During my stay, I got to fly the new AirBorne M3 Sport beastie with an MR-K wing over the beautiful Lake Macquarie coastline, seeing humpback whales and soaring above sea eagles and swamp harriers. In the back seat helping me out was Russell’s son, Rory Duncan, who had just returned from Brazil having competed as part of the Australian team in the World Hang Gliding Championships. Rory was an excellent instructor with an unshakeable nerve who was kind – or perhaps brave – enough to take me up in very turbulent conditions at all times of the day so that I could build up my skills.
From day one Rory had me working hard – it was a little bit like a ‘baptism by turbulence’. Some days I could barely lift my arms after we landed they were so tired from the physicality of controlling the aircraft, but I loved every minute! Within just two-weeks, I experienced flying over water and hilly terrain, in sea breezes, convergent winds and landing in strong crosswinds with rotor coming off the trees lining the Lake Macquarie runway.
Easily the most memorable though was my last day with Rory doing ‘touch and go’s’ (circuits) during the middle of the day on a grass ‘airstrip’ at Hexham, that was little more than a mown area in a paddock covered in cow poo. Thankfully there were no cows on the runway that day but there were many small, punchy thermals going off to keep us awake – some of them up to 1000ft/min! Most satisfyingly, at the end of the two weeks, I was nailing my landings in these challenging conditions and my confidence levels improved immensely.