The Best Thing That I Have Done In My Life

Hi i am a hang glider pilot . I am not boasting like an alpha male wannabe i am just giving my story .
I learned to fly in August 2004 and i have been flying since , with a hiccup or 2 along the way. Why did i decide to try hang gliding ? Well i am a person who has always had to deal with depression . I was 35 years old and i was seriously planning to end my life because i had simply had enough . Just as a matter of interest i had been a policeman since i finished school at the age of 17. I was sick and tired of seeing and dealing with the scum of the earth , i was tired and mentally drained by dealing with the innocent victims of these scumbags. I had lost hope in humanity and i was ready to put an end to it all.Then one day i went to visit my cousin and her new husband. He and i became friends straight away . It turned out that he was a hang gliding instructor and he offered to teach me free of charge. So i thought " why the f*** not ?, i'm going to kill myself anyway. " I returned the following week and 3 days later i had my 1st high flight off the top of the training slope. Well let me tell you something ! When i landed i had the biggest grin on my face which i could not get rid of for at least a week :-) I embraced my friend in a bear hug and thinking about it now actually causes my eyes to become a bit blury because that 1st high flight had wiped the depression from my mind like nothing else ever could . It had vanished ! A week or so later i told my friend about this and i made certain that he understood that he had actually saved my life. He was very pleased by this and he became like my flying guru. But my dear friend died 4 years later in a car crash... :-(
So now when i fly i think of him and i try to imagine that he is watching . We sprinkled his ashes on top of the mountain at the spot where we take off from. About a month ago i got to my personal highest at 2170 metres above ground level after taking off at my usual spot which is 300 metres AGL . I was very proud of myself and i wish my friend was there to see it because this is all mostly thanks to him .
Anyway the point i'm trying to make is that as long as i can have a flight every few weeks or so then the depression stays well away. So far so good , i'm now 41 and counting .
As a matter of interest my most memorable moment of all ( before my friend died ) was when i was flying at cloudbase which on that particular day was about 1600 metres AGL and i was flying in and out the bottom of a cloud , i looked to my right side and i saw a hawk which was maybe 10 metres away from me and it was mimicking what i was doing as well as checking me out . I shouted to it that it was a good day for flying and waved to it . The hawk soon lost interest and took off into the distance making me and my hang glider look like a pathetic amatuer.
In a nutshell this is why i fly : To feel the absolute joy of becoming one with nature by using the natural elements to soar skyward like a bird just the way that man has always wanted to do. It is like nothing else i have ever done in my life . If you are depressed maybe you should give it a try :-)
I hope i haven't bored you to tears.
Keep flying
ps : if you would like to see me flying or crashing then do a youtube search for wraithorn999 or use this link

wraithorn wraithorn
46-50, M
25 Responses Oct 21, 2010

Earlier today when I was on my way to work, the all time classic song - "Learning To Fly" by Pink Floyd started playing on the radio, and your story kept popping in my head over and over again! Here goes, I can't resist but share this very appropriate lyrics here with you all, enjoy!

"Learning To Fly"

Into the distance, a ribbon of black
Stretched to the point of no turning back
A flight of fancy on a windswept field
Standing alone my senses reeled
A fatal attraction is holding me fast,
How can I escape this irresistible grasp?

Can't keep my eyes from the circling sky
Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit, I

Ice is forming on the tips of my wings
Unheeded warnings, I thought, I thought of everything
No navigator to find my way home
Unladen, empty and turned to stone
A soul in tension that's learning to fly
Condition grounded but determined to try

Can't keep my eyes from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted just an earth-bound misfit, I

Friction lock - set. Mixture - rich. Propellers - fully forward. Flaps - set - 10 degree. Engine gauges and suction - check
Mixture set to maximum percent - recheck
Flight instruments...
Altimeters - check both
(garbled word) - on
Navigation lights - on
Strobes - on
(to tower): Confirm 3-8-Echo ready for departure
(tower): Hello again, this is now 129.4
(to tower): 129.4. It's to go.
(tower): You may commence your takeoff, winds over 10 knots.
(to tower): 3-8-Echo
Easy on the brakes. Take it easy. Its gonna roll this time.
Just hand the power gradually, and it...

