Living the Dream of Flying Every Day
Michael Robertson has been lucky enough to be living his passion since the 1970s. After falling in love with his wife and taking a year off to travel the world, Michael also fell in love with hang gliding. Fifty years later, not only is he still flying, but he is still very passionate about teaching. Teaching turned into his passion, and he became evangelical about hang gliding because he wanted to share this incredible experience with the world.
Hang gliding doesn’t provide a feeling of falling like sky diving does. Rather, it’s a feeling of flying and soaring like a bird. Michael says that when you fly, it’s like an out of body experience where you become one with the glider and the air and fall into a truly meditative state. Flying is the second most dreamed about topic when people sleep. Hang gliding recreates that dream for those brave enough to try.
The approach to hang gliding has changed over the years. Early on, gliders would find a hill to jump off of and only be able to stay in the air for 20 seconds or so. Now, gliders are pulled into the air through a wench which can get up to 5,000 feet in the air before having to release the line and free glide.
For Michael, the joy of teaching hang gliding and seeing people experience flight for the first time is what keeps him coming back. Safety is a big part of teaching, and while the physical part of flying a glider is key, it’s the mental side that is most important. Michael developed the chart of reliability which includes 20 physical variables of wind, weather, and sight and then 20 psychological variables that need to be checked each time one flies. Ninety-eight percent of hang gliding accidents are from operational error. As Michael says, “It’s the loose nut behind the wheel, not on the wheel, that causes the vast majority of accidents.”
Michael has also helped advance hang gliding, creating a wheel that goes on the glider which made landing much less impactful if the operator didn’t land on their feet. In the old days with pointed control bars, the glider would stop suddenly and people would fly through the control bar, hurt themselves, and break the glider. The wheel gave intro riders a safe foray into gliding.
Michael hasn’t let getting older stop him from doing what he loves—it’s quite the opposite. He makes sure he stays in shape and eats right so he can stay sharp and continue giving the gift of flight to people for the rest of his life.
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