Flying tandem in Ilopango (El Salvador) with 88 years old Hedwig

Flying tandem in Ilopango (El Salvador) with 88 years old Hedwig

Next Post Previous Post


Hedwig was a very good friend of my grandparents and I could say that our friendship lasted my whole life. About 4 years ago she surprised me by asking if it would be possible to go paragliding together. Ever since that day we talked about that idea whenever we met. Unfortunately her legs got weaker as the years passed and when we met at my mum’s place last year, we had to admit that it was very unlikely that we could make this happen. ‘I am too old now, Kerim’ she told me.



When I learned that she had decided last minute to come to El Salvador I checked the weather forecast and it did not look too bad. I asked her if she would like to fly with me and so she came along ‘to have a look’. When we arrived at the Lake Ilopango, the conditions where spot on – the only trouble was the walk to the takeoff. I hesitated a bit but when I told Hedwig that my only concerns were about the walk up, she said ‘lets go then, I am sure I can make it!’ So up we went. The path was steep and slippery. And it was hot. With the help of my fellow pilots we worked our way up the hill. When we finally arrived at the takeoff, we were all exhausted but happy. Before we went up the hill I had come up with a plan of how to take of without Hedwig having to walk. I now told my friends about my plan. I would do an asymmetric reverse launch when the wind was the strongest. The two helpers would lift our fearless passenger so she would be already in her seating position. As soon as the wing would have come up, they would help pushing us out. In case of an aborted take off I would pass the break handles to my helpers and secure Hedwig. There was not much room for errors but the conditions where so good that I had not the slightest doubts that this would work out.


After a few practice runs the time had come. We clipped in and within a few seconds we were up in the air and started what would become and 1.5 hours long flight. Following the local zopilotes (vultures) we gained height and enjoyed the view over the lake. One by one the other pilots got airborne. Together we circled in the little thermals, strolled along the ridge and enjoyed the warm air. Hedwig was totally relaxed and we talked all the way through. I remembered our conversation last year and how very unlikely it had seemed that we could make this happen. And here we were.  When the sun went down, we turned towards the landing area. There was still so much lift that we flew far out above the lake. In order to loose some height I flew some smooth wing overs and a steep full circle. Hedwig loved it! I told her to lift her legs when we landed on a soft grass surface into a 25 km/h head wind. We had made it! One paraglider after another landed next to us and we grouped for a picture. We agreed that this had been a special day for all of us!