On a day planned for final consolidation of the approach and landing technique from a hilltop glide, we were again blessed with the opportunity to do something other than actual flying thanks to Mother Nature who – in truly typical female fashion – decided to make life difficult. Although the wind strength and direction was virtually ideal, Christmas tides shortened the available glide distance on our preferred beach. After a short safari around the escarpments of Austinmer looking for more suitable sites – which turned into nothing more than a fantastic opportunity to appreciate the local female form - we trekked the Southern shores to the seaside industrial areas near Port Kembla where the distant bellowing smoke stacks made for an ideal wind indicator.
Port Kembla had ideal tide conditions but the wind was blowing a less than ideal gusty 25-knots. Rather than completely write off the day, we partook is some “captive flying” exercises and ground handling on a small beachside embankment in the awkward wind conditions.
Captive flying means that we essentially fly the glider with our feet firmly planted on the ground. Strapped into the harness, I was literally flying the glider without the need to even takeoff. The wind speed was stronger than the typical flying speed of the glider so to keep the glider stable, I was pulling back on the bar to increase my relative airspeed and shifting the bar from side-to-side to maintain the wings level position – keeping ever mindful of the tendency to twist my body, which becomes very tempting indeed when you have your landing gear in contact with the ground.
The gusty conditions proved to be exceptionally difficult – especially with the weight of the bar against my body. The feeling was no different to high-speed flight at altitude. It was a seriously solid workout. Obviously each student has his or her own strength limits and endurance with this kind of practice, and I certainly reached mine. There comes a point where your muscles simply fatigue and you need a short break to recover.
Next Time: Training from Bald Hill
This blog was initially published in a flying magazine in 2004. It has been reformatted for this blog.
Blog series: Learning to Fly Hang Gliders