Wednesday, August 30, 2006


I arrived just as the sun went down. After 3 full caravan parks I found one that at least has a spot for people to wait until the office re-opens in the morning.
I discovered that when the outside temp goes above 31'C I have to keep reducing my speed to stop the car from overheating. At 36'C outside I can only maintain 70kph without overheating the car, at 28'C it holds a 100kph fine.  Also it would seem that the terminal controllable velocity for my caravan is around 100
kph, after this is gets unstable, this morning when I had a 20knot NE blowing in my face it really slowed me down, every time you came around a corner from a cross wind situation into wind it felt like someone was pulling on the brakes. But based on all this I now know I can average around 75kph throughout the day and I can comfortably drive for 8hrs during daylight so now I know I can plan my stops about every 600kms.
Broome does not have that quaint and friendly feeling that Exmouth had, it feels very touristy. Also they have a sign that says Broome International airport and I have already heard a few jets go overhead. That means it will be restricted airspace all the way around here, I don't have a VHF radio with me so I cannot play here.
As I drove into Broome I heard a ticking from the front of the car, I suspect its a CV on its way out but I will know in the morning. I might be here for a day or two if I have to repair the car, but I am keen to keep moving.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Last day in Exmouth

Yesterday was a good day. There was still a strong SE in the morning, but by lunchtime it had died down to a light easterly and it was 30'C as usual.
When he finished work Gav rang me to ask why I was not flying, it was a good question. I met him out at the golf course and we set up the fun and power harness. With help from Gav I have improved my take-off and landing technique, I was letting the power harness push me, not consciously holding back as such, just not running that hard. As with ground towing it seems that trying to hold back causes the nose to pop, Mea Culpa sorry Sting. On the other hand running like someone with an angry rottwieler behind them seems to be much more effective. It seems to be more like a nil wind hill take-off in the climax, head and shoulders through the A frame and run like fast. This way you leave the ground really fast and you get to climb out with much more energy. I guess it must have also been the last flight on the climax that helped it all to sink in. I also seem to have finally learnt to run out the landings and resist the urge to try and stop it all with a good flare, its an effective way of stopping, but the inertia from the power harness really does mean that you cannot expect to just stop in a hurry. I did a heap of take off and landings and they were all great, I overshot and landed long and then just restarted and took off and tried again.
I was getting my spot landings within a car length with a light easterly blowing and I was surprised when I came in and overshot by quite a lot, I took off again and went around and overshot again. I know when I landed the second time it had gone tail, It was just nil the first time. The wind here is really temperamental. Gav used my little Canon to get some video of me taking off and landing and you can see an improvement in the technique. It was so much easier flying in calmer air, it was mildly thermic, but not uncomfortably so and I was able to practice flying smoothly with the power. I am uploading some clips to youtube now.
Today I might see if I can get my fridge going so that I trust it not to start any more fires in my caravan, I have been sans fridge since I left Perth, but it would be useful to have one up here. I think that I am going to average about 80kph whilst heading north, that means if I should be able to cover about 500km a day.
Next stop Broome. Exmouth has been awesome, I am sad that I did not get the chance for a soaring flight down the range, but I am here at the wrong time of the year for Whale Sharks or Westerlies. I did get some great flying from the lighthouse and with the power harness. I also had a ball here with Gav and Mel doing all kinds of fun stuff when it was not flyable. Gav really wants a power harness now...

Here is that tail landing on the fun...

Sunday, August 27, 2006


And plenty of it yesterday. Gav, Mel & I drove down to Ningaloo station. Its a long long way, even if you don't go via Coral Bay like we did after we missed the turn-off because the sign has been removed...
The road into Ningaloo Station would make an awesome rally track, its non stop up and down over dunes and easy to get airborne. Gav discovered why they usually make tyres smaller than the wheel arches they are supposed to fit into. When we found a roughly SW facing beach the wind was at least 35knots. The dunes there were very cut up and face in all directions, sadly they are not suited to being flown. I thought perhaps that in that strength I might me able to fly the tiny lip at the top of the beach, but it was too gusty for me to be able to get comfortable. We got back after dark and then Gav cooked these magnificent steaks that he can source locally. I say cooked and that is probably an adequate description,however it hardly covers the show that he put on when the fat in the drip tray at the bottom of the BBQ ignited and fanned by the strong sea breeze did a pretty good impression of an Iraqi Oil well after the Gulf war..
Today it is windy again, the forecast does suggest its going to let up in the afternoon so I might get one more fly from the golf course then...
I uploaded a couple of short clips of me flying over the cape. Find them at youtube...

Saturday, August 26, 2006


I know they can't all be that bad, but how did they let it get to the stage where they are constantly shooting each other for no reason?

This poor guy is by all accounts a legend and survives this spectacular accident only to get shot by some whacko on the ground.

Howling southerlies here at the moment...

Friday, August 25, 2006

Not Pap Hill again...

