A long 4 hour drive saw us arrive in Bright, Victoria, Australia Sunday evening. The forecast for the day after was looking good and I had already rang and spoke to Ted from Alpine paragliding on the Saturday before, to check the outlook. He confirmed that Monday was forecasted to be good. I was looking to fly the Ozone Buzz Z3, but also, my other half was going to undertake her first tandem flight.
I’ve not flown in anger since October last year after completing my CP with Alpine flyers lodge in Passy France. Although I had popped down to Passy to pick up the Ozone and Harness, and done some ground handling.
So this was to be the first flight with the Ozone. I was obviously a little nervous given the lay off and after arranging to meet the guys from Alpine paragliding Monday Morning, I arrived at the landing area and asked for a full brief on the conditions and landing procedures. Brett who was going to be the pilot for my other half’s tandem flight, indicated that the conditions get gusty and thermals get broken and sporting in the afternoon and that I should try to fly down sooner rather than later.
We jumped in the bus, along with a couple of other pilots, instructors and tandems and made our way up the very dusty and bumpy road to the launch point. We soon realised why Aussies have 4×4 vehicles they need them! Unlike Passy in the Alps paved roads don’t exist!
I got the glider out and had another conversation with Ted who explained the wind was picking up with a bit of a westerly. These conditions mean that the thermals will be broken and bumpy, and that I should be careful. The wind at take off was constant and a little gusty at times, but nothing too dangerous.
A reverse launch was in order, so I set up and with some trepidation pulled the glider into the air. I now realise that perhaps it would have been best to either do a little ground handling or make 100% sure that the wing was stable. Comments after I took off indicated that I had a small collapse on the right side. With nice constant breeze, I could have turned and balanced the wing above my head without having to run and commit to the take off.
The Bright take off area, although wide is narrow, with not much run off. I started my run and felt the wing surge forward, an abort was in mind but by this time I was past the point of no return. I applied brake and and felt the wing stabilise, although by this time I was moving fast and still close to the ground. A large rock was getting closer, which I impacted with my left thigh. I’m sat here writing this lesson up, with a large ice pack on my upper thigh. I’m sure that I will have the bruise from hell tomorrow!
Once up in the air though, I settled into the harness and pod, and with a sledge ride in mind, no one had yet taken a thermal all morning and the time was approaching 11.00, I followed the self briefed flight plan to the landing area.
On my right a ridge ran down into the valley, which ends with a large pyramid shaped peak. One side of the pyramid projects out and faces the sun. I had a mind that this area would be producing thermals. Earlier before take off I had overheard a couple of radio calls from the landing area back up to the students, that it was starting to get bumpy on approach.
My suspicions were right and I contacted a nice thermal where I expected, taking a climb up to 1500 metres averaging 2.5 metres per second. The Buzz performed nicely, cutting and turning into the thermal with ease and the cock up on launch was soon forgotten.
I bumbled around after topping out, and watched a host of people throw themselves into the air after me. My other half was one of that gaggle and I wanted to land to be there when she arrived. The landing was less eventful than the take off, I tried out some big ears to descend. The buzz performed perfectly with the wing inflating quickly once the ears were released. Some figure of eights on base saw me bleed off my final height and I coasted in for a text book touch down. Like stepping off a log.
I noticed that I had also cut my leg open, so washed the wound and de briefed with Ted who took me through my bad take off. He was pleasant enough and no admonishment was given my explanation showed him I was aware of my mistake. I had gained some kudos with my thermalling as many people had commented on my height gain and people on launch and taken that as a sign to get in the air.
All was not lost with my pride, although I think I will be skipping horse riding tomorrow, as walking is a bit painful now. However the bruise had not yet kicked in and I made my way back up in the shuttle bus to set up again, however by this time the wind had picked up. Others where launching but other early time pilots were sat around listening to a local instructor. I did set up and inflate once or twice but really didn’t feel confident given the gusting, I feel that I could have handled some broken thermals but really wasn’t too keen on the gusting and having to make a good take off in a narrow zone. Others had retired to the back of the launch to wait and so did I.
In the end I decided to pass, although the conditions were calming and oscillating, I am sure that I could have taken a launch. However by this time my leg was hurting and I decided that I probably wasn’t in the best condition to fly. So I called it a day. Tomorrow looks windy and with rain predicted in the afternoon this it seems will be my one and only flight in Bright. Still as always lessons were learnt and fun had. I heard that after me some one had landed in the trees and had to be cut down, so an eventful day for others as well.
Next time I get in the air I will be in New Zealand!