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The Swift 5 is based on the Rush 5, and is 30% lighter. It is a top of class Lightweight Sport-Performance- Intermediate wing. We developed the Swift 5 using technology from our performance range, this includes features from the Enzo 3 and Zeno in addition to several recent innovations. Learn more at:



Pilot: Alex Colby Photo: Jorge Atramiz

ON THE COVER Harry Martin Legendary free-flight cartoonist Harry Martin brightens up the cover this month in celebration of the Foundation for Free Flight's support of site conservation, two exemplary tales of which can be found within the pages of this month's issue—Sandia Peak and Buffalo Mountain. To see more of Harry's work visit

REGIONAL DIRECTORS 1 [ AK / OR / WA ] Matt Henzi, Owen Shoemaker 2 [ Northern CA / NV ] Jugdeep Aggarwal, Paul Gazis, Robert Booth 3 [ Southern CA / HI ] Ken Andrews, Larry Chamblee, Alan Crouse 4 [ AZ / CO / NM / UT ] Ken Grubbs, Neil Hansen Martin Palmaz, Executive Director executivedirector@ushpa.org Beth Van Eaton, Operations Manager office@ushpa.org


Erika Klein, Communications Manager communications@ushpa.org

where you can order posters, shirts and more.

Chris Webster, Information Services Manager tech@ushpa.org

The Foundation for Free Flight is a 501 C3 nonprofit that exists to serve the free flight community.

Galen Anderson, Membership Coordinator membership@ushpa.org

The foundation acts as a catalyst for local efforts, providing grants that match money raised by local pilots for projects that benefit the flying community all within the United States for Site Preservation, Safety and Education, and Competition Team support.

Alan Crouse, President president@ushpa.org



Randall Shane, Vice President vicepresident@ushpa.org Ken Andrews, Secretary secretary@ushpa.org Mark Forbes, Treasurer treasurer@ushpa.org

5 [ ID / MT / WY / Canada ] Randall Shane 6&11 [ AR / KS / LA / MO / NE / OK / TX ] Tiki Mashy 7 [ IA / IL / IN / MI / MN / ND / SD / WI ] Doyle Johnson 8 [ CT / MA / ME / NH / RI / VT ] Mike Holmes 9 [ DC / DE / KY / MD / OH / PA / VA / WV ] Dan Lukaszewicz, Larry Dennis 10 [ AL / FL / GA / MS / NC / PR / SC / TN / VI ] Bruce Weaver, Steve Kroop, Matt Taber 12 [ NJ / NY ] Paul Voight DIRECTORS AT LARGE Mark Forbes Steve Rodrigues Greg Kelley Felipe Amunátegui Mitch Shipley 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.

For change of address or other USHPA business +1 (719) 632-8300 info@ushpa.org POSTMASTER USHPA Pilot ISSN 1543-5989 (USPS 17970) is published bimonthly by the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, Inc., 1685 W. Uintah St., Colorado Springs, CO, 80904 Phone: (719) 632-8300 Fax: (719) 632-6417 Periodicals Postage Paid in Colorado Springs and additional mailing offices. Send change of address to: USHPA, PO Box 1330, Colorado Springs, CO, 80901-1330. Canadian Return Address: DP Global Mail, 4960-2 Walker Road, Windsor, ON N9A 6J3.



Flight Plan [ Editor > NICK GREECE ]

Martin Palmaz, Publisher executivedirector@ushpa.org Nick Greece, Editor editor@ushpa.org / advertising@ushpa.org Greg Gillam, Art Director art.director@ushpa.org C.J. Sturtevant, Copy Editor copy@ushpa.org PHOTOGRAPHERS Jeff Shapiro

STAFF WRITERS Annette O’Neil Dennis Pagen Jeff Shapiro C.J. Sturtevant Ryan Voight

SUBMISSIONS from our members and readers are welcome. All articles, artwork, photographs as well as ideas for articles, artwork and photographs are submitted 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 editor@ushpa.org or online at www.ushpa.org. We are always looking for great articles, photography and news. Your contributions are appreciated. ADVERTISING is subject to the USHPA Advertising Policy, a copy of which may be obtained from the USHPA by emailing advertising@ushpa.org. COPYRIGHT ©2019 US HANG GLIDING & 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.

We often joke that one of the biggest strengths in a free-flight pilot is to have the memory of a goldfish. This is an interesting position, as we need to be able to forget fear and/or bumpy thermals as soon as we leave them while remembering all the other cues and learned behavior that enable us to operate within safe margins. To me that is the true art: filtering out the noise to absolute essential feedback that engages us to keep playing the game by finding the next source of lift. Now if I could just remember where I left my keys? The March/April issue has a beautiful redesign from Art Director Greg Gillam. Greg has been working behind the scenes to bring our stories and photos to life for the last 11 years, and consistently pushes the artistic bar forward. Executive Director Martin Palmaz is back with his monthly column, part of USHPA’s drive to communicate more effectively with the membership. If you would like to ask Martin a question or two, please send them in. This issue also features a great story on one of the Foundation for Free Flight’s latest successful projects, at Sandia Peak in New Mexico. The Foundation does incredible work on site preservation—please take a moment to read Jayne Depanfilis’s side bar about a new procedure for donating. Nik Hawks reports in on a very important subject: helmets. The helmet game can be very challenging to navigate with various regulatory bodies, certification policies, and language. This piece is something that originally appeared online and we thought it also belonged in print. Hang glider pilot Sara Weaver is back with a great piece on the annual Green Swamp Sport Klassic, which was originally developed by the infamous Quest Air crew to encourage newer competitors to get into XC racing. Ryan Voight also returns with another incredible site guide for the traveling, or Utah-based, pilot, with a review of a legendary site that’s not flown nearly enough—Commodore. Evan Garcia reports from a truly memorable kayaking and paragliding trip to Patagonia, Chile, and Calef Latorney is back with a piece from the east featuring Cape Cod soaring at its finest. Lane Lamoreaux sends in his first piece, an excellently crafted work, about the similarities in managing risk in his fire-fighting career, and in paragliding flights. While Lane flies paragliders, his story fits for both wing types. Hopefully you enjoy this month’s issue and you are getting warmed up for the season. Just like in any sport, please take it easy until you are in flying shape! While free flight is not as physically challenging as some other outdoor sports, it still requires a significant amount of prep work and building up of mental endurance to take on bigger flights and stronger conditions. And, don’t forget to send in your stories and photos!

2019 March/April CONTENTS




22 58





Presidential Citation John Harris by Staff Writer C.J. STURTEVANT




Sandia Peak Launch by DAN SHORB


The Helmet Question by NIK HAWKS



Commodore Stockton, Utah




by Staff Writer ANNETTE O’NEIL

Smokejumpers face many of the same snap decisions that for pilots can mean the difference between life and death.

36 CHASING DREAMS IN PATAGONIA When winter kayaking trips to Argentina's legendary wilderness turn into flying adventures, a new perspective is revealed. by EVAN GARCIA

Yes, there are mountains in Oklahoma, and on those mountains a lively and exceptional flying community made up of many talents.


You've got to be in it to win it and if that means getting up in the middle of the night for a road trip to where the conditions are right, so be it. by CALEF LETORNEY

High-altitude adventure awaits by Staff Writer RYAN VOIGHT


Green Swamp Sport Klassic

Sport-class training competition at its best by SARA WEAVER


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. 6 US HPA P I LOT


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. www.advance.ch /iota distributor: superflyinc.com, info@superflyinc.com, 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


The ◀ ADVANCE EPSILON 9 has internalized Miniribs, the latest Hybrid Lining Layout and Low-drag Stabilos. According to Advance, the marked EPSILON 9 performance boost results from intensive development and technology upgrades. Needless to say the Intermediate also has all the expected state-of-the-art features like Sliced Diagonals, Advanced Airscoop and Double 3D Shaping. Advance also claims that the new Automatic Dust Remove even sweeps the wing’s interior for you while you are flying! Weight range goes 60 to 128 kg. The wing’s weight is 5.65 kg. There are four new colors and there is no overlap on weight ranges, meaning that there is only one size for a given weight. Demos are available through superflyinc.com

ADVANCE BI is now available in a STRAPLESS ▶ version for tandem pilots. The Strapless Bi is EN-certified and has a reserve container under the right-side leg pad. With reserve handle and container, the Strapless Bi weighs only 404 gm. This ultralight tandem pilot harness is intended exclusively for extreme hike-and-fly use and has no back protector. Available through superflyinc.com

The ◀ ADVANCE TUBEBAG is 280 cm long, weighs only 304 gm and is intended for pilots for whom every gram counts: those who walk up to their takeoffs, or wish to keep the advantages of a bag for hike and fly or travelling. In stock at superflyinc.com

The all new NOVA MENTOR 6 ▶ has the same aspect ratio and high degree of passive safety as the Mentor 5 but with better accelerated glide, a smooth trailing edge, new risers, durable but lightweight cloth, aerodynamically optimized 3D-shaped seams using Mini-Rib Vector Tape, and an intuitive handling with less brake pressure. According to Nova, it’s a sports intermediate (EN-B class) for cross-country and fun flying, geared toward helping pilots to achieve their goals faster. Check out the Mentor 6 at superflyinc.com

The popular ◀ GIN YETI CONVERTIBLE light, reversible, airbag under-seat reserve (1.4kg) and Yeti Xtrem2 ultralight minimalist harness (260g) are now available in two additional sizes, Small and Large. Comfort for every pilot from


◀ FLYMASTER has partnered with SKYTRAXX to allow all of the Flymaster sensors such as the M1 (paramator accessory), Heart G (heart rate monitor) and TAS (air speed sensor) to work with the Skytraxx units including the Skytraxx 3.0 and 2.1 instruments. Now you can get information from the sensors such as air speed, heart rate, and Gs on your Skytraxx instruments. More info on the sensors at Flymaster USA  flymasterusa.com




[ Letters to the Editor ]

I really enjoyed reading Tiki’s article about “Mansplaining” in the last issue. But I found myself thinking, “This could be problematic, if the guys all start getting nervous about how their interactions with women at flying sites are being construed.” As Tiki points out, Mansplaining, by its very definition, is NOT offering advice or information in a friendly or helpful manner. Advice that IS offered in a friendly or helpful spirit is, again by definition, NOT “mansplaining,” and in most cases will be welcomed by women (or men) pilots who are new to the sport or the site or the conditions. And when it comes to offers of help with equipment, those of us who are short, or old, or have aching body parts that make wrangling a hang glider seriously challenging or hiking a bulky paraglider pack a chore to be endured, we welcome offers to help. A guy’s “Need a hand with that?” can be answered with either, “No, thanks, I’ve got it!” or “Yes, I’d really appreciate that.” If neither party is looking to be insulted by the offer or its acceptance or rejection, then all’s well. Some thoughts: Guys, you can avoid almost every awkward situation by asking a woman you don’t recognize, “I don’t think we’ve met—is this your home site?” or “What do you fly?” If she’s not a pilot, she may well feel honored that you think she is, and if she is a pilot, she’ll probably welcome your friendly approach. Gals, keep in mind that we really are a very small minority in the free-flight community, and anyone taking bets will be correct most of the time if they assume the women at the flying sites are not pilots. In my 37 years of flying hangs and paras, I’ve experienced many of the scenarios that Tiki brings up, but they’re memorable mainly because they’ve been the exceptions to our usual interactions. Today’s social climate seems fraught with pettiness, chip-on-the-shoulder attitudes and the need to have a witty put-down response to everything. Ugh. Let’s leave that to the politicians and pundits and posts on social media, and remember that we choose to fly (or, sometimes, to not fly) because it’s fun, and challenging, and allows us to spend time in our own personal happy place, with friends whose company we enjoy. It pays to be nice. It tends to be contagious. It always helps to start with a smile. C.J. Sturtevant, USHPA #37684

Did you know that you can double your tax-deductible donation to the Foundation for Free Flight with your annual USHPA membership renewal? The Foundation for Free Flight processes annual USHPA membership-renewal donations that are eligible for a dollar-for-dollar USHPA match up to $500. The Foundation worked with USHPA to create a process that enables you to double your donation one time per year under the historical USHPA Match Donation program. Your matched, tax-deductible donation doubles your gift to the Foundation. When you receive the summary/receipt page for your renewal transaction you will be redirected to the Foundation’s “Annual Match Renewal Donation” form that must be used to qualify for the match. If you forget to make an annual matchable donation to the Foundation when you renew, there is a link to the “USHPA Match Donation Form” in your renewal email receipt. Your donation still qualifies for up to $500 in matching funds from USHPA when you use this link before the end of the month you renewed your membership. The Foundation for Free Flight is an independent, 501(c)3 charity separate from USHPA. We rely on donations from pilots and benefactors to fulfill our mission. We are a dedicated team of volunteers accessible 365 days a year and ready to assist. Jayne DePanfilis Executive Director Foundationforfreeflight.org

Finding Lift

[ Executive Director, USHPA > MARTIN PALMAZ ]

Sustainable Choices every choice that we make, collectively or as an Dear Membership: USHPA’s first days seem individual—influences. The big-picture objeclong ago, don’t they? It was back in 1971 when a bunch of early pilots first got together on a tive, of course, is making sure that the sport we west-coast beach and founded the Southern love continues to exist. California Hang Gliding Association. In 1973, That big picture snapped into focus most that little tribe got its own logo and worked recently when we almost lost our insurance. its way up to national status to become the In a world in which insurance provides the United States Hang Gliding Association. (It was ability to satisfy landowners and maintain only in 2006 that the “P” made its way into the most of the primary sites around the country, acronym.) Along the way, our hang gliding fore- that probably would have meant an endgame bearers worked with the FAA to create the FAR in many ways. As tough of a period as that was, I believe it was a wake-up call we needed. The SPRING 103 regulation—defining a training program lessons we learned there will always be a part Board Meeting and basically taking on the responsibility of self-regulation—that still allows us to fly today. of what we do moving forward. We have faced challenges as an organization March 7-9, 2019 USHPA’s free-spirited, regulation-free birth that have forced all of us to make changes that is still a part of our culture, but it has undenihave been difficult. None of these changes at the ably evolved. Culturally, as a community, we were undertaken by choice, and it has been a still feel a tug-of-war between the “anything American painstaking effort to move forward with a mingoes” ethos of free flight and living within the Mountaineering Center context of an increasingly regulated environimal amount of impact. But we are dedicated Golden, Colorado to ensuring that we exist 10, 20, 50 years from ment. The spheres we exist in, after all, are now and onward. Hang gliding and paragliding Visit the website subject to massive bureaucracy. USHPA lives mean everything to us and we are determined at the overlapping center of a complicated for further details and to champion our sports through these chalmix of entities that we must satisfy: the FAA; the most up-to-date land-use agencies; local and state governments; lenges. information At the end of the day, it comes down to makushpa.org/boardmeeting and landowners, not to mention our own communities of pilots across various wing types, ing the best—that is to say, the most sustainwho very often stand in distinct cultural and able—choices every day and on every level. generational contrast. The big-picture goal of preventing the end of In this environment, thick with moving our sport as we know it starts with the choices parts, USHPA continues onward. We work to we make as pilots. From there, those choices maintain access to sites. We work to improve cascade down to the choices we make as flying safety and optimize our training processes. groups; as chapters; as instructors; at events; Our primary goal is the long-term sustainabilin committees; and as a collective. Let’s all aim to keep this in mind: Every choice you make, at ity of our sports. Key tools are better training every launch, counts towards the big picture. and reduced accidents; most importantly so Every single one matters. Make each one count. that we have fewer injuries and fewer fatalWe deeply appreciate your confidence, your ities, but with the added benefit of a smaller insurance burden and lower premiums. Money support and your collaboration. is unfortunately a necessary part of the complex system in which we do this work. Behind Blue skies, the money issues in the foreground, however, Martin Palmaz stands the big picture—the big picture that Executive Director, USHPA

󲢫 At the end of the day, it comes down to making the best—that is to say, the most sustainable—choices every day and on every level. The big-picture goal of preventing the end of our sport as we know it starts with the choices we make as pilots. 󲢻 10 US H PA P I LOT


Presidential Citation: John Harris

[ Staff Writer > C.J. STURTEVANT ]


