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Ensuring the future of Free Flight · MAY 2018 Special Issue




Volume 48 Issue 3 · $6.95



Buffalo Mountain + Retrieve Goddesses + Ridge Soaring Lore

WARNING Hang gliding and paragliding are INHERENTLY DANGEROUS activities. USHPA recommends pilots complete a pilot training program under the direct supervision of a USHPA-certified instructor, using safe equipment suitable for your level of experience. Many of the articles and photographs in the magazine depict advanced maneuvers being performed by experienced, or expert, pilots. These maneuvers should not be attempted without the prerequisite instruction and experience.

Martin Palmaz, Executive Director Beth Van Eaton, Operations Manager Galen Anderson, Membership Coordinator

USHPA OFFICERS & EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE Paul Murdoch, President Alan Crouse, Vice President Steve Rodrigues, Secretary Mark Forbes, Treasurer

REGION 1: Rich Hass, Matt Henzi. REGION 2: Jugdeep Aggarwal, Paul Gazis, Robert Booth. REGION 3: Ken Andrews, Dan DeWeese, Alan Crouse. REGION 4: Bill Belcourt, Ken Grubbs. REGION 5: Randall Shane. REGION 6: Tiki Mashy. REGION 7: Doyle Johnson. REGION 8: Calef Letorney. REGION 9: Dan Lukaszewicz, Larry Dennis. REGION 10: Bruce Weaver, Steve Kroop, Matt Taber. REGION 11: Tiki Mashy. REGION 12: Paul Voight. DIRECTORS AT LARGE: Paul Murdoch, Steve Rodrigues, Greg Kelley, Felipe Amunategui, Mark Forbes. EX-OFFICIO DIRECTOR: Art Greenfield (NAA). The United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association Inc. (USHPA) is an air sports organization affiliated with the National Aeronautic Association (NAA), which is the official representative of the Fédération Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), of the world governing body for sport aviation. The NAA, which represents the United States at FAI meetings, has delegated to the USHPA supervision of FAI-related hang gliding and paragliding activities such as record attempts and competition sanctions. The United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, a division of the National Aeronautic Association, is a representative of the Fédération Aeronautique Internationale in the United States.

POSTMASTER Send change of address to: USHPA, P.O. BOX 1330, Colorado Springs, CO 80901-1330. Canadian Post Publications Mail Agreement #40065056. Canadian Return Address: DP Global Mail, 4960-2 Walker Road, Windsor, ON N9A 6J3. Formerly Hang Gliding & Paragliding Magazine, ISSN 1543-5989 (USPS 17970). Published bimonthly by the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, Inc., 1685 W. Uintah St., Colorado Springs, CO, 80904, (719) 632-8300, FAX (719) 632-6417. Periodical postage is paid at Colorado Springs, CO and at additional mailing offices.

Formerly Hang Gliding & Paragliding Magazine | ISSN 1543-5989 (USPS 17970) For change of address or other USHPA business

+1 (719) 632-8300

Efficient Performance IOTA 2: the new Performance-Intermediate What is your cross country dream? To achieve your first 200 kms or land in front of your house after a long flying day? The IOTA 2 presents you with conditions. The latest technology also gives the high end EN-B wing an outstanding polar curve for its class. /iota distributor:,, 801-255-9595

P i c t u r e : F e l i x Wรถ l k | L o c a t i o n : O m a n

the most important ingredients: efficient performance and relaxed piloting in all

2018 Martin Palmaz, Publisher Nick Greece, Editor

Greg Gillam, Art Director

C.J. Sturtevant, Copy Editor

Staff Writers Annette O'Neil Dennis Pagen Jeff Shapiro C.J. Sturtevant

Photographers John Heiney Jeff Shapiro

SUBMISSIONS USHPA PILOT welcomes editorial submissions from our members and readers. All submissions of articles, artwork, photographs and or ideas for articles, artwork and photographs are made pursuant to and are subject to the USHPA Contributor's Agreement, a copy of which can be obtained from the USHPA by emailing the editor at or online at We are always looking great articles, photography and news. Your contributions are appreciated.

ADVERTISING All advertising is subject to the USHPA Advertising Policy, a copy of which may be obtained from the USHPA by emailing

NICK GREECEƒPREFLIGHT The last two years have been tumultuous for our or-

member to receive targeted information specific to their

ganization, full of wins and losses, burdensome to our

skills and wing types.

members and full of monumental amounts of work for

strengthen the focus of the organization on its members,

turn to lead our organization onto a path that will function

we have added new services and benefits such as expertic-

to sustain free flight for the next 50 years and beyond. It

ity for all intermediate pilots and above, which give dis-

has been fraught with change, and as we all know change

counts—up to 60 percent off—on more than 50 brands in

can be confusing and difficult. Information has been

the outdoor industry. We plan to release a new free-flight

impossible to keep up with as the new insurance program

film festival for chapters and clubs to use this spring, and

kicked off as it was constantly changing as it came online.

we are working on other discount programs with Global

The insurance program is working, and in the first year

Rescue, car rental companies, and hotels.

the savings were reinvested into lowering the premiums

As you may have noticed, the new cover also serves

for schools and instructors who faced a new cost that the

to re-focus the organization on what matters most, the

organization fought for more than a decade to keep down.

USHPA Pilot. Greg Gillam’s brilliant redesign is another

We must continue to focus on safety and lowering our ac-

step in an organization-wide movement to listen to the

cident rate so that every member is as safe as can be each

needs of the members.

year, and so that our insurance program will continue to

This magazine is full of information from USHPA, PASA,

succeed and we can work to lower fees associated with in-

RRG, Martin Palmaz, Paul Murdoch, Mark Forbes, Randy

suring ourselves. This is one of the reasons we must rally

Legget, Chris Santacroce, and many more. It also high-

together to self-regulate our communities and when we

lights success stories from three new schools, great flight

see other members using less-than-ideal decision-making

parks, and of course, a bit of Dennis Pagen to increase skill

to kindly, gently, and in a supporting way work with them

sets. Hopefully it will serve as another cornerstone of in-

to correct their safety-third behavior.

formation on the newer groups that have all been set up to

USHPA recognizes that we need to communicate these


We have heard from many of you and, in an effort to re-

a core group of volunteers who have attempted at every

serve the membership. None of these parts make money,

complicated programs, and we are asking our member-

or employ anything more than volunteers or the bare

ship to continue to hang in there with us as we figure out

minimum number of employees. They are comprised of

how to get information to you in the most effective way.

very passionate free-flight pilots who also invest hundreds

This issue is the beginning of a full-court press to get the

of hours a year volunteering to work on evolving required

membership up to speed on where we stand. Hopefully

processes in favor of our entire membership. Hopefully

this will serve to begin to fill in blank areas that you still

this issue will help those who don’t understand what these

may be wondering about. There is also a good amount

groups do see the roles a bit more clearly, and, for those

of information on the new website, which also, once up

who already “get it,” will serve as a reminder

and running at 100 percent, will serve the membership

to high-five these dedicated folks next time

in many new and practical ways including allowing each

you see them at the hill. n




Copyright ©2018 United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Assoc., Inc.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form

or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without prior written permission of USHPA.



ASSOCIATION Martin Palmaz, Executive Director


STRATEGY James Bradley, Strategic Planning Chair


INSURANCE Mark Forbes, Insurance Chair


INSURANCE Randy Leggett, Recreation RRG


PASA Chris Santacroce, PASA Paragliding Liaison


FIVE FLIGHT PARKS Legends of Hang Gliding's Past and Future





2017 Site Improvement Project DAVE SHAW and ROY MAHONEY

RETRIEVE GODDESSES Where They Went and What They Saw





Paragliding Instructors Going the Distance ANNETTE O'NEIL



GIN SPEEDRIDE ‚ Robust, practical and safe, the Speedride harness provides ease, comfort and versatility. You can use it year round: speedflying, mountaineering, tandem, and soaring. It comes with the zip on-zip off airbag but it also has improvements like pulleys for a paragliding speed system, shoulder

Nova Pentagon Reserve 

GIN G-Lite 

Nova announces a brand new and

The G-lite is an annular pulled-down-

chute (including

highly innovative pentagon reserve

apex rescue parachute for paraglider

a covered “tunnel

parachute. It is the first five-sided para-

and paramotor pilots. Developed by

system” for the

chute and it excels with high pendular

GIN, it’s an evolution of our One-G, one

reserve bridle rout-

dampening, even when the paraglider

of the biggest-selling rescue parachutes

remains connected. NOVA offers it in

of all time. Compared to the One-G,

attachment points for a reserve para-

ing), and an increased container volume—the

three sizes: 100, 120 and 145. Size 120

the G-Lite offers greater stability and

Speedride harness can be used for all

has a flat surface of 32 m2, a maximum

a reduction in weight while remaining

your rides and flights. It comes in one

payload of 120 kg, and weighs in at a

reliable and cost-effective. The G-Lite

size, fits most and is available through

mere 1.4 kg. It will be available from

comes in two sizes: #32 and #39, at

Super Fly at, with

dealers and schools from mid-April at

1.7 and 2.1 kg respectively. Available

more info at

a recommended retail price of approx.

through Super Fly at www.superflyinc.

850 euros.

com, with more info at

NEO Suspender ‚ NEO created a new type of cocoon: a

ƒ Air Design VOLT 3

lightweight, stable, precise, comfortable

Air Design announces the release of

bucket seat with a modern look. The

the Volt 3 which, they claim, follows the

Suspender is a lightweight, high-end,

virtues of its predecessors, being a reli-

innovative cross with a light and highly

able glider for all conditions, with even

efficient NEO-KOROYD protection inte-

more performance, higher top speed,

grated into the geometry. Its structure

rock-solid stability and agile handling

is built around this new concept of back

characteristics. More info: www. ad-

protection. This is an essential piece

of gear for any XC pilot who values protection along with performance in


a compact package. The Suspender

Air Design claims that their new SuSi3

comes in sizes XS-L, with the medium size weighing in at 8.5 lbs. In stock at Super Fly. More info at www.

is a hike & fly all-round glider, suitable for various pilots and application—from basic hike & fly to extreme mountaineering and strong-wind soaring. They claim this low-level B offers an extensive weight range which provides the eager pilot with all the options to choose the right size for whatever your adventure demands. More info: www.



Companion HG RESERVE

NEO String + Cover „

Most hang glider pilots are flying with

This new version of the ultra-light para-

reserves designed and often construct-

gliding and speedflying harness is ideal

ed in the 1990s and the majority are 30

for paralpinism, walking & flying, travel-

meters or smaller. Times have changed

ing, and soaring. Accurate and stable,

and hang glider pilots can now fly with

the String can exploit the thermal and

confidence knowing that they have a

go for a walk because the comfort is

42-meter reserve at the same weight

there. The main characteristic of the

while being much more compact. The

NEO String is its comfort/weight/du-

SQR from Companion is a new genera-

rability ratio. The leg-covering, remov-

tion of reserve parachute, merging the

able cocoon can be added as an option

Flymaster Anti-theft System

advantages of the classic round canopy

thanks to the “Balance System”. More

Ever had your flying equipment stolen

and the modern square canopies into

comfortable and flexible thigh boots

and wanted to get it back? If you reg-

an innovative and forward-looking

thanks to a very innovative KOROYD/

ister your Flymaster unit at Flymaster.

technology. The Companion SQR HG

MESH 3D Sandwich. The String +

net it is possible to get the unit de-

comes in one size, the 160 (kg), weighs

Cover comes in sizes S, M (430g) and

tected. So register your Flymaster now!

5.2 pounds and will support up to 350

L. Available through Super Fly at www.

More info from Jug at jugdeep@flymas-

lbs. It’s available through Super Fly at, with more info at www. or

SKYWALK HIKE 80 ‚ Skywalk paragliders have released their new Hike 80 L backpack. This

ƒ NOVA Prion 4

520gram backpack fits snugly on the

The Prion 4 offers much and demands

body, making it comfortable to carry

little. Regardless whether you are

even in difficult terrain. They claim that

making your first turns in a thermal or if

their roll top allows the pilot to adjust

you are flying big distances in unknown

the volume of the backpack exactly to

areas, in every case you will benefit

the dimensions of the equipment being

from the simplicity and innovations

carried. Two external stretch pockets

designed into the Prion 4. The Prion

and a zippered pocket on the waist

4 comes in sizes XS-L and in vibrant

belt take on additional small items. A

hues as Melon, Blue, Gold, and Green.

practical key holder and a drinking-tube

Demos are available through Super Fly

guide ensure that even tiny but impor-

at, with more info

tant details find their place. For more


info: .

ƒ NOVA Ion 5 NOVA is making something good even better. The result of the evolution from the Ion 4 to the Ion 5 is a high performance, light and safe wing, which will impress you with its even better handling. Basically, a real ION. The Ion 5 comes in sizes XXS-L. The color choices include Melon, Blue, Green and Gold. Demos are available through Super Fly at, with more info at



VISION Strange New Wings

by PAUL MURDOCH, President A 26-person board is too large to deal effectively with a crisis—such as the recent insurance crisis. That many

mittees, pulling from chapters and experts. Those committees present

and pivot as needed when time is tight.

their findings to the BOD for approval.

As a result, the four-person Executive

We currently have regional direc-

committee made most of the tough de-

tors, but that model isn’t resulting in

cisions. That isn’t how things should

consistent communication to member-


ship around the country. So to facili-

Imagine getting 26 opinionated

tate, we’d have a USHPA staff member

pilots to agree on lunch, let alone on

charged solely with communications.

essentially be deciding upon policy

As it is now, the duty of USHPA BOD communication falls on the same

members, it is the largest board I have

that has already been forged in specif-

people who are volunteering for the

been part of. After four years of serv-

ic committees, with input and feed-

BOD. Good communication is hard

ing, I think we need to be smaller to be

back from membership and experts. A

work. Most of us have families and

more effective.

board should operate at a high level,

jobs and other pressing things, such

considering not the minutia of a topic,

as flying. The sun is setting on a beau-

During the first general session, I was stunned when the entire

but the ramifications of that issue as

tiful flying afternoon as I write this.

BOD rehashed each topic, after each

they coincide with our mission state-

Communicating what we are working

had already been debated in commit-

ments. A well-structured board should

on gets the short stick. We know it and

tees. We even reviewed spelling and

have expertise—legal, financial, insur-

I suspect you all know it as well. It was

grammar. This is highly inefficient

ance and pilot-specific knowledge.

a problem during the insurance crisis

and important. Here is why:


more inclusive group would form com-

people can’t communicate effectively

our governing rules. Boards should

I joined the board in 2014. With 26

will make the decisions. A larger,


My vision is of a small team who

that will continue to be a problem

unless we fix it.

One of those hot topics is the de-

management at a ski area. Those ac-

clining number of hang glider pilots.

tions threatened the USHPA chapter’s

well, the membership may or may not

A small group of us met before the

access to the site. He was right to be

read what we send them. Don’t take

spring meeting to brainstorm on the

frustrated. Landowner relations take

Even when we do communicate

that wrong. We are all members and

topic. Bruce Weaver organized and

time and patience and can be wiped

I am as guilty as anyone. A dedicated

James Bradley facilitated. We dis-

out quickly.

communications person could tailor

cussed shrinking instructor numbers,

As James presented the findings

newsletters to specific pilot groups.

lack of good training sites, portability

of the Hang Gliding Focus Group, he

”Imagine getting 26 opinionated pilots to agree on lunch, let alone on our governing rules.“ We are now publishing proposed SOP

of the gear and learning curves. We

mentioned how some of our newcom-

changes prior to board meetings to

even discussed the renegade/risk-

ers did not always feel welcome. The

allow feedback. But members are not

taker attitude that was attractive, but

parallel to me is clear. Whatever wing

seeing the posts. USHPA memos might

also included some exclusivity when

we fly is soon to be replaced by some-

be better if targeted to instructors,

new wings showed up on launch.

thing new. That might be a minor

to towing operations, and to general

The US Parachuting Association’s

tweak or a major redesign. It could be a new wing entirely. The people who

membership to help reduce email

executive director presented their


numbers and successes. One thing he

fly those new wings will demonstrate

mentioned is that due to federal law,

much of the excitement and energy

skydiving has a right to be conducted

that we did. Why wouldn’t they? The

I have asked several smart people to

at federally funded airports. The di-

excitement and spirit of hang gliding

participate. Many respond that BOD

chotomy with our limited hang gliding

needs a recharge. While paragliders

work takes too much time. They also

school numbers is clear. New pilots

were once that new wing on the hill

report frustration with watching the

need places to learn. In the end, there

perceived to be causing trouble, those

Lastly, our current size reduces the number of candidates willing to serve.

same important topics get discussed

were no unanticipated causes un-

pilot numbers are what now gives

at our large round table—with no

covered, but we were able to produc-

the organization needed momen-

decision being made and no action

tively churn through root causes up

tum. Strange new wings will always

being taken. I’d love to see a fresh BOD

to potential solutions and takeaways.

show up at our sites unannounced.

team tackle our challenges with fewer

Watch for more from James and team.

We would be wise to assimilate.

obstacles to implementation. BELOW Preparing for a magic carpet ride at Ed Levin, CA | photo by Irv Bough.

