Co-operative Aviators

Co-operative Aviators

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My primitive altimeter never showed more than 10,500'. The pointer had gone round the clock once and was probably hard against the stop. I guess I was thermalling up when this picture was taken. What I regret most is that I never got a picture of companions in the air. Not hang gliders (we couldn't launch quickly enough to fly in gaggles), not condors either, not eagles - although they were big birds - but vultures!. Ugly, bald-headed but consummate aviators, unquestionably a good omen. Join a group of these circling and you would go up a lot faster than anywhere else in the sky, and with no worries at all about air traffic control (mid air collision being the most scary aspect of flying in hang glider gaggles). So there I was, an Englishman, with my hang glider, in the Himalayas, flying with … well, vultures.

Dehydration

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Landing out in the hostile terrain was almost as high stress an activity as the launch. Fortunately the natives were friendly. As they saw you descending they would gather in the fields beneath from all directions. Usually the first thing I had to do was to try to speak. My mouth and throat would be completely dry with fear, exhaustion and dehydration. "Pani, pani" (water) was the first word uttered. We didn't have camelbaks in those days, and stirrup harnesses were not equipped with suitable pockets. Most of my flying decisions were probably made under extreme dehydration - I don't recommend it. Towards the end I did reluctantly tape a bottle of water to the upright (more drag producing encumbrance) but I couldn't access it during flight. Plenty of free help and enthusiasm (too much) was available to de-rig the kite (aaah - be careful!!) and to carry it back to the nearest road (thanks!). Wonderful Indian hospitality, sweet tea, and Hindi language tuition were offered whilst awaiting a retrieve vehicle.

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Home Again

I survived seven rounds to the end of the comp, placed 15th=, won a small amount of prize money and returned with five spare uprights. My attack of the trots delayed itself until I was driving home from Heathrow at 3 o'clock in the morning. Looking the thinner for it a week later, I surveyed the transit damage to the kite - fortunately only cosmetic scuffs and minor sail repairs were needed. Altogether this had been a totally incredible unforgettable adventure. I had added 13 hours to my log book (see p9) and for the rest of my flying career retained a huge respect for - and avoidance of - thunder clouds. Of course I brought back plenty of films too and ended up giving ten slide shows to friends including SCFHGC in Ipswich and NHGC in Norwich. Look closely at the picture and you will see the Ventimeter/Makiki/Altimeter instrument cluster on the upright, and my banana connection suspended from the hang point.

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