No really, not. The forecast again was wrong. Instead of the forecast W at noon we got the usual SE from first light to just before the seabreeze came in and shut things down around 3pm at Pap Hill and 5pm in Exmouth. It takes 2 hours to travel 25km and then blows at 30km/hr when it gets here, go figure.
I was up there until it became apparent that it was not going to be flyable today and also that I had indeed done a fantastic job of  working on my tan whilst waiting. Currently I am reading heaps and just enjoying a slower pace for a change, I guess I am in holiday mode at the moment. I read a great book called Flak that is a collection of WW2 stories from Aussie pilots, if you had spitfires on your bedroom wallpaper like I did as a kid you will love it. The forecast promises no soarable conditions before I leave here on Tuesday morning, the next couple of days look pretty windy so I might get a dune goon in on the fun but that is probably it for Exmouth now. It would be nice to get in another power flight though if the opportunity arises. The possibility of flying over the morning glory is starting to get me excited, I always assumed that it was something I would just see other people doing, and now I am on my way to try!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Here is the Plan

I've been having a ball in Exmouth. Lots of firsts, friendly locals and great weather. A few more single chicks would not hurt, but then they just distract you from the flying. Its a wopping 6500kms from here to Canungra where the comps start for me. After some thought I have decided to skip most of the sight seeing and use the time I can save to spend some time in Burketown, who knows I might get lucky and fly the MG. The local forecasters must be reading this and laughing, everytime they forecast 12+knots of W in the evening for the next day, they revise it down to 7-8knots by the next morning. Every night I go to bed dreaming of flying all the way down the range and wake up to the morning to find I was just dreaming after all.

I have to find somewhere non thermic and big and open along the way so that I can rack up alot of hours with the power harness and get really comfortable with it before the MG in a few weeks.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Just in case anyone reading this is a rocket engineer or knows one....
My dream is to be able to use a small solid fuel rocket to get me into the air, I'm not greedy, I'd be quite happy with as little as 500ft above the ground. I just want to be able to get into that first thermal and then I can sort myself out. I don't know how efficient rockets motors are, I know you need about 4.5 lt of fuel to carry 1 ton up approx 6000ft with a conventional aircraft. Assuming that the chemical energy stored in a solid rocket is similar to avgas, and the efficiency is only 50% of an internal combustion engine it would still seem to suggest that 5kg of rocket fuel should carry 500kg up 3000ft....
Of course the really cool thing about a solid rocket motor would be that it burns its own weight during the climb so that what is left would be negligible.
I like the idea of having a fixed thrust line, I would want the rocket to remain parallel with the keel at all times, probably not actually in the keel as you want the push on the C of G and the keel would be above that, but it would be a neat option if the physics could be worked out...
I have seen the sort of rockets that I want, with solid fuel rockets you can pack them to get the exact results you need.
I was thinking of nose down, wings level, ignition... Then you get 2 seconds of smoke before 20kg of thrust kicks in, that would be just enough for you to make sure you are comfortable or drop the nose of the glider onto the ground if you need to abort. Then 30kg for a couple of seconds (start walking) and then 40kg for the 15 second take-off and climb out. 40KG is about what you get from a power harness. Then once you are on the base bar it should ramp up smoothly to about 1G (about 120KG in my case)  If with 40kg of thrust you can climb at about 300ft/min then perhaps you might get better than 1000ft/min so only a 30 second final burn would be required... So all up less than a minute of burn time and it would get you into that first thermal with an unadulterated glider and harness and no extra weight or drag.
Of course an aerotow or car tow is always going to be the simplest option if you can find one, but I could fit a whole box of these rockets into the boot of my car ;-)
Its too light for Pap Hill again, Thurs look like the best afternoon now.

Still here..

This morning the forecast was for WSW and when I awoke it was. I was up on Pap Hill around 9am but it was too light to ridge soar. Over the next hour it went more SW and started to get really thermic.  The range started kicking off cloud streets of grey wet looking and very low Cu's . Then it went SE on the E side of the range and stayed SW on the other side. I decided that it was not going to come on at Pap Hill and so drove back to town and set up the Climax on the golf course. The wind was roughly easterly by this time and it was so thermic that a few of the low clouds dropped rain before burning off. Cloud base must have gone from 1500ft in the morning to over 7k in the afternoon. Up high the clouds were moving Westerly, on the ground it was Easterly and in the middle Northerly, gotta love the weather here.

