Chronicles of my visits to Morningside NH during past two years

A local family and I made plans to travel to/from Morningside Flight
Park on this Friday. The weather was forecast to be mostly sunny, with
some light and variable winds, despite approaching Tropical Storm Danny.
I phoned Steve Prepost at MFP, and he confirmed that conditions would be
good enough for Joelle’s tandem flight – and maybe good enough for some
flights of my own. (Joelle was 10 years old then.)

I bicycled to Priscilla’s new home in Albany, arriving there at about
9:30am. Joel was already there, and the two youngsters were about ready
for the 2.5-hour trip to Morningside FP. Unfortunately, Priscilla had
an upset stomach, so she was too ill to make the long round-trip. So,
at around 10am, Joel drove while I was in front passenger seat, and his
kids rode in the back seats.

We followed the directions to the site I had, stopping at a conven-
ience store on Route 7 near Vermont, then arriving at Morningside around
noon. The trip went smoothly, and Joel enjoyed looking at the many tall
hills and mountains and so much greenery. We met Jeff Nicolay and Steve
Prepost and April Macklin (who flew the tug plane at Quest Air some
months before). Joelle was excited and nervous, and Joel read and com-
pleted paperwork and waivers. I paid the remaining $55 for Joelle’s
first-ever flight in any kind of aircraft, and we ambled around the large
‘hangar’ for some minutes.

The wind was blowing lightly mostly from the east, hence the whole
training hill was deserted, as it faces mostly west, and no one could or
would fly in such downwind conditions. Joel, the kids, and I walked to
the tandem flight staging area by the cornfield at south end of long
grass airstrip while Steve and Rhett (tug pilot) went ahead on scooters.
Minutes later, Joelle was carefully climbing into the passenger’s tandem
harness while Steve briefed her on how to do that, what to expect during
the flight, etc. Meanwhile, Rhett and a trainee tug pilot flew the
green tug plane for 20 minutes around the region, but they soon landed
and readied also for the tandem aerotow.

Joelle happily swung around in the suspended harness, then Steve
also got ready and climbed into the pilot-in-command’s harness. Joel
stood to the side of the big glider, with small Yngwie on his shoulders,
while I placed myself a couple hundred yards down the ‘runway’ to get a
good video of the taxi and takeoff. April acted as ground crew, signal-
ling Rhett to take up the tow line slack, checking for air traffic, etc.

While I rolled the tape, Rhett accelerated the tug plane to takeoff
speed, and the white-and-orange tandem glider lifted off quickly with
lightweight Joelle and pilot Steve! I could hear Joelle squealing in
awe and excitement as the ensemble whizzed past me, bound for the sky!
I then trotted back toward the cornfield where Joel, Yngwie, April, and
a few others watched. I took some video of a pilot’s flight out of the
450-foot ramp, and another from 150 feet up the training hill. The sun
was directly shining more, larger blue areas opened in the clouds, and
the wind was gently blowing much more west – the favorable direction.

Some minutes later, we could see Steve and Joelle preparing to land,
so I resumed video taping their tandem flight. I stood just to the side
of the middle of the grass strip as they turned and gracefully swooped
in for a gentle on-the-wheels landing, rolling to a stop in the mowed
grass. Joelle ‘counted down’ the seconds of airtime; I could hear her
exclaiming, “18…17…16…15…” I walked up to the glider where she
and Steve were standing up, still harnessed, and Joelle blurted out,
“Awesome…I want to do it again!”

Steve carefully extracted the DVD that was made of Joelle’s flight,
installing a fresh battery to ensure it ‘burned’ ok onto disk from the
camera’s memory. Then I and Joel and Joelle and Yngwie made our way
back to the Morningside complex of buildings and sloped asphalt apron;
I carried Joelle on my shoulders part of the way. We sat down and had
lunch, and while Steve went out to eat, I walked around the flat area
of landing zone, paying special attention to the concentric ‘rings’ of
grown vegetation that mark the target ‘bulls-eye.’ I noted that the
taller grass is atop small ridges of soil, so that could be a potential
tripping hazard while running into it.

