Peter wrote about many things. Here are four articles about flying and a revealing text written possibly in 1995. Contributed by Brenda Bowle-Evans
In the depths of winter there are dreams at night. Soaring free and high, unfettered by any realities. You wake up wondering where you are and why. Where was that uplifting emotion that took you beyond the bounds of this earth?
As winter gives way to spring, the magazines and books come out. The equipment gets looked at, or at least looked for! Then it is parachute packing time, and something starts to tell you it is coming again. Now you really look at your things.
Then one day you look at the sky - perhaps more into it than at it, and realise, "Hey, there's lift up there!", and you are away from this world again, if only for brief span. Ask any pilot's spouse or employer - they know this only too well! What else is there that makes your heart pound six times faster, your mouth go dry or drool, your palms go sweaty and your whole body literally tremble and shake with excitement - anticipation - but the reality: we are going flying!!
Now comes the road. You have to get to a launch site. So there are trips up the road, including things like getting stuck in mud and snow and getting out again. Never mind, it is good to flex those muscles heaving hang gliders on and off truck racks! It is a remarkable thing. Hang gliders all come duly noted as having a certain weight, but this is not quite right. To a pilot, the weight of a hang glider is inversely proportional to the quality of the flying conditions. On a good day, they almost fly themselves onto any rack. At other times, they can be totally leaden. Somewhere in all this you might set it up in your front yard, just to make sure you will have it all together when that big day comes. Even if you just look at it and touch it; not just a long bag any more, but a wing - your wing. Almost a living part of yourself.
One day you get to launch, often to find that eternal optimism combined with forgetfulness has once again deluded you, as early spring thermals roar in fury, seemingly trying to rip up the trees by the roots. Another day you haul the glider off the rack and contemplate setting it up, on yet another you actually do, though sometimes only to return it to its bag unflown. On yet another you may get all hooked in, and try fruitlessly to get balanced or convince yourself that it is good to go. Your wing may be flying in your hands, but still telling you not to go - not today - maybe tomorrow!
This is tantalisation in the extreme, a battle of wits between desire and rational reasoning. There is simply no room for mistakes. But the wanting - the anticipation - is almost overwhelming. In another activity this is called foreplay - a taste of this and a taste of that, before taking the plunge, as it were! In hang gliding and paragliding we do not have a word for it. We just do it. In this part of the World, this is an activity that by the dictates of conditions begins at a climax. Rational you respects this and even wants to avoid it a bit. The other part of you, and which of course is the part of you that has you flying in the first place, not only wants to do it but knows that you will. It is part of what it is all about. You live for this. It is an edge. In the spring it is the edge. It is coming! It is burning you up. You will perform. You need the release. Anticipation!
PBE 20 May 1995
The most notable thing about this spring was the general lack of it until the May long weekend. The Friday evening gave the first flight, climbing straight up out of lower launch for a splendid dip in cool spring air all over the mountain. Saturday was scratch, as the weather once again brewed up another storm out of the South. My sarcasm that evening was that maybe tomorrow would be a world distance day, bright and sunny with roaring thermals all day long. It stormed most of the night, and it turned out there was three inches of snow in Calgary!
Our bedroom has big skylights in it, which means I start assessing the day's flying conditions before I so much as get out of bed. Oddly enough, I had not started flying when I built this part of our house - I must have had a premonition. So when I peeked open en eyelid next morning and saw clear blue sky with already a few specks of cues, I did not believe it, and rolled back over again. Then I heard the breeze in the trees, enough to prop myself up and look out. There are basically two things that can blow trees around - weather and thermals - and from a clear blue sky it is usually not weather. "Well, let's have breakfast, and by that time it will probably OD and we can carry on with the rest of the day." But it did not OD (over develop), and nor did it die down. Thermals kept surging off, cues kept popping up, the sky in between stayed bright and clear, and the whole thing said, "Come on - time to go flying!" So off we went - three of us. We had a driver, which was good, as we had quite a definite feeling that we would not be landing at Nicholson today. Not that it would have made much difference if we had not had one, at least to me: when the conditions are perfect for a long cross-country flight, I am going, no matter what the inconvenience, and the rest of the world on the ground can look after itself.