Near the end of the meeting,

After all, we are in the business of

something occurred to me. I had just

flight, not wings. Our mission state-

received a phone call from a chapter

ment is “to ensure the future of free

leader who was frustrated with some

flight.” There are many ways to experi-

mini-wing pilots who had angered

ence free flight.




by MARTIN PALMAZ, Executive Director cently, it has been all-hands-on-deck

weekends, crunching numbers and

at USHPA… and in many ways, it still

communicating and coordinating a

is. So much has gone on behind-the-

series of ad hoc groups to get the jum-

scenes—from the insurance crisis of

bled pieces of the puzzle to fall into

a couple of years ago, to the organiza-

place. The goal was clear—and the

tional changes it necessitated, to the

objective was huge—but we all knew

ground-up rebuild of the

it was possible. As it turns out, we


were right about that. We arrived at

For the past year and a half, aside from the information we pushed out regarding the red-alerts USHPA was

Dear USHPA members—I have a lot to share with you about where we are and where we are going.

a workable solution and are pleased that the grueling effort paid off. The crises are past. Now, it’s time to

squaring up against, communication

make sure that the USHPA member

has been tough. So much was hap-

community shares an understanding

pening, so quickly, and the flurry of

of the ripple effects left by that hectic

related emergencies necessitated

season in our collective history. It’s

communication triage. Behind the

time to reconnect and communicate

It's been a long road. I’m not exag-

scenes, we all squinted through more

on a regular basis. As things continue

gerating when I say that, until very re-

than our share of late nights and

to evolve and change, we are going to

GEAR new graphic









books + videos + calendars + cards 12



for necklaces

bracelets & earrings


keep you apprised of them more fully by taking space in every issue to give

9th, 2018. With that launch, USHPA went from

you the backstory—the all-important

using technology several decades

why—behind these changes. We’ll

out-of-date to stepping directly into

for instructors, chapters and other groups within the organization that have been impacted in different ways. For now, the message is this: The last couple of years have challenged

also focus on the individual benefits

the moment. We now have access

of USHPA membership (some of which

to much cleaner, more useful data,

the association and its members in

you may not be fully familiar with),

which will support every aspect of

numerous ways, but we are finally

and how you can best access them.

the organization: training, recruit-

coming up for air and things are on

“The last couple of years have challenged the association and its members in numerous ways, but we are finally coming up for air and things are on track for great progress.” To give you a preview of the mate-

ment, marketing, continuing educa-

track for great progress. In fact, this moment of crisis has

rial we’ll be covering here, let’s start

tion—you name it. To date, we have

with the most recent: the annual

been severely limited in our ability to

chapter renewal. Chapters are now

optimize effectively simply because of

the throes of such change, we were

taking a more proactive role in man-

the nature of the data we were work-

forced to evaluate what happened and how we need to evolve. What

given us a golden opportunity. In

aging risk at sites around the country.

ing with, the structure of the previous

This fundamental change in role

database, and the outdated technol-

looks on its face to be narrowly-avoid-

stems from the fact that we must now

ogy. With the new digital foundation

ed loss of free-flight has, indeed, been

provide a much clearer illustration of

we’re building, we can not only look

the motivation to make exponential

each chapter’s operations to address

at much more, much better data, but

improvements to our communica-

risk management. These first few

we’ll also be empowered to provide a

tions strategies, membership benefits,

years of chapter renewals have had

level of service for the membership

and USHPA programs, because the

growing pains similar to those for

that we’ve never had before. All of

resulting crisis has provided truly

chapters adapting to their new roles

this will take time, but the ultimate

unique insights and opportunities.

in risk management. With the feed-

goals are finally within reach.

back received so far, we are working with the RRG to improve and stream-

In the coming months, we also intend to conduct a series of webinars

Thank you for being part of this journey. Enjoy a fun and safe flying season, Lookout training hill | Photo by NICK GREECE

line the annual renewal. While that process will still require detailed information, we expect this process to become easier in future renewals. In the near future, this column will explain why the process has changed, as well as what we need and how to most easily collect the data. We’ll also explain how USHPA’s new systems— just now coming online—will help. Another topic we’ll soon address is—drumroll, please—the new The new website is a big part of how we’ll be able to implement these changes (and manage our day-to-day USHPA interactions) more efficiently. It has been a massive endeavor to flip the switch on the new website, which went live on February



2017 Site Improvement Project

Buffalo Mou A

s a couple of P2s and a Hang 3 were enjoying the mild fall wonder winds above Heavener Runestone Park, local paragliding instructor

five miles of smooth unbroken ridge that faces the area’s

Britton Shaw asked his student if he was ready for his

predominant southerly winds. Heavener Runestone

first solo flight. Somewhat nervous, but confident, the

Hang Gliding Association (HRHGA) became the organi-

student inflated his wing, turned, and stepped into a per-

zation for those flying the Heavener site. Located on the

fect breeze. After nearly an hour of soaring in the glass-

western end of Poteau Mountain, overlooking Heavener,

smooth evening air, he safely landed in the wide-open

Oklahoma, its west-facing cliff above Heavener Runestone

grassy field below.

Park morphs into a SW-facing mile-long 800’ AGL ridge

While hour-long first flights might not be the norm, perfect conditions in the beautiful Ouachita Mountains of southeast Oklahoma are. Pilots have been taking advantage of these towering ridges for more than four decades. Buffalo Mountain Flyers (BMF) sprang into existence amid the great Oklahoma flying-site rush of 1975, when

with easy slope launch, which turns into a SSE-facing fivemile unbroken ridge, with yet another easy launch. HRHGA eventually dissolved, and BMF became a USHPA chapter covering all sites in SE Oklahoma. Within 10 years, BMF added 1300’AGL east-facing Panorama Overlook on the beautiful, breathtaking Talimena Skyline

hang glider pilots from the surrounding region in

Drive, Oklahoma’s only National Scenic Byway. Through

Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, and

a Special Use Permit with the Forest Service, the club

Kansas saw the potential of the Ouachita Mountains. A

secured one of the most beautiful flying sites in the US. In

mass of pilots began converging on the new sites being

more recent years, BMF added PG Point, another launch

flown and quickly recognized the need to organize, pre-

a little farther off Talimena Drive itself, but much closer

serve, and protect the sites they had gained permission to

to, and directly overlooking, the LZ. BMF’s membership


faded over the years from its peak of over 100 members

In the fall of 1975, BMF became the organization for



in the ‘70s to less than 25 by the turn of the century.

those flying from Buffalo Mountain. At 1200’ above the

However, paragliding has sparked a resurgence in mem-

valley floor near Talihina, Oklahoma, Buffalo consists of

bers, thanks to two local paragliding instructors, Ron


untain Flyers Kohn and Britton Shaw, who support the club and train a

plied for, and received, a $5000 grant from the Foundation

large number of new and active pilots. BMF has continued

for Free Flight. The launches at Buffalo and PG Point were

to grow, topping 70 members during the last couple of

to be the main focus. In March 2017 work began on both



Securing and improving sites have been top-shelf priorities for the club. With the support of a growing member

Ken Cobb, owner of the eastern half of the launches on Buffalo, had 800 cubic yards of fill material hauled and

base, individual pilot/landowners, and assistance from the Foundation for Free Flight, BMF’s projects to improve and preserve our flying sites have become larger in scale. Along with the 10-year SUP agreement between BMF and the Forest Service for both the launch and LZ at Panorama, the club, in conjunction with the Foundation, owns a permanent 40-acre easement for the LZ at Heavener. Privately, club members Ken Cobb and Barbara Hair (widow of the late Mel Hair) own three launch sites on Buffalo. Those same members, along with local instructor Ron Kohn, and club members Dave Ryhal and Dave Templeton, collectively own over 40 acres, most of which either were originally, or have been added to, the LZ. With such a high degree of security, the club has aggressively pursued making the sites the best that they can be. During the 2016 annual membership meeting, the club developed a Site Improvement Plan and appointed club member Dave Shaw as project manager. Along with matching fund commitments from several pilots, the club designated an additional $4000 for the project and ap-


shot of the finished launch areas | photo by Miller Stroud. TOP April 15, 2017: Buffalo Mountain sod work day | photo by Jim Fuhrman.



spread on the east-slope launch and middle-bluff launch.

ing golf green. Next, we needed to repair the washed-out

He also plowed and removed several tons of rocks from

access road to PG Point. D&D Ag Service donated the labor

the LZ, making it smooth enough to mow with a lawn

and equipment for this project, while the club purchased

mower. Ken spent the money from his own pocket and

100 cubic yards of crusher run, making the launch site

provided hundreds of hours of manual labor. A local

accessible by nearly any vehicle. Finally, the club hired a

contractor, D&D Ag Service, hauled topsoil to both the

dozer to build an access road below the Buffalo launches.

Buffalo and PG Point launches. The owner, a club member,

The road allowed crews to apply herbicide for brush con-

donated the material and equipment, while the club

trol and greatly improved access for emergency person-

agreed to pay for fuel. Over 120 cubic yards of topsoil were

nel in case of a blown launch or serious accident. To add

hauled and spread over shale at Buffalo, and over shale,

icing to the cake, Ron Kohn, club member and webmaster,

rocks, and stumps at PG Point.

developed and implemented a QR program that integrates

By April 15, the two launches were ready for sod. Thirty-


daily site check-in with waiver acknowledgement, mem-

plus club member volunteers put down 15,000 square feet

bership status for both BMF and USHPA, with options to

of Bermuda sod. It was great seeing the rocky launches

join if not currently a member, and appropriate warnings

turned into what one member said would make an amaz-

per pilot rating versus site requirements.


In all, the club used $4000 in club funds, a $5000 grant from the Foundation For Free Flight, and $650 in club-

material for this project totaled $51,204. We can’t adequately express our appreciation to the

member donations, earmarked for site improvements, for

Foundation for Free Flight and everyone else who contrib-

a total of $9650. Cash expenditures were made for haul-

uted to this awesome project. It was amazing to witness

ing, fuel, sod, seed, herbicide and watering. In addition

everyone coming together for this effort. See the work as

to the cash, the following landowner and club member

it was performed at PG Point in this great YouTube video

donations were made:

put together by Britton Shaw:

*Ken Cobb: fill material at the Buffalo launch, $14,505. *D&D Ag Service: labor & equipment, $7829.

lcY We hope you will come to check out and fly our sites.

*D&D Ag Service topsoil: $3220.

Our annual BMF Fly-in Fundraiser is scheduled for June

*Other club members: approximately 300 hours labor,

30 through July 8, 2018. Registration begins in March 2018.

valued at $20/hr. for roughly $6000. *Landowner labor: approximately 500 hours labor,

You’ll find the most current information at

valued at $20/hr. for roughly $10,000. Total cash, plus donations of labor, equipment, and


work-day heroes | photo by Amy Tingle.



STRATEGY Proposing a New Governance Structure

by JAMES BRADLEY, Strategic Planning Committee Chair acted without regard for what USHPA’s

insurance crisis. There was no way for

members think.

the 26-member board to manage the

Now things are different. As USHPA

The Strategic Planning committee has been examining how the USHPA structure is working. The 26-member board of directors

fast-moving situation. It fell to the four-

moves to communicate better and

member Executive committee to do it,

to be transparent in its operations,

along with the executive director and

committee proposals must be posted

a small band of volunteers. It was un-

to the membership for comment at

derstandably frustrating for the board

least 30 days before they are voted on.

members to be told after the fact about

Anyone can point out a flaw in reason-

what was happening and then be ex-

ing or suggest a better idea. The board,

pected to sign off on it. It was necessary,

too, can weigh in. After the comment

and it made sense; the EC could get

period, the committee has a chance to

together often on conference calls, and

incorporate the feedback into its pro-

the 26-member board couldn’t possibly,

posal before presenting it to the board.

not to mention the challenges of the

At the recent spring board meeting

large group making decisions. Some

in Golden, Colorado, the room was

board members found this irritating

newly quiet much of the day, because

enough that they began communicat-

served a valuable purpose when most

the committee work had been more

ing negatively about USHPA’s manage-

of the committee work happened in the

fully considered in advance. As the

ment, in person and on social media, at

two days before each board meeting:

membership becomes more aware of

a time when a unified presentation of

It gave each new committee proposal

the opportunity to comment and be

the challenges, decisions and reasons

a wide audience of experienced pilots

heard, even less review will be needed

might really have helped. (What was

and instructors, before it was voted on.

before the board signs off on most com-

actually going on was a group of volun-

Many poorly considered submissions

mittee proposals. The wide audience

teers working hard to solve our insur-

were stopped or amended during this

is still happening, just in a different

ance problem. Nothing uglier than

and better way. It has become a waste

that.) In this way our current structure

of money and especially of volunteer

contributed directly to the rift we are

committees, which have been com-

time to fly so many people to a room

now needing to heal, between USHPA’s

posed mostly of board members, meet

twice a year, simply to rubber stamp

management and some of its members.

immediately before the board meet-

well-prepared committee work.

Perhaps you are one of them.

review. While it was convenient to have the

ings, this format contributed to the perception that USHPA’s management

Another problem with the current structure became apparent during the

With these challenges in mind, last fall the board asked my committee,

”Volunteer energy is precious; we need to be making the most of it. Our board members, committee chairs and committee members are all volunteers.“ 18


the Strategic Planning committee, to develop a proposal for a seven-member board of directors, with a transition plan for how to make the change. Included had to be good answers for how we would do what the regional directors have been doing in their home regions, how we would maintain regional representation on the committees that need it (for instance, Towing and Safety & Training), and how might we keep some of what has always been good about the big board meetings, which is the in-person time that happens, the conversations over breakfast, the chance to corner the president in the hall with a question, and so on. This is the kind of project that can never please everyone. You may not like it. The idea is to try to step back from whether you like it or I like it, and instead try to think about what would most help USHPA serve its mission, which is to ensure the future of free flight. This includes being able to function well in our next crisis, and to make the best possible use of our volunteers’ time and energy, all of the time. Volunteer energy is precious; we need to be making the most of it. Our board members, committee chairs and committee members are all volunteers. For USHPA to be the best that it can be, we need to provide them with a more effective framework to work in. includes first drafts of two new ideas,

the proposal, they did vote to incor-

much smaller board that is elected

one a program to help our chapters

porate a couple more ideas that had

nationally rather than regionally. It

and the other an ambassador program

come up in discussion, and then put it

strengthens the committees, with

to appeal to young people. We think

out to the membership for comments

committee members selected from

both of these are things to get started

and feedback. As with the many drafts

the entire pilot community rather

on and then adjust as we see how they

of the proposal that we have been through, this one is not final. We want

The proposed new structure has a

than from the board. It has a revised

go, rather than overthink at the begin-

meetings plan, including an annual in-

ning. It has a sketch of a new commu-

to know what you think. Please send

person board meeting that is webcast

nications plan, built around a new staff

your concerns and ideas. I will person-

to all of USHPA’s members. It has a

person with the title of communica-

ally read every comment and we will

separate annual committee meet-

tions director.

consider all suggestions.

At the recent spring meeting, the

You can download the latest draft of

attend, with travel reimbursement,

board discussed our most recent draft

the proposal at

to get a large group together again. It

and while the BOD is split in support


ing that all committees are invited to



INSURANCE How USHPA's Insurance Program Protects Free Flight This article is not an insurance policy and is not meant to augment, modify, or in any way change the insurance policies that may have been issued by Recreation RRG to any of its insureds. To the extent that this article describes or summarizes provisions of insurance policies issued by Recreation RRG, it does so only to assist you and not to replace the language of the insurance policy(ies). Refer to the insurance policy(ies) for specific details of coverage.

by MARK G. FORBES, Insurance Committee Chair expenses in case of a serious accident. For most kinds of risk, a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy provides some protection. But every commercial

ity, and this is rigorously defined in the policy. USHPA's Professional Liability policy

policy sold by the big-name insurance

covers non-commercial Rogallo mem-

companies excludes aviation. That’s why

bers. It also provides an excess level

you need the protection that USHPA’s

of coverage to commercial Rogallo

policy offers. None of us goes out to fly

members while they are working for

expecting to have an accident: It will

a Professional Air Sports Association

never happen to me! And each year, a few

(PASA) certified flight school. It provides

USHPA members discover that they were

NO coverage to a commercial Rogallo

wrong, and it did happen to them.

member when that member is not work-

We use USHPA’s insurance coverage every time we fly, yet most of us don’t know what it covers, and what it does not cover. I’ll describe our program and explain how it works, and highlight how it is contributing to improved safety.

broken. But if you hit someone’s house,

under separate policies for flight schools,

car or cow, or even worse, someone else,

flight parks and other commercial ven-

then you may be on the hook to pay for

tures. If there is any exchange of value,

pay for the repair. Damage to people is

things like offering a tandem training

What Is Covered? USHPA has two insur-

much more complicated, because people

flight for a charity fundraiser. (See side-

ance policies. The General Liability (GL)

are more difficult to properly repair.

policy provides third-party liability cover-

If the accident only involves you, then you’ll take care of fixing whatever is

ing for a PASA certified flight school. Commercial operations take place

the damage. Damage to property is fairly

including donations or barter, then it’s

straightforward: Get an estimate and

a commercial activity. That includes

Professional liability is damage or neg-

bar for more on professional activity and coverages.)

age for USHPA member pilots, chapters

ligence related to providing professional

and landowners. The Professional

services; in our case, offering training

of other risks out there in the world. If you travel overseas to fly, you would

What Is Not Covered? There are a lot

Liability (PL) policy provides professional

or expertise to students or other pilots

liability coverage for USHPA Rogallo

while holding an official position with

be wise to invest in a travel-insurance

members who are instructors, admin-

USHPA. Professional liability coverage is

policy that will cover medical care and

istrators, examiners, observers, tow tech-

for bodily injury to students related to

repatriation. Terms for these vary widely,

providing professional services; in our

and exclude hang gliding and paraglid-

case, offering training or expertise to

ing in many cases. Also, your medical

you do to other people or their property.

students or other pilots while holding a

insurance may not be valid when you’re

USHPA’s policies do NOT cover damage

USHPA certification or appointment.

overseas. (See separate article on travel

to you personally: medical bills, broken

USHPA’s General Liability policy

equipment and so on. You should carry

covers only those activities which are

a comprehensive health insurance

provided non-commercially; there is NO

car accidents, where you might be driv-

policy to protect yourself from medical

COVERAGE under the USHPA General

ing a load of pilots up to launch. Your

nicians and mentors. Third-party liability is damage that


Liability policy for commercial activ-


insurance in this issue.) Our policy does not cover things like

auto policy should handle that.

Where Is Our Insurance Valid? The coverage territory for USHPA’s policy is the United States, Puerto Rico, US territories, and Canada. Coverage is also valid for flying trips overseas, so long as any claims are brought in a US court. Your USHPA insurance is valid at any flying site in the coverage territory, whether it’s covered by “site insurance” or not.

What Is an “Insured Site”? What we call “site insurance” is somewhat incorrect; it’s really “additional insured landowner” insurance, but that’s a mouthful. What it means is that the landowner of a site where we fly is brought in under the USHPA policy and will be defended if there’s a claim against them related to flying. This coverage is obtained through local chapters, and there is an additional charge per landowner to provide it. In some cases, the landowner does not ask to be named as an additional insured on the USHPA policy as a condition of access to their property. In many cases, though, it’s a requirement to obtain access. Some sites require special-use permits to allow for construction of launch ramps or other improvements, and these permits nearly always require insurance coverage. State and local governments often insist on insurance coverage before allowing hang gliding and paragliding in public parks and open space. Some private landowners also insist on this coverage to use their land. In remote areas with small pilot populations and limited activity, this is less of a problem. But for those popular and highly used sites convenient to many pilots, site insurance is usually required. Local USHPA chapters obtain this coverage by requesting it and submitting a Risk Management Plan (RMP) to our insurer for review. On approval of the RMP, the additional-insured landowner is added to the list of insured parties. They are defended under the insurance coverage if they are sued as a result of flying activity on their property.

