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Aslan's Intro - I *WILL* be an XC pilot..or die trying ;)


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Hello everyone :D

I'm Aslan, named after the great Lion from the 'Narnia Chronicles' by C.S.Lewis.

More formally (& legally) I am Reverend Aslan Kendal Freeman ULC. (Look up 'kantheism' if you dare!)

Most of what I'm about to post is lifted straight from an email I sent to 'several flying schools' listed on the BHPA website. I decided that this tactic was pointless, as after 2 weeks I've had precisely one reply - from a guy who doesn't teach ParaMotor, but does some powered hang-glider stuff occasionally. My bad, best wishes,

So, a change in tactics. If my eventual first instructor/mentor/guide  would like some background before agreeing to take me on, I can just refer them here. As I see it, any instructor worth his salt should already be a member here, don'tcha fink?

So, strap in for a long, but I hope worthy of your time read. You'll learn so much about me, and I'm kinda an active forum dude, once I know enough to ask intelligent questions not covered by FAQ'a & RTFM's.

The (only slightly redacted) intro to that email runs thus:- 
 

Quote

Whoever replies 'best' - and I'm not talking about a few quid difference in training prices here, it would be insane to penny-pinch from the start when I'm already fully aware of how many thousands of pounds worth of financial commitment - to say nothing of the time factor - it will take to get from here to where I want to be...

Which is to be a fully-qualified BHPA XC pilot with his own rig.

I am already certain that this is by far the most appealing flight discipline to me, right now.

So I suppose what I'm seeking, what the true purpose of all the information I am giving away is simply find the instructor who knows that he will be able to 'handle my personality' & bring the best out of me as a trainee paramotor pilot.

I think even at this preliminary stage it can't be wrong of me to think in these terms, can it?


So, now on to the meat in the sandwich, a rich & tasty fare indeed, *mostly* with direct links to my ParaMotor training situation, but hell, I couldn't resist the urge to add some new stuff at the end which deffo  isn't - although could be very relevant to vlogs etc later on, so "can I get a bless him, even if for only trying to hard?"  😇

About Aslan

I'm a 60 year old male, roughly 6'1" tall, and as of this morning, I weigh 15 stones/95.5 Kilos in 'house clothes'. I live in Haltwhistle in rural west Northumberland but I'm a proud Cumbrian by birth. I'm single by choice with no dependents apart from a small but lively Min-Pin who's 8 but acts like he's still a pup. 

My name is from the 'Chronicles of Narnia' stories by C.S.Lewis, he is the Lion who is "A Son of the Great King from over the Seas." 

I have been a heavy & dedicated tobacco smoker since 1975 but very seldom partake in alcohol these days- a pint or two of Guinness or crisp, cold Belgian lager is enough. 

I'm generally very good in the 'classroom environment', both as a participant & an exam-passer, my qualifications range from BTEC Electrical & Electronic Engineering all the way up to an introduction to Masters Degree course in 'Digital Currencies' (i.e. featuring the only one you've ever heard of - Bloody BitCoin - but covering the entire history of money.That got me an invite to study for the full masters degree course at the University of Nicosia, under the great Guru Andreas Antonopoulos. Search his many youtube videos/lectures/specials if you ever consider  "getting into crypto".


No, I don't own ANY 'BitCoin' (BTC). The only advice I would give anyone is 'avoid', for good reason despite the hype. Mostly because of the hype, perhaps?


I do however have a modest long-term investment in 2 'alt-coins' which support projects that are close to my heart. I used to refer to them as 'my retirement fund' with a sarcastic smile, as I have less than £500's worth, total.

I'm pretty good with computer/internet stuff too including shooting & editing videos for YouTube with motorcycle-mounted action cams. More of that later.

However I do appreciate that at my age, my 'physical skills' & especially my 'flying skills' are very likely to lead to it taking several, even many days longer than 'the young hotshots' to gain my BHPA 'Club Pilot' certification. It's a process not a race for me, I've already got a calm, receptive mind-set – Can I find THE instructor(s) to be patient with me on my journey?

Experience

Between 1979 & 1981, as a member of the Army Gliding Club flying from RAF Odiham (Kestrel GC), I logged just over 11 hours as a P2, around 55 launches. My best & most memorable flight, we hit a 10-up right off the top of the winch & rode it all the way to cloud base at 5,000 ft. Thirty-seven glorious minutes! TBH I didn't start as a 'natural pilot', certainly I was 'behind the curve' in expected progress, especially 'finals' - the approach & landing. By the time I was posted to Germany I was progressing much better & am confident I'd have made my first solo flight within a couple of weekends.

