Yesterday, kiting was a complete mystery. Bringing up the wing was pretty straightforward—hold the A-lines (the ones nearest to the leading edge of the wing) and lift up. There wasn't much wind so we had to run really fast/hard to keep it aloft. Once the wing was overhead, the rest was basically a crapshoot. Invariably the whole thing would collapse no matter what input I provided with the brake toggles.
This morning, I had an "aha" moment. With our instructor Joe's help, I stopped worrying about the brake toggles and focused on running hard enough to keep pressure on the kiting harness. This caused the wing to (mostly) fly itself. Once that was cemented into muscle memory, I resumed trying to control the wing with my brake toggles. Happily, as long as the lines were "loaded," this actually worked!
Best of all, once the wind picked up a bit, we were able to do reverse launches of the wing and kite walking / leaning backwards. No more running like mad to keep the thing in the air!
The best time for new pilots flying and kiting is early morning and evening, when winds are relatively light. This time of year in Valley Springs, that leaves us with roughly six hours between on-field training sessions. Today, we used that time to get in the simulator, which is over at the BlackHawk shop. In lieu of walking in the insane heat, we drove the ranch's gator!
Working in the simulator was really enlightening. We were essentially dangling in a contraption that mimics what it's like to be in the air. We went over all the buckles and straps, got to see what it feels like when the motor is running, learned how to respond to its torque, how to change direction by shifting our weight in the seat, etc. The expression on Tara's face when she gunned the engine was infectious—the moment she flashed that cheeky grin, I thought "god damn I love this woman." I'm so thankful for her courage and sense of adventure. Best partner ever.
We also spent time assembling our fellow students machines. While this was very informative, the guys were pretty annoyed—I guess this stuff was supposed to be done for them when they arrived.
Later in the day, when it finally cooled off and the wind died down, we did our first tows—being pulled into the air by a winch on the other side of the field. This really cemented my understanding of how to steer the wing. With constant pressure on the lines, the control inputs were super intuitive. Not having to sprint down the field under my own power was pretty great, and flying through the air silently was a total thrill!
I can't wait to take off under my own power!