Let the Wheelchair Fly

来源:有人杂志   作者:苏小熊   2015.05.05 11:48  浏览754
摘要:As a brave person who loves freedom and freshness, have you ever yearned to fly? If so, you should lay aside your fears, gather funds, find a beautiful location, and wait for good weather. You can pilot a paraglider with or without your wheelchair, riding the wind into the sky to see the world from another perspective!


In the distance, the sky is blue and vast, and the clouds are white and flowing; nearby, green trees stack together, green hills roll up and down, the farm land is evenly distributed, and villages are perfectly arranged……The song Feeling Good plays, and in this beautiful scene, two tandem paragliders are hovering back and forth. When the camera zooms in, we begin to see the scene more clearly - a young black man named Driss is hanging on tightly and screaming, while his companion Philippe, who has a spinal injury, is leaning over and calm ……This scene, from the film Untouchables, was adapted from a true story about the friendship between a “moral” millionaire whose spine was injured in a paragliding accident and his “immoral” nurse who just was released from prison.

The movie caption reads, “Sometimes you have to reach into someone else's world to find out what's missing in your own.” Maybe that was a common feeling for both protagonists – to experience a world that is untouchable to others. The image of them flying indeed touches many moviegoer’s hearts, making them eager to pilot a paraglider into the sky and touch the clouds.

Paragliding originated in France at the beginning of 1970’s when some climbers flew down the hill with a parachute and discovered that it was incredibly fun. From there, a new airborne sport was born. People began piloting paragliders to glide through the hillsides and soar in the air, embracing the sky and shaking hands with clouds. In recent years, it has become gradually more popular in China. Compared to other extreme sports, paragliding is relatively safe and stimulating. It is even suitable for physically disabled people. Paragliding provides a chance for people to temporarily escape from their physical limitations in a paraglider just like Philippe, flying freely in the sky like a bird.

Newbies need good coaches!

On June 28th 2013, Xing Jun, a person with a disability who uses a wheelchair, experienced tandem paragliding on the hillside at Mirren Town in Switzerland. He and his coach sat in one paraglider, the coach controlling it from the back. Xing Jun was disabled because his muscles, especially those in his legs, were rather weak from a disease… He can stand and walk slowly on a flat road on his own, but relies on a walking aid at home, and needs a wheelchair for a long journey. He had all kinds of dreams, yearning for freedom and fancying solo travel. But he was trapped at home, lacking a strong body and money, until the day he met the love of his life. When that happened, his dreams were lit up just like the stars in the night sky.

Xing Jun, just like Driss, was a complete newbie at paragliding. But it didn't matter, because a newbie can also try tandem paragliding with special accommodations for his physical needs. When he did his first consultation, the customer service agent suggested that because Xing Jun could not finish the leg-lifting action in landing, he should instead select a paraglider rather than attempt helicopter parachuting. Because he couldn't run with the coach for takeoff, a strong and experienced coach was arranged who could help both Xing Jun and the coach get off the ground.

During his first formal attempt, the new paraglider Xing Jun successfully took off with the help of his coach. Once he was in the air, Xing Jun enjoyed the beautiful scenes below. He was able to control the paraglider on his own for a while, and flew for more than ten minutes before landing safely under the control of the coach. Xing Jun said afterwards that it was worth trying, but that a good coach was needed! He also warned others to be sure to put on extra clothes when paragliding. Even though it was late June and he thought he had worn plenty of clothing, Xing Jun said he nearly froze to death in the sky, while on the ground at the foot of mountain the weather was hot.

By chasing dreams realistically, even a paraplegic person can fly!

On October 24th 2012, He Peng, a severely paraplegic person, drove an orange tandem paraglider under a coach's aid to fly on the top of Xinglong Mountain in Jinan. The name He Peng brings to mind a bird named “Peng” from the famous essay “Carefree Excursion.” Just like his name, He Peng is a person of great drive and courage. Although injured, he still tried everything, even self-driving travel across the country. It is no surprise he also tried paragliding, even though he had no prior experience like Driss and had been left paraplegic after an accident like Philippe.

