Learning to Hang Glide

When did this crazy adventure start?          That's right...

My mate Greg and I decided to go halves in a Hang Glider we found CHEAP in the Trade and Exchange (a local second hand paper). I was just a student at the time and had no money, but this deal promised to much excitement to walk away from. The guy we brought it from had had it sitting in his garage for ONE OR TWO years, he said, "it is an older model."

Greg and I paid the princely sum of $140 (NZ) each and drove off with our investment tied with an old tow rope straight onto top of the car roof.
We were stoked, proud owners of our own flying machine, a Lancer 4L (years since banned due to a tip stalling tendency).

We decided to look for a club or some information on hang gliding but could find no contacts or leads, except two library books that were published in the early seventies. The kind that show some guy on page one looking at the sky, then building a kite out of bamboo and garden plastic on page two. You turn over and see his mates are helping him launch off some cliff on three and page four the guy is really flying. Finally on page five is a picture of the happiest looking guy you have ever seen -laying in a hospital bed modeling the plaster look.

The picture on page five made us nervous but we put it down to the machine he was flying as the home built kites throughout the old books made our Lancer 4L look like it was designed by NASA.

Most weekends following we spent at some local hill that looked suitable (but was not) running up and down trying to get off the ground. Needless to say I lost count of the number of times we had to bend the Down Tubes back into shape. We were learning by trial and error, and for me it was a fantastic feeling just flying further than I could jump.

Finally we tried the hill that you see in the picture below. For the first time we really flew, lifting off for distances of fifty meters and gliding up to forty feet high.

The experience was exhilarating. We felt like the Wright brothers discovering flight. We were so excited that we did not want to stop even when the wind changed direction. We just started to launch off the other side of the hill, we were flying like the birds and felt invincible.

Our new slope required crabbing maneuvers to get to the only possible landing area which was behind trees, in rotor. We flew several times despite some rough landings and we were both exhausted. I decided to have just one more turn as we now had broken the three battens closest to our left wing tip (these were made of electrical conduit).

Well I launched yet again but while crabbing along, the left wing stalled and the rest of the glider seemed to roll over the top and I smacked into the hill with a force that seemed unbelievable. At impact I felt the bone near my ankle bow outwards and snap like a twig. Greg came running as he thought I would be dead...

That night after receiving my own plaster reward, I stated that I would never leave the ground again!

Two years later I found the Auckland Hang Gliding club and started thinking about flying again. This time I took some lessons starting at the sand dunes. Once again I proceeded too quickly but was fortunate to get away with it.


Bruce and Georgie not really sure I should be flying this site after 20 minutes air time!

I did a bit of helpful study, four sand dune training runs, one 100ft drop flight and a twenty minute coastal soaring flight. Then I went out and brought an intermediate wing and jumped off the 2600 ft Kaimai ranges.







 Even without instruments I just turned towards the lifting wing feeling the lift.
I managed to stay up above launch for a while and was fortunate to land safely.


Vanessa my gutsy wife learnt to fly in the same manner as I did, too quickly. She had some bad experiences and was very fortunate to walk away from two crashes with just bruises. She still wanted to fly but decided to wait until we could fly together tandem and consider fly solo after getting some air time.

Vanessa and I love doing things together so I worked hard to gain hours and ratings so that we could fly together. Just over one year later I had flown 170 hour, mostly inland. I gained my Hang Gliding Advanced Pilots and Instructor ratings.

The first person I instructed was my original flying buddy Greg. Things were different to the 4L experience and Greg was soon safely up and flying without bending a single piece of tubing.

This is Greg launching on his first HG soaring flight. Once he was in the air I took off and we enjoyed flying together in smooth coastal lift.

Months later Vanessa and I brought a Tandem wing and started flying together.
This experience was fantastic. Vanessa takes the bar for up to 50% of the flight and has cored 1200ft per minute thermals. We have even done a Tandem 30 km cross country flight in scratchy conditions. I have also taken other people up in the tandem and love to see the buzz they get flying like a bird.


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