Suzanne Evancho remembers the tandem hang gliding flight at Hang Glide Chicago, with which she earned her Hang-I rating.

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From: Suzanne Evancho
Subject: my first flight...the one that counts
Date: Mon, 08 Dec 2003 03:19:44 -0800 (PST)

August 2003

    While visiting my daughter Lisa in Chicago, I made arrangements with Arlan Birkett of Hang Glide Chicago. We got to the field late. Traffic was horrendous as usual, even for a Sunday. Hot, hot, hot and sticky with hundreds of acres of sweat bees. I sat there watching one person after another go up either as tandems, solos, or flying trikes; even a couple of small planes. I'm anxious. Lisa's scared for me (she's never watched me go up) but at the same time bored and hungry.

    I thought there were two Polish-speaking people in front of me, but Arlan Birkett grabs the harness and waves me over. I felt like a Plain-Jane-Wallflower at a High School dance with the Quarterback asking me to dance. ME? MY TURN NOW???!!!

    NO GOGGLES!! No HELMET!!! I thought there were 2 more people! Where's those darn goggles?!?! One of the ground crew ran up the runway and grabbed the helmet from a trike pilot and gave me his own shades. I whip those buggers on, tighten the strap and climb in. We do a quick hang-check and Arlan waves to the Ukrainian tow pilot. The tail waves back and we're off.

    After about 2500' of pure air, clouds only in the distance, he tells me to check our altitude and release at 3000'. Ok..... I'm ready. 2900, 2930, 2970, 3000, Release!

    He immediately instructs me to do the 180 west, 90 south, 360 south, then increase speed, push out, head north..... well, I headed west perfectly. He said that was a perfect turn and the sunset was looking exceptionally beautiful this evening, but he'd like to see me finish with north! OOPS! :) Then came more dives and turns and all the hoops and ladders. He asked me to try a perfect parallel to the runway and prepare for landing. I did, got to the fence line and did my perfect left, straightening out just right, left again and he told me to come in a little faster. I pulled in, and in, and in a little more and eased out just at the right time. The wings seemed to be cocked just a tad to the right but I was coming in dead center. There was a glider on the right edge of the runway but I kept my eyes off of it and focused in on where I wanted to be if the glider just kept on going. Then we stopped. It was a nice landing if I may say so myself.

    We got out and Arlan tells me, "You did all the flying from release to landing without me doing a single thing." Yeah? You kidding? YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was doing my Kokapelli dance when he told me, "You just earned your Hang 1." I started flailing my arms around then ran over to him and gave him (probably) his biggest hug of the day! Don't know why for sure, but I started running down the runway back to my kid, not even thinking of the golf cart that was there to get me. Finally got in and we drove down to where she was and I'm sure I looked like a complete idiot running up to the video camera! LOL

    Waited around and he filled out my USHGA paperwork, took my money and gave me a discount since he didn't have change. I promised to return as soon as I get back to Chicago and we took off. The moon was as full as I've ever seen it, larger though, and it looked as if it was only inches above the horizon. Lisa drove the 2 hours home and I sat back, staring at that moon, and feeling like I had just accomplished a major lifetime feat.

    Well guys, it was a major feat for me. Last year at this time I was just finding all of you. I was so excited to find pilots anywhere but the Outer Banks! After last spring, I seriously thought I'd never go up again... never. My body was crap and everything was just turning against me air-wise.

    But then I decided that "This is the Summer of ME!" That IS what I've named it. LOL To finally get back up in the air was one thing... a wonderful thing. But to actually get some letters and numbers next to my name instead of H-0, (at least there's no W- R- or E in it even if it sounds that way).... Oh WOW!.... and at 50 old years...... YAHOO! MAGOO!

Suzanne Evancho