We followed one another, out from lower launch. Out and up. And up. And up. We were over the mountain in ten minutes, straight over the Horse Creek gap, me low, the other two high. It hardly mattered. Climb a little over Patterson's ridge on Pagliaro Mtn, and head straight over the Washout, climbing all the way. Then start porpoising down the range. Thirty-five minutes passing over the yellow knob - 45 is fast from upper launch normally - Parson, Castle Mtn, Castledale, Harrogate, move out to the front range, boom up high from the Spillimacheen rock, and work along the green bumps. The weather is kind of out of the North, which means it is approaching from Chancellor Peak. A squall has moved from Chancellor into the Beaverfoot, where it dumps a bit, before moving closer to me. When it starts to push me, it is time to move along. There are all sorts of small snow squalls along the way. As Brisco slips by, we can see the Edgewater gap is not going to be much of a task today - in fact I climbed across it, reaching the far side good and high over the range again. No problem with DQ fields today, Radium coming up. Looking down over the hot springs is neat. This is now within final glide of Juniper Heights, but I think we are going further than that today. Just keep flying. Passing Juniper Heights at 2 hrs 30 mins on the dot at 10,000 ft, there is no doubt about going further. At this point you can see Columbia Lake. There is quite a bend in the valley between Windermere and Columbia lakes. I lose sight of the others for a while, before spotting a HG going out to land around Windermere. The radios have long since given up, so I can not be sure it is not one that may have launched from Mt Swansea. I have flown along at 10,500, 11,500, 9,500, and now at about 8,500 feet. It does not make much difference today, except for the temperature, which varies from cold to freezing to icy cold, according to altitude. Approaching Fairmont Canal Flats is looking tempting, but Columbia Lake looks forbidding, and three hours is a long time for only the second flight of the year. So I elect not to go for the next jump to Canal flats, and head out to just South of the Hoodoos.
I photograph Columbia Lake as I come in. What a flight - we went slack a few times, yes; the conditions were strong, yes; it was cold, yes; there were squalls and you had to pay attention, indeed. But it was magnificent! It was high, it fast, there three of us. I think we flew partly on the edge of the weather system that dumped the snow on Calgary the night before. The valley was sparkling in spring sunlight as only the Columbia can. I settled into one of the biggest fields in the valley, with the Hoodoos in the background behind. 3 hrs 19 mins from 7.
It was just one of those days.
A gift from the sky.
PBE 29 May 1995
Carve a turn into a bowl and be ready for action. Be cruising from one likely spot to another, but be on the alert anyway. You know the days, that is part of what you learn. When it happens there is no doubt about it. Whoof! One wing goes up almost over your head, the other is pointing at the ground. Pull into the turn, dive, flatten, 270 degrees and back into it, suck that bar back in as you enter so it does not rip it out of your hands. Or perhaps the glider's nose instantaneously pitched skyward as you entered head on the first time. Pull in hard and fast, and roll toward the higher wing. Either way, or others, you fly in to this thing, working your way to the optimum path around the core. You feel out its size - how tight and steep to bank, how fast to fly, and then how much you can flatten out to go up the fastest. In one of these just staying inside it is mostly all that matters. If you pop out the wrong way you can go over the falls big time, with your feet hitting the keel in a vertical dive. Not that this is not exciting, but the idea is to be going up! Wherever you were is gone in moments. Whatever you were looking a little up at is below you as fast. What was big below shrinks away to insignificance, shoulders, ridges, cliffs and bowls shoot by like floor numbers on a high speed elevator as you rocket skywards. The whole valley below becomes a single entity, devoid of separate parts for now, as you shoot up into this other world of roaring air above the mountain tops, as if entering another dimension. If someone phones your home at these times and your other half says something like, "Look, he (or she) is not really on this planet right now", this has got to be one of the closest ways of achieving this state!
This is a powerful thermal. You are glad of the heavy clothing you put on as the temperature drops, sometimes dramatically, as you go up. In spring time it is often below freezing up high. As you spiral on above the highest peaks, accelerating upwards for a while, you wonder how far this one will go. If there are clouds, you start judging your altitude in relation to them very closely - you do not want to get sucked in. If there are none, which sometimes there are not, then on up you go. As it starts to get rowdy, this may be close to the top. Ride it out for some more turns - sometimes this turbulence seems to be in layers, with smoother air above. When this happens, it is like you have left your original thermal, and are up in a higher air flow. You have come up like a cork out of a bottle. At a rate of climb anywhere from 1600 to 2000 feet per minute, simple arithmetic will show you this. 8,000 feet can take just 4 minutes. This is the lift you have dreamed about.
Riding an elevator to heaven.
PBE 30 May 1995
I have slipped in a few technical terms recently, to keep the flow of the stories going. Here are some explanations.
HG & PG are of course for hang glider & paraglider.
OD - Over Develop. When the clouds formed from thermal activity either grow big enough to block the sun, which shuts down the thermals, or when the clouds grow into big cumulus and the conditions become too strong for HG or PG.