Steve returned, and he and Jeff Nicolay OK’d my use of a helmet,
harness, and glider for some flights from low on the gently-sloped
training hill. I carefully rolled out the glider, which was upright on
its control bar but with wings rolled and tied, to the staging area
across from the landing zone. I slowly set up the glider, gingerly
spreading its wings, sliding in the battens, tying them in place with
the strings, and tensioning the crossbars. I put on harness and helmet
and carried the glider up to the 60-foot level where Steve and Jeff
awaited with another student pilot.

Flight #1: For the very first time, I got more than a second or
two of air time at Morningside, having just barely skimmed the ground
during my only other training hill session just over a year before. I
ran many steps because of the shallow slope, but got airborne OK, flew
level at a good airspeed, and landed gracefully on feet a few yards
beyond the outer target circle.

After I carried the glider back up to the 65-foot level, Steve had
me do the following: go with grapevine grip as usual, but keep my hands
well down on the uprights – near hip height, not chest height – for far
better pitch and roll control and feel of the control bar. Also, I
needed to hold the glider’s nose 10 degrees or so above the horizon – I
held the nose too low for the gentle slope, being accustomed to the much
steeper slopes of Susquehanna Flight Park’s hills and mounds. Finally,
my elbows needed to be pointing outward and kept away from my sides, not
tucked in which reduces feel and proper leverage.

Flight #2 thru #10: Steve reminded me about my hand and elbow and
glider nose positioning for the next few flights, then he left the hill
to fly tandem with a few more eager passengers. I noticed that indeed
I felt more relaxed and that the glider was easier to control and fly
with my hands well down the uprights, elbows out from my sides. Things
felt more balanced and ‘symmetrical’ – I could pull in as readily as I
could push out, shift body to either side for graceful shallow turns,
and slide hands up to shoulder height during final seconds of flight for
good landing flares.

I slowed to well below trim since the ground continued to very gen-
tly slope downhill as I glided over the target, so all my landings were
a little bit downhill, prolonging the ground-effect phase and delaying
the flare. I landed on feet 7 out of 10 times (on the wheels and belly
twice, on my knees once). I took off more readily and got more clear of
the terrain thanks to good runs and the more-nose-up attitude of the gli-
der. I was sometimes a little slow during flight, and skimmed the ground
more than necessary, but I was still scoping out the gentler lay of the

I made one flight from 30 feet up the hill; that was too low, and
I skimmed the ground, not wanting to ease out the bar and risk a stall.
The wind meanwhile was blowing more and more from the north, and very
high clouds showed a NW to SE drift. After my 10th flight, I decided
that the wind was too constantly from the north, meaning crosswind take-
offs, so I left the hill and broke down the rented glider near its ‘han-
gar,’ rolling up and tying the sails after collecting the battens in
their bag. Joel took video of six of my 10 flights, and I subsequently
uploaded the footage to YouTube, along with that of Joelle’s tandem
takeoff and landing.

The youngsters played in a sandbox and rode on plastic ‘vehicles’
up and down the sloped asphalt and grassy areas near the buildings. I
paid Steve a total of sixty dollars for the site usage, equipment rental,
and impromptu but important instruction. I rolled the glider to where
the other folded-up gliders were nestled, and slowly maneuvered the wing
underneath the others, nesting it like shopping carts.

Steve looked at my flight log just after I filled out part of it,
documenting and commenting on my first 5 flights especially. I then
strolled to Joel’s car, and we summoned the youngsters to it for the
trip home. It was about 6pm by now, and darker clouds were gathering
to the north and west. We went back part of the way we came, getting
to Route 91 and then 103, but turning 90 degrees left too early onto
Route 30 South which actually went southeast toward Brattleboro. We
stopped to get directions, and took Route 100 toward Wilmington and
Route 9 West to Bennington and then NYS Route 7 toward home. Gentle
rain fell during most of trip, and windshield wipers smeared the water,
hindering visibility. The car heaters and defoggers didn’t work, so
Joel and I regularly wiped the inside of the windshield to remove its
foggy buildup.

