I was very lucky to be invited by the RAFHPA to spend an incredible week acro training in Oludeniz at the start of October. The group was a great mix of experience levels; from a Club Pilot + zero to a BHPA Instructor who’s been flying since before I was born!
The gear I took on the trip was a 20m Ozone Octane 2, Supair Acro 3 Harness with an Independence Evo Annular in the left and an Apco Guided Mayday in the right. I used a Baofeng radio (which eventually sank) and didn’t take any other electronics. I wore Black Diamond leather gloves and wore a Bern Watts helmet. Conditions were warm enough to fly in T-shirt and shorts all week with a light weight jacket a bonus for the drive up.
The location is world famous and absolutely stunning for SIV and Acro training, as well as free flying holidays and tandem experience flights from the 6000ft mountain called Babadag. It would be possible to do a self organised trip there very cheaply (which we did to some extent), but we were lucky to have 3 days of training with “Escape”, Jocky Sanderson’s adventure paragliding company. I was coached in Acro by Johan, an absolute guru in the field – I had some basic acro moves dialled, so I had a couple of goals for the week, 1. Learn to Helicopter, 2. Do a D-Bag deployment, 3. Work on Dynamic Full Stall and Misty flip if time allowed. Working on some of the low speed manoeuvres that can be daunting over land for the first time given the potential for twisted risers and D-Bagging is something that even I wasn’t prepared to teach myself off the Blorenge!
So… I’ve talked about some tips for training over water in another post, but this one is more about the experiences that we had in Turkey and why Oludeniz is now right up there in my favourite places to fly!
We flew from Gatwick in the UK to Dalaman with Easyjet. As you’d imagine, this is dead simple and inexpensive. We had pre-booked a transfer through the web for around £10 per person and this took about 90 mins. Remember to buy a Turkish tourist visa online before you go, another £20. The hotels are cheap! My roomy Matt had found a twin room in the Magic Tulip Hotel @ £108 for 8 nights!
This was more than adequate, clean, close to the best town had to offer in terms of food and is a 5 min walk to the beach, taxi rank and Mozaic Hotel where Jocky bases himself for briefings. They also have a balcony for draping wet wings and rescue parachutes over. On arrival get yourself down to the beach and buy the local fly card. It costs 18TL (£4) per visit to the mountain and your card gets taxed a visit each time you’re half way up the hill in a taxi. Don’t get caught short, as you’ll have to beg a hit from someone else’s card. They don’t let you pay at the checkpoint. Once you’ve got the card, I’d recommend contacting Halil Elibol on +902526167713 or email email@example.com Halil has a fleet of open top, zebra striped, Ford Transit taxis that will get you and your pals to the top at a nice pace, feeling fresh – counter this to being perched on a wheel arch in a tandem wagon full of Chinese tourists and stinky tandem pilots.. You get the picture.
If you have a big group or hook up with some other pilots, Halil or another taxi will be yours for the day. It’s possible to do 4 or 5 runs, but lots of people are happy with two flights, a swim and a beer. It’s a mega location either way and buzzing with acro dudes, leisure pilots, cameraladies and friendly bars.
The best things about the trip for me was the sense of learning something new and the vibe of the place. I’m pretty confident flying XC, stalling over land, landing out and finding my way home, but learning helis put me right back in learning mode and I loved it. The vibe is just great. As a tourist “resort”, it’s hilarious – there is a Harrolls, Harvey Nicks, Abiba.. etc, the barmen and waiters are keen for your business, there’s a lovely beach, warm water, boats, great bars where they play videos of every solo flight of the day and of course cold beer.
I spent most of my time smiling and couldn’t help laughing at the fun and innocence of the place.
On day one and two we were free flying so I practiced full stalls, SATs and wingovers, knowing that my instructor would want to see these before letting me at the good stuff under his watch! Once on course it was life jacket on, radio on, and back to school. The course was superbly run over 4 days and comprised 6 flights. There were thorough briefs and debriefs with Johan or Jockey after each sortie at The Mozaic Hotel so we were always learning and able to bounce ideas around the group. Day one and four have enough time built in for free flying if you’re in the mood pre or post acro/SIV training! I found helis a real challenge and only really nailed a handful over the 6 flights – I’ve got the gist and now and just need to keep practicing whenever I can. Dynamic full stalls are pretty easy and super satisfying! The feeling is incredible and the recovery a lot more benign than a normal full stall. I didn’t get a chance to try Misty Flips. Johan said that it would be a lot of training just for that manoeuvre, and no point moving on until the helis were sorted. I was pretty happy as I was already maxxed out thinking about all the stuff for a safe heli so there’s always next time!
Then there was the D-Bag – Johan took the time to teach me to pack the bag, we discussed possible malfunctions and Chris White who’d been the guy keeping us all safe and correctly spaced on take off said he’d fly me under his vintage BiBeta 1. I was appropriately nervous, but the sound instruction and trust I had in Johan and Chris gave me all that I needed to pull the pins and have an incredible couple of seconds of freefall before such a fun, dynamic run of manoeuvres with which to finish off the training.
After 5 days of full on acro (and SIV) training, I joined the RAF guys for a morning top to bottom into Butterfly Valley, a secluded, almost inaccessible beach some 6km from the top of Babadag. It was a lovely flight in formation with Aron, and ended with SATs and swooping over yachts to land on the sand. We all landed safely on the 200m long beach, that has 1500ft sea cliffs ominously towering above both ends. We went for a swim, had a coke, and took a water taxi back to Oludeniz as the first of the tourist unloaded their clients.
That afternoon we flew again. I was free flying with the guys and tried a couple of helis, the second one left me properly twist and I ended up throwing my reserve! No lifejacket, no floats on my rescue handles… Lesson learned, hence the recent post about over water training tips. I was lucky to be rescued immediately, and the kit dried pretty quickly after a fresh water wash thanks to the the hotel staff allowing me to hang it up (maybe they’re used to this 😉 ). It just goes to show that you can’t get casual in this game. Having watched the video back, maybe I should have waited and tried to fly it out. I’m sure a more experienced acro pilot would have been able to untwist – next time I guess the panic will come a few seconds later.
I thought my GoPro Hero HD was a pretty good camera until I saw the RAF guys replaying their SIV runs on their mobile phones each evening. I didn’t have a PC with me so had to wait to get home to even check that I’d been recording the correct angles. They were using GoPro 3+ cameras. It’s the perfect self debrief tool to be able to watch your hand positions and reactions to the glider’s behaviour minutes after you’ve landed.
All in all it was a cracking trip. The mix of free flying, hanging out with friends old and new, seasonaire sky bums, the weather being fantastic and learning new stuff about the sport to which I’m addicted was the most fun I’ve had all season and a banging way to finish off the summer. If you have any questions about the trip then feel free to email or get in touch through facebook.