paragliding training center
Southern, New Mexico
Magdalena Rim is the most friendly site in the southwest for paragliding and hang gliding. In moderate winds it is easy to get 600' over launch. The rim faces southwest for much of its length and then faces south and then SSE at the most southerly end. The best lift is near the southeast end at its highest elevation.
When is it best to fly the Rim? South or SSW winds > 7 mph at launch (PG) are the minimum for soaring. We have flown the site with winds in the high teens without problems. Westerly winds will make the air turbulent along the Rim because of the small mountain chain west of launch. Here are some balloon soundings from the Santa Teresa, NM National Weather Service station that can help pilots know when the site is soarable: minimum conditions #1 minimum conditions #2 maximum conditions. The site has its own winds even when regional pressure gradients are weak or non-existent. The movement into the region of upper level disturbances can greatly affect the winds at launch and things may be blown out or dead.
Thermals from the plains in front will come rolling in most of the day and can be very strong. They start tapering off about 2 hours before dusk and, except for glass-offs, disappear 1 hour before dusk. Generally, it is not a good idea (PG) to mix ridge soaring with thermalling. The inversion at the Rim is deep in the morning and the site becomes windy quickly.
It is a premier ridge soaring and, to a lesser extent, thermalling site:
1. Launch is easily accessible by paved road almost the entire way. 4 wheel drive is unnecessary. The main LZ is just a 12 minute trip from the top of the rim.
2. It is our safest site for newer pilots (HG/PG) because the sides and rear of launch are clear for hundreds of yards. The launch face is not a precipice so side-hill landings for PG are easy to do. Blown launches (PG) are more forgiving due to the absence of barbed wire fences, trees, buildings, huge rocks, cliffs, etc. Bailout LZ's are abundant and easy to land in. Retrieve is possible via a jeep trail out in front of the rim but it takes an hour to get there.
3. The topography behind launch allows top-landings without having to deal with hazardous rotor/turbulence that is present at all our other sites with the exception of Kilbourne Hole maar. The top landing area is enormous which means pilots can make significant errors in setup and not be exposed to hazards. It is the only site other than Kilbourne where PG pilots can inflate their glider, move slowly and with control to the launch edge, and be gently lifted up.
4. Easy access, a clear launch area, and the ability to consistently top-land makes Magdalena Rim ideal for tandems and flights by the handicapped.
5. It is flyable with winds from southeast to west.
6. When thermals are present, the site can be flown in light winds. The thermals drift in at Middle Launch with a southwest breeze. Pilots should focus on staying in the thermals rather than fly up and down the ridge. The wide open range presents few hazards to flying away from launch. An abundance of roads in the region makes retrieves easy.
7. Camping can be done in the area.
Middle launch is best in most conditions. The more gentle slope in front disturbs the air less coming in at launch. Paragliders should use this launch.
South launch is about 100' higher than middle launch. It may be used when conditions are light. When winds are more than 10, it is too turbulent, especially for paragliders.
On the way up to the Rim, pilots will pass the LZ at the east base of the Rim on the left side of the road. Be sure to put a wind sock in the LZ as you pass by, in case you need it. Take the jeep trail to the fence near the edge of the rim. Please stay on the roads at all times. Close any gates you go through – the ranchers will greatly appreciate it. Never disturb livestock, clean up trash that you find, leave the area better than when you came. Please help preserve our valuable and fragile desert.
Pilots can do easy top landings the entire length of the Rim. Approximately 450 yards northwest of Middle Launch is a small canyon. The canyon acts as a venturi and the winds in and near it can be high and turbulent. Therefore, it is recommended that pilots stay southeast of the fence that borders this canyon. There is virtually no rotor or turbulence behind the rim. However, if pilots land late in the day, they will pass through the forming inversion and experience some minor turbulence. We keep exploring the area behind launch to see how deep we can safely go before it drops off into the canyon where the access road is.
The main LZ is not visible from launch but is reachable on glide. Bailout LZ's are abundant in front of launch. Because of the presence of boulders, stay out of the 30' deep arroyo that runs NW to SE along the front of the rim.
Pilots must take care not to land in the arroyo that is about 200 yd. out from the base of the rim. The arroyo is about 200' wide. Beyond the arroyo is a flat plain that is accessible by jeep trail. Just east of the main LZ is a power line that runs along the east side of the road. Cell service is fairly good in the area. Amateur radio operators will find the NM Mega-Link Las Cruces (147.18 MHz 100Hz tone) and the Caballo (147.26 MHz 100 Hz. tone) repeaters accessible. The 147.16 MHz 162.2Hz tone WTRA repeater in El Paso also works very well in the area.
Hang Gliding & Paragliding at Mag by Shelley McKinlay (3) minutes and one of the best done in these parts
Paragliding at Sunset by Buzz Nelson (17) minutes
1st Hang gliding flight of 2017 with Ann Dunlap (7 minutes)
(L-R) Robin Hastings, Taro Nihonyanagi, and Bill Cummings at Middle Launch. Lee Boone and his girls are in the background.
Tom Bird and Buzz Nelson soaring the Rim
Middle launch looking northeast. The launch slope is just enough for a good hang launch and perfect for PG. Note the broad clear area behind launch which makes top landing a dream. Robin Hastings is preparing to launch – the first HG to fly here.
Enjoying the laminar air out in front of launch
Below, local pilot Bill Cummings climbs out for an hour flight.
View just below Middle Launch. In the far distance to the right are the Little Florida Mountains. There is a shallow arroyo out in front which pilots should stay out of – an easy thing to do.
View is northwest. Magdalena Peak and the observatory can be seen in the distance. The Middle launch is just beyond the left end of the rim that is visible below.
Denae Nemanic, the first woman to fly Magdalena Rim prepares to launch. The unobstructed and flat plain in front of the rim helps make the air coming in smooth. There is no rotor or turbulence at launch if winds aloft are S to SW.
View is southeast. The part of the rim visible here faces SW. The main LZ is on BLM land just north and west (across the road) from the light colored rectangle (private property) visible in the foreground.
Buzz Nelson and Tom Bird above the south end of Magdalena Rim
Flying high above the SSW facing part of the rim (marked by Mountain Junipers). In the distance to the right are the Organ Mountains east of Las Cruces, NM. The green arrow points to the Main LZ.
Lee Boone at the NW end of the rim.
Climbing out above launch. Pilots Had Robinson and Lee Boone enjoy the laminar air of an overcast winter's day in February. Temperature was in the upper 50's. A light rain fell at times – but nothing that would discourage us from flying this dream site.
Jan Zschenderlein heads out from launch.
Robin Hastings, the first hang glider pilot to fly Magdalena. Had Robinson was the first paragliding pilot to fly here.
I hope you will come and fly this beautiful site. Let us know how we can help. Your membership in the Rio Grande Soaring Association helps us to find, develop, preserve, insure, and protect flying sites in the southwest.