Sitting on the hillside with the rest of the group, watching the windsock, watching the birds, watching a new student learn how to inflate his chute. Looks like he’s doing pretty well.
Mostly though we’re looking down to the valley below, trying to imagine how the wind navigates the hillside and how we can fly better and get higher.
The birds flying above us are incredibly helpful, because they glide as visible points revolving in thermals, using the upward movement of warmer air to help them conserve energy. You almost never see them flap.
Apparently some people paraglide with a falcon on their shoulder to fly ahead and act as a probe, scouting the thermals and instinctively demonstrating the most efficient approaches, but we’re lucky enough to have our own here to tell us where to go.
We hear the sound of a glider whizzing through the air accompanied by a hysterical giggle as a tandem pilot pulls an acro maneuver and buzzes the launch.
It’s mid afternoon, which means dynamic flights, but right now the yellow flag signifies that the wind hasn’t calmed down enough for us to take off – only the pros right now.
The student seems to be doing pretty well, kiting a speed wing normally used for skiing, but perfect for showing the basics of inflation while winds are fast, because it won’t launch you into the air before you’re ready.
To be honest I’m a bit relieved that the number of students means I’m not having to ground handle right now, the speed wing can be a bit unforgiving and after this morning’s landing I’d rather just relax for a bit.
We turn up to hear screams fading in and out as a tandem passenger swings around in spiral after spiral. Next the pilot does some pretty impressive wingovers, followed by another launch zone buzzing spiral.
The chulos move en masse over the valley and then back to the hilltop, probably a quick thermal.
The screaming passenger lands then runs, again screaming, to hug her friend as soon as she is unhooked from the harness.
Another tandem pilot takes off then comes back to touch a wing tip to the landing zone, showing off. A few of us hear the new student asking someone “is that guy really good?” and we laugh a bit.
Some of these pilots are just astoundingly skilled and ballsy, something that comes from taking your first solo flight at twelve years old and flying 300 days a year.
As I walk away to publish this, my friend’s voice carries and I hear “that’s why they call it the death spiral!”