(USHPA awards—continued from the January/February issue) The Presidential Citation is USHPA’s highest award, and is awarded to a member or non-member who has made significant contributions to the sport. The contributions need not have been made during the previous year. After being nominated, the final award will be decided by the President presiding over the USHPA Board of Directors. This special award may only be awarded to a single person once. (Definition from https://www.ushpa.org/page/ award-nomination-process) If you’ve been flying hang gliders since the early days, or if you were paying close attention during the insurance crisis a couple of years back, you’ll recognize the name. JOHN HARRIS has been a major player in the freeflight community since hang gliding first took off, back in the early ‘70s. Over the years he’s had a significant impact on how hang gliding and paragliding have evolved to become the sports we enjoy today. USHPA’s Presidential Citation award exists to assure that pilots like John are written into the annals of free flight. USHPA’s recently-retired president, Paul Murdoch, chose John as

󲢫 By helping people achieve man’s oldest dream—flight—John aspires to inspire people to achieve their personal dreams. 󲢻 the recipient of the 2018 Presidential Citation award. Here’s why, in Paul’s words: “John’s history includes a number of achievements which make him eligible for the Presidential Citation. A few specifics: His school, Kitty Hawk Kites, has introduced hang gliding to hundreds of thousands of students. John’s love for free flight has led him to countless leadership positions in organizations which move the sport forward. He is responsible for USHPA’s original access to liability coverage in 1993. “But my main reason for naming John for this award is this: USHPA depended almost entirely upon John for our ability to self-insure. Without his help, USHPA would have had no insurance coverage, starting March 2016. We might have been able to make it happen

eventually, but coverage would not have been available for the 2016 flying season. John volunteered his own labor, his company’s labor, and put his company’s reputation on the line. He was all in. “We were able to get coverage for the first $250K. But we needed reinsurance. Reinsurance is essentially a policy which would cover us from $250K to $1 million or more. That higher coverage is necessary for most critical flying sites. Lloyd’s of London said that we needed third-party oversight of our instruction program in order for them to write a reinsurance policy for USHPA. They went on to say that they knew of only one entity that could do the job, and that was the Professional Air Sports Association. “John was approached with a request to create a program to establish standards and requirements for hang gliding and paragliding schools. The Professional Air Sports Association had been doing this kind of certifying for kiteboarding for several years, but we were requesting that they build an entire vetting and standards program for free flight, from the ground up… And we needed it in about three months. It was a huge ask. “John knew better than any of us how difficult this was going to be. He knew what was coming. There would be countless overtime hours creating the program. His fee structure would not cover his costs. He had to keep costs down for the benefit of schools who already faced much larger obstacles. And though his willingness was a selfless act, he may have known that the Professional Air Sports Association would come under fire. “Many instructors and schools wondered why they had to gain approval from what they perceived as ‘another school.’ It was forced upon them and it caused them concern. Rumors circulated that the Professional Air Sports Association would be gatekeepers; they would reap fortunes with this monopoly; they would force competitor schools out. “Nothing was further from the truth. If anything, John spent money and risked his company in order to save other schools. If John were unscrupulous, he would have refused to create such a program. Other schools would

have subsequently had no insurance coverage and many—most—would not have been able LEFT 2008 Hall of Fame to continue. inductees. Photo by Paul “John’s extraordinary offer was frequently Voight. hidden or misunderstood. He put more on the line than anyone knows. I hope to make it RIGHT Photo by James known what a critical role John’s humble and Seal. steady generosity achieved on behalf of the entire membership. “Great Big Thanks!” Bruce Weaver, who’s worked alongside John for many years, helped fill out some of the details in the following story of John’s backBELOW John at ground with free flight. Grandfather Mountain. John Harris has been deeply involved with Photo by Sandra Allen. and a tireless promoter of aviation since well before most of us ever heard of hang gliding or paragliding. In 1974 he founded what would become the largest hang gliding school in the world: Kitty Hawk Kites. Located on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, KHK is just a few miles from the famous Kitty Hawk site (where the Wright brothers made aviation history in the early 1900s) and boasts an alumni list of over 400,000 students. Forty-five years later, John still works every day as the president of Kitty Hawk Kites, leading the staff in pursuit of his life’s and the company’s mission: “Teaching the World to Fly.” John grew up on a farm in rural Missouri, became a geological engineer, and set his sights on graduate school. Then, recounts Bruce, “on a sunny day in August of 1973, he saw the 12 US H PA P I LOT

world from beneath the wings of a hang glider and everything changed. That flight, launched from Jockey’s Ridge, the highest living sand dune on the east coast, convinced John that aviation was his destiny.” Since that day, John has perceived aviation, specifically hang gliding, as a way to inspire people. Through flight, he believed, he could literally and figuratively lift people and help each of them become the person that they wanted to be. By helping people achieve man’s oldest dream—flight—John aspires to inspire people to achieve their personal dreams. “John is a visionary,” says Bruce, “and over the past 45 years he has been integral to the growth of the sport, not only by introducing more people than anyone else to hang gliding, but through constantly working to advance it through safety, innovation and accessibility.” Randy Leggett, who has worked closely with John for nearly 20 years in the Foundation for Free Flight (FFF), points out that John’s significant contributions to free-flight have reached far beyond the Kitty Hawk Kites school. “When First Flight was insuring our schools, as they did for decades prior to the RRG,” recalls Randy, “there were only nine schools with commercial liability policies; currently there are 60 insured schools, both large and small.” John’s belief in and commitment to creating the insurance program that USHPA has through our affiliation with the Professional Air Sports Association has facilitated USHPA’s ability to provide that security to free-flight instructors in this country’s litigious atmosphere. “That,” Randy says, “is huge!” Randy points out that John’s strongest legacy contributions to hang gliding and paragliding over the years are actually two-fold. While discussions of legalities typically send me to sleep within minutes, I actually found all this quite interesting—so don’t turn the page just yet! Here’s how Randy explains it: 1) John has been committed, since the early 2000s, to the Foundation for Free Flight and its programs. His dedication and creative problem-solving skills, in collaboration with the FFF, resulted in the deeded- (or conservation-) easement model for retaining flying sites. Here’s what that means: When a privately-owned site changes hands or is offered for sale, if a local club can purchase the property


or buy an easement with assistance from the FFF, the deed must include the provision that this parcel of land will always, in perpetuity, be a hg/pg site. Obviously creating such a deed or easement involves a LOT of (expensive) lawyer time! John’s efforts helped catalyze this easement model to be used at several sites (for example, Morningside Flight Park in New Hampshire, West Rutland in Vermont, and the Telluride LZ in Colorado). Although he was awarded FFF grants for legal expenses involved in the Morningside negotiations, John contributed that money back to the Foundation. 2) Additionally, a significant percentage of hang gliding schools in the US can trace their roots back to KHK: Think of KHK as an “instructor academy,” says Randy, where, of course, students are taught to fly, but beyond that, those students are encouraged to continue their education to become instructors, teaching others to fly at schools around the country. If you’re curious, ask your instructor how many “generations” he or she is removed from KHK.

47TH annual

󲢫 John’s extraordinary offer was frequently hidden or misunderstood. He put more on the line than anyone knows. 󲢻 Given all of the above, it’s easy to see why retiring USHPA president Paul Murdoch chose John Harris as the 2018 recipient of USHPA’s Presidential Citation award. Taken individually, John’s contributions to our sports have significantly impacted in so many ways our ability to fly from our favorite sites. Collectively, they define John as one of the true superheroes of hang gliding and paragliding in the sports’ almost-50-years history. My thanks to Paul, Bruce and Randy for helping me bring John’s history to the attention of the masses. And a “huge” thanks to John, from all of us, for his past, present, and presumably future vigilance and creativity toward assuring our sports don’t get bulldozed under by the increasingly rapid pace of change. For a complete list of John’s awards, see his CV at pasaschools.org/hang-gliding-paragliding/who-is-pasa/.

MAY 16 - 20



tournament of champions



Sandia Peak Launch

[ contributed by DAN SHORB ]


Albuquerque club proves that teamwork makes the dream work For more information about the Sandia Soaring Association visit their website at


BELOW Ben Jr. and Benny Sr. Abruzzo, owners of the Sandia Peak Tram, run the tractors while proving that partnerships between local businesses, the Foundation for Free Flight, and local USHPA clubs can create lasting change for our community. Photo by Dan Shorb.


The tractor rolled down the front of the ramp towards the cliff. For a split second I was filled with horror, but Ben quickly maneuvered the tractor away from danger towards a mound of topsoil, placed more where it needed to be, and turned back for a resupply. He lives on the mountain, while running the adjacent Sandia Ski Area and the Sandia Peak Tram. No danger here: Ben knows this launch site well. We were reconstructing the Peak launch, which is perched atop the enormous cliffs of the Sandia Mountains that cascade in blades and buttresses 5000 feet down into Albuquerque. The mountain itself is an isolated island of granite standing alone in the desert. Its crests are at nearly 11,000 feet, surrounded by an ocean of uninterrupted sky and rising up to the area where Ben drives the tractor. Windswept firs, ravens, and high-altitude air create an enticing ambiance on the peak. Indeed, even with the vast sea of surrounding flatlands stretching out to the horizon, our new ramp looks more like something out of Europe than the Southwest (well, at least in our minds). By the end of that day, the jagged crown of the old launch was erased, replaced with a smooth, sloping ramp. Our Albuquerque club is small, maybe 35 folks. So when 10 or so pilots came out to our last workday for the Peak improvement, it was a big deal. Others had put in several hours ear-

lier in September, and we were putting on the finishing touches. Despite heinous, wintery gusts coming over the back, off the eastern plains, thoughts of flying consumed each one of us that day. It wouldn’t be long until the air was right, inviting us to fly the new ramp. It was happening! Our years of planning were taking shape in the form of a new premiere launch site in the Southwest. That same October of 2018, American XContest results came out. Our previous Sandia Soaring Association (SSA) President, Patrick Harvey-Collard, managed to take first in the US contest, all from flights off the (old) Peak launch. In the process, he set New Mexican records off this launch and others. In fact, another Sandia local, and Patrick’s frequent partner in crime, Max Montgomery, took eighth. Pilots with skills can go big off this Peak. These guys are humble. You’ve not heard of them because they don’t spray. Even we locals don’t know they’re flying most of the time. They’ll likely freak out when they see their names here. They are part of a newly energized crew of SSA locals taking advantage of what our mountain offers us here in Albuquerque: big XC with quick high-altitude tram (European-like) access. Going big isn’t new here. It’s a tradition. Sandia Soaring Association and the Peak launch have been around for decades. Old timers tell


stories of the heyday of hang gliding, with wings stacked 20 deep and launching into some big flights. 2006 and 2007 saw national articles written about the mountain, featuring the Sandia Soar’n (fly-in). Even with all this history, 2018 stacks up as unique. Patrick, along with Benny Abruzzo, Sr. and Ben Abruzzo, Jr. (Gavin McClurg’s XAlps USA1 teammate), took the construction permit Patrick had already secured for a new mountain-top restaurant with the Abruzzo’s company, Sandia Peak Tram, and tacked on a Forest Service application for our Peak launch to be improved. This move was the crux of what needed to be done to bring our launch improvement to fruition. As our newly elected president, I picked up the torch of the improvement project. Having recently read a Pilot magazine article about the Buffalo Mountain improvement back East, I saw that the Foundation for Free Flight (FFF) had helped. Well, I’ll be, an organization that helps you build your launch? I wondered. A long-time SSA member and former president, Bill Lemon, had been involved with the FFF and confirmed our project was one with which they would help. And I knew we could use all the help we could get! I reached out and got an immediate response from the Foundation’s Executive Director, Jayne DePanfilis. She is not only a (former) pilot but also has helped facilitate many of the Foundation’s projects like this one. She immediately started the process for us. I put my application on their agenda and, within a month, the grant was approved. We soon had a check from the Foundation, c/o Kimmerling and Wisdom, in our hands. Ecstatic, we could now pay for our needed soil, excavator and loader, as well as a weather station. This is when the generous pilots of our little club stepped up to match the Foundation’s grant, giving us the capital to start. By the time you read this, the weather station will be up, and we will be preparing for the 2019 XC season to begin. We all manage to fit flying into our lives in whatever small way we can, but this project is a fine example of how individual pilots and organizations make our local and national communities so great. The locals, as well as the Cibola National Forest, combined with the

TOP Sandia Soaring Association members on the last day of work. Photo by Dan Shorb. MIDDLE Visitors like Rich Reinauer from Texas can now enjoy the fruits of the labor, even in some mid-winter therms. Photo by Rich Reinauer.

Abruzzo’s generous help and the Foundation’s grant, created a new opportunity for us all. From our mountain island, we can now sail deep into the skies of the Land of Enchantment. I encourage you to come visit. Perhaps it’s your turn to try to steal Patrick’s record from him. Unless, of course, Max or some other local beats you to it.

BOTTOM John Kear, Tim Smith, and the view westward to the Big Sky landing zone. The future looks bright. Photo Dan Shorb.


The Helmet Question

[ contributed by NIK HAWKS ]

There's a lot of information out there—let's break it down

ABOVE The author and There’s nothing like being in the market for a his new lid. helmet to have everyone you meet say, “Well,

BLUF: I bought a Predator DH6X, which is a carbon-fiber helmet with visor that is made when you buy one, let me know what you got.” for downhill skateboarding. I got into the market after slamming into a Funnily enough, downhill skateboarders used mountain and cracking my helmet in the crash. to buy paragliding helmets. Then they saw Cracking a modern helmet is not easy, and it that the paragliding industry wasn’t keeping made picking out my second helmet a far more up with the latest helmet tech that the downserious affair than when I bought my first. hill-bike industry was developing, but evenI looked at both the Charly line and the Icaro tually discovered the downhill-bike industry line, but didn’t like the fit of either. I also felt wasn’t making quite what they wanted either. they hadn’t made any significant protection A few companies sprang up to fill the niche *I wrote to both Charly updates to their helmets in a few years.* With for downhill skateboarders. I brought their & Icaro regarding their the realization that I only have one brain, I idea back full circle and jumped on board with last helmet update figured I wanted the best protection around. the newest helmet tech I could find in a sport but as of the time Keeping this in mind, I started checking out that shares many of our design requirements. of submission for Along the way to buying that (US $470 publishing have not MIPS technology, which is the “sliding plane heard back from them. technology” that basically has taken over the shipped), I educated myself enough about helhigh-end biking helmet world. And for good mets to give you some good guidelines when it measure, I took a look at the latest and greatcomes time to replacing your own skull-saver. The good news? For under $300, you can get est in football helmet technology. 16 US H PA P I LOT


REALLY good helmets. Before I get to that, though, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.

Open face vs. full face

Yes, I know you have an opinion on this. I have yet to talk to a pilot who is not absolutely sure one way or the other, usually due to personal experience. But set your opinion aside for a moment and pretend you’re new to the sport and want to know “the numbers” on helmets. You might ask, “Are there any studies that have been done on full face vs. open face? Are there any other sports whose participants wear helmets that we can learn from?” As it turns out, you aren’t the only one to ask those questions. Multiple studies have been done that investigate what helmet and which helmet-wearing practices are most protective. One “confounding factor” in those studies is that they were done on motorcyclists, not paragliders. Still, I don’t think there’s enough difference when crashing to say that what holds true for motorcyclists will be generally untrue for paragliders. With that in mind… The first study I found, out of Taiwan, included a total of 916 motorcyclists. 435 of them sought emergency care treatment due to head injuries, 23 died from head injuries at the scene of the crash, and 458 had non-head injuries and were used as a control group. The second study, out of Brazil, looked at 253 motorcyclists who sustained facial injuries in an accident. The third study, and there is a LONG list of these studies, (I’m just listing three) gathered data from 9769 motorcyclists over the course of eight years. In all of the studies, the following three pieces of information stick out: Number one: Wear a helmet. That basically quarters your chance of injury. Number two: Fasten your helmet securely. Compared with motorcyclists with firmly fastened helmets, those with loosely fastened helmets increased their risk of head injury and were more than twice as likely to have brain injuries. Number three: If you want the best possible protection, wear a full-face helmet. Compared to full-face helmets, those wearing half-coverage helmets were more than twice as likely to

have brain injuries or head injuries. Yep, you read that right. Not convinced because you heard of someone snapping his/her neck due to a full-face helmet? I know it sounds dramatic, but the studies (yes, more than one of them) show that full-face helmets prevent more injuries than open-face. Not all research agreed with this outcome. One study showed there was no difference in the Facial Injury Severity Scale (FISS) between open-face and no helmets. This may be due to riders on different bikes (sport vs. cruiser) going different speeds and taking different risks.