We stopped at the Friendly’s on Hoosick Street (Route 7) in Troy,
and I drank two delicious chocolate shakes. Joel and the youngsters had
various food and drinks. I paid part of the tip and meals, then we con-
tinued to Frisbie Avenue in Albany, arriving there around 10pm. Pris-
cilla was feeling better, but we forgot to bring her food. Rain was
still falling, so I loaded my ‘winter rat’ bicycle into the car trunk,
then Joel took me home to Delmar. Grateful for the dry and safe ride in
the wet, chilly darkness, I removed bicycle, rolled it into garage, and
bade good-bye to Joel.

I took a shower, read more of Pagen’s book about beginning hang gli-
ding flight, and went to sleep around 11:30pm.

Total of 10 flights.

On this rainy, overcast Saturday, my mom and I prepared to travel
together to Ascutney VT, about 10 miles from Morningside Flight Park.
We carefully packed our suitcases, bags, blankets, and pillows, and
left Delmar at about 10:30.

Ma drove north on 787 to Troy, turning east onto Hoosick Street.
We stopped at a filling station near Hoosick NY, got snacks, and con-
tinued straight along Route 7 to Route 9 to Bennington VT. It was
about noon, and we went onto North Street, near the main street, to
shop at the Goodwill store. Weather was mostly cloudy and cool. I
bought an old Asimov book about electricity and magnetism, plus anoth-
er entitled “Day in the Life of America.”

Ma and I then continued along hilly, winding Route 7 to Brattleboro,
encountering lots of fog, mist, and rain mostly in the mountains. We
stopped at a Friendly’s restaurant just off Exit 3 of I-91, where I had
a milk shake with my Chee-Tos. We then continued to Exit 7 and made
our way the remaining 7 miles to Morningside FP during the very rainy

The site looked deserted, with just a few vehicles and nobody on the
hill because of the wet weather. I went inside the large ‘hangar’ to
say ‘hello’ to Steve Prepost, and we looked at a video Steve made. Then
I returned to Ma’s car, and we continued ride to Ascutney, crossing back
into VT, carefully following the directions I printed, and arrived at
the Ascutney Holiday Inn Resort hotel at about 5pm after a quick stop
at the Ascutney Market. We made our away around the eastern and part of
northern flank of Mt. Ascutney, via Routes 43, 44, 44A.

We unloaded all our belongings from car during the misty, damp after-
noon, rolling them on a large cart to Room 2336. The room was really
a fully-equipped and furnished suite, with a big kitchen, living room/
dining room, two bathrooms, and 2 bedrooms at opposite ends. All very
clean and bright and spacious. I took the smaller cozy darker bedroom
while Ma settled into much larger BR that had the skylight. We snacked,
played a game of Scrabble, and readied for the quick drive to the swim-
ming pool in the separate, large health club building.

I took hot shower at the site and swam with ma for about 40 minutes
in the pleasantly warm pool, tossing a volleyball up high and watching
it splash down. I remarked on the whitish ceiling’s very “frosted”
appearance, with its bulbous blobs of insulation. After the relaxing
swim in largish pool, where there was only one other person, we drove
back to large fancy hotel and walked up the single flight of carpeted
steps to our large suite.

I unpacked belongings and prepared backpack and bicycle for the
hour-long ride to Morningside FP the following morning. I read a book
about number theory and went to bed around 11pm. I turned on fan ‘high’
to help mask sound of loud television from adjacent room.

(no flights today; rainy)


On this misty, chilly but calm Sunday morning, I awoke at about
8am and quietly dressed and snacked, then walked outside to my bicycle,
which was covered with dew. I pedaled around the north and east bases
of Mt. Ascutney, and crossed into NH around 9:30am over the bridge
spanning the Connecticut River. I continued onto the Route 11/12 By-
pass, then to Grissom Road, first passing the “Le Moo Dairy Barn,” a
Jehovah’s Witnesses facility, and large recycling plants. I turned
onto dusty, bumpy but paved Morningside Lane and slowly pedaled rest of
the way to the Morningside FP grounds. Most of the mist was ‘burning’
off, wind was very gentle, and ground was moist but drying out.

I met Steve P and Jeff N among some other pilots. A few trainees
were on the hill, and about 15 gliders were already set up. I paid
the staff $60 ($20 for hill use, $40 for glider rental) and rolled out
a purple-and-white Falcon 195. I carefully set up the glider, inserted
all its battens, and gave it thorough preflight. Steve meanwhile got
ready for numerous tandem flights, and cleared me for launching from
the 150′ hill. I decided to first ‘warm up’ at the 50-to-70-foot ver-
tical levels.