Cus - Cumulus clouds. These are the puffy clouds that form on nice sunny days, and are typically white, at least while they are not too big.
Porpoise flying, porpoising - This is when there are so many thermals over the mountain range, sufficiently close together that you can fly straight along, speeding up and descending between thermals and then slowing down and climbing up as you fly through them. Done the right way in the right conditions, you can fly a long way without making a turn and all the while maintaining a mean altitude.
Booming - describes conditions when thermals and HG/PG are going up all over the place.
Dumping - when a storm or squall cell that has been growing releases some of its energy in rain or snow, and usually high winds. This may or may not reach the ground.
Task - a section of flying that you deliberately set out to do, rather than going wherever it may be easiest or changing your mind along the way. Tasks are set for competitions.
DQ - DisQualification. A competition term. There are a number of things that can cause a pilot to be disqualified from a flight, day, round or even an entire event. For instance, there are a few fields where we are definitely not allowed to land, ever, under any circumstances. Anyone who lands in one of these during an event is automatically DQ'ed for that day, and repetitions could result in DQ-ing from the whole meet. These fields are known as DQ fields. The entire area between Edgewater & Radium is a DQ area. [Note from webmaster: not necessarily true anymore] This may sound difficult, and of course with unpowered flight there can be no absolute guarantee, but by the time a pilot has learned enough to get this far, it is surprising how reliably this can be avoided.
Final glide - This is when you are no longer going to climb up any more on a flight, but will make one continuous glide down to a landing area. There are many things to learn about final glides, from when and where to start them to how best to fly them. They are a key element of any competitive flight, and can be very important when the reason for not climbing up any more is that there is no more lift or you are unable to find any, and it is a long way to a good landing area.
Final - Not to be confused with Final Glide, and applicable to any aircraft. Final is the very last part of a flight when you are coming in to land. There are no more turns, all the decisions about direction have been made, it is simply a matter of flying straight in to the landing and touching down.
Bar - This is the horizontal tube, or bar, on a hang glider which the pilot holds while in flight. A fuller term is Control Bar. It is also known as the base tube. A HG is controlled by weight shift. This is achieved by the pilot moving the bar in relation to himself. So, by pushing out we go slower. By pulling in we go faster. By pushing the bar to one side the glider rolls and turns. With instruction and experience a pilot can tell a great deal about how his glider is flying by the position of the control bar in relation to his body. If you are listening to HG pilots talking, you will very likely hear quite a bit about this.
Stuffing the bar - This is when the HG pilot pulls the bar in as far as possible, until he is actually pushing it back toward his knees. This gets his weight as far forward as possible to cause the glider to fly as fast as possible. It also results in a faster rate of descent.
Going slack - This is when the wing of your HG momentarily gets into air that is going down very fast - fast enough that the wing drops faster than gravity pulls the pilot's body. Immediately after, either the pilot's body drops and catches up with the wing, and/or the wing is lifted again. The effect is of everything suddenly going loose - slack - and of then falling back onto the lines as everthing goes tight again.
LZ - pronounced "elzee". Landing Zone. This refers to the entire area in the vicinity of a landing field. It strictly includes a volumetric zone within which all flying is limited to landing approaches and landings. It is also commonly used to refer to the actual landing field.
Flare - This is the stall that is executed as the very last part of a landing. When done just right, a HG pilot ends up with his feet on the ground, or sometimes with a few paces of running.
Wind socks (often referred to as just 'socks') The coloured, tubular objects hung at launch and landing areas to show wind direction.
Streamers The coloured ribbons also tied on poles or other handy things to show wind direction at launch and landing areas. Streamers move in much lighter winds than socks.
A word of warning. This is not instructional material. The purpose is just to provide a better understanding of terminology. Incorrect use of any of the above could be exceedingly dangerous.
As a friend remarked to me a year or two ago, "Whatever happened to log houses, laying in the sun, free love, smoking and drinking and the UIC Ski Team?" Well, some of us got the log houses - though it took a great deal more out of us than we imagined; we no longer have the time to lay in the sun or smoke; in spite of what you may think when you come to Golden we really don't drink much any more; we still ski - at least I do, but we have to go to work to pay for it now; and as for free love - aids doesn't help, but that isn't it really (have you got your rubber gloves stuffed handily in your wing?) but whoever heard of husband swapping? (By the way, as my son showed us when he was about 10, latex gloves are a riot if you blow them up like a balloon - go on, try it!) What, you haven't got any, what are you going to put on the end of your?.... Oh my. So, what DID happen to those things? Well, I think for me, it went hang gliding.
PBE Mid-1990's sometime
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