SAFA Skysailor Magazine

15 September | October 2020 SKY SAILOR G-forces, vitality and grace! I convinced myself then and there that I would go home and announce to my kids that I would fly once again. However, one other pilot launched with us that day. I did the pre-flight hang check with him, turned on his GoPro. Tragically, he died that day. So, I did not announce my yearning to get back into the air on my return home. More time passed, more discussions, more yearning… I started to buy some gear: A Fun 2, Dynamic Flight harness, chute, radio, an Icaro helmet (the best!). I contacted a few instructors, and settled on Lisa Bradley at Canungra. She has set up a veritable flying adventure park playground. My third return to the training hill – Mount John – was in November 2019! It was absolutely divine getting back into the harness and running full tilt down Mt John, feeling the glider starting to lift, then lift me off of the ground, giving some brief airtime once more. The critical part were the landings. The launching and flying part I could definitely still do, but after my head injury, a continual tape looped in my mind that I needed to ‘edit' the video to stop seeing myself crashing again and again. With the expert instruction/help from Lisa, I was soon able to improve my landings and put the wing and myself down with ease, grace and a gentle touch every time. No sooner had I mastered my re-entry to the sport when I was grounded once again for months as Covid-19 arrived bringing restrictions. Once the restrictions relaxed some- what, I flew half dozen or so times off Mt John to get the dust out of my hair! We started ground towing once again and I was able to get up to around 500ft with each tow. Time enough for some real flying. The thrill of it came flooding back – 360s, baby wingovers, I could feel the surge of energy and life that hang gliding brings with it. It was fantastic! Lisa would watch every flight and add one extra important piece of advice/instruc- tion to each one for the next improvement. I was feeling like I was flying well. The following weekend an aerotow course was planned, so I booked myself in. A three-day weekend, ten flights, a theory exam and meeting new flying buddies! We launched on the magical carpet of a manicured turf farm near Canungra, iIn nil wind at first. Popping out of the dolly and flying at wild speed, the basebar held close to my belly button for each and every tow. The Fun 2 flew through the air like a jet fighter and my smile was from ear to ear. It was amazing! Releasing from the tow at about 1500ft each time, then spending ten minutes to look, feel and fly my way back to launch. Such an adventure! Lengthy waiting times peeled into insignificance, I was back in the air and I have learnt the importance of flying with ‘feel’. Speed is your friend; commit early to landing and have a plan B; and of course, fly safely. I feel there is a time for everything. Maybe my long journey was meant to be? For anyone contemplating the feel of free flight, hang gliding is a beautiful thing to do and ground- or aerotowing is awesome. Although hill launches are great, doing lots of ‘sleddies’, packing up, driving back up and re-setting up is a tad tiring. With towing, you just wait your turn, re-connect and ‘Go now, go now, go now’ . Hill launching at Mt Stringybark (near Toowoomba, QLD) in 2012 Waiting to launch at Stanwell Tops, NSW, ca. 1990 Aerotowing at Skyranch