28 August 2007

Finns Hot in France

After a few more days of nice flying co-instructor Hapa and our group of 8 Finnish paraglider pilots arrived, on Saturday evening. The sunny weather continues, and it is getting ever warmer. Sunday morning had some west winds, not good for flying but in the afternoon everybody got a flight at Gourdon. Yesterday morning the weather was perfect and the group walked up to the start at Gréolières, no mean feat. It is some 250 meters up, a 40 minutes walk with 20+ kg of gear! And this in the blistering sun, at temperatures of 30+ degrees (Celsius). But again all got a nice flight, some short and some longer. In the afternoon again went to Gourdon where the conditions were a bit light, but several of our pilots made hour long flights.
And then we all went for a swim in the refreshing Loup; the local river. As the village suffered from a broken water supply we were accompanied by local sirens, virgins and maidens.....

23 August 2007

Sky High

Today made couple of really nice flights! First walked up to the Gréolierès launch early. That's good morning exercise it is 220 meter up and takes about 35 minutes. There was some overcast in the east but the western half of the sky was clear with the border being close and getting nearer over time. So an opportunity, or need, for para-waiting and enjoying the scenery. The local school was flying tandems and pilots from the top of the mountain, 600 m higher. But as everybody was just going down I waited a bit more. Later things clearly improved and I launched but still a bit too early as I could cling on for a little while but bombed out after 10 minutes. The weather looked really great now and top-launching pilots were staying up, so quickly packed up and walked up. Now it was easy to stay up, it actually took only minutes to fly up to the top and above. Cloudbase was at around a nice 2300 m! I tried to fly to Gourdon, but didn't have the guts to make the last transition, and returned to Gréolières, where I landed after 1.5 hours flying. Quite tired after all the walking and of flying in the strong conditions; thermals were 5-6 m/s strong.

After a short lunch break went to see if Gourdon would offer some nice afternoon flying; and sure it it did! Launched at exactly 16:00 and flew another 1.5 hours getting as high as 1700m. I'd never been that high above Gourdon it was truly amazing.

In the evening feasted on a well-deserved pizza at the Barricade and for desert shared an apple pie that I'd made in the early evening with my hosts Karen and Ben.

22 August 2007

From Espoo to Gréolierès: arrived

Yesterday went to the Gourdon site early; where an instructor (Alain?) of the local paragliding school and I were the only people to enjoy the not great but flyable conditions. Actually soon the cloud formation was strong, but with very low bases causing cloud suck right in front of the launch. This combined with the SW winds created a bit more turbulence than I liked. So (top) landed after some 20 minutes. Later the cloudbase raised and the weather looked a bit less turbulent, but with strong conditions on launch. The Ozone test pilots came out (picture above) and went through their usual routine for a while but then decided that enough was enough. Jerome showed a proto of a very small (and light) ultralight that he tried with his own made "harness". It all looked really scary (see below) but it sure flew, actually quite well.
Today made an early flight at Gréolières but probably a bit too early, as some overcast slowed the thermal development, and I couldn't stay up. Later in Gourdon people were still flying but coming down to avoid the upcoming rain. The forecasts for tomorrow and especially Friday look much better.

20 August 2007

From Espoo to Gréolierès: in Annecy

Saturday afternoon drove to Annecy, where as predicted the weather was great on Sunday afternoon. The sky was busy with tandem paragliders; later, when the thermals kicked in, joined by tens of solo paragliders. I took an early flight down to get familiar with the place and then did a good thermal flight. In the landing field heard a familiar voice: Virpi and several other Finnish hanglider pilots are here too! Just to enjoy the scenery did another flight in the evening, there were still a few thermals and a lot of buoyant air, really nice flying.
Today the weather is bad, rainy, so it seems a good day to drive further down.

17 August 2007

From Espoo to Gréolierès: through Sweden

Wednesday left for Gréolières, one of those great flying sites in the Gourdon area, in the South-East corner of France. Harri Seppi and I will guide and teach a group of 8 pilots there later this month. I decided to turn the trip into a long vacation and drive down there, all the way from my home in Espoo, Finland. With the idea of flying in many places along the way, going along with the weather.

So on Wednesday tried to get a few pilots to go and fly in Kiikala, which is on the way to Turku, from where I had to take the Viking Line ferry to Stockholm in the evening. Alas, nobody could come to Kiikala but we got some some airtime at the Hyvinkää airfield. I left early, didn't want to miss the boat!

