My flying 2004 and 2005
This page continues from My flying 2000 to 2003.
Hang glider: Aeros Discus 148
Harness: Solar Wings Edge 2
Paraglider: Edel Atlas
In-flight camera: Ricoh FF-9 compact 35mm film
I took this photo with a hand-held film camera while flying a paraglider at Combe Gibbet in Berkshire in May or June, 2004. Notice the balloon at upper-right. Some launched from a field outside Hungerford, a little way up-wind. On one light wind day, several approached below hill-top height, lit their burners to climb the hill, and landed on the top while paragliders kept out of their way.
The main paraglider bottom landing field is (or was then) the strip with a dark clump of trees at its farthest end. The lighter coloured object among them is a ruined stone building. Just beyond the landing field is the road up the hill. Hang gliders generally landed in the field the other side of it, if they were unable to top-land. That is because, needing more space, they could not risk using up the paraglider field and hitting the building or trees.
I only ever flew my paraglider there on weekday evenings because my weekday accommodation, near where I was working in Hungerford, had nowhere to securely keep a hang glider.
See my Paragliding pages.
On a dusty street near the airfield at Villamartin you see a young girl sitting on the stone step of a house, leaning forward, watching the occasional moped or other vehicle go by. It seems to be her favourite place, maybe while her parents do the dishes after lunch. As you get nearer you realize it is an old woman. She is always there. Is the sound of her parents doing the dishes still a clear memory?
Rigging the single-surface Aeros Target (a beginner wing) on the airfield in the heat of one September day in southern Spain was too much for me. I lay on the grass with a headache, unable to continue. Classic symptoms of dehydration. I had plenty of water with me, but I was unable to force down any more. (Medical opinion seems radically divided on this phenomenon. It does not apply to everyone.) I then recalled the bottle of chilled orange juice I had in the trunk of my airport hire car. I staggered over to it and drank it all, pausing only to breathe. It would be overstating it to say that I was as right as rain thereafter, but in a few minutes I had recovered enough to complete the task of rigging the glider and continuing with my training.
For a photo of a Cessna O-2 Skymaster undergoing restoration at this airfield during my brief time there, see under Nam on my Powered flight page.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Hang glider pilots are a self-selected elite and they have a variety of backgrounds, although aviation and military personnel constitute a significant proportion of our numbers. They are mostly male and few are young. (Paragliding has a larger contingent of women and of younger pilots.) This group includes a plumber (who was a soldier), an airline pilot, a painter and decorator, and—the one I have known longest—I have no idea what he does for a living (he used to be in the navy). I therefore assume he is a secret agent…
My on-board camera was at this time on the mid-wing station. The shutter release is triggered by a pushbutton taped to the control bar and connected to the camera by an electric wire.
This was a turbulent day in July 2005 and it might be that my overly aggressive thermaling style got the better of me on this occasion. However, the Aeros Discus is amazingly tolerant of ham-fisted flying and I had little difficulty staying above the other two hang gliders flying — until we all landed after twenty minutes completely worn out and, in my case, slightly air sick.
(Celebrate monks? A pun on celibate monks. At college my friends and I used to complain that “The only difference between me and a celibate monk is I ain’t a monk.”)
This junction is a ‘suspected truck park’ on the Ho Chi Minh trail and I am about to call in an air strike.
“Oh, Everard, you remember you asked me to tell you when you next go off on one of your Vietnam War fantasies?”
“Well, you’re doing it again now.”
Monk’s Down is only about 300 feet (100 metres) high, but it works well, doubtless partly because the wall of trees along the top acts much like a small cliff in deflecting the wind upwards. (The site should really be called Monk’s Up…)
As far as I know, there was never a monastery on site. The hill was supposedly named after a local clock maker named Monk. A plausible theory I heard about the origin of surnames (such as the family name on my mother’s side being King) is that they are those of the characters played by the males in an early village play. “Oh, you need to see young King over yonder.” (Queen and Princess did not pass on their acquired surnames to their offspring. Not even to their female offspring.)
The normal hang glider landing field is the smallish one just this side of the barns. (Actually it is plenty big.)
Here, the camera is attached nearer the wing tip, which provides a better viewpoint. A shame I did not press the shutter release trigger a second or two later.
For more about this once popular flying site, see Kimmeridge Khmer Rouge.
The shadow of the wing on the field below him might help gain a perspective on how close he was to the terrain on this day in August 2005. There was little wind an only an occasional patch of thermal lift. He managed to get back to take-off (from where I took this photo) but he was unable to land on the hill so he went down to a safe landing at the bottom.
The following four air-to-air photos are by Gary D. flying in company of ‘ZZ’ at Swanage in Dorset in post-frontal conditions during August 2004:
Rigid hang gliders have greater performance than flexwings and they are physically less effort to fly, but they are more complex. Because the wing is rigid (unlike a flexwing) it uses aerodynamic controls for roll control rather than weight shift.
I photographed this Hellite Tsunami at Combe Gibbet (Inkpen Hill) in Berkshire, England, in 2006.
This topic continues in My flying 2006 to 2009.