Santa Teresa, New Mexico – El Paso, Texas
Explanations of the tools below and more weather info
El Paso National Weather Service – start here!
NWS hourly graphical forecast – temp, winds, & gusting at the surface
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
Vorticity @ 500mb click the needed forecast
NOAA Satellite image of clouds over west Texas – NM
National forecast of fronts, pressure & weather – easy to read
Pivotal Weather – a new site from Oklahoma U.
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
Training week of March 19th -- Tuesday and Thursday look safe. We'll see how things go towards the weekend.
All training is dependent on weather conditions. Before coming out, check your email, this web site, or text us to be sure training is not canceled or moved somewhere. 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.
Conditions today in the Franklins were supreme. However, work and other responsibilities often get in the way of epic flying -- and they did, again. Steve Crye, Tyler Beattie (our visiting pilot from Austin), and yours truly took off after work and meetings to make the trek up to Agave Hill. But, alas, we needed to be there about 2 hours earlier to take advantage of the gentle thermals we had all day (due to the cloud cover).
Winds at 5:30PM were 7 mph and straight in at launch. Oh! If there were some thermals left, we would have climbed up the Triangle into heavenly bliss over the crest of the range. As it was, it was practice launching, landing, and a sledder. It was not thrilling but pleasant and gentle flights for all.
Tyler noted that our landscape is populate with plants covered with stickers, like the ocotillo. To land near them means: You land in anything, just be sure that you do a "cobra" deflation of the glider (perpendicular to the ground) and set it down in a clear sport. Otherwise, it can be 30 minutes picking it out of the bushes LoL.
A handsome glider about to take its passenger (Steve Crye) for a flight off the mountain.
It was getting late at launch.
Four pilots came out today in the PM: Tyler Beattie, Nicolas Sébastien, Tom Bird, and Oren Belkin. We were busy! This was Tyler's first experience in towing (he's just a P2). There has been only about 5 pilots in ten years who aced their first tow and Tyler was one of them. Yes, there is a certain amount of luck (the conditions Wednesday were laminar and smooth) but there is keeping the glider perpendicular to the tow line. This is the most important thing all tow pilots MUST do and he did it well the first tow. Congrats!
Sébastien and Tyler spent the late afternoon learning how to perfect their "big ears", spiral dives, and speed bar application. Sadly, Sébastien must return to southwest France (God's country when it comes to paragliding). We will miss him! Tom came by late to watch (he had just got out from w***). Oren came by later and launched his quad driven by his new Thor 250. Like all of the Polini Thor's, this monster engine is the quietest of engines in its class and why the Thor line is my favorite. Combine a Thor with a "C" class glider of the right size and it's as close as one can be to the peace of "free flight".
We were all having more fun than guys are allowed to have.
Tyler coming in for a landing. Sébastien is up next for a tow. It was unusual to be on "golf course" ready grass -- we are thankful to the owner of Evergreen Turf,
Sébastien coming in. The goal: Land at the orange cone! Note the cloud cover. The lack of sun made conditions very smooth and good for training. Notice the change in the clouds over a period of less than an hour. Our desert climate is never boring....
Today was jam-packed! We had (5) pilots out to fly and train: Darren Donahue (San Antonio) and our local group: Steve Crye, Mitch Graham, Bill Cobb, and Lee Boone. Lee and Mitch did a combo of towing and mostly PPG. Steve, Darren, and Bill did PG only. Darren, who is a relatively new P2, increased his skills doing modest spiral dives and wingovers. Everyone honed their launching and landing skills -- one can never be too good at safely leaving the earth.
Getting prepped to fly. L-R: Mitch, Bill, Lee, Steve
Darren coming in for a landing -- at the cone! It is harder than most think...
One of the pilots lost his "lucky band flying charm" -- please contact us to claim it.
Steve practicing his inflations. In the background is Lee flying his PPG with his Paramania GTX reflex glider.
After an early morning flying PPG (Mitch -L) and fixed wing (Lee - R), Mitch gears up for a tow with Lee's help. Behind them, Bill is coming in for a landing after a tow. Both Mitch and Lee tried to thermal out of the farms but thermals were still pretty weak and not well organized. It takes great skill to work these weaker thermals. Keep working at it!