For every flight, I carried or rolled the glider up the hill: I
decided to not spend the $3.50 per motorized ride up. The mist and fog
all dissipated, and winds very gradually increased during the rest of
morning and early afternoon.

Flight #1: A weak takeoff; I ‘jumped’ into glider a bit and tried
to go airborne too soon. I remembered to start at a more nose-up atti-
tude than I had at Cooperstown, since the Morningside FP terrain has a
much flatter slope. I lifted off with too little airspeed, was too
close to the gently sloping hill, and softly landed on belly, sliding
down the hill about 50 feet or so.

Flight #2: I started at 70′ up; my previous launch from 50′ was
just too low in so slight a wind (2 MPH). Takeoff was better, though
I needed to keep running hard. I was too used to the much steeper
slope at Cooperstown, which makes getting into air with enough airspeed
almost too easy. I started with grapevine grip as usual, but didn’t
slide hands WELL down the uprights to just a fist’s length from the
large wheels on the base tube. I managed to land on feet, though run-
ning out the landing; I was too slow on Final glide and flared a bit

Flight #3: I had a decent takeoff from 100 feet high, running
harder and gracefully transitioning into the air. Steve and another
instructor also reminded me to keep an OPEN grip on the uprights, not
wrapping or clenching the fist around them, keeping thumb near the
fingers to preserve best ‘feel’ of the whole glider. I pulled in for
Final, had a long glide – so long, in fact, that I well overflew the
mowed target landing circles, flew over a deep drainage ditch, and
made a good flared landing next to Morningside Lane! I trudged back
along the flat ground, stepping into the deep ditch and getting sneak-
ers very wet, and laboriously made my way up to the 150′ level of
hill, again keeping well to its left (as seen from Morningside Lane)
to keep clear of trainees at the center and right side of hill).

Flights #4, 5, 6: Starting so high on the hill, I had plenty of
room and time to run hard, accelerating the glider aggressively to
enough airspeed and smoothly going aloft. My hands were still too high
on the uprights after takeoffs; I needed to make conscious effort to
slide them well DOWN the uprights, keeping ‘open grip’ position. I
landed on belly once, but on feet, with a few steps, the other two
times. My Finals were a bit slow – need to pull in more! – and flared
a bit late. I slightly ground-looped on one landing when the left wing
dropped slightly just before landing; wind was about 5 MPH and may have
crossed my flight path.

I took a break and drank more Hawaiian Punch at the picnic table,
washed a few dishes, and watched some other pilots launching from high-
er up the whole hill. I resumed glides at about 11:30am while the wind
slowly strengthened to about 8 – 10 MPH.

Flights #7, 8, 9: Good takeoffs, though two times I slightly jumped
into the glider, resulting in a bit of jerkiness as I went airborne.
Still need to drop those hands way down those uprights! One turn onto
Final – so as to avoid overshooting the target and landing on the road
or beyond – was too little and too low, so I had to turn too sharply,
and risked stalling a wing. Fortunately, I detected this, pulled in
enough, and landed without mishap. I needed to ‘steer’ the uprights
like a shopping cart, and not use legs to shift weight, as that would
exaggerate the center-of-gravity change and quickly cause overcontrol-
ling and/or oscillations, both very harmful.

Flights #10, 11, 12: I started each at a flatter, more-sheltered
area of the hill, but needlessly took risk of ‘hiding’ from a crossing
north wind behind a mound on the hill; Steve and Jeff pointed out that
I was in an area of rotor – churning, mixing, sometimes downslope air
that greatly complicates takeoffs and glides. So I prudently moved
takeoff spots to a more exposed-to-wind area of hill, where the air was
much smoother and more predictable – plus, I could see all the stream-
ers and flags better! My takeoffs were good, though I had to run harder
and further on the opposite side of hill, where its slope was yet flat-
ter. I lifted off OK, but was a bit slow on Final glides and sank too
readily to the ground, missing out ground effect’s best potential. I
flew too slowly for the stronger wind conditions, having been (too?)
used to the gentler air and steeper slopes at Cooperstown FP.

