I started paragliding in late December 2001, and at first didn't really get a lot of airtime unfortunately. Lots of reasons: little experience means lots of short hop flights (with way more walking up the hill than flying) or no flights at all in iffy conditions. Also I was notoriously unlucky timing-wise and missed a lot of good opportunities.
So, the tally was pretty lousy up to late-2003 when I got the knot out.
- 2002: 56 flights for an airtime total of 15.8 hours
- 2003: 37 flights, 17.5 hrs
- 2004: 77 flights, 41.5 hrs
Obviously I'm stayin in the air for longer now
My first crosscountry flights (XC) were in late 2003, Easter 2004 saw
a 46km flight (my best so far), then my
XC flights were about close to zip until October 2004, when I did the
Killarney PG Classic Competition - mostly for the XC opportunities, not to compete.
The results of that week of flying: 2 shortish XC flights (13 and 8.5km) and as it was a small comp (30some pilots) I didn't finish last.
I learned a lot, also that comp flying makes one take more risks just because. The weather was less then perfectly cooperative, strong westerly winds all the time, and two days were cancelled because it was too windy.
Very few pilots didn't launch on the other days - when most of us would have politely declined to launch if it had been free flying. In most comps here you get "bombout points" if you do not launch because of unsuitable conditions, so not launching isn't really overly bad for the recreational pilots who aren't near the top rankings. Still most of us flew whenever possible (and occasionally when not).
The first flying day saw me do 13km, which was close to what most people got to. Strong headwind, hard to penetrate. It was still quite nice to get away from the hill!
I also learned that observing a reserve parachute deployment from above is no fun. Paul had a major mishap flying in my vicinity and had to throw his reserve - and it opened fine, he landed safely with just a few bruises. Not very confidence-inspiring, I have to tell.
On the second to last day of the comp I got away once more, quite late, and in quite strong conditions. I managed to do 8.5km, but had an ugly landing: the wind was too strong for my glider and blew me backwards up the slope of a hill, with treelines around and behind me. I just managed to land in front of the trees and was very relieved when I was safely on the ground. Flying backwards is no fun, let alone landing in such conditions in front of trees.
So after the comp I thought about upgrading my glider to a slightly more advanced model, with more speed and better glide capabilities. A fellow local pilot had one to sell 2nd hand, the condition was good and the price ok: so now I fly a Gin Oasis (which is a wing rated "DHV 1-2": not for beginners).
This is the new wing in flight (unfortunately I have no wide-angle lens).
I like the new wing, it is quite nice to fly and a definite step up - also in the less desirable characteristics: so far it has tried to bite me twice. I had a big collapse when face-landing at Beechmont, just about 6 or 7 meters off the ground (which is about the worst time to have a problem), and last weekend another big collapse at 140m off the deck which was "quite scary" according to my fellow pilots who saw it happen. Ah well, all part of the game.
The new wing has been pretty good for my XC luck; end of November I managed to get away for the first time from one of the local Canungra sites: from Beechmont to Flying Fox. Not a lot of distance at 4.5km but a very important step for me.
Last weekend I managed to fly from Tamborine to Canungra, which is about 8.5km (over "never land here" areas where the landowners absolutely hate us). That was pretty cool, especially as the conditions had not been overly flash.
I was too busy to take any photos, but I did save the barograph trace and the GPS track. As you can see, I never got above 1350m ASL and there were a few bad sinkholes. On the GPS track image you can see the dark blue line do all the swirls and loops: that's me circling in some lift. The space between the points labelled WONGPG and SAFE is one of those "don't get caught landing here" areas, which is a wee bit disconcerting to know if you're getting low in that area.
Finally, some photos taken on a very relaxing fun and long flight on December 30; we were boating around in ample lift and had a fair bit of fun. The first few are of Beechmont launch, and the view to the west: these ridges are a bit interesting to cross the first time.
The other pics are of the view to the North and East, towards the Gold Coast, and finally a pic of yours truly. For my next camera I should look for one with a wide-angle lens...