Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hike & Fly with the Skywalk Flex harness

George (from Thermal Addict Airsports) offered me his Skywalk Flex harness to demo when he heard I was planning a hike and fly up to Bridal Falls take off.  The hike up is 750 metres, so anything to make my pack lighter was a welcome idea, especially since I haven't done a hike and fly in about 4 years!

When he showed me how to reverse the harness to turn it into the back pack, I couldn't believe that both my wing and the front mount parachute would fit inside.  But by using all the pockets I fit my wing, reserve, full camelback of water and accessories (keys, wallet, phone)…plus I put my lunch, radio, gps and gloves in my helmet which easily strapped on top.  Awesome!

Luckily my friend Martin had already hiked 2 days in a row so he wanted to go slowly.  Perfect.  We stopped at a waterfall for a break about 2/3 of the way up, but that's the only time I took off my pack.  Even at the top I noticed my shoulders didn't hurt at all like they usually do after (or during) a hike - the shoulder and hip straps on the backpack were very comfortable, and the shape of the bag distributes the weight perfectly.

My little pack on the left.  Martin behind me filling up his bottle at the waterfall.

After a quick rest up top the wind started blowing in so it was time to launch.  I had my Skywalk Cayenne 4 to pair with the Flex, along with George's front mount reserve.  Launching was easy with the split leg harness and there was no fussing around to "get into" my harness after take-off.

The biggest (coolest) difference I noticed with the harness was the feedback on thermals - the split leg/hammock design makes it incredibly easy to know which way to turn when you hit a thermal.  My one hip would noticeably rise up while the other dropped so -boom- turn to the high side and you're in the thermal.  It was a stable day with an inversion not much higher than launch, so getting that immediate feedback helped me stay up over an hour.  In fact I could have stayed up for much longer, but after that hike…well…let's just say I'm not an X-Alps athlete and I was beat.  Easy landing and after an energy drink I even contemplated doing the hike again tomorrow (what was in that can? ha ha).

I'm excited to demo the Skywalk Range Air when they ship out, it's their hike and fly pod equipped with an airbag that folds down super small by the looks of the photo.  The Flex has a removable airbag as well, something that is missing from a lot of other hike and fly harnesses.  Personally I don't care how smooth the air is on a morning flight…I prefer to have back protection every time I fly.

With another hot streak of weather predicted, more hike and fly trips are definitely on the radar.  Leave a comment if you want to come along next time!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Get high with my Join't

Skywalk has a fun sense of humour for naming their wings.  The first wing I heard of from them was the Tequila, then the Chili and now…the Join't.  How much fun will it be talking to people about "getting high with my Join't" and then pulling out a paraglider?

Anyway, I am bursting with excitement over my new tandem wing!  There's a whole ritual when unpacking a new paraglider.  Open the bag slowly to savour that new wing smell, then take a whole bunch of photos because it will never pack down that small again.

Step 1:  Look at the cool bag with the vents to let your wing breathe when packed

Step 2:  Open the bag just a little to peek at the blue sky/orange-yellow sun colour combo you picked.

Step 3:  Remove goodie bag filled with stickers, a bandana and manual

Today…today was Step 4:  Fly the new wing!  Oh my poor Join't3 sat patiently inside waiting for schedules and weather to match up and finally today we got airborne.  A hang gliding friend who wanted to see first hand what the differences were between our gliders got the chance today.  The weather was borderline…winds predicted to put a stop to flying by noon, yet barely a puff coming up at launch when we got there at 10:30.  Patience won out…eventually.  I wanted to do a reverse launch so I could inspect this brand new wing as it inflated, and we had to wait clipped in for 10 minutes until a light breeze came up the slope.

Inflation:  the wing came up just as nice and easy as my solo glider.  I was surprised since I bought a size lager (41 sq.m)  and thought it would take a lot more effort to inflate than my old size 38.  I'd flown another brand once and found the 41 a lot to manage.  But my Join't (tee hee) is actually lighter than my old tandem, thanks to new technology and lighter materials.

Flight:  I was going to pass the controls to my passenger & snap some photos, but hang glider pilots seem to find it difficult to trust our "flimsy" wings so he let me fly the whole time.  We were able to do a turn with only weight shift which surprised me since we were pretty lightly loaded.  Putting some brake into the turn got us into a nice 360 that I could have easily turned into a spiral, but we were already getting close to the landing field so no time for that. Oh, and the trimmer set-up is fantastic!  I will have to post pictures soon but for now will pass on that they are incredibly easy to adjust in flight.

