Sunday, October 31, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

Art and Aviation

I thought I would put up a little post about some "art and aviation" that I have been doing lately. The first picture is of a quick sculpture I did out of ambrosia maple and purple heart. I was going for a feather.This next one is just something abstract that I came up with as I went. I had a general idea but nothing more. After it's completion, I decided it looks like a rocket blasting off. As I was chopping wood last winter I noticed a piece had a nice curve in it. Somehow I saw the middle section of a body so I started shaping with the chain saw. Then I used chisels to make finer cuts. My wife made fun of me saying most people would make a bear or something, but I carved out a butt.

Speaking of my lovely wife. I was recently reminded of a piece that I drew of her just weeks after we first met. I sat and sketched it in my van while I waited for her to get out of class one day. She is even more beautiful now.

And now for a little aviation. I have had some great flights lately but this one I actually had a camera along for the ride. It was a nice smooth evening right before sunset. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I made goal!!!

I had one of my favorite flights the other day. For years now I have wanted to fly from Lookout and land at my Papaw's house in Ooltewah. I think it's about 40 miles so the distance isn't that great but the course line proves to be quite difficult by either going around the Chattanooga airspace or daring to go straight over with enough altitude.

Once I got up and started over the back, the day looked like it was turning on to be great with clouds everywhere. I found another climb over the Chickamauga Battlefield and reached base again but then had a tough decision to make. There were no clouds along my planned route but there was a decent street going straight over the Chattanooga airport. To stay legal I would have to stay above 4,700 ft. MSL to miss the airspace restrictions. Also going this way there were little options to land if things didn't work out. After some consideration, I went for it; you only live once!

The cloud street turned out to be working pretty well as I crossed over staying between 4,800 and 6,500ft. It was surreal watching a couple of ASA jets coming in to land under me. After reaching the end of this street I glided out into the blue hoping I was staying in a good line. Upon reaching the mall I was getting low and nervous with very few options to land. I scoped out the big parking lots at Home Depot and Lowes from 1,000ft but knew this would test my skill. I considered heading over to the new Volkswagon Plant but it didn't look real inviting. Looking ahead I saw a small patch of grass in front of the US Express trucking place off of I-75. I figured obstacles there would be more predictable so pushed forward. As I studied the power lines and slope of the terrain I grew more and more nervous knowing that this would need to be performed perfectly. Finally, at 700 ft I stumbled into some light lift and started cranking it up. Wow, was I relieved!

I took this thermal back up to 5,500ft and headed out past the city limits and into the area that I grew up around. Cruising comfortably now I took time to just soak it all up. I flew over my high school. Then I noticed some of the hiking and biking trails that I spent hours on. I followed these and flew right over my old house and many memories flooded my mind. This part of the flight was simply awesome. Everywhere I looked I recognized something and it would remind me of some part of my childhood.

I saw the lake up ahead and knew I had my Papaw's house on glide easy. As I arrived overhead I still had 2,500 ft so I started big lazy circles watching the yard for movement. This brought back memories as well. When I was 16 I would rent a Cessna and fly around solo building time for my private license. This usually included going over there house and messing with the throttle to get them to come out. As soon as they came out in the yard and waved I would rock my wings and go on my way.

After circling for about 10 minutes with nobody coming out, I decided it was time to land. Housing development in Ooltewah has exploded so landing options weren't as great as I had thought. Still, I found a nice golf course just a half mile from Papaw's front yard and brought it in straight down one of the fairways for a soft landing. After getting over to his house and eating my Memaw's good cooking I took a quick shower and waited for Scott to show up with my truck. Thanks for picking me up man, definitely a huge favor. Scott is one COOOL dude!!!!

Anyway, I wish I had a camera with me on the trip. It was the best seat in the house on a nice scenic tour over the area I have spent most of the last 31 years. Chattanooga is a beautiful place, especially from the air.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Wills Wing Demo Days

We had a great 4th of July weekend here at Lookout Mountain Flight Park. Steve and Mike from Wills Wing came out bringing their hot new wings for pilots to fly. These guys are terrific answering all the questions anyone had as well as helping pilots out with their current wings. I admire their quest to travel the country mixing with pilots and getting feedback on the wings they design, as well as just supporting the sport overall. It makes me proud to fly Wills Wing gliders and am sure that's why they are performing/flying so well.
The weather turned out to be great. Even though it was SE over the back, many pilots used the tugs to get pulled up. There were clouds and I reached base each day at around 6,000ft. Climbs were averaging 3-4hundred up.
Saturday night we had a catered dinner with a local band from Birmingham. They sounded great and went well with the out-of-control firework displays. Good stuff!

