This book is the first ever to be written by a hang glider, paraglider and
ultralight pilot about a flying career. Making a living at flying powered and
unpowered ultralights is not so common but Judy Leden, the author of Flying
with Condors, was very successful at it and she tells her story in a
Judy, of British nationality, learned to fly hang gliders in 1979 and very
quickly became the top female pilot in the world as a result of her passion
for the sport and her determination to excel. For many years she competed
and succeeded in both hang gliding and paragliding, women's and men's contests. But an even
bigger part of Judy's career was to fly hang gliders, paragliders or trikes in promotional stunts or
for films on flying. Judy remembers and recounts the highs and lows.
Adventure and travel are the central themes of the book. After a brief history of how she
learned to fly, Judy takes us to the Himalayas, Kenya, Australia, the Middle East and the Andes
to name only a few locations. One may think Judy's parents were wealthy to support such
traveling but it wasn't the case. Judy did it all on her own by getting sponsorship from various
companies. It wasn't easy; her story is a lesson in perseverance and hard work.
Stunts and records were Judy's specialty. She takes us through the preparation and realization
of the crossing of the English Channel, several world records, a trike flight form England to
Jordan, a balloon drop from 40,000 feet and much more. As I read the book (mostly at night), I
would go to bed thinking: "What will Judy be doing tonight?" The book was hard to put down
and I lost sleep over it. Some of her near-misses had me on the edge of my pillows.
As one adventure follows the other, the reader can see Judy mature as she flies. The book is
not only an account of incredible accomplishments, it also is a touching chronicle as Judy
exposes herself, her successes as well as her failures and adopts a very humble attitude.
Rather than describing herself as Wonder Woman, she shows her human and humanitarian
sides. I found the Flight for Life chapter to be the most touching one when she tells of a long
aerial voyage she made in remembrance of a lost friend and to raise funds for cancer research.
Told in a first-person narrative, Flying with Condors is written in a light style. Judy adds humor
whenever possible and uses tongue and cheek comments typical of the British. In fact, as I
read her book, I detected Judy's demeanor in her prose (Judy and I crossed paths in various
hang gliding contests in the past).
The book is organized into 22 chapters telling events that took place between 1979 and 1995, at
which time Judy decided to "retire" from her public flying office. She then sat at a desk and
wrote until she was published in 1996. Twenty-four pages of beautiful four-color photographs
of Judy's adventures are inserted in the middle of the volume.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in personal flying and personal achievement.
You don't deserve to miss it. The best way to summarize Flying with Condors is to quote these
lines from Richard Bach that are inserted at the very beginning of Judy Leden's tale:
"You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it true. You may have
to work for it however."