Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Not again...

More delays.... Toll Ipec managed to lose my gearbox for 3 days, it would appear that they scanned the wrong barcode or something and as a result my new box has been sitting in Sydney for the last 3 days... Doh Doh Doh... They promised to get it here in 3 working days, then changed that to 5 working days after I indicated I would be less likely to turn up at their office next week with a baseball bat if they were honest with me now. So it looks like I have to spend another weekend here instead of flying with the boys at Canungra. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo


Here I am waiting in Innisfail for my car to be ready and I have time to learn new things. I have been meaning to start geotagging my photos for a while now and I have finally got around to it. Its a pretty simple process. You need a digital camera and a GPS to start with, firstly make sure the time on the digital camera exactly matches the time on the GPS, the GPS will always be correct as it gets its info from the Satellites. Then make sure the GPS is turned on and go for a walk with your camera and take some photos. Then when you return you just download the GPS track log and use the time stamp from the photos to identify the exact location from where you took the photo.

Of course it is made much easier by automating the whole process and here are a few ways you can do that...

Firstly you should be using Google Picassa to manage your photos, that integrates nicely with google earth, so even if you don't have a GPS or track log you can just click on the location where you took the photo and it adds the info into the Exif headers..

If you have a track log in your gps you need to download it and save it as a GPX file, this is the standard for Garmin GPS units, but any good software that lets you download your track from your GPS will allow you to convert to this format. I use CompGPS as it leaves all the others for dead, but there are free solutions out there too.

Once you have a track log and some photos just use WWMX Location Stamper to embed the Lat/Long into the Exif Data and Hey Presto, instant embedded Geotag.

Then just upload the photos to Flickr and use Flyr to search for and display any tagged photos in either Google Maps or Google Earth.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Back in Innisfail

On Friday the winds were 90' crossed up on Tambo, initially it looked like we might get off OK anyway, but then a couple of model aeroplanes showed us exactly how bad the air was out front and everyone quickly packed up and went back to camp. On Saturday the forecast warned of high winds and storm activity in the area so no-one was really expecting much. Once we got onto Tambo the conditions seemed OK and the sky looked promising, however the forecast and the lenticular clouds that were forming above the up wind hills showed what was on the way. Given that we already had a valid comp there were allot of pilots who did not see the point in taking a risk with the weather for an extra day. On the other hand those who thought an extra day might get them up a few places were pushing hard for the day not to be called. Pretty much everybody wanted to fly if it was safe, after all that's why we are there. In the end the lenticular clouds got closer and the winds picked up until no-one wanted to launch any more and we had people hanging onto the nose and side wires of the gliders on launch. Meanwhile the pilots already in the air had been on the radio giving ever increasing wind speed observations over the course line, when Adam called in to say he was experiencing 62kph winds on the course the day was finally called. We watched a few topless gliders behaving like floaters on a high wind day and nervously watched gliders disappearing behind trees and over ridges. There was some breakage of aluminium, but as far as I know all pilots made it back OK.
On Saturday evening my 2 German backpacking friends came back as they said they would and after the festivities around 3am we headed off to Innisfail. We only stopped for fuel and arrived here at 11pm after another epic road trip.
The new gearbox has not arrived from Sydney yet, but it should be here within the next couple of days. I cannot say enough good things about Steve Evans from Solas Propellers who took back the original 2003 model Outback Gearbox that had the different stub axles and was not going to work with my car, if you find one of his adverts on Ebay don't hesitate to deal with him, he is very honest and reliable. (make sure you order the correct part though)
After being transferred 7 times on a call to Telstra this morning, repeatedly being asked the same questions and being treated like an idiot, and then finally being placed on hold for 5 mins  I hung up in disgust and vowed to stop dealing with them, again. I managed to do without Telstra for years after finding them to be equally lousy to deal with years ago. I was forced back into their arms reluctantly when I realised I was going to need a CDMA Internet solution and having a monopoly in this country that would be Telstra. Prior to this I had been with Optus for my CDMA voice coverage and found them to be just fine, it was frustrating to be told that I could not have  voicemail or roaming data through them because Telstra would not allow them access to those bits of the network though. For those not familiar with the system here, Telstra which was the government telco and is still 51% government owned has the only country wide mobile phone network and there is NO competition allowing them to offer high prices and low service levels to people in the country. In the cities other companies like my personal favourite Vodafone have set up in competition and you can get an affordable and reliable service from them. Any other company that offers CDMA in the country is using the Telstra network that Telstra have been forced to offer to other carriers, however my experience in the past with Optus was that Telstra still find a way to exert their monopoly by denying customers of other carriers access to the same services you get direct from telstra. When I was stuck in Innisfail last I saw an advert on TV for Southern Phone Company, they are a smallish regional community owned and operated Telco using Telstra's infrastructure. I changed my phone over to them today as they are friendly, helpfull, knowledgable and a fraction of the price of Telstra. I am still looking for a way to get affordable Internet access via the CDMA phone network, but perhaps I am dreaming until Telstra finally gets sold and starts operating like a real company and not a monopoly.
 I hate Telstra, nothing changes, Telstra suck. I can assure you that if you are currently using Telstra you are paying more than anyone else would be charging and dealing with the worst customer service of any Telco I have ever dealt with, I would suggest you leave them and pay less for more elsewhere. Again I find myself bitching about Telstra when I would rather be flying. I should be back in Canungra for some weekend flying before I head down to Newcastle (finally!).

