In late 1974, I moved into hang gliding from parachuting at Halfpenny Green airfield near Wolverhampton, where I was pronounced as being their worst ever student. This level of ability continued as I acquired a second hand Skyhook 3A glider and finding what I assumed was suitable hill in the Southern Peak District, climbed it hoping to learn how to fly it on the way down.
Fortunately after a number of unsuccessful attempts, I was taken under the wing of the local members of the Peak Hang Gliding Club. Under their guidance I did actually learn to fly properly, becoming a Club Coach, helping other tyro pilots. I was always keen to be involved with the Club and during various periods, I was Chairman and Site Officer for a number of years. I also stood for the BHGA/BHPA Council and became National Sites Officer, a post which I held for 10 years. It proved both challenging and rewarding all at the same time.
In 1978 I along with a friend started a hang gliding school which operated until the end of August 2000. I was really fortunate not only being in at the very beginning of hang gliding in the UK but also micro lighting, as my first flight was on Len Gabriels of Skyhooks, prototype trike on Ashbourne airfield in July 1980 I was immediately hooked and duly became one of the first micro light instructors.
It was whilst testing the Len Hull/Pete Best Skymaster Parachute recovery system one November day in 1981 that I tucked the trike I was flying and fell inverted from 500 feet. This resulted in a broken back combined with a broken and paralysed right arm which caused an unexpected and slightly frustrating stoppage of my flying activities for about 18 months. Mind you it wasn’t all bad, because in that time I learnt to fly sailplanes, attained a PPL (A) and married my Physiotherapist.
In November 1984 I had my first flight on a paraglider at Edge Top, courtesy of Gerald Williams.
I am now working as a community paramedic and due to time constraints I have not done much hang gliding, but have done a little micro lighting. I hope to put this right in the near future.
John Clarke Flying Adventures Blog Site