Colin's Hang Gliding Page

"For once you have tasted flight. You will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward.
For there you have been. and there you long to return."  Leonardo da Vinci


Thank you for visiting my Hang Gliding Page. Since I restarted flying in '94 I have been lucky enough to have several interesting flights, some accounts of which appear below. Most of my Hang Gliding is done with either the Aberdeen Hang Gliding Club or The Lanarkshire and Lothian Soaring Club. You will see from the picture that I used to fly an Airwave Magic IV 166 which despite its advancing years still provides reasonable performance on all but the windiest days. I am now the proud owner of a vintage Airwave Klassic 14m which I use in Scotland - (cheers George hope I can do it justice), and maintain an Aeros Stalker flexwing in Lanzarote.

Past Gliders include the Hiway Stubby, Airwave Calypso, Moyes GTR and Moyes Xtralite (Mylar) and my total airtime is about 250 Hours. My current rating is Pilot (P), formerly known as XCPC, and I am a Club Coach. Further general information on general hang gliding or paragliding matters is available from the governing body for the sport, which will answer most of your questions, the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association or you can email me.

My first flight

My first High flight

My first Soaring flight

My first Crash

Candid versions of some of the following and more have been published in the "Doric Dangler" the privately circulated newsletter of the Aberdeen Hang Gliding and Paragliding club but the accounts are not necessarily suitable for the web. Email me for details and I'll think about it.

Learning in Lanzarote 95
My first Cross Country Flight
The Australian Adventure 96
Lanzarote Again 97
A Wild day on Skye 97
A day at Cairnwell
Tap 'O' Noth to Aberhirder

My first flight

I had a first go at hang gliding as a reward for completing my degree in 83 but didn't take it up after the training due to becoming involved in motorcycling. I was determined to have another go and so called up Gustav Fishnaller at the Cairnwell Hang Gliding Centre, Spital of Glenshee. I went along to his main training site  and joined the rest of the new starts. The first few days were spent ground running - ie getting the glider balanced properly and into vind. Then running across the small slope and keeping the glider level and pointed into wind. When I had completed sufficient of these ground runs to let Gustav feel confident to let me have a flight it was time for the real thing - weather permitting. I put the stirrup harness on upside down and Gustav then showed me how to put it on the right way up. Good start.

We then manhandled the glider over to the other field and and went through the pre-flight drills. Gustav then waited for the wind to be good and walked off down the hill. Then I picked up the glider and got it balanced and into wind. Gustav then says "start running towards me." So I march down the hill keeping the glider level and into wind-ish and all of the sudden I am airborne! Its a very strange thing being off the ground and being supported by your shirt but that's what it feels like. Something like being in a giant floating baby-walker. After an eternity (probably about 10 seconds) of flying at about 6 ft above the ground the ground rises up and I sort of flare for an out of wind landing. That's it I'm hooked. I like this. It's fun.

My first High flight

A few days of small flights in the training field and on the slightly higher SE side and I am desperate for a high flight. Everyone else seems to be going off the top why not me? After badgering Gustav and after working on take-offs constantly (experience that was to stand me in good stead later) the great day comes and it is suddenly time. We talk over the flight plan and soon it is time to launch. Into wind and start running and pull on slightly to get the take off speed high so I don't stall on take-off. The wind is blowing nicely and I float off. This time the flight takes about 1 minute and I can't believe how much time I have got. I try to remember Gustav's flight briefing and to steer the big Stubby down the fall line towards the landing field at the bottom. The instructions for landing are generally to aim for the middle of the huge field and try to break the gliding record as you go across it. Keep a good speed on at all times - just the right amount of tension on the Base Bar so that it doesn't stall. Glide..glide.. glide.. glide.. FLARE! and hold it there. Well it was something like that anyway. The first few landing and take-offs need work and weren't perfect to say the least - hey that's why you go to a flying school!

My first soaring flight

After several top to bottoms on the Stubby I decided that I still like the sport and get hold of a second hand intermediate glider, the Airwave Calypso. One westerly day and Gustav and myself go off to a small (by Scottish Standards) hill of about 250' top to bottom called Knock of Formal. We take the Landrover to the top and I get the Calypso rigged. It feels a lot breezier than anything I've been off before and Gustav suggests that it is soarable. I think I know what this means something to do with flying and not going down by staying in the "lift band."