Since then, for many reasons the only time I've been aloft was in 1987 when I had a 1-day hang-glider taster session through Sunderland University (actually just a 'college' at the time) somewhere north of Newcastle. It was a NASTY day, most of it was spent in a grubby tea-shack but I did get at least 6' up, tethered.

I did make advances to a club in the Netherlands, where I lived & worked from 2001 to 2012 as an Industrial electrical engineer, about para-motor training. I was told bluntly that no registered club could offer training due to my weight - around 145 Kilos then - because it would mean flying a 2-man wing as a solo pilot & clubs/instructors have no authority to offer that. I could, theoretically, have sought such training in one of the 'less regulated' parts of the world but no, safety & good training matters much more than that so I shelved my dreams yet again.

I'm claiming these as relevant enough to record too -

I've been a power-kite fan since 1998, I currently own 6 canopies, the biggest is my 4-bridle 3.3 sq m Flexifoil "Sting" so I have at least the basics of wing-jockeying down quite well already ;-)

Since 2015 (Well, since 1985 really, with the first 4 chapters of the release) I been an AVID fan of the long-running space pilot/whole galaxy simulation game "Elite: Dangerous". Using a Logitech X-56 'Rhino' HOTAS system (Hands On Throttle And Stick) I have logged over 12,000 hours of flight-time, as a combat/trading/mission-running pilot. Have not gamed at all since start of lockdown 1, just totally lost my mojo.

Medical

Well, this is where it all gets just a little bit more more complex.

I have been unable to work since 2016 due to being hit with that insidious horror, Fibromyalgia - which ended a middle-aged cricket career with my local club before it really even got started. Coupled with somewhat arthritic knees, well-controlled type-2 diabetes & hypertension, and a wee bit of asthma/COPD I was still active & fit enough to take up recurve archery in late 2016, after my visiting Dutch friends insisted I watched the archery finals from the Rio Olympics. I was HOOKED! Until lockdown anyway. I'm still a member of Newburn Archers in Newcastle & do intend to shoot there again before xmas but they already know I have bigger dreams & will be moving on come 2021.

"Well, that's no insurmountable thing", you might be thinking but here comes the stinger!

Late this summer, the law of averages caught up with me & I was investigated for a potential carcinoma of my left lung. Further analysis proved that it is an incurable adenocarcinoma, close to the centerline of my upper left lung. Right now, no-one can say how long I've got left. On Monday 23rd November 2020 I had only my 2nd cycle of chemotherapy. After 4 cycles, I'll be scanned again & there will be more information available about how effective treatment is proving.

From the heart, if I can get another 2-3 years of decent health* before the end, I'll be satisfied. I've had a fantastic, if unconventional life.

* That means 'able to keep flyimg XC safely & in comfort' ;)

I actually feel better now than before my diagnosis! Better than I have for years in fact! Now that I've learned how to 'tweak' my prescribed medications, my symptoms, such as they are, are extremely well-controlled.

My biggest actual 'physical issue' right now is that not only have I lost a LOT of useless fat, I've also lost far too much good muscle-mass & tone too. Certainly right now, I'm just 'too weak' for the expected physical demands of paramotor training. 

I'm already taking the first steps to remedy this. After talking to my health teams it has been agreed that the best form of whole-body, low-impact rehabilitation exercise to begin with is swimming. By this time next week I will have an exercise prescription from my GP which will allow me to approach 'Active Northumberland' for a structured rehab program at a reduced cost, to begin as soon as pools are allowed to open again & continuing until I am fit enough for other, perhaps more muscle-specific, forms of training.

As I see it, getting sufficient insurance cover for my conditions & paramotoring is simply a matter of how much the company will try to fleece me for, and t.b.t. that is very unlikely to even pause my training. The benefits I'm on now seem equivalent to a decent private pension. I also intend to be a registered member of BHPA before training and have already become  an avid viewer of several YouTube Vloggers, both domestic & international. As a final 'I'm taking this seriously' example, I've already installed 'MyRadar' & 'SkyDemon' to my smartphone, just for familiarisation.

OK, finally, to the bit I mentioned in passing earlier - making videos.

