Hang gliding 1989

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Hang gliding 1989

Hang gliders: Mouette Atlas and Pacific Windcraft/Hiway Vision 1
Harness: Modified and strengthened 1970s stirrup harness
In-flight camera: 35mm compact with motor drive film advance

This page follows Hang gliding early 1980s.


In January 1989, after five years off, I resumed flying by joining an expedition to Lanzarote, one of the Spanish Canary Islands, 60 miles off the west coast of Africa.

Hang glider skydive crew, Lanzarote, January or February 1989

Hang glider skydive crew, Lanzarote, January or February 1989

These guys have seat harnesses and the one on the right is wearing a skydiving parachute. His hang glider harness has a quick release…

Hang glider skydive launch, Lanzarote, January or February 1989

Hang glider skydive launch

The glider they used for this event is a Moyes GTR. On this occasion, at Mirador, they failed to gain adequate height for the drop, but I heard they succeeded the following day.

Hang glider preparing to Launch at Mala, Lanzarote, 1989

Preparing to Launch at Mala, Lanzarote, 1989

The accompanying photo is of me about to launch at Mala. The glider is an Atlas, a single surface wing made in France. It was comparable with my old Birdman Cherokee and it belonged to the hang gliding school (Lejair) that organised the expedition.

Carrying across the dam at Mala in Lanzarote, January or February 1989

Carrying across the dam at Mala

Tony W. launching in Lanzarote in January or February 1989

Chief instructor Tony W. preparing to launch

Tony W. flying in Lanzarote, January or February 1989

Tony gaining height immediately after launching

Dutch pilot flying seated in Lanzarote in January or February 1989

Dutch pilot flying seated at Macher

Barry and Rona in Lanzarote, January or February 1989

Barry U. and Rona W. watching the flying

Lockheed Tristar in Lanzarote, February 1989

Lockheed Tristar at Arrecife airport, February 1989

This was the first time I had been overseas and my first time in a passenger jet.

Mainland Spain

In September 1989, I went to mainland Spain for two weeks’ flying.

Hang glider rigging area at Ager in September 1989

Rigging area at Ager in September 1989

Hang glider launch line at Ager in northern Spain, September, 1989

Launch line at Ager in northern Spain, September, 1989

I worked in central London and a colleague, an American, happened to have a hang glider for sale. As luck would have it, it was exactly what I wanted; an intermediate performance double surface wing. (The sail includes an under-surface that encloses the cross-tubes.)

My first flight in it was from the top of a ridge 3 000 feet (1 000 metres) high!

Hang glider launching in Spain in 1989

Launching my Pacific Windcraft/Hiway Vision

We had one day of dust devils in the rigging and launch area, in which pilots from Britain, Spain, Germany, and France readied for flight. Those mini tornadoes were invisible because it was just rock and scrub there, but they picked up gliders, bags, harnesses, and anything not held down. The day after after that, for amusement, I threw my glider bag into the air and yelled. Everyone rushed to their wings to hold them down. Then, seeing my glider bag collapse onto the ground with me grinning beside it, they just glared at me…

Over Ager with the old LZ in view

Over Ager with the old LZ in view

I tried my camera attached to the king post and this is one result. The landing field next to the town of Ager is at lower right. Hang gliders are laid flat next to the short row of trees in the middle of the field. A few years later, the left half of the field became a camp site. I am told that the remainder of the field has been built on since I was last there in 1999.

Hang glider in-flight photo over Ager valley

Over Ager valley

In both these photos my left hand is squeezing the rubber air bulb connected by a flexible tube to the shutter release of the camera.

Hang glider on final approach to the old town LZ at Ager

Approach to the old town LZ at Ager

The field over which I am coming down over in this photo is now a camp site and the field beyond the trees and parked vehicles has also been built on.

Lift back to town after I landed out at Ager in September 1989

Good food costs less at Sainsbury’s

This was my lift back to town after I landed out at Ager, northern Spain (Catalonia) in September 1989. The girl is carrying my harness and plastic bag containing a borrowed variometer. (Mine conked out early on in the expedition.)

Rigid hang glider after landing at Ager in September 1989

Rigid hang glider at Ager in 1989

I photographed this rigid hang glider, a Reich & Neumann ULF-1, landing at Ager in September 1989.

Campsite at Ager, northern Spain, in September 1989

OK soldier, take five men and secure that ridge.

Canoeing and swimming are options on the rare occasions that the weather is unflyable.

I have a fear of cloud, partly from hearing (initially from a colleague in our central London office who cycled round the world) about the more than half a dozen hang glider pilots who were killed in Italy the previous year when they were caught by a thunderstorm.

One day on this trip in Spain, while de-rigging in the town landing field I looked up in trepidation at a mass of cloud building behind the ridge. On cue, a rumble of thunder turned trepidation to fear on behalf of those aboard the little specks still flying. Some of the specks then disappeared. Later in the day one female senior instructor who had been in the air at the time described being ‘whited-out’ by cloud forming around her unexpectedly. She did not hear the thunder and neither did any of the others among those flying at the time who I spoke to.

On a subsequent day with dust-devils overturning gliders rigged on the flat mountain top and even one glider being flipped upside-down along with its pilot while on the narrow concrete launch ramp, I flew twice. On my evening flight, with thunderclouds ominously ‘in the vicinity’ (according to my log book) I launched into apparently mild conditions. Two others of our group launched immediately after me and we flew out away from the cliff together. However, I felt rain, although there was no cloud nearby. There was no lift on the mountain, but we encountered some over the valley, accompanied by more light rain, followed by severe turbulence and strong lift. That lift felt strange to me. I described it at the time (doubtless influenced by the thunderstorm some days earlier) as ‘electric.’ The others also felt Saint-Exupéry’s traces of gunpowder in the air and we all flew down and landed. Sitting in the Bar Torres later, we saw lightning, heard thunder, and then came a downpour.

Very soon came a slight tremor. As every pilot knows, there are secret little quiverings that foretell your real storm. No rolling, no pitching. No swing to speak of. The flight continues horizontal and rectilinear. But you have felt a warning drum on the wings of your aeroplane, little intermittent rappings scarcely audible and infinitely brief, little cracklings from time to time as if there were traces of gunpowder in the air.

— from Wind, sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1939

hang glider convoy

Convoi exceptionnel

That’s Simon O. driving and Rona W. navigating.

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Hang gliding 1990 to 1993

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