Into wind, Strong strides, pull on a little and go. We have lift off! Bloody hell the glider is going up! and there's not much I can do about it other than hang on. I now find that that the hill has sunk below me and I am at the incredible height of about 150 ft' above take off. I do some left and right turns as Gustav told me and find that I am drifting behind the hill so try to pull forward a bit. The annoying thing is that the wind keeps try to lift the glider up so pulling on to counteract the lift [1] I maintain steady height. This goes on for about 20 minutes or so and I start to think well, what now? All my previous flights have consisted of a set of pre-planned manouvers for which there was barely time before landing and required constant attention. Now I am just basically boating about in the lift and staying up. It's totally brilliant, if a little cold (November).

OK time to land and do something else (ah but what?). After landing Gustav says "If the Glider wants to go up let it go up, don't pull on so much - just inexperience, that's all. Try to feel out the lift instead of going mechanically up and down. If you are in lift hang about in it- if you are in sink, pull on a vee bittie.OK lets go up again". Well that's it really, we go up again - the daring might have top landed - and I soar again." Soon after this I get signed off from the School and am ready to join a club where the adventures really begin!

[1] It is normal to let the glider go up in lift. Generally the pilot wants to be as high as possible. Pulling on (lowering the nose) is the opposite of what you usually want. We live and learn.


My first crash - Injury slight

Having just qualified from the Hang-Gliding school and with a grand total of about 40 minutes airtime I went out with Ian Smith to one of the Aberdeen Club sites (which takes a northerly direction). It is a bright cold December day and the light breeze is blowing up the tree-covered slope. Ian then gave me a good site briefing and described the top landing opportunities which used to be fine before the trees grew. I smiled weakly as top landing was not really on my agenda. The bottom landing field was then pointed out and the limits of the likely useable lift. We discussed a landing approach and then Ian wired me off after a bit of waiting for the wind to pick up.

After taking off there was just enough wind to keep me up on the Calypso and I soared with some difficulty. Trying to hang about in the bits that seem to be going up takes me up to just about 100ft or so over take off. I am having to concentrate to stay in the lift (no vario, don't really understand what a vario is yet) and start to scrape lower towards the hill, although still in front of the face. Now the top of the hill is above me and repeated 180 turns along the face of the hill merely prolongs the agony. However I am determined to eke it out as I have driven for about 2 hours for this. Suddenly I find myself low at the bottom of the slope and a glide away from the landing field. This is not a happy situation to have got into. I have left it very late. Anyway as you can not simply stop the bus and get off when you are in a hang glider - you always have to land somewhere- I aim for the pre-arranged sheep free field.Glide glide glide glide.. I am going to hit a barbed wire fence. As I get to the fence I do a big flare and the glider shoots up and over the fence and I do a big nose in. "Whack!" as the Yanks would say. In the early days this type of accident used to result in broken arms but now gliders are designed to fail destructively which absorbs the impact. A bit like crumple zones on a car - the uprights are a mechanical fuse designed to bend or break under load.

For this reason although the impact was heavy it could have been a lot worse. I shake myself off and feel that my left arm is a bit strange and that I feel a bit sick, and not a little embarrassed. Ian then joins me in the bottom field after a brief top-to-bottom and I find the gliders getting more and more difficult to pack up. Something has definitely happened to my hand or arm. Anyway declining a beer on the way back to Nairn, I drove up to the hospital in Inverness (one handed fun) and they eventually found a no-displacement hairline fracture. Very minor really but annoying as I was due to go to Lanzarote in six weeks. Several factors contributed to this accident most of which were inexperience and pilot error, therefore leaving the landing until it was too late. Even then a crash was avoidable - all I had to do was pick another landing area - as the standard field was not reachable. Perhaps a tendency to slavishly follow instructions rather than adapt to changed circumstances. The most important lesson was not to get into bad situations in the first place.

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Last Modified: 19th October 2004