Hang Gliding Data for a XC flight from Hurricane, Utah.
Warning: this trip entry is unique as it includes alot of gliding data images which probably won't be very interesting to most. But keep scrolling, some pictures at the end too.
Andrea and I took the 'burban up to Hurricane Utah for our first time at the annual Hurricane hang gliding trip. What a terrific group of people and a great but short road trip to a beautiful part of Utah. As for flying, I got in a good but relatively short cross-country flight on Friday, July 4th, and Andrea and I got in a short but sweet tandem flight on Sunday on the way back at Jean Ridge near Las Vegas. The following shots show all the post-processing that can be done of a hang glider flight, using my Friday's cross-country flight as an example.


The day looks good enough already, and I am first to launch. When you do this you are generally either a hero or a zero...

Andrea (trigger finger girl) is able to snap another picture as I am getting into my harness.

This is data that my all-in-one combined flight gage (Flytec 5030) can download and display. This view is for distance calculations. My track is the black line with periods of tiny circles (where I am climbing in thermals). The Flytec software is calling it a 97 km (60 miles) flight giving credit to the two waypoints but straight line distance to the furthest point (where I turned around) is about 48 miles. In terms of Cross-Contry hang gliding, not a very long flight, but I rarely go XC, so fun for me. World record flights are greater than 400 miles, and even this year we had a few folks do 140 miles from my local Los Angeles site (Kagel mountain) to the city of 29 Palms.

This is another view of the flight data from the Flytec software. The top left plot is of altitude. Launch was about 4500' ft and I only got as high as 12500' during the flight. As I was mostly over landable terrain, this was high enough, and a bit chilly. Mostly, the clouds were producing some strong lift, so staying LOWER was helpful to be able to pass under each one without getting sucked up into any of them. During the middle of the last purple hump, I began doubling back toward the town of Fredonia to find sink and land, which was achieved when I gave up on Fredonia and headed North to Kanab. The left middle chart shows my climb/sink rates during the flight. On average pretty moderate sink and lift. The left bottom is airspeed, but I think it is reading a bit low. I should test this.

The raw flight data downloaded can be converted from *.igc format to *.kml format via a free site at: http://www.gpsvisualizer.com/map?form=googleearth. You can then run Google Earth and open up the *.kml file and navigate around in three dimensions looking at the flight path and zooming in for a pretty accurate view of the incredible scenery including the beautiful mountains of Zion Natl Park and the giant mesas I flew over. This is a view from high above looking straight down. The gpsvisualizer site has an option to colorize the Google Earth track, as shown above with red/yellow as lowest and purple as highest. Also noteworthy is that I kept within gliding distance of highway 89 (in yellow) for retrieval.

This is looking at the same Google Earth track, but from a lower viewpoint and looking downward/sideways at the launch ridge. The data shows launching and going down the ridge, climbing in a few thermals until finding a good one and leaving the ridge. You can see the track heading out, and then 10 or so miles in route climbing (very small circles from this far away) in my next thermal from the green color (lower altitude) to the dark blue color (higher altitude). From there continuing and eventually the track goes behind a distant mountain (still probably less than 1/2 of the flight).

For this plot, I ran the Google Earth data file through a program I wrote to filter and plot lift/sink. The faster the sink rate the brighter red, the faster the climb rate the brighter the blue, and level flight (no climb/no sink) becomes invisible. A nice thing for a cross-country flight, there was a decent "cloud street" which provided lift down a corridor over the highway. Another pilot/friend flying with me that day (Greg), chose to head to the tops of the beautiful mountains for lift (normally the right place to be) but there wasn't lift there on this day and he had to land early in Colorado City. In this picture, starting from the left you can see my track circling and drifting in a thermal (from A to B) generated from the cloud drawn as a white oval. I correctly identified this cloud as one that was too powerful to be close to (too much lift). Because of this, I stopped thermalling in the smooth lift at least a couple thousand feet below the cloud's base and estimated I would be able to fly downwind underneath it (a couple miles in length) from this point gaining altitude the whole way and clearing the area before getting pulled up into the cloud. Fortunately I was right as can be seen at point C where I am just clearing, not getting sucked into it, and beginning another glide. Another friend/pilot Ken was in the air at a different location guessed he might not be able to stay beneath the base of a powerful cloud ahead on his route and opted to land early. Strangely enough, on this flight staying low was more important than getting high for being able to make distance downwind without being sucked up in the occasional powerful cloud. This same sequence of events happened again with the next cloud drawn in the image. This was the last one that looked mean, and the rest were nice cumulus clouds to be used in the standard way. Note: Google Earth does not do a good job on the colors of these mountains - in real life they have the beautiful color typical of the mountains in the Zion Park area.

My cross country flight ends because I have flown too far away from my chase vehicle and have been out of radio ranges for a while. I wouldn't be able to tell them which direction I choose to fly for retrieval, and rather than just go for it I decide to make life easy for all and just land in the town of Fredonia where I will have cell phone coverage to call them. So I turn around and fly back to Fredonia. Nothing but lift the whole way. Attempts to descend by flying fast and/or doing maneuvers is not working. After I am forced up above 10,000' again I decide that there is no way I will be able to land in this town for a while. I summon some extra patience, and decide to fly north to the town of Kanab about 7 miles away. I am eventually able to find small areas of lighter lift that I can circle down in. From the air the best place to land looks like a grassy patch near a small airport. I land there and am able to contact Andrea and Nurit (chase crew) and tell them where I am. Excellent. This picture shows me finishing breaking down my glider at the Kanab airport. Note: I have never been to these towns before and didn't even know/remember their names until I landed and saw signs.

That night Greg, Nurit, Andrea and I saw a good and (admittedly) very fun fireworks show in Hurricane.

On Saturday we played in the Virgin River where it exits Zion Park.

a natural massage.

Andrea is able to find sparkler candles for my birthday cake. Neat.

S'mores, drinks and stories about our flights during the day...