RECREATION VS. COMMERCIAL INSTRUCTION There is a clear distinction between teaching that is done for pay, and teaching that is done for fun. Courts and juries treat the two very differently, and the legal risk for commercial instruction is much higher. To determine whether an activity is “commercial,” ask yourself two questions: Am I getting compensated in any form whatsoever for teaching or flying tandem? (That includes donating your time for charity, such as offering a tandem flight for a fundraiser.) Am I advertising or offering services for compensation, even if this particular flight or training is not compensated at all? If either of these is true, it’s commercial activity. There is no “free weekend” for an instructor who teaches for pay at other times. We have seen claims in the past where it was all just “friends teaching friends” until the accident happened, and then the story changed. There is no “a little bit commercial.” You are, or you aren’t. The USHPA Professional Liability (PL) policy protects instructors from claims related to recreational instruction. It means that if you want to teach someone to fly, and you’re a rated instructor who is not being paid, you can do that without worrying that you might lose your house and retirement savings to an accident claim. USHPA’s policy covers only recreational instruction. If there’s compensation in any form, then it does not apply. If you’re getting paid to teach, then you need to be covered by a commercial insurance policy. Recreation RRG requires that commercial instructors operate as part of an organized flight school. That can be your own school, or one belonging to another instructor. Insurance is issued to the flight school, and each of its instructors is an insured under that school’s policy. Because of our poor past claims history related to instruction, Recreation RRG has changed the way that instruction is insured. The Professional Air Sports Association (PASA) now provides a comprehensive review of a school’s operations before it can be insured. See the PASA website for more details: After PASA review, the school has two

options for insurance. For schools teaching a limited number of students, the most economical choice is to join PASA as a small-school member, with the membership fee based on the estimated level of business measured in student lesson days (SLDs). Every SLD must be logged using the Recreation RRG online system. All of the PASA small schools share one master insurance policy issued to PASA, which keeps the cost low by spreading it among multiple PASA members. For larger schools with a higher level of activity, the most economical choice is an individual school insurance policy issued by Recreation RRG. These policies are priced based on a percentage of gross training revenue, subject to annual financial audit. The initial price is higher for a large school policy, but the incremental cost is lower. Schools teaching about 200 SLDs or more per year should consider this option. Logging of SLDs is crucial. It provides feedback on the level of activity and any incidents that may be of concern. It’s important to report even small incidents: a skinned knee, a sprain, or even a noninjury where something didn’t go quite right. This information helps us to identify root causes before they become serious accidents. We know that incidents will happen; hang gliding and paragliding are physical sports. Schools that don’t report any incidents are probably having some, but not logging them. We would much rather know that something happened, so we can deal with it quickly. Schools that report incidents should not see their premiums increase as a result. Schools that do not report incidents, which come to light later, will be reviewed much more critically. When an accident root cause is identified, a school may be asked to modify its training program to reduce the chance of it happening again. If a general trend is identified, Recreation RRG will work with schools and USHPA to improve training standards. By gathering data from schools all across the country, the hope is that we can work together to improve training of new pilots and decrease the number and severity of training accidents.



Who Provides Our Insurance Policy? We do! USHPA has formed a self-insurance risk retention group, Recreation RRG Inc. to sell ourselves insurance.

what’s happening in our sport across the country, it increases the confidence that

Back before the RRG, our insurers

our actuaries have in our level of risk.

weren’t really looking at the details.

Recreation RRG doesn’t get to set its

Chapters sent in their renewals, often

own premium rates. Instead, RRRG hires

is a separate corporation, based in

with nothing more than a bare mini-

a professional insurance actuary to run

Vermont and wholly owned by its

mum of contact information and a list of

thousands of hypothetical loss scenarios,

insured members. Those are USHPA,

additional insured landowners for their

and that produces a range of expected

the Foundation for Free Flight (FFF),

insured sites. There were occasional ac-

losses. Those numbers drive the final

Professional Air Sports Association

cidents, and resulting claims, and these

amount that RRRG is required to charge

(PASA) and 26 individual commercial

all contributed to our rapidly increasing

in premiums, and how it’s divided up be-

“RRRG” (say that with a piratical accent!)

flight schools. USHPA owns a bit over 2/3

insurance premiums. Under the RRG

tween USHPA and flight schools. When

of it, with the Foundation owning the

model, we’re doing a much more careful

actuaries are unsure about risk, as in

next largest share.

evaluation of all sites, and requiring

the case of our sport, they tend to guess

a Risk Management Plan for each one,

on the risky side and set the premiums accordingly. We are already seeing

Until 2016, we had insurance coverage from a Lloyd’s of London syndicate.

whether there’s an insured landowner

After we learned in mid-2015 that they

or not. We believe that by reviewing

improvements in our risk profile as a

intended to drop us at the next renewal,

these plans and probing for details, we

result of the data that we’ve been able to

we scrambled and managed to form the

can identify root causes of accidents

provide, and we expect to continue that

RRG in time to keep our insurance in

and reduce their frequency. There have

with good reporting by our members.

force. {See separate article in this issue

already been reports that RMP reviews

on the RRG formation history.)

were directly responsible for changes

How Does the RRG Work to Improve Flight Safety? The overriding goal of

which prevented accidents, which is the

Recreation RRG is to have fewer ac-

whole point of the exercise.

cidents in our sport. Fewer accidents

Recreation RRG was capitalized with $3 million raised from USHPA reserves, the Foundation, member donations,

Doing these from scratch is much

means fewer claims, lower costs and

more work than reviewing and updating

most importantly, fewer injuries and

who provided long-term loans. That capi-

them annually. As they get refined our

deaths. If we do nothing else, “fewer acci-

tal is what backs our “bet” on insurance.

future chapter renewals will be easier,

dents” is a good enough reason for all of

Operating costs and claims expenses

with much of the information already

the extra paperwork and safety reviews.

are covered by the insurance premiums

filled in and needing only to be checked

schools and some individual investors

For chapters, Recreation RRG requires

that USHPA and the flight schools pay to

for changes. USHPA recently brought a

detailed RMPs for every site. Those

Recreation RRG, just like any other insur-

new website and database on line, and

should identify obstacles, no-land areas,

ance company.

chapter renewals will be a more auto-

spectator keep-out zones—any aspect of

mated online process from 2019 onward.

a site that relates to flying there safely.

Do Accident Reports Increase Our Premiums? Surprisingly, no—accident

These are reviewed in detail, and lessons

to maximize profit extracted from our sport. Any profits that accumulate will

reports reduce our premiums in the long

all across the country. For example, we

eventually come back to RRRG's share-

run. Before the RRG, most of the acci-

know of a significant insurance claim

holders, which include USHPA. This early

dents that the insurer heard about were

some years back where a spectator was

in its history, Recreation RRG is still in

ones that resulted in an insurance claim,

hit by a glider caught in a dust devil. As

start-up mode, building its capital base

either for damages to property, or a law-

a result, some of the questions asked are

to pay off the loans and becoming more

suit by someone injured. They naturally

about glider tie-downs, and spectator

stable. Over time, if we do a good job of

thought that most accidents resulted in

clearance from launch and setup areas.

managing risk and costs, the RRG has

insurance claims. But we know that’s

the potential to significantly reduce our

not true, and we have to show evidence

Unlike commercial insurers, Recreation RRG is not in the business

insurance costs.

learned are passed back to chapters

We know of multiple cases where pilots hit power lines. That’s why RMPs

to support it. That is why we are pushing

need to show clearly where power lines

hard to have every accident reported, no

are, and explain how pilots flying the

Chapters and schools have all seen a

matter how trivial. Even if it’s a skinned

site are advised of their location and

significant increase in the amount of

knee or a sprain, we want to know about

how to avoid them. Identifying these

information they’re required to provide.

it. When we can show that we know

risks and documenting them will better

What’s All This Extra Paperwork?!?


So why the big change? Two words: Risk Management.


RECREATION RRG TIMELINE inform pilots and hopefully lead to fewer

August 2015 One of our California flight


schools calls; they submitted an application to renew their insurance policy to our carrier, Lloyd’s Of London, and were turned down. Word is that the insurer intends to drop the policy and not cover hang gliding or paragliding instruction any more. Without insurance the school is out of business. The school has never had a claim, had no reason to expect a non-renewal. The insurer doesn’t give a reason, but rumor has it they’re reconsidering insuring our sport. This is serious. If we can’t get insurance, we won’t be able to keep a large majority of our most popular sites open. Schools won’t be able to operate, particularly some schools that turn out a large percentage of our new pilots. The insurer hasn’t threatened to drop USHPA’s main policy, but it’s a distinct possibility. The USHPA Executive Committee (EC) meets to discuss this and figure out what to do. Lloyd’s is the insurer of last resort. There aren’t any carriers we can find that will write the kind of policy we need. The one option we have left is some sort of self-insurance scheme. This has been talked about almost since the beginning of USHGA, back in the 1970s. It’s a lot of work, a lot of money, and nothing ever came of it. But now we’re up against the wall and out of options.

How Are We Doing So Far? Recreation RRG just completed its second year of operation, and 2017 was its first full year because it started issuing policies in June 2016. Both years have shown a modest profit, and only trivial claims. As expected, we are building up significant reserves for potential claims, and that build-up will continue for a few years as we transition from start-up to stable operations. Insurance companies carry incidents on their books until they are old enough that they can no longer turn into claims. Recreation RRG has not been in business long enough for that to happen. When a few more years have passed, we will start to see those loss reserves leveling off so long as we do a good job of avoiding bad accidents. That is when we’ll begin to see the benefits of a self-insurance program on the financial bottom line.

Where Do We Go From Here? Our future success is entirely in our own hands now. We own the whole problem. We decide how to reduce risk, what level of scrutiny to apply to chapters, sites and schools, how to handle claims and legal defense. If we do this right, we will preserve hang gliding and paragliding as a well-managed sport for the next generation of pilots. If we do it wrong, we’ll go out of business. Our previous insurance carrier was raising premiums every year, and even if they had not dropped us, the continuing rate increases were unsustainable. By reducing our risk profile through careful management and analysis, we will stop those premium increases and hopefully reduce the rates in the long term. Each one of us has a stake in this. Each one of us makes flying decisions that have the potential for injury or death. If we embrace a safety-oriented attitude toward flying, we will succeed both as individuals and as a sport.

September 2015 The EC sends USHPA's attorney off to the Vermont Captive Insurance Association convention, fortunately coming up in just a few weeks, to find out what our options are. He returns with professional contacts, preliminary service contracts and a long list of things we’d have to do to solve the problem. The EC works out a plan and submits it to the full Board of Directors for review. The board votes to approve it at the October 2015 meeting. October-November 2015 Lots of work to flesh out the details and figure out how we can raise the funds to capitalize the RRG. We put the USHPA headquarters building up for sale, contact the Foundation for Free Flight about an investment, and start plans for a fundrais-

ing campaign. In the background, a huge amount of legal work takes place to put the structure together to form the RRG.

December 2015-January 2016 We get word that our insurer is not planning to renew any of our policies in March. It’s a good thing we’re working on an alternative! We start fundraising in earnest. Members dig deep and raise money to fund the RRG effort. Between USHPA assets, Foundation investment, member donations, loans from members and investment from PASA and the founding flight schools, we raise $2.9 million by the time the main fundraising effort ends. February 2016 Recreation RRG is officially incorporated as a Vermont-based captive-insurance company. We negotiate an extension of our existing policies until June 2016 to allow time to get the RRG running. Fundraising continues. March-May 2016 Recreation RRG, PASA and USHPA all work feverishly to get the details nailed down. Chapter renewals pour in, along with school applications for commercial insurance coverage. June 2016 Recreation RRG issues its first policies, to USHPA, PASA, the Foundation and large schools. Plenty of work remains, but we do have insurance coverage, and our flying sites remain open.

July-December 2016 Much work continues, filling in the details and refining policies, adding more schools and chapters needing insurance.

March 2017 Recreation RRG reports first-partial-year results: We made a profit, and no disastrous claims. Policies are renewed and revised based on experience from 2016.

March 2018 Recreation RRG reports first-full-year results: another profit, although smaller due to increased reserves and operating costs over a full year, and no major claims.



Five Flight Parks

Major Players in Hang Gliding's Beginnings and Future by C.J. STURTEVANT


t’s mid-March as I write this, and

Hampshire), Bruce (Kitty Hawk, South

ago! For a short time in 2010, after the

here in the Northwest a lot of us

Carolina), Matt (Lookout Mountain,

passing of Morningside’s owner Jeff Nicolay, the park was closed to flying,

are getting re-acquainted with

Georgia), Malcolm (Wallaby Ranch,

our hang gliders after a long, soggy

Florida) and Tiki and Bart (Cowboy

but it was acquired and reopened by

winter. That “I hope I remember how

Up, Texas) for taking time from their

Kitty Hawk Kites in July 2011 and it’s

to set this thing up!” feeling often

busy schedules to provide me with a

been in operation ever since.

takes me back to my very early days

(slightly biased…) virtual backstage

in hang gliding, and with both old

tour of their operations.

friends and some brand-new faces

Carolina, in 1974 and they’ve been in

Lookout all have roots reaching back

operation ever since. Back in the ‘70s,

about how and where and when we

to the early days of hang gliding;

they offered, for $29, dune lessons

first got into the sport. Sadly, many

Wallaby Ranch came into being in

that included at least five flights off

of the places where we old-timers

the early ‘90s, and Cowboy Up is a

the ridge and lots of practice ground

learned to fly, and the instructors we

product of the 21st century. Each

handling as students muscled their

learned with, are no longer part of

flight park’s current owner(s) or GM

glider back up the dune. The shop

the hang gliding scene; fortunately,

provided the details presented in this

sold all the early glider models, and

many have endured and continue


offered a repair service. The school

on launch, there’s plenty of chatter

to be major players in pulling new people in to this marvelous sport. I’d fill an entire magazine with just a list of the names of these still-active “major players” but since I’m only al-


Morningside, Kitty Hawk and

Kitty Hawk Kites’ hang gliding school opened in Nags Head, North

On getting started, and keeping going: Morningside, located in

sponsored (and still sponsors) the annual Hang Gliding Spectacular, probably the longest-running hang

Charlestown, New Hampshire, offi-

gliding competition/fly-in—this year’s

cially became a hang gliding school in

will be the 46th! They also hosted the

lotted a few pages, I’m narrowing my

1973 but, says Eric, rumors are that it

first instructor-certification course

focus to a small but highly influential

was a destination for New England’s

on the East Coast, and were among

segment: hang gliding flight parks.

recreational pilots as early as the late

the early experimenters with boat,

Thanks to Eric (Morningside, New

1960s—that’d be about a half-century

stationary-winch and static-line



ally” in Wyoming) and even, Tiki tells

“adventure-themed” activities for non-

me with a touch of pride and a bit of

pilots. In addition to aerotow tandem

began its commercial operation in

an eye roll, managed to keep both

hang gliding, there’s ziplining, kayak-

1978. “It was pretty humble,” says

sites in operation simultaneously for

ing, laser tag, camping, and plans

Matt Taber—“just a landing field and

a brief period during their transition

to add more recreational activities

a wooden outbuilding on top of the

to the Wharton site.

soon—things to keep the non-pilot

Lookout Mountain Flight Park

mountain. But the location (in Rising Fawn, Georgia), was fantastic, and

And now?

members of a group happily occupied

Morningside is currently a school

while those with a hunger for flight

pilots loved it.” Matt bought into the

for hang gliding, paragliding and

operation in 1980, designated it as

powered paragliding, and is continu-

Lookout Mountain Flight Park, and

ing to branch out into additional

pursue their dream. Kitty Hawk still offers many of its original services, with a few up-

began investing in a long series of improvements and initiatives aimed at growing the sport of hang gliding. Lookout Mountain Flight Park has now been in continuous operation for four decades. “Needless to say,” Matt points out, “it’s grown and changed a lot.” Today, Matt claims, “we’re the largest flight park in America, with integrated foot-launch and aerotow training programs and a highly developed infrastructure.” Malcolm points out that he was the first to have “stepped up to the plate and purchased real estate” to create the Wallaby Ranch, an aerotow-only flight park, back in the very early ‘90s. The Ranch’s tow pilots have been yanking hang pilots into the air continuously since then. “Over time we’ve learned what works and what doesn’t, what’s better and what’s not quite as good,” Malcolm says, and has modified his operation accordingly. Tiki Mashy and Bart Weghorst opened Cowboy Up in the spring of 2003 in Jackson, Wyoming, where they provided students and pilots with opportunities for foot launching in the mountains, truck towing and, with the acquisition of a trike, aerotowing. Tiki describes that early operation as “a flight park in a box—no brick-and-mortar, just a trike and a trailer.” Ten years later they expanded to their current location in Wharton (near Houston), Texas. They’ve been in operation continuously (although that meant “season-

ABOVE Photos

courtesy Kitty Hawk Kites.



dates. Students on the dune still get five flights in a lesson (although no longer for just $29), but the instructor now carries the glider back up the hill after each flight, and students can choose from up to five lesson times a day. The Hang Gliding Spectacular still happens every year (this year’s date: May 17-20). The full-service shop is still in operation, although a little less busy than in the early days. Clinics and instructorcertification courses still happen regularly. After extensive use of boat and truck towing in the early days, KHK settled on aerotowing in the mid ‘90s and they now have aerotow locations in Beaufort and The Outer Banks of North Carolina as well as at Morningside Flight Park in New Hampshire. Lookout Mountain these days is a

Thank you, Lookout

Mountain Flight Park

popular destination/vacation site for pilots and their families and non-

by Peter Cheney, Canadian jounalist and H4 pilot

flying friends. Amenities for flyers

I started hang gliding 42 years ago, and my logbook is filled with nearly 100 flying

include just about everything a pilot

sites. But Lookout is the one that keeps me coming back.

could wish for: groomed training hills,

Part of the allure is sheer convenience: I can launch off the mountain, then

a custom-built parabolic launch ramp,

aerotow out of the landing field. But there’s far more to it than that. I love the

five aerotow tugs, a pilot clubhouse

long, soarable ridge, and the beautiful southern landscape, carpeted with green

and bunkhouses, a full-service pro

trees. I have countless friends at Lookout, and its training program shaped me as

shop, a large glider- and harness-

a pilot. I came to the flight park in 1986 after taking a couple of years away from

repair shop, glider-storage units, and

hang gliding—the early days of the sport were risky, and I knew a lot of pilots who

a large stock of new and used gliders,

had been hurt or killed. Back then, hang gliding was the Wild West, filled with ad-

harnesses and accessories. Ground-

venture and crazy risk levels. Like most pilots of that era, I was self-taught—I had

bound family and friends can hang

some time in sailplanes and Cessna’s, but hang gliding was a new ball game, and

out at the campground or the RV park,

a lot of us learned the hard way. After about 50 hours of flying, I sold my glider

or for those who “don’t do camping,”

and took a time out.

there are fully-equipped cabins and

A few years later, I decided try hang gliding again, this time with professional

luxury rental suites. A swimming

training. My research brought me to Lookout, and it was a great choice. Matt Taber

pool and a viewing deck provide com-

has developed an excellent, well-structured curriculum that focuses on practical

fortable venues for keeping an eye

skills. As a pilot, I was born again: The fear and apprehension were gone, re-

on what’s happening in the sky, and

placed by confidence and respect. I went on to become an instructor, and write a

Lookout hosts regular social func-

hang gliding manual with Matt acting as consultant and technique guru. Lookout

tions for pilots and friends.

became part of who I am, and how I fly.