We want to welcome new student pilot Darren Donahue of San Antonio who made the trek out here to improve his paragliding skills. He is one of the few who actually did his initial training in one of the few places that has crazier air than we do: Boulder, Colorado. He will be working this weekend on adding to his P2 certification and getting towing under his belt. We were also joined by Nick Reiter who came out and worked on his PPG skills with the ultra-quiet and powerful Polini Thor 130 paramotor. It was a beautiful afternoon to train in our region -- when nearly everyone else in the country is braving winter weather.
Darren coming in for a safe and easy landing at the turf farms. Nice work!
Aubrey Langlinais continued his brutal schedule of training in the salt mines of Southwest Airsports. Bill Cobb also came out to practice kiting. The winds were as good as ever today, east at 5-7 mph. Tom Bird also showed up to continue his perfection at precision landings. Yours truly also flew at sunset, practicing the same. It was another great day in the southwest becoming better pilots!
We had quite a crowd out Saturday: Frank Hoffman, Aubrey Langlinais, Bill Cobb, Tom Bird, and Richard Matthews. Frank worked on his slalom technique near the ground, Aubrey did his first PPG solo in light winds (very difficult), Bill worked on kiting (not much wind, however), Richard practiced his spot landings, and Tom flew over to the NWS station and landed on top of the radar dome -- something like that.
Sunday was just Aubrey who continued his PPG training. Tom Bird also came by and wowed us (including a visitor from Juarez, MX) with his awesome launch and landing skills. Yours truly also flew and demonstrated some gentle air maneuvers including wing-overs, spiral dives, foot drags, and landings at full speed.
All of the following photos were taken by Richard Matthews, PPG student at Southwest Airsports. Occasionally, we are all surprised at the many talents our students have – Richard has the "camera-talent" among his other talents, such as flying a Chinook helicopter now and then.... Thank you, Richard, for sharing your skills with the world.
This photo is of Aubrey Langlinais doing a one week crash course in PPG. It is a grueling task with slave-driver, Had Robinson, and his cattle-prod making them run like they are about to be mangled by a lion or a bear. Here he is, with motor running, bringing his glider up before applying power to the engine.
Aubrey ran like crazy and got off launch just fine. PPG is very difficult to learn because the pilot must know how to fly a paraglider AND run the engine. One hand often does (3) separate things at the same time. Then, there is this machine running at full throttle just inches from your head. But once in the air, one can throttle off to a fraction and glide along for miles with but a low hum behind. This is a completely different experience than flying a single engine Cessna – and a fraction of the cost.
How fun is this? PG (free flight) has its wonders but so does PPG. Yours truly loves doing them both. Why not? Thank you again, Richard, for these awesome photos.
Those who came out to fly and kite on these two days were: Bill Cobb, Frank Hoffmann, Aubrey Langlinais, and Tom Bird. One of the days we had passersby who wanted to know what was going on. Thursday was towing at farm #4 and Friday was kiting and PPG at farm #1. Kite! Kite! Kite! That's the secret for ensuring good glider control. Good job everybody!
Bill coming in close to the LZ cone. Good.
What a pretty site! L-R: Aubrey, Frank, & Bill. Tom is laying out his glider to fly in the far left. Winds were quite strong this afternoon. Just above the ground they were 22 mph.
Just because it is dark does not mean we cannot continue to practice kiting on the ground. With fairly strong winds it was quite easy keeping the gliders overhead. Photo by Frank Hoffmann
At the end of a long day (the 25th), a bunch of us went out to dinner at Leo's Mexican Restaurant to celebrate a day of hard work. L-R: Frank Hoffman, Aubrey Langlinais, Bill Cobb, Marilyn Robinson (our tow assistant), and yours truly (Had). Frank and Aubrey both had minimal exposure to fine Mexican cuisine. Photo by a friendly waitress at Leo's.