󲢫 You might ask, “Are there any studies that have been done on full face vs. open face? Are there any other sports whose participants wear helmets that we can learn from?” As it turns out, you aren’t the only one to ask those questions. 󲢻 You can do what you want. I bought a fullface. Next up: What else should you look for in a helmet? I’ll break it into three categories— certifications, weight, and materials.


Ground rules: All helmets must have some certification. Even if you could find one, you shouldn’t buy an uncertified helmet. Three main bodies certify the helmets with which we pilots fly: • European Committee for Standardization (CE EN) • American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM) • Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Each certifying body uses different sets of tests. There are impact tests, penetration tests, and roll-off tests, as well as tests of differently shaped anvils being smashed into helmets, including flat-faced, round, and cone-shaped. Piercing and pointy-shaped objects also are

ABOVE Most helmets are single impact and once structure is compromised must be thrown out. This is an extreme example but if you've had any impact it's worth checking the liner and the shell very carefully.


stabbed through the helmets, and basically any element of helmet destruction you can think of is exploited and tested. The helmets are heated, cooled, wetted, and dried. In some cases, they’re “artificially aged,” or “conditioned.” Now, this doesn’t mean that every certified helmet gets all those tests; this is where the certifications become confusing. Up until 2014, the FAI tried to make it easy on us pilots by being restrictive. They only wanted us to use EN 966 certified helmets. In May of 2014 they decided to open it up to snow and ski helmets, in order to give us more access to current technology. If you want to compete in FAI-sanctioned “1st category” events, you’ll need a helmet certified to one of three certifications: EN 966, which specifically targets “airsports” helmets, ASTM2040 for snow sports, or SNELL rs98 for ski-and-snow helmets. Hang gliders can also use EN1077 A & B EN 966 tests for shock absorption, penetration, and retention system strength and effectiveness. The helmet I bought, the Predator DH6X, does not pass EN 966 certification, because the retention system isn’t an easy device to open,

which increases risk of strangulation. It does pass EN 1078 (cycle and skate). I decided the potential for being strangled was an acceptable risk, in light of everything else about the helmet being the latest and greatest tech. If you’re not worried about competing and you’re psyched on a bike helmet, you’ll want to look for EN 1078 or ASTM F1952 certifications. Until I found the Predator, I was leaning towards a downhill mountain-bike helmet, because they were relatively lightweight and seemed to be leading the helmet tech charge. But they had two problems: They had too much ventilation, for my liking, and none of them was a particularly comfortable fit for me. A quick word about trying on helmets: I went to my local paragliding shop and a local mountain-bike shop and tried on every full-face helmet they had. Yes, it was a pain in the butt and cost me a full day of driving around. Still, I strongly suggest you do the same, as helmet fit and pressure points become obvious far more quickly in real life than on Internet product images. Finally, if you, as I did, wanted to know why many helmets have only one certification for their sport, keep in mind that each certification costs the company about $5000, plus the cost of all the helmets they have to provide that’ll be destroyed. For many small companies, it doesn’t make sense to get EN 966, when their main market is somewhere else. I decided that I’d be fine with anything that had at least one of the following: EN 966, ASTM F1952, EN 1077A, CPSC, SNELL rs98, all mentioned already, or EN 1078, which is the European certification for pedal cyclists, skateboarders, and roller skaters. While they all have slightly different tests they are required to pass, they’re all within the realm of what I am comfortable with when it comes to protecting my head.


Look at the weight of your helmet. For you pencil necks, X-Alp racers, and generally ultralight lovers, you’ll want it on the light side, say 350-600 grams. I don’t think that lightweight is worth the risk of decreased padding and protection, but I know some of you cut your toothbrushes in half to save a few grams. Keep in mind that it’s your head you’re protecting. I consider the condition of my head and face


pretty important. For those of us who aren’t driven to cut weight at the cost of protection, under 800 grams is fine. Now, your helmet can weigh too much. For me, that number is anywhere over 800 grams. Most motorcycle helmets start at around 1000 grams. “How much is too much?” will start out as a function of how long you like to stay in the air at any given time, how far you’re hiking with that weight, whether or not you fly a hang glider, and how strong your neck is. At some point, probably around 1400 grams, a helmet just gets too dang heavy to wear and *may* increase the neck-snapping potential in a crash. HOWEVER, no studies I could find mentioned any issues with helmet weight vs. injury protection, so you’ll have to figure out what makes you happy and feeling safe.


Helmets have basically three useful layers: the shell, the hard foam that actually protects you, and the soft foam that protects against the bumps and scrapes of life on the hill. On MIPS helmets there’s another layer or two for sliding

about, but more on that in a minute. First, let’s talk about shells. There is basically no difference between fiberglass, carbon fiber, or anything else in how well the shell material protects you in a crash. I’ll bet some of the manufacturers will howl about that statement, but the biggest difference among those materials is the weight, not the protection. Using carbon fiber will save you a few grams (say, 40) and more or less double the price of the helmet. Yes, carbon fiber is tougher and may offer more protection in a “double impact crash.” Still, carbon fiber is NOT an essential component in a helmet that will protect you. Now, let’s talk about the two types of foam. There’s “crushable foam,” which is the stuff that absorbs impact for you. For most crushable foam, it’s a one-time-use only. You crash, it crushes, then you walk to the trash can and throw the helmet away. I did not know this and wore my first helmet through the third crash. Ignorant and unsafe? Yes. Hopefully you learn from the risk I took. Why is it so important that the foam crushes without rebounding? Much of the damage to your head in an impact comes from your brain

󲢫 Here’s the important part about spending money on helmets: Even the most expensive helmet is way cheaper than most hospital bills, and... you’ve only got one head. 󲢻

tion shell in your helmet that allows your head to slide around a bit inside the helmet, reducing rotational forces on impact that are linked to brain injuries. As I got deeper into it, I came to the conclusion that MIPS is closer to excellent marketing than a drastic improvement in helmet protection, although I’m sure it may help. The basic flaw in the MIPS thinking is that most helmets don’t fit you perfectly enough to stop your head and scalp from rotating anyway. Your scalp is nature’s MIPS. (That idea came from Helmets.org, so while it’s clever, it’s not mine.) The MIPS folks have an alternate position that you can look up on the Web. At the end of the day, MIPS is unlikely to hurt you in a crash, will only cost you a bit of extra money and restrict you to helmets with MIPS if you decide to make it a priority.

bouncing around inside your skull. If you use foam that crushes and then “bounces” back, it’ll basically transmit that bouncing energy to your brain. The two main crushable-foam types used are EPS and EPP. EPS (Expanded Poly Styrene) is the foam of choice in most helmets today. It’s cheap, light, easy to manufacture and mold, and has excellent no-bounce-back characteristics. EPP (Expanded Poly Propylene) is a bit more rubbery than EPS and more multi-impact resistant. It needs to be thicker in order to provide the same amount of crush protection OK, that’s the long and short of what I found. as EPS. I’ll finish up with some three points of perThere are about 10 other types of crushable spective. foam, along with various types and styles of First, helmets are for protecting you in manufacture, including cones of alternating *some* crashes. They are not infallible devices. thicknesses of foam, straw shapes of foam, Searching for a helmet that will protect you in hex cells, etc., all in various stages of use and all circumstances will leave you empty handed. protection. But EPS and EPP are what you’ll There is no certification process, no test, no find in the majority of helmets. material, no magical manufacturing process In pretty much all cases, once the foam has that will guarantee you’ll walk away from a crushed due to a legitimate impact, it will not crash. protect you again. Remember: Crash, crush, Second, when it comes to buying a helmet, trash. you can spend a few thousand for a cusThe next layer is a softer layer of foam, tom-made carbon-fiber helmet, or a few huncommonly EVA (Evazote.) This is basically dred for your run-of-the-mill standard flying/ “running-shoe foam” that provides minimal skiing/skating helmet. They will both protect protection against multiple small impacts. It’s you about the same. Here’s the important part used in kayaking, wake boarding and non-cerabout spending money on helmets: Even the most expensive helmet is way cheaper than tified skateboard helmets. I think of it as good protection against, say, bumping your head on most hospital bills, and until we figure out CRISPR and a few other technology hurdles, the frame as you get out of the car, or when you’ve only got one head. Not sure what CRISyour knucklehead friend throws an empty water bottle at your head. PR is? Just spend between $200-300 on a new After those two layers, come the comfort lay- helmet and make sure it’s got at least one of ers: spongy fit pads that make sure the helmet the certifications recommended above. Finally, if you do everything right, your helstays centered on your head where you want it. They do little to nothing in protecting you met will be one of the two most useless things from an impact. you ever buy in paragliding.(The other is your Hey, hey, what about MIPS? rescue chute.) Here’s hoping that you get the MIPS was where I started my helmet quest, best helmet possible for you AND that you as it’s certainly among the latest tech to be never have to use it. marketed. MIPS is basically an extra-low-fricSee ya in the sky! 20 US H PA P I LOT


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LAUNCH 8800’ msl 40.39027778 N / 40 23’25.15” N


112.28527778 W / 112 17’07.45” W

LAND 5360’ msl 40.36611111 / 40 21’58.5” N 112.33790278 W / 112 20’16.45” W



Commodore > Stockton, Utah

[ Staff Writer > RYAN VOIGHT ]

Challenging site just west of Salt Lake City, in the Rush Valley of the Ochre Mountains When it comes to free flight, mentioning “Utah” invariably brings to mind images of Point of the Mountain. And for good reason, as The Point is a unique gem like no other and one of the best playgrounds I’ve ever experienced. Thing is, though, there really isn’t much mountain when it comes to Point of the Mountain. If a pilot can pluck himself away from the country-club-convenience of the North and South Side Flight Parks, Utah has a great deal of PHENOMENAL mountain flying to offer— with about a dozen sites within an hour or so of The Point, each offering a different type of flying experience. The site being highlighted in this profile— Commodore—draws its name from the old mining road named Commodore Pass that leads up the mountain. It is absolutely one of the lesser utilized assets in the area; I could almost guarantee there are fewer than 50 flights here each year and probably fewer than 25 flights in recent years. If you’re familiar

with the area, you already know how many active pilots fly in Salt Lake and Utah counties, as well as an eternal flow of visiting pilots, and you likely also know how abundant flyable days are in Utah. I think this site is super deserving of more pilot love. And I’ll do my best to convey why. OPEN. DESERT. The valley directly west of the “urbania” of Salt Lake City is mostly open desert. Besides the tranquil sanity (and the clean air rather than city smog or Point of the Mountain mining dust) that comes from getting away from the populous city, this open desert valley BAKES under the hot Utah sun. The valley floor is dry, covered with a mixture of light-colored dirt and rocky areas. Its only flora or growth to speak of is sage and some small, baseball-to-softball size cacti, all of which make the place a nasty wasteland, when compared to the uber-plush “lawnscape” of the North Side. But the entire valley is the way you would build it if you wanted to form

ABOVE Commodore’s ruggedness is a big part of its character and the experience that is flying here. Ryan Voight launches the iconic “Sundancer” T2C one fine day; Photo by John Glime. OPPOSITE Jackson the Dog supervises as his people-mom prepares to land. Launch is the slight flat-spot seen along the right-most ridgeline, about at the top of treeline elevation and on this day just below the snow line. Some of the road up is also visible… Photos by Ryan Voight and Sundog Pro, LLC.

ABOVE The author, out over the LZ, looks back toward launch while climbing over-the-top in a loop. The launch is located right in between the smokes, just a little below the high point of the mountain. Photo by Ryan Voight and Sundog Pro, LLC.

WHY IT’S GREAT Almost 3500 vertical feet: Even a morning sledder is a great flight. Vast open desert. Land almost anywhere. Incredible thermal potential. Rugged high-alpine, high-altitude launch: awesome experience! Big site, big flying, big fun, with easy day-trip accessibility from SLC. Evening glass-offs can be magic beyond description. Unique mood and feel worth experiencing—it’s always an adventure.


MONSTER thermals. And also, much the entire valley is fairly easily landable LZ, with just enough dirt roads to accommodate retrieves. Rising from the sandy soil and sage-laden valley are the Ochre Mountains: a rugged range of craggy, dark, rock faces and a few interconnected peaks. There is much mining history here. You’ll see old remnants of past claims, as you peer off the edge on your way up to launch. While the quality of the road isn’t too bad—a reasonable 4WD SUV is fine—don’t do too much peering, because it’s a loooooooong way down without much to stop you from going off the edge. Obviously, it’s easy enough to steer a car and stay on the road… but just sayin’… The launch area consists of a mostly flat, large clearing covered with high-alpine grasses, small sage- brush, and what I’d call “packed rock.” There is easily enough room for a hundred or more hang gliders to be set up here. (When I was living in the area, I dreamed of organizing a foot-launched comp here.) The actual launch slope is steep, rocky and reasonably clear of obstacles. I will say, in no uncertain terms, this is NOT a site for weak launch skills. Launch is at 8800’ MSL, and launching in light or no wind here is a rush. The steep launch slope helps a lot, and since it’s a high

launch that faces southwest into the predominant wind direction for the area, there is usually some wind to assist. And there’s the upslope flow from the heating/expansion in the valley below, as well as strong desert-mountain thermals forming. This is not a good site to choose on a windy day, but even on still-air days (as when a big fat high pressure system parks itself right on top of northern Utah) the thermic activity will provide plenty of wind to launch into. If you’ve been flying a while (and I wouldn’t recommend flying here without a guide or instructor if you haven’t), you know some sites can be strikingly bipolar in their personalities. Commodore is one of these sites. I’m hard pressed to recollect any site I’ve flown that is more bipolar than this one. Commodore can produce monstrous “rip your lips off” thermals, during which time your vario will make sounds you probably haven’t heard before, for long-sustained periods of time. That doesn’t necessarily mean flying here is ROUGH. It largely depends on conditions of the day, i.e., winds-aloft speeds, wind gradients, inversions, high pressure, and so on. While it certainly can be rowdy here some days, and I know some (sicko) pilots who love that, it also can be surprisingly smooth, even with the strong


thermals and high climb rates. The wide-open desert out front really helps to “settle” the air before the Ochres. When it’s not windy and the thermals don’t have to punch through an inversion, they can form together quite nicely, giving a very pleasant “big mountain” experience. The other personality expressed at Commodore in the late afternoon into the early evening is the open desert valley below radiating its collected heat, often leading to a VERY magical “glass off.” During one of my first experiences at this site, a friend brought me out there to show me the LZ (well, an easily-accessible spot in the valley that is generally considered the LZ) and the launch. When we got up to launch it was very late in the day, and

two newer pilots were already there, set up and waiting for the day to mellow. As the sun got low, their instructor/observer gave them the go-ahead, and these two pilots performed beautiful launches into about a 5-8mph steady breeze. They both flew straight, heading out into the valley toward the designated LZ. As we watched from launch, they just rose and rose and rose. If I recall correctly, when one of the pilots noticed his altimeter said 14,000 feet, he thought it was malfunctioning, until he looked behind him to the mountain and saw he was clearly well above the almost-tenthousand-foot launch. The air quality for their flight was as silky as a sled ride—so much so, that they both lazily glided out toward the LZ, looking ahead and around but not having any

ABOVE The view from launch early one morning, as low clouds fill the valley and fresh snow sits atop the peaks to the West. Flying these peaks is the reward you get after successfully working the thermals over the flats as you cross the valley! BELOW Landing in the valley- as I am here at the traditional LZ- can play tricks on you if you’re accustomed to there being hills, trees, houses, or anything else that helps with perspective. I landed a little longer than intended here, and was even farther off a couple times there… I’m a slow-learner! Photos by Ryan Voight and Sundog Pro, LLC.

