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)
Wind Map - animated map of winds and other data over the surface of the world.
Wind History Map - actual vs. forecasts
All training is 100% dependent on weather conditions. Before coming out, check your email and the web site to be sure training is not canceled. If something comes up, we will attempt to contact scheduled pilots. We usually train at sod farm #4. 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.
Most countries love adventure sports like hang gliding and paragliding. Switzerland, for example, 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.
It's great having only 4 or 5 active pilots in the region because our launches are never crowded. In fact, today there was not anybody within 5 or 10 miles doing anything near launch or, as far as I could tell, even near this mountain range. It's like being the only person flying a beautiful site on the entire island of Martha's Vineyard. The great southwest does grow on you....
The forecasts were iffy whether Torrey would work. Deming Airport (about 50 miles to the northwest) showed east at 10 but Hachita Station (about 100 miles WSW of launch) showed SSE at 10. As I was to find out, the winds at both stations must be nothing greater than SE or things can be unpredictable at TP. That is, winds can be coming straight in at launch but out in front and up, the winds can be switchy. Yours truly (Had Robinson) discovered this first hand after launch. Thankfully, winds east near Las Cruces or El Paso can be anything including dead -- it does not matter because getting near the Continental Divide gives us a different climate and wind pattern. I launched in 10 mph air and got right up. However, as I made my way north along the range, my speed increased greatly over the ground! This means winds are too south to get good lift and stay in it. Do I keep on heading north? It would be a very long walk in the dark if I sunk out 5 miles up the range so, being completely alone, I headed for the road to launch, and landed into the wind which was 45 degrees cross of the east-west facing road. I hiked back up to my truck below launch and enjoyed the 35 minute drive back home.
Torrey Paso launch -- our launch area has been nicely maintained by all who fly it. We are particularly appreciative of Buzz Nelson who has spent a good deal of time keeping it well groomed adding greatly to our safety. It's a bit of a hike up from the parking area but always worth it!
For the alert, how did I take this photo of myself? I didn't - this is a file photo of about the altitude I obtained out front of launch going north. I felt the air changing and fiddling with a camera is not a good idea so I grabbed this photo of Jason Tilley flying the site months ago. We aim to fool people but only part of the time.
Rod Burton, Buzz Nelson, and yours truly (Had Robinson) setout for Kilbourne after aborting a mission to Agave. The winds there would be too northwest and turbulent to be fun flying. The forecasts showed high winds farther west in Dona Ana County until late in the afternoon. Things were to quickly die down right around sunset so we had a narrow window. Many times if pilots get up early, winds aloft will keep them up past sunset. We knew that one of the most thermic sites in the region (because of the black basalt surrounding the maar) would not be flyable until pretty late in the day. Our window was short -- but we got up and flew the maar until things started to go dead.
Buzz flying along with yours truly passing to the right. Launch is barely visible to the middle left. Photo by Buzz.
Waiting for the winds to come down a bit before launching. Mt. Riley and Mt. No-Name in the distance. Photo by Rod.
It was a fun afternoon and everybody safely top-landed, always fun to do and only one of a few sites in the southwest where it can be done safely.
Gray Hill is somewhere between Las Cruces and Albuquerque - but who cares as long as we can find it with some GPS coordinates? It's great flying in such remote places. Buzz had an outstanding late afternoon soaring this remote area -- and avoided getting tangled up in the radio tower. Photo by Buzz.
The village of Woods Hole looking south. Mill Pond and Eel Pond are left to right. This is the home of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and the Marine Biological Laboratory. The beach front in the foreground is on Buzzards Bay. The Vineyard Sound is the body of water at the top of the photo. Nonamesset Island is in the upper right. It is easy to see why Woods Hole is unique -- it is a handy jumping-off place to (3) major bodies of water and to the largely uninhabited Elizabeth Islands west of the village. Here is a short video of some highlights flying along the coast in this area.
The eastern end of the Elizabeth Islands. A few boats can be seen anchored in Hadley Harbor. All but one of the islands (Cuttyhunk) are privately owned by the Naushon Trustees. All but a handful of homes are in this end of the islands, most of which are on Naushon Island. The shallow bay in the foreground is known as Monsod Bay.
The south coast of Naushon Island. You can fly along this wilderness the length of the island or about 7 miles. All but the east end is dense forest that has been allowed to grow wild for over about one hundred and fifty years. Trees grow slowly in this region because of the poor soil and the short growing season. A pin oak can be 150 years old and just 14" in diameter at the trunk e.g. there is some great lumber around here that is dense and hard. We have a tree on our place that is at least 90 years old and is still about 8" in diameter. Freshwater ponds are abundant.