We had a gaggle of pilots coming out to train and practice at turf farm #4 this afternoon. They were: Aubrey Langlinais, Frank Hoffmann, Bill Cobb, and Tom Bird. The weather could not have been better -- in the upper 60’s and a nice steady southeast breeze at around 6-7 mph. Marilyn and yours truly got the winch setup ASAP. Aubrey was the first to go up and he demonstrated how amazingly BOUYANT the air was this afternoon. That is, he easily climbed up under tow to about 1,000' AGL. Bill also was able to tow and had fine landings. Frank went cross country in his PPG setup. Tom Bird, also PPG, simply practiced his launch technique and showed his great skill in getting his aircraft off the ground without a lot of effort (the sign of a truly experienced pilot).
Below, Bill coming in after a tow. His job was to hit the cone.
Tom setting up to launch.
Frank coming in from a long cross country trip into Mexico and back (he did not land there). Aubrey (glider is on the ground) had his FIRST independent PPG flight this afternoon. We towed him up with the engine off and then, after releasing from tow, started his paramotor at 1,000'MSL, did some circles around the perimeter of the turf farms, and then landed.
L-R Bill and Tom. We only stop flying because it gets dark....
Last night we had an unusual weather event: A very strong radiation inversion. The air just a thousand feet higher was over 20 degrees F warmer than the air on the ground. Such a strong inversion generally results in light conditions near the earth’s surface, just as we experienced most of the afternoon.
Aubrey Langlinais, Frank Hoffman, Marilyn, and yours truly were out at the farms early. Conditions started out mostly weak with puffs from the northeast and north. As the afternoon got on, the winds strengthened and became north at 5-6 mph. This made reverse launches and kiting really easy!
Frank practiced launch/land with his paramotor until "the jig was up" at 30 minutes or so after sunset. Aubrey had about (7) flights via tow and did his first 360's, reverse launches, and "S" turns. It was a great afternoon in our beautiful southwest. How does it get any better?
Aubrey coming in after a long and high flight.
It has been cold in the mornings but very nice, almost hot, in the afternoons out at the turf farms. Student pilots the last few days included Frank Hoffman (Minnesota), Aubrey Langlinais (California), and Bill Cobb (El Paso). We setup the tow rig and pulled up pilots day after day. All three are PPG students so we first train them how to fly a paraglider at the one of the safest training areas in the country courtesy of Evergreen Turf Farms. Bill came out to kite and help the others. Thank you!
The ability to do a dozen and more launch/landing routines in a single afternoon greatly accelerates the learning process for these two vitally important skills. There is just no other way to get so much experience so quickly. Frank doing his launch run. Note how he is precisely lined up with the wind direction. It sounds simple but is not always easy to do or maintain until airborne.
Frank after a successful afternoon of flying. He's ready to continue....
Frank coming in to land after a tow up in without a motor. Yours truly (Had) asked him to demonstrate a tow to Aubrey who is a brand new student. Regardless of the quantity of YouTube videos, it is always best to see it done live and in person.
Aubrey setting up to land after his 2nd tow -- in our beautiful southwest. Imagine this view from a high tow at 10,000' MSL!
L-R: Aubrey, Bill Cobb, and Frank. We work and train until dark! The spots are dust particles in the air which reflect the flash. Nice work guys!
Today was a lot warmer, almost hot. Frank Hoffmann and yours truly (Had Robinson) set out for turf farm #1 to do some more PPG flying tasks. These included modest wingovers, tight circles (training for spiral dives), big ears (tip collapses), and steering without brakes. Frank's initial launch happened to be in dead air and in tremendous sink which was over the cool, wet farms. It maybe took him 100 yd. to get off the ground - a work-out.
We then set off for Hwy 9 to do a high tow, starring Steve Crye, who met us at the old racetrack. The air was calm but maybe a bit westerly. As Steve towed up, the winds became more easterly. Because of this, and the fact that the tow rig was moving west, I had to accelerate to over 40 mph just to keep tow pressure on the pilot so he could continue to climb out. The high speed (50% more than normal) and accompanying drag limited the height the pilot could get.
As it was, he made it to over 10,000' MSL, a very high tow and a view to die for.
Frank and I returned to turf farm #4 for some late afternoon practice on flying just inches off the ground, among other things. A great day everyone!