RIGHT Despite the rocky terrain, the launch slope is clear and easy to run on… which is good considering the density-altitude of launch on a mid-summer day. The usual LZ is way out by the end of the row of pine shrubs… it’s easily reachable due to how much vert there is. Photo by Ryan Voight and Sundog Pro, LLC.

SOARING SECRETS It can be thermic soarable as early as 10 a.m., but think about how long you want to fly and work backwards to pick your ideal launch time. Try to avoid landing mid-day. Thermals draw up the mountain to where launch is. The next spine left or right also work well. Once up, the peaks usually produce, so stick to the high ground. Flying over the valley, look for dust devils and birds for signs of lift. The edges where lighter and darker terrain meet usually produce. If you’re high, just fly straight and you’ll find something. When flying the high terrain, bank in lift as soon as you encounter it. But over the flats, wait a moment before banking, until you’re in the stronger part (the thermals are fatter and smoother over the flats).


reason to think they were CLIMBING all the way. This anecdote brings up a couple of good points of awareness worth mentioning: LANDING can be a big deal at Commodore. Landing mid-day in the desert carries with it the risk of encountering turbulence that far exceeds the controllability of our small and light soaring aircraft. And flying later in the day can result in REAL difficulty in getting down to land; so don’t get caught by that. Plan ahead, budget lots of time and brush up on your preferred method(s) of descent. Another point to be aware of is that the valley below can be quite disorienting regarding height (AGL) and distance. There is practically no topography in the valley; the tallest growths are sagebrush. If you’ve never flown in such an expansive vastness without even a tree, I’ll bet ya a buck you misjudge your approach at least a little (and maybe a lot). I’ve seen many talented pilots get a bit kerfuffled here. And I have, as well. Luckily, it’s a BIG LZ. Just leave some extra margin,

in case. If you’re still with me: Have you asked yourself why this place is so rarely flown? I ask myself that question a lot, especially on days we were flying there. One reason is the very limited over-the-back (i.e., downwind) XC potential. Going over the back pops you immediately into the KSLC Class B airspace, which is a very strict no-go. Following the range to the north only gets you a couple of miles to the town of Tooele, before you encounter more airspace and the Great Salt Lake. Heading south is doable, but be aware of where the airspace is available, and that distance potential can be affected by Utah Lake. All that said, I feel there is a great deal of XC fun and adventure potential here. Because of the strong lift and generally light winds aloft on the best days for this site, it’s a great place for triangle tasks and the like. Before competing in my first comp, I scooped up Dave Gibson and Joe Bostik, and we put together a 60-mile triangle task that had us crossing the valley to the next range, heading


nados*), so we went back up to cloudbase and headed south, extending our distance beyond the 60-mile task. Heck of a day that was! Cross-country aside, the only other big reason this place doesn’t see more action is because it’s pretty remote. The LZ is just under an hour from The Point, but it’s another hour up to the top. Going here without a driver and spotting a car in the LZ so you can pick up the vehicle up top after flying—combined with the fly-till-dark potential of the place—can make for a pretty late return to civilization. Having a driver is just so much better. And if you and the gang want to grab a bite and tell your there-I-was stories, you’re going to have to wait until you get to Lehi, around 45 minutes from the typical LZ. Personally, I always found the rugged and remote nature of this place a part of its appeal. It gives a single flying day that certain special “flying road-trip vacation” feel that just isn’t practicable as often as most of us wish it were. Commodore, Utah… a little known… little flown… BIG site… well worth a visit! I do *strongly* recommend connecting with locals, if you’re not a VERY highly experienced pilot, due to the bipolar personality of the site and its remote nature. It’s unlikely you’ll simply happen to find anyone else up there to fly with, if you just show up. And reading the day can south along that range, and then cruising back be tricky, if your experience is at sites that are vastly different from this one. But if you’re to the LZ. We completed it insanely fast amid going there from the Northeast, please take soaring conditions that were WAY too good me with you?! (“too good” … dust devils that looked like tor-

WATCH FOR Strong winds aloft (not to be confused with strong UPSLOPE wind). Desert and high-alpine environments: cactus, red ants, rattlesnakes, etc. Dehydration! Bring and drink lots of water. High pressure and/or inversion layers can = big turbulence. Flying slowly—slow = less control, and this isn’t the place for that. Pushing out in hang gliders = reduced pitch stability. Katabatic (downslope) flow in the evenings and usually landing toward the mountain if you fly ‘til dark.

CONTACT No controlling entity for hang gliding/paragliding. Join locals and bring a driver if you can find one. Find local pilots and instructors at

www.uhgpga.org Consult a sectional or stay local to launch. Launch and the typical LZ are on BLM land; Respect the land and all its users. Close any gates you open as soon as you pass through them. For BLM rules and regulations (camping etc.)

www.blm.gov/utah LEFT Desiree Voight and an excited crew of pilots take in the open space and mountain air. Photo by Ryan Voight and Sundog Pro, LLC.

From Wildfire to Wild Flights


by 28 US H PA P I LOT



Thick smoke clogs the sky. A 1000-degree wall of flame incinerates anything in its path as it marches relentlessly through the late-summer tinderbox of brush and pine. It's hell on earth, a roiling zero-visibility apocolypse in the sky. And today, there's only one way in.


y smoke-jumping experience has influenced the way I see the world around me—especially the way I fly. Whenever someone asks, “What’s it like fighting wildfire?” I ask them to imagine hiking up the steepest slope, with the heaviest pack, on the hottest day. There is nothing glorious about it. You’re soaked in sweat. Just an hour into the shift, you’re filthy. It’s tough work. Apart from the physical stress, there are consequential demands on your mental faculties. Staying safe demands ongoing consideration. Sound

judgment must back your every move. Sure, you can argue that safety is the most important factor in any risky endeavor. But what does that actually mean? What does safety look like? We have a job to do. It involves risk. How can we enter a dynamic environment with evolving hazards, while claiming safety is most important? What does it take to engage in these risks as well as implement effective strategy and

tactics? This brings us to “risk mitigation.” Mitigating risk means hazards have been identified, scenarios have been considered, and resources and tools have been but in place to increase safety margins. A couple of solid examples of risk mitigation come from my smoke-jumping days.

Steep Fire Jump

When we fly to a fire, our eyes are glued to the small portholes in the plane, looking for a suitable LZ (jumpspot). A jump-spot is a clearing into which we feel confident we’ll be able to sink our parachutes. I remember going to one fire with a very small jump-spot in the rugged and remote country of Central Idaho. The jump-spot was roughly 600 meters above the steep slopes carved by the Salmon River—a relatively flat chunk of terrain on the middle of an otherwise steep ridge. We circled around the spot, evaluated the hazards, and determined it was a risky LEFT Building situational awareness and preparing for a fire jump. ABOVE Containing a large fire with a “back-burn” near Sun Valley, Idaho. OPPOSITE Wideopen “jumpspot” north of Richfield, Utah.

ABOVE A grassy slope free of cactus a rare find in the Sonoran Desert.

jump. If you overshot the spot, you’d likely descend all the way down to the Salmon River. If you came up short, you’d end up in the trees. We weren’t comfortable with the risks. We ended up finding a better spot, albeit much further away. Now it was going to take us time to get to the fire, which created a new set of risks. The fire could grow significantly by the time we got to it. We were able to mitigate these risks by the use of a helicopter in the area. The helicopter was able to make “bucket drops” on the fire to minimize growth, while we parachuted in and hiked to the fire. We were fortunate in having this resource already in the area. In our world, these resources are often limited. We need other/additional tools to help us mitigate risk. One of our go-to tools is the use of trigger points.

A Tool to Change Course

Trigger-points are established before engaging with risk. They are predetermined courses of action. If a particular situation arises, a particular action is triggered. These actions are intended to increase our safety margin by saving time, because the new course of action can be implemented without debate or hesitation. 30 US H PA P I LOT

One time when I was working on strong climb, and every valley crossing. a fire in Alaska, we carefully impleSome of the risk-mitigating resources we put in place as pilots include GPS mented several mitigations, including transceivers with emergency call butthe use of trigger-points. The fire was burning in the central interior on one tons, cell phones (ensuring you have side of the Yukon River. On the other service in the area), multiple reserve side was a small village. Containing parachutes, flight plans that follow the fire along the river was imperative. roads, and having a chase rig with We needed to burn along the river to two-way communication. contain that flank, a very risky operaTrigger points are hugely applicable to cross-country flying. It’s all about tion. If the fire we set got too hot and preparing for a variety of “if-then” the wind switched, burning embers scenarios. Altitude is a major factor could easily drift across the river. We in almost every scenario. It’s probably call this “spotting.” To mitigate this the biggest factor when we decide to risk, we placed several pumps along “send it!” the edge of the river where we could draft water and spray down the hot areas. We also had eight smokejumpers Southern Arizona XC Flight pre-positioned 80km away who could My first flight over 50 km went over be ordered to quickly parachute onto several sets of rugged mountains the other side of the river. And we put rising up from the Sonoran Desert. It in place “trigger points.” was late November, so thermals were, If we experience extreme fire behavwell… what you’d expect at that time ior and/or the wind switches direction, of year. Much of the flight was over wilderness, without road access. Using we shut down the burn operation. If an InReach mitigated the risks of flythe fire spots across the river, we immediately order up the nearby load of ing in this remote area. I could request jumpers. Making these important deassistance in an emergency and keep my ride updated. I also was flying with cisions prior to time-sensitive events everything I needed to camp and hike means we can quickly alter course. 20 kilometers out. This structured approach to mitiThe flight was nothing short of ingating risk easily transfers to every free-flight plan, every launch, every credible. The scenery was stunning! I


󲢫 Trigger points are hugely applicable to crosscountry flying. It’s all about preparing for a variety of “if-then” scenarios. Altitude is a major factor in almost every scenario. It’s probably the biggest factor when we decide to “send it!” 󲢻 was fortunate to share the experience with a visiting pilot named Thomas who had left the dreary winter skies of England to spend the holiday season under the Arizona sun. Thomas did most of the pre-flight legwork. He contacted the Nogales Airport ATC to get permission for a two-hour window to fly through the east side of the controlled airspace. To get that far we would need to find a couple serious climbs. Our trigger point to “send it” was climbing 500 meters above Mt. Wrightson, the tallest peak in southern Arizona. We hooked into something strong over Madera Canyon on the north side

of the tall peak that left our varios singing. The edge of the thermal was soft, while the core was surprisingly strong. It was a dream thermal. We more than doubled our trigger point when we decided to send it!

Above and Beyond

This altitude ensured we wouldn’t end up landing in the designated wilderness area. Fortunately, the space above the wilderness area was filled with buoyant air, reducing our stress and increasing stoke. The flight was going better than expected. Cruising over and beyond the wilder-

ness area only took us a third of the way to our goal, so we needed to remain vigilant during our journey. We couldn’t lose sight of the other trigger points we had put in place. Our next trigger point came up as we reached State Highway 82, where our chase rig was waiting. When we had the highway on glide, we could start thinking about a pivotal choice about whether to land there or continue south. As you might expect, this decision once again was based on altitude. Our trigger point was activated after getting below 1000 meters AGL (above the highway). We would not leave the safety and convenience of the highway, unless we were at or above 1000 meters. Reaching the highway brought a huge sense of relief. The most remote portion of the flight was now behind us. With pavement under my wing, I glanced at my vario and saw that I



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was just 400 meters AGL (above the highway). Sink, sink, sink,… I flew a wide 360, but only experienced sink. I was fine with just setting up for a landing, because the flight had already been a blast! Thomas was another 200 meters above me. I knew he wanted to keep going and, frankly, so did I! We decided to stick together. I didn’t want to hold him back. It’s important to pause at moments like this to think about external pressure that might be influencing our decisions—human factors that can affect our perception. Sticking to the trigger points helped us prevent this. My British friend had already made his way south of the highway and hooked into a great climb. I flew under him and searched everywhere. Unfortunately, it seemed as if this upward elevator had taken off without me.

Looking for a Low Save

Keeping the highway on glide, I got on bar and continued my search elsewhere, where I found nothing but sink. I was now only 120 meters AGL. I decided to make my way toward our chase rig, when I suddenly felt my wing pitch behind me, and my vario start to sing. Was this my low save? Flying straight through this lift, I reached the other side and made a wide, flat turn back into it, searching for the core. I was able to map this thing out and knew it was small. A few passes through the core, I was thrilled to see I’d climbed 85 meters. I worked this thing until it seemed to join up with another larger thermal. Sticking


On the other side of each of these ranges was restricted airspace. An army base was to the east of us, while an enormous bombing range was to the west. We were in total compliance with FAR 103, but there were still some harsh realities to confront.

Whoa! What Was That?!?!

ABOVE The author, fully prepared to hike out. BELOW Few things bring as much stoke as a “low save”!

a wingtip in the core, I began circling my way up and reentered this XC adventure. Ha! Just like that, I was above Thomas. Reaching 1800 meters AGL, I got on the radio and told Thomas, “I’ve got altitude; now we have options!” He was every bit as stoked as I was. He replied with a “Yahoo! Let’s go for it!” Onward we went! Heading south, we flew between the Santa Rita and Patagonia Mountains.

We can’t fly in restricted airspace, but they are allowed fly through the same space as we are. Remember this, especially when you’re anywhere near restricted airspace or military operation areas (MOAs). I didn’t see any jets, but I spotted a unique white metal object that was the fastest moving thing I’ve ever seen. It was one of those large white drones, the kind that is large enough to carry a payload of hellfire missiles. It flew within a mile of me at roughly the same altitude. I immediately turned away from its path but still got rocked. The air was a disorganized mess that affected my flight, starting with a few tip folds, eventually resulting in the wing’s pitching. It was all happening so fast. My timing of inputs must have been off, because the wing ended up way behind me. I had stalled the wing and was losing altitude fast. Even though the wing was beginning to re-pressurize, it wanted to turn. I leaned the other way to counter what I thought was a potential spin. I was falling fast; only 20% of my wing was pressurized. It’s difficult to think of trigger points at times like this, but, fortunately, I had rehearsed this trigger point over and over.


I’m going to refrain from sharing the numbers I’ve set for myself. Selecting altitudes related to reserve deployments involves careful consideration. My trigger points are based on several SIVs and talking with several pilots who’ve thrown reserves in rowdy conditions. Thankfully, I never reached altitudes or experienced events that activated my rehearsed trigger points. It was probably just twelve seconds, but it felt like several minutes to me. Finally, I synched my inputs with the wing. I was able to stabilize it and regain control. Whew! That was sketchy! Fortunately, this whole mess only cost me about 300 meters of altitude. Thomas saw it all from a safe distance, and I was happy to have him there.

Taking Time to Reevaluate

A mess like this encourages you to reevaluate your plan. Thomas and I went back and forth on the radio, considering our options. We could just land and have a short hike to the near-

est road. We were within 10k of our goal, where our chase rig had driven when we left the highway. Deciding to continue to our goal meant crunching some numbers, but, more importantly, we needed to have an honest gut check. Did we feel comfortable continuing to our goal? Thomas saw the mess I went through and began by deferring this call to me. I told Thomas I’d feel more comfortable if we lost some altitude, because I didn’t want to be anywhere near these high-speed aircraft. Thomas agreed that losing altitude could give us vertical separation and increase our safety margin. High above the Sonoran Desert we began our descent techniques. Brief spiral dives brought us down to 2000 meters AGL. Despite losing significant altitude, we had a tailwind and almost had our goal on glide. We were fortunate to find a line that was free of any significant sink and even found a couple patches of lifty air. And just like that:

We could see our chase rig. We were going to make it! Cold beverages and high fives were awaiting us. Careful preparation helped us get all the way to Kino Springs, just north of our country’s southern border. Identifying and mitigating risk was key to our success. Setting trigger points kept us focused and ensured we weren’t pushing things. Years of fighting wildfire have provided countless opportunities to identify, assess, and mitigate risk. It’s a formula that can be transferred to just about anything. Sitting around a table with a few buddies, a sectional air-chart, a weather forecast and the thrill of possibilities is one of my favorite aspects of paragliding. The process involves critical thinking. Research is rewarded. It not only widens our safety margins, but also helps us grow as pilots to surpass our personal bests! Lane Lamoreaux is a P-4/T-3 Advanced Instructor

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Photographer JEFF AMBROSE captures the light during a Utah summer evening.

