During the week of the 6 th to the 12 th February 2011 one lucky Cadet from 198 (Hinckley) Squadron, Air Training Corps, got to go on a week Paragliding Course in Wales. These courses are relatively rare as there are only 36 places a year out of 45,000 plus Air Cadets in the UK, Cadet Jack Leman was one of a course of 12 cadets who spent the week learning, and eventually taking part in, Paragliding. This is Jack’s story of his week.
My day really began at 1pm, where I had to catch two trains to the Joint Service Hang Gliding and Paragliding Centre at Abergavenny in Wales. After four hours of travelling, a delay and waiting at the train station for an hour – I finally made it to the centre. Everyone else was already there, and the night was passed with introductions and activities to break the ice.
Monday properly started at 8:30 with a weather brief, which would determine how we would spend our day. What we really wanted was a slight wind, high visibility and little gusts – but we could see that the winds were too strong so we didn’t fly. Instead, we practiced how to set up the paraglider, how to land safely, and how to take off effectively. That evening we had dinner, and then turned the mess into an obstacle course – and had to be guided through it blindfolded: the staff on the course wanted us to be able to trust each other and work as a team, as we would all be trusting each other the next day to prepare each other’s paragliders.
The next morning, we were thrilled to hear that the winds had slowed down and that we were going on the hills! We packed our equipment, and half an hour later we were just nearing the hills. We shared the paragliders between us into twos, meaning we used up less space and there was more time spent flying. The technique to it was to run with your arms back, until you felt the paraglider lift, let go of the a-risers and then use the breaks in your hands to steer, land and lift higher. Because of the increasing wind speeds, I only managed three flights that day. To encourage team spirit, we were split into flights and had competitions throughout the week to see who would win…
On Wednesday, the visibility was bad as low clouds gathered around the hills, meaning we couldn’t fly. Instead, we would be planning a route and hill-walking. We were a little disheartened by this, but after we separated into flights and spent six hours completing the walk (my flight won) we were all in high spirits.
The next day, on Thursday, we flew again! The fog had eased off, and we rushed straight to the hills – this one was steeper and longer, meaning more time in the air! As the fog began to appear, we hurried to get our canopies ready to fly. I managed three flights this day. The first time, I panicked and landed on my behind – bad idea! However, the next two flights were more successful and I flew for about twenty five seconds. The fog then became thicker and we were no longer able to fly. That night, we split off into our flights and were told we were to put up a tent blindfolded, and the fastest team would win. Our flight won this challenge… by almost half an hour!
On the last day, the fog was still present, meaning we weren’t able to fly. We weren’t too disappointed; as we found out we would be doing team-building exercises on the high ropes! My team won the race to the top of Jacob’s ladder, and we also did the leap of faith. I was a little nervous, but I managed it! That night, we had a party to celebrate our time together – and to forget the fact that the next day we would all be returning back to normality.
Overall, my experience of paragliding in Wales was absolutely amazing. The flying itself was brilliant, as it was something new and exciting I had never experienced. Also, the people I spent the week with were equally as incredible – we had lots of laughs and memories that will last forever. I still can’t believe it was only a week I was there, as it felt like a lot longer. The course was definitely the highlight of my time as a cadet so far, and I would not hesitate in recommending the course to anyone considering it!