Sunday, August 02, 2009


I have been saving and finally have all the components of my paragliding kit. Uhh, that isn't exactly true, I can fly now, I just need a vario. It was hard, figuring out which wing I wanted and then having to deal with the cost of purchasing new. I bought a X-Alps harness and a rescue, both brand new and was working on the wing. Dreaming about wings, I looked at the classifieds in and I see an ad for a UP Makalu 2 size L like my old one. I sold it pretty new, less than 10 hours, a couple of years ago to purchase a custom aerodynamic hang gliding harness.

Anyway, I contemplated sending on a PM and after a couple of weeks, I jotted one and pressed "send" thinking that the glider was sold as the ad was months old. The guy writes back, "hey dude, this is your old wing" and I started asking what condition it was in. It had been flown once he said, "bullshit" I'm thinking to myself as the guy I sold it to was a friend of his and I flew my hang glider circling around my old wing.

But I bought it knowing that it was still really fresh.

It's hot here and I am getting old and not able to take the heat like I did when I was a kid. Being a red hair, fair skin person, I took a lot of heat when I was a kid and my skin is damaged by the sun. The dermatologist is always hacking away at this or that, I call it the rust. That combined with the heat and I'm not flying in months that contain "R" Even September is rough but I am getting close and ready for a little action.

For me, the desire to fly has to overcome the fear of injury and or death.

I've flown enough to know what it takes to fly xc, far. I'm not willing to do that again. I'm going to be a boater and I'm cool with that.

So for now, I'm keeping things in perspective, getting excited to fly again.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


I'm grounded, without a wing, not by my mother, by myself.

It's not the same reason as last time, this time it is because I have a new son, he is eighteen months old and beautiful. My wife is new to my flying game and it's tough to return as she is not comfortable around launch and she really isn't into it. On the other hand, she gave me no restrictions, "Go!" and it's really no problem but she isn't into it. I still have my flying life insurance so I'm good there...

But another old hang gliding friend died this summer, tragic. He left children, wife family. This is not the first time this has happened, it just keeps happening...

I'm looking back at my blog and reading it brings memories of many stresses. I need to eliminate stress in my life and capitolize on fun.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Aerodynamic Harness

For a few years I had been reading about the antics of cross country pilots at home on the mainland. The year was 1983 and I had finally made my decision to learn to hang glide while I was living in Hawaii. I had already owned a hang glider and made my own harness (a plastic swing seat) but it was obvious to me that I was going to die if I continued.

I would need a little professional help.

I ordered my first ever hang gliding harness, a High Energy Sports "Advantage" from then Rich Pfeiffer (ex husband of Betty) who was the epitome of cross country hang glider racing in the Owens Valley. The harness arrived in short order and like many custom harness, it took a little of my own customization to get it ready. I didn't like the way the zipper worked, it was like the harness was not finished so I just took off a cord lock to my sleeping bag and fashioned a cinch system to close the "bombay doors" and everything was set.

I loved that harness, very sleek, cool and I felt good in it. I had my first 5 hour soaring flight in it and I could still barely move when I landed! At the time I was surfing and skateboarding while I was hang gliding on my freetime, my day job was a U.S. Army Infantry Medic so there was a lot of exersize in my life and I was a skinny little guy with major attitude...

I went from a Hawaiian ridge pilot to a Arizona thermal flyer and the transition was not easy. Every flight was treacherous for me, radical, turbulent and scary. Each time I landed, the guys would laugh, "Adam, you flew right through several thermals" until one day, I could not escape a giant one that boosted me nearly eight thousand feet in a single climb. I traded in my single surface glider for a more efficient one and bought another Advantage harness.

We have a place here in Northern Arizona called lovingly, "the craters" which is sort of opposite of what they really are, they are cinder cones in a ancient volcanic area. It is a great place for learning to fly the conditions of the area. There are schools that teach hang gliding here and it's still a place that will challenge even the best pilots with all sorts of conditions. I don't think I will ever grow tired of the place.

Anyway, I set up my first on board camera and got this shot thermaling over Merrium Crator. Already I had figured out that I loved aerodynamic harness and helmet. My old helmet, a Jack Lambie "Aerodyne" nearly fell off during a landing where the hang strap lifted the tail so I had decieded to get a more practical helmet until there was a aerodynamic one available that would actually stay put and protect me if needed.