I waited for ages for the wind to make its mind up and with a NNE I took off from the 18th fairway with my C2 13 and Power Harness. The marks from the skids lasted for 37M and I was taking off into about a 12kph wind. I flew around for around 20 mins and then landed again, I was lucky because the wind swung around to the W just after I landed. What's with the wind here?
So how was the Climax?  Well, the topless performance is still there. With the motor off it seems to still handle OK. It feels very, very slippery in the air. I have gotten into the habit of yawing the Climax around the sky as its an easy way to turn it quickly, but the whole time with the power harness you are focussed on trying to keep as straight as possible, it's strange flying an aircraft with such a fluid thrust line, if you cross your body in the turn you actually impart way more force into the glider from the angle of thrust than from your puny weight shift and so the glider just plows straight on through the sky. The rear wires on the climax seem to act as limiting wires as you can hear the harness vibrate against them when it gets out of shape. It was really, really , really thermic today. In my usual harness (Aeros Myth2 and I love it) I would have been cranked over on a wing-tip and loving it, however its different with the power harness. Even with the power off you are just nowhere near as nimble, I think its to do with the length of the thing and the amount of weight so far behind you. You just can't throw your body around with all that inertia, think about what attaching a 2m long stick with a 10kg weight on it would feel like on the end of your harness. I think its probably compounded by the fact that I have the longer and presumably heavier shaft. If it had been smooth air I would probably have really enjoyed today's flight, as it was with so many new sensations piled in with the familiar old one of getting your arse kicked by a rough thermal it was hard work and a little stressful. The climax and the fun both have tiny airframes, one of the final approach checks is to make sure that the starter handle is not caught on the side wires, it gets caught easily.I tried flying with the VG full on and interestingly the bar position did not seem to change like it does normally. It feels like the prop is running out of legs when you fly fast, I wonder how hard it would be to make a constant speed unit, ha ha.  I also discovered what happens if the strings tangle and the legs deploy just fractionally unevenly, I am thinking of doing some re-design work with the harness. I think I can make it lighter and more pleasant to fly, probably like the new ones now I think of it ;-)
Landing was the usual dive at the ground and ground effect for ages, It's really tricky to land, you have to keep on allot of extra speed to retain control but you still have to get onto the uprights to be able to flare, I tried the uprights early approach but as soon as you let go of the basebar you lose pitch control, I did a little flare when I was almost out of energy and it would have been a perfect landing in my usual harness but this harness always gives you that little push to remind you its there and test your balance.

I guess after enough hours I will become familiar with the strange sensation of powered flight in a Hang Glider. I still prefer my glider as a glider without the extra inertia, weight and drag, but hey, who knows what familiarity might breed.

Tomorrow the whole W side of the range will be soarable. I'll be there.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Out of excuses

I love my climax. It's a wonderful glider, every bit as much joy to fly as a fun, just without the auto land feature that Airborne so kindly built into the fun. Ever since I first got the idea of a powered harness into my head I have been dreaming of zipping about the sky on my climax.  I had heaps of good excuses for not giving it a go already though. I know my climax well and I am already at max weight, the power harness is going to add at least another 20kgs to the total. This is naturally going to increase the wind loading and hence the flying speeds. However all along I have been telling myself its only another 10kg per wing, i mean it's not that much, is it. I was worried after reading about how the leading edges can deform if you overload a topless and how this could change the handling characteristics. But in my heart I didn't really believe that 20kg was going to make that much difference. Last night when I was talking to Matty he mentioned meeting a pilot, from the eastern states who is new to Perth, this guy has a mosquito and a climax 13 and he has been using them together, with success. No more excuses for me!
What I really want to go is get off Pap Hill into a thermal and get up to cloudbase and fly down the cape with my climax. However if the winds don't cooperate today then plan B will be to see how I like the climax with a bit of power thrown into the mix...

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Understanding Flight

This is a very good explanation of how a wing works and where the old way of explaining it failed.

Pap Hill Hopefully

Yesterday I spent most of the afternoon climbing over the range around Pap Hill. I found a new improved bottom landing area within easy glide. I made a track into the new bottom landing and marked it with streamers. I cleared as much of the vegetation as I could from the landing area and set-up windsocks all around it.
Then I climbed up the face and covered it in streamers and spent ages watching the cycles come through. I put a 30ft long streamer on a vertical section of the face and now from take-off this one is visible as it stands up vertically as a cycle comes through, it should make the launch timing easier.
Friday night ended up being another huge one with the locals, I crawled back into my caravan around 6am and then was up again by 9am and off to Pap Hill. Whilst I was on Pap Hill yesterday it came on 8kn W for about an hour and If I had been feeling better I would have rigged up the climax and had a go, as it was I was unsure whether I would survive the walk back up the face in my state. Today the forecast is for a repeat of yesterday, so based on that I should be taking off from Pap Hill around lunchtime. Hopefully this time I will have learnt something and I can get up to cloudbase and perhaps land back at the oval in Town, but even if I just get to prove my new bottom landing area it will be a better result.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Pap Hill at last...

The first person to bomb out from there, what an honour ;-)

