Wednesday, 11 August 2010

HANG GLIDING - Club Pilot Story (September 1996)

AW and 'noseman' waiting for the wind to pick up at Lords Seat in Derbyshire.

On a great day in September 1996 I went down to rendezvous outside Worcester with Mark Booth, former senior coach of the Peak Soaring Association and a few other lads who needed to make progress with their Club Pilot Certificate tasks. Mark set the agenda and said we were off to a site called ‘Pandy’ in Mid-Wales. We all set off in convoy on a journey of a further one and a half hours.
The other lads were all southerners. Two it turned out were trainee stuntmen who were looking for a C.P.C. as one of their job qualifications. They had done some stunt driving for the Tank scene in the James Bond film ‘Goldeneye’, and one of them has done some horse riding work for the new BBC series of ‘Ivanhoe’. Some interesting characters I thought to myself.
Anyway we arrived at the hill at about 11:00am and the setting looked marvellous but at first we struggled to find the small road which led to the top and the take-off zone. Eventually we found the way, paid the fee to the farmer and parked up. Joy of joys the rigging area and take-off point was only 100 yards from the car park, no sweat.
Now Pandy is a great big hump backed hill 1,000 feet top to bottom. It looks down on green fields and agricultural land, some parts edged by trees. The odd road buzzing about and also some telegraph lines plotting a passage across the scene. In the further distance are some rolling hills. The rigging and take-off is on one plateau of the hill and 300 ft higher is the top landing place.
A local lad turns up and advises us on the bottom landing situation, there is the official field he says, pointing. Mark estimated it to be two kilometres away. He briefs the C.P.C. task lads first and then gives me a bit of a talking to. “You can go off first”, he says. “Fair enough” I think.
So I jump off, bit nervous, not flown for a while, light wind. I might be able to make that bottom landing field, so I will go for it, who knows what will happen. I buzz out, no lift, Marks comes through on the radio, and he says “go for the bottom landing”. So I set a course and follow a shaky path. Suddenly Mark shouts on the radio, “you are in sink”, being a bit thick, I don’t know what he is on about, so I continue for the bottom landing. I am approaching some trees, but I can still reach the field, so help me God. The trees are getting closer, I am going down. What is going to happen to me? I scrape the upper twigs of the trees with a cracking sound and see a field before me. Thank God. The field is fifty yards wide, trees on three sides, behind and to each side. Ahead in the distance is a stone wall and iron railed gate. The field is full of prickles. There should be rotor, but I get down, thank God. No fear struck me, just a wonderful elation; I am alive to live again. I unclipped and looked to the side and saw a sprig of Oak leaves in my wires. I lifted it free and threw it to the ground. I walked across the field and was greeted by a concerned lady at the gate who told me a story of some chap who had to be plucked from the branches of a tree further ahead. She took me to her house and gave me a cup of tea and we had a pleasant conversation about life. While waiting for the retrieve, I went to the landing field and helped one of the stunt lads carry his glider to the access gate.
Back at the top I went to Mark who was sat in his car having his coffee and brushing my brow I said “that was damned close”. He replied “No, it was a perfect path between two trees”. For a moment I had a think about it and thought to myself “Yes, you’re quite right”.
At the take off area some characters had turned up hoping for something, but were very reluctant to take off, the wind was so light. We rigged my glider again and laid it flat to wait for some wind. I saw a couple of girls standing over my glider, possibly admiring its unusual colour scheme. My glider is a Steve Elkins Clubman 160 circa. 1991, complete with pink wings and a fluorescent yellow leading edge. It can be very attractive in the right light and in some minds. Then Mark says one of the girls is Sarah Fenwick, a big name in the sport. “Very good” I think.
The lads in our group have all had a flight and have done very well, but we want to go again. Mark says the wind is unlikely to pick up and suggests the lads might like to help me carry my glider up to the higher plateau, to give me a chance along the ridge. So we set to and sweated our way up there. Along the way one of the stunt lads saw a shiny object projecting from the ground and, Excalibur like, he drew it out of the ground. It fitted the bolts on my glider perfectly and so he kindly gave it to me.
At the top, the wind sock was still dead and limp, so we wait. The characters on the low plateau are all hanging out too. Then Marks says “Balls, we have got to go for it” or something like that. So he chucks me off. I fly a perfect line down the ridge and then turn away for that elusive bottom landing field two kilometres away. It is marvellous; the world is mine and everything in it. Mark says “get yourself set up for that damned landing field” or something like that. So I turned into the wind and it is there, waiting. I reach the edge of the field and cross the edge wall with 50 feet to spare. I don’t want to carry all across the field, so I will cut it down by dog-legging and ‘S’-bends. Slam on the left parallel to the wall. Jeepers there is a barn stuck straight in front of my face. There is time, I slam the right on. For one, maybe two seconds it is not going to go. But I remember the words of Trevor Ackroyd who trained me “hold that bar in, and believe in it” or something like that. Sure enough it went and I landed in good order, 100 yards from the gate. I was lucky enough to see Sarah Fenwick land in the same field as me.
A day I will never forget.

By Andrew Wright

No comments:

Post a Comment