Reading the first chapter of 'The Children Of The Wind', by his close friend Brian Milton, brought back old memories of Alvin Russell.
In his capacity as national training officer Alvin had called with me at my home in Northern Ireland a few days before his final flight in December 1976. As one of the 'early birds' here, I was involved in teaching others hang gliding at that time. We talked late into the night and I will be ever grateful to him for sharing his knowledge and advice at that early stage of getting to grips with this new and incredibly exciting sport.
My last memory of Alvin was when he dropped me off back home after we had toured North Belfast in his sports car late at night looking for - and eventually finding - a petrol station that was open in a 'safe' area, so that he could fill up before heading back to Dublin.
The news of his untimely death a few days later came as a terrible shock, but it did drive home a valuable lesson to us all to do thorough pre-flight checks and to be aware of the danger of becoming distracted.
Ironically, some 11 years later and after many 'routine' pre-flight checks, I made the same sort of mistake when I missed a loose nut on my hang glider. The lower nose wires subsequently detached and the hang glider collapsed in mid-air. But, unlike in the 1970s, most of us had by then progressed to carrying reserve parachutes and I escaped with nothing more than a bruised arm and a slightly bitten tongue. I think the current crop of pilots get a little tired of my preaching of the importance of concentrating on daily inspections and pre-flight checks.