David Horley

The instructor told me to stand at the beginning of the downward slope.At the word "Go !" I began to jog forward. Lo, about the 5th or 6th step,my foot no longer touched the ground !

No, I had not learned to levitate at my advanced age. No, I had not joined the company of winged angels - which would be unexpected and certainly unmerited.

Instead, I was hang-gliding. Wow !!

Beside the pilot, both of us suspended in our flexible harnesses, I was enjoying the exquisite delights and thrills of true flying, the closest one can get to the birds : the wind in my face, separated from the ground by nothing but air, changing direction or attitude by pushing on the control bar and moving our bodies.

The pilot demonstrated turns, dives, stalls then let me put our simple craft through these steps - although my inherent , profound sense of self preservation meant that I stayed well / well inside what I perceived as the limits. Needless to say, the pilot also wanted to live beyond the current flight, so he gave me a running flow of advice and his own hands were never far from the control bar.

A further bonus was his discovery of a 'thermal', a column of rising warm air. By staying tightly banked in a series of circles we climbed rapidly. ( It requires a little faith in the system to glance down while banking and realize that there is nothing but air between one's left elbow and the floor of the valley. I could not suppress a brief contemplation of what was the chance of sideslipping if banking too hard.) At one point we rose at 600 feet per minute. Indeed, in a short while we were well above another hanglider which had launched after us.

I chanced a few glances at the rolling countryside, while entranced with the surpassing delight of pure, noiseless flight. Then it was time to land : into a steep, steady dive ( another thought : if we go too fast, will the aluminum spars fold or the fabric wing trear ?) , a swooping turn to come into the light wind and swift race over the meadow grass until our bellies touched and we slid to a halt. I can't remember enjoying such a delicious thrill.

So there are still new adventures, even for an old fart into his sixties.

David Horley

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