Gliding - an introduction to the sport by Mark Warrender
a bird! No it's a plane! No its Mark Warrender with that
flippen hang glider again! Take cover every one!
Warrender (a.k.a. Mr. Cool) is not racing his streetluge,
or fiddling with his motorcycle you'll probably find him
either at work, or cruising around on his hang glider.
is a very skilled 'hang glider-er' and has been actively
involved in the sport for years, we asked him to prepare
a brief report on what the sport is really like and whether
or not it's as dangerous as most people consider it to be.
|Equipment list &
items such as the altimeter, vario, and GPS don't have to
be purchased right away. Gliders disassemble and therefore
are easy to transport (car roof rack).
It's something I've always wanted to do 'when I was older'
since the age of 7, when I first saw it being done on a TV
documentary. This guy took off from a steep slope and a buzzard
took off after him, and landed on the king post of his glider.
All this in dazzling sunshine across the Andes mountain range.
Fast-forward 13 years to the Peak District (UK), the start
of making the dream come true. I was enrolled on an EPC (hill)
course with a few heads from work and Jenny. This is like
part one of the bike test, where you learn to take off, land
and fly in a straight line. Starting with ropes tied to the
glider on the gentlest of slopes, we all got airborne on the
first day (albeit by about 3 feet). The rest of the week saw
us to progress to flights of about 50 feet, passing the EPC.
I've never been so knackered as during that week, running
up and down hills 30 to 40 times a day!
|The next stage was
the CPC course, for which you need to buy your own glider.
At the time I had no money and no car. I didn't want to swap
my motorcycle to get a car and a glider, and Jenny wasn't
too keen on doing any more so I left it at that.
another 10 years. I longed for the feeling of being in the
air, so back in the Peak District I enrolled on a CPC (hill)
course. This is like part 2 of the bike test. There's an exam
and lots of flying tasks to complete. Knackered again, I was
soon thwarted by foot and mouth. The school I was under then
closed down as the instructor hadn't done his paperwork. Bugger!
Rather than give up, I enrolled with the Airways Park in Ashbourne
- the single best thing I could have done to get flying.
| Tow: Airways
run a tow school, so I was starting more or less from scratch.
In the next 4 weeks I was being towed up gradually higher
each time to 20, 50, 120 and finally 500 feet. From this height
you have to fly a circuit, you can't just fly straight ahead
and land - you'd be in the next field! The 'high flight and
circuit' is a tremendous milestone when learning the tow.
At this point most people buy their first glider, but I'd
bought mine the year before
The training gliders handle sweetly and don't do anything
unexpected, so are ideal for training. They don't perform
well enough for serious flying, so most people buy an intermediate
wing when they're ready. An intermediate should handle well
and be forgiving, but have performance that allows hill soaring
and thermalling. As a general rule, the higher the performance
the higher the glide speed. Top class gliders will fly at
70mph and are very sensitive to your inputs, imagine trying
to land one of those when you are just learning!
glider is an Airwave Calypso, which is about 10 years
old. It's been looked after and has very little airtime, it's
not uncommon for new gliders to last more than 15 years if
treated properly. Most of the guys who are new tend to go
for an Avian Rio, a very nice looking bit of kit. Price wise,
I paid a grand for mine (not bad for an aircraft!) and new
wings tend to go for about £2,500 to £3,500. Higher performance
machines are much cheaper second hand, like £300! When it's
time to upgrade I can get a better performance wing, sell
mine and have cash in hand.
Other costs have been a harness at £220, I already had a helmet
but these go for as little as £50. Later on I will get some
instruments, like an Altimeter, Vario and GPS, which can be
pricey (£200 each) but useful.
The training has cost about £600 all in. I guess it's similar
in price to many things, but once you have the gear it's virtually
what's its like? Absolutely brilliant! The combination
of feelings as you go through a flight is so intense. NERVES
before the flight, even though you've been properly trained
and briefed. When the toe line is tight and you're about to
call 'all out', balancing the wing in the breeze, your legs
are like jelly. This is worse at the top of a big hill! COMMITMENT
as you launch. There's absolutely no turning back (especially
on a hill), run run run, faster, keep it level and listen
to the wind. RELIEF as you take off. All your nerves disappear
(for now) and you relax on the tow, or above the hill. Once
at the top of the tow, or away from the hill you can get your
legs up into your pod, admire the view and really RELAX.
the upper air you are at one with your wing. Lean left and
it banks and turns left. Lean right and she swings right.
Pull on and the speed increases, fantastic. Admire the view,
look down at the people (looking up at you!), but remember
you've got to land soon. The approach (if done properly) will
bring you round into wind about 50 feet above the ground,
back from your landing spot. CONCENTRATION is at the max for
this vital last part of your flight. Landing where you want
is very tricky. Plenty of speed is required for the final
glide, before leveling off just above the ground. Timing the
flare right will make your day, wait for it, wait, then a
hard push as you drop gently on your tiptoes - mostly!
Future: Although I've got my CP rating,
I'm by no means finished. There's thermalling, soaring and
cross-country to do still. Then there's league competitions,
a duel license and powered harnesses after that. I can honestly
say this is the hardest thing I've ever done, the most rewarding
and the most fun. How can something be so good when I've
done so little? If you are into thrilling and dangerous
sports than this may just be the sport for you.