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The Journey Begins... (Again)


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So, it is finally happening. I am going to fly again!.

Since I believe others might be in a similar situation, I thought I would document my journey as I go along.

A short introduction and history:

I am now 57 years old, and the wish to fly is nearly as old as that. I remember as a boy, I was given a cartoon magazine, which had a story in it, about an Indian (read=native American) boy who fashioned for himself a glider. It was something like Leonardo Da Vinci's / Otto Lilienthal's flying machines. A sailplane with a seat in the centre of gravity, covered in canvas and painted like a bird of prey.

I WAS HOOKED. The idea of flying like a bird has never left me.  It took until my early twenties, until I could do anything about it, though.  Living in rural northern Germany, with a distinct lack of hills, there was no gliding or flying to be had anywhere for miles and miles. But, eventually my urge to fly took over and I booked myself on a 1 week course to learn to fly a hang-glider.

The week was awesome, even though the weather did, what it always does to us: Not play ball - at all. Having done many, many short hops down a little hill, eventually the instructors took us to a ski slope and allowed those of us, brave enough, to "go solo", down a ski slope with about 200 m height difference, to make the required flight to get the German Hang-Glider EP certificate. The first man to fly went over to the left and met with some tall fern trees. Since he had ignored all frantic shouts from the instructor: "weight shift right - LEAN RIGHT!!!" I was not too worried. This was clearly pilot error - I could do better, I thought.  With all the signs of over - confidence, I did hook in next and ... YES! I made it, all the way down the hill, across a paddock, over the next fence, and landed the glider right next to the car-park. RESULT. With my instructors suitably impressed, I got my Hang-glider EP certificate. What an elation! I was totally enthralled and for the next twenty years, I was secretly hatching plans to get airborne - somehow. Unfortunately, I still lived, where I lived, and there were still no hills.

Fast forward a couple of decades, Cupid's arrow had hit me and I had gotten married to an English Rose and moved to... Scotland? Wales? Devon? ANYWHERE near hills? NOPE! To Chertsey, in Surrey, right next to London's Heathrow Airport. Lot's of aviation, but no flying, gliding or such like. Bad planning on my part, maybe, but that is where the job market took me.

The dream was not dead though! After a few years in the country, I came across some rumours that, down towards Basingstoke, there was some private flying, gliding etc. going on.

I looked into it and found the Microlight Club in Popham, down the A303. Awesome! I went down there, met with Mac, the chief instructor and, having paid a mere £5.5 grand for the privilege (and including a mandatory club-share in a Thruster T600N), I embarked on training for a PPL/Microlight. I just found my old log-book; I got to about 16 hours as PuT, but never went solo.

I loved the flying those little birds, just an aluminium-tube frame, with some Tarpaulin wrapped around it. But, eventually, life got in the way again. And also the hour long drive to and from Popham, the time to ready, fuel, and pre-flight the Thruster, file a flight plan, etc., etc., did the rest to convince me, that this was not the way forward. Even one hour's flying would inevitably take me away from the family for the whole day.

Don't tell anyone, but the fact that I got sick as a dog, during the mandatory stall recovery training, may have plaid a role, too! ;-) 

So, the dream when 'sub' again, for a while at least. Then it resurfaced, when I heard about para-motoring! Now THAT was a more feasible way to fly! Affordable, transportable and possible even when there are no hills! All the boxes ticked!.  It did not take me long to make my move. From a forum, it may have even been this one, I found a private instructor, who was teaching from a field near Basingstoke (Crabtree). Crap = still an hour's drive away, but I was keen and went through the ground-handling, short hops, pulled by a rope, and, having bought some second hand gear (Fresh-Breeze Simonini and a Silex wing), he got me flying for the first time. I could finally call myself a pilot! Having had some problems with the radios, to be used on my first flight, the instructor hooked his mobile phone into the headphones and I could hear him during my first flight. Flakey, I guess, but it did the trick. It never occurred to me, that the line could drop and I would have been on my own, up there!