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Canungra Thursday

Red faces was exactly that, you had to be there. Today the wind was strong enough to be soarable on Tambo but a thick layer of high cloud covered the area when we arrived, we sat on the hill rigged up and ready to go for 3 hours before it finally started to break up. Alternate all went to the back of the field as it did not clear in time for them. I got away but I was still having issues with gaggle flying and never got above 3000ft from where I was not comfortable crossing over unknown ridges. I landed close to where I was yesterday on the other side of Misery and was happy with my landing. I am learning allot about the dark art of finding lift on ridges and my confidence and judgement is improving here, however I need to get comfortable in large gaggles before I can really find out what I am capable of.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Canungra Update 1

Well after the first day I found myself about in the middle of the field, unusual for me as I am usually at the tail end. Day 2 was called due to the 25knot winds, but day 3 a long 190km task was set over the back of Beechmont, being in the middle of the pack I had no real trouble getting away, but it was the first time I had ever been such a huge gaggle of gliders and I had a near miss that really freaked me out. The first 30km of the task were over valleys and trees and in some there were no roads, but in many there were no landing options that I would be happy with in the Climax. It became a case of staying in the lift to avoid landing but for all the wrong reasons. Normally I love every second of my flying, but on the this flight I was pretty shaken and fearful, very unusual for me. I landed about 60km down the course line but to be honest I landed when I felt that I had a safe landing option and was unsure about making it over the next ridge. I probably could have gone further, but decided to go with the safe option. The next day was an epic 203km task over the back from Beechmont again, unlike the previous day the wind was from the NE and so it was not even slightly soarable. There was a push on as the valley would be all lift, then all sink and people only wanted to launch when they could see gliders going up in front. I should have gone to the back of the field but I let myself be pushed and bombed together with the 20 or so gliders either side of me, there were some really experienced pilots in the group so I did not feel too bad about it. I did stretch my glide way too far though looking for lift and had to do my first fly on the wall with the climax when I ran out of other options. Today we were back at Tambourine again and I put my name down for alternate and got position number 7. It was just thermic lift and after blundering around and getting low on my way to the bomb out I found a weak thermal on a spine and managed to climb up to 4000ft over launch. On the way more and more gliders joined the gaggle until i was spending my whole time trying to watch all the other gliders instead of thermalling, I realise I am still pretty freaked out by the near miss. I headed down the course line by myself, happy to be in some clear air and using what I am learning about the strange art of hill flying I headed for the sunny downwind side of Misery, the next ridge down the course line. I found some zeros and dribbled back over the spine of the ridge, not completely comfortable with my options and the trees under me but still pretty sure I was going to find a thermal, I kept exploring along the spine. Eventually I found some 800 down and had a few scary moments as the old brain computer tried to figure out whether I was going to be making it over the trees and ridge below. I made it into the valley and tried my best to select a paddock in glide with the least number of trees and power lines and livestock. As it turned out I picked a good one, and other than a bit of bad air on the way down I managed a safe and reasonable landing along a tiny road. I don't I fully appreciated how much I have to learn about this mountain flying thing, so different from the flatlands. Oh, well I am hear to learn and I am surrounded by the best pilots and coolest dudes so I am delighted to be here. Tonite is red faces, a highlite according to the regulars...

