Ever since I could walk, I have been fascinated by the nature and mountains of the Zillertal Alps. As a young boy, I remember watching hundreds of paragliders and hang-gliders as they drifted from way up high, surrounded by birds and mountain peaks, gently down into the valley below. I knew from an early age that I would one day feel compelled to pluck up the courage myself and fly like a bird through the air, far above the busy world below.
Now, years later, that time has come and I decide to enrol myself for a taster day with the Zillertaler Flugschule. When the day finally arrives, I jump excitedly out of bed, I’m a little disappointed to find that the sun isn’t shining and instead a blanket of fog is lying low over the valley.
There are even some light rain showers! My excitement somewhat dampened, I make my way to the meeting point – the office of the Zillertaler Flugschule in Hollenzen – where the owner, Manfred Dornauer, greets me with a firm handshake and a friendly smile. He reassures me that the weather forecast for the next few hours is good, with clear skies and sunshine forecast.
My motivation returns and I find it hard to contain my excitement. However, before we can start, myself and the other participants have to watch a 45 minute introductory film explaining everything from the launch to the flight itself and the landing. The theory part over, we get given our equipment and make our way to the practice slope approximately 5 minutes away.
As we leave the office, the rain stops and the first rays of sunshine start to break through the clouds.
When we arrive at the practice slope, we are shown how to correctly put on the rucksack which holds the wing, as well as how to lay the wing out on the ground, position the various suspension lines and check that everything is fully functional. We are also all given a radio unit which our instructors, Regi and Winni, will use to give us instructions. At first we start on the flat and everyone tries to pull up their wing for the first time, which looked a lot easier in the introductory video than it is in reality! However, with guidance from the instructors, after 2 or 3 tries we have all got the hang of the movement relatively quickly and can move forward several metres with the wing above us.
I am impatient to rise to the challenge and can’t wait to fly! So each try I dare to start slightly further up the hill until I finally manage to launch. I only fly a few steps but this is enough to forget the effort of repeatedly struggling up the slope with my equipment. I immediately repack my wing and climb to the highest point of the practice slope, ready to give my all to get airborne once again.
It’s time. Regi gives me the green light and I try again to launch. I feel the wing reacting to my commands and beginning to lift above me, Through my radio I hear Regi saying, “very good, now pull a little on the break and keep running.” Shortly afterwards my feet leave the ground and I lift off. This time not just for a few steps. In no time, I am a good four metres above the ground and enjoying my first real flight. Following instructions over the radio, I make my first small turns and prepare to make a safe landing. Overwhelmed with euphoria, I summon the strength to keep hauling my 10kg of equipment up the hill in order to fly down again and again. All too soon the taster day is over, we pack up our equipment and return to the office. It’s only now that I realise how absolutely exhausted I am, how heavy my legs are and how my mouth is aching from smiling so much.
In conclusion: With help from the professional instructors at the Zillertaler Flugschule every participant managed to launch and fly several metres. The taster day definitely whet my appetite and I am sure that, in the not too distant future, I will complete my paragliding