Landing:  I'll admit I was nervous about landing this "big" wing.  I've been meaning to go to the gym or at least do some pushups to prepare for tandem season but…but…yeah, I didn't.  So I told Doug to look at the horizon and be prepared to run out the landing, then started pulling brakes to flare and...success!  A super easy stand up landing.  It must have everything to do with Skywalk's unique jet flaps wings because really, I've hardly done any tandems this season so I can't claim it's all skill.  Seriously, I credit those jet flaps with my improved top landings and just landings in general, so I'm excited to see if the same holds true with this Join't3.

Only one flight so far, but if this is an indication of things to come then I'm impressed with Skywalk's newest version of their tandem wing.  So come get high with me and my Join't but sorry, in-flight snacks are not included.

Doug the hang glider pilot and my Skywalk Join't 3

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

No more Gin…needing a hammock and looking to Impress

I love word games.  

The title of this post makes me giggle, but it does say everything going on with my epic harness search.

After setting up the Gin Genie Light in a simulator hanging from a tree in my boyfriend's backyard, I went up to launch with it on Sunday to fly on a 'guaranteed' XC flight.  Clouds/winds/birds all indicated a wonderfully thermic day and I was ready to be all warm and streamlined in my new pod and to explore the airways.

I elected to go first since patience is not exactly one of my virtues.  My launch was perfect, and getting my legs inside the pod was super easy.  I settled back and WHAM!  Into the first snotty little thermal and WHOOSH! I slid over to the right side of the pod.  Which caused my left wingtip to collapse and me to immediately slide over to the left side of the pod.

Huh.  By now I know I should've found some patience (that stuff I don't have much of) and waited for a size small to come in to try instead of convincing myself that a medium fit snug enough.  Crap.  I flew away from the hill a little to find some smoother air to make some adjustments, especially since I was reclining farther back than I wanted & still sliding around inside the pod. The air was a bit too active to start fiddling around so I just headed for the landing zone to try the simulator again even though I knew in my heart that the harness was just too big for me.

Determined not to give up, I asked to borrow a friend's Impress 3 pod (which has a hammock seat instead of a seatboard).  I wanted to get up into the same snotty air to do a direct comparison, and make sure it wasn't just the air or the experience of flying a pod. I've test flown a few others but it had always been in fairly smooth conditions.  So back up to take off, another clean launch and I headed right back to where I knew the air would be active.  I caught a screamer of a thermal and…OMG-I-love-this-harness.

A few weeks ago when I went to Brett's to check out the Gin, he did encourage me to try a hammock-style pod first to compare since pilots tend to love one style over the other (that lack of patience thing wouldn't let me wait).  A disadvantage of living in Canada though is our tiny pilot population, so there are very few chances to actually "try before you buy".  Borrowing from friends like I did is usually all you can do, and now that I tried them side by side, I know I'm definitely a hammock girl.  Despite the Gin being very well constructed with excellent storage space as well as loads of other fantastic features, it's just not the harness for me.  Boo.

So back to square one.  I've wanted an Impress 3 since I sat in the prototype at the Ozone Chabre in 2011 and of course its the most expensive one out there.  But for me, there's no more compromise.  A less expensive harness that doesn't fit properly isn't worth the savings.

Good thing my new tandem arrived yesterday!  Only 4 business days from the day I paid (delayed one day due to UPS…don't get me started!!!) and my sweet new Skywalk Join't 3 Tandem was in my hands.  Time to book some tandems and pay for all this gear!

Flowers courtesy of Ava from Quik Pik Flowers  who made this delivery extra special :)

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Year for Gear

As a team pilot for Skywalk, I am lucky enough to get ridiculously good prices on my personal gear, and after 4 years of flying my trusty old Advance Bibeta 4 tandem wing…I am excited to be upgrading to the new Skywalk Join't 3!

What my new baby will look like :)

I am curious to see how my old wing has held up to the hundreds of tandem flights it's been on and am planning to get a porosity check done on it this weekend.  One of the other flying schools in town has a porosity meter that sucks air through the material and measures how many seconds it takes to do so, thereby letting you know how much life is left in your wing.  Watch for pictures soon here on my blog.