Saturday, October 21, 2006


I made it safely, it was a very long drive but I was dropped off in the early hours of Friday morning by my German backpackers. I guess I was too honest about the lack of dancing girls and my friends in the van left on their way to Nimbin or somewhere. Initially it looked like Saturday would be called, but after getting rain on launch it stopped raining and that was enough for the task committee to declare a 50km race across the valleys. Only 4 people made goal, the unstoppable Johnny Durand Jnr who despite looking and feeling quite under the weather had no trouble making goal. Corinna and ScottB were the first 2 into goal.
It was a tough day with almost solid cloud cover at different levels and very few clues from clouds or sun patches on the ground, those flying in a gaggle benefited greatly from it. I landed about half way along the course line after fighting my way from one 200ft/sec thermal to the next. The task has not been scored yet, but I will try and post the results up here when it has.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Where there is a will......

Faced with certain depression and possibly the onset of alcoholism or making it to Canungra I started thinking laterally...
I am going to need a retrieve driver anyway when I get to Canungra, so why not see if I can find someone with a suitable vehicle and time on their hands, and someone who always needs money...<insert image of light bulb here> Of course, Backpackers. I found a couple of guys from Germany with a newish van who would love to see Canungra and a Hang Gliding comp and get paid for it too. Yippee. I'm organising my stuff now and we leave in the morning. Canungra here I come.

Alternative transport

I have 3 days left to get to Canungra or I miss the comp. There is absolutely no chance that the stub axles that I need will be here in time. I have no choice but to leave my car and caravan here in hell and find another car. During the last hour of business today when it became obvious that this was the only way that I was going to make the comp I rang around the local hire car companies but they all baulked at the idea of hang gliders on the roof and the distances involved. I have one more place to try in the morning. Failing that I could buy a cheap car if I could find one, but everything is scarce here in hell.
 I need to be out of here by tomorrow afternoon so that I can make Canungra on Friday, If I can't find a car by then I suppose all hope is lost and I may as well have a frontal lobotomy or become an alcoholic so I can at least hang with the locals whilst I wait for the stub axles to make their way over from Japan on a fishing boat.


The new gearbox arrived on time. Sadly it has no stub axles which is going to make it a little difficult to get the drive to the front wheels. The old stub axles are held in with circlips which would mean splitting both boxes to try and transfer them, this would be insane even if I thought it was going to work. I suspect the newer box has those stub axles that pop in and out. Aaaarrggghhhhh. Now I am looking for stub axles. Will I ever get out of here?

Fingers Crossed...

The gearbox arrived this morning, it is brand new as it was supposed to be and appears to be the correct model. Phew. They are fitting it now and if all goes according to plan I will be on the road again by late afternoon.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Differences in Advertising Standards

I'm hoping to get out of Innisfail tomorrow, my gearbox has still not arrived, but should be here this afternoon or tomorrow.
One of the big differences I notice between QLD and WA is the nature of the advertising. They have a lot of very questionable stuff here. Tony Robins is probably only moderately evil, sure he takes your money, but he makes you feel good about it. But stuff like the Hiclone is just plain wrong, it prays on people who believe the impossible marketing lies that they perpetrate. Just about every single mechanic I have been past here sells them, they must be a great winner for those selling them, cheap to manufacture, easy to install and you can charge the customer heaps based on the flawed assumption they are going to get an improvement in fuel economy, oh, and power of course. Its an evil lie, I had the great misfortune to deal with a dodgy car mechanic in Perth once, he had a dyno and the local TV stations car show came down to do an Advertorial style piece on the Hiclone, they dynoed a car without it, then fitted it and dynoed it again. The results were actually that the Hiclone reduced power very slightly, but it was so little that it was probably more due to the rise in air temperature as the day went on. But of course when the spot aired they had amazing results and it was well worth the money. I can't express how little respect I have for the media when they do stuff like this.
There is also a fair bit of religious advertising and the type of ads that pray on the fearful, inviting them to take out death insurance so that their surviving family won't have to deal with the nightmare of paying for the funeral, in the ad they invite you to call now with a credit card, no paperwork required. Then they tell you how easy it is to claim, you just have to properly complete the relevant paperwork and send it in to us and we often pay within a few days.....