He Peng said, “At first, I wanted to fly by myself. But after watching a number of videos and talking to veterans, I found that I can't safely accomplish some of the carefully timed actions needed. For example, when taking off with my backhand, I have to grasp two stop-bands with one hand; the paraglider is full of strength when it's filled with air, and I have to release the stop-band, turn and run immediately, while also adjusting the brake in the wrist. The wind may change its direction at any minute, and I have to timely control the speed with a foot traction line in the air. I have to keep real-time communication with personnel on the ground using a radio…… So I chose tandem paragliding. My choice was determined by my physical condition, but it had no interference with my dream. Flying made everything OK!”

He made precise preparations with help from numerous paraglider mates, including: exploring the route beforehand and choosing a spot to take-off and land where both vehicles and wheelchairs can reach the mountain; weighing his body beforehand and choosing a suitable tandem paraglider based on the ratio of weight and paraglider surface, and at the same time determining the fixed position of the sitting bag to ensure the center of gravity was balanced in the air; taking simulated training(i.e. practicing with veterans and collaboratively finishing movements in the air). He also studied the landing posture with the coach and decided to tie his legs together with a broad band, making sure to lift the legs with his arm strength during landing and letting his hips land first to prevent his legs from getting secondary damage.

“All is ready except for the east wind.” After days of training and testing, he waited for the best wind conditions for three days. On October 24th, He Peng finally took the paraglider into the sky under the leadership of his coach. In the air, he cooperated with his coach, and was responsible for watching speed, height and angle, and assisting with maintaining balance while the paraglider hovered in the air. A dozen paraglider mates took off one after another and followed them, encouraging him and screaming for him in the air. About ten minutes later, they landed. Although the landing location was a bit of ways away from their planned location, they still landed safely using the cushion to shock the absorber.

Forget rolling, the wheelchair wants to fly too!

These two pals either use a wheelchair as a helpful aid, or they fully depend on it. In other words, their wheelchair is a close friend on the ground. Why do they have to put their friend away in the air? They imagine their wheelchair complains, “I don't want to roll. I want to fly, too.” Never fear, using a paraglider as wings, you can fly with a wheelchair too! There are some differences with regular paragliding. For example, when taking off, regular paragliding requires the driver to run and speed up while paragliding with a wheelchair requires another person to push the aviator prior to take off. But once in the sky, there's no real difference. The wheelchair even makes landing easier, thanks to its help with shock absorption.

Lv Zhongshi, nicknamed as “Paratrooper,” got paralysis of his lower limbs in a car accident. Like Philippe, he was a paragliding fan before the accident. Even after the injury, he still couldn't forget the blue sky and planned to design a wheelchair specially made for paragliding. On October 7th 2008, pulled jointly by his paragliding and car mates, 45-year-old Lv realized his dream of paragliding solo in his wheelchair in Tianheng Mountain of Harbin. Since then, he has repeatedly flown solo in the sky with a wheelchair. But we have to warn you. Paratroopers receive professional training beforehand and his wheelchair was modified; if you are a novice, you'd better ask a coach to assist you in flying even if you have a wheelchair for exclusive use in paragliding.

Returning to the magnificent scene in the film, our two tandem paragliders are still hovering together. As we zoom in again, we see that Driss has finally calmed down and is appreciating the breeze and picturesque scene with Philippe on Philippe's first trip into the sky after his injury. The song Feeling Good is still playing, and the magnificent sky is calling us. As a brave person who loves freedom and freshness, have you ever yearned for it? Then you should put down your concerns, save money, find a beautiful location, and wait for good weather. You too can pilot a paraglider into the sky, with or without your wheelchair, to soar in the wind, and see the world from another perspective!

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