Thursday, March 27, 2008

I Believe I Can Fly ... Part 2

Okay so last I left off, I was having a heat stroke great time learning how to hang glide.


Finally after learning a few other maneuvers, we got to the point where we were allowed to fly. To do this, you push yourself and the glider up a hill. Which by the way is no easy feat, especially if you are out of shape like I was. Thankfully though, the beginner’s hill is only 40 feet high.

Now the idea is you get to the top, situate yourself, make sure you are hooked in properly, balance your glider and when the wind is right, you make a run for it.

As you are running, the wind will swoop up your glider and away you go for a lovely ride.

Theoretically. This is what’s supposed to happen.

My case was slightly different. For one, I had the hardest time steering. Believe it or not, you do need to steer. It’s not just a jump off the mountain and see where the glider goes kind of thing. You really have to pay attention to what’s going on. Something I’m not always very good at.

The other problem is that the glider itself is extremely heavy. You wouldn’t think so by looking at it, seeing as it’s mostly material, and few hollow metal tubes, but it weighs roughly the same as a pile of bricks.

Of course the glider I was flying that day was something called a Condor and is the biggest glider ever made. With its giant wingspan, this thing is easily as big as a single engine plane.

Keep in mind that I am not a big person. I’m only 5’3 and at that time I weighed 30 pounds lighter than I do now. In a sense I should be perfect flying material, being small.

Sadly this wasn’t the case.

At the top of the hill when you are getting ready to go, the last thing you do is make sure you are balanced. If you aren’t balanced right and you decided to take off anyway, it can lead to a disastrous flight. Trust me on this.

Due to my smallness, balancing isn’t easy for me. It’s an almighty struggle for me to stand on a windy hill and try to balance a small plane on my back. When the wind picks up, it’s even worse because then you are thrown all over the place, and the glider, sensing wind decides to lift up without you being ready and you have to struggle really hard to finagle it back down.

This can go on for quite some time. Because of my ineptitude at a swift takeoff, I have rightly earned the nickname “Launch Potato”

Anyhoo …

Back to steering. If you don’t steer right, you crash. And that’s precisely what I did, about 152 times.

Up til now, all I had been doing was running like a maniac, in the heat (cause I hadn’t mentioned that in awhile), with a ginormous kite attached to me, and about 100 yards in, my wing would tip and I would crash into the ground.

This would have been somewhat acceptable if I had been in the air instead of running on a flat surface. However I had not yet left the ground. Ever. We were in a field. With nothing around us. Cows were grazing happily half a mile away. There was one hill on the right, and one next to our starter hill. So it looked like this….

As you run down the hill, if you don’t catch air, you continue running through the field until you either collapse decide to stop, or crash.

For most people, steering a glider is really very simple. If the wing tips one way, you shift your weight in the opposite direction to balance yourself out. Easy.

Except for me. I had some kind of crazy mental block. I could not, for the life of me, remember in time which way I was supposed to lean. Either that or I didn’t realize I was tipping until it was too late. How this is even possible I don’t know.

Finally on the 154th try I actually caught air. About an inch. And I didn’t crash. Hooray! I was exhilarated to say the least. I actually flew! Yippee!

On my last run of the day, things got interesting. There I was, all balanced and ready to go. I run down the hill, and like a leaf I am magically lifted into the air.

High into the air.

As a beginner, the instructor will run with you and kind of hold on to the wires of the glider to make sure you don’t go higher than you can handle. This is reassuring.

Except I must have caught a thermal, because all of a sudden I was soaring way above my instructor’s head.

Being deathly afraid of heights you would think that I would panic at this moment right?

But you would be wrong. Surprisingly I didn’t.

I was actually having a good time. It’s a wonderful feeling, flying through the air like a bird. And I was really enjoying myself. In fact I even looked down to see how high up I was.

This was my mistake.

Down on the ground I hear yelling, and see the instructor waving both his hands frantically at me.

I’m totally clueless as to why he’s panicking. I mean I’m the one who should be afraid right? What on earth is he all worked up for?

I can’t hear what he’s saying, so I just go about my merry way with my flight, still looking around and at the ground as I go.

A word of caution.

Looking down is not good if you don’t know how to steer. You are supposed to keep your eye on your target, so you don’t get unbalanced. For most people tipping a little to the left or right is no big deal, they make the appropriate adjustments and everything is fine. For me…not so much.

Yes folks by looking down I caused my wing to dip drastically to the right. Being unaware as usual, I had failed to make the necessary adjustments in time, and I started to head directly towards the ground at a rapid pace.

This caused my wing to hit the ground at high speeds thus causing the glider to go sailing smoothly across the ground for about 50 feet, hit the mountain on the right and tip over.

Upside down.

Yes there I was lying on top of my glider flailing around like an imbecile for all to see, unable to do a damn thing about it until the instructor came to rescue me.

And the instructor?

Was walking at a sedate pace towards the wreck. One would think that he would come running over (after calling 911 of course) after such a crash to see if I was badly injured, but no, he was strolling along and laughing.


In the end I wasn’t hurt too bad. But those knee pads they make you put on and the jeans you have to wear for protection?

Totally useless. As I was skidding along the dirt on my knees, the knee pads completely turned themselves around thus protecting the underside of my leg, this resulted in my jeans being ripped open and my knees scrapped into bloody bits.

One good thing though my boyfriend never saw the crash. HA!

Luckily that was the last flight of the day.


Michael C said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. This was a great story and carefully detailed diagram of the hills and cow bombs was priceless!!!!!!

Michele said...

Thank you very much! Glad you enjoyed it.