The view from 10,000' MSL from a paraglider. In the foreground are the East Potrillo Mountains. Just behind them are Mt Cox, Mt Riley, and Mt No-Name. In the far distance, about 70 miles away, are the Little Florida mountains. When winds are much better and there is not so much sink, Steve could have gone to 11,000' MSL in his Ozone Alpina3, a record for a high tow. Photo by Steve Crye
A beautiful way to end the day! Frank at turf farm 4 just before dark.
What's a little cold? Yesterday, the air temperature was 32F and cold enough to make the hydraulic oil in the winch pretty thick which changed the tow forces. Today, we had a heat wave -- in the 50's. Frank was the only student out today (after spending time at the shop in ground school where he aced the PPG1 exam, one of two or three who have ever done that well over the years). Congrats!
We did towing first and then Frank got his paramotor out and went up in his new Ozone Roadster2, a relatively tame reflex glider. Yours truly launched later (I cannot tow myself yet), joining Frank in the air. It was a splendid afternoon.
Frank getting ready to be launched into the air. Wind speed was under 5 mph most of the afternoon, getting nearly calm at dusk. Look at the runway -- it does not get any better or safer than this.
Frank coming in for a landing on the Ozone Roadster2. He discovered quickly the agility and amazing glide of the newer gliders.
Monday: Steve Crye and new student pilot, Frank Hoffmann came out to turf farm #4 for training and flying. Conditions were unusually good today with laminar, smooth SE winds at around 6 mph. This was an ideal time to kite and practice hitting the LZ bulls eye. This was Frank's first time to tow and he did extraordinarily well (but he did have many flights on a paraglider over some years which made keeping the glider perpendicular to the tow line easier).
Tuesday: IT WAS COLD! But if you are from Minnesota (Frank's home), today's near freezing temperature is a heat wave. Frank came out and kited in the high winds at the farms and then did a single flight via tow. It was a new experience for him to test his skills in the strong air. The farms are the place to do this. The worst thing that can happen is you get dragged across soft grass. When pilots are at the limit of their skills, giving them a challenge like this greatly helps them to learn the important elements of glider control which cannot really be learned in any other way. Great job today, Frank (and he did not get dragged once)!
Steve nailed the cone on this flight with his new Alpina 3.
Frank coming in for landing after his first tow at the turf farms. Such a fun place to train and so safe for everyone.
The afternoons have been great for PPG in the Southwest. It has not been hot, but almost.
Below, Tom Bird preparing to launch a new Ozone full reflex glider. Those who have never flown a reflex should launch in "PG" mode as it behaves more like an ordinary paraglider. The turf farms offer us unparalleled safety for trying new wings and maneuvers. The closely mowed grass is also easy on gliders and pleasant to land on. For various reasons, yours truly had (5) flights. PPG is such a great way to practice launching and landing in relatively short periods of time.
Tom purring along at sunset. Yours truly also demonstrated the "full speed landing" under power. It involves coming in with power, just like an airplane, and gently touching down. Dirt works but grass is best because it requires rolling out the landing, skidding along. Foot position is critical, sort of like water-skiing with bare feet. It is particularly effective flying small gliders that "drop out of the sky" on glide. The pilot does not flare but must keep the glider exactly overhead. Those with hip, knee, or ankle problems find this a welcome alternative.
Tom Bird, Steve Crye, Marilyn, and yours truly set out for turf farm #4 which is now our primary training area because of sensitive crops being planted on the other farms. #4 is also the best because it is the furthest from the Rio Grande Valley and its quirky winds and inversions. We all got there well before dark. The big deal today was Steve's desire to try out his new Ozone Alpina 3 -- an advanced glider with amazing performance and glide. It is a "C" class glider which means it is sensitive and agile in the air. Steve had (2) outstanding tows in the beautiful afternoon air. Part of the deal for us to come out and tow was that he permit yours truly to try the Alpina. Deal! Although I cannot tow myself, I was able to launch with a paramotor.