I decided to something I have never done: cross the Vineyard Sound between Martha's Vineyard and the mainland. I was fully equipped to safely experience a ditch in the open water of the ocean but it was still a mental trip, just the same. Marilyn (Flightbabe1) even had the details of whom to call if I had an engine out or some other mishap -- it was not the Coast Guard. They would safely rescue me but what about my gear? It is against the regs for them to help with that. Then who? The local fishermen are the ones you want -- they know the waters and they know nets which means they have the equipment to pull stuff out of the water safely. View here is ... England straight ahead a bit (east). The Vineyard is on the right and the south Cape on the left. I was at a few thousand feet AGL - MSL (the only place where AGL and MSL are the same). That way, if the engine quit, I could easily glide back to land -- somewhere.
I landed at the Vineyard on the shore near a place called Daggets Pond. Winds were picking up and I had to land to be sure a re-launch and return to the mainland would be safe -- which is was. I crossed back over the Sound and went east along Naushon Island staying away from any signs of habitation or from private beaches.
I flew easterly back along the islands, reversed direction, and took this photo of where I crossed -- about (4) miles in the distance. In the foreground is Penzance Point which surrounds Great Harbor.
I then flew southeast to take this photo of the Nobska Lighthouse that is a mile or so east of the village of Woods Hole. It was the end of the day. It's light can be seen 20 miles on a clear night. Fog rolls in here often enough and it has a great whistle/horn to warn ships of the rocky coast. In the distance to the right is the east end of Martha's Vineyard. Straight ahead is Spain or somewhere nearby.
The atmosphere in this part of the world has been upside-down due to the effects of the recent tropical storm. As a result, flying days have been few and I (Had Robinson) have been a bit nervous as I am not used to flying in, near, about, etc. tropical storms a.k.a. hurricanes. Winds 100' off the deck have been high, sometimes greater than 30 mph, so caution is always advised.
Thankfully, Friday was one of our better days, despite high winds at 1,000' MSL. The latter caused some shear turbulence in the air closer to the earth which is noticeable at the end of a video I took. The greatest risk ultralights face here is going into the ocean. Accordingly, my paramotor is equipped with dual automatic floatation devices and I wear a premium life-jacket. If I plan to cross long stretches of water, I wear a wetsuit as I could be in the water for hours before being found. Contrary to large aircraft, ditching in the ocean with a paraglider is merely an unexpected swim far from land -- if the pilot is appropriately equipped. Because the waters near the coast are shallow and lack prey of sufficient size, there are no sharks, thankfully. Here is a short video tour of the area.
Woods Hole is the jumping off place for many islands and different bodies of water. the view here is east. I launch from a postage stamp of open ground near the small neck that joins the peninsula in the foreground to the mainland. Buzzards Bay is on the left. Great Harbor is in the foreground and is well protected from storms on the ocean.
There are no straight roads, everything is crowded, there are no hills to launch from = PPG only in this part of the Cape. We take what we can get and must be content. I launch from the open ball-park area (visible in the photo below to the far right) or from a private lawn which is open in both directions to the ocean. The sea coast is always a relatively easy place to fly because the weather is more predictable and there are far fewer air masses competing for dominance. This means fewer surprises. On the other hand, the east coast is getting pounded by tropical storm Hermine which is mostly a huge amount of wind and no rain over eastern New England = no flying for five days. The photos below are a few days before the storm hit. The exact location is Woods Hole, MA.
This photo is from the Buzzards Bay side of Woods Hole. The swampy area visible to the right is a great bail-out if needed. It is soft matted vegetation which will absorb impact nicely from a hard landing, for example.
This photo looks northeast and is about 90 degrees CCW from the above photo.
This photo is about 40 degrees CCW from the above photos and shows the neck of Penzance Point which goes off to the left.
Thermalled free-flight ABOVE cloudbase. How much fun is this?
Today was a BIG BONUS DAY for paragliding in the southwest New Mexico desert. It started first with a (legal) predawn flight by yours truly (Had Robinson) to pre-flight the air for (2) tandem flight lessons that were to occur shortly after dawn at the sod farms in Santa Teresa, NM. Flying in the air when the sun is not around so much is always some of the great magic we have as aviators. Armed with a strobe, I took off 30 minutes prior to sunrise, the earliest I could be in the air according to FAA regulations. Without the sun heating the surface of the earth, the winds under 100' AGL are similar to those above cloudbase -- unusually smooth. Today, the winds from 0-500' AGL were SSW at around 7 MPH which are perfect for flying tandem. When they are under 3-4 mph, the launch run can be 50-100 yards which, for new tandem students, can be a challenge.
Looking up at the moon peeping through some of the clouds that had been streaming in most of the night.
The first tandem flight of the day was with Bryce Jorgensen of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Bryce wanted to discover, first hand, what actually flying a paraglider is like. We had a perfect (and short) take-off and were able to tour the area, including flying right along the U.S. - Mexico border. Bryce was able to take the controls for much of the flight and get a feel for what it's like to fly this huge airship. Everything happens slowly. Because of the huge wingspan, tandem wings are more immune to disturbances in the air (but since the air was smooth, it didn't matter anyway). Among the highlights of the flight was a just-off-the-surface fly-by of the launch area. Bryce's son, Caleb, was able to witness was the safe fun we can have in the slow moving paraglider, the slowest moving airfoil in the world.
