16 July 2010

Some involuntary flying

Just returned home from the Pre-Worlds in Piedrahita, Spain. Attentive readers will notice that this is before the end of the comp. On Saturday, the unofficial training day, I launched relatively early as the 10th or so pilot, while most others waited for the conditions to become a bit more reliable. We had waited quite long for the thick inversion to raise above takeoff, and it was still low; the first thermals only took one some 100 m above launch. But I wanted some practice in working the weak stuff so decided to go as soon as I saw that it was possible to stay up.
I'd worked my way some 5km along the ridge, when I hit a weak but clear thermal, and started circling in it, drifting up along the mountain. At the 4th or so circle I suddenly got a huge collapse, approx. half the wing folded in and worse, it cravatted (folded between the lines) for some reason. Never experienced such an "unwarned" collapse, and never a cravatte when thermalling. Much worse was that I was low, very low, over the gentle (not steep) mountain. I'm used to flying close to steep mountains where you always have altitude above the ground. Now I had only 30 m at most. However the glider behaved reasonably, I managed to steer away and maintain more or less a direction away from the mountain. I just started attempts to open the wing when the glider hit some turbulence, presumably lift, and surged forward somewhat. When I then swing under it, the glider picked up speed. Normally this would open the inflation, but due to the cravatte this time the speed made me turn back to the mountain again, and now with speed. By now I was really low, and obviously going to hit the ground soon. Luckily I managed to steer parallel to the mountain and found time to get my legs out. Hence the "landing" on/against a huge rock was hard, but not hard enough to kill me. I'd injured my ankle and felt a lot of back pain, but nothing seemed broken. Other than my radio that is. Some 15 minutes later other paragliders flew by and with some I managed to make contact, indicating that I was ok, but in need of help. Initially there was no cellular signal, but a bit later I could call 112, who already were aware of the situation and asked for details. Soon after two pilots who had top-landed on the plateau above me arrived, immediately followed by a helicopter with a paramedic rescue team. They assessed the situation and little later I was winched up into another helicopter. Then into an ambulance and to the local health care station. Then after a quick look by the doctor I was transported to the hospital in Avilá, for x-rays. Luckily these confirmed that both ankle and back had not fractured. The ankle was immobilized with plaster, and sometime later I walked with the aid of crutches in the opening parade! Huge thanks to all the rescue and medical people and the pilots who top-landed; you were all wonderful.

I stayed around a few days and recovered some strength, greatly helped by my house mates. Sunday evening was special of course with a great crowd on the plaza around the large screens. The Spanish deservedly won the World Cup, and happily forgave me and the other Dutch supporters our misplaced hopes. The wild crowd and fireworks at the final whistle blow made for an unforgettable evening.
Now, 6 days later, I'm back home and after a visit to the local health care centre relieved from the plaster and with permission to try to walk, gradually. It's even hotter here in Finland than in Spain so the possibility to have a shower or a bath is extremely welcome.

1 comment:

spri said...

congratulations !

Eugene (a russian ex-from Tampere)