This photo was taken by a friend while I was flying my Moonraker 77 along Mundesley cliffs in Norfolk one evening. At the time, I'm sure he had no idea that what he was watching could have had a nasty out come for me in more ways that one. He later told me that he never even realised that I was in the photo, as he only wanted a photo of the Helicopter, and that I had spoilt the shot. Needless to say he was not a Hang Glider man and did not understand the principles of flying. Which I always though was the same as with ships, Steam gives way to sail?
The event happened just after Bob Wills, the famous American Hang Glider pilot and one of the top guys in the sport was killed while filming a Levi Jeans advert for television. Apparently the filming Helicopter moved off station and the down draft from its rotor blades smashed Bob into the ground. When I first saw the Bristowes Wessex Helicopter approaching me, Bob Wills was the first thing that sprang mind. The next instinct was to get the hell out of the position I had suddenly found myself in. Which was to have a Helicopter returning from the oil rigs out at sea approaching me head on, along with the sea breeze I was using to soar the cliffs. I had no place to go other than down to the beach. Because the incoming breeze that was funneling up the cliff was all that was keeping me in the air. If the rotor wash from the Helicopter blades came anywhere near me I dread to think what might have happen. So I dived for speed and headed along the cliff and away from him aiming for the beach at maximum speed. However, turning around I found that the helicopter was actually following me. I can only assume that the pilot did not realised the dagger he was placing me in and just though he would do a fly past to show all the oil rig workers on board, that there was a Hang Glider flying along side them. Luck for me within a very short period of time he peeled off and headed for his Hellipad landing area, at the Bacton Gas Terminal nearby.
By the time I had landed and was de-rigging my glider the police arrived and accused me of violating his air space. I can only suppose that the chopper pilot might have realised that he had endanger me and decided to get in first with the authority's. Anyway to cut the whole story short I was okay, but the charge was upheld and I was found guilty by the CAA. Although the out come was quite good. There was no disciplinary action taken against me. If fact meeting were arranged and we were given the all clear to keep flying the site while all the local air field were pre-warned that during a North Easterly direction wind there was a good chance that they might in counter Hang Gliders flying at Mundesley. Its also amazing to think that we had been flying at Mundesley for a couple of years prior to the near miss, and that nobody in the CAA had stopped us before an incident like this happened. Mind you I'm sure the only thing they would have done was to ban us and the Norfolk Club hang Gliding Club would not have been happy with that little out come. So I guess alls well that ends well.
A copy of the official report on the incident that the CAA sent me. Not very official is it. At least it didn't arrive with a set of hand cuff and a man in blue.