Last Updated: 7/31/2023
Site Director: John Atwood
Wind Direction: Ideal 235 from the left and 245 from the right
Wind Speeds: H3 (minimum 5, ideal 10, maximum 15) / P3 (minimum 5, ideal 8, maximum 10)
Glide ratio to Primary LZ: 4.7
What’s App Channel West Rutland
West Rutland is a southwest facing ridge. Many pilots have their first mountain flights here. It offers a variety of flying conditions, from sled rides, ridge soaring, thermal soaring, and glassy wonder-wind soaring. It is well known for the 4×4 drive to the top.
We meet at “The Pit”. The pit is a working farm lot where farm equipment is parked and manure stored. Park your vehicles out of the way of the farm equipment and off of the access tracks. Roll up your windows to prevent a vehicle full of flies. Consolidate gliders and pilots into as few 4WD vehicles as possible for the drive to launch. There is limited parking at launch. On busy days it is advisable to make arrangements to drive vehicles back down to the pit to leave room for other vehicles to arrive and unload.
Head east on Route 4A, pass under Interstate 4 and immediately turn left onto Whipple Hollow Road. Turn off onto the launch access road, pass through the locked gate, engage 4WD, be kind to the road and drive to launch.
There is a small parking lot with space for a few vehicles just beyond the gate. There are also a few spots to park along Whipple Hollow road. Only use this parking lot if you are hiking the road. Otherwise park in the Pit.
- An H2/P2 rated pilot may launch if supervised by observer or approved mentor.
- An H2/P2 rated pilot may launch if supervised by an H4/P4 or higher rated pilot that is not an observer or mentor if the H2/P2 pilot previously launched here and the official observer or mentor gave permission to the H2/P2 pilot to launch while supervised by an H4/P4 or higher rated pilot.
- All pilots must sign the state waiver annually and be current members of USHPA & VHPA.
Flight Descriptions & Environmental Factors
Offers good ridge soaring and frequent wonder-wind conditions. The local terrain produces thermals if conditions are at all favorable.
Soarable on calm to moderate southwest days. Usually soarable and pleasant on light south or light west days as well.
- The launch is near a natural gap along a long ridge line. Air flows through the valley in front of launch and speeds up as it flows through the more narrow gap. Pilots have measured wind speed above the ridge at 10mph, while in the gap, the wind speed was measured at 30mph. Don’t get caught in the gap with a glider that can not penetrate stronger winds.
- Light south days are fine, however, as the wind speed increases turbulence increases as air flows over a point (Birds Eye) on the other side of the valley. There are exciting stories that start with pilots launching on strong south days. Expect to encounter a layer of turbulence as you cross Route 4. This layer is especially noticeable if you are landing in the Jake’s Old House LZ. Lower air time pilots would do well to avoid this LZ in favor of the Primary LZ or Herbert’s field.
- West winds funnel through the valley compressing at the eastern entrance (to the left off of launch). Avoid flying in this area unless it is a very light wind day and you are sure that you can push upwind to the LZs.
- Do not land in the old dome field, this is now a horse farm.
- From launch you may not be able to see weather systems to the north (over the back), or to the south (across the valley). These systems can push or pull large amounts of air, changing the wind direction in the valley suddenly. If there are such weather systems in the vicinity is is best not to launch. Check weather radar to make sure you are aware of systems that you cannot see.
Spring Time Conditions
Spring presents specific challenges for West Rutland. Most of the LZs are low lying and are flooded for most of the spring. Check the conditions of the LZs before you fly! Both the Primary LZ (LZ 1), and Herbert’s (LZ 3) are in a floodplain. All of the LZs are active hay fields. They are not mowed until they are dry enough for equipment to get in safely. Grass may be too high to land safely, it may also obscure water and mud. All LZs are treated with manure at least once per year. Jakes Old House (LZ 2) is higher up and does not flood, but it can be very soft.
The road to launch can be hard to navigate in spring. Please check current conditions before going. Hike and Fly is always an option and is strongly encouraged, especially in the spring when the road is likely to be very wet and soft.
Top landing is only permitted for:
- P4 pilots with at least 50 top landings at other sites
- Experienced P3 pilots who have been briefed on the ground about the top landing approach and are under the active supervision of an Instructor or Observer during the Top Landing attempt.