I was up on pap hill at lunchtime watching the wind swing around from the SE to SW via the North as forecast. Around 1pm there were Cus popping everywhere and strong cycles coming up the face, there were wedgies and hawks in the air and none flapping. That would probably have been the best time to launch, but I waited for Gav to finish work and then we left one car at the bottom and set up on top. I flew the Climax and Gav flew my fun.
By the time we launched it was a very light W and only mildly thermic. When I originally selected the bottom landing for the climax I knew I was going to need a fairly big clearing into wind and selected a spot near the road, from the top of the hill it looked an easy glide but I was out with my judgement again. When I measured the hill I found it was just over 250ft from the top down to the road. However I was at least 50 ft below the top when i finally found a bit steep enough and clear enough to take-off in nil wind in the climax. The ground after take-off slopes gradually down to the road and has allot of washouts and ridges and anthills and small trees, large bushes and big sharp rocks, It was possible to get the fun down in and around the bushes but very hard with the climax.
I flew down the ridge and finding nothing but zeros and sink quickly turned towards the bottom landing area. It was obvious that It was going to be very tight, with the VG full I made it about 2/3 of the way before having to very quickly deal with a large number of obstacles and a ridge that I was never going to get over. I stayed on the base bar till the last second and concentrated on not hitting anything. At the last second with my basebar 1ft off the deck and completely out of energy I got my legs half down through the scrub and threw out the A frame. I got one leg down and then tripped and the glider nosed in ever so gently. The glider is unharmed and I am fine except for a small scratch on my right elbow. I can remember when I dreamed of being good enough to crash the climax that well. ha. ha.
Gav bravely followed me off in the fun and seeing how far I got just headed straight for the road, he landed not far from me in the bush. It was great exercise carrying the gliders out through that stuff. I am going to make an alternate bottom landing right under the take off.

It was another short fly, but in the right conditions it will be great.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Lighthouse again...

This morning when I woke at first light I logged onto the Internet to check the wind (much easier than looking out the window). The Internet said wsw. I jumped into the car and raced over to the lighthouse to check the direction, and it was easterly. I'm not at my best in the morning. It was a little too light to dune good today so I drove along the E side of the range looking for a place to take-off. The road I was following turned into a dry creek bed and next thing you know I'm stationary again. It would have been a good 4km walk back to a main road so I opted to empty the car, dig it out, let the tyres down to 12psi and with the help of some sticks I got moving again. A great way to waste a couple of hours, get some exercise and work on your tan. When I got back out it was NE and getting stronger. When I got back up the lighthouse again it was averaging 40kph with gusts to 65kph. Not being quite sure about either the top or bottom landing I decided discretion was the better part of valour at the moment. Later this afternoon the wind went NNE and smoothed out around 30kph , I set up the fun in a couple of minutes whilst answering questions from the tourists and then did a quick pre-flight and did my best ever base bar launch running down the face and then climbing away in strong lift. I was up for ages, I didn't bother with my vario but I got twice the height of the lighthouse and got slightly around both edges of the face. I had checked out the dunes at the bottom and there is a cut-out in the dunes slightly to the left of take-off that you can swoop down into. Luckily that was downwind today, otherwise I would have had to pick a closer spot in the fun! I had the most fun flying I have had for ages, just good old ridge soaring on a fun, how much better does it get?

I am really hoping for a W tomorrow so that I can get my last direction at the lighthouse and have a shot at Pap Hill, then I will have flown everything  in Exmouth.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Dune Goon

When I woke up this morning there were howling Easterlies. I drove out to the lighthouse and used the height to get an accurate idea of the exact wind direction and from there picked out the sections of dune that were into wind. Then I drove all the way back to city beach where I drove down on to the beach itself and followed it north towards Bundegi. I flew at 3 different points where it curves around into wind. The best was the last about 1km south of the Bundegi boat ramp. Around 1.30pm the wind had dropped to point where it was not fun any more and so I bravely tried to get down to Bundegi to get off the beach. Whilst I was flying the tide had been coming in and the sand became uncooperative when wet and I buried the car about half way up the beach and well below the high tide mark. I wasted about an hour digging the car out and then placing sticks and bits of coral into a track, but as soon as the track ended it was buried again.  It was the realisation that the tide really was coming in (and they have some huge tides here) that made me finally walk down to Bundegi boat ramp looking for help. After a couple of refusals, including one guy who did not want to take his new landcruiser off road, I finally lucked out when I found Gary and his wife in their lovely new Hilux. They have been coming up here for 22 years and new all the shortcuts and tricks. Gary refused to take any kind of payment for his assistance, just the reminder to do the same for someone else if the situation is ever reversed. I love the Ozzie generosity, born out of necessity perhaps, but it really does make this part of the world a nicer place.
This evening Gav, Mel and I played a game of mini golf, somehow I won by a couple of shots, just lucky today I guess...  After that we burnt huge numbers of calories on the trampolines there, and I will find out in the morning whether I have done any serious damage ;-)
They are predicting SW in the morning so I will be up on Pap Hill again first thing.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Flew the Lighthouse again!

After claiming the dubious honour of being the first person to fly the Lighthouse in an Easterly on my first day here, today after waiting all day for Pap Hill to come on as forecast, I was the first and almost certainly the last person to fly the lighthouse in a Southerly.  I spent the morning climbing all over the range looking for take-off sites and watching the Wedgies and Hawks thermalling. It will take me weeks to get all the spinifex out of my ankles, its horrible stuff.
 I put up windsocks at the likely top and bottom landing areas (I'm learning) and even left little caches of water. The plan was to try and soar the range in the forecast SW and if I bombed out I would have some water to help me deal with the probably couple of hour trek back up the top again. The wind did the usual Exmouth thing, on the E side it was blowing a 1 0knot SE and on the west side it was blowing a 15knot S with the wind alternating between slight tail and pure 90' crosswind.
I even got Gav up there after work as I was so keen to fly. As it turned out it stayed a howling southerly, 15-20knots by the time that out of frustration and to prove to Gavin just how good the funs auto land feature is, I took off from the top of the southerly facing canyon at the back of the lighthouse. It was strong so I shot straight up like a rocket, but the air was very angry air and rough with big holes in it. I instantly forgot about top landing even though I might have had the height. I landed about a third of the way down the canyon carefully dodging bushes and rocks. It was howling down there too so I flat de-rigged the fun and Gav helped me carry it all back up again. Gav made a very interesting stir fried rice pudding this evening after a slight timing error.  Right now the wind is a light WNW. I will be up on Pap hill again first thing in the morning hoping for that elusive first fly there. I'm finally in a caravan park, the rangers here are persistent.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Antlion Video

