Stall/spiral day. The quietest of rides up the mountain. The emotion on the launch amongst students changes from eager anticipation to one of unease.
Reflection, ‘why did I sign up for this?’, ‘I hope it is blown out and the day is called off’. Hoping to stave off the executioner for one more day.
The launch is clouded in.
The launch instructor, Chris, pipes up, breaking the fear driven silence, “Alright lads, get ready quick for when there is a clearin’.”
Jocky, down below, chirps on the radio that the winds are picking up in the LZ.
… and that we need to be off the hill and in the air quickly.
A virtual emotional rollercoaster in the span of five minutes.
As the cloud clears away, wings are sent off in order of ability to handle the ever increasing winds, with myself last.
Through the mist I charge, launch and get word from Chris on the radio that one of the other schools sent off a pilot right on my tail. A repetition of glances over the shoulder confirmed I was pulling away and had little to worry about as I exited the mist.
Left alone to nothing more than the noise of the wind passing by me, I mentally rehearse the slowing of the wing, the locking of arms, the sensation of falling backwards out of a chair, the sudden jolt of the wing re-inflating, and the trashing about as the brakes are smoothly released to then fly off.
Jocky’s voice breaks my meditation, ‘Mark, face Annecy’, snap off a sharp 90 turn and plane out.
‘Now slow the wing down…’
Brakes to min sink.
‘…and stall it, stall it, stall it.’
Brakes jammed down, arms locked with a might that only a massive dump of adrenaline could provide.
…and falling downwards.
‘And smoothly release…’
Easing up the brakes while the trashing mass of shopping bag over my head tries to regain flight on its terms rather than mine, I firmly remind the wing who is the pilot.
Two more times.
A right wing tip tuck, a left wing tip tuck, and a 90 heading change was the only drama to result from the trio of trips into stall land.
The dread has faded into calm, for now.
To be continued…