Well such is the adrenaline rush, when someone with the urge to fly, gets a chance to do so! Caution to the wind!  Quite literally! xD

So, we are nearly up to speed. I flew only three more times, after that. The next two were shortly after my first flight, but I had the engine stop on me twice, just after take-off. I never found out what caused it. My instructor flew the engine after the first incident, shook and rattled it, but nothing odd came to light. So, I hooked in again and off I went, only to have the donkey die on me again, in the first right hand turn on climb-out. Good training, though! I shall not worry about engine failure ever again. I landed safely and felt totally relaxed.

The last flight for a few years came when I travelled down to the coast, to meet with my instructor at home, to fly there. Things got a bit later than the intended "early morning" -take off.

By about 7:30am we were trussed up in this local football field. Nose into the wind, glider laid out, wind a little swirly, but nothing that worried my instructor. Then, the classic newbie mistake: The wing did not come up straight, but I tried to force it. Nobody actually said "full power - power - power" but that is what I did! Woops!  A VERY short hop, followed by a sharp 180 turn and slam into the ground. Fortunately the wing was OK, but the frame took a beating and the prop was a gonner.  A friend, who had watched me in the field, doing my first flight, and who is a very able engineer, helped me, (read = he did everything) to repair the frame. My instructor had a spare, ready balanced, prop and so I would have been ready to try again. 

Only, a) my confidence was dented and b) my instructor moved jobs back to the coast, so I had no help close by, to get me flying again. I tried some re-training with Steve Haze, at Barry's field in Guildford, but that did not get me airborne again, either.  Then life got in the way again; family trouble and a divorce followed. 

So, a break of nearly four years, but the dream still lives! I still have my motor, and my wing has only been out of the bag a couple of times a year, when I tried my hand with ground-handling. Eventually, spurred on, by hearing that a friend, whom I had told about my flying experiences, had gone and got his EP and CP as a paraglider pilot, I decided to take another run at it. I found that I have fellow PPG enthusiasts very close to me, here in Feltham, where I now live. Massive kudos to Cas Whitmore, who spent a lovely Sunday morning (in flyable weather!) giving my Simonini the once over and got it purring again. He made all the right noises, about it being a good engine, sounding nice and generally being air-worthy, rather than ready to be replaced. So, I booked myself onto a re-training / paraglider to motor conversion - course with FlySpain in Algodonales, near Malaga.  The flight is booked, the course confirmed, rental car added for the week (for a mere £45 pounds, fully 'no risk' insured - thank you MSE), I am ready to roll.  

I am flying out on the 3rd of Dec., returning on the 10th, hopefully a fully fledged BHPA CP, or not far off.  Cas encouraged me to write up my experiences. So, stay tuned...

I hope you'll come back to read the next chapter of the story.

Stay safe!


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27 minutes ago, Steve said:

Sounds like you are about ready to be spending many happy years in the air, Manny. Good luck with your training, hopefully see you tearing it up at the next PMC fly-in. :-) 

Thanks, Steve, I am booked in for the Bore Chaser 2017! :-)

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6 hours ago, Mike Thomas said:

Hi mannered!  

I am out with Rob at fly Spain this very minute!  absolutely excellent school  , instructors,  sites,  beer,  food,  the gang of pupils I'm learning with!  can't recommend the place highly enough. 

You'll have a great time!  mike Thomas 

Awesome! I cannot wait. What are you doing with FlySpain?  Guided Tour or more training?

And, what is the weather like? What should I pack for?


Edited by manny
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Hi mannfred,  great question!!  

I've just done week of ep paragliding and then continued onto paramotoring club course. 

Weather here is hot and sunny during day cooling off rapidly as sun goes down. 

I've been flying in shorts/ lightweight pants,  t shirt and boots, with a fleece jumper as it cools and for the post flying debrief/ beer drinking. 

We are expecting some rain in next couple of days,  so really it prepare for typical English summer,  minus the unpredictability!  

Washing machine provided, so most people doing smalls every couples days so you don't need to much clothing.  

Evenings usually short walk to square in village for food drink and banter. 


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  • 2 weeks later...

So !! 

After 2 great weeks in Spain learning elementary paragliding , then progressing to Club Paramotor certificate . I have now landed back in the UK with a bump !!

