The first time my feet left the ground with a hang glider above me was in December 1978. Over the years I have enjoyed some long periods of frequent hang gliding, and I have also had some protracted breaks from the sport for various reasons.
My most recent break from hang gliding lasted 12 years. That break ended two days ago with a soaring flight at an inland site in perfect conditions.
All these photos were taken on iPhones. Most were not taken by me. The photos show how the preparation and check-flight day unfolded.
The few captions below are written for those who know nothing about hang gliding.
The steps I needed to take to get safely and legally back in the air were:
Check out the glider, harness and car racks
Surprisingly there was no corrosion on the rigging wires or the aluminium airframe tubing considering the glider had been stored in its bag in my imperfectly sealed garage only 300m from Bass Strait for the past 12 years. My hang glider is a Fun 190 manufactured by Airborne Australia.
Have the glider examined for airworthiness by an expert
After some training slope runs under guidance of an instructor, find a suitable flying site with suitable flying conditions
Dynamic Flight School hang gliding instructor Rohan Holtkamp (highly experienced and highly regarded) has a small training slope on the property at Trawalla from which the flying school is conducted. The prevailing south easterly wind was ideal for a session of training runs on this hill. The slope was such that the glider could be run down the hill without taking off. But it also permitted some minor airtime between long steps (a bit like walking on the moon looks) which meant the landing flare could be practised.
In passing, Rohan Holtkamp holds the current Australian hang gliding distance record of 532.4kms. On 8 December 2017 he flew an Airborne C4-13 hang glider from a launch site near Ben Nevis in western Victoria to a landing 10 hours and 19 minutes later in central/western NSW between Lake Cargelligo and Condobolin.
Clockwise from left: driving up the western side of the hill; view across the depression that was once the crater towards the back of the ridge near the launch site; parked just behind the ridge where the launch site is located. There is a tree line along the ridge, and two electric fences with stiles over them.
The check flight required that Rohan observe satisfactory assembly and pre-flight checking of the glider, a satisfactory takeoff, soaring flight maintaining height by staying in the lift band, and a satisfactory approach and landing, with the point of landing being on or very close to a designated point in the middle of the paddock. He could also request demonstration of other things as he saw fit.
The wind was blowing a steady 15 knots occasionally strengthening by a few knots as cloud bands drifted over the hill. If given a choice, we would probably have chosen exactly this wind strength. The wind was south easterly which was the ideal direction for this site. The planets were aligned for the planned flight.
These are screen shots from an iPhone video taken by a pilot who landed in this paddock before me. I landed in the designated area, and the approach and flare were as required. Landing in any wind at all in this forgiving low speed glider is gentle experience.
Pack up the glider and discuss the flight with anyone who will listen
Rohan, the instructor, was sufficiently satisfied with the day’s flying activities to sign off on the check flight and to recommend that my previously held intermediate pilot certificate and privileges be reinstated.
Drive the balance of the 500kms for the day back home feeling very satisfied
The GPS’s first offer of a route home was just over 200kms. When I selected a more direct route not excluding dirt roads, the distance reduced to 180kms. Most of the drive was in the dark, and the back roads certainly provided more than a few sudden encounters with large kangaroos. A drive in the dark on quiet dirt roads in confirmed roo territory is a slow drive.
Time flew on the drive home as I replayed the day’s events over and over in my mind. But I was pretty tired by about the time I had 100kms to go. These two photos represent nicely the onset of fatigue during a night drive after a long day and some hang gliding.
I’m watching the weather charts very closely to ensure I don’t miss the next 15 knot south easterly at Apollo Bay.
The link below, ‘Times When I Flew Like a Bird’, is to a post which describes in part my hang gliding history.