Above the planet on a wing and a prayer,
My grubby halo, a vapour trail in the empty air,
Across the clouds I see my shadow fly
Out of the corner of my watering eye
A dream unthreatened by the morning light
Could blow this soul right through the roof of the night

There's no sensation to compare with this
Suspended animation, a state of bliss

Can't keep my mind from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted just an earth-bound misfit, I

Thanks , lovely lyrics. Here is another quote from some one who never did fly but knew how it would feel.

"Once you have flown you will walk the Earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been , and there you long to return." - Leonardo Da Vinci. :-)

wonderful read.

wow what a fantastic story!!

Thank you and thanks for reading it.


Thanks. It is fun like nothing else. In fact, it's mind blowing. :-)

The feeling of flight must be amazing with a hang glider. I can see why it would help get away from problems one is facing. It's not like flying in a plane or anything, it's like you with wings.

That's right. I like to compare it to riding a motorcycle as opposed to driving a car. You have the wind in your face and you can feel it tugging at your clothing. The feeling of freedom and exhilaration is amazing and your view is unobstructed. It's the closest us Humans have come to flying free like a bird. Many aeroplane pilots yearn to fly a Hang Glider but they don't have the time. It's actually amazing how far and long it is possible to fly just by gliding. If you are interested here is a link to a 20 min video of the world record which was flown in 11 hours in one flight. The distance covered was 760 kms. These guys are using top of the range equipment and are the best pilots in the world. What they did is amazing.

You are braver than me LOL! And you certainly did not bore me.I too worked in the public sector for years.

Thanks for your comment. I don't actually do this because I am brave, I do it to feel alive and full of joy. Just as a matter of interest I know a woman who is almost 60 yrs old now and she still runs off the edge of a mountain with a Hang Glider AND she is a better pilot than me. She is small and thin but puts many men to shame. :-) Flying is one of those things that looks like it has a lot to do with strength and bravery but it is much more about finesse and staying calm.

Yes I would agree with you,keeping control is very important in this sport,I saw a documentary about it once and it can be a dangerous sport,this is why I think you are brave.

Ok I watched this one twice trying to see how you climb..... and I think I can see how you catch the thermal air around midway through the video (?) - you circle more around there? How high did you climb total and was that around the time where you were highest up? Blue Oyster Cult, LOVE that song :D Very very fitting for this video lol

In this video I only climbed about 450 m above takeoff height. It wasn't possible to get higher on that particular day. I used this footage because it looks quite clear. On the flight where I got to my highest yet I did not have the camera on the glider. As Murphy's law dictates, "If I put the camera on my glider then I won't get very high." I must just stop being a dumbass and use the camera every single time from now on and eventually I'll get the good shots. My highest was 2170m about takeoff height so this one isn't even close. I'll keep trying and let you know how it goes. I will also trawl through my older footage and see what I can find. "Don't fear the reaper" is practically the anthem for Hang Glider pilots and that is why I used it.

Yeah, I would really like to see videos where you go as high up as you can :D ahhhh dayum I need to put this on my bucket list. Wish I could show you the skydiving video I had, scenery was very pretty in the evening sun, crystal clear with glaciers in the background.... a guy that jumped with us filmed the whole thing, had a camera on his head, caught the jump, most of the freefall, the opening of the chute and the landing.... buuuut I lost it during a move :(

You lost it ? Darn ! That's a pity. Because you know what I mean when I say it is difficult to explain the awesomeness of it to people but being able to show video footage is the next best thing. Your best bet is to go for a tandem flight somewhere and you can thermal up with an experienced pilot because it takes practice. Also consider Paragliding because it is easier in general and also more convenient because you don't need to rig the thing etc and it's lighter. Although...paragliding crash landings often result in back injuries because you fly seated but if you go tandem with an experienced pilot that won't easily happen...:-) Are there no Paragliding schools in Iceland ? There must be , Google it and you will probably find someone who does tandems.

