The Joy of (one handed) Paraglider Flying

I had been flying for about 2 1/2 years, give or take a month or two, when I lost my left arm, so I knew some of what was necessary to get back into the air again.

However, my first flight was a total mind blower as to where I was going and where and how I was going to land… scary, but safe!

After I calmed down a bit and thought over the new control system, which I will describe for you, the maiden voyage brought tears to my eyes! Yes, with some revisions, I could actually fly again.

The Joy of (one handed) Flight

by Gary Majourau

Having flown dual and quad line stunt kites for many years did in no way prepare me for my first tandem ride with Honza back in the fall of 97. Little did I know or realize what was about to take place in my life.<p>The joy and exhilaration of free flight was breath taking! My God, was this for real? Where in the hell have I been all my life? Where do I sign? Who do I see? One question after another raced through my head. And so ” The Joy of Flight ” began.

What flying means to me is very difficult to describe in one word or for that matter in one sentence. However, it filled the void I never knew existed. It gave me something-special everyday to look forward to. Even those para-waiting hours, which we all know so well, are another facet of this sport that is part of the attraction. True camaraderie develops as well as new friendships during that wait time.

The visiting pilots from other sites are welcomed here and we are welcomed at their site. No matter if it’s down the coast, inland 200 miles, three states over, the east coast or on another continent, we, as pilots, no matter where we are from, have a common bond, “The Joy of Flight”.

As many of you know, in March of last year I was involved in an accident, that was work related, and some of you maybe wondering if I ever considered the thought of not flying again and the answer is no! I had no conception what so ever of how it would all take place but those of you who have seen how my wing is now set up, know that Mickey Mouse and I have a wonderful relationship! It’s right out of Walt Disney Presents, and it is definitely on going comic strip!

It was a long and arduous journey in the beginning with allot of four letter words being murmured at myself and Phil Neri, who, incidentally was a tremendous amount of help early on, because it was all so new. But, as with anything in life that you put a lot of effort and time into, paid off. There were two memorable flights that stand out in my mind since I started flying again, they are:

One summer afternoon last year I was struggling with my wing down at Lemmings when Gaspo and Quintin came up from behind and decided they were going to give me a hand, weather I wanted the help or not, before I knew it I was standing at the edge with my wing over my head ready to make what would be my first extended controlled flight. Orville and Wilber Wright would have loved it.

The second most memorable flight would be Big Surr. I had been to this site before but conditions were not favorable and thought that this might be possible on New Year’s of this year. Well, I tried to muster up the courage but with all the mishaps that occurred down there on that date, I decided I had not developed the skill level necessary for that site. I returned again on Easter to get a twenty-eight minute ride off the top with about four minutes of thermal and another five to six minutes on the west face above hi-way one. Now that was worth the wait! I just can’t put into words all the thoughts, emotions and beauty that I took in within that short of a time span. And, what a relief when I knew I was going to clear that second ridge and to also know that there are plenty of places to bail out and land if you don’t have the glide ratio to get you over that ridge. Truly memorable.

I had been flying for about 2 1/2 years, give or take a month or two, when I lost my left arm in an industrial accident, so I knew some of what was necessary to get back into the air again. How- ever, my first flight was a total mind blower as to where I was going and where and how I was going to land… Scary, but safe! After I calmed down a bit and thought over the new control system, which I will describe for you, the maiden voyage brought tears to my eyes! Yes, with some revisions, I could actually fly again.

The controls are as follows:

I used a 20″ bar with 2 holes drilled in the end at each side, a 1/2 ” from the end. The brake lines will thread into these holes. I also covered the bar with rubber hose that is 16 ” long, centered on the bar. You want to file the holes with a rat-tail file so that the edges of the drilled holes do not chafe the brake lines when you thread them through these 2 holes.<p>The brake lines have a factory setting, as you already know. However, mark them with a felt tip marker where they attach to the toggles. This is done because you will attach the bar on both sides 3″ below this mark. This is done to keep the bar low enough to give me access to it at eye level. Also, when bringing the wing up during a reverse inflation, the bar will be to high into the risers to grab on to at the factory setting. Be patient with me here, there is a method to this madness!