When you come to fly at the

The operation has changed a lot since my first visit. There’s aerotow now, rental

Wallaby Ranch, Malcolm says, you’re

cabins, a swimming pool and a curved launch ramp. But the elements I love so

going to experience “the ultimate in

much are still there: green training hills, a huge group of friends, and a long ridge

a friendly, safe but laid-back atmo-

with red-tail hawks. I love the place!

sphere. If you’re looking to learn, you will be immersed in and surrounded



by a community and culture of

asked these flight-park owners and

served under the Foundation for Free

proven and experienced pilots dedi-

GMs if they were ever in jeopardy of

Flight for 100 years.

cated to an all-round culture of safety.

closing down.

Whether you’re learning from scratch

Malcolm of Wallaby Ranch en-

Kitty Hawk Kites was teaching on the Nag’s Head dunes before the area became a state park. During

or just getting current with aerotow-

thusiastically provided a one-word

ing, you’re going to fly with the most

response: “Nope!” The other parks

the transition to becoming Jockey’s

experienced tandem instructor in the

haven’t been quite that fortunate.

Ridge State Park, there were some

Eric at Morningside recalls that

questions about whether hang glid-

Cowboy Up offers hang gliding

“there sure have been some threats,

ing should still be allowed. “The fact

lessons, discovery flights, and pilot

but those are much longer stories!”

that hang gliding was such a draw to

clinics in parachute deployment/

Fortunately, he says, “calmer and

the area and had such a solid safety

repacking, XC flying, landing, in-

wiser heads prevailed in each in-

record soon put those fears to rest,”

structor training, tandem, aerotow-

stance, communities came together

Bruce points out, and instruction

ing, and, new this season, scooter

and the park has survived many

continued uninterrupted.

towing. Although Cowboy Up does

trials. It helps to have an incredible


The most significant threat to the Lookout Mountain Flight Park came

not yet offer vacation/family oriented

hill and LZ, that many generations of

amenities, “we are a full-service hang

pilots have taken upon themselves

in 2000, when, says Matt, some local

gliding park, with three large aircraft

to preserve…” Being part of the Kitty

residents got upset about the aerotow

hangars,” says Tiki, catering mostly to

Hawk Kites family provides a bit of

operations. “They complained about

the Texas pilot population.

added site security, and perhaps even

the noise, and pushed local politi-

more significantly, Morningside’s

cians to shut us down.” In the spirit of

launches and main LZ are now pre-

good neighborliness, LMFP listened

One of the biggest obstacles to hang gliding in the US is the loss of sites. I


courtesy Lookout Mountain Flight Park.



LEFT Photo courtesy Wallaby Ranch.

Problem solved!” And at their current site in Texas, the City of Wharton airport “tried to kick us out—but FAA (again!) and TexDOT came to our rescue,” and Cowboy Up is still going strong. So what makes flight parks such a valuable resource for today’s hang pilots? Morningside is a one-of-a-kind in New England, with a near-perfect training hill providing a safe and smooth progression in altitude— students start just a few feet above the large grassy LZ and gradually

Thank You, Wallaby


by one of the Ranch’s first customers

move up to the top of the hill at 450’. There’s a grass runway for towing. Experienced pilots can use the train-

In its earliest days, more than any “service” provided, the Ranch CREATED PILOTS.

ing hill or towing to learn or refresh

We were encouraged to fly as a joyful pursuit of personal development and recre-

advanced skills and techniques.

ation through the exploitation of natural energy from the interaction of sun, earth,

Soaring can happen from either foot

and air. Keeping the dynamics and concepts as simple as possible, flying was

or tow launch in the right conditions,

EXPERIENCED AND ABSORBED as much as learned, and that has made all the

and many XC flights in New England

difference. The rest—tows, rentals, etc.—are just quality service to ease our access

begin at Morningside, including

to flying, safe and relaxed, invigorating and satisfying...

some state distance records. For

These days, when I visit the Ranch, no matter how long it’s been, it immedi-

decades, Eric points out, most of New

ately feels like a second home, welcoming and familiar regardless of any changes.

England’s pilots have learned to fly

Malcolm and the staff’s attention to the details of each and every participant’s

at Morningside, which is located

flight preparation and post-flight feedback are at once reassuring and confidence-

near many of the Northeast’s favor-

building. “Fly first” is still the operational imperative, and many times I’m airborne

ite mountain sites, including Mount

less than an hour after I’ve arrived. The instant camaraderie with fellow enthusi-

Ascutney (less than 10 miles across

asts of every skill level and experience, no matter their origin, is astounding and

the river in Vermont). There’s camp-

pleasurable, encouraged and accommodated by the entire Wallaby Ranch staff.

ing on site, and a full-service shop for sales, repair and maintenance of

to the complaints, and assured the

That approach worked, and the cur-

flying gear. And now Morningside

locals that they would do everything

rent relationship with the community

is branching out to become a desti-

possible to address their concerns.

remains positive.

nation for people wanting to learn

“We went to town-council meetings,


Cowboy Up also faced some chal-

powered paragliding. Lookout Mountain Flight Park

spoke with officials, and met directly

lenges to their operations, and “we

with landowners,” Matt recalls. “We

were were threatened a lot,” Tiki says,

overhauled our operations and our

although they were never actually

technology to minimize the noise

forced to stop operations. In Jackson,

footprint. Our tow planes were

where they were required to have a

Matt, “then continue on through the

offers a one-stop solution for both newcomers and seasoned experts. “You can learn to fly here,” says

retrofitted with quieter, four-stroke

special-use permit from USFS, the

highest levels of the sport. We have

engines and optimized propellers. We

owner of the adjacent airport tried

a large community of active pilots

also moved our start and shutdown

to shut them down. “FAA came to our

that includes everyone from new

times, and altered our flight patterns

rescue,” says Tiki, “and established

H1’s to US National Team pilots. You

to stay farther away from homes.”

our site as a designated airport.

can take advanced instruction in


both foot-launch and aerotow flight, and develop your skills in a supportive community. Over the past two decades, we have graduated an average of more than 100 pilots a year to the mountain launch level. Our staff of professional training-hill and aerotow instructors have a huge depth of experience. We study the sport, and work hard at developing superior training systems, with a focus on core skills, practical knowledge, and safety.” Kitty Hawk offers the bare necessities of what hang pilots of all levels need and desire: “Our school is open all year,” Bruce points out, “and smooth coastal winds make for ideal flying and training conditions.” KHK’s slogan is “teaching the world to fly since 1974,” and with over 300,000 students passing through their school, it seems a fair claim. Wallaby’s big draw is their aerotow expertise: “There is no flight park with a longer history of aerotowing,” Malcolm says, but also reminds us that the Florida air is some of the friendliest in the country, and of course there’s all that deep-south sunshine when much of the rest of the country is cold and gloomy. Cowboy Up, Tiki justifiably boasts, is “the only full-service, year-round game in town” near Houston, and reiterates that hang pilots can find whatever they need to feed their flying passion, at whatever level they’re at, at Cowboy Up. No resort amenities, though (at least not yet…)

ABOVE Photos

courtesy Cowboy Up.

Given the amount of overlap in these parks’ facilities and activities, I

hill (“possibly the best training hill

providing both solo pilots and non-

wondered why pilots might choose

the world”) but hedges their bets on

pilot tandem “bucket-listers” with

to come to one park rather than

the weather (“not always great year-

incredible views of the Connecticut

another. Not surprisingly, with this

round”). But, for pilots in that north-

River valley as well as both the Green

encouragement to “toot their own

east corner of the country, just the

Mountains in Vermont and the White

horn”, the owners/GMs gave consid-

sight of that long, green slope with its

Mountains in New Hampshire. With

erable thought to why hang pilots

upper ramp launch is “very inviting.”

recent additions of adventure activi-

should patronize THEIR park.

When the wind is too cross for foot

ties (zip lining, laser tag) and comfy

launching there’s the aerotow option,

cabins for camping, Morningside

Morningside touts their training



LEFT Photo

courtesy Cowboy Up.

has evolved into a vacation destination where families and groups can happily play or relax while those so inclined spend time in the air. Bruce at Kitty Hawk makes similar claims: “We have the one of the largest training facilities in the US, with great flying conditions and an incredibly knowledgeable staff.” And, he points out, Kitty Hawk can offer something unique: “We are at the

Thank you, Cowboy by Tyson Taylor


beach!” Matt at Lookout Mountain says, “Pilots come here from around the

I had my first introductory hang gliding lesson with Jeff Hunt at Fly Texas in Austin

world. Part of the draw is our fa-

in late summer of 2014. I ran a Condor 330 off a small mound and got my feet off

cilities: You can check out the latest

the ground. I was hooked! But in 2015 a work-related move put me in Houston,

equipment, have your glider serviced

and that is when I learned about Cowboy Up.

in our maintenance shop, relax by

It only took one high-flight tandem with Bart for me to realize that I had found

the pool in the landing field. But at

something special. Even though it was a blue day and I only had a 10-minute sled

the core of it all is our flying site and

ride, I was bit by the bug. I sold both my motorcycles and bought the whole pack-

pilot community: We have a world-

age: hang gliding lessons, wing, harness, chute. I was super excited to get my lessons from Cowboy Up, but I had competition—

class ridge, and a lot of active pilots. You can catch a ride up or down the

from other students. There were at least seven others who were learning to fly

mountain, hang out with friends, and

that summer, and the rule at Cowboy Up is that the first student to arrive at the

live the flying lifestyle. You’re out

airport gets the first tandem. This was hugely important because on some days

in green countryside, with hawks

conditions get too strong for lessons after 10 or 11 a.m., and if you arrive last it

soaring the ridge, but you’re only a

might be too strong for a tandem lesson by the time it’s your turn to fly. So I would

few minutes from Chattanooga, a city

show up to the airport at dawn with my lawnmower and weedeater and groom

that has been rated as one of the best

the grass field where our training took place. By the time the other students got

places in America to live.”

there, I had already mowed the field and I’d be sitting on the tailgate of my truck sipping coffee from my thermos.

Malcolm reminds us that, as with any real estate, it’s all about location.

After all my lessons, and the emotional roller coaster of the first solo, I was able

“At Wallaby, you’ll take off and land in

to continue advancing as a pilot because I was surrounded by extremely experi-

one of the biggest LZs in hang gliding.

enced fellow Houstonian pilots. I was hearing about XC planning, weather, ther-

If you want to soar, you’re going to

mal hunting, landing out, etc. from the beginning. Through Cowboy Up and the

be delivered some of the friendli-

fellowship of pilots here in Houston, I progressed very fast. I was flying wingtip to

est, most consistent thermaling on

wingtip with many experienced XC pilots; by my eighth solo I had my first hour-

the planet. When you’re not flying

long flatland soaring flight.

you can enjoy hundreds of acres of

If you want to fly, they are always there ready to fly. If you want to talk about

trails and undisturbed Florida, share

flying, they are always there to talk your ear off about flying! Now, after 3 1/2 years

in gourmet meals served right on

of hang gliding with Cowboy Up, I have three flights over 100 miles under my belt,

site, maybe go for a swim. If you’re

I’m an H4/T1 working on my T3, I have flown in Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico,

a paraglider pilot you could come,

California, Mexico, and all over Texas! My goals for this flying season are to smash

spend a week, and leave biwingual.

out some 200-mile flights and start doing tandems! Thanks to Cowboy Up, I’m

If you bring a friend or spouse or kid,

going to make it happen!

Disney World is right nearby.”

(see also Tyson’s article in the 2015 Sept./Oct. issue of HG&PG magazine)

Pilots come to Cowboy Up, says Tiki, not just because they offer quality



instruction, but also because they “want to be along for the ride as we continue to build a community that really embraces students. The posi-

side is that it has increased our costs

good, because it offered insurance

and added paperwork. The regulatory

that satisfied the airport where we

burden is significant.”


Cowboy Up also describes the new

Malcolm has a different per-

tive energies generated around the

insurance requirements as a double-

spective. “Hundreds of thousands

flight park, the lack of complicated

edged sword. “It has complicated

of dollars were committed in the

rules, the relaxed atmosphere, being

things, because we had to change

beginning to purchase the property

away from the city (about an hour

some of our operational procedures

for the Wallaby Ranch so that we

south), out in the country surrounded

to ‘do more’ (although more is not

wouldn’t be beholden to or a liability

by farm fields, no high rises, no

always better…). But it’s also been

burden to others requiring insur-

hustle and bustle of city life, unintimidating XC, good lift…” In short, location and community are the icing on the cake at Cowboy Up. As we’re all aware, the last couple of years have brought about huge changes in USHPA’s insurance situation. Here’s how these flight-park owners and managers, most of whom are currently insured under the RRRG/PASA regulations, explained the changes. Morningside: “Kitty Hawk Kites insured Morningside when they took over operations. The differences between the old policy and the new one involved mainly documentation and reporting requirements. For the most part, because of Morningside’s long-standing tradition/policies for instruction and progression, most things remained the same as they have been for a long time.” Kitty Hawk: “We were the first school in the country to have insurance. We’ve been dealing with insurance requirements for years, so the transition to a new insurance model was not difficult. And in fact, the attitude toward insurance has improved since we know that we are now paying into a system that is benefiting our entire organization.” Lookout Mountain: “USHPA’s new insurance program has been a double-edged sword. On the upside, it has the potential to open up new markets, such as college outreach programs that will only deal with suppliers who have approved insurance. The down-

TOP Photos

courtesy Wallaby Ranch. BOTTOM Courtesy Morningside.



ance,” he points out, adding, “This

gins as “an instructional/recreation-

setting up the Ranch, because when

al/vacation site for hang gliding.”

we were operating as a club, we were forced to move here and there at the

increasingly popular with paraglider

Obviously there aren’t many schools

pilots. “We have a world-class ridge

or parks—you can probably count the

site with great thermals and beauti-

number on one hand and have sev-

ful scenery—that makes it a destina-

eral fingers left over—that can afford

tion for pilots from both disciplines.

this level of independence when it

And our facilities make us an ideal

comes to security in today’s litigious

destination for a wide range of enthu-

society. So, for those who are still

siasts: We have aerotow and foot-

striving for that level of financial and

launch training, accommodations,

risk-related independence, there’s

equipment sales and rentals, and

PASA and the RRRG.

complete service facilities. We pride

catered solely to hang glider pilots, although over time several have

ourselves on being the place that has it all.” Wallaby has been from the start,

broadened their focus. Here’s how

and remains, “a hang gliding site,

these owners/GMs describe their

committed mainly to the safest,

park’s role in today’s flying scene:

highest quality instruction possible.

Morningside is probably the most diverse; Eric describes its focus as “biwingual, including powered para-

Whether you’re learning from scratch or just getting current with aerotowing, you’re going to fly with the most

gliding, and mostly instructional but

experienced tandem instructor in the

also a destination for rated pilots. We


attract visitors from all over, especial-


Lookout Mountain is best known as a hang gliding site, but is becoming

whims and worries of landowners.”

All of these flight parks originally


Kitty Hawk remains true to its ori-

was a primary motivating factor in

Cowboy Up is also solely a hang

ly at the flying contest on Columbus

gliding site, offering mainly instruc-

Day weekend, which actually is a big

tion, recreational flying, and “discov-

end-of-the-season party. Morningside

ery” flights.

also promotes an open XC contest for

Finally, I asked these guys and gals

the longest flight from the park every

to dream big: If the flight-park fairy


godmother offered to grant three

Morningside Kitty Hawk Lookout Wallaby Cowboy Up BOTH PAGES Photos

courtesy Morningside.

wishes related to their operation,

northwest at 8-12mph, and mixing in

what would they ask for?

plenty of smooth thermals. Eliminate

Eric at Morningside: Great weather, and west winds 5-15mph every day. If we had those, even just three or four

the down season! Malcolm at Wallaby: Pleasant and soarable weather every day of the


o there you have it: a notexactly-unbiased peek into the philosophies and facilities of

these five flight parks that are deeply

invested in bringing new hang glider

times a week, I believe everything

year. Grass that stayed thick and

pilots into the fold, and providing a

else we could wish for would eventu-

green and never needed mowing.

venue and services to keep our expe-

ally be there, too.

The opportunity to continue turn-

rienced pilots engaged, challenged,

ing people on to the coolest form of

always advancing. If you’re looking


to add something or someplace new

Bruce at Kitty Hawk: More pilots; more students; perfect training conditions every morning, and soarable conditions every afternoon. Matt at Lookout Mountain: Make more people interested in learning

Tiki and Bart at Cowboy Up: Our

these flight parks would be an excel-

park that’s not sitting on an airport.

lent place to start.

