This story sent by Chuck Pyle to the CHGPA secretary on 5/29/98, shortly after a memorable Memorial Day weekend.

Back To First-Flight Tales

Since you asked for it I'll elaborate a little on that flight and some of the more memorable pieces of the next few days.

My initial thoughts (fantasies??) (of flying at Hyner) were of catching at least a piece of the lift that had propelled half dozen other pilots so high they were mere specks in the sky. Of course, they had launched early afternoon when conditions for thermals were much more favorable (as well as extremely tricky LZ conditions!!), and I was launching late in the day as dictated (wisely) by my instructor/sponsor, John Middleton. These thoughts stayed with me all the way to launch -- where reality suddenly sunk in -- I was going to jump off a 1,300 ft cliff (easily 1,050 ft higher than I'd ever been)!!!!! If I screwed up this launch.........!! Needless to say, my thoughts became much more myopic -- from soaring high and long, to the next 4 or 5 steps! John asked, and I described my flight plan (if I survived the launch!!).

We both agreed that if there happened to be some lift around somewhere in my flight path then I could cautiously take advantage of it -- hmmm, starting to think beyond launch again; that's a good thing, isn't it?? Okay, light winds slightly crossing -- RUN HARD!!! run, Run, RUN!! Wonderful launch - RELIEF (temporarily). Flight plan?? yeah right!! My "flight plan" suddenly became, once again, very finite -- there must be at least a jillion miles between me and the LZ and I'm gonna get there as soon as I can! Launch and land -- everything in between is just RISK!! What's that noise?? Oh, that's John on the radio suggesting that I execute some 360's -- you're kidding, right? Okay, do the damn 360's, bury the bar, and GET DOWN!! -- I was thinking.

Do you remember how far away that first LZ seemed? -- and how unlikely it was that you'd actually acquired enough skill to get there and land (without injury -- to body, glider and/or pride)?? Every bad landing I'd ever made was played back in my mind's eye. The next voice I heard over the radio was Fred (of Team Raeann and Fred) saying he had me in sight and I was doing just fine -- these words would have been a lot more comforting if I were closer to the LZ and if I wasn't still doing an obligatory 360 for John!!! "Okay, Chuck" I hear Fred say, "come on toward the LZ now". This I dutifully did --"very good", I thought. "Now, I'm over the LZ and it won't be long before I'm safely down".

These thoughts had hardly passed my mind when Fred suggested, once again (calmly -- to his credit) that I should perhaps come on over to the LZ now. Hmmmmmmm -- I'm over the LZ and yet, he's still asking me to come over to the LZ -- what's up with this?? OH SHIT!! -- this is not the landing zone!! - THAT field over there is the LZ (you know, the one with all the cars, tents, people, WIND SOCKS, etc. -- the one with the guy in the middle talking on the radio!!). Fortunately, I still had ample height to come on over and safely land. Almost as fortunately, the landing was one of my better ones --- relief!!, exhilaration!! SAFE!!!!. Let's do it again!

As in so many other events in life, there can only be one "first" and this, of course, is also true with your first mountain flight -- but each subsequent flight during the following days taught me something new and important -- like my second flight, where I was doing 360's over the end of the LZ to burn off some altitude. Very subtlely, I apparently began to drift away from the field, and when I decided my height was about right for approach, I "discovered" I was too far away from the LZ for comfort!! Only through a great deal of luck did I not hit sink before I cleared the trees. Once again, I was able to learn a valuable lesson without incurring damage to anything other than pride (there were at least a million people watching!!).

The next voice I heard as I was thanking my lucky stars was that of John on the radio -- "Chuck, your launch was good, your flight was just fine -- but your approach was AWFUL!!, which we'll talk about AS SOON as I get down there!!!" I got my well deserved chewing out -- as only John can chew!! -- at least he didn't invoke the specter of fatherless children and grieving parents as one of my H2 colleagues got on the following day (again -- fully deserved!).

Camping along the LZ was an experience -- lot's of camaraderie around the campfires. The stories that were told of "the old days" and of past Hyner "happenings" were entertaining, if not, in some cases, downright frightening!! One of the nice things about camping along the LZ was that I could be with lot's of other good folks which I very much enjoyed -- yet, when I wanted, I could just walk a short distance down to the river in the evening and sit at the river's edge and play my flute in complete solitude just soaking up the karma of the river, the evening breeze whispering through the trees and the mountains.