Santa Teresa, New Mexico -- El Paso, Texas
Explanations of the tools below and more weather info
El Paso National Weather Service - start here!
Meso West Region (Current conditions at stations in the SW - view profile without logging in)
Santa Teresa NWS (current conditions)
SPC Balloon Soundings (every 12 hours)
UoW Balloon Soundings - usually available before the SPC soundings 72364
NWS hourly graphical forecast - temp, winds, & gusting at the surface
NOAA Satellite image of clouds over west Texas - NM
National forecast of fronts, pressure & weather - easy to read
Soaring Forecasts - (go here for the thermal index)
Windy - animated map of winds and other data over the surface of the world.
Wind History Map - actual vs. forecasts
May 22nd - June 3rd -- No training during this time. We will be enjoying the flying in northeast Oklahoma.
All training is 100% dependent on weather conditions. Before coming out, check your email, this web site, or text us to be sure training is not canceled. If something comes up, we will attempt to contact scheduled pilots. Training times can vary because of weather or equipment issues. Pilots can always arrive earlier than the scheduled times to study the weather, setup, and practice kiting.
Nearly every country in the world promotes and loves adventure sports, like hang gliding and paragliding. Switzerland even put an image of a guy paragliding on their 50 Franc note. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has opened the doors of Texas parks to USHPA pilots. Other public land administrators in the U.S. should do the same.
Bill Cobb came out late in the afternoon to improve his kiting skills -- something essential to safely handling a glider at launch. The winds were in the upper single digits which forces students to get the glider up quickly or get dragged around LOL. Just before dark, I was able to fly my 42m tandem wing solo with my paramotor. Speed through the air? Just 10 mph. It's a ton of fun but eerie flying so slowly, something only a large paraglider can do. The downside is that the glider is very lightly loaded which makes it unstable. Because of this, we can only fly these giant wings solo when conditions are completely dead (no thermals or turbulence in the air).
Bill was able to keep his glider overhead for minutes -- something that is not as easy as it looks.
While Steve was up at Transmountain, Bill Cobb and I continued training at turf farm #4. Winds were light but we were able to kite. Bill is getting better and better as he learns to read his glider. Inputs are always subtle and must be timed accordingly.
A great (safe) exercise to learn how a paraglider works with a pilot hanging underneath is to do “Mesquite Slalom” with a PPG. You have to begin the turn way before you reach the curve in the trail. The glider goes inside the turn and you swing through the turn. And then you have to anticipate what’s head and stop the turn, perhaps, etc. We are the only aircraft that hangs down below the airfoil. I have spent years doing these exercises and it is still hard – and completely unnatural. But it’s a blast doing it and being maybe another couple of feet higher than if you were on a dirt bike. It’s one way to learn active piloting with less risk.
No photos because I forgot my flight deck!
My camera has been in repair for some time. It's great to have it back.
The Gardner Turfgrass farms were recently purchased by Evergreen Turf, an Arizona company. Over the years, we have seen the farms go through three owners now. Thankfully, we are not facing loss of such an important training and flying site -- one of the safest I know in the U.S. along with Britton Shaw's operation in Ft. Smith, AR.
Today we had student pilots Bill Cobb, Brian Ives, and Joe Herrera come out to kite, help, and fly. Bill banged away at getting his kiting skills up to par and Brian continued to launch/land a dozen times to perfect his technique getting to and from earth. Joe helped us get pilots in the air. PPG has nothing comparable to learning in such a short time how to launch and land. After a grueling afternoon of work, Brian and I did a short XC trip and landed just when we had to!
Brian and yours truly celebrating a very productive day -- for all. BTW, I will post more from the last few months as time permits.
It was bound to happen!
After the pilot pins off from tow, the drogue floats down. In this case, it floated down over a power line nearby thanks to a change in the wind direction. Thankfully, it is dry as death around these parts and the line is also made of insulated material = we got the line down safely. There are so many things that can go wrong in aviation and why we must be so careful.
The models all showed winds were to be south/SSE in the region so a group of us (Buzz Nelson, Lee Boone, and yours truly - Had R) planned to fly Matt's Mountain, our only site that works with winds from that direction. However, the real-time conditions of nearby weather stations were all east/NE. What to do? Actual conditions trump the models so we headed out to Torrey Paso in the Potrillos. However, the models and actuals were in agreement that conditions would be weak. We arrived at the Torrey LZ and occasionally saw winds start to clock towards the south, so we were a bit nervous. Up to launch we hiked. Buzz was first there and thought conditions were too strong (the venturi near launch always increases the wind speed) so we headed to the lower launch area. The strong air turned out to be the normal thermic cycles going through -- which were getting weaker by around 2PM. We scurried up to the higher launch by the saddle.
Buzz (L) setting up and Lee (R).