In Turku then had a couple of hours, so went for a walk and some food in the sunny downtown. I bumped into the new public library,and went inside to look at this new building, famous for its architecture. It was actually quite impressive, very nice indeed. As all good architecture it was interesting at various scales. Above a picture of the embedded handrail of the main stairs. The same wood and coloring was used throughout the building.
I had tea in the nice CafeArt and then hurried to the ferry. Where the art theme continued when in the taxfree shop noticed South African wine boxed in packaging with a Kaj Stenvall duck painting! And no, I didn't buy or drink any, what's the point of buying wine when going to France?

The next morning Stockholm welcomed me with a dark cloudy sky and along the way south I encountered a couple of very severe storms. Further south there were some sunny spells but the winds were very strong so decided to take a deep breath and continued all the way to my relatives in Dronten, the Netherlands. Looks like flying will have to wait till Sunday or Monday, when I plan to be around Annecy.

06 August 2007

Nice floating

Today a smallish group of pilots gathered at Hyvinkää airfield to enjoy the wonderful summer weather. With many Finnish pilots fled to southern locations such as Macedonia, and many others back to work, there wasn't the usual congestion.
With the stable high pressure system conditions were initially weak but the August sun still has enough power to cook things up. After 3 PM most pilots managed to stay aloft. I myself flew for 2 hours, practiced a few low saves and also tried to get away a bit. The northerly wind combined with the low ceiling made XC a bit too difficult though.
Eventually the thermals did develop into broad areas of lift but with small very strong cores up to 5 m/s. Some of these cores broke through the inversion, but due to the airspace restrictions we could go only approx. 70 m above the inversion. After 6 PM the thermal activity quickly died out, and many very happy people landed shorty after one other.

Google earth track

05 August 2007

Tandem license flights completed

Global warming, the EU membership, or some other cause? Fact is that it is August and only now the real summer weather is here, with a nice high pressure system settling in. Yesterday saw quite a crowd at Hyvinkää airfield; and as usual the paragliders had to squeeze their tows and landings in between ultralights and sailplanes.
I was out early and found accomplished pilot Artsi (thank you!) willing to be the passenger on my Ozone McDaddy tandem (two-seater paraglider). We made two flights, one short and one longer one with some thermalling up to the local ceiling of 2500 ft MSL. The best part was that with these flights I now completed my training as tandem pilot, so now are allowed to take friends, family and others for a flight! It took me a long time to make the required number of flights with pilots as passenger, as one need to find a victim, the weather must be right, and there better be an experienced tow car driver. It does not often all come together.
Happy as I was with this accomplishment the rest of the day I spent towing, and assisting Rami who did many tandem flights with curious novices.

02 August 2007

30 seconds...

Today finally got of the ground, after 4 weeks of rain, wind, work and business travel. Already yesterday I was ready to go to the Suomenlinna fortress island, but the wind was too strong. Today the forecast was for a perfect 7 m/s from the SW, and I took the 11:00 ferry. The island is just in front of downtown Helsinki and the ferry takes only 15 minutes.
Unfortunately the wind was dying rapidly. While I walked the 15 minutes on the island to the site it look still very good, and even as I layed out, but once I was in the air it was just a tiny bit too weak, or too much from the South. I managed to fly some 30 secs, doing one full turn and then scratching the south ridge (the picture above is from last summer). I tried once more without any ballast or other stuff in my harness, but too weak is too weak. And after all my running I'm some 4 kg lighter than I used to be. But it was nice the be out and I did an hour of kiting and other ground handling.

The Suomenlinna island is low island and we use the fortifications as (very small) ridges. For various reasons it is a demanding place to fly but with the right precautions and guidance from local experts it is a nice addition to our smörgåsbord of sites.
In front is open sea so the winds are usually smooth, but the numerous large ferries and freighters pass by close and cause dangerous turbulence, and we always land before these vessels cause trouble. After all it never hurts to get extra launching practice. The landings require attention too, as there is very little space; and in the summer months there will be tens of tourists standing right where you want to drop your glider....
Of course all those tourists make pictures and videos. Heimo, the guru for this site, must be the most photographed paraglider pilot in the world. In may the Finnair in flight magazine ran a story about Suomenlinna which only picture was this: