I started sky diving with 2 friends under the instruction of Danny (he threw us out the plane) with the Canterbury Sky Diving Club (never have I know a bond so strong as between those who sky dive), we jumped at Dorie (mid Canterbury). What an awesome time, I completed 21 jumps but was never very good, I had a lot of trouble with the free fall thing. Anyway during a club visit to the Mt Cook village to do a display jump at the opening of the new Youth Hostel (YHA) I found myself wanting to return, that was my sort of country.
Not long after that I saw a job advertised for an electrician at the Hermitage Hotel at Mt Cook, I applied, was accepted and within a couple of months I was back at Mt Cook. Wanting to continue the whole being in the air thing I ordered a para glider from Danny (he manufactured skydiving rigs and had just gotten into para gliders). One of his first para glider customers was Rob Hall who flew from the summit of Mt Cook 6 months or so before I started in the sport.
So began a long period of being a para glider pilot – well after a long period of learning how to launch one (which I eventually figured out – being on a steep mountain side helps a lot), the flying was easy being quite similar to flying a ram air parachute (at least initially – as time went on the wings became better and while fly them was similar in theory, in practice they were different).
In my last year or two at Mt Cook Village I was working as a PG guide/instructor for Alpine Guides (they were based at Mt Cook) and one day Paul Aulbury (mountaineer and fellow PG guide/instructor) and I were at the bottom of end of Lake Pukaki with a group of clients when two chaps from Japan drove up. They said they were from Falhwark Para Gliders and that they had a PPG with them and wondered if it would be OK if they flew it, well of course it was. My first introduction to PPG.
Latter that day we invited those same two to come with us when we helicoptered up to one of the ridges above Glentanner Park and flew back with our clients, they were more than happy and were blown away.
A few months latter I had drawn up the plans for my first PPG motor unit – the engine was a Honda CR250 motor cycle engine (water cooled, with the gearbox removed and triple V belt reduction). I flew that a few times only, it was un-reliable, but went long enough to give me the thrill of my life, 20 years latter I remember fondly the thrill of skimming across the grass of the Birch Hill airstrip, hitting the throttle and suddenly being hundred feet in the air.
I left PPG behind for a while, did some more PG instruction in Christchurch then left that behind as well.
15 years latter I purchased a new motor unit (from Mexico [of all places] it had a mini 2 plus on it) and wing (Apco Presta) and here I am.