Have got some great kit , Paramania Revo2 wing , in almost new condition and Top 80 motor  . First week in December starts cold but calm . perfect for first flight .... but from where ? and with whom ?    

Lots written on here about trainers , mentors and schools .  But where are they ?  I am in Manchester . Schools  and  websites seem all out of date or defunct . phone calls reveal not training now !  lost my flying field ! emails to websites remain unanswered !

So .  I have now secured use of a usable field at reasonable cost . found a site to fly from for free .   But not the same as joining an active club , exchanging info banter and bulls**t . Anyone , Tyro or with experience, fancy joining me ? weekdays or weekends ?

First flight for a tyro on a new wing , new motor and a site never flown before is a nerve racking experience . company and morale support always welcomed !


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On 01/12/2016 at 19:13, Mike Thomas said:

So !! 

After 2 great weeks in Spain learning elementary paragliding , then progressing to Club Paramotor certificate . I have now landed back in the UK with a bump !! 


Hi Mike, 

glad to hear you are back in the UK and have got some gear. I hear you about wanting to fly and yet finding the prospect quite daunting.

I have arrived in Algodonales today. The weather is crap, raining and the sky heavy with clouds. Pretty, but not for flying.

When I am ready myself, I would not mind coming up there to see you. If we plan it right we should get a flight in, I am sure. Maybe we can convince some old hand to join us, to save us from ourselves ;-)

I will start my training blog now. I guess it will be ground-school tomorrow (Sunday) because the weather is not changing until at least Monday.

Take care!


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Let the games begin...

So, the day has finally arrived. After a ridiculously early start: 2:00am up - 3:00am leaving the house, a flight from Gatwick* at 6:50am and on arrival a good two hours drive through the most beautiful Andalusian Landscape, I have arrived at the Eagles Nest, in Algodonales. The SatNav took be straight to the door; no problem at all.         *Thanks to the Highway Agency: closing the M23 from J7-9 at 3:30am was a nice touch, but I was unfazed  - that's what I have SatNav for.

I've already met the group, I will be training with. Some EPs going on to CP+ (motor conversion) some guys just going for CP and some beginners. I guess we will be in different groups, but the fellowship is nice. The atmosphere in the house is great. Went out for a beer and some tapas alreay (cheap as chips, too, at €2.00 to €2.50 Euros per item!)

The house has a kitchen with fridge and freezer, kettles for a nice cuppa, plus a washing machine and plenty of bathrooms. So even though the rooms are not en-suite, there should not be a queue for the loo.

You can totally come here alone! It is really easy to hook up with some like-minded wannabe flyboys/girls.

The rooms are comfortable, usually for two people to share, but I guess I am lucky, as I am not sharing the huge room with anyone, as yet.

Before I left, I invested in: a pair of Head gloves (£12.00 - CostCo), that fit really nicely, good for groundhandling and flying; a pair of ankle-high boots for added support (£34.00 Sports Direct) and an Apeman A70 £59.00 Amazon), some reviews on Youtube calls it the "$60 "GoPro=killer". (I live in hope that I can use it this week, but it will be great to have for future flying, anyway). I will post videos, if they are worth seeing. My wing is with the good people at the Loft in Newhaven, for a full service. All stops pulled out!

That's it for day zero of my training.  Really looking forward to tomorrow.

Nighty night.



Edited by manny
coz there's always typos n'stuff.
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On 02/12/2016 at 17:24, nforster said:

Hi Mannfred. sorry weather is crap. we had couple of no fly days,  but I'm sure you will get plenty of flights in while you're there.  give my best to marcos and molly. 

I will be trying to get my first flight in on Monday as weather is looking promising with a few knots of wind. 

Ijust need to get my first successful launch in,  to give me confidence!  



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Summary Day 1

The weather was pretty naff today, but better than forecast, so all good. We are getting the theory out of the way.

To start with a look at the motors and do a hang-test in the basement. The engine I shall be flying, will be a Parajet V3, with a 185 Moster power plant. Next we took some wings and motors out to a field, as it was dry and the sun was out too. (Though dark clouds loomed and eventually chased us back inside)

Lessons: pre-flight'ing a wing, doing the daily checks, which EVERY proper pilot is doing at the start of EVERY day!  B|

Then checking over the motors: Good tips: thoroughly check all places where two different materials meet: webbing with metal, frame or carabiner, wooden seating board, etc.