And after many hours of research over which competitions I could manage to get to this year, the fact that my solo harness was sadly on it's last legs kept popping up along with the obligations of a new job in which vacation days have not yet been discussed (I know, I know).  So I decided to go all in and get a new harness too.  I'm an incredibly lucky person - after asking on Facebook for harness recommendations I received so many offers of help and special comp pilot/instructor pricing that I was blown away.  It was a hard choice to make, but I made a short list after all the advice and as much reading of forums that I could handle and went with the Gin Genie Light. It was the only harness that I was actually able to sit in prior to plunking down my hard-earned dollars for (as I ambushed our new Gin importer in Canada at his house - thanks Brett - when the local dealer was out of town).   Say hello to my new pod harness:

My harness has been patiently sitting in my glider bag for over a week but the weather has been cruel on my days off.  My shiny new tandem wing was ordered 2 days ago and it should be here next week. Now I just have to cross every finger that the forecasted sun appears this weekend and you will be subject to a babbling review and pictures.  

See you in the sky!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Women of Aviation Week

International Women's Day is celebrated worldwide on March 8.  That is also the anniversary of the first woman pilot license, which was the inspiration for Women of Aviation Worldwide week.

Paragliding (and hang gliding too) is a sport that attracts a lot more men than women, especially here in North America.  Reasons for this are debated over beer at the end of epic flying days, but one possible explanation that never seems to be brought up is lack of role models.

A lot of women start lessons because their boyfriends fly, and because it's not their own passion most of them drop out.  But would more of them stay in the sport if there were a greater number of women pilots overall?

I for one had never thought about instructing and flying tandems until I met a young female pilot who was training for her license.  Up until then almost every tandem pilot I met was a male in his late 40's or 50's, so not only a different gender but also not in my age group.  So seeing Veronica doing her tandem training totally changed my perspective and within a year of meeting her I got my own tandem rating and haven't looked back since.

So to "Fly it Forward" I'm doing my part to celebrate Women of Aviation week by (1) giving away a free instructional tandem to a female through my Facebook page and (2) joining in the festivities at the Langley Regional Airport on the weekend of March 8-9.  I have donated a tandem flight to their raffle as well, and will be set up at the airport with some gear to show the participants.  I'm thrilled to be a part of this effort to encourage women to consider careers in all types of aviation and hope to inspire some girls to take to the skies and discover how amazing flying can be!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Prepping for the 2014 flying season

Happy New Year!

Jet Set Paragliding had another successful HAGAR course over the first weekend in January, and after some great questions and discussions during class I came up with a prep list for the 2014 flying season:

1.  Ensure all paperwork and licenses are up to date

- Ham Radio License
There are a number of comps that require this so make sure you have yours before signing up.  And even though you don't need to renew your license after passing the exam, you are required to send a change of address to Industry Canada.  If you've moved or aren't sure if they have your current address on file, send an email to:

with your call sign, mailing address and phone number.

You may also want to look into aircraft radios if you are planning on flying through certain airspace, now would be a good time to do some research on cost and options.

- Local waivers signed and dues paid

The West Coast Soaring Club's season runs from November 1-October 31, and this year all members have to sign the new waiver.  Being all paid & waiver-ed up now means you don't have to worry about it when a great flying day coincides with a day off!

HPAC now sends an email reminder when your membership is up, but as an instructor I also have to ensure that both my first aid and instructor rating are up-to-date.  Check!

If you're interested in competing, you'll need to get an FAI Sporting License every year from the aeroclub website.  Well, you technically don't *need* one, but it gets you listed on the FAI world ranking among other benefits.

2.  Local Cross-Country route planning

At our HAGAR course we learned about some changes over our favourite flying site.  That dotted arrow starting from the middle of the right side of the map below shows some possible issues.

Right where the plane starts is pretty much over our launch.  The airspace we can legally fly in goes up to 6000 ft, and a few months ago this route for a commercial airliner was added to the map.  This dotted line starts at 6500 ft (which we shouldn't be flying at anyway) but as you follow the dotted line the jets descend to the Abbotsford Airport.  Just to the north of the dotted line is our westbound cross country route, so considering the planes will be descending along this route and we will be trying to do the opposite, good planning is in order before attempting this flight in the spring of 2014.  Safe landing zones along the way should be scouted out, marked with a GPS and compared to the new airspace map.  A good rainy day activity.

3.  Competition Listings and Vacation Plans

Another fun thing to do when you're working every day or the weather is awful is to plan your trips!  This year there are 3 big week-long competitions in a row (Rat Race, Chelan, and Canadian Nats).  There are also lots of fun fly-ins and informal comps to choose from, road trips to consider and if you only get 2 weeks vacation per calendar year, you might also just want to save a week to get away in rainy November.