Evan Garcia, a world-class kayaker, knows a good amount about chasing flow states. Some would say it's a life dedication for him. He headed to Patagonia to combine two sports that share almost everything but the medium they're practiced in.



by 36 US H PA P I LOT




ello, my fellow USHPA folks! I started flying paragliders about two and a half years ago and, like many, I’ve fallen deeply for this quirky little sport. I am a professional whitewater kayaker and a distributor for a brand of boats in the U.S., giving me time to chase weather, stack hours, and basically be a complete and utter “skycrack-head.” I could thank an easy-going lifestyle for my rapid progression into free flight; however, I must attribute the skill I have to my mentors Matt Henzi and the many talented pilots in the Pacific Northwest that I call home. I live in the Columbia River Gorge, which is famous for being a powerful venturi and a mecca for kiteboarding. Flying here is actually really fun and

OPPOSITE The most consistent site in the Pucon area is a lakeside hill in the neighboring town of Lican Ray. We were launching around 6 p.m. and flying until dark in smooth, lifty air. TOP An evening glass-off flight with my brother Ian Garcia near Lago Caburga in the Pucon valley. These sites would start working later in the day when the valley winds calmed down. BOTTOM Julian Tisato dropping one of the Blanco’s most scenic and must-run waterfalls. You get a good idea of the contrast between the blue water and forested canyon walls. Photos by Evan Garcia.

super instructive when it’s working, but sometimes that’s only a few days a month. This leaves me, as a wild dreamer, with time to explore outrageous and sometimes far-fetched ideas. I’ve traveled to Patagonia at least once a year for almost half of my life, because my brothers and I traditionally wintered in the small town of Pucon, Chile. With a band of like-minded gypsy kayakers, we paddled to our hearts’ content, while all the rivers in North America froze. Fast forward to the summer of 2016 in California’s High Sierras. A tomahawk-like crash down a 100-foot-tall cascade left me with a dislocated and

broken shoulder. The type of kayaking I do comes at a price, leaving me healing, time off the water wondering what else is out there. Like most adventurous humans, the dream of flight has always intrigued me. During this particular “dry spell,” I decided to see what flying parachutes were about. I didn’t know if I wanted to speed-fly, base-jump, or parasail. Thanks to my good friend, Isaac Levinson, one experience led to another, and before I could even paddle again, I had my P2. From the moment I left the ground, I started to understand these magic pieces of fabric and knew that one day, when my skills caught my aspirations, I would return to my second home of Patagonia to fly. The next few years were a roller coaster ride of literal ups and downs. Learning a new sport is humbling. After one of those, “You’re not sure you’re ever coming down” flights, I learned to greatly respect the power of the sky. Perhaps the coolest thing paragliding has done for me is open my eyes to the amazing and totally invisible world swirling around us. It’s changed the way I look at and connect with our planet. I now love stopping to feel the wind and looking up for clouds, and I pay more attention to the weather forecast than the news. I’ve also learned to appreciate many places that I couldn’t fathom liking before this journey. Take any flatlands, for instance: I used to cringe thinking of their sheer nothingness. Now I thrive in the desert; my favorite site is Oregon’s Pine Mountain. Many have already recognized that paragliding is similar to whitewater kayaking, but for me they feel more like opposites. I’ve spent my whole life following rivers, the literal veins of our planet, on a one-way path to a set destination. Flying is borderless and, as a newer pilot, also feels limitless. The scale and freedom of flying is different from anything I’ve ever experienced. In strong thermals, one can climb a mile much faster than

TOP Cerro Piltriquitron, the launch in El Bolson, is huge and very well maintained thanks to the great community of local pilots. MIDDLE A moment of choice: Push on toward Bariloche, or take my last easy LZ? In the distance you see Lago Guillelmo, which is the crux of this route due to zero landing options and a confluence of two major valley systems. BOTTOM Flying over the city of El Bolson before starting the flight north toward Bariloche. El Bolson is famous for being a very bohemian city and is full of artisans creating all types of art, food, and craft beer. Photos by Evan Garcia.

one can run a mile and, with altitude, jump entire mountain ranges or cross vast deserts that would otherwise take days or be impossible to navigate. The two sports do greatly intertwine, however, in requiring a solid mental game to thrive or excel. I like the phrase “Grace Under Pressure,” which denotes being able to perform at a high level in a stressful environment, as in deciding to run a scary rapid on a river when you HAVE to go left, but the water wants to push you to the right. In such a case, you must keep yourself mentally composed in order to take the physical actions necessary for a successful descent. This need for composure is also obvious in flying, as in those times when you encounter some terrible turbulence that causes your wing to suddenly and violently shoot. If you freeze, your wing continues as it’s going and will collapse; if you panic, you may over-correct and stall or spin your wing. Making the correct move in a tough moment is “grace under pressure.” Oftentimes these are subtle and precise reactions that take time and experience to master. But the next time you’re flying, think about staying calm (grace under pressure) and actively pilot your wing. I love the side of me that emerges during these situations that allows me to tap into this mental zone, which helps in every aspect of my life. 38 US H PA P I LOT

This brings my story to November 2018 and my annual trip to Patagonia. I arrived in Chile after a breakthrough season of flying at home. I had big aspirations, endless motivation, and, for sure, too high expectations. I already knew Pucon’s flying was super technical from the previous year, but right off the bat, I was quickly reminded of why. Pucon is a picturesque place to get into the air, but the flying feels challenging, partly because a vicious valley wind builds up almost every single day. There are, however, beautiful sites around this area that offer plenty of flying. All of them are great, but my wild dreams of cloud hopping on an Andean crossing seemed far from being realized—even though I know those days do occur. During these multi-sport trips, I try to fly during the day and paddle hard in the afternoons. This is easy to do in Pucon, as everything is nearby and accessible. After two weeks in what I refer to as “the siphon” of Chile, I’d spent way more time on the river than in the air. Some cool ridge runs, nice glass-offs, and way too many windy landings about sums up the flying I did. Right about when I thought my flying luck had run out for this trip, a weather window finally presented itself. I have an unhealthy list of “dream flights” that gets longer every time I find myself on Xcontest, but one in particular always stands out. Just south of Pucon, on the Argentinian side of the border, is the mountain city of Bariloche and its southerly neighbor, El Bolson. The valley that connects these two cities runs north to south and is exactly what you’d imagine Patagonia to look like—rugged snow-capped peaks in every direction, turquoise lakes, and dense native forests blanketing every inch of the ground. During my Xcontest benders, I’d seen GPS tracks of numerous pilots making a 100km flight through this valley in both directions. Knowing the area very well from paddling trips, it


immediately went to the top of my dream flight list, but always seemed like some far-off fantasy. With this weather window, however, the forecast for Pucon and the surrounding area was amazing, and I am a firm believer in chasing your wildest dreams! When light wind arrived in Patagonia, it seemed as if the day had come, and I wasted no time loading up and heading for there. A seven-hour drive over the crest of the Andes Mountains, through the Argentine flatlands, and past the iconic city of Bariloche landed me in the “hippy” town of El Bolson. I’m lucky to be connected in this area of the world, thanks to my many paddling friends, so upon arrival, a friend got me in touch with a local pilot who also happens to own a tiny hostel. Arriving late at night, I had a quick chat with my new pilot friend about the flight I’d be attempting the next day. The small amount of data I received helped increase my knowledge of the route and some crucial landing potentials, but also made me more nervous about a few of the crux moves. What’s a good conversation with a local without a few scary tales to get the gringo to respect the zone? The 25th of November started as a perfect cloudless day, as I walked down the funky side streets of El Bolson toward the local LZ. I arrived early, since I did not want to miss a ride up the massive mountain where we would be launching. Once noon rolled around, I was worried it was already too late to start a big flight, but this is not the case for the west-facing site of El Bolson. A truck full of happy pilots finally arrived and assured me we would be launching at the perfect time. A dusty road led us halfway up Cerro Piltriquitrón and left us at a beautiful “Alps-esque” launch site, with turf, shade, and about 30 Argentinian pilots. I was surprised to see such a thriving community of pilots in this area, but they’ve made the sport quite

approachable, with good instructors and accessible sites. After chatting up some of the locals, I realized the XC crew was planning to go out into the flats instead of flying in mountains to the north. I’d come to Argentina to fly these mountains, so I decided if the day felt good, I would stay in the big terrain and fly toward Bariloche. Just as the locals had explained, the day started late and slower than expected. I launched at 12:50 but didn’t get enough height to “go over the back” until 2:00. The site is massive and a great place to start a flight, but for the first hour of flying, we were hitting an inversion that kept the ceiling low. This kept us from leaving the site in a timely fashion, but it was nice to warm up a bit before making bigger moves. As soon as the broken tops of the thermals got higher, I left the site, alone. I could see two pilots in front of me heading straight east into the flats. The wind was still light, so I decided to stick to my plan and explore these incredible mountains I’d dreamt about so often. The flying was powerful and TOP Waiting on Cerro Otto, the main launch in Bariloche. You can see the bigger terrain to the west is already working quite well. MIDDLE Looking down at Lago Guillelmo and enjoying an amazing view towards Chile. BOTTOM Heading south towards a perfect sky and feeling high over a mountain locals call “Siete Colores,” The Seven Colors. Photos by Evan Garcia.

somewhat intimidating, being a low day for this area, and I felt just a bit close to the rugged terrain. With that said, the flight was going swimmingly! Beautiful steep cliff faces led up to snow-covered bowls and peaks. I even got to climb with a few different Andean condors, which are prehistoric-looking birds with wingspans up to 10 feet. About 30 km into the flight, I started to encounter some wind at a major river-valley crossing. On maps this sec-

My beautiful and friendly landing at the end of my flight starting in El Bolson. From here I hitchhiked back south to where I started. Photo by Evan Garcia.

tion seems like the crux, as the terrain is lower and shallower than on the rest of the route. I have a rule while flying XC: Once I see 13mph wind, I start to fly more conservatively. My vario was reading 13-14mph after the crossing, and I was getting somewhat low on this shallow feature. Since my few landing options looked further away and the wind wasn’t backing off, I started to get a bit nervous. I decided to play it safe and push out towards the road to find a decent place to land. I wasn’t penetrating into the wind very fast and started to get that funny little feeling of being stuck in the sky. I have a theory in cross-country flying; “When you truly want to get on the ground, you’ll always find a thermal, but when you truly want a thermal, they aren’t always there.” So right when I made up my mind and wanted to be on the ground—Boom! I hit a really strong and rowdy climb that tossed me right back in the game. The next 20 km of the flight pass over a gorgeous class-5 river and went smoothly, as the wind slowly backed off. At about 5 p.m., I was faced with another decision: Should I keep pushing into the committing lake section 40 US H PA P I LOT

before Bariloche? Or take the last and very accommodating landing to start the hitch-hike back to El Bolson? I decided to be a good boy and land right next to the road to start the adventure back to my hostel. I love hitchhiking in this part of South

ABOVE Below me lies the Rio Villegas and a committing canyon full of class 5 whitewater. To the north you can see the start of the lakes and the massive Volcan Tronador. Scenic to say the least! Photo by Evan Garcia.

America, because I feel safe and know I’m bound to meet some lovely people. Sure enough, after 45 minutes of waiting, I was picked up by an international group of climbers and enjoyed good company all the way back to where I started. All in all, the day felt perfect. It wasn’t a huge flight at 66 km, I didn’t fly fast or efficiently, but I did spend over four hours getting a bird’s-eye view of this magnificent place. The next day was too windy for me, so I made a plan to meet up with a longtime Argentinian friend to enjoy a day on the water. (What I didn’t mention before is that my favorite river in all of Patagonia, the Rio Blanco del Sur, is only a short drive from El Bolson.) On our drive to the Rio Blanco we talked, caught up and drank liters of maté, a highly caffeinated herbal tea consumed from a gourd, using a long metal straw. Because this is a flying publication, I won’t go too deeply into describing the day, but this particular river has a certain magic you don’t find many other places on this planet. Geology is everything in whitewater, and this river sliced right through one beautiful chunk of perfect granite. The contrast between perfect water-


falls, Caribbean-blue water, and the dramatic arid canyon walls fills my soul with the kind of deep satisfaction only found in true love. It was a fabulous day on the water with great friends. I am always eternally grateful for the opportunity to run this secret little river. I arrived back in town to find a message from one of the pilots I’d met the day before asking if I was interested in going to fly Bariloche the next day. A quick check of the forecast indeed hinted the flying would be epic and pointed toward starting up north. The biggest hurdle for flying in Patagonia is the wind, so for me it’s pretty easy to spot a good flying day. Get on the wind app, go to 3000 meters, and if it’s light, you’re probably good to go. The locals also use XCskies and say it works quite well for the zone. So once again I got to doze off to sleep with thoughts of swirling around magical pointy mountains on my “dream flight.” Waking up early to make the drive to Bariloche, I enjoyed the company of new friends and once again drank a ridiculous amount of yerba maté. In Bariloche the local pilots use a launch on a small bump in the middle of the city known as Cerro Otto. Compared to the site in El Bolson and the sur-

󲢫 The flight started off really slowly. I don’t love to make a habit out of rounddred scratching, but to stay in feet over ing the air on a day like this, launch. This mountains, was OK, except it’s tiny, has a I was ready to go that cloudbase very urban vibe, was 1500 meters and doesn’t feel like low to get higher. “Patience, young the best place to start a high! 󲢻 grasshopper,” I had to flight. I think it’s the main

remind myself. That, plus launch they use for convebreathing and relaxing into my nience sake, as it’s 10 minutes harness made the first hour go by from downtown. easier. I was sharing the air with 10+ The day looked incredible; every pilots, and by hanging in the back of a mountain around the lake was prorocky little bowl, I got a rogue thermal ducing perfectly balanced cumulus that broke our frustrating inversion. I clouds, except the small bump we frisbeed over the back alone and lower were sitting on. As far as para-waiting than you would hope to go, but at this goes, as at most launches, this was a point, I was ready to leave this little beautiful place to spend some time lump of rock and dirt. The glide felt staring at the sky. We sat perched easy, thanks to the wind, and a lifty above the city and on the shores line of air led me straight to the start of one of Patagonia’s biggest lakes, of the big mountains, a place they call, Nahuel Huapi. Being extremely fired “la ventana,” aka the window. up by the sheer amount of maté I’d Upon arriving at the big terrain, the consumed on the drive, the moment vibe of the day completely shifted to good cycles started rolling up the hill, proper big-mountain flying. There I launched! was lift everywhere, and the climbs The flight started off really slowly. were as strong as anything I’ve ever I don’t love to make a habit out of experienced. In this type of flying, I go scratching, but to stay in the air on back to focusing on my “grace under a day like this, I was ready to go low pressure” mentality. In the end, that’s to get high! Twenty, 30, and then 40 all you really have up there, your abilminutes into the flight the tops of the thermals were still cresting a few hun- ity to make educated guesses by using BELOW El Bolson local Mariano Ferrer dropping into a big sliding rapid on the Rio Blanco.

everything you have at your disposal: feedback from your glider, the clouds, surfaces of the lakes, trees, birds, your instruments, and, most importantly, your own instinct. Everything seemed to be lining up at this point and, in most cases, it’s when that elusive and magical flow state arrives. You’re exactly where you want to be, exactly when you should be there. What proceeded for the next four hours was a smorgasbord of paragliding perfection. Cloudbase was around 11,500 feet, towering over the mountaintops, which stand around



Evan flying on the Quelhue ridge in Pucon, Chile, and looking at the Rio Trancura and Volcan Villarrica. Photo by Evan Garcia.