Antlions Everywhere!

The other day Gav asked me if I knew what an antlion was. I've only ever come across the antlion once before, it is a formidable adversary in the wonderful game HL2.
Like with so many things in the delightfull world of computer gaming, they have borrowed from the real world. This photo is of a small crater in the sand usually found near ant nests. The edges are made of soft sand and slope so that once an ant falls in it cannot climb back out easily. As it tries to climb out the antlion hears its movement and starts reaching out with these claws untill it gets hold of the ant. Then its bye bye ant and hello tasty nutritious meal for the ant lion.

I am uploading a video to youtube now.

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Bitten by Complacency

Today started out well. Gav and I got the required hardware to cut his keel and rivet it to a sleeve so that we could try his Sting 154 with the power harness.
We were hoping to fly from the golf course again, but they had a tournament on so we went looking for other options. The only other site I was reasonably happy with was the construction site for the new harbour development, you can see it from the air in some of the photos from my first flight here.
We found the site manager and got his permission as it was Sunday and they were not working in the area. When we arrived it was a light SE so we set-up at the into wind end. After we had rigged up and as I was pre flighting the glider it almost got turtled when the wind suddenly switched and came from the north.

We carried all the gear down to the other end of the area and I took off and flew around for a while, with the VG full on the sting felt like you were really going places as opposed to the funs slow pace. Landing was much more floaty, the fun just sinks out of the sky, the sting ground effected for a bit and after a little while I stopped it with a full flare, probably a bit of overkill but it worked.  Then Gav had a go and blasted all over the place before landing perfectly. He came in fast and then just kept on bleeding of speed until he walked it out with a couple of steps.

Finally I decided to have another go. When Gav landed the wind was northerly, it took me a couple of minutes to get into the harness and ready to take-off. I started the motor and picked up the glider, nose down, wings level gently increased to full power and as it pushed me I concentrated on keeping the nose down and the wings level as usual. As soon as the glider started to pick up airspeed it was trying to turn to the left, I had a full weight shift on to the right but its not very effective when you are running on the ground and the glider is not at flying speed yet. Within a second of the start of the run I knew I was in trouble, I quickly pondered my options but you don't have a lot really. As soon as I realised I was not going to get the glider back I released the throttle and flared with a wing-tip dragging on the ground. The glider touched down quite gently but the harness still had a spinning prop and forwards momentum and swung around putting the propeller through the trailing edge of the sail. Doh. I was completely unscathed and the harness and prop are fine too. The only damage is about a foot long rip through the trailing edge material and luckily it missed the luff lines and baton pockets so it should be easy to get repaired.

So I am sitting there and thinking, that was weird what could have caused that to happen? It was about then that i realised that right now the wind was Westerly and stronger than before. And sure enough it stayed westerly. I don't know exactly when it changed, the wind felt on the nose when I started my run. But to be honest when Gav landed slightly long I left the windsock behind at the original spot and just climbed into the glider where it was.

I already knew that trying to take off with a huge wing in a strong 90' crosswind was unlikely to end well, I feel like an idiot for proving it. Every time before I take off I reach down and check I am through my leg loops, it was 15 years ago that I got that sinking feeling and it's not a mistake I will ever make again. I hope that today was my lesson in not getting complacent and that from now on I make sure that I have a wind sock directly in front of me every time I take off.

Ironically I didn't bother to video any of my exploits today, but before that last fateful flight Gav said we really should get some footage of me taking off and so I gave him my camera. I'd love to be able to say that I lost it or the dog ate it, but I have the footage here so I will upload it to youtube so that you can all giggle at my stupidity.

The sting was definitely an improvement on the fun, but it felt very big and near the stall it was very hard to control, it was very easy to start a power on turn and find yourself entering a a kind of stalled turn  where weight shifting ceased to become effective but you were still climbing, pulling  the bar in restored control again.

After talking to Gav he points out that in a microlight you never push out in a turn like in a hang-glider, another one of these power effects to get used to.

I got another flat on the Caravan so that's my first job in the morning, after that who knows....

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Huge Friday

Yesterday I spent the morning looking for a place to take off in the canyons, I found a take-off about 850ft AMSL above a 600ft vertical rock face that gets the afternoon sun. There is access into the bottom of the canyon through a dry creek bed, today Gav and I are going to check we can get his Suzuki 4wd down the river for the retrieve in case I bomb out into the canyon. Assuming I can get out OK I am going to try and launch into a cycle this afternoon.