The glider is an animal -- alive with speed and agility. Take off speed was every bit of 15+ mph -- and why the physical requirements to enroll at Southwest Airsports require pilots to be able to run 30 yd. in 6 seconds or less. Glide and feel are outstanding! Thank you, Steve, for permitting me to fly the Alpina.
See getting high in the late afternoon in our beautiful desert air.
Steve coming in for a landing after a good tow. Tom can just be seen at the top of the photo.
Tom Bird and Nick Reiter came out late in the day to train and practice flying their paragliders. They also happened to have paramotors. This was Nick's first time with a motor. Being that he is already an expert free-flyer, adding the motor was easy for him. He noted that it is just a great way to practice launching and landing, one after the other. I think he had about 17+ flights that afternoon. PPG is attractive because a pilot can set up and launch in 10 minutes or less just about anywhere. Of course, the turf farms are without equal for any kind of basic/intermediate training because of their inherent safety compared to anywhere else. If a pilot falls over, does a face plant, and the like, it's not a particularly big deal to go "bonk" on thick, perfectly mowed grass. It is also free of other distractions such as vehicles, bystanders, and pets. Tom, likewise, perfected his launching and landing technique. Good job guys!
Tom coming in and nailing the cone in the LZ, power off.
Nick coming in with power off in his NOVA Mentor. He got the cone. The motor is noisy when running and a bit restrictive but it is so convenient. As yours truly is the only tow operator in the region, I would rarely fly if I did not have a paramotor.
The world's premier thermalling site and host to international competitions was as good as usual. North America has been relatively high pressure the last few years so thermals everywhere in the hemisphere have been rougher with blue skies most of the time.
This year we had the first blown out day (too much wind) that I ever remember -- it was as funny as anything to go to launch and, instead of 100 pilots getting ready to jump into the air, there were zero. So often, there are dozens of people over launch, many of whom have little experience flying in a gaggle which makes them often a bit frightening. One of our group, a newer pilot (P2) had a midair collision in front of launch with another newer pilot. Fortunately, they did not get tangled up and all was well. Both were terrified and remained so for a day or so afterwards. All pilots have to have their heads on a swivel -- at all times. We did not have any reserve tosses or accidents while I was there.
View from our pension in Valle. The groups that are hosted by Fly Mexico all stay in this ultra-clean pension near the center of town. Below is the view from my room.
El Peñon launch -- I love this photo as it shows many of the amazing places we fly to. To the right of El Peñon is "The Wall". Behind El Peñon is "Crazy Thermal Mesa". The pilot launching is one of about half of the PG pilots who launch safely and under control. Notice that his wing is right over him because he applied brake (still visible) at just the right time so the glider did not overshoot. Notice both tips are inflated and perpendicular to his direction off launch. Nice work! Also notice the sky and that are no low clouds, just a lot of cirrus. We do not usually have air that is more characteristic of the desert.
Attention all drunks! The red arrow points to a shear drop off (about 15'). The wall that was there fell over or something. Mexico is the place where if you do not pay attention, you could get hurt. Wandering along this sidewalk at night and full of alcohol could result in a fall! Mexico is not a "nanny-land" like here.
Bougainvillea growing in the subtropical climate of central Mexico. The high altitude (7,000' MSL) makes it very pleasant year round.
Our happy group!
El Peñon launch at 10AM. Everybody chickened out. Winds at launch were in the low teens. If I knew the area better, I might launched -- and been the only paraglider in the air that morning. The majority of PG pilots in the world have no idea what crazy air is (unless you live in the southwest U.S.). If we did not launch in really strong conditions, we would not be able to fly half of the time.
One of our better days when there was moisture in the air and clouds were forming. The blue circle is of my flying buddy, John Cummings, heading over the back towards Las Penitas, his favorite area.
The food in VB is outstanding -- an added bonus for pilots. All staff and people of the town are friendly and helpful. Hope you can join us next year! We plan to go down in early November. It will be closer to the end of the rainy season and thermals should be fatter and more organized.
Paragliding in south central New Mexico. The towering clouds in the distance are strong thermals coming off the Potrillo Mountains. It rains a lot out there, probably double of what we get in the Rio Grande Valley. Photo by Steve Crye
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