Here is the science as to why Hiclones and all the other names for it are a load of rubbish.


Tony Robbins makes fire-walking a big part of his act, of course its only possible if you are correctly motivated. What a load of crap, my favourite story is of the sceptical journalist who turned up to one of his events and told everyone it was a load of rubbish then walked across the coals chanting "Burn feet, Burn" of course nothing happened, ash is one of the best insulators we know of. I want to see Tony Robbins walk across red hot rocks, that would be entertaining.


I want to be writing about how great the flying was today, not about things that I see and hear that piss me off.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Here is that link to the Google Earth File. If you have google earth installed it should open right up.


When it rains...

I'm trapped inside and so I am re-reading all the material that Scott gave me, at some point I might collate it all and put it up here somewhere just to make it easier to find.
I've also been looking at the track logs from the easiest flight of my life, that would be the one in that magnificent stemme. If you have a decent vario or GPS that records height with your track logs you should invest in a copy of CompeGPS, the current version is able to get all the free Hi-Res maps from Google earth and Google maps and is an awesome route planning tool. Its hard to really show how powerful the 3D environment is but here are some 2D pics anyway. Also if you use google earth, here is a link to the 3D track log, but with only a fraction of the information and options you get from CompeGPS.

Here is the Height Versus Time Graph..

Here is the same thing for speed...

Here is an idea of the kind of 2D view you get:
(the red circles show thermals)

Thursday, October 12, 2006


I've been demoted to just a tourist at the moment. The RAC came through and are paying for my accommodation and a hire car, unfortunately it is a daewoo matiz and I have not figured out how to carry a hang glider and power harness in it yet. I went looking for flying sites this afternoon, if it wasn't raining and cloud base was not at 800ft and the wind wasn't 25knots and I actually found somewhere to T/O with the fun, then  using gaffa tape to secure the fun to the roof of a hire car would no doubt seem like a good idea....

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Car update

I found a brand new gearbox from a 2005 model outback at a crazy price, it is already in QLD and Toll should have it here within a few days. Realistically my car should be on the road again by Tuesday. This really does mess up my plans to get down to Newcastle. Sorry Scott. Once I get to Canungra I will still make a dash south if I can be there for at least a couple of days before Canungra starts. In the meanwhile I am stuck in Innisfail for the weekend, I might see if I can hire a car and go and see the sights, the weather here is terrible so I can't even go for a fly with the power harness. Doh.Doh. Doh.

Damn Damn Damn

Seems I was premature with my earlier post. I arrived in time to watch them drive the car off the hoist, they were revving the crap out of it to get it over the ramp, that did not look good. One large bang later and it looks like most of the teeth from the input shaft are missing. Now I need a new gearbox. $!$%&#^
I'm not going anywhere with this car for at least a week. I am ringing the RAC to see if they can help me somehow. #$%^@#

Leaving Innisfail

In about an hour, it is a lovely place and it would be nice to stay longer but I have allot of driving to do, er, like about 18hrs straight I think.
It turned out to be the thrust bearing that had exploded and jammed the clutch in the disengaged position. I need to have words with the last idiot that worked on it ;-)
The wet season has arrived, its been raining non stop for nearly 24hrs here. This place used to be called Geraldton and it figures from the amount of wind and rain I have experienced. Its the first rain I have seen since I left Geraldton a few months ago, so even though I am dripping wet as I type this, I don't mind. I'm not stopping again until Canungra where I drop the caravan off.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Car update