Now, once the lines are attached, make sure they are set evenly. Tie five or six knots that will hold very tight and tape the excess to the lines. These lines will be checked during the pre-flight with all the lines, reserve, etc. Next, I put a piece of adhesive Velcro around the center of the bar and another piece on the end of my waist strap of my harness. The reason for this, is to hold the bar at waist level when I bring the wing up with my right hand, the bar will detach from the Velcro and be at eye level for me to grab as I turn my body facing the direction of the wind while looking up to see if my leading edge is directly into the wind. I have also placed a piece of white tape around the right hand side of the bar so that I always know the right side of the bar. Sometimes the bar will detach from the Velcro and fall between the line and this will help to distinguish the right side automatically. I have also replaced my brake lines with brighter and different colors to distinguish them from the others. And, for big ears, I have attached the pulley system that the Gin Bandit Gliders have for their use of big ears on the left hand side of my riser system. This is attached to my outer A line so that I can pull my left big ear with my right arm. This ear is pulled first if both ears are necessary for a quicker decent!

I fly an Edel Sabre, which is a DHV-2 wing. The reason for this choice, is that this particular wing’s stability and direction are not affected by a minor tip collapse and the tips stay in until pumped out which leaves the hand free to handle any other task that may be needed… Like throwing the reserve, which is bottom mount with the deployment handle located on the right side of the harness. Kiting the wing takes some practice, as it does with two hands, only more work and can be frustrating. And, it should be noted that while on the ground, that the brake lines themselves must be used for directing the wing right or left because the use of the bar on the right or left side will also depress some of the opposite brake. Once the wing is stable and I am ready to launch I just lean forward to pressurize the wing while running and just do it. Depress the bar in the center once I’m air borne for a bit more lift and my God, thank you!

While in the air, I mostly weight shift for my direction with a little in put from the brake lines. Sometimes I use the bar but mostly using the lines themselves. However, when I do use the bar to turn left, I pull to the right on the bar, which pulls the brake line to the left. This works like a tiller on a boat, pull to the right and the boat goes to the left. I mostly use the brake line on the right side. Landing takes some practice but with time I have worked this out also. You set up just like anyone else except while on final, you get to the edge of your harness and have my hand on the center of the bar so when I am close to touch down I can push very hard, down, on the bar to get full flare. Remember that we lowered the bar 3″ from the factory setting, so now this helps getting full flare or however much is needed. Also, I back up while doing this so that the wing collapses behind me. I have tried a regular reverse when deflating, however, not being able to grab the left set of the risers while doing this causes the wing to go where ever, but I’m working on that too.

One way for a potential pilot to get the hang of this set-up is to go up in a tandem and once in stable air, use a bar with some snap on clips on the end and clip them on the metal rings that hold the toggles to the lines so that they can get the feel of the wing for themselves.<p>I also have to thank another one-armed pilot from British Columbia, Canada, who also is a prosthetist, Will Craig. He gave me the initial fire to continue my dream and the idea of the bar. The whole bar concept came from Maxim deJong of Thin Red Line, who instructed Will four to five years ago. The members of The Bay Area Paragliding Association in Pacifica, Ca., who were a tremendous amount of help, especially Ann Sasaki, the club president, who, with the help of Pam and Jules Brenner and Andrew Gentles, put me in touch with Will Craig. Arnell Sanchez, who tested my wing with the modifications. Phil Neri, the Pacifica Dumps Site Observer, who helped me put these modifications into effect. Without the help of these wonderful folks, my dream of free flight may never have been able to continue nor would I have logged over 100 safe flights, without injury.

See you in the skies!

Gary Majourau

PLEASE NOTE: the specialist flying techniques described are intended to be used as a reference by suitably qualified pilots, instructors and student pilots under instruction. THEY ARE NOT INTENDED AS A TEACH YOURSELF TO FLY FROM SCRATCH GUIDE.