Freesteel Blog » In the air at Bradwell again

In the air at Bradwell again

Friday, March 15th, 2013 at 12:18 am Written by:

I work hard for my flying. I waited for a day at the freezing cold airfield where nothing was going on because it was too windy (I left Liverpool at 7:15am, before the instructor makes his determination of the day at 8:15am), working on some machining code and attempting to procure a parachute. Afterwards, I drove up to Hathersage to spend a comfortable night at Becka’s aunt’s house, because Becka was not around to tell me not to. We watched the new pope getting poped (stunningly unceremonious for such a ceremonial office), and decided that the Wikipedia article was a lot more informative than the BBC.

The hang-glider had been put into their garage overnight. Packed hang-gliders are a bit shorter than they were in the old days because the aluminium poles no longer extend along the entire leading edge. Instead the last metre is a formed by a white fibreglass pole called a wand that you lever into place. I am always concerned about losing these things, so I checked I still had both of them in the batten bag when I fetched it in the morning. I got away to the site by 8:30 and drove up the extremely narrow Duper Lane until I hit a snow drift. It was quite crusty and happened to be in shadow, while most everything else had melted.

I dumped the glider and harness off on the side and reversed all the way back up the lane and parked in the village of Abney. Then I cycled back to the spot, locked the bike and walked with the harness on my back with the glider’s detachable base bar and bag of battens in my hands. With a glider weighing about 30kgs and over a kilometre of carrying, every gramme of weight you can take from it matters. Clever, eh?


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What wasn’t so clever was taking a wrong turning at the T-junction to the right on Brough lane and walking a kilometre in the other direction towards a mobile phone transmitter nowhere near the edge. After a phone call to confirm directions, I hiked to the correct place, dumped my stuff and went back for the glider. On the way I passed the first wave of paraglider pilots with their far more practical single backpacks of lightweight gear. By the time I humped my glider to the hill there were scores of them, and still more coming. The air was going to be crowded.

But that didn’t matter to me, because you know what? I only had one white glass fibre tip wand in my bag. God damn it. I took the remaining one on my walk back and asked everyone I passed if they had “seen one of these”? No they hadn’t. I went all the way back along the track where I had gone in the wrong direction, taking hours and getting sweaty because I was wearing Becka’s padded sallapetes. Nothing there. Then I went to the bike where I had originally dropped off the glider from the car. Nope. So, nothing for it but to go back to the hill and pack up. Grumble.

Then I saw it standing up in the snowdrift after the third time I had walked past it. I will never let this happen to me again because I will amend the batten bag so it is impossible for the things to slip out.

Meanwhile, it was dark and horrible out on the front. Half a dozen competition paraglider pilots had got up and gone over the back heading for the coast in very windy conditions. Headbangers, the locals said, as they called it a day. I rigged with a sense of doubt. Might as well as I was there.

Suddenly, the wind dropped off and became smooth as I carried to the edge. It felt completely right — which gets me nervous because I am used to things feeling wrong.

And it was completely lovely. Not a thing in the sky to worry about or dodge around. That’s got to be rare. Harness was too short to zip up due to a combination of wearing walking boots and the extra platform at the foot that I had neglected to remove.

Don’t know how high I got as I am still using my 20 year old vario instrument, having promised myself some fancy gear that’s modern and acts like a sat-nav so you don’t have to rely on your bad judgement. That’s my hope.

When the sun came out, the wind died temporarily (according to the direction of the smoke from the wood fires in the valley), and I came down. It was all too easy and clean. I don’t understand it.

Maybe it’s the glider being incredibly nice. That’s always possible.

I packed, tramped up the quagmire of a path up the hill, rode my bike to the car, drove all the way round, and got ready for the five hour long tedious drive down the M1 towards Cambridge. Why did they build that city so far away?

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