I rested about an hour, fatigued from carrying the 55-pound glider
up the long hill a dozen times. The wind stayed relatively strong at
about 10 MPH, so my last 6 flights of the day were from 100 feet or
lower. A cold front was starting to blow through, as Steve and Jeff
observed, with more north (crossing) wind and less west wind.

Flights 13 thru 18: I launched from a shallow ‘knob’ near the
center of the hill at its 100-foot level. Takeoffs were OK, and I safe-
ly cleared the terrain, going airborne well under control each time. I
again didn’t drop hands well down the uprights, and made extra efforts
to do so. I crossed ankles during flights except within a few seconds
of takeoffs and landings, thus reducing some drag and oscillation poten-
tial. I needed to look more at where I wanted to go; sometimes my gaze
was directed too much straight forward – toward the opposite hill across
the shallow valley – or too much down, no more than 100 to 300 feet
ahead. I flared a bit early on 3 flights, ballooning up a few feet and
‘parachuting’ down onto my feet with a thud. I needed to PULL IN the
control bar more to ‘slice’ better through the (crossing) wind, thus not
letting the wind push around the glider as much!

I set up at 100′ for 19th flight of day, but abandoned it when the
glider blew over in a gust, while I was hooked into it! This was the
first time this happened to me, and it was very embarrassing and rather
upsetting. Doubtless Jeff and other pilots saw this occur, while I was
toppled sideways onto the underside of front of the wing. I managed to
unhook and pivoted the upside-down glider on its kingpost to let the
wind right it. Shaken up a bit but physically unhurt, I slowly walked
the glider down the whole hill, carefully broke it down and packed it,
and wheeled it into its hangar. Wind conditions were too strong; it
was about 4pm, a time of day when ground-level air is near peak activ-

I took some video of others’ flights and waited for my ma to arrive.
She had gone to Woodstock VT for much of the day, acquiring some ‘arts
and crafts’ goodies and fragile dishes. Ma arrived around 5pm, and we
chatted and watched the paraglider and some hang glider pilots launching
from the 450′ top of the whole hill. Jeff had some PG pilots load up in
his big black pickup truck, and I asked if my ma and I could ride along
in front seat. Jeff gave us permission, and we rode to the top launch
for our first times – I as well as my ma had never been to the top!

Jeff slowly drove along the curving but mostly paved narrow access
road, passing through some woods near the top, and unloading his passen-
ger cargo. Weather was still sunny but partly cloudy and breezy. To
our right, PG pilots lined up to launch from a long, narrow ‘slot’ in
the brush. To our left, HG pilots waited at an raised, flat chunk of
ground, with a very steep (though not vertical) drop ahead. I could
see the landing target just ‘above’ the dense line of trees, and it
looked like it was a 3-to-1 glide away – reachable only via numerous
turns especially during gently windy or calm conditions.

Jeff and my ma and I talked about the site and about some of Jeff’s
beginnings with it, e.g., acquiring and preparing the land, camping on
the grounds, flight operations, etc. Then he drove while my mom and I
rode down the hill to the gravelly parking lot. I bade good-bye to the
fellow pilots nearby and my mom and I left Morningside after watching a
HG pilot glide over the road – almost over our car – to a landing well
beyond the target circle. Ma drove to Routes 11/12, Grissom Road, the
Bypass, back into VT, and again stopping at Ascutney Market for drinks
and goodies before continuing around the base of Mt. Ascutney and arri-
ving at hotel at about 6:30pm.

We played another Scrabble game, and went for another swim at the
health club’s pool. I then packed up all items since we were checking
out the following morning. I walked around the hotel grounds a bit,
looked at the numerous brochures, then returned to the hotel suite
and gazed at the large pond just below and the more distant ski lifts
and slopes of Mt. Ascutney. I went to bed around 11pm after reading
more of number theory book. At about 1am, I awoke and wrote all flight
log notes, plus extra notes on 8.5″ x 11″ paper, before going back to

Total of 18 flights.

