Learning to fly!
Soon after coming back this year I am sitting at home being pretty bored…. I need a new challenge! In the recent years I met several people who are paragliding. I have already been fascinated by this sport since I saw people flying in the alps when I was a child plus one of my best friends has been doing it all his life. I asked him several times already to show me how to do it not knowing nothing about it. This time after seeing so many paragliders in Nepal I am kind of hooked. And, honestly, we all have been dreaming about to fly since we were children, haven’t we?
After doing a little research I find a flight school not too far away from my home. I call them and immediately like Hans, the owner of the school I am talking with. A few days later the weather seems to be perfect and I go to flying school for the first time. I spend a very exhausting day “ground handling” which means trying to control the paraglider standing above you in the wind – not even coming close to take off.
Second day I am way better, and try the first short flights at the practice hill. I never go higher than maybe 20m and don’t fly further than 200m but I love every second from take off to landing. When you start you lay down the glider behind you – then you pull the “A lines” to fill it with air and rise the wing above you – you break it so it will not overtake you then make a few steps down the hill to accelerate. Your feet lose ground and slowly you are lifted into the sky – its incredible!
After some more days at the practice hill I do my first altitude flight in Plankenstein with a height difference of 340m (which usually takes about 5 to 7 minutes). My first flight was in the evening with the air being very calm but enough remaining thermal to keep me up pretty long. I just fly into the setting sun and enjoy – this is definitely one of the best things I have ever done.
From now on I spend every second I can flying. Soon I learn how it is to fly rough conditions. In thermals rising me with more than 5 m/s I get my first front collapse. Still I am trying, everything is new and its very hard to control the glider. I have to think about every action I take and it reminds me a lot of learning to drive a car. You need to think about thing like clutch, gear, brake,…. Before you do something. Flying rough conditions is exhausting and scaring but I learn very quickly. I fly many different spots and soon experience conditions when it is harder to sink than to rise.
Hohe Wand in the south of Vienna is a place like this. It’s a 400m tall, several kilometers wide rock wall facing the flats to the southeast. Another place I fly a lot is Oetscher mountain in the Mountains of lower Austria. Another amazing place where one time I share a thermal with an eagle flying next to each other eye in eye for several minutes.
After around 80 flights I slowly get a feeling for the paraglider. Like when driving a car I do not feel so much separated from the glider anymore – we start becoming one step by step. I slowly start reacting without thinking and during my best flight yet I make 40km (circling and soaring in a laminar wind which blows up the hillside) for a little more than an hour and then land for a break on the spot where I started! And all this within less than 3.5 months after my first flight. By now I own my own wing of course and go flying pretty independent. Though its always scary to be the only one starting out I enjoy exactly these moments most: alone or together with a good friend up in the air and getting blown away up!