Fewer restrictions on becoming an

to fly hang gliders. Give us perfect

instructor. A big—make that HUGE!—

weather for both students and

clubhouse and lots of outbuildings

experts by starting the wind each

(hangars, etc.) on that land.

day at noon, making it blow from the

to your flying experience, any one of

own piece of land to build a flight




Hawaii is full of Aloha | photo by Alex Colby.



Three New Schools Here's to the Crazy Ones by ANNETTE O'NEIL IN THIS, THE POST-INSURANCE-CRISIS ERA of the sport, getting a school on its feet—especially a large one—is more complicated than ever. There’s a lot of heavy lifting (mostly, of paperwork). Would-be operators face a rigorous review process. They’re faced with prepaying their coverage. They’re even—via a due-diligence check—tried in the Court of Public Opinion. What kind of madman (or madwoman, for that matter) would willingly sign up for that? Is it even worth it? As it turns out, it is. Very. To illustrate the point, here are three origin stories: flight schools that have muscled through the challenges to usher in the new era with panache. All are different, but there’s a common theme: This can be done. In fact, it will. And—arguably—the sport just might be better for it.



Paraglide New England Managing All Those Moving Parts


really large crew of talented Colorado

during this process, I became a solo

New England paragliding scene.

pilots,” Calef muses, “to flying with just

instructor,” he grins. “Then I started

His school, Paraglide New

a few Vermonters who had not ben-

teaching my ski buddies how to fly.”

alef Letorney looms large in the

England, does much of the advanced

efited from the advanced instruction I

instruction in the region. For Letorney,

received in Colorado. They showed me

To communicate flying plans, Calef and friends had a little email chain

this is a passion project. To understand

the Vermont sites, and I showed them

they jokingly called the Northern

how and why he built it—and why he

how to improve their soaring skills.”

Vermont Paragliding Club. The name

chose to shoulder the herculean chal-

A solid crew from Boston trekked up

lenge of becoming a PASA-certified

to Vermont every once in a while, but

changed several times as members from other regions and wing types

large-business flight school with an

Calef often couldn’t find paraglider

joined the group. Eventually, Calef

unusually comprehensive collection of

pilots to fly with on the weekends. He

settled on “The Vultures,” which ex-

moving parts—you need first to under-

quickly realized that if he wanted

emplifies his self-deprecating sense of

stand the man himself.

flying buddies, he had to teach them

humor. Now 70 members strong, the

“I was into whitewater kayaking,”

himself. The local paragliding school

Vultures describe themselves as a “fake

Calef starts, “when one of my kayak-

was turning out plenty of P2s but pri-

flying club that does real flying.”

ing buddies, Max, convinced me that

marily teaching what Calef refers to as

paragliding was the coolest thing ever.

“thermic abstinence.” These new pilots

“From 2010 to 2016, it was the goodenergy-free-instruction train,” he

In June of 2005 I took my first paraglid-

were clamoring for help in flying in the

laughs. “I was charging a little bit of

ing lessons in Boulder, Colorado, and

mountains, so Calef started making

money here and there for tandem

I was immediately hooked. Tragically,

flying buddies by sharing his knowl-

instructional flights, but the major-

Max crashed and died in August of

edge and experience with the P2s.

ity of what I did was free. I wanted to

2005, a few weeks after I got my P2. His death had a major impact on my flying

“I began by just helping P2s under the observer appointment, but sometime

expose people to our amazing sport, so I hustled to make more flying buddies.”

career. Since I didn’t want to quit flying, I knew I had to understand how to fly safely and how to help my friends fly safely, too.” Losing Max didn’t slow down Calef. He quickly transitioned from sled rides at the training hill to soaring at Lookout Mountain in Golden, Colorado. “I learned from a lot of great pilots, instructors and observers,” Calef says. “I soaked it all in and went from P2 to P4 in just two years.” After graduating from college, Calef moved home to Vermont to take a larger role in his family’s business, but flying was still his passion. The Vermont Hang Gliding Association had several launches that were ideal for paragliding, but not many local paraglider pilots. “I went from being the rookie in a


Paraglide New England crew on launch during the annual pilgrimage to Mexico.



“Some instructors are complaining and giving up, without ever having tried a PASA application.” was a fabulous idea. Pretty soon, they

ABOVE Paraglide New England,

teaching kiting | photo by Ryan Dunn.

instructors, Paraglide New England

having a blast. But the team started to

had a sprawling PASA application. “It

get nervous. “It became apparent,” Calef

was time-consuming,” he winces.

says, “that there was a huge difference,

It took Paraglide New England seven

liability-wise, between my helping a P2

months, but they got a $2-million-dollar

launch at a VHGA site and towing pilots

liability policy and they were on their

behind a boat. Even without exchang-

way. “Six months later, we are strug-

ing money, we had created a liability

gling to keep up with demand,” Calef

nightmare.” Calef realized then that they had to form a company to buy insurance.

reports cheerfully. “We just announced our maneuver clinics, and the first three are already sold out.” Yet another major challenge arose:

And it worked. In time, the crowd at

He convinced one of his paragliding

launch became a force to be reckoned

progeny, Ryan Dunn, to join them, and

The weather in Vermont. It proves to be,

with. Calef went from not being able to

the three partners formed Paraglide

in Calef’s own words, “miserable.” The weather drives the other hurdle that

find anyone to fly with on weekends to

New England in early 2017. Without a

soaring with 15 pilots on a Wednesday.

training hill, the founders pooled their

Paraglide New England has had to deal

On the weekends, that number looked

funds to buy another winch for land

with in its bid to PASA, as well as the

more like 25 or 30. For sure, the recent

towing instruction for P0-P2s, plus the

sheer volume of sites they need to fly.

blossoming of paragliding in Vermont

required student gliders, harnesses, re-

For example, when it’s blowing north-

had many contributors, but Calef

serves, windsocks, and giant med kits.

west, Calef drives two hours in one

Letorney was in the vanguard.

With three partners and all the gear,

direction; when it’s blowing southwest,

And then the insurance crisis hit.

Paraglide New England hit the ground

two hours in the other.

“Getting insurance and becoming

running as a full-service flight school.

“Vermont flying can be beautiful and amazing, but most of the time it’s

a real commercial operation wasn’t

The partners had a secret weapon.

something I had given any thought

Paul’s long experience in acro, along

windy and rainy,” he laughs. “So we

to,” Calef says. “I was already losing

with the tow boat, allowed Paraglide

chase the good flying around to many

money teaching. What little revenue

New England to present a unique-in-

different sites, and we teach beginners

I made did not come close to covering

the-region offer: over-the-water SIV.

with a winch.”

all the costs. I lost money with a smile,

The closest over-the-water SIV alterna-

At Calef’s family farm, the school can

because I really enjoyed taking my

tives were in Florida and Colorado. The

tow beginners in every wind direction,

friends tandem, helping P2s learn to

market for Paraglide New England’s

which really opens up the number of

soar, and teaching a few ski buddies

SIV clinics is huge: Boston; New York;

possible flying days. And, of course, the

P0-P2. I clearly wasn’t doing it for the


SIV instruction is done with another

money, so when confronted with the new insurance situation, I proudly took the vow of poverty in exchange for free

“This sport has so much potential here,” Calef says. Their major hurdle was getting insur-

winch mounted in a boat. But each one of those winches requires safety checks, maintenance logs, pilot-brief-

insurance and the ability to operate at

ance. This required putting together

ing templates, templates on how to file

my home sites.”

a comprehensive PASA application

your Notice to Airmen for the specific

that covered all of the things that the

location where you’re towing, daily

town—an Advanced Instructor (since

partners wanted to do. Calef is quick

pilot briefings, preflight checklists.

1993) named Paul Somerset. He called

to point out that if you’re just starting

Calef, looking for a flying buddy. Paul

out, the PASA application will be much

Paraglide New England’s success is the

had missed doing acro, so he’d bought

easier. It was more difficult for him

sites at which it operates. Several of

a boat and a winch—and he wanted

because he was already doing “all this

them are site-access success stories in

Calef to come and play. Calef thought it

wild stuff.” With land and boat winch-

their own right. Take Moriah Beach, for

About this time, a new pilot moved to


ing, a dozen sites, and three different

were out towing over Lake Champlain,


A big part of what is enabling

instance. (It’s in Port Henry, just north

of-a-lease agreement. They actually

their paperwork in order, develop

of the Crowne Point Bridge where

thanked me for giving this opportunity

emergency plans, etc., and this proce-

Vermont intersects New York.)

to their town, as they hope it will put

dure is challenging. But it definitely

their ‘sleepy little town on the map

helps schools be better. The RRRG

“Paul looked at Google Earth for beaches that allow towing in multiple

with an exciting new tourist attraction.’

insurance is also expensive, but the

wind directions with plenty of sand for

I continue to pinch myself because we

coverage is second to none. So in my

launching,” Calef says. “And then we ap-

are so lucky to have such an enthusias-

mind it’s absolutely worth it. It is no

peared at the campground and asked if

tic partner in the town of Moriah, NY.

exaggeration to say that we could not

we could tow off the beach. I expected

The only bummer is that we named

operate without this insurance.

to get rejected, but the response was

our company Paraglide New England,

‘It’s a public beach. Have fun!’ and we

before we found this jewel of a flying

certainly did.”

site in New York, which is outside of

They later received a warm welcome while making the transition to a commercial operation. “The town manager, Tom, is incredible!” Calef exclaims. “I called him to ask for permission to tow commercially and he said, ‘We have our monthly

New England. Whoops!” Not every landowner conversation

“At the end of the day,” he concludes, “we are lucky to be so busy operating a new flight school. When I talk to other instructors, I get the impression that other schools that are hustling are also

is a home run, of course, and the team

doing well. This makes sense, as the

has been rejected at several desirable

economy is doing well and people have

flying locations.

disposable income. Plus with GoPros

“Landowner relationships are really

and social media, paragliding has more

the only things that you can’t make up

eyeballs than ever before. The demand is here.

Selectboard meeting tomorrow. Why

for with hard work and enthusiasm,” he

don’t you come by and tell us about

explains, “You need to get your land-

“On the other hand,” he continues,

what you want to do?’ So I showed up

owner relationships in order. I think

“many fear the sport is in a precarious

and gave them my pitch using the 1.5”

this is the major stumbling block for

situation due to changes in our insur-

stack of paper that comprised my PASA

many instructors.”

ance. Many instructors and schools

application. I also made a video with footage from our previous outings.” Calef smiles. “It went over so well!

One thing is clear: The new deal ain’t

have quit. I think there’s a group of in-

easy. The road has been almost entirely

structors and schools on the sidelines,

uphill for Paraglide New England. And

waiting to see what happens. Some

Turns out the Selectboard and most of

you can hear that struggle come

instructors are complaining and giving

the town had already seen us flying,

through when Calef talks about PASA.

up, without ever having tried a PASA

But he’s also not shy about touting

application. To those folks, I say the

when we were just doing it for fun. The meeting was packed with people excit-

its good points. “PASA + the RRRG is a

time to go through PASA is now. It’s not

ed about paragliding. The Selectboard

huge success story, but that does not

insurmountable, and for our sport to

was beyond enthusiastic, allowing

mean the process isn’t painful. It forces

flourish, we need as many instructors

us to easily work out a sweetheart-

people to examine their risks, get all

in the game as possible.” n

LEFT Calef

runs the pre-flight checklist for Garrison Ruhm before towing over Lake Champlain in Moriah, NY. RIGHT Cap Paul Somerset leading a parachute repack clinic.



Monterey Sky Sports Starting Small and Dreaming Big


ynthia Currie, owner of

paragliding instructor ratings with Bill

all the pros of a skydiving dropzone

Monterey Sky Sports, proves

Heaner at the Point of the Mountain.

without any of the cons. She could still

that first impressions can be

At that point, she had already been

offer tandem flights and teach—her

teaching her friends for free “but

favorite parts of the job—but the loom-

wasn’t legit.”

ing overhead of the plane would be

deceiving. Her pixie form and blonde good looks belie an iron will—and a high-

“I wanted to change that, work

conspicuously absent. “At this point, I was immersed in

powered background, besides. Cyn

through the ratings process and teach

spent her teenage years teaching

people properly,” she explains. “It was

the ratings process at the Point of the

surfing and swimming; in the years

an eye-opening process.”

Mountain, so I would talk to Bill over

going forward, she earned a degree

As luck would have it, Cyn was stay-

and over,” she says, “I really picked his brain. He is a fantastic adminis-

in marine engineering. In her 20s,

ing with a close friend who had just

she became a professional skydiving

taken the plunge of business owner-

trator and he knows my background.

instructor, logging more than 10,000

ship, opening an aerial-arts school in

He skydives and BASE jumps, so he

jumps—but that’s certainly not all

the Point neighborhood. Cyn’s friend

understood where I was coming from.

she’s taught. To date, she has also

had an embarrassment of empower-

His mentorship was key, and he was

instructed kite surfing, aerial arts,

ing pep talks to share, and the spark

incredibly supportive. He said he

snowboarding, BASE jumping, wing-

caught fire.

would help me through the certifica-

suit flying and—most recently—paragliding. “I feel so lucky to be the momma bird

“I started thinking about opening a

the paperwork. And he said, Look, why

she says. “It’s magical, and there

don’t you just start it small?”

of so many talented pilots and flyers,”

wasn’t anyone doing it here. I had no

she grins. “On a spiritual, energy-mov-

idea why.”

ing, hippie-California-girl way, I do feel

tion and help mentor me through all

paragliding school here in Monterey,”

Framed like that, the project suddenly started to feel do-able.

For Cyn, the paragliding school had

“That really spoke to me,” Cyn insists.

like this is my destiny.” Cyn had been engrossed in the business side of skydiving for 10 years before she kited her first paraglider wing in 2013. Aside from instructing, she had managed skydiving dropzones, taking in the many lessons of airsports business ownership osmotically. At one point, her Australian ex-husband suggested that they open up a small, Cessna-based skydiving dropzone together in Oz. Cyn insists that she would have owned a business with him in a heartbeat, but in the end the idea of owning an airplane struck Cyn as “madness.” The idea of taking the ownership reins herself didn’t appear until much later. It was only last year, in fact, when the flashbulb went off. At the time, Cyn was working towards her




working with students at Sand City.

LEFT Tandem

is an amazing way to teach new students. RIGHT Kiting in smooth clean ocean air.

“I have no interest in being a ‘super school’ like Superfly or the Torrey

process full-tilt. “In going into that paperwork pro-

as “absolutely amazing” instructors. She learned loads, but it wasn’t all

Pines of the world. They are the best of

cess, I was terrified,” she says, wryly. “I

smooth sailing. Word of her big plans

the best, but the idea of churning out

had heard from several school owners

got around, and the old guard didn’t

hundreds of tandems and students a

that it was a very difficult procedure.

like it.

year is daunting.”

I didn’t think it was that bad, really.

“The headspace I was in when I de-

That may be due to the fact that I am

cided to start a school was hard,” she

uphill battle. Getting your instructor

an engineer and I’m pretty good at that

admits. “I had just gone through some

rating in paragliding is one skill. The

kind of thing.”

really rough stuff personally, and I

That said: It was still going to be an

ability to be a small business owner, approaching an insurance company to

As she set about earning her instruc-

had people who were approaching me

tor ratings, Cyn reached out to the best

saying, ‘Who do you think you are? You

“Getting your instructor rating in paragliding is one skill. The ability to be a small business owner, approaching an insurance company to approve you for $3 million in insurance, is a different skill entirely.” approve you for $3 million in insur-

schools she knew to apprentice. Her

ance, is a different skill entirely.

aim: To integrate those experiences

In February of 2017, Cyn made up her mind to go for it. She put her nose

don’t have the experience for this.’” When Cyn came back to Monterey in

as deeply as she had integrated more

May of 2017, she decided that the best

than a decade of experience on the

way forward was to beat the dents out of that dinged-up confidence by

to the grindstone and started cranking

skydiving side. It worked out—Cyn

out the paperwork that very week, ap-

apprenticed under Chris Santacroce

beta-testing the school with an all-star

plying for a California LLC from a Utah

at Superfly and Chris Grantham at Fly

cast of friends—for free, of course. She

living room and diving into the PASA

Above All, both of whom she describes

offered free tandems and free instruc-



tion out on the Monterey dunes to a ro-

with that. I arranged my life around

tating cast of keen pilots and skydivers.

making it happen. Every day I was taking one step towards becoming an

“I got to test-drive the school,” she

insured school. That’s important to

explains, “without having to put myself out there and waste students’

me. I know there are plenty of schools

money. It worked. It gave me a bunch

operating under the table without

of confidence.”

insurance. I do want to make sure that I’m insured, dotting all of my i’s

Cyn’s buoyant month of May soured

and crossing all my t’s, because I’m

a bit when she learned she wasn’t going to get PASA certified in June, as

in this for the long haul. During the

she had planned.

short time I have been operating, I’ve already had some of the most reward-

“There was a lot of back-and-forth

ing experiences of my life.”

with the paperwork, which is definite-

Cyn Currie’s PASA certification went

ly a headache,” she says. “But I didn’t think that any part of it was unneces-

dangers of your site, to sit down and

through in August 2017. Monterey Sky Sports officially opened its doors.

sary. For instance: Writing an emer-

put it on paper and write the emergen-

gency action plan. If something were

cy plan. You need to do this not only so

to go wrong, what am I going to do?

that you get insured but also so that

world for what feels like forever,” she

What are the dangers of my launch

you are prepared if anything were to

grins, “but I have always had a boss.

“I’ve been in the adventure-sports

site? I had to write all of this out and

happen. I have been running for a year

Now that boss is me. I choose my

make diagrams. It took forever. But

now with zero accidents or incidents,

hours and choose my conditions. So

I will tell you what: If you think you

but I’m ready if that day comes.

far, I am thriving.