In the afternoon we rigged up the fun and the power harness and I went for a fly and then when I landed Gav had a go. You can tell Gav is a powered pilot with a lot of hours, his first flight he left the engine running, as he came in to land he just applied power and went around when he realised he was going to land long. For his second flight he did a heap of high speed low level passes and for his last flight he climbed up to around 5k over the town and then spent ages enjoying the ride down.

We even rigged Gavs Sting 154 to try with the power harness before we remembered we needed to cut the keel first. That keel will be shortened today and the first chance I get, I am excited to see how it flies, it should be lovely.

After another great day of flying it was down to the tav for dinner and drinks to celebrate, then onto the pub/nightclub , the after party, and then back to Mel & Gavs again, around 5.30am everyone finally went to bed with poor Gav and Mel starting work in only a few hours. I'm up at 9am typing this, but only with 1 finger and whilst still in bed.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Telstra Suck

Telstra are the worst company I have ever had to deal with in my life. This is not an exaggeration. You have no idea unless you have actually been forced to try and deal with them. Let me give you an example. When I initially signed up for the Wireless Broadband plan I had to choose between time based charges or usage based charges. Because I naively assumed that the speeds quoted by Telstra on all their marketing material would be the sort of speeds one might expect whilst using the service and because they call it BROADBAND, I assumed that about an hour a day should be fine for me. All I want to do is connect check my email and upload to my blog and Flikr. The sad reality is that the speeds that Telstra use to name the plans, like say the 512/64 are just marketing lies as usual. Hey I'm not stupid, I started my own broadband ISP and have been in the IT industry for a long time, but even when I was in Geraldton a Major Regional Centre I could not get anywhere near the  advertised speeds. Yes I know on the back of the marketing materials it has terms and conditions and they quote "Speeds on the Plans are the Theoretical maximum speeds" which is pretty standard. Also lets not confuse reception or signal strength with a crappy company. I am talking about when I am parked under a mobile tower and with 100% full signal strength here. It looks to be like the Telstra network is hopelessly over congested, uploads are nearly always fine, but downloads are completely unreliable and sometimes it takes a minute to download a couple of KB.

So anyway last night I decided I had better check my usage, after trying to talk to someone I gave up and logged onto It took me an hour to register and then be able to view my account, however every time I tried to make a change I get an error message from Telstra about temporary system problems. What I learn was that I need to get off the time based charging ASAP. Drop-outs are very common here, sometimes it takes a few attempts to get a stable connection or just half a dozen re-connects to send that email. Naturally Telstra being the bastards that they are charge you 80cents for every 5 mins block of usage, so if you re-connect 10 times in the space of 5 minutes they charge you $8 for 5 minutes of trying to get onto the Internet. Out here in Exmouth where Telstra SUCK as badly as everywhere else this is really common.

So I check my balance, have a heart attack, and realise that I need to change my plan ASAP. Aside from the fact that its so slow its completely useless, technical problems mean I cannot change anything in my account. So this morning I ring Telstra Customer Support. Straight away the call is answered by a voice recognition system, I hate these, and I love technology that works. To be fair it went something like this and I was actually impressed for a few seconds.

"Welcome to Telstra, to help me direct your call please say a few words describing what you want"

"Mobile, Broadband, Internet, Change, Plan"

"Would you like to change your mobile plan? Please say yes, or no"


Then I get asked for my account number and mobile number and am told I am being put through to a consultant who will help me.

Now I can tell I am being transferred to a call centre in India, the clicks, the second or so delay on the line. I don't care who I am talking to or where as long as they can help me.

After a few minutes an faint delayed female Indian voice greets me. We go through the same details I have already provided once and then she says that she cannot help and needs to transfer me to the Internet department.

Another 5 mins on hold and then I get a recorded message telling me about technical problems and the call is dropped, congestion on their single isdn voip line to New Delhi no doubt.

I woke up this morning hating Telstra, nothing has changed.

I call back again and go through the whole same routine, this time I tell the lady in India that I already rang once before and she tries again to transfer me.
This time I get through to another Indian lady in the Internet Department, Oh no, I cannot help, you need the wireless data people, let me transfer you.

