Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Baptism on Lejar Mountain

With Tony Webb's last words from yesterday still fresh in my head, we meet at 09:30 to see if we can get that mountain hang glider flight, the weather looks good.

At breakfast, Tony decides it is too windy, so we'll meet at 14:00 and then go up to the top of the mountain. We (the 2 other students and I) decide to take a sight seeing trip to a village not too far away called Zahara where we visit the ruins of an old castle.

At 14:00 we meet up with Tony and drive to the top of the mountain to find the place buzzing with Paragliders rigging and waiting to fly. We are also joined by Morten (the Norwegian Hang Glider pilot) who is also looking forward to having a flight.

We rig our gliders, and join the waiting pilots, even though we are only going to do a top to bottom, the wind is slightly too light for our experience. Conditions improve, and Antonio takes off first, Tony thinks conditions are right for me as well, so he goes through some practise runs we me.

As I pick up the glider, the thought going through my mind is "what am I doing here? I don't think you should do this". Tony explains what he wants me to do, we move to the side of the incline on the launch site, put the glider on my shoulders start the run, I feel the glider lift off my shoulders, "lean in and keep running" Tony says as he steps in front of me to stop me from going any further. We do this for a second time, but the wind has dropped and we have to wait again! This is not good for my health.

In the meantime Mortern has is ready, so he takes off and I watch as he heads towards the local village in search of a thermal.

"Come on" Tony says, "the wind is picking up, lets try that practise run again". I pick up the glider, start the run, but as the glider lifts off my shoulder I subconsciously push the bar out. "Stop!" Shouts Tony as he steps into my path, "you just stalled the wing" and he goes on to explain the consequences of my action to me. We go through it again without any problems and I feel more confident with the process as it feels little different from a tow launch.

"Lets practise it one more time" Tony says, as I carry the glider back to the top of the incline. Tony checks the sky for traffic and the wind as he had done on previous occasions, "ready" he asks, I nod and shout "release" as I start the run "good" Tony says as I change my grip and lean in when the glider lifts from my shoulders. "keep running" are the last words I remember as I realise this is for real (Tony hasn't stopped me)! I don't remember the exact moment my feet left the ground, "keep your eyes on the target" Tony's voice boomed over the radio, I make a few adjustments with my weight to keep the glider pointed at a village I'd been shown before I took off, "Okay relax now you are away from the ridge".

For the first time I look down, and see the road, which doesn't seem to be moving, I look at the lake to my right, the landing field to my left, and it dawns on me, 'I am really flying'!
"Okay, Shola, you can put your hands on the base bar if you want" came Tony's voice over the radio, so I complied. I then went on to do a couple of 180 degrees turns both to the left and right. "Make your way across the road, and Rona will take over from there", I shifted my body to the right, the glider responded

"Continue to the green field", this time it was Rona Webb's voice over the radio. She had been at the landing field for a while and had already talked Antiono down from his flight. "Over to the brown field" she continued, "turn to your left", Uprights!" were the last words she uttered as I belly flopped to the ground landing on the wheels.

In my excitement I had forgotten to transfer my hands back to the uprights as I set up my approach for landing. "Wow, that was great", I said as Antonio approached me while I unclipped myself. I go to bed later that night still buzzing from the experience, I had flown a glider solo from the top of a 2000ft high mountain.

Lejar mountain launch site.

1 comment:

Mandy said...

Al I can say is, you're very very brave! I could never bring myself to do that :)