“I am 100% behind the PASA process,”

can run a paragliding school without

“I want to keep introducing people

thinking about these things, you’re

she adds. “I think it’s fantastic and—al-

to this amazing sport we have in a

wrong. You can be the best instructor

though it did take me from February

responsible way,” she smiles. “And I

in the world, but you need to know the

to August to get approved—I was OK

really want to get more female paragliding instructors into the world.” So far, so good: There are four women signed up for Cyn’s next courses, all from wildly different backgrounds. “One is a pro downhill cyclist,” Cyn notes. “Having that kind of student come to me is inspiring for me.” Cyn’s goals going forward are simple: to support herself entirely through Monterey Sky Sports and to “keep teaching amazing people how to paraglide.” She doesn’t want to do any “side-hustle skydiving,” as she laughingly refers to her tandem skydiving gigs. As she hunkers down to start her first official season, she’s focusing on marketing and community-building out on her beloved Monterey dunes. “What do I want to do this year?” she twinkles. “Easy: I want to hatch some hatchlings, get them started,

ABOVE Nothing better



than sunsets over the Pacific from the air. TOP Cyn Currie skydives and paraglides.

and maybe just build one of the next X-Alps winners this year.” n

Horseshoe Bend Flight Park Sometimes It Takes a Miracle


ownership is such a wild one. Coaxed

ave you heard of all the com-

certainly precedes him. At this point

motion about the biggest

in his career, the cheerful, puckish

into a skydive by his grandfather at the

flight park in the United

juggernaut has spent so many years

age of 27, Justin set out on an airsports

States? It’s being opened in Idaho, of all

defiantly outside the establishment

career that quickly included BASE

places. It’s called the Horseshoe Bend

that his new turn is a surprise indeed:

jumping and—without much of a pit

Flight Park, and it’s being opened by

that of one of the first operators to dive

stop in the paragliding realm or any

Justin Boer and Scott Edwards, making

in to the i-dotting, t-crossing flurry. At

attempt to earn a rating—speedflying.

their dreams a reality.

time of publication, Justin had become

When he was laid off from his “previ-

the 26th operator to become an official

ous-life” job as a structural engineer,

“This is going to be the most amazing year of my life,” says Justin Boer,

PASA Large Business Flight School.

he went all-in, speedflying every single

co-owner of Idaho’s new Horseshoe

And, now, there he is: just under half

day, traveling up and down the coastal

Bend Flight Park. “I’m absolutely sure

an hour from Boise, Idaho, at the newly

sites all along the western US seaboard

of that.”

established Horseshoe Bend Flight

with a flying buddy.

If you’ve been flying for a while, there’s a good chance you at least know of Justin. After all, his reputation

Park. As unconventional as Justin is, it’s no wonder that his path to PASA school

“We were speedflying everywhere,” Justin remembers, “and we took a lot of flak for showing up on launches with


Flight Park Team taking a brief pause after completing the brand new Pro Shop in the 'Field of Dreams' LZ. L to R; Scott Edwards, Lane Lamoreaux, Randall Shane and Justin Boer. Photo courtesy Rathdavanh Vongvilay.



our speedwings.” Although the instructor ratings came with time, Justin accomplished requirements for the P4 rating rela-

progressed my skills quicker and more thoroughly if I’d have gotten proper paragliding training first.” As it turns out, one of Justin’s

start.” They called the new venture “Flystyle” and started offering speedflying lessons. A few years later, the two

closest speedflying buddies—Daniel

business partners ended up going in

sport, he obtained the Basic Instructor

Randall—wanted to open a paragliding

different directions, so Justin started

certificate. Once available, Justin set

and speedflying business. Justin, now

his own operation—Freeboern Air

tively quickly. After four years in the

MiniWing Instructor title in his sights,

“funemployed,” was keen to contribute.

Sports—at the start of 2013.

but the Advanced Instructor certificate

Daniel’s mother owned Outer Rim, a

It was that same year that Justin

prereq was a barrier that took years to

bicycle shop in Portland, and she let

met the friend with whom he would


the pair occupy a back corner.

“I had some good mentorship,” he notes, “but, looking back, I would have

“She was an amazing woman,” Justin says, “and she gave us a chance at the

bring Horseshoe Bend Flight Park into reality: Scott Edwards. The pair hit it off brilliantly. They shared an unconventional start in the sport: Scott had gotten his start in airsports by joining a rogue band of skydivers (the “Idaho Dodos”), a motley crew that made a habit of ground-launching their canopies in the mountains around Boise. “The Idaho Dodos were everything that USHPA did not want,” Scott laughs. “We were all self-instructed skydivers. No instruction was available in Idaho. As I was learning the hard way how to fly, I got more training, and I realized how important it was to have access to proper instruction. I would have saved myself so many bruises. My big goal is to give people the access to instruction that I never had at the start.” Scott also owned a sign company. He decided to sponsor Justin. But the year Scott and Justin met had another notable feature: It was the year that

ABOVE Justin and Scott drying out reclaimed lumber that the crew gathered

from old horse corrals on the property | photo courtesy Rathdavanh Vongvilay.



Justin wrecked. When Justin crashed in Sun Valley,

LEFT MiniWing

pilots can enjoy 10+ laps per day with countless lines with fly | photo courtesy Rathdavanh Vongvilay. Scott was the first person on the scene. “He came down hard and bounced headfirst into the water,” Scott remem-

nar as a partially paralyzed person. When he was out of the woods, he

bills. I’d wanted to open a flight park for as long as I could remember, but I

started thinking about a place to call

didn’t have my instructors’ ratings, so

his own. He hopped in an RV in Oregon

it didn’t seem viable. But with Justin

and started the search for a year-round

there, it suddenly did.”

training space: a rolling grass hill. Somewhere along the way, Justin passed through Boise—and he ended

Scott had a secret weapon, too. Eight years previous, on an Idaho Dodos mission, he had been out with a friend to

up hanging out with Scott again. He

a launch on a mountain east of Boise.

started recounting the big dream over

Along the trail, they met another pair

pelvis and a spinal cord injury. The

a couple of beers. Incredibly, it was

of hikers. As it turns out, the other

latter seemed, at first, unrecoverable.

Scott’s big dream, too.

bers. “I thought he was dead.” The crash left Justin with a shattered

Doctors told him his life would be for-

“I could see his wheels turning as

hikers were the property owners—a 75-year-old retired smoke jumper

ever changed, he may never walk with-

I explained this to him,” Justin says.

named Steve and his pilot wife. Scott

out assistance again, he’d never hike or

“He was scratching his head. I figured

invited them to watch the launch and

run, and that he’d certainly never fly. “It was the worst mistake of my life,”

either he thought I was crazy or he might know something I didn’t.”

some flying, which went over famously. “They gave us the key to the gate to

As a matter of fact, he did. Scott had

the road to the top,” Scott says. “So we

things have come out of it. It opened

just gone through his own major crisis,

developed and maintained his proper-

my eyes to a lot of things I hadn’t rec-

and the time was right to make a bold

ty, fixing fences and keeping the road

ognized about life before the accident.


up, and maintained the relationship.”

Justin winces, “though lot of good

“My daughter had been dropped off

Scott drew Justin’s attention to some

even more so than before, and I’m

a counter at preschool and fractured

of Steve’s property. It represented 300-

much more compassionate, too. Doing

her skull,” Scott remembers. “I had

plus acres for sale out in Horseshoe

the stuff that we do, it’s easy to say that

to slow down my involvement with

Bend, a picturesque turn in the Payette

if you get hurt, that you’ll just heal and

my company—had to stop and be

River midway between Boise and the

that’ll be that. I learned the hard way

dad. I needed more income to pay the

Lake Cascade part of Payette National

I am a lot more safety conscious now,

that getting hurt affects others a lot more than what you think. That’s been a huge part of my recovery.” To rehabilitate, he did what anybody would do in his situation: He and his girlfriend moved to Hawaii. Once there, he “did every kind of therapy I could come across,” he says. It took years, but his health improved and he was actually regenerating nerves. He started off in Hawaii wheelchair-bound. After a few months, he forced the crutches with leg braces. Then, after another six months, he was happy to ditch the crutches part-time. He wanted to fly again. He started ground handling again; rented a place where he could fly, and land on the beach in front of his house; knuckled down. He put in unbroken strings of 12-hour-plus days getting Freeboern Air Sports back on track. He renewed his lapsed ratings, going into the instructor training semi-

ABOVE Hanging

out, high above the Payette River, pilots set up for landing then go float the river mid-day. Photo courtesy Lane Lamoreaux.



He couldn’t believe the opportunity we would have passed up if the other property had gone through.” The terrain at the Horseshoe Bend site is spectacular. The grassy 35acre LZ (and its many options for vast training hills) sits under a 900-foot, road-access ridge, launchable in all directions. An adjacent 5-acre campsite on the river had already been approved for 25 campsites through the county Conditional Use Permit process. And the owners were fully supportive throughout. It finally seemed like their flight park—and their big school—was ABOVE Tandem

pilots and passengers get the benefit of a nice manicured, obstacle-free launch that rolls off to a perfect slope | photos courtesy Rathdavanh Vongvilay & Will Burks.

actually going to happen. “From the start, Steve and his wife have been 100% down for everything we are doing,” Justin says. “Steve wants

Forest. Scott hadn’t bothered to chase

the task wholeheartedly. Scott, for one,

to learn how to paraglide himself, and

it up before Justin’s visit because Scott

was blown away by the teamwork this

he wants to see this succeed.”

wasn’t a rated instructor. When Justin took off to return to

Despite its perfect majesty, getting the Horseshoe Bend Flight Park up

and insurance paperwork and getting

and running has not been without its

everything ready documentation-wise,

challenges. For the whole of the site’s

for so long,” Scott says, “that when I

Scott was in Idaho doing all the foot-

first summer, for instance, it couldn’t

asked him, he said with a smile, ‘Great.

work: the permitting; the observations;

technically operate because of the

What can we do to help?’”

the landmarks.

permitting process.

Hawaii, Scott started talking to Steve. “We’d been happily working together

Steve’s part of the property was the

“Between the two of us, it’s been a lot

launch; the landing, however, was a

of work,” Scott muses, “but the team-

“We were out there flying as friends,” Justin explains, “with permission from

different story. The landing area was

work has been awesome. I couldn’t

the landowner and lots of support

owned by six siblings, and the lease

have done it without Justin and he

from friends. People started making

agreement with that tribe took three

couldn’t have done it without me.”

donations. As the summer went on, we

months to hash out. All the while,

“It’s been inspirational to work with

would get a couple of people out on the

Steve was telling Justin and Scott

someone who has come back from

weekends. The next thing you know, it

about another property that he owned

being paralyzed,” Scott adds. “You get

was a dozen pilots. By the end of the

entirely that he thought might be even

banged up and you get back up and

summer, it was literally every day of

better. It was 910 acres, which seemed

you keep pushing harder. I’ve been

the week that people were out here

unnecessarily enormous—but then the

watching how hard Justin has worked

camping and flying.”

deal with the siblings fell through.

to keep doing instruction and tandem.

The day the deal died, Justin was back in Hawaii. Scott saved the day,

I feel very blessed.” When Justin came back from Hawaii,

“We were able to get the Conditional Use Permit with lots of local support for the new business,” he continues. “We had people traveling down from

immediately racing out to fly Steve’s

it would be the first time he’d lay his

other property. Scott’s report was glow-

own eyes on the flight park he’d been

ingly positive. The new spot was, for

working so hard on his side to bring

public hearing. It was truly heart-

lack of a better word, perfect. Without

into reality. He was, suffice it to say, a

warming experience.”

wasting any more time, Scott and

little nervous.

Justin got the wheels turning on their nascent flight park. Both men threw themselves into


time period represented. With Justin off in Hawaii, cranking out the PASA


“But then, when he drove up,” Scott

Canada to speak on our behalf at the

In fact, it was four years to the day after Justin wrecked that he and Scott

remembers, “he told me he couldn’t

turned in the application for that

believe what was there in front of him.

Conditional Use Permit.

“After jumping through all the hoops for a big school, you end up with a plan for success. I’ve learned a lot by detailing and fine-tuning every piece of all the moving parts.” park, just go for it. Seriously, if you’re

interested instructors, keen students

tent that the comprehensive series of

truly passionate about it, just commit

and excited pilots. At this point, Justin

hoops he’s had to jump through has

to making some amount of headway

and the team are up to their eyeballs

been worth it.

each day. Before you know it, you could

in site-development projects. They’ve

At the end of the day, Justin is insis-

”The PASA approval process is one that is expensive, very thorough, time consuming and—believe it or not—in

have the second largest flight park in

been digging out natural springs to

the US.”

feed the flight-park showers, putting

“They have a lot of paperwork, a lot

the end, quite rewarding,” Justin says.

of specs that you have to meet,” Scott

“After jumping through all the hoops for

adds. “We had to have risk-manage-

up buildings, making long-range plans to install a lift up to the main launch. “We wanted to be able to help the

a big school, you end up with a plan for

ment plans for seven takeoffs and

community,” Scott adds. “I’m not a

success. I’ve learned a lot by detailing

landing areas, and all of those are

lone wolf. I’m a community person.

and fine-tuning every piece of all the

lengthy. PASA was very helpful as far

I’m a team supporter. Establishing

moving parts. I encourage others to

as helping us become a Large Business

the flight park allowed us to ask what

give me a shout if they have questions,

Flight School and helping us with di-

we were able to offer other instruc-

or, better yet, come by the park and

rections to go on our schooling. I don’t

tors, other students. PASA instructors

check it out for yourself in person! My

believe they ever said no to us.

needed us as much as we needed them.

advice to others who have the opportunity to open a flight school or flight BELOW Prior to CUP and PASA approval, "we simply could not keep 75+ pilots from gathering to enjoy a flight during the 2017 Solar Eclipse. We happen to be right in the path of Totality". Photo courtesy Lane Lamoreaux.

“We couldn’t have opened up a

Instructors have a hard time finding a

proper business, the way we wanted

good site to instruct at. We wanted to

to,” he continues, “without PASA and

offer them a location in which to teach

the insurance. Period. End.”

people safely.”

Boise is the #1 city to move to in

“It has all been built on a dream,”

the US; the fastest-growing city in the

Justin says. “Life is weird. Anything

States. The grand official opening is at

can happen. And this flight park is

the end of May, but Horseshoe Bend

going to be huge for our sport.”

Flight Park is already inundated with

INSURANCE Risk Retention Group: For the Pilots, by the Pilots

by RANDY LEGGETT, Recreation RRG Director learn and change, right? It is quite

them it is worth the effort to become

possible that if we had focused on


educating our membership, every-

day jobs and zero insurance experi-

practices and the problem would


have gone away. Right? Collectively, we all want the freedoms and cost structure of the past, while still having access to

Everyone heaved a huge sigh of relief when we realized that we’d reached our financial goals and launched the RRRG. Little did we know that the real work was yet to begin.

extensive, especially in understanding the responsibilities of instructors

realities of time passing, pilots aging,

and school owners. Teaching free

skills dulling, and less-than-ideal

flight is a really difficult business

implementation of our existing pilot/

in which to be successful. Being a

instructor proficiency programs

great pilot is not enough. Balancing

converged to force us to produce our

the risks of a normal business is

own insurance company. This must

1. Currently uninsurable risk; 2. No enforcement options beyond

your sport or national organization,

rating reduction or removal from

the problem isn’t the insurance


managed (settled) the past inci-

3. A culture of nearly every instructor having a different “foolproof” methodology of instruction, with no

dents, it is virtually impossible to

interest in updating or creating a

relate details in a meaningful way.

consensus of teaching standards;

Few are satisfied to know that we (USHPA pilots and instructors) have had enough incidents and accidents

4. Risk-reduction is very difficult to implement;

5. 700 USHPA instructors, 200 of

demanding enough; adding in the “this can kill you” factor creates an extremely challenging combination for business and risk management. The schools, large and small, that have chosen to become certified through the Professional Air Sports Association and RRRG-insured have: • Written a comprehensive Risk Mitigation Plan for their entire business; • Written comprehensive Risk Mitigation Plans for every site they fly; • Suffered through extensive background checks and reference vetting; • Detailed every piece of equipment

resulting in litigation to create our

which train 97% of all P1/2 & H1/2

they teach or fly with, including

need for our own insurance com-

pilots in the entire country;

maintenance logs and underwriting

pany. We want the details so we can


careful what you wish for.” had to work with when we started:

Due to the way our past insurers

The education that I have received

and events. But reality has a way

ing the root cause of why we needed

market. The problem is the risk.


of interfering with our wants. The

Here is the list of what the RRRG

no one else on the planet will insure

no idea just what we were getting

during the last three years has been

cant—pales in comparison to changour own insurance company. When

8. The bliss of ignorance: We had

all of our favorite flying sites, clubs,

be filed under the heading of “be

Raising $3,000,000 —while signifi-

7. A staff of four people, all with

one would have updated to best


6. 60 days to convince enough of

for every tow device;

• Submitted every employee for individual underwriting. This daunting list may discourage you from wanting to be a flight-

The Recreation Risk Retention

the nature of the questions that have

Group, the Professional Air Sports

surfaced during the infancy of our

Association, and USHPA have come

new insurance company:

together with a vision of where our

Will USHPA have the fortitude and capacity to implement “Consensus

school owner, but how does it make

beloved sport can be in the future.

you feel about sending your daugh-

New pilots want, and deserve, a pro-

Standards” for instruction of HG and

ter or neighbor to a school for a

fessional experience. Every student

PG? How do we enforce our pro-

discovery flight or lessons?

deserves an experience that has

grams when:

“Will USHPA have the fortitude and capacity to develop and implement ‘Consensus Standards’ for instruction of hang gliding and paragliding? ” The 61 large- and small-business

been carefully thought through, and

Instructors teach for hire without

flight schools listed in the sidebar

where the risks have been mitigated

being insured: risking our sites, com-

have done a phenomenal job! They

to the best that our COLLECTIVE

pany, USHPA and programs?

have worked incredibly hard and

knowledge can produce.

Some schools do not accurately

Everything, our sport included,

report their level of instruction, al-

Their record speaks for itself. If we

evolves. We were faced with forced

lowing some to shirk their share of

had performed at this level from

evolution. Collectively, and out

the financial burden of insurance?

2005 to 2015, we never would have

of necessity, we chose to become

been faced with having to build the

self-insured. Now we deal with the

tors, and instructors sign off ratings,


consequences of our decisions and

when candidates are not qualified?

Administrators sign off instruc-


have achieved incredible results.



