Dave Broyles © 1996
Hang gliding is a sport for which the learning process has some
likelihood of injuries, especially for women. I read once that
one fourth of the women hang gliding have broken an arm. This
must be true, because I have talked to a lot of women hang glider
pilots, and many of them have broken an arm. I also know as an
instructor, that most people who get an injury, even a minor one
such as a sprained ankle while learning to hang glide usually,
for one reason or another, quit the sport.
Five years ago, I broke an arm hang gliding. It was a bad break,
but with my years of flying, I was only waiting until the day
I could get back flying again. I was in a wheel chair for some
weeks due to a dislocated ankle in the same accident. While I
was wheel chair bound, a young woman called me about hang gliding
lessons, (I run a school). I had several people filling in for
me while I couldn't go out to the levees, and this young woman
started lessons under the tuteledge of Randy Tripp. Randy, although
only an assistant instructor was and is an excellent instructor,
and the young woman was making progress and soon earned her hang
1. Right after that, the doctor cleared my ankle for walking,
though my arm was still in a sling, and I went out to monitor
a lesson being conducted by Randy. On about her fifth flight of
the day, the young woman landed on the wheels, and the glider
turned and rolled into high grass, stopping suddenly. We called
out, "Are you alright?" and she said, "My arm is
broken." Randy and I rushed down to see what had happened,
and found that she had struck her arm on a down tube and it was
broken. I went with her to the hospital. There was substantial
comment about me standing around with my arm in a sling while
she was standing around with her arm in a sling, the kindest of
which was "You would think that looking at your instructor
would tell you something." The X-Rays subsequently showed
her humorus was broken in two places and that she would require
surgery correction for it to heal properly. The upshot was that
she would not be able to resume lessons for a year after her arm
She came to the hang gliding club meeting every month for a year,
defiantly brandishing her broken arm and asserting that she was
still going to learn to fly. By the time she was cleared by her
doctors to start back to flying, I had learned to fly paragliders
and was on my way to becoming a paragliding instructor. So she
was my first paragliding student. She made rapid progress and
soon was a Class I paraglider pilot and a Packsaddle Soaring Association
member in good standing except for a pronounced tendency to land
in the trees from time to time.
By this time, most of you know I'm talking about Lynda Wacht.
She had made several attempts to get back into hang gliding, but
the memory of her broken arm held her back. Finally one day she
cranked off some flights from the Murcheson training hill, and
then after that, step by step, she came back to flying hang gliders
as well as earning her Class II paraglider rating.
Every time that I think that Lynda has sort of topped out for
a while, I get surprised. She was helping me instruct paragliding
last summer. After the students were through for the day, Lynda
and I towed up from scooter tow and both went XC, I for 3 miles
and she for about 6 m. A few weeks later, Lynda towed up to 400
ft. from scooter tow, caught a thermal and went XC. Figuring that
if the pupil could do it so could the teacher, I started towing
about 1 tow ever 3 minutes until another cycle came through. I
caught a whisper, then a stream, then a torrent of rising air,
and I thermalled off heading downwind to Stonebridge ranch where
Lynda had landed before. Surely she didn't go farther than this,
I thought. Then came a call from Weston that Lynda was up there.
I had gone about 7 miles and she had gone 14. Curses, foiled again.
And her vario was only an Avocet Pilots watch.
Soon Lynda was scooter towing hang gliders as well as the best
of my other students. She instantly picked up platform launch,
and when we went to Justin, Texas to aerotow behind a Cosmos trike,
she immediately aerotowed like a pro, except for one thing. She
towed to 2000 ft. straight as an arrow and released, turned down
wind and headed for Fort Worth. I got on the radio to inform her
that unless she was planing an XC, she might want to do a 180.
She turned back and landed about 1/2 mile downwind after fighting
a 25 mph headwind all the way to the ground.
She soon went to the South Tow Site and proved that she could
thermal a hang glider as well as she thermalled a paraglider staying
up for about 20 minutes on her Vision Mk 4.
When Hungary Joe came to town, with his DragonFly AeroTug, she
cranked out 8 flights, once again proving that she was solid as
a rock under tow never locking out, never flailing around, always
in the right place.
Up to date, she has been flying every chance she has gotten, only
being hampered by some impromptu aerobatics her boy friend, John
performed in his Jeep Cherokee. This wasn't John's fault. A motorist
coming the other way just had a bad day and t-boned John's truck,
sending it rolling down the highway. Unfortunately her glider
was on the roof, but fortunately, there was no unrepairable damage
to the glider and only moderate damage to Lynda and John. The
truck, of course, was destroyed.
So why did I call this article "True Grit"? Well, I
know Lynda pretty well. You might think that she stuck with hang
gliding because she had a death wish or was too dumb to be afraid.
Neither true. The first time we went back to the training hill
with a hang glider after she had broken her arm, I saw that she
was really afraid. The sort of "I can't get my feet to move
down the hill." type of fear. I honored that fear. I understood
being incapacatated by an injury and why one would NOT want that
to happen again. It was clear that she wasn't ready to go back
to hang gliding again, so I taught her to paraglide. From time
to time, she would stand on a hill with a hang glider, or make
an abortive little launch. But I could see she was still not ready
yet. Gradually her skill on a paraglider became really polished
and she became a confident pilot capable of getting her paraglider
out of a tree at a moments notice. Pretty soon she began avoiding
trees entirely. She became aware that she was stronger and healthier
than she had been when she had broken her arm. At this point,
though she was still afraid, she got her feet moving down the
hill at Mucheson and got in a hang glider flight.Colliding with
the goal posts didn't retard her progress at all, and soon she
was flying from Packsaddle and scooter tow. I have already stated
her prowess on a hang glider. Soon she will be doing spot landings
for her hang 3. The fear has gone out of her eyes, at least partly.
Still, if the conditions or the flight task exceeds her inner
limits, she chooses not to fly. But more often than not, she is
out there circling in thermals and astonishing us with her progress.
Every time I see her fly, she is flying a little better. I don't
know where her future lies as a hang glider pilot. She might become
an instructor, or a competition pilot or a world record holder,
but I don't expect her flying career to be commonplace.
As I said when I started writing, I respect the ability to overcome
all odds.True courage is the ability to be able to face fear and
keep going. "True Grit."