2000 feet over Norfolk

An everyday story of country folk and 2.5 km of winch cable

On the weekend, thanks to a series of mishaps all my other plans fell through. Then I got an email from Mark Riches from NHPC that they would be winch-towing paragliders on Saturday and Sunday in Great Fransham, Norfolk. If you don't know what that means check out this video, and skip about a third of the way through.

So sure enough I went through the initial training, bought myself a 'tow bridle' and apprehensively prepared to be towed by a diesel winch to 1000ft over the Norfolk countryside (with the wind on the longer runway the typical height is 2000ft!). I'm scared of heights, which isn't an asset as a paraglider pilot. Means I'm normally more comfortable launching low and gradually climbing to help me get over it. However, at this point there was no going back. I stepped forward - 'Up Slack', then 'Tension', then found myself in the air, closely controlling the wing orientation as I'd been taught that morning to prevent 'lock outs' (being towed into the ground by the winch).

I found this one of the most exhilarating days of my life. You are plucked from the ground and fly almost vertically up until the winch is a dot below you, then release the cable to find yourself free-flying in a sky full of puffy clouds and with a view for miles. Several others (who weren't training) got quite long cross country flights that day.

In the end, I finished 3 of the 10 training flights required to get certificated, and every single one was a doozy. I'd been waiting for about 6 months to get the right day and conditions, and the equipment, and a coach on site. Finally I got to fly just round the corner from me (or at least 1.5 hours drive instead of 2.5).

I was hoping to get even more flights on Sunday, but sadly it was a washout because a fellow flier wrapped himself around a tree on launch, broke his wrist and I had to take him to hospital. Also lost a £75 windmeter.

I think maybe I should have stayed at home that day.