This time I get a guy in India, I am trying hard to remain polite and calm, these people are actually in a worse position than me, they don't just have to deal with Telstra they have to work for Telstra,I pity them,I don't upset them. Very calmly I point out that this is now the 4th person I have spoken to and that I am about 20 mins into another really expensive Telstra phone call to Telstra themselves and going around in circles.
I must have hit the magic button and I get transferred though to a call centre in Australia. I get a pretty miserable sounding lady. I ask to change to a data based plan (data pack) rather than the time based plan as it is killing me, I even proffer a quick summary of my case and reason, just in the hope that someone there might care a little about my plight, not likely at Telstra.
When I signed up I was given a printed Telstra flyer with the plans on it. I have it here. It has a 1GB plan for $59.95/Month with excess charges at 15c per MB. That is the plan I want. The lady tells me there is no such plan, I point out that its on this flyer and the Telstra website, she tells me she is an expert in these plans and she cannot find it on the system. She actually tells me I am best off going back to the shop where I bought the card and asking them to change the plan. I point out this would be a couple of thousand KM round trip for me and I would really rather if she just changed it for me now.
I can tell that she hates her job, I can tell that she hates me, I can tell that she just wants me off the phone as quickly as possible so that she can  keep her AHT' s down and not get hassled by her Team Leader. I can also tell she is about to drop my call and make me go though this all over again, I am scared now. I don't want to spend another hour of my life on hold to Telstra. The only plan she can find is one that costs $99 a month and includes 1GB and excess traffic at 35c a MB. Its daylight robbery of the worst kind, but I have no choice. Perhaps one day I will be able to change to the plan that they are advertising, and that I really want, and get the sort of speeds that they advertise you will get, and be happy with the service. But I seriously doubt it as long as Telstra is Telstra.


I cannot wait to get back to civilisation where my VMC card and Vodafone mobile will work again, Vodafone are the exact opposite of Telstra. They are always polite, helpful and friendly, the people there take ownership of an issue and take pride in resolving it quickly for you. Everyone knows what is going on at the company and when you occasionally get someone who does not know the awnser they are very quick to admit it and either put you though to the correct person or call you back. Now that is customer service.

It looks like light SE at the moment, I'd rather be flying than bitching about Telstra. Why am I still here?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Power over the Cape

Yay! I got my first powered flight in Exmouth today. Go have a look at flikr as I am uploading the photos now.

After driving around the area since dawn looking for a suitable take off area I finally decided that the Golf course was the only option I was happy with. I was lucky to run into Kerry down there and he kindly agreed to allow me to fly from the 9 fairway that was into wind. The flight was great, I had one interesting moment with a few unintended wingovers when I realised that the drawstring that closes the harness had been flapping in the wind and had tied itself around everything else. You know that feeling you get when the zip won't open and you can't get your legs out of the harness... I just doubled over and untied it all whilst the fun did its own thing, I am sure it was spectacular from the ground ;-)

Gav is taking me out on his boat again in a few minutes, this time speargun fishing on the reef!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Quiet Days

Just another quiet day today. Yesterday I got the chance to work on my tan and today I am a little red where I over did it on my chest. Yesterday arvo Gav & his better half took me out on their boat and we snorkelled over the reef. We saw some whales and a manta ray as well as lots of pretty fish. If I am going to go snorkelling again and really get the hang of it and start feeling comfortable with the snorkel and mask on I think I am going to have to shave first, the mask leaks like crazy when you have a beard!

Today we have 15-21knts SSE , I think it's too far off to the South for the dunes I looked at on the way into town, a SE or ESE would be OK I think. The forecast is for the winds to drop this afternoon, so if they don't get more easterly and make the dunes flyable it may still be nice in the water after things calm down.

The DVD burner in my laptop is already starting to make more coasters than good discs, when you look at the burnt discs you can actually see the light and dark rings where presumably the laser is losing power. I tried running on AC power with 2 different adapters and off the battery and it makes no difference. After making 9 coasters between 7-9am at 2.4x, 4x, 8x, 16x and being almost ready to throw the whole laptop into the ocean, I finally find that if I burn at 2x it seems to work OK.
I guess its a good thing I am not in a hurry at the moment. I have a bad feeling that perhaps some of the many DVDs I have burnt for people over the last few weeks could be flawed too. Oh well, if you get a bad DVD let me know and I'll send you another one!

Believe it or not I actually found exactly the type of screw in anchor I was looking for use with the power harness. These huge hooks are designed for holding a mobile home awning to the ground, but they would do just fine to tie down a trike or HG wing... Now if I could just find a place to take off around here I could get a good look from the air. Gav had somewhere to show me this afternoon, so if the wind drops off I might get some nice shots here before sunset...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Rewrite - I flew the Lighthouse this morning

It's never as good the second time.

Perhaps I should mention that I spent 2 hrs playing HL2 Episode 1 before bed, it may amuse some of you.
Last nite when I went to sleep in my caravan at around 11pm it was 21'C inside.
I usually sleep in my birthday suit and so just a sheet is comfortable at these temps.
At some point in the night I must have gotten cold and pulled the Duvet over me.
I woke up at first light around 6.45am soaked in sweat and feeling like I had been poached.
A quick dip in the ocean and I was the most awake I have ever been before 7am.

The wind was SE at maybe 8-12knots. I parked in a beach carpark just under the Lighthouse last night so I am up next to the lighthouse by 7AM.

I looked at the situation, the wind is very light and marginal, but just perhaps you can stay up if you are really good.
The wind is off to the right about 35', but you've flown sites before when it was 45' off. Faster downwind that's all ;-)
There are these huge 30ft metal spikes sticking out of the hill, don't hit them obviously.
The wind is going to be very turbulent because of all the hills out front, extra airspeed is very important.
Top landing in the carpark looks doable, who are you kidding, top land in these conditions?

At this point have a look at the photo I posted just earlier, its the view from takeoff. Go on try and find the bottom landing area.

