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latest Para-Newbie News-n-Pics, Mar08, Issue #0015, monthly.
March 26, 2008

Fresh Paragliding Stuff

Selected News, Image, Site Update

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Issued on Wed, Mar 26th 2008, Issue #0015
Paragliding Tales and Reviews
12 Muscatel Cct, Old Reynella, S.A. 5161, Australia

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Table of Contents

  1. News of the Month
  2. Image of the Month
  3. Website Content of the Month

News of the Month

After the usual scouring of the Web using a number of world news resources I came to an uncomfortable conclusion. No, it wasn't that there wasn't any news! This month, I'm publishing a crash story. Gasp! Didn't I vow never to do such a thing, not long ago? I did, but there are a couple of good reasons why this one's different. Read on and see...

Man And Dog Hang Out With Giant Ash Tree

Source: Mountain Views Mail, Australia (and others)

Date: 3 Mar 2008

In a nutshell, Paul Hansen and his pet Chihuahua started a routine flight near Melbourne, Australia, but got into difficulties when conditions changed. Not long after launch, they ended up in the branches of a tall mountain ash tree, between the towns of Healesville and Warburton! The rescue went smoothly, thanks to the pilot's excellent preparation for the flight. Before going into it further, I can't help making a few comments about...

The Media Feeding Frenzy

Although the event took place on the last day of February, a Friday, the vast bulk of reporting on it occurred during March.

This story took off like a rocket, but only one or two local papers did justice to the pilot and the sport of paragliding. Over the following weeks, short versions of the event were published by news outlets all around the world.

Blogs by the dozen picked it up too. Specialty websites such as She Knows and Weird News couldn't resist it either. It seems that the image of a man and a small dog floating into a tall tree was a bit of a giggle for these publishers. The standards of journalism were rather low in some cases too. For example, consider the following statement:

'Afterwards, the angry owner chastised the dog, saying, "That's the last time we try one of your stupid ideas."'

Right. This was almost certainly an act of creative writing by a journalist! In fact, one of the original reports states that, far from being a one-off, the dog was Paul's 'constant companion' during his flights over the Yarra Valley.

Some other reports referred to Paul as a 'daredevil', which was a long way from the truth. And of course, that's not a great description of how most pilots relate to their sport.

Why did this story catch on like wildfire? Personally, I can see it was a combination of a Flying Dog story and an Aircraft Crash story. Both those types of reports do well enough on their own, let alone together!

However, the Mountain Views report went a bit deeper, and recognized that in this case there was 'loads of human interest, an element of drama and a happy ending'. In other words, a newspaper editor's dream story. Here's a quick summary of the relevant facts, as they relate to those aspects...

Human Interest

In 2000 Paul Hansen, now 42, was diagnosed with pelvic cancer. On top of this, he had been living for eighteen months after hearing an expert opinion that the condition was terminal. In a similar way to the 2 guys in the movie The Bucket List, this paraglider pilot was determined to enrich what he had left by realizing his dream to fly. This he did, and always in the company of his pet Chihuahua, Emma. It continues to keep him going.


Switching to the present tense to get you on the edge of your seat ;-) Stuck 65 meters (213 feet) up a giant Ash tree. Being twirled like a leaf in the wind, for 5 hours. No radio contact, but text messaging doing the trick, beaming out the vital GPS co-ordinates of the tree to friends.

Several emergency services arrive, locating him easily and proceeding to lower man and dog to the ground an hour later. The walk up a steep grade to a waiting ambulance, to be whisked off for a medical checkup. Only minor abrasions are found, and the dog is fine.

Saturday morning dawns, and so does a perfect media storm. Seems I'm into movie references this month :-) (The Perfect Storm, about 8 years old now.)

Happy Ending

Paul was released shortly after arriving at the hospital, which some would see as the happy ending. Man and dog alive and well! However, this man had a generous spirit which resulted in an extra dimension to the happy ending.

By offering an exclusive interview and photographs from his camera, Paul secured a $2000 payment from Channel 7. For himself? Nope. For the considerable number of volunteers who spent hours rescuing him instead of enjoying their Friday evening in other ways. The money went to the Upper Yarra SES, providing a meaningful 'thank you' from the pilot and his canine co-pilot.

Concluding Comments

Accidents do happen from time to time, even to pilots with a good grasp of soaring safety principles.

From a paragliding point of view, it was clear from the original report that Paul Hansen provided a clear safety lesson. That is, how to make things as easy as possible for the rescuers, just in case the worst happens during a flight. On all his flights, Paul carried a fully charged mobile phone, GPS unit and a two-way radio. The Police were impressed!

A Good Book For Free-Flight Paragliding

Paragliding - A Pilot's Training Manual. Do you have at least a few hours of soaring experience under your belt? Keen to learn much more? This book will fill out your knowledge nicely. Just remember it doesn't take the place of your instructor!

Complete Reference For Powered Paragliding

Powered Paragliding Bible. This is one of a couple of good books that people are using before and during taking up power paragliding. It's great if you want a really complete reference book about the sport. Authored by Jeff Goin and Dennis Pagen and published in April 2006. That Pagen name pops up a lot in light aviation literature!

Image of the Month

There's plenty of paragliding imagery on the Web these days, much of it so-so. Thanks to some paraglider manufacturer friends of mine, I can bring you some great pics that you might not find anywhere else. Hope you enjoy this month's featured picture, below.

Just click on it to enlarge.

Actually, this picture was distributed in a recent Apco email newsletter. They don't mind it being shared around since it's good publicity for Apco! Of the handful of photos provided, this one was a stand-out for me. Plus its portrait orientation makes it look bigger on my website page!

The wing is an Apco Thrust HP, flying over a dam in the Peak District of the U.K. The photographer was Paul Haxby, of the AXB Sports company. The jpeg image file tells me he was using a Canon EOS 350D (Digital) camera, for those interested in such things. The Thrust is a CEN Standard rated wing apparently.

Website Content of the Month

Pages are always being added to the site or updated, and I usually highlight just one such page here. This month I put up a new page with some content that you won't find on other paragliding sites. Online games! Don't let your kids know, you might never get to use your PC again...

Being such a small sport by world standards, there's nothing available specifically about paragliding. However, I wasn't too fussy. Anything involving parachutes of some kind was considered! It's just a bit of fun, for those occasions when you're bored and the weather's no good at any of your usual flying sites. Just don't expect anything like the latest big video games, these are just simple yet addictive online Flash games.

Bearing in mind that this paragliding newsletter and in fact most of the website is really for 'newbies', any constructive feedback is welcome! In particular, what would you really like to see in this newsletter? Just reply to this email and tell me your thoughts.

Finally, why not tell a friend about this newsletter.

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