Hanggliding near my home in
I started in the sport of hanggliding more than 20 years ago living in
truck-towing, you launch off a platform on a driving pickup truck while a winch
is paying out a tow-rope to which you are attached (like flying a kite).
Finally you release the tow-rope and fly free, ready to thermal up (or sink
down). We did a lot of truck towing in the late nineties in the sugarcane fields
aero-towing you launch off a three-wheeled trolley and are pulled up behind an
ultra-light aircraft. This is much more convenient and safe, and it became the
dominant mode of getting airborne for hanggliders in many flightparks around
the nation, especially in
I found a solution in 2000: A motor-powered harness that would allow me to
foot-launch my hangglider, now converted to a motorized, ultralight aircraft! I
chose to buy the Airtime
Explorer, a harness developed in
Thursday, November 24, 2005
is Thanksgiving holiday and a spectacular day in
It’s not a stretch to think of hanggliding on a day like this! (Sidebar: It takes just a few character replacements: Thanksgiving à
Than kg sglid ving
à hanggliding) We have the day off, the weather
couldn’t be better, and I have a few hours in the afternoon for a scenic flight
over my community and the local neighborhood.
Usually I set up my glider in a large Polo field, but today I can’t use this field as there is an annual hockey tournament converting this large field into a maze of hockey fields, goals and spectators. My second choice is a large un-cultivated field, but after hurricane Wilma this field has not been cleaned up yet and the grass is quite tall there. So I have to go with a third choice near a local church, not the biggest field but it will do.
The photo shows my Airwave Klassic hangglider with the Airtime Explorer motor-powered harness fully set up. Note the folding propeller at the tail end of the harness and the fuel tank at the top of one of the two down-tubes. The engine is a Radne Raket 120 Aero; this Go-Cart racing engine weighs 15 pounds and with 13 hp at 9000 rpm it creates roughly 45kg of thrust. That’s not much, but enough to get me airborne under good conditions, i.e. slight headwind and a long runway. It still amazes me even after more than 20 years of hanggliding that I can lift everything up, run a few steps into the wind and this little machine gets me in the air and thus fulfills the dream of flying!
With several circles I slowly but steadily climb out over the field at 200 fpm. It’s 4:45pm; the evening sun paints everything in a magic yellow light. The visibility is the best I have seen here, thanks to the cool, dry air of the last few days.
view is to the North-East from about 1000 ft. At the bottom of this picture is
the landing field (with the “Q” shaped gravel track). In the middle is the
Grand Isles community with my home. If you know the neighborhood you recognize
many features, for example the Polo-Park middle school, the
contrast, the view to the West reveals the many spacious lots of the Equestrian
The view to the South reveals yet other features, such as a large area in the early stages of development as well as the levee forming the Eastern boundary of the Loxahatchee swamp. A close look also reveals a large antenna (more than 1000 ft tall) in the left side of the photo – I have circled this antenna from above in previous flights…
A few minutes later and several hundred feet higher I get a great view of the Polo field now converted for the Hockey tournament. I can’t help but thinking that there may be a thousand people watching the games, but only one enjoys the vantage from 2000 ft above!
A view “under my belly” shows the underside of my motor-powered harness in flight.
continue my flight towards the South-West – away from the controlled airspace
of the nearby Palm Beach International airport to the North-East. About 15
minutes later I have climbed up to 3000 ft, closer to the last Cumulus clouds
of the day. At the South-Western most point the
Looking straight down 3000 ft it becomes hard to discern individual trees or cars, but you can still see all the buildings and drive-ways. Additionally, I can often see flocks of white birds against the uniformly green-brown background of the swamp, such as the birds flying a “V”-formation to the left of the diagonal canal on the left side.
Looking up towards the West the setting sun is behind a thin cloud and paints a wonderful yellow-orange sunset over the many watery spots of the swamp:
I again marvel at the fact that I can enjoy such a view just a few miles from my home! A 180° different view, both literally and figuratively: Untamed wilderness with aligators and bird wildlife to the West, abundant signs of civilization and hundreds of thousands of people to the East.
It is 5:20pm and the sun will set in less than 10 minutes! I turn my engine off, stop the propeller which now folds back and makes it fairly aerodynamic and allows a very quiet glide back down in about 15 minutes while watching a spectacular sunset. I also see many people out on their patios eating turkey dinners – after all it is ThanksGiving day! On one occasion – while circling and setting up for a landing in the field – I see many people craning their necks and staring straight up to see the unusual flying object over their heads. When I wave my hands they all wave back excitedly… A minute later I touch down. It’s not a perfect landing in now near zero wind (nose touches the ground) but still safe. I walk back about two hundred feet to the parking lot where my car is parked and set down the glider and harness.
I start breaking down my equipment and need to hurry up, for two reasons. One, as it gets dark quickly and I can easily lose small pieces of equipment in the dark. Two, as my family has prepared our ThanksGiving dinner and I don’t want to be too late – unlike 20 years ago I can’t afford the weather forecast to completely control my calendar anymore…