I *was* a born-again 24/7/365 biker in Holland. I very quickly discovered that 2 wheels was the ONLY sane answer to Dutch traffic. Yes I had a battered WW-II -looking pushbike, everyone in the community did. No gears, peddle-backwards brakes & weighed a TON, but would get you safely to town & back for 'social' reasons - Hey, how do you think a former semi-pro team sportsman (in my prime ;)) ballooned to 25 stones? Dutch & Belgian fine ales, my friends. Lots of them, almost all night, every night 🌩️

So, after a succession of cheap throw-away, end-of life, Kawasaki GPZ 900's, I finally, in 2008, accumulated enough 'Dutch Bottom' (residency papers, full time work contract etc) to get an 8k Euro loan to buy 'my ultimate machine'.


- Which turned out to be a 2002 Honda VTR-1000 SP-1. The road-legal version of the bike that Colin Edwards won the World Superbike crown on in 2000.


A demon full-on road race machine with a thumping V-Twin lump making over 150 HP, in a frame weighting (When I'd replaced the 'zortst' system) of a mere 87 kilos. The bike I'd dreamed of since I was around 15!

I used her every day to travel to work & gigs, whether that was in a huge waterproof suit in the (frequent)rain, or shorts & work polo shirt in the balmy days of summer, I could get to work in 12 minutes, whereas in a car, on the Amsterdam by-pass, in could be nearly an hour. For 17 miles.

Anyhoo, what I liked to do 'for fun' was to take a 2-week holiday in September, after the kids are back at school & the caravans stored for the long Cumbrian winter. Friday afternoon ferry from Ijmuiden to Newcastle (straight from work ), having a mug of tea & a bacon sanger at the hotel of mum & dad, by 11 am Saturday.

From there, I spent every dry(ish) day riding the roads & high passes of my beloved Lake District. Then one year, 2009 I think, I started thinking 'can I film my runs'? Which it took AGES to solve with the tech of the time. But resulted in some watchable YouTube vids, although very poor-quality by todays' standards. But before I link to my fave, I want to give some pictorial respect to the real star of the show, "The Beast" :-
(Hoping I'm allowed to post pix here, as a new & currently free member).

I had to let her go about 4 years ago now. I finally had to admit to myself that due to the extreme riding position, and my waning health, I just wasn't enjoying it anymore :( She was sold very cheap to a dude down London way, who's been slowly spending the time since not only restoring her to her glory, but also converting her to legal UK spec. Progress has been good but slow I hear. The last ride I ever took on her, when I got home I could see CANVAS where there used to be rear-tyre rubber.  I just couldn't afford her then, on basic job seekers' allowance of some £80/week.

Nevertheless I WAS in a mood for indulging m'sel so I splashed out the most I've ever spent on a car - £1350, the bulk of the Beast-money. On a 2003 Hyundai Coupe, 2.6L V-6. Enjoyed the living fork out of her (I named her 'Haechi') for nearly 9 months before the lack of money for anything but a weekly tenner in the tank meant the engine seized about 18 miles from home, and my only option to take a massive stone from around my neck was to sign over ownership to the recovery company which avoided any fees. 'incidentally' (coughs profusely) I moved so fast on that, the pogies didn't do a thorough b/g check on me, so missed the facts that the car wasn't insured or taxed. It was MOT'd but that's very minor compared with insurance. Call me Mister Lucky, that day anyway?

Right now I'm driving - and all totally legally & properly - a 2006 Mitsubishi 1.6 Lancer, 87 k on the clock, full dealer history, which I bought from FaceBook 'on an inspired thought' for £600. I absolutely love it! Easy to get into & out of, good economy, just enough grunt from the rally-heritage motor for some occasional fun, and a real PLEASURE to drive - even if  it's dark grey skin on -at first glance - a 'boring 4-door saloon', the stylish spoiler over the boot just hints that there's a wee bit more to this car than at first glance. Oh, and I'm confident that it will carry a full XC rig too. So I spent £200 professionally fixing the one 'longer term' weakness that could be found - the start of some bobbling on the rear arches. Now she looks 10 years younger than she is, not gonna change her even though I could have one of those 'everything included' packages on a brand-new 'mobility car' for £62/week. No sir, like her too much. Still haven't settled on her name yet though....