True single suspension harness were here!

Jay Gianforte and Eric Raymond were making similar harness, Jay making the "CG-1000" and Eric making the "Equalizer" I simply had to have one so I wrote Jay and called him up to find out what I needed to do to get one. I sent in my measurements and what I got back was a tremendous flying harness, I loved that thing even more than my Advantage harness. The landing position, doors open, feet down with hands on the uprights was more upright. You slid down the webbing track on the back frame giving you more upright position with the effect of less pressure on your hands to hold your landing position. My landing stops got even better and better and more importantly, the flying position was comfortable.

I started flying cross country and I went through a stage where I felt that I should have the strongest helmet available so I found a good manufacture, Bieffe, that was somewhat aerodynamic and very light. It was chock full of padding and made of kevlar which made it very strong to withstand impact. I began to fly it with the visior down and I really liked it. It kept the wind noise down and was warm when I was really high.

But it was a hassle and even though it was light, during long flights, my head got tired and I just knew that this wasn't really a good hang gliding helmet for me. I kept flying with it and I began to travel to California and Colorado to fly. I loved flying Torrey Pines, it was just the ticket I needed to relax and enjoy my old type of surfing, like flying at Makapuu. Again I began to set up the camera on my wing, I wasn't doing the photography for anyone except myself. The pictures came back ok and they made for a lot of sweet memories and stoke to get back flying to the places I love. But I just got tired of the motorcycle helmet. No matter how light and how protective it was, it just didn't seem like a good helmet for me.

So I began looking for a more aerodynamic version of a full face helmet. I also bought a set of "speed sleeves" from Jay that was especially designed to fair in the gaps in the harness. This completed the suit. I often fly with only surf trunks and a t-shirt as well as a good set of running shoes and with these speed sleeves tucked in the harness, I never have to worry about a jacket or sun burning my arms on a flight.

Again, I received a helmet from Jack Lambie, a full face "Aerodyne" and had it painted by my cousin. He paints helmets for all sorts of racers and he did a really good job on my helmet. It has a lot more padding and a webbing harness that held the helmet on a whole lot better than the previous one that I started out with.

As you can see in the above photograph, I started to powdercoat my uprights. I love the look of a glider/harness that has a good color scheme. I researched powdercoating aluminum and the temperature that it takes (350 degrees) is not too much that it will change the physical properties of aluminum so I started doing this in threes. A set for the glider and a extra. I even took off the king post and had it coated, on one glider, I had Wills Wing send me the kingpost and had it coated and sent it back and they delivered the glider with it. I'll tell you this, it is real incentive to not waste aluminum.

In a stupid move, I tried to move up again and it hurt me, bad.

Larry Tudor was putting out major cross country flights in a Wills Wing Z-1 harness. Larry was coming to Arizona to fly quite a bit and I talked with him about the harness. He knew that I had the background for it so I ordered mine to match a new Ram Air that I had on order. The first harness was delivered by Larry at a Wills Wing demo days and it was waaay too small. I flew it anyway and it was all I could to zip up the door to just past my knees. Larry could see that it was too small and Wills Wing was good enough to help me with a new harness with the right cut.

A few weeks later it arrived and I was in except the harness was so hard to get upright in. The harness mains were too far back and placed to much fulcrum on my hands. I had to literally crawl up the uprights to get that way to land. Fortunately, I was flying a lot and I was able to overcome the trouble with sheer determination. I had cross country fever and I was flying away every chance I could.

Aerotowing was getting big with the advent of the Dragonfly tug and I had the chance to do a big aerotow flight. I set things up and did one 10,000' above the ground. This harness was a blast to fly in but landing sucked and it sucked big time. I could fly around all day in comfort, hell, I think the fact that I hated landing in this harness had a lot to do with my staying up. On this particular flight, I had set it up to land in a field about 20 miles away from release. Two vertical miles up, I figured that with a ten to one glide, I could do that but I ended up gliding in with about 7 thousand feet to spare. I wanted to keep going but I had the airspace maped out in my brain and there was a couple of airports to contend with and lots of air trafic so I flew my flight plan and landed at home.

