Sadly I am back from vacation, but happily back to flying…with a long weekend coming up. During my trip I had time to think about where I want to take myself, and this site in 2014. Admittedly, this isn’t the most interesting post, but hey, it helped me focus my thoughts and formulate a plan. I’m a big fan of setting goals, if for no other reason than to force oneself to consider the status quo, and where to go from there.
My two main objectives for this site, this year, are to:
- Document my continued training to better qualify my progress and force me to think about how I am flying and my weaknesses; and,
- Document what it’s like to begin competing, how one gets started, things to consider, and hopefully show my improvement as a pilot because of competing.
- Concentrate on refining my techniques. Launching, landing, thermaling, XCing. Whatever it is, do it better and more efficiently.
- Fly more sites. In the past year I branched out to aerotowing (which opens many new doors), and traveled to Santa Barbara for a week to experience their amazing sites. I’d love to travel more (don’t we all?). On my list are the bay area, Utah, Arizona. This brings me to my next goal…
- First flight(s) in the Owens Valley. Either early season or late season. I suppose my goals of 50 or 75 miles may be more easily obtainable…or not. Our San Diego site Horse Canyon can have comparable turbulence and big air many compare to the Owens, so I feel comfortable and ready to spread my wings there. And I’m sure I will have good guides on my first flights.
- Learn to think ahead on an XC. I’ve heard cross-country flying is like a chess game. One must be a few steps ahead to fly well. This I need to work on.
- Fly more without my vario. My first 25 hours were without a vario. I learned a lot and became very good at it. I need to return to my roots.
- Fly my first competition (and maybe more). A few local pilots urged me to begin competing, and so I gave it some thought. In 2013 I attended the Santa Cruz Flats Race to see what the fuss is about. I drove for the Norwegians, earned my aerotow rating, gaggled in gaggles, and met some very cool—and legendary—pilots. I took in the whole experience. I quickly realized that to improve my flying and connect with others who share this affliction—I mean passion—competing is the way to go. Above all, believe it or not, I had fun. So now the question is, which comps? Santa Cruz Flats Race is nearby but the last of the year. It is definite. Do I debut with the Americus Cup or Big Spring? Will I sky out or bomb? How does one support this?
- Push a little harder to stretch my distances, but not so hard to stretch my luck. Last year I flew flights close to 40 miles. On one I was 30 miles into a flight at 10,000 feet in the convergence over the LZ where everyone else had landed. It was a nice airport with drinks and snacks that we have permission to land at, so I don’t blame them. Being the overly courteous person that I am, I joined them…this after two low saves and my current state of ecstasy high above the plains. This year I want to continue until my abilities bring me down, not my conscience. I am confident that on the right day I can surpass 75 miles.
- Graduate from my Sport 2. Now this is very debatable and everyone seems to have an opinion on this. Some say skip to a topless, others say get more time on the Sport. I certainly do not want to be one who rushes a decision like this. At the very least I would like to test fly other gliders to begin to sense the different characteristics of different gliders. “What’s wrong with the Sport?” you may ask. Nothing. It has served me well for nearly a year, and I do not yet feel it is holding me back. However, I feel I am ready to begin experiencing other gliders so that I can make an educated decision. I do know that if I do graduate I will do so cautiously—flights at well known sites with comfortable LZs. No cross-country flying until thoroughly familiar with the new wing. Another consideration: First I will need to get comfortable in the “new clothes” of a new harness. Stay tuned for a post specifically addressing the advancement to a higher performance wing.
- Get instructor rated. I would love to begin passing on my passion and love of flight to others.
- The cop-out to make it an even 10 goals…have fun, be safe. Enjoying hang gliding should always be our number one priority. It is why we started and why we fell in love with it. To forget this is to risk losing focus to secondary goals. Besting personal records is very satisfying, but nothing can beat those moments of realization when you look out from high above launch and recognize, in awe, the sheer beauty and indescribable essence that our sport offers.