Ambulance man Mike’s a high flier

Ambulance driver Mike Armstrong
Ambulance driver Mike Armstrong
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AN EDINBURGH-based ambulance worker has swapped wheels for wings by competing for Great Britain in the 2018 World Hang Gliding Championships.

Mike Armstrong competed against 40 other pilots in the UK’s ‘class five’ team at the event in Macedonia.

The Urgent Tier D2 driver, based at Edinburgh City Station since 2008, was selected to represent Great Britain in the sport’s pinnacle event, organised by Sport Club Cross Country XSC after initially taking it up as a hobby more than 30 years ago.

The 58-year-old raced around a 200 km course, with points being awarded for distance completed and speed.

The Scottish Ambulance Service staff member gained selection after good performances at various competitions throughout the past year, including winning the British Open in South East Wales.

Last year, Mike also claimed victory in the British Open Series – a series of three, five-day competitions – and was delighted to have the opportunity to compete in Macedonia.

He said: “This competition in beautiful Macedonia has been a total blast with many lessons learned on a very steep learning curve.

“The support from home has been wonderful and we are all very grateful.”

Mike added: “Hang gliding has become more than just a hobby for me. You either stick with it for a few years, and then do other things, or you get the bug and it takes over your life.

“I stuck with it and there I was, 34 years later, competing in my first World Championship.”

The competition was held in Krushevo, the highest town in the Balkans, between July 10-20, with two British teams involved in ‘class one’ and ‘class five’ action.

Class one hang gliders are ‘flex-wings’ with a simpler control mechanism than the Class five ‘rigid wings’, which have moving control surfaces.

Mike’s passion for hang gliding has seen him soar across the globe, including the skies over Brazil, Canada, Hungary, France, New Zealand and Australia.

However, he admits his favourite spot is Ager, Catalonia, adding: ““That is a great place for hang gliding. You can get to massive heights,and you can fly with griffon vultures. You can fly among them, in huge gaggles – it is amazing. You can get up to heights of around 12,000 ft.

“In Scotland, you can commonly get to around 5000 and 6000 feet but at Glencoe, you can maybe get to around 8000 feet if the day is good.

“You kind of feel like a bird – being able to soar through the air without an engine, climbing in thermals with birds is an amazing thing.

“It can be an adrenaline rush, but also it’s a mental challenge.”