Come out and join us next year!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Road trip video

Here it is. I have finally put together a video of the trip. Check it out!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Camping/Flying/Road Trip

Scott and I left for a hang-gliding/camping road trip across the country last Wednesday. We soared over Mt. Nebo in Arkansas on Thursday, then drove non-stop to Denver where I got to over 10,000 ft launching off of Lookout Mtn. in Golden on Friday. Saturday we drove up to Dinosaur, CO and after finding launch and setting up camp, we spent the next two days camping and waiting on good weather. After a coin toss, Scott won the chance to fly first. He had an awesome flight and I drove down to pick him up(it takes an hour to get down to the LZ). After getting back to launch, it started rain/sleet/hailing and we had to wait it out in the car for 2 hours. Finally the weather cleared as we started a fire for dinner and the sky opened up for a great view of the stars with the milky way visible from horizon to horizon. Simply breathtaking. Monday the rain finally moved out and I launched around 1:30pm. Everything worked out great and I flew for over an hour above the most beautiful terrain I have ever seen. After landing we drove to Draper, Utah where we set up camp on the South Side at the Point of the Mountain.

After some advice from Jeff O'brien, I set my alarm for 4:30am and woke up to steady south winds and set up my glider. I launched in the smooth pre-dawn air and flew around watching the sun-rise over Salt Lake city. The wind picked up a little so the paragliders didn't show up and I had the ridge to myself most of the time. This place is an aerial playground. You can definitely let the monkey play a little. After packing up we left for California. We are planning on getting to the coast tomorrow and visiting Fort Funston for a hop. Then we are heading down to Big Sur in hopes that the fog doesn't come in. Finally, we are scheduled to fly Yosemite this weekend. Obviously I am very excited about that one. So I have left a lot of the great details out including near golfball sized hail that hit us in Golden, CO after my flight, the tornado that developed 3/4 mile behind launch at Dinosaur (I have video I can upload later), and the batten that I broke on my wing. (Thank you Wills Wing for overnighting me a new one!!) I hope to share some of these things on other posts. Scott and I are using our cameras and I hope to put together a video of the trip on the way home so stay tuned. In the mean time, here is a small sample of the adventure. Check out the short clip below.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Thank you

My Papaw (that's my grandfather to all you non-southerners) introduced me to aviation by teaching me to fly rc planes many years ago. Flying has been a part of his life for something like 70 years starting with model planes, moving on to owning a Cessna 172, and then spending 20+ years flying the Pawnee tug and sailplanes. Currently he has more rc aircraft than he has room for and flies them regularly.

While growing up, I spent many weekends out at the gliderport while he towed. These are fond memories of fishing in the pond, helping move gliders around, flying my rc plane, and occationally climbing up to cloudbase in a sailplane with him getting a few pointers on how to stay in the thermal. That is when my eyes starting studying the sky and is why I continue to chase clouds today. Thank you Papaw for this wonderful passion!

Recently he gave me a new Funtana 125 rc plane to build and fly. I slapped a Saito 150 on the front which gave it unlimited vertical performance. I only have about 10 or 15 flights on it but I am loving it. I decided to put the GoPro camera on it and built a nice mount to fit over the tail looking forward getting almost the entire plane in view. But, that was going to need a huge amount of weight on the nose for balance so I decided to mount it on the canopy instead. It turned out OK. While doing spins the oil from the exhaust came up and around the wing which caused the camera lense to get fuzzy. Still, I think it's fun to watch. Check out the video below!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Well, the Rally has ended. Due to the lack of internet service I was unable to keep up with the daily reports. All in all, it was a relaxing comp. The weather was uncooperative with light lift and too much wind on most of the days. I think we had 4 flyable days out of 7. Still, I had a great time and enjoyed seeing everyone.
I think my favorite and best day was day 5. It was about a 75 mile task to the north to land at an airport. Inside the start circle I joined a gaggle of maybe 25-30 gliders and made it to the top for a good position to start. I continued to stay with this group for a while until they eventually pulled ahead one glide or so. A half hour later I noticed them up ahead circling but not gaining too quickly so I went to the east to look for lift over a small town. This turned out to be a great decision as I climbed fast and was able to catch up with the lead gaggle arriving 500ft over them.

This bird (osprey?) snagged a fish right out of the pond at Quest and took it up into the tree to have its lunch. That's the fish under it's left foot.