 

OK, finally finally, 2 links to YouTube vidz I did. The first is my actual fave road to drive, because it gets faster & faster as you progress from the lakeside run from Keswick, then past the imposing ridge above Dodd Woods and finally (with just a couple of short not-so-kewl bits) a fast, wide, sweeping few miles of full-throttle action. It's an early not-so-great-but still wide-screen version so don't expect real quality, No tiles/outro even. Decent music too ;). The second is just about the only vid I got to upload with a proper hires, wide-screen 'action cam' attached to my helmet, and it's just a short summer-evening thrash to test the camera. Filmed around the lovely Dutch town of Zaandam, my happy home for 6 years. A note on 'speed'. I don't make any claims about speed, and as the speedo never appears on vid, I cannot have the vid used to prosecute me. Many have fallen into that trap!

Ahh, but there's 'one more thing'. (Try to stop me when I'm on a roll, ya scurvy dogz!)  I want to offer to you all, bikers & not, some advice on HOW to watch my vidz to best get from them the intended effect. My passion is to arrive at 'a good set of curves' in free air. In order to do that I have to get past other road users. First KEY point. I *NEVER* 'go blind'. Every move I make, I'm making CERTAIN that I can see all the through to my 'safe exit point'. Yes, on the twisties, when it's safe to do so, I will indulge in some full-race curb-to-curb lines but the same rule applies. By all means, enjoy the scenery too! But I'm not posting 'how to be a high-speed idiot' movies. It's all about sharing my passion for riding good roads well. OK, enjoy.....
 

 

 https://youtu.be/VNygRc5xDBw - Turn the volume down. All a helmet-cam mike records is wind noise above about 30mph.

And - AHA - an added bonus vid - me doing a bad Clarkson impersonation in a test-drive of an Audi TT-RS. Just for badness ;)

https://youtu.be/NQdScnzsW5k


*************************************** 

So there, that's my story.

I have dreamed of flying free for most of my lifetime(s), now I have the opportunity, albeit late, to turn those dreams into reality.

Who is the right instructor to begin this journey with me? If my rehab goes as planned I want to start my training as early next year as the weather etc permits. Easter?

Can't wait to see what comes back over the next couple of weeks.

My very best to you all

Aslan K Freeman
 

The Beast.jpg

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Just to clear it up, my 'handle' here, which is the same as my new Twitter alias, stands for "Grumpy Old Bastard With Incurable Kanker - Does It Look Like I Give a Fuck'.
But my friends still just call me 'Lion'

(With apologies to any 'family friendly filters' you're running)

Edited by Gobwik Dilligaf
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Well Lion I think you will find some friends here. That's some intro, really bad news about the adenocarcinoma.

A lot of paramotor fliers are/have been bikers (myself not included). You don't need to be a member of the BHPA to get into paramotoring.

Hope you find the instructor that will suit you.

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13 hours ago, alan_k said:

Well Lion I think you will find some friends here. That's some intro, really bad news about the adenocarcinoma.

A lot of paramotor fliers are/have been bikers (myself not included). You don't need to be a member of the BHPA to get into paramotoring.

Hope you find the instructor that will suit you.

Thank you for your encouragement, positive vibes really DO make a difference to me. 
Yes, I'm  looking forward to getting to know people as people, not just pictures & words. 

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Yes, I'm aware that I'm somewhat geographically isolated from 'the mainstream' of ParaMotoring. I know that it's never going to be 'just pop down the club for the evening.

- Well, until I have my own field ofc. Then I can invite you lot to come & fly the north pennine moors & the Roman Wall!

(I've already lined up my 'main field, just a matter of putting some ink to paper ;)   - it's the local Cricket club, where I was a member for 3 years.)

I've got most of the training schools bookmarked by now, I think there's one near Glasgow. which is 'only' about 100 miles from here. Still B&B territory, and I'm concerned about the 'language gap' 👂 too.

TBH, I'm seriously thinking of applying for 'The ParaMotor School' -  it's a LONG drive but I have some friends in Wolverhampton I could break my journey with, both ways. After that a cheap B&B near the field, no way can I tent it these days  :( 

Edited by Gobwik Dilligaf
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Well, I NOW know (notification) that my 'Community Map' marker has already been assimilated into the collective mind that is ParaMotorClub.org - So this is now just a test of my newly learned ability to take a screenie on this new & fancy keyboard - for those of a curious bent, it's an "AnnePro2".

So to complete the test, here's a pic of the community map, and my marker.

 

Community Map.jpg

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