Having more fun than a couple of guys are allowed to have. The device velcroed to the tandem bar on my right is a variometer. This gadget tells the aircraft's vertical speed. The higher you get, the harder it is to tell whether you are moving up or down. The road below is Highway 9, one of the longer roads in the U.S. that has no crossroads, no power lines, no cell service, no buildings, no one-eyed guppies, etc. It is of no relation to Highway XXX. Photo by Bryce Jorgensen.
The next tandem of the day was with Caleb Jorgensen, age 12, son of Bryce. Caleb is the youngest tandem student I have had to date. He had the advantage of watching his dad do the launch run and take-off, so, being an observant and smart lad, it was a piece of cake for him to do just what his dad did: push as hard as possible on the tandem bar and run like a madman across the sod farms. Being about 60% of the weight of his senior, our launch was relatively quick and easy. In fact, I think we ran about 30' and that was it!
The view of our magnificent airship while looking up during a tandem flight.
Caleb and I just before launch. It is always important to do the pre-flight check, as I am doing here. Sport aviation is often forgiving of mistakes and neglect but never often enough.... Caleb is gripping the tandem bar, ready to push -- and help launch -- us into the air. Caleb got special permission to miss a bit of school this morning for some air sports adventure. I can here the conversation after he returned to school. Teacher: "Well, what were you doing this morning that you had to miss class?" Caleb: "Oh, I had a foot launched powered paragliding lesson. Flying sure is fun...." Or something like that. Photo by Bryce Jergensen.
We hope to have some videos of these flights shortly which I will post.
Record high tow on Hwy XXX
The next adventure of the day (!) was the record-setting high tow on Hwy XXX by intrepid pilot Buzz "Fly-High" Nelson. Over the years, there were various factors that prevented pilots from getting towed above 9K' MSL. Chief among these was the amount of line on the Southwest Airsports Magnum Winch. Another was the wear and tear on the line from towing up sacks of potatoes at the sod farms and then having the owner of the place tangle up the line while plowing with one of his tractors (what am I supposed to say?). Still another is the level of anxiety the pilot feels when he sees the tow line going off into space, unable to see what it is attached to (the winch and the truck get smaller and smaller as the glider gets higher, eventually becoming too small to see.)
Of course, the reverse is true. The tow operator loses complete visual of the glider. However, this does not matter because the winch hydraulics make a distinctive sound per the speed and tension of the line coming off the drum. The top of the winch mast points in the direction of the glider. Any mishap or non-normal behavior of the glider is immediately evident at the winch end. It is a sensitive system -- so sensitive that I, the tow operator, can tell when the glider passes through layers of air of slightly different directions and speed. When the glider hits a thermal and starts to go up, the excitement at the winch is the same as the pilot's in the sky.
Buzz setting up his equipment before his record tow into the southern New Mexico sky. It gets colder the higher you go so you must be prepared with gloves and adequate clothing. The towline and drogue parachute are visible in the foreground. If there is a line break at 10,000' and the drogue goes drifting off for miles and miles, how do we find it? Unless you are following the flight in a chase aircraft (done that), one can spend many hours scouring the desert for a wad of orange cloth. What is the answer? I created a padded pouch in the front of the drogue which holds a SPOT satellite communicator. Problem solved. The SPOT transmits every 10 minutes so, even if the batteries were to go dead, we would have a track we could follow.
Buzz starting out on his record tow. In the background are the XXX Mountains. On the back of the winch, I keep a paramotor just in case I need to go searching for a downed pilot who does not know or did not communicate his coordinates before going in.
Buzz just before releasing from tow at over 10,000' MSL. The glider is a tiny speck in the sky -- invisible. I only found him by blowing up the photograph and searching in the vicinity of the winch line going up to wherever. It was late in the day and Buzz gave it a yeoman's try to stay up in the weakening lift. He did very well and had about an hour flight in the pleasant afternoon air working the thermals below the many clouds in the region..
The view at 10,000' MSL. The winch behind the truck below on Hwy XXX is invisible from this far away.
Near the clouds
The view ENE
I was actually able to wind in the miles of towline, stow all the winch gear, and launch myself while Buzz was still in the air. It was getting quite dark (just after sunset) when I took this photo a minute after Buzz had landed at the abandoned racetrack on Hwy XXX.
CONGRATS, BUZZ, ON DEMONSTRATING TRUE GRIT AND BREAKING THE TOW HEIGHT RECORD FOR SOUTHERN NEW MEXICO (and probably all of New Mexico and west Texas, as well). He is now a member of the "10K Tow Club"!
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