It IS very difficult to explain - there are no strong enough words for things like this. Skydiving is just so unreal because you're so high up - the altitude doesn't even seem real so I think even people who are afraid of heights could easily do it. Aerobatics - THAT is something entirely different and even more thrilling than skydiving is. I sometimes watch Sean Tucker fly on YT because it reminds me of when I went.... it's quite something to experience several G's (no breakfast before something like that!):

There are both para- and handgliding seminars here, but not on a very consistent basis. I guess they are held in May most years (the hang gliding) but if there aren't enough participants they're cancelled. After all, there are only 320 K people living here :-/ I would prefer hang gliding because I've tried something sort of like paragliding, sitting down in front of the pilot, but it had a little engine in the back. That was a lot of fun but we didn't go very high up though.

I just watched that vid link you put here. I'm gobsmacked...what can I say...Sean Tucker is God ! All hail Sean Tucker Lord of the sky !
Here is a link to a guy doing aerobatics in a high performance hang glider after being towed up behind a microlight tug. This very risky though because the last guy who tried looping a hang glider on the flying sight where I live ended up throwing his reserve parachute because the glider broke under the G-forces created while looping it.

Well damn! That is probably the most graceful thing I have seen in a long time and that HAS to take some serious skill. I mean all Sean has to do is move a stick between his legs but this guy has to use his whole body to do those loops. Wow - I love it!

Well Laughingsoul I am an extreme introvert so personal experiences like this mean quite a lot to me. It is nice to share the joy of it though.

"Murphy's law" is sort of a pessimistic and unofficial law in my country. It means something like, "If something can go wrong then it will go wrong". :-)

There must be an opposite law somewhere in order to balance the Yin and Yang because that is the way of things. :-)

5 More Responses

I am sorry for the loss of your friend, however, what an uplifting story this is. I'm glad you found something to lift you from the "dark hole" as I call it. It's most likely the endorphins, but what a rush and a great personal achievement.

I watched your video. Amazing. I really don't have the nerve to do that but wish I did. What a fantastic view.

Thank you very much for your kind comment Carissimi. Yes the view is amazing up there.

Awesome story - thank you. I actually did something similar when I battled depression years ago - went skydiving twice and on an aerobatics flight. No drugs or shrinks (talking about it is WAY overrated lol). Just adrenaline.... did the trick for me too. I'm glad you found a solution to your depression, not everyone is as lucky as we are :)

Thanks for your comment Polly. I appreciate it. Adrenalin does have a way of putting depression in the back seat doesn't it ? I'm glad to hear that it helped you out. :-)

Well done for beating that depression and taking a chance that changed your path. I can relate to some things you have said and i wish you luck.

Thanks for that and thanks for reading my experience and leaving a comment. I appreciate it.

I'm sorry about your friend, and I'm glad you were able to find a way to keep going. It must have been hard dealing with bad people on a regular

Thank you, I appreciate your comments F2T.

Cool. I watched your videos. :-)

I happened upon your story tonight. I enjoyed reading it and did watch your videos too. I am sorry you lost your friend, but glad he could share something with you that made such a difference I your life. I hope one day to find something that exhilertes me to such an extent.

Thanks for your comment. I discovered flying just by chance. Good luck to you finding something that makes you grin with excitement.

Thanks. Me too. :) I had to laugh at the typos in my original comment though - it's what I get for staying up into the wee hours of the morning. Lol. Anyway, may the new year bring you much flying time and many smiles.

Wow great story. Fantastically composed and definitely not a bore.

Thank you very much Endless. I appreciate your comment.

Man! What an awesome story! I used to watch people hang gliding from this place in Oklahoma called Runestone State Park near the Arkansas border. I should put it on my bucket list! I would imagine police work might be a bit depressing in some towns. I've known some cops that worked in little towns where the police blotter was the funniest part of the whole paper, but I imagine bigger towns have bigger problems.

Thanks for your comment Puck, i appreciate it.
Police work in this country is and was pretty intense in towns cities and rural areas. A lot of the time in rural areas it was at it's worst because cultural beliefs often outweigh nationwide laws. It's complicated especially when politics is used to make it even worse.

awesome. thanks, man. wonder if some kind of serious adrenaline sport would help me too. I'm thinking whitewater kayaking since it's nearby.

