Hang gliding 2004 and 2005

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Hang gliding 2004 and 2005

Paragliders and a balloon at Combe Gibbet in May or June, 2004

Paragliders and a balloon at Combe Gibbet in May or June, 2004

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.

Combe Gibbet LZ

Combe Gibbet LZ

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.

In-flight hang gliding photo

I love the smell of napalm in the morning.

The orographic cloud forming here is on the way from the take-off hill to the cliff at Ringstead in July of 2004.

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.

Pancho Villa

In-flight photo taken from a hang glider on aerotow

Tony Webb, flying a powered ultralight, tows me into the sky above Villamartin, Spain

I obtained my aerotow rating in Spain in 2004.

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?

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Photo of hang glider pilots

Hang glider pilots on Bell Hill, early 2005

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…

Celebrate Monks

In-flight hang glider photo

Over-banking at Monk's Down, near Shaftsbury, Dorset, England

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.

In-flight hang glider photo

Leveling out and farther round to the left...

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.”


Hang glider in-flight photo

View of the Monk's Down ridge on a different day

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…)

Hang glider in-flight photo

Turning still more to the left, the fields in front of the hill come into view

The normal hang glider landing field is the smallish one just this side of the barns. (Actually it is plenty big.)

Photo of a hang glider waiting to launch

More 'hang waiting', this time at Bell Hill in July 2005. Photo by paraglider and paramotor pilot Craig Byrne.

Hang gliding spectators


John Alder, Phil 'ZZ' Smith, and Ron Smith at Bell Hill in 2005

John, ZZ, and Ron

Hang glider in-flight photo

Setting up for a landing near the mansion below Kimmeridge

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 (photos in 2010).

Photo of a hang glider in flight

Phil 'ZZ' Smith hunts for lift in the west bowl at Monk's Down in August 2005

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.

Coast patrol

Over the cliffs at Ringstead, Dorset, England in August, 2005

Over the cliffs at Ringstead, Dorset, England in August, 2005

The following four air-to-air photos are by Gary D. flying in company of Phil ‘ZZ’ Smith at Swanage in Dorset in post-frontal conditions during August 2004:

Swanage hang glider launch hill from the air

You launch from this rounded grassy slope

View of Poole Harbour looking back over the hang glider launch at Swanage

View of Poole Harbour looking back over the hang glider launch at Swanage

Phil 'ZZ' Smith flying a hang glider at Swanage by Gary D.

Phil ‘ZZ’ Smith at Swanage by Gary D.

Swanage cliffs from Gary D's hang glider

Swanage cliffs from Gary D’s hang glider

Back to basics

Photo of a rigid hang glider at Combe Gibbet in 2006

A Tsunami rigid hang glider at Combe Gibbet in 2006

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.

This is a Hellite Tsunami at Combe Gibbet (Inkpen Hill) in Berkshire, England, in 2006.

Photo of a rigid hang glider launching at Westbury

This photo by Justin Parsons of a rigid launching at Westbury shows the airfoil section.

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