This was the day for big gaggle flying. Every time we stopped to turn, it was crowded and my neck became stiff for all the straining to see where they were. Towards the end of the flight I was on glide and about 12km from goal with only two gliders in front of me. With the airport in sight we just needed one more thermal. Everyone stopped to turn in a light one but I got impatient. I thought that there had to be a better one so I went off to find it. Soon I found myself landing at an intersection in a neighborhood just before a stop-sign and I watched the other patient pilots fly right over me and into goal. I had landed a couple miles short. Even though I didn't make it, this was an incredibly fun flight that I won't forget.

So, I made it back home and back to family, work, and play. I've been busy working all last week but it's good cause the weather hasn't been that great for flying. We went and picked out a new bat for Isaiah and have been working on his hitting. So far his team is undefeated. GO SUNDEVILS!!!! Life is good.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Day 3 task cancelled

The winds were only slightly lighter than the day before and no cummies were developing. Lucas and I decided to go early so we went to the launch line 2nd and 3rd in position. Once in the air I soon realized that this was going to be a tough day. There was a low inversion at about 2,500ft that we could not get through. The lift was sharp and small, being blown almost straight back to the way we needed to go. I flew for about 45minutes just trying to inch my way out of the start circle.

After a while I noticed that half of the gliders on the ground had stopped towing and others in the air were going in to land. I wondered if they were calling the day so decided to go back to the field. My landing was fine in the turbulence but I watched some interesting landings happen after. Finally the task was cancelled at 1:59pm. So a debate decided that most/half of the pilots wanted to stay here at Quest instead of driving north into Georgia. I wanted to go to GA since I am hoping we will be able to fly to Tennessee this week. Thursday should be blowing SE so maybe that will be possible.

I shoved my glider under a tree and set camp back up. Afterwards I mostly sat around the pond and the rope swing. Later I cruised around with my camera and found Ollie playing with his new bow and I gave it a shot. Turns out I am kind of a natural.

I love this place and have had a good time even though we aren't flying enough. But, I hope we can get to a new place today. After all this is a Rally isn't it?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Day 2 cancelled

Yesterday was quite windy out of the west and was very turbulent. OB and Davis launched while the clouds formed overhead. Since I was near the back of the staging line again, I suited up and walked to the front of the line. Getting on the cart a few pilots came over to inform me that the safety committee was thinking of cancelling the day. I decided to wait a minute. After about five minutes the decision was made - it was too rough.
So it turned out to be a relaxing day out by the pond in the tree stand. Authentic Mexican food for lunch made for a great change from the daily peanut butter and banana sandwich. Looks like today will be much lighter winds so a task of 87km is called. After that we will head to Moultrie, GA for tommorrow.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Day 1 - 67km

Day 1 started out with low clouds and high winds. As the day progressed, the base rose to maybe 4,000 but started out around 2,000. The task was straight downwind to an airport just northwest of lake Okeechobee. I launched late in the launch line but found a decent climb off of tow. I found cloudbase at 3,100 and started on my way.

The thermals I found near the swamp/lake kept drifting over and I had to leave early every time since I was not comfortable in the spotty lift. This eventually put me down just past a small town. I made it about halfway to goal.

Sure was fun getting back into the air again here in Florida. After Dale picked me and Lucas up, we drove up to Quest to sit through the storms that were approaching. Pizza and downloads were followed by a game of poker. Believe it or not, I won the the game at around 1:30am. After that I went to my tent to find that the rain had made a lake inside. So I put my sleeping bag in the hangar and tried to sleep there until the mosquitos ran me out. Then I went to Lucas's car and laid the seat back. Needless to say I have not slept well. Now the weather has cleared and they say we are going to fly today.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Flytec Race and Rally 2010

Florida or bust!

Lucas, Dale and I left for the Flytec Rally Race on Friday. We decided to take Lucas's little Honda Fit and after a few hours of building we had created a nice strong rack. This took longer than expected though and we left 4 hours later than we had hoped. Anyway, we made it to Ocala, FL and got a hotel. The next morning we finished the drive in about 4.5 hours. Now here we are at the beautiful Florida Ridge ready to do some hang gliding.It is a big turn out this year with maybe 50 competing pilots. Wills Wing has shown up in force as I look around and see many pilots setting up their new T2C's - what a beautiful glider.

