Update on Paragliding buggy from Poland
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Hello everybody, I am Jedrzej Jaxa-Rozen from Poland. In 1998 I had a paragliding accident with ensuing paraplegia (broken Th9). Since 2000 I fly again quite normal, on various airfields and with good results. After trying out various possibilities we arrived at simple solution.
I fly using regular Woody Valley Xact harness (with slim airbag), start off the hands of two friends and land on my back. We use the rule the simpler the better: there is nothing to break down, my weight shifting in turns is not handicapped, and whether you sit on a wheelchair or not, you require help after outlanding anyway. As for landing you know that with some practice you can land very softly, so this is not the problem.
Now I fly XC out of our airfield (this is flatland where I live, we use car tow on 2-km long runway of ex-Russian bomber base) rather extensively, with numerous flights up to 80 km away. With radio, GPS and cellular phone there was never any problem with recovery. Besides I am not brave enough to land in the middle of a forest, so usually it were sports fields in the villages. When not one was within reach, I had to choose a field that can be reached by car and memorize the way to it from the main road, so when the recovery team was near I could guide them on the radio (after passing the tractor you turn left etc.) There were no flaws with this system, sometimes it was even sheer luxury. Once I ordered a car from the airfield when I was at the cloud base 30 km away, and it arrived just in time to spot me in the air and followed to the landing.
On another time everybody on the airfield got astounded - after landing I usually send out an SMS with the name or coordinates of the place, and that time the message was "I am going back on my own hitch-hiking". I think you can imagine the row (I was just lucky that after my landing near the road a guy stopped and proposed he will carry me to his car and drive back). There were even some amusing encounters with local people after landing ("Hey, why are you not moving, did anything happen to you? - Yes it did, but four years ago...") and in general it was great
But of course I appreciate very much work done by friends that built a proper flying wheelchair for me. In fact even two - after our first model, a three-wheeled option made after Swiss and Australian chairs from Flyability gallery turned out to be too delicate, we switched to a four-wheeled go-kart-like construction of our own. This time it was solid and safe, with perfectly smooth starts and landings, but nothing comes for free - in turn it handicapped my flying a lot, practically excluding any control of the wing by weight shifting. And as I actually cannot go thermalling using brakes only, now I fly using the very basic method, that is normal paragliding harness.
We have discarded even the starting buggy shown before. But the flying wheelchair serves us great anyway - without it training for the people without previous experiences or flying tandem was impossible. Now only sky is the limit :), as the chair is craftmanly built of PA7 alloy tubes, typical for hang gliders (nothing strange, as Leszek the builder is an old pilot).
So far we've given introductory tandem flights to several handicapped people, trained one, and I started to fly tandem for pleasure - also a disabled pilot (me) is flying with normal passenger (my wife).
In August 2002 I even took part in Polish championships, at last not as a jury. Theoretically I fared good (31 of 52 competitors), but in fact rather poor (I was the last of pilots that started in all tasks). Anyway it was worth doing it as with that my return is sealed - I think everybody in the community wanted such a sign. But so far I don't think I will compete in future - my poor placement was partly due to my inability to take risks. There were vast forests to be covered, and when normally one can fly over it, land anywhere in case of "bombing out", pack his things and return back on foot, now it was not that simple. I can still land practically anywhere, but without coverage in my cellular phone (quite probable there) I could sit in the woods for weeks now...
Some time ago Mirek Dembinski conceived and directed a film that under title "Common flight" has already won some awards (e.g. Silver Gentiane at www.mountainfilmfestival.trento.it ) Thanks to it you can download some clips, showing flights with and without wheeled chair.
They usually come in two versions - edited movie fragments for broadband users, which are really nice to view and to persuade other people that flying is beautiful, and informative shorter ones without music for the dialling internauts.
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