- Top landing is always optional. If something is not quite right with the approach turn out and try again, or land elsewhere.
- Do not attempt top landing while other pilots are on launch waiting to take off.
- Do not attempt top landing in strong thermic or gusty conditions.
- The safest approach is to fly in at a constant altitude with moderate speed, touch down just behind the ramp, and flare asymmetrically to bring the glider to a stop into wind.
- Avoid excessive slow flight or ‘flapping’ to reduce altitude. These techniques can easily lead to an unexpected stall from a significant height, especially in variable winds.
- If you do decide to use the ‘flapping’ technique make sure that you do so out of your harness, ready to land, below an altitude where you could safely PLF if you had to.
Launch: Ramp (43.617856, -73.081289)
Elevation: 1839′ (561 meters)
Direction: Ideal 235 from the left and 245 from the right
Wind: Works best in calm to moderate southwest winds, but is usable in light south through light west winds
Wind Speeds: HG Min. 5, Ideal 10, Max. 15 / PG Min. 5, Ideal 8, Max. 10
Covered metal ramp facing southwest.
Most hang gliding pilots find the launch very comfortable. The ramp is self-launchable in light winds.
Paragliding pilots layout and pull up behind or to the right side of the ramp.
Large setup area.
- Can be turbulent since the ramp is located on a ridge, thermals move across the ridge and hence the ramp. Pay special attention on windy or strong thermal days.
- Easy for paraglider pilots to run across the ramp and therefore fall off the side or swing into the side of the ramp if launching next to it.
Primary LZ (LZ1): Hanglider LZ (43.61171, -73.10487)
Elevation: 471′ (144 meters)
Glide Ratio: 4.7
Large hay and corn field between Route 4A and Interstate 4. A small driveway leads down to a bridge across a stream into the field. Do not park along the driveway. You can drive into the field to load gliders and pilots, but do not park there while flying; use the pit parking area instead.
- Just as you decide it is time to start your approach pattern, you may encounter a layer of turbulence that can range from mild to moderate. Fly with adequate speed and fear not, the layer is shallow and doesn’t extend to the ground.
- As with many mountain sites, keep a close watch on the wind direction late in the evening. The katabatic flows that make for spectacular wonder wind flights can also cause the wind in the valley to change direction 180 degrees from the direction you just soared in all day.
- In the Spring and after heavy rains sections of the field can be wet all the way up to the stream flooding, check before committing to landing.
Expert LZ (LZ2): Jake’s Old House/Birdseye (43.607877, -73.099075)
Elevation: 561′ (171 meters)
Glide ratio: 4.6
Field behind the house where Jake used to live. Only experienced pilots should land in this field. Pilots must break down or pack-up in the hayfield and load vehicles along the road and not in the driveway or yard.
- Limited space.
- Power lines and trees surround the field.
- Requires uphill or cross-hill landing.
- In stronger south winds expect turbulence from Birdseye on approach to landing. In these conditions, Herbert’s Field, or the Primary LZ are better choices.
Paraglide LZ (LZ3): Herbert’s Field (43.608262, -73.090705)
Elevation: 482′ (147 meters)
Glide ratio: 3.1
Field directly below launch between Route 4A and Interstate 4. The field slopes gently up towards Route 4A. This is generally into the wind such that landing is typically uphill. Access is by a gap in the guardrail. Keep your vehicle on the track. Do not park in the field while flying. Park in the pit parking area.
Avoid breaking down and packing up in the hay. Move your gear to the mowed breakdown area between the access road and Route 4A before packing up. Trampling the hay makes it hard to mow and causes the field to produce less hay.
- Railroad tracks and matching power line wires to the north, swamp to the east, a tree line to the west and trees and power lines boarding the field to the south.
- The northeast corner is the lowest part of the field and can be wet in the Spring or after heavy rains.
- The field is a working hay field, the grass can be tall at times.
- There can sometimes be many pilots trying to land at the same time, especially on busy evenings during a glass-off.
- Always yield to the pilots who are lower than you.
- Avoid blocking approach paths for other pilots (especially faster HG) by flying the perimeter of the field with a standard aircraft approach before entering the field on final.
- If you find yourself on approach at a similar altitudes with other pilots, synchronize your approach by following the other pilots in the pattern. Make a radio call to indicate that you see the other pilots and will let them land first.