So anyway it played out something like this.

Just as I was all rigged up and getting into my harness some missionaries arrive, great its always good to have a witness ;-)
The missionary tells me I must be crazy for flying HGs, I tell him you just need a little faith in yourself.

I take off and am just able to maintain, about 15ft up. Now my work is made much more interesting  as I have to go around those darn spikes. I manage a few beats and then find myself moving forward on the ridge, and where there are no spikes there is also no lift. Bummer.
No worries, before I took off I knew I was going to bomb, I've done this before ;-)
I had selected the access road to the chalets in front as the landing area as it was the only clear flat patch big enough to put a HG down in.
If you have see a hawk drop on his prey thats exactly what I was going for in the fun, reef the bar in and dive through the rough air and then round out and flare for a perfect uphill no step landing. I love my fun.

Here is is the second version, not the pages of the humourous and brilliant writing to which I aspire but more  of the same drivel.
 It  would have been better, honest. Blame Telstra.

Last Test

Here is a a short email message with a photo attached.

Another Test

Ok, the formatting was a little messed up in the last post. Let see whether changing the email format to HTML helps..
Also does it honour line breaks?

I wonder...

Lets find out.


First Fly at the Lighthouse

Technical issues ate my words. More coming soon.

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Don't you just hate losing work..

I sat here for 45 mins typing away, pouring my little heart out. An
unexpected network disconnect made it all vanish. Thank you Telstra.

Oh well, I have been using Picassa as its an easy way to blog, but its a
little temperamental on a dodgy internet connection and you cannot save
a draft copy in progress...

So plan B is this, this is an email that I am sending to a special
address that should hopefully make it onto this page, lets test it now.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Day 1 in Exmouth

I caught up with Gavin the local HG pilot. He is off camping tonight with his GF so I am still exploring. Currently I am parked up by the lighthouse. There was no wind when I got here but there is about 6knots at the moment, coming from the SW. If it picks up to 8knots I am going to rig the fun and see if I can soar the other side of the road up here. The weather is lovelly, about 25'C at the moment and its currently 5.20pm on Saturday. Just 2 more knots is all that I need and I might get a fly my first day here! My Telstra cdma broadband thingy is still working, I am getting about 10K/sec uploading to flikr at the moment....

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Exmouth, yay!

I'm here! I made it one hour past Carnarvon last nite. I came around a corner in the dark and suddenly there were cows everywhere. Its a trippy thing when your driving down a highway and there are cows standing in the middle of the road just staring at you....

I decided against pushing my luck in the dark and stopped at the next parking area and went to sleep in the van. I was up bright and early and rolled into Exmount around noon.

Now I am waiting for Gav to get to work so I can surprise him ;-)

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Over Gero

Flying over it, that is. Here is tht short video from today...

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This is the last thing my little digital camera captured before it went to sleep. Sadly it took with it the footage from the flight i had today. Its a shame because i recorded the whole single handed setup of the wing and harness and then taped the camera to a dive stick and climbed in and took off.
Its very very hard to setup a keel less fun and power harness by yourself in a 8-12knot thermic breeze. Well the setup of the fun is easy the hard part is trying to balance the wing on the harness and then climb in between gusts... Oh and then starting a cold high compression motor with a lawnmower type pull start using a punching motion because of the location of the handle.

I am going to make a keel carrier on top of the prop shaft, if I can just be sure that it will stay pointing into wind with the nose down I can feel reasonably comfortable about doing this all myself. The other option is of course the old stake in the ground and bit of rope to the nose wires trick. I have to go get one of those universal dog parking things, you know the big screw that goes into the ground.

The flight was uneventful, quite a strong headwind meant impressive groundspeed downwind and less than 5kmph into wind, I quickly realised it was not a good day to fly over to Battens place and get some photos. I could have got there pretty quick, but I would not have made it back into wind with the fuel I had. Also once you find yourself pointing into wind with a noisy 2 stroke behind you and not much groundspeed you rapidly lose interest in going in that direction.
The climax will be a weapon with this thing if I can survive my first take-off ;-)

I did get a heap of photos from the air, thanks to my trusty Canon, I am uploading tm to flikr now, go have a look!

Its my last nite in Gero. Matty went back to Perth yesterday and I am now preparing to hit the road in the morning. Next stop Exmouth, yippee!!

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More Power

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Awesome Day!

As forecast westerlies came in this morning. Very light though. We set up on city view and when the cycles came through it was soarable. Matty bombed out on his climax then walked back up and flew the fun for a bit, top landed and then drove down and got his climax and set it up and flew it again, A for effort!

Steve the local legend flew like a champ as usual. Dr Mick had a ball and must have top landed 20 times. I got heaps of photos and I am uploading them to flickr now. I have a keel cam video from my flight too and I will upload it to youtube soon.

Not sure what the weather holds in store for tomorrow but nothing soarable I am sure.... I would like one more flight with the power harness just to get a few better ariel shots of the place I am staying for my host Ash. Then I just have to fix his computer and once Matty heads back to Perth its off to Exmouth for me...Yippee warm weather at last!

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