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Tuesday 26th of October 2004 - Tuesday 26th of October 2004 - View the entire paragliding news archive
Talk about sneaking one in! I?m at work, it is early afternoon and I can see the weather is looking perfect for flying (after a foggy start to the day). I ring Andre on my cell phone and leave a message: Hey Andre weather looks good, how about a flight after work? Andre calls me back in the middle of a lesson. I can?t really talk, the boss is watching and I know I?m being cheeky, but hey I?m not going to miss a chance to fly. I call Andre back. We?re on for a flight. The rest of the day I am just waiting to finish work. I really push my luck now and ask the boss (Lindsay, great boss!!) if she would call the missus to let her know not to pick me up, since I am going flying. After a few calls she gets through. I?m going flying whatever, but now I?m not going to be in trouble when I get back. I ditch the suit, we meet up and head out towards a field in St Catharines that we have used in the past. We arrive at the field and see that it has been ploughed and planted with some kind of crop. We cannot take off from here. We look for another field, find the farmer and approach him; turns out, he is a pilot too (what are the chances?!). He finishes up what he is doing and leads us to his own private air strip (what are the chances?!). It is now 5:00pm and we are keen to get air born since the sun will set at around 6:20pm. There is no wind AT ALL and we have a keen audience watching as we prepare to launch. Naturally we put on a show and screw up at least three launches each for no particular reason. I am happy to say, I manage to get air born first (1-0 to Mark). Andre makes a few more frustrated attempts to launch, which I capture on film for posterity. We are soon both in the air. It is a little after 5:15pm and we really only have an hour until sunset. The air is calm and we head out towards the escarpment. It is cold up high, but we both have flying suits and extra layers. The autumn (fall) colours are spectacular from the air. When low, people are waving if they spot us. We see lots of deer as we amble along over farmland and large properties. They are easy to spot with their flashing white tails as the bounce along. The whole flight is nice and smooth and quite mellow as the sun starts to drop low on the horizon. It is starting to get a little hazy and the light level is dropping. Andre still heads on and I follow. In our rush to get air born we decided against radios. I check my fuel levels. There is plenty left to get me back so I am quite happy to continue. We approach a spectacular church with rounded blue domes. From the air you can really appreciate the shape of the building. We fly past it over a construction site to an impressive ?cleft? in the escarpment. It is the closest thing to a soarable hill that I have seen in six months. We play around for a few more minutes circling over the orange and red hillside before Andre gives the signal to head back. It is now just after 6pm. The light is a soft orange colour and I am wondering how long it will take us to get back. We are now flying in a straight line back to launch with the sole aim of getting back while it is reasonably light. We are not making great progress, however. We must have been flying with a slight tailwind on the outward journey, or maybe the wind picked up, either way progress seemed slower. The thought occurred to me that we would soon be flying in darkness. Sure enough thirty minutes later we are still heading back only this time we are pushing our luck a little. The scenery is still there, but now it is just a vague indiscernible blob. What are we flying over? Difficult to say really?could be a vineyard, trees, grass?who knows! The fuel is getting quite low and I am becoming increasingly nervous about landing in the dark. It is now ten to seven. The sun has set and we are still flying. I am starting to wonder if we have missed the airstrip. Is Andre lost, did we pass it already, is my fuel going to run out? By now I am thinking I should start considering landing anyway that looks reasonable. It would be a hassle to get back, but it would be the safest option. I have less than an inch of fuel in the bottom of the tank and am now pulling out the camcorder to review the footage of Andre?s launch. I am trying to see if I can make out any obvious landmarks to spot from the video! No luck. It is all too dark now. Just as I put the camera away I spot the airstrip with a car?s headlights lighting the way. Relieved I circle twice to establish wind direction and set down next to the car. Andre is down too and we both break out with relieved laughter. It is 6:55pm. It turns out the headlights were supplied by another local pilot who had seen us and decided to light the way. He had just completed his first ?successful? solo flight that day. We pack up and head back home. Both of us know this was cutting it a bit fine and we have a good laugh about it all the way back. Maybe we will try radios next time? Maybe we?ll bring the GPS? Maybe we will turn back a little earlier? A great flight, talk about sneaking one in.

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The content of this site is Mark Andrews 2005-12, mandrews1973@gmail.com

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