That might do the trick. I think it's like a combination of adrenaline, joy and a thankfulness to be alive at the end. It's the kind of thing that really get's your attention and makes you feel good about yourself. That feeling of pure joy is something seldom felt by me in life, I think you know what I mean. It's a unique thing. Although here is one small word of advice, don't let that joy overtake common sense. Any extreme sport requires focus and concentration. Whitewater kayaking as I understand it will be similar in a way to flying. Water and wind both flow in a current like fashion especially well flowing around solid objects. Anyway, good luck and have fun. Thanks for the comment.:-)

Great story, great video -- and yes, I've had the "big grin" moment, too.

Thanks for your comment Windlion

This is an amazing story. I can easily imagine that for a sensitive person, ( as you clearly are) being in law enforcement would be an extremely difficult (painful at times) vocation. I'm curious if you are still involved in law enforcement. <br />
I have never hang glided. I had to learn to "jump" when I was in the army so I got a small taste of free fall.. But...I'm SURE that the sensation and views of actual flight (lift) at those altitudes must be awe-inspiring. And even more inspiring that it became an effective therapy for you. I hope the right person reads this story that could also benefit. I have never experienced depression but I have a brother in law that battles it. And I can tell it can be debilitating. Thanks for sharing this! It's indeed a great story. If I ever get the chance, I would LOVE to try it!

Thanks for your thoughtful comment Towhead, I appreciate it.
I no longer have anything to do with law enforcement and never want anything to do with it again. I had my fill of that and then some, no more for me. I now live on a small farm near the base of the mountain from which I fly.

Wow. Thank you so much for sharing those videos, fellow 999ner! I'm sorry to hear about your friend. It sounds like he gave you a priceless gift. I have a fear of heights but I've always wanted to parasail. I've never wanted to simulate death by leaping off a plane or bungee jumping; but parasailing and hang gliding really seem like the natural way to fly. I used to have a lot of lucid dreams before I went on sleep meds; once I would wake up within my dreams, I would find the nearest window, jump out, and begin to fly...I think I will start looking up hang gliding. ;-)

I have heard similar stories from other pilots about why they started to fly a hang glider Sisterfriend. They felt a desire to get as close to pure flight as possible, like a bird and this is it. No noisy engine, no air traffic control blaring in your ear and no other passengers to bug you. Just the sound of the wind in your ears and the beep from the variometer telling you if you are gaining or losing altitude.
Although, that said, I would actually recommend Paragliding for a woman. It is easier to learn and you can pack it into a harness which doubles as a backpack. There are however some women hang glider pilots. A few years ago I flew on the same day a woman who was 60 yrs old. We helped carry the glider to the takeoff site facing the incoming wind because it was starting to become a bit heavy for her. (the glider becomes light in flight). And so she ran off the edge of that mountain at 60 yrs of age and shortly thereafter I took off. She outflew me that day. :-) She got to altitudes that I could not get to. She was clearly an old friend of the thermals.

ty okay10 . <br />
i bet that you love to see the grin on people's faces when you teach them about the joy of that feeling of freedom . :-)

I enjoyed your story I feel the same about horses and skiing. Sorry for the loss of your friend, such a great gift he gave you. I hope to touch others lives too.

yes so do i do i ....:-)

okay, I understand now, why you choose this. Free until your feet are back on the ground, I hope, my friend, that one day, you can carry that feeling with you all the tiime.

I watched your videos!<br />
AMAZING!<br />
Gliding through the air, free like a bird and being one with nature!<br />
I think it is wonderful that you follow your passion.<br />
This is what life is about!<br />
JOIE! :)

yes indeed it is an experience to die for .lol :-)

An experience of a life time. Just to be up there witth freedom all around you. Even the view is spectacular if nothing else. To be accepted as the adopted brother to a hawk will of been even more fascinating. Pardon the pun. But an experience to die for. Keep it up. Thanks. Talk again soon. (MountainEagle).