Saturday, July 16, 2011

Taking to the sky


I am on my way to obliterating my fear of height.

YT and I went paramotoring the other day. You're probably familiar with paragliding. Well this is something similar but with a motor behind your back.

It's the easiest and cheapest form of powered flight. Only Rocketeer's backpack or Iron Man's suit could beat it!

We flew tandem, of course, since flying a paramotor requires a license issued by the Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation.

The flights took place in an open field in Pulau Indah near Port Klang.

It's very simple. You just rest your bum in the tiny seat right in front of the pilot, they strap you in and off you go. You can be airborne in a few minutes.

Well, it should be that simple. But not in my case. The pilot had to abort the first two take-off attempts. The RM12,000 wing had lost its 'power', so to speak.

"It has exceeded its 400 hour flight limit, so we're not getting enough lift," said Pok Soh, my pilot.

Uh-oh. Should I be concerned about this?

"Not to worry. Once we're airborne, it's ok," said Pok Soh, probably sensing my unease.

True enough, we were successful in our third attempt. Although, because of the condition of the wing, it was a very slow ascent.

I looked down. I had little more than this tiny seat and some metal frames below me.

Strangely enough, I wasn't afraid.

"How high up does it go?" I asked Pok Soh through the radio communication. "500ft," he said.

At 400ft (which is apparently the restriction imposed by the DCA for paramotors), Pok Soh switched off the engine and we began to glide like a bird.

Flying in complete silence. It was really, really peaceful.

I looked around and saw the sea and had trouble recognising the tiny cars and cows on the ground.

Pok Soh then got me to take over control. With both arms extended, I was able to control the glider. Pull right to turn right, pull left to turn left. It was effortless.

We spent some time circling the airspace.

After about ten minutes (which was too short!), we went back to the landing field. I had difficulty locating it initially as everything looked different from up there.

Landing was a straightforward affair and does not need a large space.

As soon as we touched down, I wondered when I would get on that RM150 flight again.

They say once you have tasted flight, you'll want to be up there again. It's true.

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