“Our individual instructors have operated under the USHPA umbrella without detailed knowledge of accidents and events, creating the illusion that it is always a distant ‘someone else’ who has the problem— the problem does not directly affect them.” How do we staff the insurance company as we go forward? (I, personally, can only endure having this much fun for so long…)


n order to become part of the solution, we have to fully understand how we got here. Our sport

and its risks are not like driving a

These questions and situations are

car. With an automotive risk, one or

illusion that it is always a distant “someone else” who has the problem—the problem does not directly affect them. Virtually every significant event

solvable. Solved they must be, or all

two significant events from a single

impacting USHPA’s insurability

our efforts will be wasted. None of

insured only results in an increased

has been a single first-time occur-

this has been easy, and the work is

premium. You have to get to drunk

rence for that instructor. From their

not yet done. Pilots with the capac-

driving with significant injuries

prospective, they had “never had an

ity to do so need to step forward

before you lose your standard policy

incident” and, therefore, have always

and participate. Schools that are on

and, even then, you can still get into

been doing everything right.

the fence need to put forward the

an assigned risk pool. The automo-

effort to get Professional Air Sports

tive operator is one of 250 million

mitigation. Each instructor for each

Certified and take advantage of

operators in the country.

site must be as prepared as humanly

being part of this business opportu-

USHPA has approximately 700

The solution is rooted in risk

possible for anything that can go

instructors, and any single event has

wrong and know what to do if or

modern, self-insured, risk-mitigated,

the possibility to put everyone out of

when that happens. This is extreme-

professional operations will open

business. Our individual instructors

ly difficult to guarantee in our old

the future for the growth that we

have operated under the USHPA um-

system, as many of you know that

have been missing for more than 20

brella without detailed knowledge

are “in” the sport, and it needed to be


of accidents and events, creating the

addressed. Merit based systems are

nity. Branding our sport schools as

needed so that someone doesn’t get signed off as an instructor because they paid a fee or are friends with an administrator, as may have been happening in the old system. If, as an organization and as individuals, we do not have the strength to ensure that we operate only with professional, current, and fully vetted instructors and administrators, our $3,000,000 and thousands of person-hours of work will be lost. As with every other type of cyclic self-destructive action, admitting the problem is the first of many steps to recovery.






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*Listed in chronological order of certification







Dinosaur 2017 WILD ROAD „ Driving for pilots has always taken me to some incredible sites and views. I drove somewhere new and exciting every day at the 2017 Dinosaur Colorado Competition. Roads like this were an everyday thing while retrieving Niki Longshore during the 2017 competition. Chasing in this area of the state brought on some new challenges. We communicated only by radio and in order to do this I had to stay in pretty close proximity to her. My go-to retrieve items for this competition were my radio, a paper map and a lot of bug spray and nets.

COLORADO FLY WEEK 2016 SHADY OAK „ Once I've driven for a pilot no matter what the event is I gain a great friendship. After long days in the car driving back to HQ and many laughs its always a great bonding experience. I've found that pilots need drivers like me or in many cases XC flying couldn't happen. Its always a pleasure when pilots re-hire me. Here are some good friends of mine during a day of chasing in Central Florida. Greg Fergus found the perfect break down area under a stunning old oak. RAINBOW WING „ Starstruck on launch can be a regular thing for those of us working events and competitions. This was a serious treat watching aerobatic legend John Heiney set up his one-of-a-kind glider in Villa Grove at Colorado Fly Week during 2016. After I snapped this shot he then performed a show I will never forget.

TEXAS WORLD RECORD ATTEMPT EPIC SKY „ Retrieving for some world-record attempts in Refugio, Texas, in 2017 has to be some of my most favorite chase days. It was an event that was invite-only to some skilled pilots anticipating to fly far! It was great to watch these pilots be in a competition with themselves and not have the pressure that a sanctioned competition tends to have. I got to chase the farthest I ever have and see some big smiles at the end of the week with many pilots taking home personal bests and some records.





SANTA CRUZ FLATS RACE 2016 AT GOAL „ Gecko Girl Niki Longshore and Gecko Guy Kelly Myrkle are first into goal on day 4 of the Santa Cruz Flats Race 2016. Kelly wins the day with Niki just minutes behind him. I was retrieving both of them for the competition and they made my day easy by not having to go far on the triangle task day. I took this opportunity to capture some images of the racing duo. ON LAUNCH „ Ground crew Linda Salamone and Randee Azzar help get pilots off the ground safely during the Santa Cruz Flats Race 2016. JOY RIDE „ Bobby Bailey takes me for the wildest ride of my life at the Santa Cruz Flats Race in 2016. He asked if I wanted to go on a roller-coaster ride and this is the result. After the loops, flat spins and spiral dives I don’t think I could have had a bigger smile on my face. A ride with Bobby is truly magical.

TENNESSEE REAR VIEW „ Some of my favorite retrieve driving is done at my home site of Tennessee Tree Toppers’ Henson Gap. They don’t call this valley magic for nothing! I spend many days a year here retrieving pilots for Dave Hanning’s Flying Camp Paragliding School and chasing local super stars like Gecko Guy Kelly Myrkle. Here Kelly is pictured waiting for my retrieve after a long day of flying the summer thermals. ROAD SIGN „ After a great day of flying at Henson Gap, Tennessee, with many hang gliders the day starts to shut off and I find myself in the landing zone watching pilots land and pack up. Not long after bringing them up the mountain they enjoyed a beautiful sunset glass-off soaring flight.

QUEST AIR HANG GLIDING TOW PLANES „ Some perks of being a retrieve driver are getting a ride with the legendary Bobby Bailey, creator of the Dragonfly hang gliding tug. On this evening flight at Quest Air Hang Gliding Bobby took me on a dogfight flight chasing down another Dragonfly in the sky. Every flight with him is one-of-a-kind and such a treat.





MIDWEST HANG GLIDING COMPETITION LINE UP „ A view from the front of the launch line at Midwest Hang Gliding competition in Whitewater, Wisconsin. Pilots are getting ready to launch as the clouds are starting to build to turn into a great day. TROPHY „ Moyes boy Kelly Myrkle winning first place in Sport Class during the 2017 Midwest Hang Gliding Competition. It’s always exciting as a driver when one of your pilots places in a competition. BACK OF THE LINE „ A view from the back of the launch line taken moments after I captured a view from the front. Sara Weaver is last to launch on this gorgeous summer day in the Midwest Competition. When I retrieved later on, her she informed me that this flight was a personal best for her!

QUEST 2018 GREEN SWAMP SPORT KLASSIC BIKE RIDE „ Pilot Lee Silvers out of Canada takes a leisurely bike ride at launch as pilots line up to have a practice day before the 2018 Green Swamp Sport Klassic starts. As a retrieve driver I try to help out anywhere I can during the comps so I often find myself at launch volunteering and capturing pictures. PINE TREE „ If you look closely you can see local resident of Quest Air Hang Gliding Club Mr. Who hanging out in the big pine. This image was captured on the first day of the 2018 Green Swamp Sport Klassic as a pilot comes in for a landing. As a retrieve driver I always try to be in the right place at the right time. This image was pure luck! A LITTLE SHADE „ World Champion Christian Ciech sits near his glider under an oak tree at the 2018 Green Swamp Sport Klassic mentored competition. Christian has taken the week to mentor pilots who are interested in improving their XC flying skills. This comp is extremely important and helpful for these pilots. They learn so much about equipment, technology and flying techniques. ZAC „ Zac Majors showing off and flying the new Sport 3 for Wills Wing during the week of the 2018 Green Swamp Sport Klassic. Zac was one of the many great mentors we had during the week.

PARAGLIDING: REFLECTION „ Jaro Krupa of Paraglide Chicago models his cool mirrored goggles for me at the 2016 East Coast Paragliding Competition. Working paragliding competitions has always been different from hang gliding competitions. We are responsible for everyone in the comp rather than individual teams. It’s always fun chasing in our big vans, following these guys as they race around the sky.



Ridge Soaring Lore Part 101: Beginning Strategies by DENNIS PAGEN This article is in two parts. The first— Part 101—is for new ridge-soaring pilots. The second—Part 401—is for advanced pilots (but all pilots have free license to read both).

experience at sustaining flight, we

I live and thrive in ridge country—

often feel it is an easy feat to perfect

smack dab in the midst of the endless

and use to wow the woofos. But there

ridges that furrow the entire eastern

are as many wrinkles to the act of

US. I have spent countless hours clip-

floating on the currents as there are

ping along and flitting from one ridge


variations in the wind conditions and

to the next. My longest ridge run was

ost new pilots learn to soar

the shapes of terrain producing ridge

65 miles, and my closest site has a

by floating in the updrafts

lift. Here we’ll explore some of these

50-mile out-and-return that requires

deflected by a hill, bluff,

wrinkles for both new and advanced

crossing 11 gaps each way. Such a


spread of ridge-soaring opportunities

ridge or mountain. We call this stuff

“ridge lift.” Since it is normally our first



Before we begin, I’ll mention that

hones your skills.

LEFT Courtesy Monterey


Sky Sports

know that there’s safety in altitude) and the fatigue factor from holding on

y first ridge-soaring experi-

so tightly that I made finger imprints

ence occurred in the fall of

on the base tube (I hadn’t yet learned

1974 at a local site. At that

to replace adrenaline with the endor-

time we were flying standard Rogallo

phins that come from such endless

wings with perhaps 250fpm minimum

pleasure). That third soaring attempt

sink and an optimistic 4-to-1 glide. It

lasted an hour, eclipsing my total air-

took at least a 15mph wind to sustain

time at the time by tenfold or more.

flight on a buoyant day on our 1000-

The reason I dwelt on my first

foot ridges. Mostly we looked for winds

experience is because I expect it

over 20 mph in order to guarantee

mirrors that of many of us (except

airtime. My first attempt lasted about

for the high winds—today’s glider

five minutes. I was ecstatic. I had

performance makes it easier and

do not know how to be prepared for

never seen anyone soar, but we had

safer to learn to ridge soar). Indeed,

sudden holes in the lift. In my own ex-

read about pilots actually staying up at

I have assisted many pilots in their

perience, even after hundreds of hours

Torrey Pines, CA. I knew I had to stay

first soaring flights and heard many

soaring, when I first flew the Yosemite

along the mountain, and the fact that

of their reports of doubt, fear, tension

Valley with its towering rock walls, I

the landing field was about 4-to-1 out

and ultimate triumph and ecstasy. It

was reluctant to work in close, not out

made me turn back and forth close to

is a learning experience most of us go

of a worry about turbulence or wall

launch so I could remain within rea-


suck, but sheer loss of perspective.

sonable reach of the landing field. Anyone with a little experience

Typically, we are so excited that it

So, our point here is to know that as a

takes multiple soaring flights until we

newbie you are probably too far away

knows that all that turning eroded my

are relaxed enough to really absorb

from the ridge, but not to push it and

sink-rate potential. Several others flew

all we are doing and learning. In fact,

gradually learn to edge a little closer.

and we all went back for second help-

I see novice and intermediate pilots

Ask a trusted experienced pilot about your positioning and use the observa-

ings (hang gliders were easier than a

who still haven’t perfected ridge-soar-

paraglider to set up back then, with

ing skills. This article is for them, and

tion to help guide your further flights.

only two bolts to open the wings and

for advanced pilots who haven’t had as

On weak days you sometimes have to

no battens). The next flight lasted for

much ridge-soaring experience as us

scratch in close, but that’s where the

15 minutes, because I waited a little

ridge denizens. In the early years, we

lift is and generally you’ll soon rise

longer before I turned each time. On

learned gradually by trial and error—

above the mountain for more clear-

the third flight of the day, my buddy

it took many seasons to learn all the

ance. Figure 1 indicates the lift band in

made the observation that I seemed

tricks and surprises. But now new

both weak and strong conditions. Keep

to lose on each turn, so I was deter-

pilots can avoid the errors and learn

these diagrams in mind as you learn

mined to stay up longer and cut the

from our experience.

to explore and soar.

as I plodded straight along the ridge, I


have to fly at minimum-sink speed to

actually continued to climb until I had

Here we will list some of the impor-

get the best sink rate. Unfortunately,

about 300 feet above the top and was

tant techniques for becoming compe-

this speed is very close to stall speed.

no longer worried about reaching the

tent at getting up and staying up on a

Some early pilots control their glider

landing field.


to fly as slowly as possible. But I have

umbilical cord. Much to my surprise,

2. Flying Speed. We know that we

The only complications on those

1. Proper Positioning. The biggest

seen several pilots stall and end up

first true soaring flights were higher

mistake early pilots make, especially

losing control into the trees (thank-

winds as I climbed higher (no one had

during their first attempts at ridge

fully they hit trees, not the ground, but

heard of venturi or wind gradient),

soaring, is to turn too late after launch

trees like to eat gliders). As a beginner

figuring out where the best lift resided

and stay out too far from the ridge. But

we strongly recommend you keep a

(there were no diagrams of the lift

this is how it should be. New pilots do

few miles per hour of reserve speed

profile in front of a ridge), the mental

not yet have the spatial judgement to

above minimum sink. The increase in

stress of being so high (I didn’t yet

get too close to solid objects, and they

sink rate is very small, and this extra



speed gives you good control for turning precisely where you want to. Of course, when there is wind there can be turbulence near the terrain, so a bit of extra speed allows you to turn away from the mountain if a drop occurs.

3. Turn Direction Off Launch. There is a basic rule of thumb that we must turn into the wind if there is any cross component at all. That is, if the wind

and judgment. On some days, thermal

ridge is not uniform (this effect is usu-

is cross from the right, we must make

cycles come through that help you get

ally due to thermals or heating). While

our initial turn right. Of course, this

up, and once you are above, it becomes

this is not an article about thermal-

rule assumes you can safely launch in

easier to stay aloft. Such practice is

ing, we almost can’t get away from

whatever crosswind is present. Often

beyond the scope of this article, but

thermals. The point here is that when

in high, dry sites (out west) the upslope

it is good to understand the principle,

the ridge lift isn’t bulletproof, the best

flow helps straighten the wind up the

to know that thermals are there and

place to turn to go the other way is in

hill, while in the East, slots cut into the

to pay attention to how other pilots

any increased lift encountered, even if

tree cover help channel the wind into

handle the situation. In my very first

that lift is light and small. When you

launch. But still we should be turning

year of flying I saw Steve Moyes ther-

are first trying to get up, turning in lift can make the difference between

into any crossing wind detected. There

mal up at Grandfather Mountain when

are two reasons for this rule. The first

all the rest of the pilots were making

looking down or looking up. If you are

is so a sudden gust from the crossing

passes and gradually sinking out to

already above, it still pays to turn in a

direction doesn’t lift a wing while you

the depths. A lightbulb went off in my

patch of extra lift in order to remain as

are in the vulnerable launch process.

head and I “got it.” Watch other pilots!

The second reason is so that you have

5. Make Long Passes. As illustrated

a slower (safer) ground speed along

in my introduction, turning can lose

turn into the wind away from the hill.

the ridge when you make the first pass,

altitude and loses you position for it

7. Go to the Best Location. If you

which tends to be close to the terrain.

moves you away from the mountain,

have options, always try to go to the

Also, if you are quartering upwind as

at least temporarily. As figure 2 shows,

areas most likely to produce the best

opposed to downwind, it is usually

a turn has to be more than 180° head-

ridge, heating or thermal lift. In my

easier to turn instantly in a bit of ther-

ing change in order to maintain the

experience these places can be a sec-

mal lift encountered by happenstance.

same distance away from the ridge.

tion of ridge that is steeper or higher, a

4. Choose Conditions and Launch Cycle. For a new pilot, learning to soar

Note that the stronger the wind the

feature that will channel up thermals,

less heading change a glider has to

an area facing more into the wind, a

in smooth wonder winds is by far the

make in order to make the required

heated rock slide, an area bare of trees,

easiest and safest. Have an experi-

heading change, as shown. Constantly

or an area above heat generators down

enced pilot or your instructor tell you

be aware of your positioning with

below (bare fields, paved areas, quar-

when these conditions are present

respect to the ridge and make adjust-

ries, etc.).

(usually in the evening). On a given

ments accordingly. Remember, long

day, there are often wind cycles from

passes allow the glider time to climb

ing a ridge is its shape. We can gener-

a few minutes long to an hour or more.

above the ridge, and provide clearance

alize to say that the higher and longer

Short cycles may be due to thermal


the ridge or mountain, the better. A

activity, while longer ones can be a

While you are making a pass—espe-

A big factor in the prospects of soar-

short section of ridge or an individual

combination of thermal activity, move-

cially your first one—every time you

peaked mountain will produce less

ments of pressure systems and conver-

gain a bit of altitude (as little as 10 feet,

ridge lift than a long ridge—even a low

gence. Ideally you want to launch in

say), move back over the ridge as long

one—facing perpendicular to the wind,

a mellow cycle that isn’t too strong or

as your added altitude provides you

thus forcing the wind to flow over it. A

too light. Watch other pilots; see what

with safe clearance. When you are low,

single mountain often allows the wind

the conditions are and their success

the best lift is right above the top.

to flow around it, producing little or

rate. That’s how you build experience


high as possible. It should go without saying that we should always initiate a


6. Turn in Lift. Very often lift along a

no ridge lift. Of course, as mentioned,

if the mountain is high and dry, there

there is light wind and no major sink).

may be plenty of upslope flow due to

Remember that some days may ex-

surface heating, which feels and acts

hibit “holes,” which are mainly areas

mentioned above) that there is safety

like ridge lift.

of sink related to thermal activity.

in altitude. If you are very high, you

Generally these “holes” shouldn’t be

can turn at will and turbulent excur-

8. Landing-field Strategies. A main

Remember, this is some fun! To relax your mind, note (as we

concern when beginning to ridge

too bad if you are learning in gentle

sions in pitch and roll have few conse-

soar is remain in safe reach of a good

conditions, but always be aware of the

quences. In fact, you can experiment with your glider’s controls and limits,

landing field. We always give our new

possibility of changes and the impor-

soaring pilots a “leave-by” altitude

tance of positioning. If you are above

trying maneuvers (steep banks, turn

rule. It may be something like: If you

and start getting lower, gravitate back

reversals, wingtip folds (big ears for

get lower than launch at any point,

towards launch or some point that

paragliders), stalled turns and stalls in general.

immediately head for the landing field.

is closest to the landing field. Don’t

Here in the tree-covered East, that is

worry, if the landing field is easy to

the rule in a number of sites. Part of

make from launch (which it had better

increases in enjoyment as you learn to

the consideration is that headwind

be), you can get as low as launch if you

become more efficient and able to stay

and sink on the way out may seriously

are right above it.

erode a pilot’s glide ratio, and newer

All this soaring experience only

up longer and easier. In fact, to become

9. Relax Your Mind. One of the

a great pilot, or even a good pilot,

pilots do not necessarily understand

most important factors in becoming

ridge-soaring skill is an important

or know how to use speed-to-fly

a good ridge-soaring pilot is to relax

part of your repertoire. But we’re not

principles. Every site may have such a

your mind and body. Relaxing your

done yet, for the next installment will

mind helps you make better deci-

cover more advanced ridge-soaring

“leave-by” rule which may vary according to the landing-field reach and the

sions more quickly and allows you to

skills, techniques and secrets. It may

conditions of the day (it is easier to get

be more observant and simply enjoy

take years to even become perfect on

to a landing field if the wind is cross

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the basics, but who cares? It’s fun all

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be submitted online at https://www.ushpa. org/page/calendar. A minimum 3-MONTH LEAD TIME is required on all submissions and tentative events will not be published.


start at $10.00 for 200 characters. MINIMUM AD CHARGE $10.00. ALL CLASSIFIEDS ARE PREPAID. No refunds will be given on ads cancelled that are scheduled to run multiple months. For more info, visit www.ushpa. org/page/magazine-classified-advertising HANG GLIDING ADVISORY: Used hang glid-

ers should always be disassembled before flying for the first time and inspected carefully for fatigued, bent or dented downtubes, ruined bushings, bent bolts (especially the heart bolt), re-used Nyloc nuts, loose thimbles, frayed or rusted cables, tangs with noncircular holes, and on flex wings, sails badly torn or torn loose from their anchor points front and back on the keel and leading edges. PARAGLIDING ADVISORY: Used paraglid-

ers should always be thoroughly inspected before flying for the first time. Annual inspections on paragliders should include sailcloth strength tests. Simply performing a porosity check isn’t sufficient. Some gliders pass porosity yet have very weak sailcloth. BUYER BEWARE - If in doubt, many hang

gliding and paragliding businesses will be happy to give an objective opinion on the condition of equipment you bring them to inspect. BUYERS SHOULD SELECT EQUIPMENT THAT IS APPROPRIATE FOR THEIR SKILL LEVEL OR RATING. NEW PILOTS SHOULD SEEK PROFESSIONAL INSTRUCTION FROM A USHPA CERTIFIED INSTRUCTOR.


ern California with Dilan Benedetti of Let Fly Paragliding. More information at www.letflyparagliding. com, or (917) 698-4485.

