Friday, May 26, 2017

Getting Whacked

After several mellow flights earlier in the day, we launched at Woodside mid afternoon on a hot sunny day. I got some good lift off launch and found some stronger thermals over the ridge. I ended up the highest and was feeling pretty good about it. I cruised along the ridge heading back to where I'd found the last thermal and I heard my wing get hit by some turbulence. All of a sudden my brakes went soft. Actively piloting, I automatically pulled some brake. But they stayed soft. I looked up and my wing was an ugly mess from what I assume was a large frontal collapse or a stall and it was no longer flying. I thought about it for a split second and went hands up, trusting my wing to recover. I don't recall being afraid, just trying to figure out what was happening and how to deal with it. Thankfully, I can often stay quite calm in dangerous situations. Then again, I've also had times of deep fear that I just couldn't shake.

I remember glancing down to see how much height I had. Luckily I had lots, but it gave me a good reminder why it's not a good idea to fly too close to the terrain!

I didn't think about my reserve (parachute) at all. Hopefully if the wing hadn't recovered I would have thought of it! I was flying my new lightweight harness (Supair Radical 3) with a front mounted reserve so it was right in front of me. The front mount is a bit awkward, but it's definitely more accessible in flight than under the seat ones.

The wing (my new Geo 5) recovered, opened back up, and resumed flying, as it is designed to do. I don't even recall much surge. It was over in seconds. Although I wasn't far from launch, no one  even noticed my brief moment of "excitement".

I immediately turned away from the top of the ridge where the strong thermals were. My first instinct was to get down and on the ground as soon as possible. But it wasn't that rough away from the ridge so I decided to "stay on the horse" and keep flying. I didn't stay up as long as if I'd stayed on the ridge but I found some mellower lift and had a decent flight cruising around.

After I landed I felt a bit shaken and a little queasy - perhaps delayed effect from the adrenaline.

On a more positive note, Shelley showed off her hard earned ground handling skills when the shifting wind blew her wing off to the side as she was launching and she calmly stepped under it, kited it level, turned and launched smoothly. The instructor next to me even commented on what a good job she'd done.

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