Today looks a bit windy and base maybe not so high so we'll see if they call a task. I think we will try and go to Quest so that we can get behind this fast moving front. This is gonna be a fun week!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pyramid Onion

I realize that I have had more aviation related posts here and am lacking on the art side. So here is a pic of something I made a few months back. I call it the pyramid onion. I intended for it to come to a nice sharp point at the top of the pyramid, but a mistake on the saw made that impossible. So, I took some of the scraps and carved the curved pieces to stick on the top. I think it turned out OK. Like Bob Ross used to say, "there are no mistakes, just happy accidents". It's hard to tell from the picture, but this piece is about 40" tall.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

XC to Fort Payne, AL

Ok, ok, I didnt realize I had so many eager followers of the blog and I'm sorry I have let all of you down - all two of you.

I have been flying a lot the past few days since it's been sunny with warm temps. On Tuesday, I launched off of lookout with teh intentions of flying with James on a XC flight towards the south. I launched and found a good climb in front of the bandit launch. As I centered it and circled up James came under me. He either couldn't get it or gave up to look somewhere else as I climbed up to 6k by myself. After topping out behind launch, I had to decide if I should wait on him or go alone. He looked like he was struggling on the ridge with a few other gliders. Maybe I'm rude, maybe selfish, but I went on glide to the south by myself. Sorry James!

That glide took me over Cloudland Canyon and all the way over no-man's land to the Rising Fawn launch where I was back down to ridge level where I finally found another climb. After gaining a few hundred feet, I noticed a mature bald eagle climbing up from below. 7 or 8 turns later he was closing the gap and had almost caught up to me. As he reached my altitude I lost sight of him for a moment. Then I saw him off my left wing coming towards my nose. 50ft before impact he rolled inverted, stuck is huge yellow talons out at me, and dove away to the South. It was a beautiful interaction.

I found a couple more decent climbs on my way down the ridge and also spotted my bald headed friend again gliding out into the valley. I fell into an area of heavy sink and changed my line to try and avoid it. Soon I was picking places to land. I settled on a nice field with no cattle and had a soft landing just north of Fort Payne, AL.

So I flew about 28 miles. A good little XC flight and the first one for me this year. Sure was fun! Sorry, no pictures.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Work, Dream, Work

I am very fortunate to live where I can fly down a mountain, land in my yard, and continue on with my day. Sometimes I have to pinch myself. I remember one day last summer I was working in the shop blowing glass all morning. Around 1:00pm I went to launch and set up. By 1:45 I was in the air and climbing fast towards a nice, flat bottomed cloud. I timed my climb perfectly so that I reached the edge of the cloud and popped out of the side just as I whited out. The temperature was a lot cooler up there than it was down in my shop and I made a point to appreciate it. The long glide back down gave me a chance to enjoy the beautiful scenery this valley has to offer. Finally, I had a great landing back at my house where I went back to work. - total flight time was about 30 minutes.

As I started back on the torch things seemed surreal. Did that really happen? Was I really playing with a cloud 10 minutes ago at 6,000ft? I had just experienced man's oldest dream in the purest form and then casually went back to where I left off. Like I said..... I had to pinch myself...

So I put the Gopro camera on my helmet the other day to see how it worked. Check out the video below. It's not of the flight mentioned above, but it is a sledder down to land at my house. Sorry if you(Ashley) think it's boring.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Recently I sat down and wasted time watching stuff on You Tube. I went through a bunch of videos and have selected a few to share on the blog here - to waste your time as well. Enjoy!

Here is a de Havilland Beaver on floats attempting a take-off.

And another attempt at a landing/take-off.

Friday, March 5, 2010

I strapped the go-pro camera on my RC again yesterday. The conditions were way better with more wind and a nice sunny sky. Everyone put up a good fight with some strong hits every now and then. Mike hit me into the trees once, I took Bob's wing down by slicing off his control horn, and Scott ended up flying himself into the trees halfway down the mountain. We are having way too much fun with pieces of foam and packing tape.

Check out this video. I like it better than the first one and the crashes/landings at the end are fun to watch.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


We had more snow here at Lookout again today. It started this morning and quit around 2:00 leaving 2-3 inches in the field. James, Scott, Ron, Roxy, Sara, and I started pushing around clumps of snow until they got huge. Then we piled them up and created this big, friendly monster. He even has a little mini-me friend on his shoulder. We are making bets as to how long he will last this week. I know that if it's warm and launchable, someone is gonna try to knock that top hat off during landing.

Monday, March 1, 2010

I call her "Woody"

I just got the little hero wide camera the other day and have been anxious to try it out. I hope the still pics it takes will be sharp enough. It has an auto feature that shoots a pic every 2 or 5 seconds. I think that will come in handy for shots like wingovers where timing is everything; and I won't have to push any buttons.

