The thrill of flying is about more than just being airborne
When Andrew Menzies awoke in a dark painful place back in 2009 he had no idea what was happening; someone told him he’d been in a car crash … then he passed out. When he woke again, it was the start of a long journey to recovery and the discovery of a passion for free flying that today is as much about being part of the tribe as the thrill of flying solo in the clouds.
“I was stuck in a wheelchair after some tourist forgot what side of the road we drive on, but when I found out that anyone, really, anyone, can fly like a bird I had to have a go.”
That discovery was in part thanks to a lawyer with a passion for paragliding who struck a deal with Andrew. She would take care of the legal side, all he had to do was recover and learn to fly. Easy right?
Fast forward a few years, over a hundred hours of physio, months in a wheelchair followed by a long stint on crutches, and Andrew is now a fully paid up member of the paragliding fraternity.
Living in northern NSW he’s been able to access the top flying sites in NSW and Queensland. He’s flown solo from Montecollum, Lennox Head, Possum Shoot, Rainbow Beach and Teewah as well as Manilla. It’s a far cry from his early tandem flights with Andrew Polidano at Poliglide and a measure of his thirst for adventure.
“When Andrew Polidano gave me control of his tandem paraglider I wanted to pull over and let him off so I could go fly, but I had to do the training and get my own gear, so I did.”
With much of the challenge of recovery and getting airborne behind him, Andrew’s love of flying has evolved. But being part of the community of pilots and sharing the joy flight brings to friends, like his mate Haz, keeps Andrew coming back to the hillsides.
“We were at Lennox and I didn't feel like flying so I videoed him [Haz] because like most pilots he has hours of helmet cam and very little of him flying by, so this was my birthday present to him.”
Or like his mate Al, who’d never flown but turned up one day unexpectedly as he was heading off to a hill and Andrew set him up with his first tandem flight.
“That brightened his day, and his life. Empowered him, he loves that one day he just went flying because he could.”
But despite being an occasional bystander to someone else’s adventure there are still flying challenges Andrew wants to tackle.
“I've never got a kilometre high, or flown cross country. I'm not satisfied yet with my flying history. Almost, but not quite.”
And a local hill on a neighbour’s property caught his imagination when he was power paragliding nearby, prompting him to do a site assessment and approach the owner for permission to fly. It was granted after he handed over a bunch of photos of the place he’d taken 25 year earlier that gave the owner a rare pictorial history.
Like his long journey to recovery it’s a challenge he knows he will tackle one day because he can, and because he knows that when the world looks up at him it too will know briefly that anything is possible.
“When I'm floating around with my bright yellow and orange Arcus 6 people wave and toot car horns telling me I make the world slightly better, partly because they know I'm just some guy and if they wanted to they could do that too.”
“So do it. Just do it. Fly!”