Hang gliding Hiatus. There and Back
Fri Jun 29, 2007 12:01 pm
[ Mood: Happy ][ Currently: typing slowly ]
I first became interested in hang gliding way back in 1977, when I was a college student at the University of California, San Diego . A college buddy of mine was taking hang gliding lessons at the "Guaranteed Flight School." I decided to give it a try. The cost was $200.00, a lot of money back then. On the plus side, you could stay on the 60 foot bunny hill until you felt you were ready to graduate.
I signed up, and drove out on weekends to fly. We were on choice Regallos of the time, with 3 to one to 4 to one glide ratios. Brick like, but in a good way.
Graduation was a foot launch off of Little Black Mountain, a 350 foot high behemoth. I was an impoverished college student, and as much as I wanted to graduate, the lure of free flying off the bunny hill kept me bunny hopping for an extended period. So long, in fact, that the school's owner began to get a little testy. But, by god, I was becoming a real expert on the learning hill. Here I am, back in 1977, flying on the bunny hill, bearded and thin as a rail:
To mollify the owner I dragged a buddy of mine, John, to the school, and convinced him to sign up.
By bringing John aboard I did manage to keep the heat off for a little while, but the owner began to push not only me, but also John, to graduate. Problem was that while I was ready to fly off of Little Black, John wasn't.
I will never forget hiking up Little Black with the glider. John said, "You first," and leaving him behind, several of us hiked up together. Back then kites were set nose down into the wind when parked. When I reached the top I parked my kite (they were kites back then) and walked back to take a suddenly necessary piss. Other pilots who were new were doing the same. Must've been the altitude.
I did not want to fly last. I strapped on the plastic swing, to fly seated, lifted the kite's nose, and hefted the kites weight onto my forearms. The wind had me flying the kite as I stood there.
I took a few steps forward, lifted the nose slightly, and was immediatly lifted 50 or so feet into the air. What a rush!! I made a few turns, then pulled the nose in and dove for the landing area with the loose fabric wings flapping. Back then they called it "divers syndrome."
Despite my desire to get my feet on the ground, my landing was fine. I proudly strutted up to John and said, "Your turn."
John's reluctance was clear, but hell, I had done it , lemme see him sweat. I egged him on, as did the instructor. I guess the instructor wanted the two of us gone in one sweet day.
John, along with some others, hiked up the ridge to the top. All the others who had walked in the caravan up with him flew. John's kite remained parked. We could see him up there pacing.
Finally we saw the kite's nose lifted. Allright! He took a run and lifted into the air.
Things immediatly went wrong. We had been told not to turn left, the ridge and a deep gully created turbulence, smoother air was to the right. John turned left.
When he encountered the turbulence his wing tilted sharply left, and he began to plummet from the sky. Instead of fighting the kite's turn, his feet were positioned to take the impact, further accelerating his slicing path through the air.
Even down in the landing zone we heard his scream. He disappeared behind the ridge.
I began to run up the hill. Others with jeeps began gunning them up the small mountain.
When I reached the ridge I was stunned to see a figure walking along the steep slope through the brush towards us. He had a variety of contusions, his face was bloody, but he was grinning sheepishly.
The kite was destroyed. The leading edge tube had taken much of the impact, it resembled spaghetti, and the sail material had ripped on the scrub.
I was overjoyed to see my buddy in one piece. I thought the instructor would feel the same way.
I figured John should be checked for a concussion, so we made ready to depart. The instructor saw us getting into my VW van and hastened to us. He told John to write a check for the kite. John said he had no money.
The instructor looked at me and said, "Then you pay for it." I thought he was kidding, I had not paid John's way, and was in no way responsible for John's crash. The instructor/owner was serious, and said that if I did not pay I could not rent from him and would not be allowed to fly again. I told him, in a very polite way, to get F#^%$d.
I walked away from the sport.
In 2004, at a Christmas party on the West Indian island of St. Croix, I met a fellow who was a hang glider. He described the improvements to the equipment and to safety. A memory of my flying still resonated in me; I was intrigued.
I began to hit the web, read the Oz Report, joined the Yahoo hang gliding groups, and plotted my return to the sport. Wallaby Ranch proved to be a great reintroduction, where, unlike my first introduction, safety was the number one priority. After 14 tandems, with Malcolm's help, I soloed. It was fantastic!
Three months later, I purchased a house. A project of a house. That project diverted me, again, from flying for two years. I made it back in late April this year, and had to do some tandems to get back to the soloing. I am heading back soon, I want to stay current and improve. There is just something about that hang gliding...
The Trackback URL for this entry is:
|There are no replies for this entry.
Hang Gliding Org Forum Index
-> Lobido's blog
-> Hang gliding Hiatus. There and Back