A rather windy morning on 3rd October did not look promising and after the usual
debate as to which site to use, Neil Slinger and Mark Hobson settled on the east
face of Mam Tor. Bill Morris reports that their decision was to result in a flight
of 3 hours and 17 minutes.
To Neil the wind seemed too strong (about 20mph) for a large canopy so he choose
to fly his Paramount 9/200 which he knew to be fast and have good penetration. After
putting on his warm clothing and fixing his seat to his harness, he made a good clean
launch about 200 feet below the top of the hill and found immediately that with a
touch of brake he gained lift.
To start with he had to work hard, for though there was lift it was close to
the hill and with the speed of the canopy he could easily fly out too far and loose
it. the weather was fair, no clouds at first and with some thermal activity which
gave Neil a 400 feet height gain at one stage but which also led to one loss of lift
which he had to fight hard against, by turning back at the hill. He went looking
for lift on the saddle between Mam Tor and Loose Hill but found that though there
was lift he lost a lot of height getting there and then racing back to the better
lift on the East Face.
The first hour passed quite quickly and the second hour seemed slightly easier,
though Neil had to find ways of relieving the strain on his arms. He tried back risering,
which was productive but needed too much arm strength. As a left hander he found
his right arm started to hurt first, so he gripped his harness at half brake with
his right hand and controlled the canopy purely by letting up or pulling on the left.
As well as this he took both toggles in one hand and found this to be comfortable,
possibly because the muscle groups he was using were different. Neil twisted his
wrists to relax them and at one stage, feeling a bit of a wally, even flew with his
arms straight out in front of him. He also developed a stiff neck looking around
and behind as there was activity from aeromodellers and hang gliders, both of which
he could see and posed no problems.
There were other canopies in the air from time to time and Neil did feel some
dirty air in their wash, usually higher up which caught him by surprise. He was able
to ride some of the better lift by small applications of brake, if he was blown too
far backwards he used the speed of the canopy to fly forwards, sometimes in the downdraught
and he describes the technique like being on a ferris wheel. Halfway through the
second hour Neil was determined to do two hours and on passing that target set his
mind on two and a half. He was feeling sorry for his observer Mark Hobson, who was
waiting below, so he shouted down he would go for three hours and then come down.
The shadows were getting longer and the wind getting more ragged with stronger gusts.
This kept Neil switched on and he moved further out from the slope so that he had
more height if he needed to recover from any instability.
The biggest problem of the day was getting down! Neil had picked a spot on the
ground and had been trying to stay over it as this helped his concentration. After
three hours he did an extra five minutes for any penalty and then started to descend.
He had wanted to do a pure top landing but sensibly decided that with his tiredness
and the effect of cold, he did not want to find himself struggling on the ground
in the compression area on the top. He front risered to about 20 feet off the slope
and balanced a landing onto the slope. He collapsed the canopy easily and sat down
to regain his circulation in his arms and backside. Though tired, he was perfectly
comfortable and after a rest walked the 60 metres to the top.
Neil felt he had picked the right canopy for his weight, 11 ½ stone, and the
conditions. The flight, though strenuous was exhilarating and, he felt, achievable
by anyone. Many of the hang gliders had seen his flight and were very impressed,
and Neil was congratulated by members of the Sheffield HGC. Neil is a member of Bollington
PC. He has flown a lot in the Peak District, and this flight replaced Neil's own
existing national record of one hour and nineteen minutes, achieved on 20th June
at Parlick Pike in Lancashire. Neil currently leads the Parascending Duration League
and his total time, without this score, is 175 minutes over five flights. There are
currently at least five people who have done the hour in the UK and maybe one day
someone will stay up all day. Neil is to be congratulated on this time. He has shown
what is possible and started to show the kind of skills that will have to be learnt
for the future. His next plans include some distance flights along ridges before
tackling the idea of cross country flights. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy!
Steve Thompson of Sheffield Hang Gliding Club, who also took photographs comments
: "Surely the next important step in foot launched canopy soaring will be when someone
manages to soar from dawn to dusk, enabling the emphasis to move from duration to
much more interesting records : height gain, distance... There is, for example, the
potential for some quite interesting out and return flights along ridges."