7000 feet asl. The conditions felt pushy, but with this amount of terrain clearance, I was comfortable pushing on solo. The flight started to move along nicely, as I could maintain altitude, but my glides felt slow due to the complete lack of wind. It wasn’t until about 80 km into the flight, when the day started to settle and I got lower, that I went back to ridge running close to the jagged summits. On my final stretch, I hit a valley wind coming from El Bolson, as expected, and finished the flight off, right behind Cerro Piltriquitrón, where I had started my flight two days prior. In cross-country flying, the “coming back to Earth” moment feels unique and is hard to compare to most other sports. From the moment you launch this tiny aircraft that weighs around seven pounds, it takes an amazing amount of constant bandwidth to maintain focus. By the end of a big day like this, I find myself lost in a euphoric combination of excitement and confusion that has me, at least for the time being, dreaming of the next flight. As I sit here a month later and recall the flying in Argentina, I would say it was textbook. That’s mostly because I’m not strapped to a piece of fabric hanging a mile over rugged Patagonian wilderness. To be honest, there were scary moments, and I am still tense flying over big mountains. This brings up one last reason why I love these extreme sports over which we all obsess. Training hard, overcoming fears and uncertainties, and coming out on the other side are religious experiences for me. They are where I find faith and solidity in this crazy world we live in. I’m not an adrenaline junkie, nor do I thrive on danger, but doing consequential activities brings out and requires a level of intensity and focus that I am addicted to. What I’ve enjoyed the most in my short paragliding career has been the learning process. If I could give one piece of advice to you as a reader, no matter what your skill level is, always allow yourself to be surprised and continue to learn from everything and everyone around you, because that’s where the magic lies. I didn’t grasp this concept with kayaking, because I was too young and too focused on being “good.” Paragliding has allowed me to become a student again, taught me to enjoy the process, believe in the unknown and the invisible, and continue to dream big!


by Staff Writer


hat does it take to make a paragliding club work really well? In a world where, suddenly, not-so-very-well-run clubs are in danger of extinction, that question looms even larger than usual, and the answer is dismayingly multifactorial. Or is it? According to Britton Shaw, it might not be. Britton Shaw is a member of the



Buffalo Mountain Flyers (“BMF,” for short). He’s pretty sure they have The Answer, if ever there was one. Anyone who’s come in contact with the BMF is bound to agree that there’s something quite remarkable about the way this far-extended family of pilots gets things done. Britton says it comes down to the style of collaboration they’ve evolved over a good, long time—and to the open arms with

which they welcome Every. Single. Pilot. Always an aviation enthusiast, Britton was flying before he could drive. He grew up in BMF country: in southeastern Oklahoma, to be specific, tucked into the cozy corner with Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas, in the Red River bottoms between the Texas flats and the Arkansas Ozarks. On a family trip north along the Arkansas/


󲢫 The club flies year-round, with a crosscountry season from March through October. November through February offers plenty of winter ridge-soaring opportunities. 󲢻

ABOVE Club officers gather for an afternoon thermaling flight. Photo by Britton Shaw. TOP RIGHT Crosscountry clinic. Photo by Britton Shaw. BOTTOM Ridge soaring on an autumn evening. Photo by Kurt Leithe.

Oklahoma state line in the early 1970s, he spotted a couple of primitive hang gliders. (Unsurprising: The area was rampant with hang gliders back in the early '70s. The national competition-

was even held there in 1977.) Britton begged his parents to stop. They did—and the starry-eyed five-year-old met some of the first members of the Buffalo Mountain Flyers. After asking a wild battery of “kid questions,” he climbed back into the car. It would be 30 years until he saw that flying club again—and it would be from a very different perspective—but that conversation left an indelible impression on the little guy. In-betweentimes, Britton spent quite a lot of time studying and spending time in the sky himself. He earned a bachelor’s degree in aviation (and a master’s degree in human resources, which would end up being useful in the context of the club.) He served in the Air National Guard for 23 years in the dual fields of flight and ground safety. He raced airplanes. He started skydiving when he decided he needed a bailout option and set about jumping “like a madman” for several seasons. By the time he came back to the same area he’d first met the BMF, he was also an established PPG pilot (and instructor, to boot). Then, in the early 2000s, he accepted a job with Gerdau Special Steel as the Safety and Environmental Director, and a serendipitous water-cooler conversation

piqued his interest. “One day,” Britton remembers, “Someone said, ‘Hey, you also fly a powered paraglider, right? Y’know you can take

TOP LEFT Students getting hauled back to launch with big smiles after first flights.

that paraglider and go run off one of Photo by Jenna Mosley. RIGHT BMF lady pilots like to get dirty, too. Photo by Jim those mountains without a motor!’ Furman. BOTTOM LEFT Hike-and-fly spirit. Photo by Rena Rowland Brown. RIGHT I perked up, and one thing led to Pilot congratulated after his first XC. Photo by Rena Rowland Brown. another. I went up there and I found five-year-old, 30 years previous. this small group of hang gliders—no The moment Britton walked onto “They adopted me,” he grins. “It paragliders—and when I say ‘small,’ I the scene, he remembers that the didn’t matter what I was flying. They mean maybe five active hang glider pi- old-timer pilots embraced him “like caught me up with the history and some long-lost family member.” The lots. They were guys who had started how they’d gotten to where they were. conversation seemed to pick up right with the bamboo-stick-and-garbageAnd they just loved on me like family. where it left off when Britton had bag homebuilds back in the day, and From the very beginning, they taught gotten back into his family car as a they’d just stuck with it.”



TOP LEFT Launch maintenance heroes. Photo by Robert Simpson. RIGHT Big smiles in the LZ. Photo by Warren Puckett. BOTTOM LEFT Safety briefing before launch maintenance. Photo by Rena Rowland Brown. RIGHT Lots of club families. Here, kiddo critiques daddy’s approach. Photo by Britton Shaw.

me everything I needed to know to be a safe pilot in that area of Oklahoma and Arkansas.” As time went on and more paraglider pilots came onto the scene, the launches—which were originally constructed to facilitate safe hang

gliding launches—started to reveal their shortfalls. “As we grew, the hang glider pilots saw that we needed to re-engineer the launch sites to welcome additional aircraft,” Britton remembers. “Right off the bat, very proactively, those

hang glider pilots started conversations about what they could do to make the launches safer for the new type of craft that was entering the scene, going out of their way to welcome and embrace these folks into their club.” Then they set about doing just that—not for their own flying, but for the pilots who had joined the “family” long after they had founded it. At

TOP LEFT First-aid and rescue training. Photo by Curtis Falconer. BOTTOM Valuable time on the training hill. Photo by Britton Shaw.

time of publication, the BMF and Arkansas flying club has 10 active sites— seven privately owned, two operated in state parks and one on National Forest land—within a 70-mile radius of its home base in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Each has “phenomenal” camping (“We groomed these locations to provide some of the most picturesque views that you can imagine,” Britton notes), or close-at-hand hotel or B&B accommodation for folks who need their creature comforts. These sites cover every conceivable wind direction. Half of them are H2/ P2, so newer pilots in the region get a varied diet of sites and experiences. Aside from that, the region boasts the longest-spanning east-west mountain ranges in the United States, the southerly slopes of which play beautifully with the predominant south winds in the summer. Notably, the club flies year-round, with a cross-country season from March through October. November through February offers plenty of winter ridge-soaring opportunities. “If you were to look at a satellite view, you see that we have the perfect blend of terrain,” Britton says. “We have mountains. We have hills. We have plains. We have the Arkansas River delta. In fact, our claim to fame is within that 80-mile radius we have the highest hill in the US. It’s called Cavanaugh Hill, and the monument up top says 1999 feet, which is exactly one foot short of the official definition of ‘mountain.’” Somewhat uniquely, those sites aren’t under constant threat. Due in great part to the careful, hard work the club does to present free flight in the best possible light, the general population around the BMF embraces free flight, too. “You’ve heard the stories worldwide 48 US H PA P I LOT


ABOVE Pilot studies conditions before launch. Photo by Warren Puckett.

about angry landowners,” Britton muses, “but it’s simply not true here. The local folks around here are incredibly supportive and hospitable. When you land in somebody’s pasture, they come out to greet you. It is just not a defensive environment. Don’t get me wrong—it’s like anywhere else, in that you have to show respect for people and property—but it is a very hospitable environment.” Those super-friendly flying sites are all within a 70-mile radius, indeed. The pilots who fly them? Not so. The BMF’s member base extends to a 350-mile radius. Weekend pilots drive in from Kansas City, Wichita, Kansas, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Texas, Shreveport, Louisiana, and Memphis. To date, the BMF has 87 members on its register. (Notably: In direct defiance of the white-bread mental image most folks have of the region, the club’s membership is a full 18% multi-ethnic, representing eight different countries.) “That’s how much stoke we have in this region,” Britton enthuses. “People from all over want to be a part of this. It’s not just the flying. The optimism in this group­—the altruistic mindset—people come through here and

see that, and if they are not permanent residents in this region, they scratch their head and try to figure out how they are going to manage to steer their careers in a way that they can get back here and fly with us.” One traveling pilot, in fact, ended up building a house at the base of one of the BMF’s popular launches and set up a thriving instructional paragliding practice. If that widespread stoke is a forest fire, let’s examine the first spark. In many ways it caught when Britton started to take his PPG students up to the launches to meet his legendary HG buddies and take a few unpowered mountain flights. Soon, the momentum built. One mountain-mad student turned into two, and two turned into four, and four into eight. Throughout this growth process, Britton was one of the very few instructors that would come into this area to teach. “I jumped on the opportunity to establish the history and working

relationships that we have with these hang gliding pilots and how special they are,” Britton says. “I was able to make it very clear how valuable everyone is and how we work together. Because these paraglider pilots were brand new, they didn’t bring any preconceived notions on how gliding clubs work.” The other key to the BMF’s success: Everyone brings a special talent to the club. “We all work together to identify those talents at the very beginning,” Britton explains. “And we encourage each pilot to share their talents, and when I say talents, I am not referring to flying talents. I am referring to the gifts and skills that we all have: the organizers, the maintenance planners, the cheerleaders, the leaders, every-

󲢫 One mountain-mad student turned into two, and two turned into four, and four into eight. 󲢻

one has a talent. Over time, we hit the perfect balance. I think that’s why we have experienced this explosive growth and we’ve been able to accomplish so much.” To get an idea of what Britton means, take the example of one of the club’s newer pilots: a jack-of-all-trades with a civil engineer’s heart and toolshed, and also the owner of a very popular bed and breakfast. When he came onto the scene, the club was able to use his heavy equipment to build a new launch and expand existing launches—and his safety savvy to do it smart. “And any time we have club meetings or functions,” Britton adds, “he opens up his beautiful guest ranch to us. What’s funny is this guy grew up in front of this mountain and never had anything to do with flying until the past few years. It has changed his life.” According to Britton, the club is full of those home-run stories, all because they’re asking the question: How can you bring your unique talents to col-

laborate in making this club the best it can be? The answers are incredibly varied, and that’s part of the magic. From great cooks to cheerful retrieval drivers to strategic planners, every BMF member contributes something vital to the mix. The BMF leadership bears mention, too: a solid set of club officers that have begun working on strategic vision. “At its maturity,” Britton notes, “this club has evolved from maintenance mode into a space of strategic vision and planning. It is nice we have evolved to this point because now we have the resources, but I cannot go any further without putting in a plug for the Foundation for Free Flight. If not for that foundation, we would probably just be sitting on one or two state-park-type launches, not enjoying all of these other privately owned sites like we do. Because of the FFF, we have been given opportunities by private landowners who are not pilots to secure permanent easements

󲢫 From great cooks to cheerful retrieval drivers to strategic planners, every BMF member contributes something vital to the mix. 󲢻 50 US H PA P I LOT

for properties that have secured our ability to fly forever. The Foundation for Free Flight made that possible. I cannot say enough good things about how they have helped us out.” Sounds pretty good, right? Want to meet the BMF for yourself? Britton insists that they’d love to meet you, too. A great time to go is for the Buffalo Mountain Flyers 4th of July Flying Fundraiser, which draws a worldwide community of pilots to the BMF sites for a ten-day event surrounding the holiday. “We invite folks in from all over,” Britton explains, “Show them a good time, take care of the novice pilots, orient new people to our sites and try to have some fundraising activities during that time to raise support for our group.” “Visiting pilots can fly into the Fort Smith regional airport,” he adds. “And within one hour they’re going to be standing on top of a beautiful launch.”


travel the globe, and to never miss an to experience the same bliss. opportunity to learn from other pilots “One of the most memorable moand other clubs—good, bad and ugly. ments of my life,” Britton muses, What that does is that brings back “was the day that I was able to fly that new knowledge to our group: my paraglider alongside of several best practices.” high-performance hang gliders and Sometimes new ideas can chafe— go on a 100-mile cross country flight. I LEFT Visiting-pilot site intro. Photo but Britton doesn’t mind, if the result get goosebumps just thinking about by Robert Simpson. CENTER Startis a net positive for the BMF. it. I will never forget it as long as I live. gate scratching. Photo by Ali Mahdavi. “I was anti-Facebook for years and I was the junior pilot in this seasoned RIGHT Sharing smiles from one genrefused to get on it,” Britton laughs, group of pilots. The one that was eration of pilots to the next. Photo by “but our four Facebook groups have always flying behind the pack, the Warren Puckett. been invaluable tools for us to be one trying to keep up. On that flight, able to communicate, since we’re so I was able to keep up with these guys, That airport doesn’t just bring separate geographically throughout and pass a few, too­—and to land with pilots in to visit. As much as possible, the region. We have one private group them, high-five them and hug one anBritton encourages club members to to discuss club business, another for fly out into the world and see what other after an epic and accomplished the strategic planning committee and flight. wisdom they can bring back home. “In my job with Gerdau Special Steel,” another for the maintenance group. “That’s what keeps me so stoked We also have the public Region 6 he explains, “a lot of what I do is about this region,” he continues, encourage the sharing of best practic- group on Facebook, and that’s really “and why I am continually trying to how we open up the lines of commudevelop our flying club so we­—old es among facilities around the globe. and new members—can experience That’s what I bring to the club table: nication with visiting pilots. We have the strategic vision for never missing really capitalized on those tools to the not just camaraderie in the group and in the LZ, but the act of pushing our an opportunity to find something benefit of our club.” good and bring it back home to this At the end of the day, Britton insists, piloting skills to a point where we can safely enjoy those epic flights with region. I’ve traveled enough as a pilot it’s all about collaborating to build our paragliders, with our hang gliders, to realize how truly fortunate I am a strong, sustainable structure on with whatever equipment we bring to with what we’ve got here: specifically, which a group of like-minded people the mountain. That we can all enjoy the general sense of harmony, and can confidently place their greatest that­­—and each other’s company—tohow well things work. But I’m always passion and purpose. After all, he has encouraging our club members to found just that­—and he wants others gether.”

T S U B r o D O C E P CA







n the afternoon of October 6th I felt sharp pangs of withdrawal. I needed airtime. I had enjoyed a long, productive summer of training new pilots and coaching Intro to SIV Clinics. It was rewarding work that made many dreams of flight come true, but not nearly enough had been my own. My last XC jaunts were in early July. The few new entries to my logbook were mostly glassoff sessions,

going with, how I was getting there, and where I would spend the night. Friday was a productive day at the office. (Or at least that’s how I am going to tell the story, since I don’t recall.) Memory gets a bit fuzzy in the depths of madness. What I do recall is somehow convincing my girlfriend Sarah that Cape Cod would be a fun adventure. She’d never been before and was excited about a road trip. What a gal!

any crap from Miss P.” The car was stuffed to the roof with gear, so Sarah’s 70lb. dog Homer had to ride in her lap until we got to my parents’ house. They would be dog sitting. Since we had taken him to his favorite place, Homer sprang from the car to play with his best friends, two standard poodles and a goldendoodle. He never looked back. “Where are we spending the night?”

