HE’S normally hurtling along streets in an ambulance with blue lights flashing and sirens blaring, where life and death can hang in the balance.

But Inverkeithing’s Mike Armstrong real adrenaline rush is when he “feels like a bird”, soaring through the air at heights of up to 12,000 feet in a frame of aluminium and cloth.

An ambulance driver based in Edinburgh, he’s just back from the Balkans after competing for Great Britain in the 2018 World Hang Gliding Championships.

Whether cruising with Griffon vultures over Spain, gliding through majestic mountains in New Zealand or above the Christ the Redeemer statue and Copacabana beach in Brazil – he’s seen some of the world’s most scenic spots from a unique vantage point.

He said: “It 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 here I am, 34 years later, competing in my first world championship.”

Mike, 58, was selected to represent GB in the sport’s pinnacle event which was held in Krushevo, Macedonia – the highest town in the Balkans – between July 10 and 20.

Two GB teams competed and he was selected for the Class Five team – competing against 40 other pilots. Class One hang gliders use “flex-wings” with a simpler control mechanism than the Class Five “rigid wings”, which have moving control surfaces.

The competition focussed on racing around a course, typically 120 km to 200 km long, via several turn-points and ending at a goal. Points were awarded for distance completed, as well as speed points on completing the whole course. GPS trackers record pilots’ flights.

In the air for up to five hours at a time, Mike was “apprehensive” and added: “It was a category one competition, so it was highly competitive. I’ve been in a lot of category two competitions.”

Mike was selected after good performances over the past year, including wins at the British Open and the British Open Series.

And after it 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 first took it up as a hobby in 1984 after training at a hang gliding school in Glenshee as a 25-year-old.

He said: “It’s the only thing I do when I am off. It’s my number one priority. If I’m not working and the weather is good, I fly. 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.”

Mike’s worked with the Scottish Ambulance Service for 12 years and his passion for the sport has seen him soar all across the globe.

He said: “In New Zealand, I flew around Coronet Peak near Queenstown, and in Brazil I flew above the Christ the Redeemer statue before landing on Copacabana Beach, but one of my favourite spots is Ager, in Catalonia.

“That is a great place for hang gliding, you can get to massive heights, and you can fly with Griffon vultures. You can fly amongst 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 5,000 and 6,000 feet but at Glencoe, you can maybe get to around 8,000 feet – if the day is good.”