Dave, Alistair and I made our way up to the Forclaz launch just after breakfast to pick up our hire car. Jason had left it there yesterday after he had made his way back to launch. Alistair went for a quick sled run and Dave and I drove both cars back down the mountain. We were surprised to see so many people setting up on the mat. The SIV courses and local paragliding schools like to get their students off the mat in the calm conditions before midday.
A novice pilot makes an unsuccessful attempt to launch and ends up in a heap below the take off mat. The instructor radios useful advice as he takes a tumble!
How launch should be done...
Dave at a busy Forclaz launch, just after a great launch by Alistair
An SIV student sets off with a lifevest and radio ready to perform manouevres over the lake before landing at the SIV landing field.
Jason, Dave, Alistair and I all head off to see if we can get a morning flight at Entrevernes. It's a nice site (small launch) that sometimes offers the potential to do some ridge hopping XC flying, but today it was not looking promising. Despite everything telling me to pack up and go, I stupidly decided to launch. The reason the windsock was mostly pointing away from the hill was exactly as I had suspected. As soon as I was more than 50 feet from the hill I was in ass-kicking rotor. It had been moderated by periodic thermals closer to the hill, but now I was on desparate dash to the Doussard landing field trying to keep my usually stable wing flying. I radioed the others not attempt to launch, but they didn't even have their gliders out of the bag so I needn't have bothered... and yes I do only have one hand on the brakes at launch as I fly through a small tree.
After my exciting escape from Entrevernes in the morning we met up with Tom Payne, a british tandem pilot living in Geneva. Tom has bravely volunteered to drop Jason from his tandem wing. This is despite the fact that Jason has never tried this before and Tom will be well below the minimum wing loading on the tandem once Jason makes his exit.
Jason makes final checks to his set up on an empty Forclaz launch mat in the minutes before sunset. After all the talk, the moment of truth is rapidly approaching. Jason will soon find out if the 'mushroom pack' method works.
Tom Payne lays out his tandem wing as the sun sets behind Roc de Boeuf. The evening air will be smooth and make Tom's flight a little easier once Jason has deployed, however there is no wind at launch which means they will be doing an alpine launch with two people on a harness configuration they have not yet flown. With Jason suspended beneath Tom for the launch there is every possibility that he will be running through the bushes before they are both flying. The consequences of a bad launch would be bad!
Jason moves in to position holding the d-bag like a giant pillow. This will be a first for both pilots. There is hardly anyone around at launch, which is good, because both Tom and Jason need to focus right now on checking and double checking all their gear. Once they commit to launch there will be no going back. They discuss 'failure modes' and make final preparations.
Jason runs through his final release checks and hopes that all the preparation, research and planning has paid off.
Safely on the ground. Both pilots celebrate a successful (if not graceful) launch and deployment.