It’s a Saturday, not expecting much out of the ordinary today as I pull up to an empty parking lot at Ed Levin. Wait, it’s not empty, there is a car with a couple guys getting out. It’s Peter my student on his first day and Gabriel a friend that is visiting from Canada and wants to fly his Paraglider. Eric shows up shortly afterward as well as the Berkeley Club Caravan. Paul has a hand full of students as well and Robert has a few more. It’s a really busy day today, I didn’t count yet but there must be about 20 new pilots going through the Berkeley Club program. All in all there must be around 30 people learning how to fly on the bunny hill today. Vitaly shows up to add one more.
The lake was calm when I drove in but right a way I could see the breeze was filling in pretty solid early. My first run with Peter I could tell it was already stronger than normal. On his third run he was doing touch and gos on the flat West facing slope. We moved up to the bunny hill choosing to take some first flights off the middle peak, the low elevation but steeper of the two hills we usually use on the first day. Berkeley Club had a few gliders already on the right side so chose not to deal with that. I watched Vitaly fly a few times off the 60′ hill and saw the lingering signs of nerves as he pumped the control frame in and out never getting relaxed enough to feel the glider fly. Berkeley guys and girls are taking runs and filling the site with lots of bustling conversations and cheering. The wind has gotten pretty cross and does not seam to be letting up much at all. Vitaly calls it a day and Peter and I take a run off the low knob. We get a little off the ground but not much, happily the new pilot seems to be handling the glider well enough to go towards his target. We head back up and take another flight, it’s looking like we might have to call it a day as the sock on the 300 indicates a building Northwest wind. I had a few problems with my radio today with the microphone not working, since yesterday the cows have pulled down a lot of the wind streamers we have scattered around the training hills making the guesswork on wind conditions more difficult, the wind is getting stronger and out of the wrong direction….my spidey senses are tingling. “Strike Three” I’m out of here, I go over the conditions with the student making him aware that some days it just doesn’t work out on the hill for one reason or another and today things are stacking up and I’m not comfortable continuing today. Intuition or superstition, one of them has got me carrying the glider back to the break down area to put it away. I lay the glider down on the ground by releasing the nose wire and pushing the control frame back and under the glider. Peter and I take a seat on the bench and talk about what we see. I point out the wind sock in the LZ is calibrated to stand straight out at 15 MPH and that it was starting to wag indicating winds in excess of that. The wind was picking up right before our eyes. Up at the 300 the same thing was going on but it must have been blowing 20+ by now. Everyone was leaving the bunny hill now as the conditions had obviously blown out for the day. Robert and his 3 students were up on the 150 looking like they were going to launch and we were looking at conditions that would be pretty sketchy for a new pilot. One guy launched and I watched as the gliding started fading to the left getting pushed back by the strong wind. The pilot was heading towards the parking lot and I was expecting to see something scary happen when suddenly the pilot straightened out and pulled in with what was obviously not a new students style. The glider came down like an elevator car right into the hang four circle. “It’s Robert”. Ahh ok Robert Booth decided to fly the glider down as it was too strong a wind for his newbies. Two more hikes and two more flights and he had his 3 gliders back in the LZ.
Leaving the LZ after packing up it was still a fun day even when it gets cut short for whatever reason. We give the student credit for a half day and head home.