On this chillier, much more clear Monday morning, I awoke at about
7:30, dressed, and took extensive video of the suite, some of hotel
including its recreation room just down the corridor, and the surround-
ing grounds. I walked around with the camcorder for about 45 minutes,
getting video of the ski lift towers, trails, maps, and large pond.

Ma got up at around 9am, and we finished packing, removed all food
and drinks, and checked out at 9:50am. I loaded all our belongings into
the car (my bicycle was already dismantled and in the trunk), and we
left the Holiday Inn Resort at 10am, driving directly to Morningside FP.
Ma dropped me off there, and she went back north to explore Charlestown
NH, the nearest sizable settlement.

I checked in at the hangar, noted that the wind was already about
8 MPH and slowly increasing, and paid the $20 site fee. 3 trainees
were on the middle of the hill, and an instructor (neither Steve nor
Jeff) was with them. They were using all the training gliders, and
after some awkward waiting and inquiries, Jeff Nicolay graciously
granted me use of his used red-and-white Falcon II 195. Happily, I
carefully set it up and preflighted it, then again borrowed an orange
helmet and a light-blue ‘bib’ harness.

I slowly carried and rolled the big glider across the landing zone
(target circle area) and up the extreme left side of the large hill to
keep clear of the 3 trainees who were launching from about 20 to 50
feet up the center of the hill. I continued up to the 150-foot level.
Often there was air drifting or blowing gently DOWN the hill, so I
patiently waited and watched the various streamers and flags for a
favorable (from due west) breeze. Sometimes there were gusts so strong
that they pitched up the nose and/or a wing, and I had to stand by the
nose, just in front of it, and hold the nose wires to prevent a blow-
over. I succeeded – unlike yesterday, I had no blow-over incidents on
the hill.

Flights #1 thru 4: These were my only ones of the day, due to rap-
idly building wind conditions. My takeoffs were generally good, and I
remembered to slide my hands well down the uprights almost to the small
6″ wheels that Jeff had me attach earlier to glider. My airspeed con-
trol was good, and I judged wind conditions accurately enough, NOT laun-
ching until I felt certain I could land safely, NOT gliding downwind or
too crosswind. I landed on feet with some jogging steps for flight #19
but rolled in on the small wheels through the tall, still-damp grass on
the 20th. For last two flights, I flared slightly earlier, dropping
onto my feet from 2 or 3 feet up. I pulled in more on Final to help
overcome the effects of livelier air, and banked turns onto Final more
gently, lessening risk of stalling or overcontrolling.

I then carried the glider toward the hangar and paused, turning it
tail into the wind a couple seconds before setting it down. The glider
almost blew over, and Jeff chastised me for my poor ground handling.
After some minutes, I carefully picked up glider, turned its nose into
the wind, and carried it to a spot very near the hangar. I again star-
ted to set it down, wrongly turned its tail into wind for parked posi-
tion, and the glider promptly blew over! Upset, I rushed some steps
after it, and Steve came running and helped me catch it and right it.
He was also exasperated, and we quickly agreed that conditions were too
strong for me. I decided to break down the glider and pack it up then
and there, and I was left alone as I did so. I was very embarrassed and
wanted to just ‘sink out of sight’ after this foolish and inexcusable
2nd blow-over incident.

My ma had meanwhile arrived and saw the blow-over, as did a few
other pilots, one of whom chastised me for almost stepping on a $900
streamlined control bar. After I shakily put away the borrowed glider,
I paid Jeff an extra $60 in cash in case there was any (slight?) damage
to it. My mom and I then left, and for my 1st time ever, I was happy
and relieved to be leaving a hang gliding site. We drove to Route 91
during the partly cloudy, cooler, and very windy day and again stopped
at the Friendly’s near Exit 3 of Route 91. We continued to Route 9,
back through the mountains of southern VT, and to Route 7, through Troy
NY, and back to 787 South, Delmar Bypass, and home.

I called Dan, Keith, and Amy, and told them and the SNYHGPA group of
my two glider blow-over incidents, and thanked the staff at Morningside
FP for their generosity of spirit and graciously letting me use their
equipment and their site.

Total of 4 flights.

# # #

R.I.P. Jeff Nicolay. So sorry you are gone from us all way, way too soon!!!

John Morse, a current H-3 pilot near Albany NY

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