I got my longest cross country flight in this harness and hovered down in a big cross wind 60 miles from Mingus Mountain. It was an amazing flight and I did it with so little effort compared to all the tries I had given it for seasons past. I hated the harness but I was doing well in it so I just let it go.

One flight I had remembered so well, a friend and I had been on pursuit for a good cross country and we were on vacation. We had tried hard for a few days and things were not looking so good so we went for a little flight at Sheba Crater. It was a fishbowl flight, not enough strength in the wind to overcome the convection for a standing wave but there I was goofing around. I guess I was feeling mean so I dove on my friend from above and behind. He was flying a slower lower performing glider so I could overtake him easily. His skills were so much better than mine though and he could easily out fly me on that alone and sometimes he did. But on this flight, I did the dirty dive and waked him good. Little did I know that he had a camera and I got back a framed photo a month or so later.

On one of my next trips to the Craters for a fun fly, in mellow conditions, the harness finally caught up with me and coming in to land, I bobbled with the harness about a span above the roundout and couldn't get it all straightened out ready to land comfortably into the wind and had a horrible nose in. I had taken out one of my expensive powdercoated downtubes. I was laying there under my glider, I had vomited in my helmet because I had hit so hard on my stomach and all I could hear is this WHACK! WHAAAACK! from an idiot Elsinore styled pilot. A guy who I had actually had loaded up on a Aerovac Helicopter from sliding out of a tree landing, breaking his pelvis while he was screaming for help in pain.

What an asshole.

I had enough, hang gliding was too much, I was getting old, my children were young and I thought it was time to hang up my wing and I thought I could turn my back on the sky.

Boy it was hard, I did it for about ten years. Finally, my own divorce made me realize that it was time to live again, time to divorce myself from the ground and time to get myself back in flying shape.

What kind of harness am I going to use to get back into the sport?

You guessed it, an aerodynamic.

I had always wanted one of Eric Raymond's creations. I had purchased a CG-1000 that was pink, grey and had a new parachute container placed on it by Betty, I didn't color choice it so she added a green one, a pink, grey and green harness? Way too out there, there is a bit of vanity involved in my choices and that harness was flat out ugly. I sold it somewhere but I did find a great black and white "Equalizer" on e-Bay for $100 so I bought it. I took that harness apart and inspected it stitch by stitch. I also searched the members of the ozreport web site for any and all comments on the Equalizer, just about all responses came back positive, there were no obvious complaints (except those of a competition pilot)

The experience of completely dismantling the harness and washing it, inspecting it was excellent for my belief in the engineering. I had never really known the theory behind the back frame and how it worked, I knew sort of but never had really gotten down to taking it apart and inspecting it. I scrubbed every inch with mild laundry soap, completely rinsed and hung it out to dry. Every zipper was inspected and dry siliconed, every buckle was looked at for oxidation and cracking, all minor lines and rigging were replaced with thiner and stronger material without compromising the original intent. I replaced the main hang loop and had my parachute repacked and bought a new square carabiner which I also searched on the ozreport for more information.

The harness was finished! It actually fit quite well with a pair of surf trunks and a t-shirt but that isn't always how I flew and with a glider bag, it was just a tight fit and everytime I flew, I had to get a friend to zip it up. The leg loops were also detachable by buckle and were hard to get through without un-buckling. Launch, flying AND landing all were excellent, it was a great harness that was a slightly tight fit.

I gave in and made a decision to order a brand new competition minded harness, one with a back plate and all the storage I could handle plus a custom fit. Again I went to the internet and found a maker that was promoted by a competition pilot. This pilot in addition to saying that the harness was comfortable, had also a deployment in it with very little damage. I began the process of contacting the manufacture and after at least 30 e-mails and two failed international money wire transfers, my order was placed.

I waited.

It finally got here and I had to send the deployment bag if I wanted to keep with the stock harness retention system. So I sent the deployment bag off and when I finally got it all back and stuffed, I started hanging and familiarizing myself with it.

In the interim, I sold my Equalizer, another mistake.