The place that has the car seem to be pretty sure that it is the clutch, they have ordered a new one that will be here in the morning. They are pulling the engine out at the moment and they will know for sure this evening. I have been quoted 2.5hrs to remove the engine and another 2.5 to replace it, that's reasonable and a sign of confidence on their part, I hope. I am very curious to see what the clutch/flywheel look like as I never noticed it slipping until a few minutes before I stopped here in Innisfail and it felt like a catastrophic failure of something like the pressure plate to me, but hey, I'm no gearbox expert. I've checked into a nice cheap motel as the backpackers are full. I am actually happy it happened here, when I was spending my money in Burketown it felt much better to be leaving it in a small town where it makes a difference than in a big city somewhere, now here I am in Innisfail where every building has storm damage and I guess they can use the money too.
If they are correct and a clutch kit and flywheel skim fix the problem I should be out of here tomorrow afternoon. I am going to get some extra sleep now and then drive 18hrs straight to make up the lost time, I should still be in Newcastle on Thursday.....

Gearbox Trouble....

Things were going really well with the car, right up to the point that I slowed down as I was entering Innisfail. As I changed down a gear the gearbox started making unhappy noises and I lost drive to the wheels. First gear no longer seems to be connected, but second gear now works again, but the sounds that it makes suggest that metal is rubbing against metal somewhere. Luckily before I left perth I realised that such an event was a possibility so I took out the highest level of RAC cover i could get and now the car is with the local RACQ agent. They are trying to identify the cause of the problem at the moment. Hopefully in a couple of hours I will have a better idea of what is wrong and what my options are. This does mess up my plans of being in Newcastle on Thurday, unless they find that it is the universal joint on the driveshaft or something easy like that I am guessing they are going to have to remove the gearbox and then rebuild it or something, that takes days even when everything goes well. There is a possibility that the RAC might give me a hire car for a week whilst mine is repaired, if I can get one with roof racks I can leave everything here and still make a dash for Newcastle to meet Scott.
As soon as I have more info I will update things here. Doh. Doh. Doh.

Monday, October 09, 2006


I left Burketown at 11.30am and arrived in Cairns at 2.30am the next morning. A long drive. Big ranges to cross too. After a few hours sleep I flew the Rex this afternoon, getting good height and some nice photos. I landed so that Bill could have a fly. It was lovely smooth coastal air and well worth the effort. In the morning I start the long drive to Canungra, I plan to leave the caravan there and head down to Newcastle with just the car, the southerly winds mean I am going to be averaging around 70kph on the way down with the caravan so I need to lose it if I am to meet Scott near Sydney on Friday as planned. I definitely want to get back to Cairns soon though, some awesome flying sites and great people around this neck of the woods.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Bye Bye Burketown

The Glory howled through at 3.30am. There would have been enough moisture then but no doubt the strong Northerlies played a part in getting it through so fast and early. So much for the luck of the Irish, woke him up anyway and with his dual fuel tanks he is still up at cloud base around 1200ft. I am sure that the pilot of the twin must have see him when he was trying to penetrate into an 18knot headwind over the airport.... Bill and I are off to Cairns, ETA about 10pm hopefully.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Only Just ;-)


Glory Cycle Starting again

Last night the humidity increased and stayed up around 70% all night, It was not enough for a dew on the ground, but better than we have been getting for the last few weeks. Sure enough a MG was visible at first light, but still 50 miles away. It had a very messy top which is usually a sign of a dying cloud. Sure enough the motor glider boys had to fly out 30 miles to intercept it and then found no lift and came home quickly. The cloud was being pushed along on a Northerly front that suddenly arrived with 15/20 knot winds on the ground, increasing to 30/35knots at height. Before the Northerly arrived it was absolutely nil wind on the ground and Bill had another unsuccessful take-off in the challenging conditions. He did just get up eventually though, because it was so close I feel compelled to post it to youtube, so check later.
Even though the Northerly might be bringing in moisture, in my heart I doubt that the high winds are going to be conducive to a stable roll cloud forming tomorrow, also Bill had to use his motor to avoid landing backwards when he came in, a nice trick if you have an electric start, not something I can do with my pull start though..
I am packing the car and caravan ready for tomorrow. The gliders/harnesses are still in our hangar ready for the morning just in case we get one last chance...
An Irishman with a power harness and an Arab friendly bio diesel van is here to try his luck, his timing is looking pretty good...