Anyway, yesterday I found a chance to use it on top of my Battlebeast- a 6ft wingspan terror in the sky. It has slain many o' wings, and is feared by all.

The lift was very light so Bob and I had to work for altitude to play with. Not wanting to lose the camera, we opted out of combat and tried some formation flying instead. The lift finally ended and we were both forced to either land on the ramp, or go for the walk of shame. Check it out.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


A couple of weeks ago it snowed a bit and we got out to play in it. For the first time ever, we mixed aviation and snowboarding here at the flightpark. Check out the short video of the fun.

Speaking of the snow, check out this weather man freaking out on TV while giving the weather report. It may be time for a vacation.

And while we are looking at videos, check out this illusion.

I thought this was a cool shot. and this one too.

Here is Alex Trebek laughing at a contestant on Jeopardy.

Thanks to Scott for turning me on to Good stuff! He is one cool dude.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

High Speed Pass

Scott took this video of me landing the other day. Sure was fun!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Yea mon

Last week, Ashley and I dropped the kids with Grandma and headed down to Jamaica to visit with Jesse. It was great to see him, not to mention getting away from the cold and enjoying sunrise swims in the ocean. This was my first time out of the country so experiencing the culture was my favorite part. We stayed with a family near Treasure Beach on the south part of the island, away from all the tourist attractions. Most of the population in this area are rasta "bredren". Even though I don't consider myself a rastafarian, I do embrace their beliefs and had great connections with so many.
One day, I was sitting on the porch sketching on a pad and a guy called Kingcheck came by selling fruit. He saw my sketch and asked if I could draw him. I chuckled and told him that I could try, but I usually don't draw people. Our accents made conversation difficult so we mostly sat while I sketched. After about 1o minutes I showed him the picture and he requested that I draw in the shoulders and add his name. I think he liked it. He walked over to his cart and pulled out a bag of peanuts and handed them to me. We each said thanks and he went on his way. I remember a really good feeling over me, and then I realized that now I really do work for peanuts.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lookout! Snow and Ice

We had a few inches of snow last week here in north Georgia. The clouds finally moved out on Sunday (my birthday) so I went for a nice sledder over the ice covered trees.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Getting cold feet

I flew again yesterday and was able to hold on to a thermal that took me 1,400 over launch. Dean is back and flying again and climbed up with me. After getting a little cold I decided to trade my hard earned altitude for a bit of high speed fun. Buzzing by launch and then zig zagging my way down the mountain just over the trees was exhilarating. Down near the LZ I decided to do a run across the puddle. Jesse and Pablo were down there inviting me with cameras.

What an awesome flight! The air was so smooth which made for nice, predictable maneuvering. I love days like this. Check out the short video of the landing.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Flight on 1-19-10 (cows and pigs)

Tuesday was quite warm - 61 degrees -and I got excited about flying. Lucas and I went up to the Bandit launch setting up in a moderate SW cross but there were decent cycles. I launched first and found some lift just south of the ramp. The wind chopped it up but it was workable. I was excited as this was my first thermal in a long while; couple months maybe.

I got over the ridge after a bit then Lucas launched joining me. After working 15-20 minutes we had gained about 700 ft over launch and I went out in the valley. I guess the excitement of working that thermal overtook me and I found myself flying towards Trenton with the intention of going for a little XC flight. (from 700 over :)) After hitting a thin, useless piece of lift over the high school I picked the field across the highway to land in.

After landing, 3 or 4 police cars started whizzing around getting ready to intercept me as I walked toward the fence. The excitement built as more people stopped to ask if I was OK and if I had crashed. I assured them that I was fine as I began breaking down my glider.The landowner was really friendly and told me the cattle and 1 bull in the field might be curious about me; soon they were sniffing my glider and harness looking for my snack bar inside. After a while Bob and Scott showed up to get my glider and me out of the mud and back home.

It's funny how sometimes a 3 mile XC flight can be one of those that will stick in your head forever. Hang gliding life is incredible!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone. John C, Scott, James(staples) and I decided to brave the below freezing temps for a good old New Years Day flight. Scott, James and I took off towards the point in Chattanooga. Solid ridge lift made getting there and back a breeze. It was a lot of fun and I can't think if any better way to bring in a new decade than by a cold, scenic cross-county flight with my buds. Check out the flight in the video below. The LZ got a little switchy on us while landing, but everyone pulled it off with style.