Saturday the 4th of July; an American Celebration day and a day to remember.
A hand-full of DPC pilots anticipated the potential for a really decent flight as we gathered on the Winston Park take-off site - a regular site for SE and SW wind directions.
Normally we would take off and soar up and down the long ridge over houses and gum trees, looking out over the national free-way and the Toll Plaza - hoping for that lucky thermal which could take one up to 400m above and a possible XC flight to the distant golf course.
I had flown here on Thursday and remembered how cold I had been without my flight suit, so I made sure that I was warmly dressed and suited up at about 12h30, as I prepared my Edel Sabre for launch. The wind seemed a little crossed and feedback from another pilot who had just top landed confirmed that it was quite thermic - 4 up and 4 down stuff.
I launched and immediately realised that I would have to work hard just to stay up above the main gum-trees, which can be as daunting as flypaper to the unprepared pilot in such conditions.
I managed to thermal up from a fairly low save and noticed how Andre' was suddenly sinking very low and had made for the bottom landing zone. Almost immediately I found myself in a similar situation - major sink ! What with the power lines and gum trees, I decided to run for the landing - just making it over the lines in time. I made for landing and was surprised suddenly by a booming thermal - I thought…Wow! Imagine a save from here. I started to turn into it but was concerned about the closeness to the gum trees and so, turned back - only to have a huge front tuck and feel myself falling out of the air. Almost immediately, it seemed, I got an asymmetric on the left and started to spin towards the right. I was totally out of control and the ground ± 30m below was coming up fast . I had experienced something similar before and was lucky not to have needed my reserve then when my glider opened itself in time. This was different. There was no height left for anything other than a reserve parachute deployment.
I thought, surely the reserve cannot deploy at such a low height, but in desperation, was prepared to try anything.
I grabbed the reserve handle, pulled & threw. My rear mounted Charley Revolution II came out like a dream; popping open and snapping me into the upright position for just a few seconds before I landed feet first, but hard with a jolt and severe whip of the neck. I could not believe how quickly it all happened. In recollection I had always wondered how it must be to throw the reserve, secretly hoping never to need to. I had just read about Dave Mohr's recent deployment and know that the choices one makes in this sport make all the difference. I had no time to spare and chose to use my last chance - it worked.
My advice to other pilots is ; familiarise yourself with your reserve handle position, and ensure that your reserve will work as well as mine did, by making sure it is a good quality reserve, is in good condition and has been recently packed. I thank the Lord I spared no expense when purchasing my equipment. Whilst not my ideal situation, the experience has left me richer, with respect for the sky and my Charly reserve.
Fly high, Brett Ellis