Buzz demonstrating tight control of his glider at Torrey Paso. It's full alert when you are just yards from the top of a saddle in the mountains. Buzz has done such a splendid job making the site safe. Our thanks to Buzz. We need to ask the bureaucrats at the BLM and Congress to dump some crushed fine rock at launch and it would be even safer. The rocks everywhere can easily cut glider lines.
Buzz launched first but did not hit the best cycle and had a safe 15 minute flight. Lee launched next and nailed it, got up above the range, and had delightful 45 minute flight. I launched last in the weakening conditions and could only stay up about 10 minutes. Buzz heading off north.
The guy in the red jacket was pretty good launching his UP Summit XC2 and getting right up. Lee was already up in the fast air here and was able to stay above the top of the range.
The happy guys at the LZ in front of the East Potrillo Mountains. What a place to fly -- Buzz (L) and Lee (R). Lee landed after his hour flight right next to his truck. Winds continued straight in for the entire afternoon, though in the single digits.
Bill Cummings, Robin Hastings, and visiting hang gliding pilot Anne Wade were at Matt's today. Only Anne decided to launch in the strong conditions. Yours truly (Had Robinson) also thought it might be possible to fly a paraglider right at the end of the day, when conditions usually start to calm down. Well, they didn't. I think I had the shortest flight ever when I launched during a lull. I got popped up into the high winds, went backwards over launch, and had to land. It took about 2-3 seconds.
When Anne would head into the wind at the north end of Matt's - she was parked. The view here is south (launch is not visible). Anne was up the better part of an hour.
I took this one from right over launch as Anne was flying by.
Took this one while setting up to land. Time was a little after 4:30PM. I had just descended from some of the broadest lift I ever experienced at that time of day. I flew in a straight line for 3-4 minutes and was in 400'/min lift the entire time.
The Piano (main) LZ at Valle. It's not hard to miss. Obstacles are minimal. The main hazards are strong thermals drifting through the landing area. Pilots will often get popped up in the air and go an additional 50 yds. but there is plenty of room.
UPDATE on injured pilot, David McNulty -- The local hospital/care-center here misdiagnosed his condition. After examination at an advanced hospital in Mexico City, we learned that he had, in fact, (7) broken ribs, a pneumothorax, and a hemothorax. Or in plain language, he punctured his left lung, it collapsed, and he started bleeding internally. It is a miracle he did not bleed to death after the accident. He is recovering as good as anyone and, after release from the hospital, will convalesce here in Valle. John Cummings, our own doctor-pilot, nailed the correct diagnosis when he saw David briefly after the accident but the local doctors did not. Our host, Damian Mitchell, insisted that David be taken to Mexico City by ambulance but the hospital here refused so Damian arranged for it privately which probably saved David's life. For the moment, all is well, thankfully.
The presence of the Jet -- that earthly Goliath that gets its way -- has descended north of us and pushed a trough of low pressure ahead of it which caused Valle de Bravo to cloud over completely. The locals say there will be rain later today. I saw the location of the Jet this AM and decided to stay on the ground. Why gamble when winds aloft are 30+? There was a lot of ridge soaring at La Torre behind Valle because the clouds killed the lift at the Peñon launch.
So, I had some time to render a video (part #2) from some gimbal-stabilized raw footage. It is difficult enough flying a paraglider in a complicated airspace like this as it is, so this was my first go at launching with the necessary equipment. I have to protect it launching and landing and then get it in position. It has taken a while to figure that one out. Here it is, along with the rest of the sound track from the first one: https://youtu.be/0FGd2qoZOtA
The Norwegians arrived today! Launch will be jammed for a few weeks but they are polite and considerate pilots, so it will be as good as it could be.
I hate self-portraits but this one is funny -- flying along minding my own business and a pilot loses his glove and smack.... Texture was a bit tough.
It is never good to fly with your mouth open because of bugs, plastic bags, etc.
Unfortunately, we had an accident at launch today. A pilot decided to try a competition glider, the Niviuk Icepeak. I had just launched so I did not see it but my flying buddy, John Cummings, witnessed the entire event. The pilot, also a friend and part of our little group, had been flying his Ozone Rush 4, an upper B class glider. The Icepeak is a very fast glider because of its high aspect -- that is, it is very long, thin, and narrow. The downside is that launching these gliders is difficult. They act like snakes until they are fully loaded in flight.
The pilot brought the glider up but, I am sorry to say, did not use the correct hand position (known as "variation 3") which allows the pilot to de-power the glider instantly. At Southwest Airsports we REQUIRE all pilots to learn this position because one never knows when he must instantly stop a glider from launching. Generally, coastal pilots have no real idea how turbulent the air can be in the Rockies and, especially, in the high desert where we train. We are always so careful to stay out of the extreme conditions which the dry heat of our region can create. The variation 3 position is somewhat difficult to learn but once mastered gives the pilot solid control until ready to go.
