Ever been to the top of a windy mountain?

As you’ll see in the video clips below, some of us have our own way of getting down—and in this case—getting down eventually.

My wife’s niece, who recently graduated Stanford University with honors, had the opportunity to take her first tandem hang glider flight with an experienced instructor. Typically, these flights are only of a 5-10 minute duration launching at 2,000 ft. over the landing zone. Tandem hang gliders are built for strength and stability, not efficient glide or sink rate. What’s more, this particular flying site (Monument Peak, Ed Levin County Park, overlooking Milpitas, California) is not normally known for its soaring opportunities, which is why it’s a good student, beginner, and tandem site. So I had decided that rather than hump my wing onto the H2 and go through all the hassle for what would most certainly be a short flight, even on my super-performance ATOS, I was just going to assist with Jennifer getting her tandem flight, roll some video, etc.

But I had neglected to check the weather carefully. I had called the “wind talker” in the morning—an automated anemometer that sits atop the peak—and verified that the wind was not coming out of the east, which would have shut us down for the day. But I didn’t check online, where I’d have found that we were in pre-frontal conditions. A storm was moving in and rain was predicted for the next day (today—and yes—it’s raining). In these conditions, a good strong laminar flow sets up from the south and you can soar above the peak for hours in relatively smooth air.

So shortly after we arrive at the park, guys start launching from the peak and they’re staying up. Then lots of more experienced pilots, friends of mine, begin showing up—people who rarely fly here. I begin to realize what’s up. I jump in the rig; and I’m off to retrieve my equipment. Takes an hour to get back—record time. I get back just as Ben Dunn has finished his first tandem lesson of the day where this student got a 30 minute flight. I told Jen that she was in for a real treat, because this just doesn’t happen. "Nobody gets this lucky."

As it turned out, Jennifer got a 55 minute flight and I flew for about an hour, landing shortly after her. We could easily have flown for several more hours. Here are a couple of video clips; one of selected portions of Jennifer’s experience, and one of mine. Some things to notice are the wind noise, and in one section of Jennifer’s video, you can see the windsock straight out horizontal in the lower right of the frame. Notice the other hang gliders in the air. In total, there were in excess of 20 pilots at different times. The strength of the wind made for easy launches. You don’t particularly see it, but with that sort of wind, it takes a lot of effort to keep the glider on the ground until you’re ready for launch. They want to fly. It’s much different from a no-wind situation where you must create all of your airspeed necessary to ‘commit aviation’ by running aggressively, with unwavering commitment, down the slope. Oh, notice that with the tandem launch, it takes a while for them to rig for flight and get fully prone after launch. This is normal.

And, yes, you’ll see me bonk in my landing. The approach was difficult because with the strong wind, we were getting rotor (mechanical turbulence) off some hills where the landing zone is on the lee side of the hill. As such, I ended up lower on approach than I would normally be, so I did not comfortably clear an irrigation ditch in the field. As it first came into my field of view, I wasn’t too concerned. I knew about it from before, but remembered it to be pretty small. Then I realized that it’s 3 ft. wide and about 2 ft. deep. Everything happens very fast and this caused me too long a period of indecision. At any rate, on examining the video, I see clearly that with a bit more arm extension and arch in the back, I’d have gotten the wing vertical and stopped a foot or so short of the ditch. Well, no damage to myself or the wing.

On to the videos. These files are about 4-5 megabytes each, so if you have a slow connection (like dialup), or the server is bogged down, streaming play may be choppy. If that happens, then one at a time, right click on the link, then click on “save target as…” from the pop-up menu, give it a name and save it somewhere. The file will be downloaded, and once complete, you can view it from your local machine.

Watch Jennifer’s tandem hang glider flight.

Watch Richard’s flight on the ATOS.

Since Covid killed my Cabo San Lucas vacation-rental business in 2021, this is my day job. I can't do it without you. Memberships are $10 monthly, $20 quarterly, or $65 annually. Two premium coffees per month. Every membership helps finance this work I do, and if you like what I do, please chip in. No grandiose pitches.

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