A Picture Perfect Fly-In

by Mark Cavanaugh

   Unbelievable! For the first time in years, conditions were actually flyable at The Pulpit for the Seventh Annual McConnellsburg Hang Gliding Festival. Hitting the road for an alternate site right after the pilot's meeting has been the norm... what a pleasant change it was to stay on-site. Sure made running things a lot easier! And the fantastic weather and conditions went a long way to secure an incredible turnout: well over 40 pilots registered to compete in the event. Toss in some unregistered pilots who were just there for fun, plus many friends and family, and what do you have? Perhaps the best turnout for a Pulpit Fly-In ever!

Day One
Saturday, September 25, 1999

   During lulls in registration and other tasks, I would run up the hill to the base of the new ramp in order to count gliders in the set-up area. The tally soon reached the magic 30 (my rule-of-thumb for a successful Fly-In, to cover expenses, make a donation to the McC rescue squad, etc). And the number just kept growing: 40 gliders! 50 gliders! Over 50 gliders in the set-up area at one time! Here's one of the photos I took from the left ramp, before things got really crowded:

   Flight-Director-Extrordinaire Marc Fink made the call early in the morning: we're not relocating the flying activities for the day. And some of the pilots actually hung around to hear his pronouncement:

What I wanna know: What's that pilot doing at the edge of the ramp, anyway?

And as if to confirm Marc's decision, a hawk flew by to demonstrate that conditions were soarable:

   With the wind coming straight in, pilots began diving off both the left and the right ramps by about 11:30. First off was Ellis Kim; here are photos of her launch, as well as sister FiFi-member Karen Carra:

B. Tedder captured the action from above with these two great photos:

   Many found the conditions on the ridge to be challenging, so quite a gaggle formed between launch and the LZ as pilots tried to decide whether to run the ridge or go XC. And some (including myself) were simply struggling to stay aloft in light conditions with lots of traffic. This photo by M. Graham will give you an idea of how crowded things were (but believe me, it doesn't really do the gaggle justice!):

   Through it all, the intrepid Ellis Kim flew, and flew, and flew some more.... eventually racking up over four hours of airtime:

   This was an important accomplishment, since as a Hang-II, duration translated to miles for Ellis (with a handicap to boot!). So her flight equalled, or bettered, some of those who headed down the ridge or over the back:

Christy HuddleRidge RunCompleted Task
Judy McCartyRidge Run4.0 miles
Rick HoltzRidge Run??.0 miles
Pete LehmannOver the Back24.0 miles
Larry HuffmanOver the Back7.7 miles
Jeff SeruserOver the Back8.8 miles

   The Saturday night raffle and party was an event to remember! We had a huge number of prizes to give away, and some people bought over twenty tickets to ensure their share of the booty. I think Kelly M. probably won the most prizes, and even I scored a Wills Wing 25th anniversary sweatshirt (first time I've won something!). This year's raffle donors were:

  • Highland Aerosports
  • Kitty Hawk Kites
  • Skydog Publications
  • Wills Wing

       Fireworks followed the raffle, and then the Sparkster, Jimmy L, and others treated the crowd to tunes by Dylan, CSNY, the Dead, and more. Unfortunately, I don't think many photos were taken that night; all I have is a couple shots from around the campfire. If you have something better, get your photos to me so I can add them to this page:

    Day Two
    Sunday, September 26, 1999

       We typically lose some pilots for the second day of our Fly-In, mostly due to over-indulgence and lack of sleep the night before. Even so, quite a caravan of vehicles left McConnellsburg after Marc Fink decided to relocate flying activities to Fisher Road. I counted 35 gliders in the setup area that morning:

       Winds were forecast to be SE on Sunday, and conditions at launch were initially very light. Some pilots initially view their prospects a bit skeptically:

       But conditions eventually picked up and pilots started diving off to try their luck at the day's task: flying to the Ritchie Knob turnpoint and then returning to launch. Here are two shots of Dave Proctor taking wing:

       That's all the flying photos I have for the Festival, but Sunday was an excellent day for the ridge-run task. More details about the day can be found in C. Huddle's Fifi Goes To The Fly-In article in the January 2000 issue of Hang Gliding. Particularly notable was J. McCarty's effort to lead several FiFi pilots who had never been XC down to the knob and back, which led to her completing the task three separate times that day. Here are most of the members of the FiFi-1 and FiFi-2 teams in the LZ below Ritchie's Knob:

       We all adjourned to the Pizza Hut in Breezewood after a great day of flying, for dinner and the awards presentation. Marc Fink tallied! He crunched! He figured! And the individual and team winners gradually emerged.... Here Mark Gardner accepts the Third Place Team award (and maybe a bit more? ;-) on behalf of The Mountaineers:

       Our own Christy Huddle won the Third Place Individual Trophy:

       No members of the Daedalus team were present, so Marc accepted the Second Place Team award on their behalf, and the Second Place Individual Trophy on Pete Lehmann's behalf:

       The First Place Team award went to the members of FiFi-1, largely due to the performance of Ellis Kim, Hang-II pilot extraordinaire! Her efforts garnered the First Place Individual Trophy and put FiFi-1 over the top in the final standings:

       With all the awards handed out and the competition brought to a successful conclusion, Marc can't resist a little celebrating with the members of FiFi-1 and FiFi-2:

    The complete competition results are available as a PDF file. Here are the top-three individual and team finishers:

    Individual Score
    Ellis Kim40.2
    Pete Lehmann31.0
    Christy Huddle24.7

    Team Score

    Our Seventh Annual Hang Gliding Festival was my second as Festival Organizer, so it was immensely satisfying to see everything come together so well. I'll always remember this one! My thanks to the many volunteers who helped make HgFest'99 a tremendous success.