He brought up the glider but, as is typical with gliders like the Icepeak, it went everywhere. One side started to experience lift while the other side was snaking around. If he had been using the variation 3 hand position, he could have stopped everything instantly. Instead, the glider did a complete rotation twisting up the risers (preventing any effective control), and it began to lift the pilot off the ground. There was nothing he could do. It surged out front of launch, partially inflated, and then turned back into the hill, flinging the pilot hard into the side of the launch area. He was briefly knocked out but came to. A group of other pilots put him on a board and took him down the mountain in our van where he could be transported by ambulance to a hospital. John is a retired physician and he was pretty certain that the pilot was bleeding internally. At this time, he is in stable condition in a hospital in Mexico City with (4) broken ribs and internal injuries. He was fortunate that his good physical condition helped prevent a fatal hemothorax due to slamming the ground so hard. He won't fly or do much of anything for months, to say nothing of the pain he is in right now. We are so sorry for the mishap!
I only give the details of this accident for the sake of newcomers who think this sport is like skiing or basketball and, in particular, for my fellow pilots and students who: 1.) Think they are invincible -- "It will never happen to me." "I am really smart and have done all the research...." 2.) Fly anything other than a class A or low class B wing. 3.) Who want to enjoy the sport for a long time. 4.) Think they can ignore the nagging from competent instructors about mastering kiting and the variation 3 hand position. 5.) Fail to pay attention to conditions at launch. 6.) Fail to make certain that every launch is perfect and not turn and go until the wing is absolutely steady and trim.
The carnage continues and I am doing all I can to stop it - Had.
Everyone took a breather to recover from the shock of it all and then continued to launch. I went ahead and flew late in the day and I, along with a group of Germans and another group from Salt Lake City, enjoyed the late PM air which is safe and allows even advanced beginners to enjoy the magic of Valle de Bravo.
I hooked a huge and gentle thermal southwest of the Peñon and got up to TUL (top of usable lift). View is north. Here is a short video and some stills of the adventure https://youtu.be/akrT22b0KEE
On Sunday we had strong enough winds aloft to ridge soar launch in the afternoon, something most of us have never done before. The problem, on the other hand, with high winds is that the mix of thermals and wind bend the thermals over and actually create unpleasant and sometimes severe turbulence on the lee side of the thermal. In other words, stay out of the air when there are thermals and winds over 12 mph if you don't want to get bounced around and perhaps experience a collapse.
Above Peñon launch -- view is southeast. The high levels of moisture in the air are visible. The white area are the tailings of an active gold mine. In the valley in the distance is the town of Temascaltepec. It is around 5PM and the thermals have died down enough so that we can safely ridge soar.
We had strong winds on Monday as well but the humidity is much less. We were able to ridge soar launch once again. In the distance is Nevado de Toluca, a volcano that towers to over 15,000' MSL. It affects the winds in the region. It is a giant sucking-machine which pulls air in from all directions.
John Cummings preparing to launch from Peñon in the AM. Here is the YouTube of his launch: https://youtu.be/ZG4Zq5xmPeo
Hang glider pilot, Mark Vanderwerf, preparing to launch. Mark is also an expert tandem pilot. I see him here at Valle every year. Here is his launch. I have only flown a hang glider a few times but this I know about ANY aircraft -> GO LIKE A PITBULL IS RIGHT BEHIND YOU AND IS GOING TO TEAR YOUR LEGS OFF. It is called putting energy into your aircraft at launch and it is for safety. Mark is a big guy with long legs and he goes.... https://youtu.be/H_jPP9BUVnY
This area of central Mexico is the prime area in north America for thermalling. The thermals are wide and well formed and there are so many options as to where you can go. Yours truly (Had Robinson) noticed that the relative humidity is higher than at any time since I have been coming here (about 10 years). As a result, thermal strength at this time of year is also very modest. Pilots John Cummings (Portland, OR) and Joe Herrera (El Paso) are a part of our group. Here is a 1 minute YouTube video of a tandem hang gliding launch, a paraglider launching, and yours truly soaring along the Peñon late in the day. This is the only time it is safe to get so close to the rocks.
It is always safest to take it easy the first day you are here after a long day traveling. Then again, it is hard to resist flying such a site! I took it easy and only flew twice, once in the AM and later in the PM staying around the area of the Peñon. It was great to circle in thermals once again!
I managed to get right to the top of Peñon. In the distance is "El Pared" - The Wall - which is the next destination where a pilot can get even higher and go cross country from there. I am close to 9,000' MSL here and it was already getting cold. The high moisture content of the air is visible -- the glare this day was unusually severe.
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