󲢫 You can’t fly all morning if you don’t start at dawn... 󲢻 thanks to a bullpen of hungry novices seeking guidance at our mountain sites. But even those had been too few and far between. I needed airtime. Despair set in while I was checking the forecast. Sadly, the upcoming weekend would, again, not be flyable in northern New England. As the icy grip of winter began closing in around us, we would have few opportunities left to fly. Meanwhile, my “southern friends” from the Boston area were excitedly kibitzing they would be getting east winds on Saturday, which meant excellent coastal soaring on the Cape Cod sand dunes. Perfect timing, too, as Wellfleet, the crown jewel of New England coastal soaring, had just re-opened to flying, after the annual spring and summer closure to protect Piping Plover nesting. Yes, the southern crew would enjoy spectacular dune soaring along nearly 20 miles of the Cape Cod National Seashore Park on a pleasant sunny day, as I would probably be preparing my little home in the woods for another brutal Vermont winter. Well, there’s always Mexico in December. Wellfleet is 6.5 hours away from my house—even more, if Boston traffic is unkind—and yet I found myself packing. Not thinking: just packing. 14, 23, 25, and 38m2 wings. With this quiver, I would not get skunked. The weather would be in the 50s. Wool, down, more wool, and more down. With these layers, I would not be cold. Now I just had to figure out the details of who I was

After work, I rushed, hoping to complete final preparations quickly. Topping up the cat food dishes, I apologized to Special Agent Lunchbox, who would no doubt spend the next 24 hours getting pummeled by his crazy little sister, Reverend Sweet Pea. I left final instructions, before going: “Lunchbox, you’re in charge. Don’t take OPPOSITE Cape Cod National Seashore. BELOW Calef sampling the air at sunrise. Photos by Sarah Robinson.

Sarah asked, as we turned onto the highway. A good question. “We have six hours to figure it out,” I responded. It was that kind of a mission. At 11:30 p.m. we arrived at our hotel, still an hour away from Wellfleet. I was exhausted from driving, but, of course, I could not sleep. I looked at the weather again. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” The forecast had deteriorated to 45-degrees cross from the north and light wind… until noon, when it would

spectacular sunrise unfold over the completely die. But forecasts are often wrong. We could only hope for the best. sand dunes, which stretched out as far as you could see, interrupted only by You can’t fly all morning if you don’t start at dawn, so we woke at 4 a.m. and patches of stalky grass and scraggly hit the road by 4:45. The hour’s drive to small shrubs. The sound of the crashthe outer Cape was lovely in the preing waves was overpowering, even on dawn hours. I had a nagging thought top of the dune. A photographer down that we were exerting a lot of effort to on the beach was shooting frolicking get skunked and murmured to myself, seals. Or were they sea lions who had Please let it be flyable. traveled to be in this magical place? We arrived at the beach as the first They were enjoying themselves; I was sliver of the sun poked over the horizon. It was VERY cross and did not apABOVE Success! The author’s first pear remotely flyable. Bummer. At least soaring passes. OPPOSITE Low and we had plenty of time for it to improve. slow, Calef playing on the dune. Photos A few people sat in cars watching the by Sarah Robinson.


the only one upset at not getting what I wanted. This reminded me to slow down and enjoy the beautiful scenery, even if it wasn’t flyable. I checked out the large new sign adjacent to the stairs featuring an imposing great white shark that warned of a recent attack that had taken the life of a young man while surfing. A friend of the pilot community, he had flown tandem on this same beach a few years earlier. Tragic. I planned to stay out of the water. Some friends from Maine showed up. They had gone through similar madness, only to watch it blow cross. After our greetings, I decided it was time. “To heck with it,” I said as I pulled my gear from the car. It was a beautiful crisp morning and I might as well enjoy some kiting at sunrise… plus, you never know. With the wing above my head, I felt rejuvenated. Dragging my toes in the sand, I smiled and made peace with our failure. We had tried SO hard, but you can’t make it flyable. I kited for a few minutes, before pushing forward a bit closer to the edge. I could feel my BGD Punk wanting to lift me off the edge of the dune. It was clearly too cross, yet, impossibly, she wanted to fly. “Why not go for a sledder?” I said, as I pushed out into the wind, expecting a quick flight down to the beach. In a small miracle, the glider immediately climbed in lift. The sand seemed to deliver more lift for the conditions than the wooded hillsides I am familiar with. Plus, you can comfortably get much closer to dunes than the hills. I scratched hard, working my way upwind, minding the various ridges that might produce rotor. Turning downwind yielded exhilarating ground speed. I zoomed past launch 15’ higher than I had started and gleefully declared, “Soup’s on!” Turning back into the wind produced slow ground speeds, so I crabbed back in to launch in order to top land. Just because I could. For the first hour, I pretty much had the place to myself. Zoom, swoop, drag.



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I played. Touch and go on the picnic table? Yes, please. I top-landed over and over. Skimming along the sand dunes, I marveled at my surroundings. The sun was radiating on me. The roar of crashing waves echoed off the dune, overpowering all other sounds with a deafening peacefulness. A world away from the forest of Vermont, I lost track of time. A passing tandem reminded me that Sarah was due for a tandem flight. I had been waiting for better conditions, but it was approaching nine, meaning it might be now or never. So I top landed and switched wings. I laid out the tandem with the assistance of a few pilots, then hooked up my precious cargo and wasted no time launching. “Run, run, RUN!” I shouted. Nothing. We had no power. Sarah shot back a lame excuse, “I can’t run when my feet are not touching the ground!” OK, that

may be a valid point. I leaned forward and struggled to push into the wind. Launch impotence is the worst. “Can I get a push? Can somebody give me a push?” Nobody responded. We bobbed off launch slowly and quickly sank to the beach below. That flight was doomed from the start. The wind was no different than earlier, but I couldn’t quite make the tricky conditions work on the tandem. Drat! With the glider over my shoulder, we trudged back up the sand dune to try again. This time I enlisted a friend, Tom Lanning, for assistance. I pulled up the tandem, but instead of running down the dune, we walked backwards and sideways, gaining height and a longer runway. Accelerating the glider forward, I shouted, “Now!” and Tom came in behind with a nice strong push. We got airborne easily and stuck to the dune in good position. The

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sand. I nursed the glider into the wind for a soft, if not convenient, landing on the beach, disconnected Sarah, and we hiked up to try again. Take Three was also a bust. Another quick sled ride. Drat! After unhooking Sarah, I trudged up the sandy path with the tandem over my shoulder. It’s true what they say: It is harder to walk in the sand, especially uphill. This was my third hike, so it didn’t take long before I was winded. Looking for an easier way to solve this problem, I had a great (or stupid, TBD) idea. I unclipped the tandem from the spreader bars and hooked into the big wing directly. Then I inflated and kited up the pathway to the top of the dune. It’s a funny sensation to be hooked up TOP Sarah and Calef cruising down the seashore. BOTTOM Tom Lanning provides the power assist on launch. OPPOSITE “TOP LANDING.” Photos by Sarah Robinson.

after-booster was just what we had needed! It took a full pass of sanddune-grade scratching before we got on top of the ridge. Once established on top, we breathed a collective sigh of relief. Sarah, the Director of Social Media, broke out the selfie stick… for 56 US H PA P I LOT

business promotion… and we hammed it up for the camera. Alas, 15 minutes later the winds deteriorated, and we found ourselves clinging to the dune once more. One by one, pilots landed. “Only the strong survive,” I joked. Moments later, we were also headed to the

to a 38m2 wing at 90 kg. As you might expect, I didn’t kite long before I was airborne. Upon seeing my shenanigans, Sarah remarked, “You’re leaving me to walk alone?” She appeared equal parts amused and unimpressed by my lack of chivalry. Flying in slow motion, I buoyed up in front of the ridge. Realizing how slowly I was traveling, I pushed away from the ridge to make an additional traffic lane, so other pilots didn’t need to worry about passing me. Flying solo on the big wing was good fun, despite the mushy non-responsive brakes and split leg seating, which felt awkward without a passenger. In no time I was 150’ higher than the other gliders that clung to the ridge. #CheaterMode. I pushed out to sea to avoid being blown back. Feeling a bit cheeky for ditching my girlfriend, I pulled big ears and lined up a top landing approach. This strategy worked great, until I discovered the ears don’t come out easily when this wing is under-loaded. Oh, fun! Pump. Pump. Pump. The tip lethargically opened. Oh, well, good excuse to keep


flying. Twenty minutes later, I executed an uneventful top landing, followed by a very purposeful disabling of the big glider. As I balled up my glider, Sarah came over, wearing a big smile, to inform me of the scare we’d caused. Apparently, some folks had seen us launch tandem and, when a few minutes later saw me flying alone, feared the worst. Ha! Sarah and I had a good chuckle at that. But we agreed that it was too light to soar together, and she said she was done for the day. Not yet satisfied, I switched back to my solo glider and soared until it truly died. Packing up my glider, I realized just how tired and hungry I was. We’d been on the beach for over six hours, and I had flown at least five. It was time for me to change gears and focus on getting home. On our way home, we enjoyed some good old-fashioned MA gridlock and played round three of our favorite game called “Lost in Boston.” When we finally hit the New Hampshire border, traffic quickly thinned. The atmosphere on the road shifted from competitive to casual, a welcome change. And by the time we reached Vermont, the stress of Boston traffic was a distant memory. We rolled into my sleepy hometown at 8 p.m. and collected Homer, who didn’t want to leave Camp Poodle. Climbing out of the car in my driveway, I looked back at the mess of fabric overflowing from my back seat. “I’ll empty the sand out of you guys tomorrow,” I promised the gliders, leaving it unsaid that they would be spending the night in the car. All told, I had done 13 hours of driving, 4.5 hours of sleeping, and five hours of flying—a true marathon mission. I fell asleep on the couch, feeling satisfied at having made the most of tricky conditions and not the least bit concerned about the absurd lengths I was willing to go to satisfy my addiction. Desperation will make you do strange things, but I’d do it all over again.


Green Swamp Sport Klassic

[ contributed by SARA WEAVER ]

The world’s most successful sport-class training competition Like many programs that begin at Florida’s Quest Air, the Green Swamp Sport Klassic started as a late-night clubhouse collaboration. Frustrated by how difficult breaking into the hang gliding competition circuit was, the main players in this story—Kim Holt-Frutiger, Mark Frutiger, Jim Prahl, Belinda Boulter, Davis Staub, Steve Kroop, Lori and Russell Brown—began devising a series of flying events that would provide a pathway for beginner cross-country pilots to enter the comp scene. These beer-breath confabs would lay the groundwork for the world’s most successful sport-class training competition: The Green

ABOVE The moment of complete focus—liftoff. RIGHT Davis Straub, front and center during the pilot meeting. Photos by Adam Bain.


Swamp Sport Klassic. Held annually at Quest Air in Groveland, Florida, the GSSK has become the North American sport pilot’s best introduction to competition and cross-country flying. The first year it was held in 2015, 35 pilots showed up. Three years later enrollment hasn’t slowed, with 50+ competitors and 12 mentors. The Green Swamp Sport Klassic needs to be at the top of every cross-country pilot’s list.

A Brief History

Mark Frutiger, one of the masterminds of the GSSK, has been flying since 1972. In 2005, the competition bug bit and he tried his hand at the big national series. He says his experiences with competition were both “intimidating” and “fantastic,” but he left a little disappointed. He said everyone was happy to help when he had questions, but to do well without years and years of competition experience was unquestionably out of reach. He emphatically recalls the best flight of his life in Big Spring, Texas: “It only got me eighth on the day, eighth! I flew 151 miles, and I wasn’t even close to beating those guys!” This kind of ass-kicking was (and still is)


common in the open-class hang gliding circuit. Competing is expensive, and showing up to fly big air and get hammered down by world champions on the daily doesn’t exactly describe a week in competition paradise. Mark returned to Quest on a mission for a solution. Flash forward to Florida, beer bottles clacking into the industrial-sized trash can at the end of the communal kitchen countertop. This is where the Green Swamp Sport Klassic was born. Mark and the other founders noted that there was no natural progression from local flyer to national competitor; underprepared pilots were just thrown in. To solve this problem, The Founders—as we’ll call them from here on out—launched a series of events to take pilots from out-landing newbies to course-crushing phenoms. First up: Intro to Comp 101 in 2013. This camp featured seminars by Flytec guru Steve Kroop, technical flying aficionado Mitch Shipley, and many others. The goal of 101 was to introduce the most basic aspects of cross-country and competition flying. Intro to Comp 102 followed closely behind. Building on the 101 curriculum, 102 aimed for bigger tasks and a heavy focus on competition etiquette. The third, and clearly one of Mark’s and Kim’s favorites, was the Final Glide Competition. A pair of gliders—didn’t matter whether it was a topless or a tandem—were tugged to the same altitude at the same time, released, and went on a pre-set final glide to help competitors understand the moment to go all out to the finish line. Besides the logistical difficulty of sometimes tugging two very different hang gliders to the exact same altitude at the exact same time, the positive impact on pilots-in-training was the same. These pilots were learning both how to make competition-level decisions and, according to Mark and Kim, trash-talk like true competitors. The fourth event never came to fruition, but it was called “King of the Climb,” and I’ll bet you can guess the point of focus. Its falling through had little effect on the arrival of the fifth and final event: the Green Swamp Sport Klassic. GSSK was designed to mirror a national-level circuit competition, minus the start gates and inaccessible task lengths. Pilots would be placed on teams and matched with a talented mentor, many of whom had been on the competition circuit for decades. It was

born to be the ultimate gateway to hang gliding competition, and when an alligator was caught in the pond behind the airstrip, the mascot of the GSSK had arrived.

Why You Need to Go

LEFT Cory Barnwell, one of the US’s most successful sport-class competitors at the first Green Swamp Sport Classic. Photo by Adam Bain.

ABOVE All yawed out behind the tug at the 2015 Green Swamp Sport Klassic. LEFT Sport-class competitors Ricky Rojas and Soraya Rios. Photos by Adam Bain.

The extensive mentorship offered at the Green Swamp is undoubtedly the primary reason to attend. Even pilots who aren’t interested in the competitive element will absorb heaps of valuable XC knowledge. This is the one week every flying season during which the best pilots take it down a notch in order to help novice competitors achieve their full potential. Usually these mentors are off to the races every day, chasing big goals and unbelievable distances. It’s hard

ment for elevating a competitor’s cross-country ability, equally important to me is experiencing the absolute joys of the hang gliding comRIGHT Legs out and ready to land at the GSSK. Photo munity. In a typical day, you wake up and eat by Adam Bain. with friends, set up and fly with friends, drive home with friends, eat and drink with friends, and be merry. A pilot will spend some time on no-fly days listening to informative seminars with the other competitors, then go out and do something fun until the weather improves. Non-stop flying and socializing can be tiring, but a week competing at the Green Swamp is a week spent in sun-drenched happiness. Another important component of the GSSK is the lack of pressure. The competitive element isn’t entirely erased, but information flows so freely from mentors and between competitors that there’s far less stress placed on winning and a much greater focus on improving. This to swindle XC know-how from the best when is why the Green Swamp Sport Klassic is the they’re 60 miles ahead by the time you’ve most accessible sport-class XC event in North figured out how to program a course into your America. Some pilots compete with dozens of vario. cross-country flights under their belt, while Additionally, competitors rotate mentors most register with just one or two. Some pilots throughout the week, allowing them to gain literally fly cross-country for the first time on experience from different perspectives. This is one of my favorite aspects of the Green Swamp, the practice day. Pilots can fly what they’re since changing mentors means having the flex- comfortable on, whether it’s a single surface or a topless. The Green Swamp Sport Klassic eats ibility to observe different competition stratup cross-country novices and spits out knowlegies. Each mentor pinpointed a specific skill edgeable competitors. Egos are checked at the I was struggling with and gave me tangible registration table. instructions for how to improve. They’d watch Developed as the final event of the Intro to me implement these new techniques while I Comp series, the Green Swamp Sport Klassic was flying and gave me even more feedback does more than create cross-country pilots. when the day was done. These pilots and their brains full of experience are completely at your Its sole purpose is to prepare novices for the BELOW A Liberty pilot on national competition circuit and to help pilots disposal—but you have to show up to get it. the way to chase perfect figure out if competition is something they Although the mentorship offered at the Green Florida clouds. Photo by love. There are downsides to competing: It’s Adam Bain. Swamp is arguably the most important eleexpensive, exhausting, stressful and… expensive. Most of us only get a few weeks off every year, and some would rather enjoy that time relaxing somewhere on a beach with occasional flights sprinkled in. The Green Swamp Sport Klassic gives every pilot the opportunity to determine whether competition is right for them, and it comes at a slightly lower price point, too.