Friday, October 06, 2006

Still no sign of a Glory

Yesterday, or today. At least today Bill & I took off together and flew around for 90mins. Bill had his first unsuccessful Nil wind take-off with his sting today, wheels really do save you when this happens. It was Northerly winds in the first few thousand feet switching to strong Easterlies higher up, there were also 2 inversions on the way up. Every morning it is dry, it is not looking good. The general consensus seems to suggest Tuesday as the next likely Glory, but that will be too late...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Long drive ahead...

Again, no Glory today. Dry Ground, no humidity, no seabreeze. Doh. Doh. Doh.

It's a good thing that I don't particularly mind driving.
It's about 2700km from here in Burketown to Canungra. I am dropping Bill the kiwi off in Cairns on the way. We are going to stay an extra couple of days in the faint hope that another Glory might come through, Bill is the one person who has travelled further than me to get here and so it would be a real shame for him to go home empty handed. Today saw a mass exodus of pilots, the forecast is not looking good. The legendary BillO and posse are having one more try in the morning and then may also leave unsatisfied. It has been a tough year, I feel especially fortunate to have lucked out as I did.
I am planning to be in Cairns on Saturday and I will spend a couple of days there, heading south again on Tuesday.
I have to be in Canungra by the 12th and will leave my caravan there whilst I head down to meet ScottB at a training camp starting on the 14th in the Hunter Valley, another 1000kms south. Then after a week it's back to Canungra where the Comps start. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

No Glory

This says it all. Not good flying weather for Hang Gliders...But if I had a Sapphire I could still go thermalling....

Area Forecasts: AREA 45

14:28 UTC, 02/10/2006 AMEND AREA FORECAST 021425 TO 030800 AREA 45
AMD WIND: 2000 5000 7000 10000 14000 18500
A: 110/20 120/25 120/35 VRB/15 PS08 340/15 PS03 310/15 MS04
B: 140/20 130/25 120/35 140/25 PS07 VRB/10 PS02 280/15 MS06
SCT CU 1800/9000 SEA COAST RANGES, 4000/10000 INLAND.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Very Early Dry Glory

Today the Glory came through at a very inconsiderate time, about 3am. It was very dark and hard to see anything, but the gust fronts shook my caravan. The ground was bone dry again, the winds whipping up dust. We were hoping to go XC today, but we had 15knot NE on the ground and 30knot SE from 2000ft up to 10,000ft which would have made it hard not to get blown into tiger country. Another non-flying day, thank god for the internet.
It's not looking terribly promising for the next few days, we can only wait and hope.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Early Glory

Just a few minutes after my alarm woke me this morning I heard the trees start to rustle outside. Sure enough a powerful Glory and several secondaries rolled overhead, in the dark. Doh. Bill and I set up and went for a fly anyway, it was great to have 2 power harnesses up at the same time. The big surprise of the day was that the fun 160 left his big sting for dead, well at least as far as the climb rate was concerned anyway. His engine is running sweetly and sounds like it is making as much or more power than mine and we are both weigh about the same in our harness. You would think the big sting would be running rings around the fun 160 but not so. He has a folding prop and I have a fixed CF version, so that is one possibility, the other would be his thrust line I guess. Tomorrow we might swap Props and see if that makes a difference....

Simple Languange Translation

Perhaps English is not your first language, or perhaps like me you have family and their first language is German. For years I struggled with trying to write in German, its tricky because the grammar is so different and things are usually spelt in a different way. For several years Altavista has provided their babelfish service and that did a pretty good job of translating words, but when you gave it complex sentences things just got funny and difficult to understand.
Once again proving how cool they are, the mighty Google has almost perfected their translation service and its very good indeed.

Here you can read my blog in German!


Countless other languages are available, just go to the Google Translation Page and tell it what you want.