I flew with it and the zipper came undone from the top down to the waist and that left me supported from the waist up by a little buckle at the sternum and the shoulder straps which my shoulders were trying to separate. Granted I was more than a thousand feet up in orographic lift with a thirty mile an hour wind component. I remained calm and flew down to a good touch down.

The first flight in this custom harness was a disaster and I had made a big mistake selling a harness that worked well for me. I had commited this mistake before and now I had done it again!


I knew right then and there I would never be comfortable in the new harness, I would always worry if it were going to unzip again. The first flying impression was horible, nothing I could do was going to change that and I won't afford the opportunity of making mistakes over and over if I can help it. I doesn't matter whether it is my fault or not, this is how it goes with me, wanting to upgrade and letting go of what I knew and loved and I had absolutely no reason to love this harness.

Immediately I began to search for another CG or Equalizer. The search was extensive, my search the internet posts are still out there and I began to network with other pilots and soon found one at a shop in California.

I bought it and I am in the process as we speak, inspecting, detailing and upgrading. It is a CG-1000 just like my old colors and I am flat out stoked again even though I have made a $1,000 mistake, at least I'll be comfortable the first flight in it and there is a lot more room and pockets on this one. I have sourced a good set of speed sleeves and they are on order too. I have since had plenty of time to think about what I like in a harness and how it effects the way that I fly. For me, right now, hang gliding MUST be fun and free from anxiety as I am older and have made too many mistakes that I must not re-create.

If I can impress anyone who is still reading this 25 year aerodynamic harness story, I have a couple of thoughts. I think the harness is more important than the wing you choose. A harness is your comfort zone, it's the feeling you have, security, and your harness should work for you and NEVER against you in any aspect of flying.

[in progress]

Sunday, October 08, 2006

White Wing

I sold the wing to Ole in March of 2007.

Ole calls it the "dirtybird" and even though it isn't dirty, I like it.

You can read all about Ole at his web site in my links.


February 10, 2007

I flew the Fusion and tracked the flight with my Garmin GPS and Google Earth (I use a Apple Computer at home).

Conditions at Sheba Crator in Northern Arizona were pre-frontal with lenticular clouds upwind above the San Fransisco Peaks. At launch the wind was compressing at 25-30 with gusts to 38. This is fishbowl style flying, out front, there was excellent soaring conditions and if this wasn't the first flight on a double surface glider in more than a decade, I would have flown a lot longer and higher.

It seems to me that there was a standing wave out there to find and explore, with tracking on a GPS, you can map it out and after the flight, show where these waves stand. I think you could actually predict them with a little homework...

The wing flys straight and true, the trim is perfect, handling is easy, flys as I thought, a very slick wing.


February 4, 2007

Set up for the last time static in the yard and hung in the harness, the hang loop length seems good. Maybe 1 or 2" high but the harness is new and will settle at least an inch so it's a go for now. I will get to the sprogs but I feel safe flying the glider as I won't be flying in strong conditions yet. They do need to be checked and I'll do it but I think it's ok to wait for now as everything looks good so far...

I'm hoping to fly it this weekend.


January 13, 2007

Glider bag repair back from High Energy Sports.

I need to completely assemble the glider up at a flat spot, I'm looking at doing this at the Boys and Girls Club Gym to get a baseline measurement of the sprog setting. I'll also have a friend come over and hold the keel while I measure for correct hang length and if necessary, order a stock or custom hang loop system from Wills Wing.

The glider is ready to fly, just a couple of finishing touches.

I'm looking at having the uprights powdercoated white and placing the name on the upper third in paint.

I'll replace the sweep wire before summer.



December 24, 2006

I obtained the tools and went to work today on the white wing.

Installed the polynet, block retention bungee, keel end cap, siliconed the keel and center piece retention webbing.

I put the cross country bag on and I'll have Betty at High Energy Sports reinforce the handles on the regular bag as the stitching tore free.

The only thing that needs to be done is to have the correct length hang strap installed. I'll go with a custom from Wills Wing so now I wait for my CR to come back from the HES. I'm having a para-swivel installed as well as keeping the manufacture supplied deployment handle integrated into the HES deployment bag.

I am now looking for a name for the glider.