Moving on to the frame: checking all joining parts and the overall integrity of the frame. Is the cage still round as it should be?

Engine: follow the flow of the fuel: is the tank compromised? Fuel lines leaking, is the primer pushing the fuel to the carb? Then on to other parts: check seals and gaskets, cylinder head, etc. free from cracks and leaks? Throttle full and free movement? Actually moving the throttle leaver? Starter-pull-cord: Is the spring still retracting the cord easily and full? We wouldn't want that to hit the prop, now would we? Airbox fixed properly? Prop: undamaged and all bolts tight? Good advice: get quite "hands-on" with it, that's when problems reveal themselves. The engine 'wants' to vibrate itself to bits... we are not going to see that the engine mounts are porous and brittle, unless we touch them and give the a good shake.

Break for lunch - more tasty tapas! 

In the afternoon more full on classroom theory:

1st up: Unstable flight - collapses, stalls, etc. and how to recover from them, using the suspended-harness 'simulator', everyone had a go.

2nd up: Air-law - why we need it, what we can and cannot do, Air Navigation Order - all the good stuff.

2nd: Weather/meteorology - Rob actually made that really interesting! Clouds: their names, shapes, what causes them, and why we need to stay clear. Mamatus clouds?, now why would they be called that? <giggle>. Weather fronts and their effects. A bit of the theory on forecasting. Cold-fronts, warm-fronts, occluded fronts. Good advice: learn to judge the weather for yourself. What is the weather going to do in the next few hours? It could prevent you from getting into a sticky situation. As they say: "It's better to be on the ground, wishing you were up there, than to be up there, wishing you were on the ground!"

That concluded today's training. Forecast for tomorrow (provided by XCweather - not me): 'shite', I think, is the technical term. Rain all day. BUT, glorious for the rest of the week - We live in hope!



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Summary Day 2

The weather - shite, as predicted... (Why do they never get it wrong, when they say: it will rain?) 

So, recovering from a "stall" after too much beer, at the bar last night, with a leisurely start at 10:30am. 

Getting on with more theory and revision, in preparation for the exams.

Then: theory exams:

a) Environment (all CPs and CP+ power students together)  Taking the exam, multiple choice 56 questions. Some dead easy, some challenging because of the wording, and some are plain guesswork.  We then quickly self-marked the answers, followed by a debrief on all the wrong answers for everyone combined. Discussing every wrong answer with the whole group gave everyone a good refresher.

Lunch - more tapas (Good advice from Captain Hindsight: don't have a beer at lunchtime, when there is a second exam to be sat!)

b) - for Hill pilots - separate exam. (not me)

b) - for Paramotor students. 42 (I think), questions on the aspects of motor-flying. Examples would be:  

 - You are planning an out-and-return trip, turning back, after 20 miles of flying due west, at an airspeed of 20mph. There is a 10mph easterly wind.     How long will the whole trip take? (choices were, I belive, 1hour, 2:40 and 3:20)

 - You are flying at a low speed, with quite a bit of break on, now you want to turn right and put on right break. What are possible dangers? (spin,         spiral-dive or asymmetric collapse?) 

Reviewing everybody's wrong answers and explaining some things we had guessed right, but did not really understand, took us to about 6pm. 

The weather is looking pretty sweet for tomorrow, and the rest of the week. For us PPG pilots that is. I don't think the free-flyers are that happy... but hey, we deserve a break!

So, the plan is ground-handling refresher, gh'ing with the motor, practice forward launches and experiencing feeling the motor on our backs. Instructor also mentioned, a "Trust the thrust" exercise: leaning back into the prop, to feel the power.  All leading to that so far elusive goal ... the holy grail : getting airborne!  I am beginning to believe that it will happen! Wish me luck!




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3 hours ago, rsquared said:

Manny.....thoroughly enjoying your posts...I feel as excited as you, working your way up to the "holy grail".


Thanks rsquared. I really appreciate the feedback. It's good to know, people do read the blogs.


