Free Flight:

Soaring: Being Truly Free

Free Flight - POTM

Free Flight: The Allure of Being Truly Free

Ever since I started flying with a motor I have had some level of curiosity about what it would be like to fly without one; If not for the challenge, then just to see what the experience would be all about. And I would find myself asking “What is the attraction anyway?” in spite of my wonderment of it. Free Flight - POTM IITo be logical, it would seem to me to be quite the challenge having to literally “mine” the motor out of the wind so I could stay aloft ~ The ways in which I would do that and the means by which I knew I’d have to ingenuitively respond to nature’s agenda only stirred to spike my inquisitiveness on the sport of free flight paragliding even further. As a motor pilot, I knew where my power would come reliably come from; it was always there when I needed it (with one exception) and so I didn’t need to find it elsewhere. And besides, in my pre free-flight days the thought of bumpy air didn’t sit so well with this early AM and late afternoon kind of motor pilot. In short, I guess you could say I felt I had become spoiled? Attribute that to my perfectionist ways if you will, but never the less it is how I felt. I knew where and when I could fly, and the true challenge wouldn’t come from chasing thermals with a motor in the mid afternoon, that’s for sure… Free Flight - POTM IIIAdditionally, I knew that achieving a descent level of talent as a free-flight pilot would return to serve me in dividends as a motor pilot… I mean, how couldn’t it??? Having to judge the weather in way I never had, not only to find my ‘engine’ but also having to know the wind in a much greater way just to stay alive, and having to equate that with the contours of the terrain that produced the winning formula for staying aloft was going to open all kinds of confidence doors for me when I went to strap the motor on again. In my thought processes over the entire free-flight proposition versus remaining a 91 Octane flyer, I came away seeing the whole thing as the basic difference between being good at something, and being an expert at it… Literally, between practicing something, and truly knowing it. Cloud Nine ToysAnd so it was with that renewed sense of vigor that I headed off to Cloud Nine Toys in Draper, Utah for a week of free flight training. Our ‘hill’ would be the world-renowned Point of the Mountain Flight Park. Whoa! I thought… I had heard all about ‘The Point’ as it’s called but for whatever reason I’d never really envisioned being good enough to fly there. Oh how misconceptions and misconceived notions can cloud the senses! Upon my arrival, the good folks at Cloud Nine were nothing short of incredible. Mike, Steve, Kevin, and the rest of the guys made me feel totally at home from day one. We started out the week with the usual formalities and promptly headed to the south side of the mountain. They wanted to see where my overall ability to handle the wing was, after motoring around for 5 months. Although ideal from a wind direction standpoint, the south side of the mountain can dole out some challenging wind speed to say the least; Especially for a calm wind morning motor pilot like myself. Anyhow, kiting in 15-18MPH winds was a bear, and taught me (and everyone else, for that matter) just how much I had in front of me where at least high wind kiting was concerned. Free Flight - POTM IVNow, some may argue that this was a little much for a beginner. If you were to have asked me this on day one, I probably would have agreed! But ultimately, this would be the wind I’d eventually graduate to one day, if I wanted to fly in a diverse set of conditions… And certainly if I ever wanted to fly the point again. I knew this, and it’s what kept me pressing on in spite of what at the time felt like a lot of set backs. By late morning we had transitioned to the bottom of the hill and by day three we had worked our way about three-quarters back up. At the end of the week I was flying off the top… Not gracefully, mind you, but in control and with a greater sense of confidence then when I started. I left Utah with a P2 rating and renewed feeling of self-awareness ~ It was a true learning experience in mind over matter. I definitely gained enough smarts in my short time with the Cloud Nine guys to not get myself into trouble. My new P2 Rating is also my continuing ticket to learn, and I look forward to going back in the spring to complete a P3 rating. Hopefully by that time I’ll also be in a place to buy a new wing that’s made specifically for free flying. In the mean time I find myself making short trips over to the Sand City Dunes for sled rides and skill maintenance, dreaming of the next time I get to fly at The Point!

– High Flight –

John Gillespie Magee “Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence. Hovering there I’ve chased the shouting wind along and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air. “Up, up the long delirious burning blue I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace, where never lark, or even eagle, flew; and, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod the high untrespassed sanctity of space, put out my hand and touched the face of God.