The pleasure is in the wanting

Posted on March 16, 2011

by Tim Bishop

Fairly soon I’ll start flying indoors again. I’ll take my wing, my harness, helmet, flight deck and all my other toys into my office and go flying. The outdoor flying season is nearly upon us and I have a new wing, so it’s high time to log some serious indoor airtime.

I’ll use the large space to lay out my wing and harness, slowly go through my pre-flight checks, rig all my gear, put on my flying jacket, thread the cable for my radio’s transmit switch down the right sleeve, then put my gloves on and velcro the switch to my thumb, ready for my pre-launch raid check. I’ll have one of my spare radios in the corner of the office, switched on and turned up nice and loud, so that I can hear my radio check.

I’ll carefully fit my fragile, home-made microphone and earpiece into my new, slightly unfamiliar helmet and make sure the cable is secure and not going to tangle on anything.

I’ll take my windspeed meter from its normal stowage in my flight deck and check it works ok. I’ll check the ‘wind’ indoors and stow it back, just like I do when I fly outdoors.

I’ll then carefully slide the wing’s bag out from underneath the wing, stow the bag and lay out the lines. I’ll meticulously check the lines, remove the tangles and only when I’m comfortable will I lay the risers, one by one, in my special arrangement on the launch, ready for my clip-in.

Once the wing is ready, I may check the air in front of my desk for traffic, check the clouds and have a good, long look upwind to see what’s coming my way. Only when I’m happy will I finally preflight my harness, put it on and clip into the wing. I’ll connect the speedbar, take the risers in my hands, build a wall, check the lines, then prepare for launch, and go.

Only I won’t fly.

My imagination will be working overdrive.

I’ll be feeling the air, smelling the gorse and heather of our flying site, hearing the birds, and feeling the tug of the wing on my harness.

This is me getting ready for the flying season the way that suits me best. My office is one of my two flight simulators. I’ll be doing all my normal procedures, all my normal checks and using all the normal gear, even down to my flying boots, trousers and gloves.

This is me doing what makes me feel comfortable: dusting off the cobwebs from my muscle memory and refreshing my mind for the weight of my equipment in my hand, the tension of the clips on my karabiners, how hard I need to pull on the poppers of the brake handles and all the other minutiae of paragliding flight.

Why do I do this? Because the more I can do on the ground, the better I can perfect all the stages right up until the point of my feet leaving the ground, the safer I will be.

Time in the air here in Iceland is precious. Last season I tried so hard to fly that I somtimes genuinely felt that I was neglecting my family and putting my relationship at risk. One of the drawbacks of twenty-four hour daylight is that I found myself coming back from flying at quarter-past one in the morning, having logged an hour and half of ridge running.
I scraped, drove like a madman, worked fast, ate processed garbage whilst driving, used vast tracts of the Icelandic landscape as a lavatory and changed from work clothes into flying clothes on mountain tops, all to maximise my flight time.

And I managed a not-very-impressive sixteen hours’ flight time.

When I realised, four years ago, that I was going to be able to start paragliding again, my first rush of joy was quickly drowned out by one strong thought: Iceland is far from being the best place in the world to fly. I can now say, with the benefit of four seasons’ flying here, that my gut feeling was right: the weather is mercurial, complex and fierce enough to make experienced meteorologists weep over their synoptic charts.

That’s why I prepare as much as I possibly can for those few stolen moments of flight. My sincere hope of flying into my seventies also drives me to autistic, obsessive-compulsive routines and checks to keep myself safe.

I’ll do my pre-flight probably at least five times during my first indoor flight. I won’t allow myself to pack up until I’ve done it without fault at least three times. Only then will I move into my second simulator, in my garage, where I can practice launches, weighshift, the feel of the brakes, check my chest strap settings and tweak my speedbar.

Am I normal? No, far from it.

Am I autistic? My psychologist friend says at least ten percent.

Am I obsessive compulsive? By my own admission, yes.

These are the reasons why paragliding is my sport.

Tim Bishop

Photo by Sigurður Ingi Halldórsson: 2010 costumed spot landing comp ‘Hafragrauturinn’ at our local site ‘Hafrafell’ in Iceland. Note the Bishop’s hat.

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About the author
Tim is an ex-military aviator who moved to Iceland seven years ago and has around forty hours’ PG flight time. He is constantly amazed that his Icelandic woman tolerates him and allows herself to be called ‘his woman’. His two stepdaughters have improved his Icelandic massively: now he’s mediocre.

Tim’s toys
Wing: Gradient Golden 3 (in Rastafarian colours)
Harness: Charly Tube
Reserve: UP Profile 22

Other gear
Helmet: Icaro Fly (I like the visor)
Flight deck: Skywalk (I like the angled top)
GPS: Garmin eTrex Legend (cheap ‘n’ functional)
Vario: Renschler Sol 15 (cheap ‘n’ functional. Solar powered)
Radio: Yæsu VX-3R (with home-made PTT and Nagoya 771 antenna) (probably one of my favourite bit of kit. Light, tiny, amazingly capable and has transformed the whole PG experience for me.)

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