What A Pilot Will Learn

Although it’s difficult to delineate everything a pilot can learn from a week flying in the Green Swamp, there are a few key elements that stand out. Using a flight computer is one of the more 60 US H PA P I LOT


complex topics covered. It just beeps when you’re going up, right? Correct, but setting course lines, downloading waypoints and airspaces, using the map features, and knowing what it means when it beeps in a way you haven’t heard before is a totally different story. As a pilot who doesn’t have the most technical tendencies, becoming more confident in my flight computer usage was one of the greater focal points of my time at the Green Swamp. Specific flying skills are also a major topic during the competition. When I was brand new to XC, one of my mentors sat down with me at the end of the day after watching me fly. “Sara, you’re not the best at gliding in a straight line or finding thermals… or thermaling in general. You’re always in lift when it’s there, but you can’t seem to stay in the strongest part.” It was a tough pill to swallow, and I beat myself up about it. The next day, I was low at 900 feet when my mentor piped up on the radio, at the top of the thermal above me. He guided me to the strongest lift, taught me to use ground references to pinpoint the thermal source, and coached me all the way to his altitude of 5000 feet. I was shocked; I had never climbed like that before. Now, whenever I’m banked up in a screamer, I think of that mentor who gently told me I sucked, but then showed me how to get better. Besides learning about flying technology and competition strategies, pilots dive into the subject of competitive mentality. Throughout the week, mentors emphasize the importance of making rational, safe decisions under competitive stress. Sure, in recreational flight one always tries to make the safest decisions, but the game changes when you’re trying to beat someone else. A pilot may find herself making less conservative choices and pushing into unsafe territory. At the Green Swamp, first-time competitors experience their own competitive mentality possibly for the first time, and the mentors are there to share their strategies for staying calm, safe, and rational.

A Bright Future

A lot has changed since those late-night conferences atop the grassy airstrips of Quest Air. Quest Air isn’t even Quest Air anymore; it’s Paradise Airsports and Wilotree Park. And for the first time since 2015, a Cross Country Camp will be held the week before the Green Swamp.

It’ll be perfect for those who are still unsure if ABOVE The face you make when you know they want to hop right into competition. you’re a part of some The wild success of the Green Swamp Sport thing great. Photo by Klassic is due in huge part to The Founders: Adam Bain. Mark Frutiger, whose experience in the open class pushed him to introduce a progression from local to national competitor; Kim Frutiger, Belinda Boulter, and Lori Brown, who took the idea and flawlessly coordinated a series of events that are now responsible for huge growth in sport-class hang gliding; Russell Brown (and Lori of course), without whom tow Register for the Cross Country Camp competitions in the US would be impossible; Jim Prahl, tug pilot guru who has seen everyMarch 16-23 thing. And Davis Straub, who has been totally airtribune.com/2019involved at every stage—from origination, to cross-country-101-clinmentorship, to continuing the GSSK (alongside ic/info Belinda), to this very day. The Green Swamp is for every pilot. Flying Register for the cross-country for the first time is intimidatGreen Swamp ing, but once you do, it feels so right. Having March 23-30, 2019 mentors guide you every baby step of the way is the safest and most fun method to learn. If airtribune.com/2019you have ever considered flying XC or competgreen-swamp-sporting, there is no other choice to make than to klassic/info get down to Florida for the Green Swamp. It changed my life, and I hope it changes yours, too. When asked what he thinks of the Green Swamp’s success, Mark said, “We are just so frickin’ happy to see where that competition has gone.” Kim, with a huge smile added, “It’s like watching your baby grow up!” Long live the Quest Air alligator, and long live the Green Swamp Sport Klassic!

Ratings Issued November/December 2018 RTG RGN NAME

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 www.USHPA.aero Save the PDF on your mobile device for easy reference.

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P3 P3 P3 P3 P3 P3 P3 P3 P3 P3 P3 P3 P3 P3 P3 P3 P3 P3 P3 P3 P3 P3 P4 P4 P4 P4 P4 P4 P4 P4 P4 P4 P4 P4 P4

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

THRU APR 14 > FLYMEXICO in Valle de Bravo, Mexico. Flying every stinkin’ day in our week long Sunday to Sunday base packages. Flexible for duration, accommodation upgrades and even competition support. Hang gliding and paragliding in the free flight Mecca of Valle de Bravo. No one matches our service, price, and capabilities in transportation, facilities, and equipment. Twenty five years of doing it here has enabled us to offer culture and flying with knowledge and contacts that enable you to have a memorable flying vacation. More Info: www.flymexico.com MAR 7-9 > SPRING 2019 BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEETING in Golden, CO More Info: www.ushpa.org/boardmeeting MAR 23-30 > 2019 GREEN SWAMP SPORT KLASSIC at Quest Air, Sheets Field, Groveland, Florida. USHPA Sanctioned HG Race To Goal - AT. This is a Sport Class only event. There will be advanced pilot mentors to help with small groups of pilots. Hang 2+ or 3 rating with aerotow sign off or extensive experience is a requirement. Aerotow practice and sign off is available before the competition. Tows outside the competition days are paid for separately. The weather turns soarable in February/March in Florida and Quest Air is a great place for cross country flying. Register Dates: Nov 1, 2018 - Mar 23, 2019 Organizer: Belinda Boulter | belinda@davisstraub.com Website: https://airtribune.com/2019-green-swamp-sportklassic/info/details__info


start at $10.00 for 200 characters. Minimum ad charge is $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 CLINICS & TOURS

BAJA MEXICO > La Salina Baja’s BEST BEACHFRONT Airsport Venue: PG, HG, PPG: FlyLaSalina.com. by BajaBrent. com, He’ll hook you up! Site intros, tours, & rooms. bajabrent@bajabrent. com, 760-203-2658


APR 13-19 > 2019 QUEST AIR NATIONALS (PRE-WORLDS) WEEK 1 at Quest Air, Sheets Field, Groveland, Florida. USHPA Sanctioned HG Race To Goal – AT. Flatland competition in Florida where the weather is so good so early. Open, Sport, Swift, and Rigid Wing classes. Site of the 2006 Worlds. Country club flying. Register Dates: Nov 1, 2018 - Apr 13, 2019 Organizer: Belinda Boulter | belinda@davisstraub.com Website: https:// airtribune.com/2019-quest-air-nationals-week-1/info/details__info APR 20-27 > 2019 QUEST AIR NATIONALS WEEK 2 at Quest Air, Sheets Field, Groveland, Florida. USHPA Sanctioned HG Race To Goal - AT. Flatland competition in Florida where the weather is so good so early. Open, Sport, Swift, and Rigid Wing classes. Site of the 2006 Worlds. Country club flying. Register Dates: Nov 1, 2018 - Apr 20, 2019 Organizer: Belinda Boulter | belinda@davisstraub.com Website: https://airtribune. com/2019-quest-air-nationals-week-2/info/details_info APR 27-28 > OCEANSIDE OPEN ANNUAL FLY IN at Oceanside, Oregon. Hosted by Cascade Paragliding Club. Spot landing and Duration awards for PG and HG, Free BBQ. $30 registration fee More Info: www.cascadeparaglidngclub.org

PARACRANE Paragliding Tours > Nick Crane, USHPA Advanced Instructor, Veteran Guide | Costa Rica 2/11-2/21 | Brazil 3/4-14 | Europe 6/2-16, 9/9-19 and 9/21-10/1 | www.costaricaparagliding.com | nick@paracrane.com FLYMEXICO > Valle de Bravo for Winter and year round flying tours and support. Hang Gliding, Paragliding. Guiding, gear, instruction, transportation, lodging. www.flymexico.com +1 512-467-2529

SCHOOLS & INSTRUCTORS COLORADO > GUNNISON GLIDERS > X-C to heavy waterproof HG gliderbags. Accessories, parts, service, sewing. Instruction ratings, site-info. Rusty Whitley 1549 CR 17, Gunnison CO 81230. 970-641-9315. HAWAII > PROFLYGHT PARAGLIDING > Call Dexter for friendly information about flying on Maui. Full service school offering beginner to advanced instruction, year round. 808-874-5433 paraglidemaui.com


JUN 15-22 > 2019 APPLEGATE OPEN at Woodrat Mtn, Ruch, Oregon. USHPA Sanctioned PG Race To Goal. Mark your calendars. The tradition of great racing continues in the Applegate Valley at Woodrat Mountain in Ruch Oregon. Come fly with some of the best pilots in the USA. $50 discount coupon available for returning pilots from 2018. Register Dates: Feb 2 - Jun 15, 2019 Organizer: Dan Wells | pdx.dbw@gmail.com Website: http://wingsoverapplegate.org/ JUL 6-13 > 2019 US OPEN OF PARAGLIDING CHELAN at Chelan Butte, Chelan, Washington. USHPA Sanctioned PG Race To Goal. Register Dates: Mar 1 - Jul 6, 2019 Organizer: Matty Senior | mattysenior@yahoo.com Website: http://300peaks. com/ JUL 12-14 > INKLER'S POINT FLY-IN at Chewelah, Washington USA. Come join us for 3+ days of good ridge soaring and thermal flying at Inkler's Point! Camping available right adjacent to the LZ. One or two new sites in the area will also be available to fly covering most wind directions. A pilot or two will be on hand before and after the dates of the event to show off other sites in the area - all within 10 road miles of downtown Chewelah. This is a USHPA Insured site. USHPA membership is required. More Info: www.centeroflift.org

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, www. flymorningside.com NEW YORK > SUSQUEHANNA FLIGHT PARK > 40 acre flight park; 160’ main training hill; Bunny hills in all directions; Best facility in NY; New Alphas & Falcons in stock; Trade in Trade up; www. cooperstownhanggliding.com

AUG 10-17 > 2019 BIG SPRING NATIONALS (PRE-PAN-AMERICANS) at McMahon Wrinkle Airport, Big Spring, Texas. USHPA Sanctioned HG Race To Goal – AT. The 17th Big Spring National 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 dinner, live tracking, many drivers available, strong safety record, highest pilot satisfaction rating. Easy airport access to Midland-Odessa airport, inexpensive accommodations, plentiful infrastructure (restaurants), great community support, superb meet director. Register Dates: Nov 1, 2018 - Aug 10, 2019 Organizer: Belinda Boulder | belinda@ davisstraub.com Website: https://airtribune.com/2019-bigspring-nationals/info/details__info SEP 15-21 > 2019 SANTA CRUZ FLATS RACE / MARK KNIGHT MEMORIAL at Francisco Grande Golf Resort, Casa Grande, AZ. USHPA Sanctioned HG Race To Goal – AT. We’re back at the Francisco Grande Resort in Casa Grande, Arizona for the 12th annual Santa Cruz Flats Race. Come on out and join us for some unique technical flying and loads of fun in the desert. Register Dates: December 15, 2018 - August 15, 2019 Organizer: Jamie Shelden | naughtylawyer@gmail.com Website: http://www.airtribune.com/santa-cruz-flats-race-markknight-memorial-2019

NORTH CAROLINA > 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. Year-round 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. (252) 441-2426, 1-877-FLY-THIS, kittyhawk.com/hang-gliding TEXAS > FLYTEXAS TEAM > training pilots in Central Texas for 25 years. Hang Gliding, Paragliding, Trikes. Hangar facilities Lake LBJ, Luling, Smithville www. flytexas.com 512-467-2529

VIRGINIA > BLUE SKY > located near Richmond , year round instruction, all forms of towing, repairs, sewing , tuning... Wills Wing, Moyes, Icaro, Aeros PG, Mosquito, Flylight, Woody Valley. www.blueskyhg.com SARAH ROBINSON

JUN 8-15 > 2019 EAST COAST HANG GLIDING CHAMPIONSHIP at Ridgley, Maryland. USHPA Sanctioned HG Race To Goal – AT. The East Coast Championship returns to Ridgely MD. Pilots can expect smooth thermals and open field with plentiful access roads for easy retrieves. Pilots are welcome to camp onsite or can stay at some nearby hotels if camping isn’t their thing. Live tracking will be provided to simplify scoring. Many drivers are available. The competition has a strong safety record. This is a great community that is within an hour’s drive of several beach resorts and a short drive from Washington DC. Practice, Check-in and Welcome on Saturday, June 8th. Live tracking with Flymaster trackers provided. Register Dates: Nov 1, 2018 - May 15, 2019 Organizer: Dan Lukaszewicz | Lucky_ Chevy@yahoo.com Website: none


[ contributed by CALEF LETORNEY ]


ParaglidingTraining.org When you take step back and consider the utter ridiculousness of what we do—soaring unseen currents in the sky on an aircraft made of fabric and lines—paragliding is absurdly easy to learn. But even so, let’s not trivialize the journey of becoming a pilot. Training new PG pilots takes a significant investment of time, money, and effort for both the students and the instructors. And this instruction is critically important because Many thanks to our lives literally depend on the quality of this Denise Reed education. For these reasons, whether we recognize it or not, all pilots have a vested interest Doug Stroop in paragliding instruction; so read on because Marty DeVietti there’s a powerful new tool in the effort to make and Chris Grantham more PG pilots. Recently Shane Parreco created www.Parafor creating this gliderTraining.org and I am writing about this content and to because it is one of the most valuable paragliding Shane Parreco instruction tools available today. Think of www. for building the ParagliderTraining.org as the classroom portion website to share it. of the USHPA P2 program in an easy to follow You’ve all given the web course. The best part? Access is FREE for evsport an incredible gift. eryone who is interested in learning to paraglide! Talk about spreading the love! The content for www.ParagliderTraining.org was originally created by four recipients of USHPA’s Instructor of the Year award: Marty DeVietti (2000), Denise Reed (2004), Doug Stroop (2004), and Chris Grantham (2012). Chris Grantham had this to say about the project: “The idea was to take all my ground-school classes and write them down, exactly as I would talk about them in a classroom, so that everyone got all the information, the same way, every time.” It was Shane Parreco, a new USHPA instructor, who brought this content into an interactive format online. To use, all you have to do is create an account with an email address or link to your Google or Facebook. Once logged in, aspiring pilots are presented with an online course that is broken into convenient chapters about topics such as weather, launching, landing, right of way, reserve parachutes, and literally everything else an aspiring pilot needs to know to satisfy the classroom portion of the P2 rating. Student progress is tracked as the chapters are completed and there are even self-evaluation quizzes to check your understanding. I caught up with Shane to ask him a few questions about ParagliderTraining.org. 66 US H PA P I LOT

Calef: What inspired you to make ParagliderTraining.org? Shane: The dream was to create a new standard of information being offered and taught to students that is digital and online. I see the site as potentially a critical piece of infrastructure for building a bright future for paragliding in the US. And honestly, I was initially inspired to create something online and interactive when I discovered the UCAR MetEd weather and meteorology education site. I immediately thought about how great something similar could be for paragliding students. Calef: How long did it take you to make ParagliderTraining.org? Shane: After I finished my ITS (Instructor Training Seminar) with Santacroce in August of 2017, I decided instead of writing a hard-copy physical syllabus to use with students, I would follow up on my inspiration to create an interactive training website. So, I first worked on updating and slightly reorganizing the syllabus that SuperFly and Fly Above All were using, then I started working it into a website design. All told, I probably spent 4+ months putting everything together. Calef: Who was on your team? Shane: Just me doing the web development. Chris Grantham at Fly Above All created much of the content. I got some much-needed proofreading help—and for that I’d like to make a massive shout-out and thank you to Becca Bredehoft and Milly Wallace. You two ladies are the best in the biz! Ben White also pitched in a bit of his unique brand of assistance. Calef: What is the future for www.ParagliderTraining.org? Shane: The vision is to see this site evolve into a fully functional, interactive experience that could be incorporated into the USHPA system as part of its pilot certifying and licensing process for all levels of instruction: P2 through Tandem, and even Instructors. Once the training program is completed and verified by an instructor, the site could act as a precursor to an online testing and (hopefully one day) online licensing function. Perhaps someday this will become a reality, but in the meantime, I appreciate www.ParagliderTraining.org as an invaluable supplement to my normal classroom instruction.

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Profile for US Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association

USHPA Pilot Vol49-Iss2 Mar/Apr 2019  

USHPA official magazine

USHPA Pilot Vol49-Iss2 Mar/Apr 2019  

USHPA official magazine

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