Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Paragliding Phoenix

Well here I stood at the end of a short runway ( the picture makes it look long but it's really about 30 feet) getting ready to run off the side of a mountain. Am I nuts? We had actually came for a seminar, and I had coordinated with Fly High Paragliding to take an abbreviated transition class from Powered Paragliding (PPG) to Paragliding (PG) so I could jump of this mountain now right in front of me. It sounded fun before I got here, now I gotta pee.  The actual flying portion is only slightly different from the paramotoring that I've been doing.  In PPG flying, I have a motor that I can use to take me elsewhere to a better landing spot, or just to keep me airborne for as long as I have fuel.  In paragliding, you must find thermals to use to gain altitude, or your ride will be short (like mine).  I'm using a paramotor wing that may not be as efficient in getting the best glide performance but it's probably also due to the fact that I was about to take my first paragliding flight and had never had to go thermal hunting before. 
There was another flyer there with me today, Tracy.  She was there to take a tandem ride with Carlos, the PG instructor.  I was to go first just in case I bought the farm; he'd call in help to get me off the side of "South Mountain".  I had learned that just a month earlier in better conditions than today, an experienced paraglider pilot stalled and fell 60 feet to the mountain side and had to be medivaced out of there.  Wonderful  I thought, and why was I thinking of that now - as I stood near a cliff I was about to run off.
The day before Carlos had met me in a local park to do a "skills check" on me to ensure that I really did have a little bit of kite handling skills.  I practiced the "torpedo" launch a few times and then he murmured something in Brazillion and told me to meet him the next morning at the base of South Mountain.  I'm not sure if I was cussed at or congratulated. :) 

The Torpedo training was fun until I had to run
back up the hill about 5 times in a row. 
This morning I met Tracy and Carlos at the base of the mountain and we drove over to the LZ (landing zone) so Carlos could discuss the proper approach to landing sequence that he wanted me to do.  I thought to myself "I know how to land" but once we got there and I saw that the whole landing zone was surrounded by cactus, with some reaching 25 feet high, I began to listen a bit more closely.  "Don't fly over this ravine low level", and "don't go near that cactus there", "and watch for these rocks, those snakes, that power line there, this sticker bush here....".  I started to take notes but figured I wouldn't have time to read it before landing anyway. 
Soon enough we headed back to the vehicles to take the hour long drive to the top of the mountain. It's not really that far (launch to land) but the only roads up the mountain top originate on the other side so we had to drive all the way around.  We reach the top, Carlos said set up your gear, and now here I stand wondering again, am I nuts?  I just peed a little.....    Here's the video of my quick flight, hope you enjoy it.

If the video is too small, click on the YouTube icon in the lower right hand corner. I'd also recommend changing the video resolution to HD by clicking on the number in the lower right hand corner and then clicking on the highest number.  Hope you enjoy it! 


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