JUN 29-JUL 8 > Talihina, OK - Buffalo Mountain Flyers July 4th Fly-In Yes, we have mountains! The Torrey Pines of the central states! 10-acre roll-off pasture launch. Thanks to FFF we have five launches covering all wind directions & all within a 45min drive. Launch from 1400’, five-mile-long ridges, soar for hours, mass gaggle multi-wingual 50mi+ XC’s, altitudes >6K AGL, easy retrieves, come back for epic evening glass-off flights. Hotels, cabins, camp at launch, share the stars with all your flying friends. This is THE place to enjoy air sports to the fullest. More Info:

JUN 2-3 > Lookout Mountain Flight Park—Instruc-

JUL 13-15 > Inkler’s Point - Chataqua Days Fly-In The

CALENDAR clinics & tours JUN 1-3 or 22-24 > 3.5-day SIV clinics in north-

tor Clinic: Instructor Certification Clinic will be held at Lookout Mountain Flight Park on June 2&3 this year. All participants must have a current USHPA rating of at least H3. More Info: or call 706-398-3541.

JUN 8-10 > Cherry Hill, New Jersey—Instructor & Tandem Clinic: Combined Instructor’s and Tandem Clinic for new candidates, re-certifications, and upgrades (T-1 to T-3 & Basic to Advanced Instructor). FOI test will be administered, if needed. More Info: Pete,

JUN 9-18 > Soca Valley, Slovenia - Slovenia - paraglid-

ing in the Alps Slovenia, hidden treasure of the Alps near Venice. Europeans flock there to fly in gentle thermals. Consistent conditions make it a flyers’ paradise. Trip for XC beginners and veterans. Takeoffs are grassy and landing zones big. We’ll fly high mountains and cross borders in the air. Includes English-speaking coordinators with years of guiding experience, lots of coaching, transport, and accommodation. Take a non-flying spouse. Guided and organized by Jarek Wieczorek, expedition leader and XC expert. More Info:

JULY 13-15 or 27-29, SEP 7-9 or 21-23, OCT 5-7 or 26-28> 3.5-day SIV clinics in northern

California with Dilan Benedetti of Let Fly Paragliding. More information at, or (917) 698-4485.

FLY-INS MAY 25-27> Lookout Mountain Hang Gliding, Ris-

ing Fawn GA 30738—Women’s Fly-In Festival 2018: To promote women and the sport of hang gliding, Women’s Fly-In is a weekend of fun and flight! Pilots, aspiring pilots, spectators, women, men, pets—all are welcome and encouraged to join in the festivities! Activities include: Clinics, beginner lessons, discount tandems for first timers, fun flying tasks and challenges for rated pilots. Spectators are welcome! Cheer on our pilots and enjoy the many non-flying festivities. Men are welcome and encouraged to register, too. More Info: 706-398-3541,, or

Report it on AIRS!

US Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association


AIRS IS STANDING BY - FILE A REPORT TODAY! All AIRS reports are completely confidential



2nd annual Chewelah, WA-area fly-in will be based at the Inkler’s Point flying site. We’ll venture out to other immediate-area sites to fly as well, depending on wind direction. Inkler’s Point is a USHPA-insured flying site. Camping will be available adjacent to Inkler’s LZ. This event is being held during Chewelah’s Chataqua Days— fun for everyone! Visit the Center of Lift website for updated event information during 2018 :) More Info: www.

SANCTIONED EVENTS JUN 9-16 > Woodrat Mt., Ruch, Oregon Applegate

Open—Open Race, Sprint Race, Super Clinic Open/ Sprint Race $575 plus $20 RVHPA local club membership ($595 total); SuperClinic $675 plus $20 RVHPA local club membership ($695 total). Registration opens Feb. 15, and registration fees increase by $100 after May 11. Info and registration:

JUL 8-14 > Chelan, WA. US OPEN of Paragliding Chelan 2018" will be a Pre-PWC event pending approval of running PWC in July 2019 the week after the Nationals. Volunteers, competitors and spectators welcome. Registration open March 1st 2018. More information at,, or 206420-9101. AUG 5-11 > Big Spring, Texas. 2018 Big Spring Nationals Series. 2018 Big Spring Nationals Series site of the 2007 World Hang Gliding Championship, the finest cross country hang gliding competition site in the US. Big Tasks (world records), smooth thermals, unrestricted landing areas, easy retrieval on multiple roads, consistent cumulus development at 1 PM, air conditioned head quarters, hanger for setup, free water and ice cream, welcome and awards dinner, live tracking, many drivers available, strong safety record, highest pilot satisfaction rating. More information at, davis@, or 863-207-2634. SEP 2-8 > Whitwell and Henson’s Gap, Dunlap, TN.

East Coast National Paragliding Competition. Eastern US Cup. FAI Cat 2. Race to Goal format. More info:

SEP 16-22 > Francisco Grande Hotel and Golf Resort,

Casa Grande, Arizona. 11th annual aerotow competition with both desert flatland and mountain flying. Primarily triangle and out and return tasks with goal at the Francisco Grande Golf Resort. More information at, or contact Jamie Sheldon at




tain training center to Orlando. Two training hills, novice mountain launch, aerotowing, great accommodations., 877-hanglide, (877) 426-4543.


Airsport Venue: PG, HG, PPG: by, He’ll hook you up! Site intros, tours, & rooms., 760-203-2658


Beginner & Intermediate Courses, Iquique, Chile - Learn to fly with Zion Paragliding 9 day all-inclusive P2 course - Improve your flying with the 7 day XC advancement course - or contact for more info


FLYMEXICO - VALLE DE BRAVO for Winter and year round

flying tours and support. Hang Gliding, Paragliding. Guiding, gear, instruction, transportation, lodging. www. +1 512-467-2529

Paragliding Tours 2018 with USHPA Advanced

Instructor and veteran guide Nick Crane. Jan/Feb/Mar - Costa Rica; Jun/Sep/Oct - Europe; Mar/Dec - Brazil.;


gliderbags $149 Harness packs & zippers. New/used parts, equipment, tubes. 1549 CR 17 Gunnison, CO 81230 970-641-9315

WINGS & HARNESSES Fly Center of Gravity: The CG-1000 is the original custom fit, single line suspension harness. Built to last from your H1 through your H4. Choose from our list of options to suit your needs and select your colors and special designs to make the harness your own. www.; Paragliding equipment used one time: Alpha 5/28-orange wing, Gingo Airlite MG38, stuff bag, hook knife, and helmet. Paid $5000.00 new couple years ago. Asking $2800.00. All offers considered.


5 times as many pilots earn their wings at LMFP. Enjoy our 110 acre mountain resort., 877-hanglide, (877) 426-4543.

PROFLYGHT PARAGLIDING Call Dexter for friendly

information about flying on Maui. Full service school offering beginner to advanced instruction, year round. 808-874-5433

NEW HAMPSHIRE MORNINGSIDE - A Kitty Hawk Kites flight park. The Northeast's premier hang gliding and paragliding training center, teaching since 1974. Hang gliding foot launch and tandem aerowtow training. Paragliding foot launch and tandem training. Powered Paragliding instruction. Dealer for all major manufacturers. Located in Charlestown, NH. Also visit our North Carolina location, Kitty Hawk Kites Flight School. 603-542-4416,

NEW YORK AAA HG & PG Three training hills,certified instructors, mtn launch,pro shop,pilots lounge,camping. North Wing, Moyes demo gliders 77 Hang Glider Rd Ellenville, NY 845-647-3377



Fly beyond!

KITTY HAWK KITES - The largest hang gliding school in

the world, teaching since 1974. Learn to hang glide and paraglide on the East Coast's largest sand dune. Yearround instruction, foot launch and tandem aerotow. 1902 Wright Glider Experience available. Dealer for all major manufacturers. Learn to fly where the Wright Brothers flew, located at the beach on NC's historic Outer Banks. Also visit our NH location, Morningside Flight Park. 252441-2426, 1-877-FLY-THIS,







GUNNISON GLIDERS - X-C to heavy waterproof HG

BLUE SKY located near Richmond , year round instruction,

largest inventory, camping, swimming, volleyball, more. Wide range of accommodations., 877-hanglide, (877) 426-4543,

gliderbags. Accessories, parts, service, sewing. Instruction ratings, site-info. Rusty Whitley 1549 CR 17, Gunnison CO 81230. 970-641-9315.

Talented, lucky, or both, we want your best shots for the 2019 calendar.

Chattanooga. Become a complete pilot -foot launch, aerotow, mountain launch, ridge soar, thermal soar., 877-hanglide, (877) 426-4543.

all forms of towing, repairs, sewing. Representing Wills Wing, Moyes, Icaro, Aeros PG, Mosquito, Flylight,Woody Valley, HES ,

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GIVE & GET! Make a $250 donation to the USHPA General Fund today and receive a Free Flight Forever t-shirt as our thank-you gift! Super soft 100% combed-cotton tee that's light and comfortable to move in. Available in Blue or Gray. Make a $1000 donation to the USHPA General Fund today and receive a Free Flight Forever jacket as our thank-you gift! 100% polyester soft shell with bonded fleece interior, light snow and water resistant.

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Take your ratings and expiration date everywhere you fly. Download from the Members Only section of the USHPA website. Print, trim, and store in your wallet. Great for areas without cell coverage.Always available at Save the PDF on your mobile device for easy reference.

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PASA Professional Air Sports Association by CHRIS SANTACROCE, Paragliding Liaison Two years ago, our insurance world

to comply with Vermont’s insurance

came crashing down. The United

company rules.

the Professional Air Sports Association

States Hang Gliding and Paragliding

Self-insurance requires us to col-

Association was faced with its most

lect the money from ourselves on an

(PASA) to certify hang gliding and

difficult moment when the Lloyds of

annual basis, sufficient to pay the costs

paragliding flight schools. PASA’s repu-

London underwriters that had provided

of running the self-insurance program,

tation in providing school/instructor

insurance coverage for USHPA and nine

to pay the legal defense cost of defend-

certification for kite boarders proved

flight schools drew a line in the sand.

ing claims, and to pay claimants for

key in getting a reinsurer for our self-

legitimate claims. Because claims

insurance program. The reinsurer

vary in frequency and amount, self-

made a condition of the reinsurance for

activity because we were not worth

insurance also requires us to have a

commercial schools that those schools

their taking the risk.

reserve fund that makes it possible for

be PASA certified.

They stated they would no longer cover our commercial or recreational

Imagine our shock! Thankfully, our community quickly responded to the

us to pay unusual claim expenses. The money we collect from ourselves has to

Two years later: Hang gliding and paragliding instruction has every

challenge by raising several million dol-

be enough to keep that reserve fund at

reason in the world to thrive. The whole

lars to set up the reserve fund needed

a level that ensures our self-insurance

community wins!

to self-insure.

will remain solvent. The Vermont

To self-insure, we had to set up an insurance company and get that company licensed. We set up that company,


Finding a reinsurer was problematic. The solution was found in enlisting

Some details, such as the ques-

regulators tell us what those minimum

tion of the association between PASA,

requirements must be.

Recreation RRG , and USHPA, along

As a backstop to ensuring solvency,

Recreation Risk Retention Group, in the

self-insurance also requires finding

with their respective responsibilities, are worth mentioning. USHPA still oversees all ultralight

state of Vermont, as a Risk Retention

an insurance company that would be

Group under the Federal Liability Risk

willing to take on the risk of really big

Retention Act. We chose Vermont

claims - this is called reinsurance. The

the US. For non-commercial tandem

because of its stellar reputation as a

way it works is that if there is a claim

pilots and instructors, it’s that simple

state that knows how to regulate small

over a certain level (the retained level),

and always has been. But commercial

risk retention groups like ours in ways

the reinsurer pays that excess part of

operators have to receive approval

hang glider and paraglider flying in

that ensure their long term viability.

the claim (the excess level). In our case,

from PASA to get insurance from our

Vermont has licensed Recreation RRG

we set up our self-insurance with a

self-insurance company.

as an insurance company, and we have

retained level of $250,000.


The inside scoop is that a school

In these cases, the most damning factor

can choose to be insured under PASA’s

questioning whether PASA might be

Master Flight School policy, in which

a profit-oriented entity. It’s not. The

is their seeming incapacity for change

case they pay PASA dues that are keyed

organization has a bank account that

and/or improvement. Not every school

to the size of their operation, or they

lingers in the $10k range. It’s also worth

receives approval.

can choose to become a shareholder in

knowing that PASA paid $25k to help

our self-insurance company, purchase

finance the RRG. This represented the

schools. When schools thrive, every-

their own policy from Recreation RRG,

organization’s reserves from years of

body wins.

and pay PASA annual dues of $500. For

kite-boarding activity.

80 schools have applied and, as of April 2018, 60 are currently certified by

the small schools, their PASA dues (which include insurance cost) when

PASA is in the business of approving

PASA. Only one school did not receive

spread out over all the lessons they give

Were all schools and instructors able to resume activity as before? Yes,

approval and one other school had its

in a year typically vary between $11

all serious operators have found cover-

certification revoked. Seven schools

and $26 per lesson, depending on their

age. What a relief! What’s most im-

have been pre-approved pending ap-

total lesson volume and the number in-

portant is that schools have been able

proval from the RRG. Three schools

sured sites they teach at. Large schools

to maintain coverage. It’s confidence-

have not completed the application pro-

pay PASA dues of $500 per year and

inspiring for everyone involved to know

cess and six schools have chosen not to

their policy premiums can be as low

that our self-insurance (Recreation

renew. Two new schools are currently

as 5.5% of their revenue for minimum

RRG) is not in the business of denying

under review.


coverage, like many standard “for profit”

Commercial operators are required

insurance companies.

PASA staff are relentless about making sure that paperwork is 100% completed, but they are also notorious-

to log in their daily activity on a web site. Most are supremely satisfied with

What was the qualification process?

ly helpful and consistent about answer-

this favorable arrangement.

Each school was challenged with devel-

ing questions and offering guidance.

oping full curriculum and providing a

PASA is making every effort to

Who is PASA? The four original found-

full inventory of all equipment. They

streamline the process of approval for

ing members:

also must delineate their maintenance

instructors. And instructors must do

1. John Harris of Kitty Hawk Kites

programs, risk management plans for

some upkeep to maintain their ap-


each site, and emergency plan. These

proval. They have to add instructors,

2. GW Meadows, a former USHPA

tasks were quite demanding for many

equipment, and sites as appropriate,

president, and longtime HG pilot.

instructors, but most agree that they

which isn’t always easy. PASA welcomes

3. Bruce Weaver, the Kitty Hawk

feel satisfied to have all of this docu-

feedback and looks forward to many

Kites GM.

mentation in place.

years of backing free-flight instruction

4. Joe Greblo, a Los Angeles-based HG instructor and Hollywood PG

PASA continues to conduct a due diligence check on each school to

and HG stunt person.

make sure that each has support from

5. Chris Santacroce, a paragliding

within the community. Opinions are


and tandem instruction, in cooperation with the USHPA. A huge debt of gratitude is owed to the many parties that worked to engi-

collected and compiled for review. In

neer the new insurance paradigm—a

the majority of cases, schools have

work of art that is functioning beauti-

How are things going? Great. We

assembled detailed histories and have

fully. Thanks to every single person

couldn’t be happier. It takes time for

the full support of their communities.

who donated his/her/their time, money,

everyone to understand the evolution

In extremely rare cases, a few instruc-

and energy. Cheers to continued and

that has taken place.

tors have demonstrated a problematic

successful hang gliding and paragliding

history of meeting our new challenges.

instruction over the decades!

Some members of our group were



The combined expertise of Naviter and Flytec help pilots fly farther, safer, and beyond their expectations. or 800.662.2449

USHPA Pilot Vol48-Iss3 May 2018 Special Edition  

Official USHPA Magazine (formerly Hang Gliding & Paragliding)

USHPA Pilot Vol48-Iss3 May 2018 Special Edition  

Official USHPA Magazine (formerly Hang Gliding & Paragliding)