A couple of the websites I use to plan out my year are:
and I put a selection on my own website of course:

Instead of going away, maybe you want to plan out a few days to work with an instructor to check off the skill demonstrations to achieve your next level HPAC rating, or do some coaching to improve your thermaling ability or attempt a first XC.  Contact your instructor now to discuss your goals and decide how you want to better your flying skills this year.

4. Gear Prep

Don't forget the usual - reserve repack, take your wing out kiting and carefully inspect all lines & the canopy for wear and tear and look over your whole harness.  Empty out the smelly socks and stale granola bars, charge up your radios and batteries for your instruments, and stash some cash in your flight deck so you're not caught empty handed when it's time for a ride up to launch.  Visualize yourself having flawless launches and landings at night while you fall asleep to feel more confident on that first flight of the season!

Feel free to leave comments with any other prep you do before the flying starts. Above all, have fun this year!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A shot of Tequila with a thermal chaser

The usual rain and winds of autumn have stayed away most of this month with what is probably a record-breaking number of flying days in October.  Lots of Facebook posts lately from pilots enjoying hike-and-fly adventures, and so many pictures of gorgeous fall colours seen from above.  This time of year flights are short but the bald eagles are out in full force - it seems we spend most of our flight time these days swinging our heads around to watch them swoop around us.

Fall Colours

Bald Eagle saying hello

Saturday offered an unexpected surprise with small yet lifty thermals at Woodside.  My boyfriend and I decided to trade wings for fun…he's been flying for a couple of seasons now and with consistency mixed with natural skill he has quickly become a solid pilot.  His current wing is a Skywalk Tequila 3 (an EN B beginner wing) which I'd never flown, and he'd been waiting for a calm day to try my EN C (intermediate/advanced) Skywalk Cayenne 4.  

George launched and I got a strong feeling that I'd never get my wing back as he carved into a thermal and rose above launch.  Fine…my turn now!  The Tequila 3 launched just as nice as my wing & I flew over to where some eagles had been playing.  It's been a long time since I flew a beginner wing and technology has improved so much!  The same safe behaviour was there that I remembered - after hitting any turbulence the wing resets itself promptly overhead, and there's a lot more brake travel with plenty of warning if you try to pull too much. 

George launching his Tequila on an earlier flight

I missed my first thermal since I'm used to the dynamic entry into turns with my Cayenne 4.  I flew past it then turned back, but the thermal wasn't where I thought it was.  What to do now?  I couldn't just keep sinking out and watch helplessly as George flew higher and higher...

Luckily I have a new tool on my flight deck - a shiny new 6020 combo Vario/GPS from Steve at Flytec USA.  After the Nationals we were in touch and I was offered a pro-pilot sponsorship - yippee!  My Flytec 6020 and accompanying swag arrived a little while ago, but this was the first time I brought it out to play.  One cool feature this vario has is a thermal arrow that points you back to where you last found lift.  So I flew towards the spot indicated and sure enough the thermal was right there!  Thinking it was coincidence I tried it again…and it worked...and again…and it worked...

Now there are pilots out there who bought into this technology already and know all of this but wow, this opens up a whole new way to help improve anyone's flying.  I will be going over the other amazing features in another post, but needless to say…I'm so stoked to have gotten the 6020!

After playing in some thermals I (finally) saw George setting up to land and went to join him.  I played around with the brakes some more on the way down and have got to say, I can't wait to teach students on this wing!  It's safe enough for beginners and can easily keep up with pilots as they improve and fly cross country.  Feedback from thermals is immediate yet the wing always stays rock solid above you.  It thermals easily and gives plenty of warning for newer pilots who tend to be heavy handed on their brakes.  Landing was a breeze, and I was grinning ear to ear when I touched down.  

George said he could tell right away the Cayenne 4 was an advanced wing and was more than he wanted to fly at this point.  As an instructor I was happy to hear him (as a novice pilot) make that statement.  It's a wing meant for experienced pilots with the recommended number of hours under their belts.  Needless to say, I have that experience and boy do I love my wing!

Of course there were some things George also loved about the Cayenne 4 (like the agile turns) and he's looking up to step up to a Chili soon.  That's the next category wing in the Skywalk line and a perfect move, especially with all the positive press it's been getting lately from independent testers and the XC miles being posted in online contests worldwide.  Hope he'll let me try that one too when he gets one ;)

Flying = Happiness

p.s.  Please keep an eye on my blog for an in-depth review of the Flytec 6020, as well as information on ordering from Jet Set Paragliding for the upcoming holidays (yes, it is that time already, especially when ordering products that come from overseas).