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On 04/12/2016 at 23:11, Hodders said:

Manny, enjoying this - thanks for posting it. Keep us all informed :-)

Thanks Hodders, I really appreciate the feedback. Feels silly to write these "letters" without knowing if anyone is interested.

Stay safe!


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Summary Day 3 (Tuesday 6th. of Dec. 2016)  "Coitus interuptus" ahemm... :$

First up, the weather was all it had promised to be. We left for the Field at Bornos peninsula, at just after 8am. Arriving there to a still fairly waterlogged and dew-soaked field. We found ourselves a dryer spot, slightly higher up, away from the lake itself. But soon enough the sun burned off the dew and that field also began to dry out.

There was zero wind at the site - nada - nowt - not a sausage!

1st task: Forward launches - with "just the wing". (Though we used the Miniplane 80CC engine as a harness, because we did not bring a gh-harness.) Once I had the Parajet 185 Moster on my back, the Miniplane felt more like a light backpack to me. I wonder if I can slim down, to be in the right weight-range for it? LOL

All three CP/power students managed to master the forward launches with more or less ease. I knew there would be a reason for my instructor's obsession with ground-handling! 

Then the aforementioned "Trust the Thrust" exercise. That was really fun. Putting the motors on our backs, and then experiencing the torque and precession. This was interspersed with Nick (Trainee-Paramotor-Instructor) demonstrating some take-offs, landings and circuit flying. We also observed tons of other PPGs coming through over the field, including a trike. 

Lunch - (you guessed it) lovely tapas! Though I went for a tasty burger instead, to break it up a bit.

In the afternoon we tried "dry" launches. With the motor on our back, engine on, we did pretend-launches, without a wing. Pretend the wing has come up straight, now put some power on, lean back, letting the motor push you along. Really good for throttle control, and getting a feel for the motor and its effects. Then the same with the wing actually attached. NOW this is the cruel part - which lead to the association with the sub heading "Coitus interuptus". Marcus, our instructor, made us practice aborted launches. So, we go through all the pre-flight and take-off checks (FuSTICS* - WHIPS & MACE*) while having 30kgs on our backs. Start the engine, pick up the controls, grab the A-lines, arms out, ready to go. We run the engine while leaning forward, to create our own little bit of wind, then come off the power, quickly launch the wing and get into a take-off run, "until you feel the wing flying and taking your weight and your feet become light..." We may even do a little hop, BUT THEN... we come of the power, kill the engine, run some more, start a flare, turn back , control and bring down the wing.  As I say: SO CLOSE...  and then you have to stop... LOL.

Anyway, that took us until the sun went down over the hill, just as finally a bit of wind came up and some hang-glider, with a winch, who had set up a couple of hours before, finally launched, as we were packing up. Totally knackered, but happy as we stopped at a local tapas bar to complete our training records and drink a cold beer!

What an awesome day! The three of us all have to demonstrate one more clean aborted launch, and then (after some more theory on hand-signals in case of radio-failures, circuit flying and landing procedures), we shall be flying!        Note to self - the sun was strong today - must remember the sun-screen!

Watch this space!.


*Pre-enging start FuSTICS

F - Fuel, tap, cap, contents, quality, vent.

S - Security, loose items, zips, drawstrings, hair , cage, netting

E - Engine - prop

T -Throttle . Full and free movement, Throttle closed, Choke set.

I - Ignition (on)

C - Clear Prop

S - Start. Start engine, Kill Switch, vibration - warm up.


Pre-Take-Off  (WHIPS & MACE)

W - Wind and weather Speed and direction , incoming

H - Helmet and Harness (all clips fastened and located in locks, reserve pins in place.

I - Instruments - on, set , radio - check.

P = Performance limitations. Check that a take-off can be safely made from this field and in these conditions.

S - Straps and security - no loose items, pockets zipped up, drawstrings, hoods etc. secured.


M - Motor - Running smoothly in idle, rev'ing up responsively.

A - All clear - Above and in front. Traffic? keep on checking!

C - Controls. Correctly held for launch type, no twists, trimmers set.

E - Eventualities. Plan for dealing with emergencies during this take-off and climb out.


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