Ramping it up

It’s a long time since I’ve had butterflies in the stomach on a hang glider launch. I’ll admit that Mt Buffalo always gave me butterflies, but I haven’t flown there for a decade or so. Last weekend I got the chance to fly Mt Donna Buang for the first time, and the butterflies resurfaced.


Donna’s a pretty site, sitting 3150ft above Warburton in the Yarra Valley. The launch is a expanded mesh ramp and a deep slot in the trees that you have to launch into and fly out of.
If there had been any wind to speak of, it wouldn’t have been so bad, but the day was mild with only a breath of a breeze. Since you can’t fly a floater hang glider at Donna because the landing area is so far away (you’d land short in fields belonging to unsympathetic farmers), I took the ATOS. This would be the first time I would do an inland footlaunch and landing with this glider. To do so in nil wind conditions at a whole new site was an added level of stress.
Steve Norman and I set up our ATOS’s by the side of the road, deeming it too difficult to manhandle them down from the normal setup area. This meant scrabbling about in some long grass, and I managed to pick up a couple of leeches, and bled copiously when they were removed.
Like me, Steve hadn’t flown Donna before, but he was impatient and launched first. His flight showed that there was lift about, but very light and not extending much if any above hill height. As he hung about in the valley, two flex wings launched, and then I took to the ramp.
After a hard run, I dived off the ramp and zoomed out of the slot. I found light lift on the hill, but it was very poor; I eventually headed out over the valley, finding lift over the landing field and taking it back to takeoff altitude.
Eventually everyone (about 8 gliders) launched, and we all milled about in the valley for an hour or so.
My landing was good, but I spoilt it by not properly running it out properly and subsequently dropped the bar.
Of course, then we had to go retrieve the 2 cars that had been left at the top of the hill, which took another hour. Then an hour and a half drive home.
Donna’s a lot of fun, but the logistics of getting there, getting to the top, waiting for the right wind, risking not catching a thermal and the long turnaround all remind me of why I turned to nanolights!

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