avoid potential lee side turbulence caused by the steep slope behind launch . With the grass edges cleaned up and the SSE launch area also cleared, there is more space for top landing options and final corrections if the lift on approach ends up being stronger than expected. This is a mountain, thermal launch combined with laminar winds coming up the mountain, so the top landing approach varies every single time based on the combination of thermal lift and upslope winds.  If you can't get down the first time, just go around again. It just takes practice, the last time I landed here I managed my best top landing here yet, at just twenty feet from my car!

Note: As both the launch and landing are on private property with sensitive owers, SDHGPA membership is required to fly here, and car parking placard should be displayed on vehicles at both landing and launch areas at all times. See the club website for details or temporary membership.

Photo:San Diego Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association

Friday, January 6, 2017

3D Airspace for USA

One of the difficulties for pilots in learning about airspace is the 3D nature of it. Airspace sometimes goes from the surface up to a particular height, and sometimes goes from a particular height up to another height

With paragliding, sometimes we fly around airspace that goes from the surface up, sometimes we may carefully fly right over it if we have enough height to safely glide across, and sometimes we fly underneath it.

In previous posts I've referenced the USA Airspace file at This is a very comprehensive file and useful to save as a Google Earth folder that you can toggle on an off as required.

Unfortunately, this file is made of simple polygons. In some cases, the airspace that extends from the surface is 'clamped to ground' in Google Earth terminology. This makes it confusing and hard to understand if the airspace does not extend from the surface. You have to do some mental gymnastics to try and figure out where can fly relative to the airspace. It is more an abstract mental exercise that a pure visualization one.

For instance, in San Diego our Little Black flying site is right under airspace that goes from 3000ft to 10,000ft.  A short distance away to the north, the airspace steps up to 3800ft. Then to the east, it steps up to 4800ft. If you are going to fly cross country from this site, you have to be careful not to thermal up into the airspace directly over launch where it is lowest, and then if the day is good, it is useful to know when you get another 1800 ft to play with as soon as you turn east wards.

Close to the popular XC route from this site, there is also a Class D airspace that goes from the surface to 3800ft. I'm not aware ever get high enough to fly right over this airspace, but the border of it is important, as it is close to hills that might be tempting to ridge soar low down in order to find thermals to continue and XC flight.

Example of simple 2-D airspace with flight from Little Black  
Tracklog: Chris Cote

In the example above from local San Diego guru Chris Cote, the flight starts under airspace, then you can see the pilot go towards the Ramona airspace (teal coloured circle at left, then change course to avoid the airspace and follow the sun and clouds.

For airspace that extends from the surface, Google Earth makes it quite easy to adjust an existing polygon to become a 3-D polygon that is much easier to visualize.

1. Click on the polygon from the airspace file in Google Earth.
2. Right click 'Properties'
3. Modify the Atitude to 'Relative to Ground' rather than 'Clamped to Ground'
4. Enter the altitude at the top of the airspace. In this case it is 1158m or 3800ft
5. Set the 'Colour and Area' settings to 50% opacity for both the line and the area, so you can see through it. Make the 'Color' setting "Outlined and Filled"

This results in a very nice 3-D polygon that is much easier to visualize.

For airspace that starts above ground, the 2D file is not easy to modify. It's easier to find a different Google earth file that was created from the start as 3-D airspace. This file shows US Airspace in 3D. Unfortunately this file doesn't have the Class D (the Ramona airspace modified above), so that was added in as a separate item in Google Earth.

The 3-D airspace give a much better appreciation of how thermalling up under stepped airspace can get quite complicated.You can see the grey semi-transparent blocks above the flying site, and the tracklog going close to the 3000 ft ceiling on the original climb. This airspace is so complicated due to the very large military airport at Miramar, and busy commercial airport in San Diego.

3D Airspace in Grey
Tracklog: Chris Cote

Thermalling out from Little Black under stepped airspace
Tracklog: Chris Cote

How do I edit a .KML File

When a text file is saved with a .kml or .kmz extension, Earth browsers know how to display it. 

To see the KML "code" for a feature in Google Earth, you can simply right-click the feature in the 3D Viewer of Google Earth and select Copy. Then Paste the contents of the clipboard into any text editor