A couple of weeks...


December 16, 2006

I replaced the number one, two and three batten string on each side as well as the two nose batten strings. Replaced front, back and side wires and lubed the string pulley at the bottom corner as well as further inspection of all fittings.

I'm getting pretty close to having the glider ready, it is flyable now but there are a couple of things I want to finish and have the glider done.

Silicone/lubricate keel crosspar centerpiece slide.

Install the polynet covers at the crosspar center.

Replace centerpiece nut cap.

Replace keel end cap.

Install forward block retention bungee.

Gliderbag handles need restitching at attachment points.

As it stands, the glider is ready to fly but I should be able to complete this final list in a couple of hours on a weeknight.

List of needed items.

Circlip pliers
Rivet Gun and Rivets
Shoe Goo


November 4, 2006

Complete glider wash and dry

Further inspection

Trimmed loose thread and mylar pocket fuzzies

Dacron patches applied x 4

Zippers siliconed (sprog, side wire access, center set)

Block retention bungee replaced

Inspection reveals that side wires and composite cross bar center section protection needs replacement.

#2 Parts Order

Fusion SP 150 Side Wire Set
15P-2011 Poly Netted Sleeve 4" OD x 6" x 2ea
15K-1521 Rivet Plastic 1" Head 3/8" Stem x 2ea

Order placed today through Eric Smith at Arizona Airfoils.


October 28, 2006

I pulled out the wing and started the detailing and cleaning.

I first pulled out the mylar inserts and pulled off the Wills Wing sticker and removed the adhesive. Then I pulled off the WW on the L-Side and removed the adhesive there and washed off the Goo Gone remover. I found someones blood near a couple of the batten stations. hmmm. While I was doing that, I removed some stains from that wing tip and the sail washes clean pretty easy. While inspecting the batten spring ends, I find a repair with a common nail, it's a good repair and I'll leave it alone...

This glider is going to clean up well.

So I left it out in the yard for the wing tip to dry while I took the bags out back along with the battens and gave them all a good scrubbing down and inspection.

I'll inventory the batten tips that need replacing and order them along with the front and rear wires.

That will get me in the air and I can continue to replace the side wires and anything else I choose along the way.

#1 Parts Order

Velcro set (glider ties)
Batten ends (string side) W=3 B=3
#1 Batten string for both sides
Regular batten string (enough for 6 battens)
Front and Rear wire set

Bolt and nut x2 for basebar
(WW #10C-5121 and the nut that goes with it)

Bolt and nut x2 for basebar upright fitting
(WW #10C-5241 and 10N-1740)

Cleavis pin x2 with Small Saftey Rings x2 for uprights
(WW #10G-1330 and 10P-1100)

Keel End Cap with Rivets x3
(WW #158-2012)

Order placed today with Eric Smith at Arizona Airfoils.


Turns out I purchased the glider from the guy who bought it from High Adventure.

So I know the wings history, time to get it cleaned up.


From: Wills Wing
Date: Tuesday, October 17, 2006 7:03 AM
To: hangwind
Subject: Fusion SP Questions

It was made in August of 2000, originally for Mitch McAleer, who was working for Wills Wing at the time. It was later re-sold to a local area pilot through our San Bernardino dealer, High Adventure Hang Gliding.

In the technical bulletins section of the web site (under Support, on the top menu bar) you can select technical bulletins by model to check for any bulletins that pertain to that model glider.


Wills Wing, Inc.
500 West Blueridge Ave
Orange, CA 92865 - USA
Phone 714 998 6359 FAX 714 998 0647


October 17, 2006

I sent Wills Wing a e-mail with the glider serial number and asked them who it was made for and when. Above is what they sent to me.


What the glider looked like before the work

October 15, 2006


The last slik glider that I flew was a custom ordered Wills Wing "Ram Air" that was one of the last ones they produced in that line before they discontinued it. The Fusion is a progression so I'm essentially picking up where I left off.

The above photographs are from the first time I set the SP up in the front yard.

Initial impression: I need an inspection for piece of mind, better overall shape than I thought, very dirty, needs cleaning and some detail work.

List of things to do: Complete inspection first, replace wireset, worn batten strings and tips, small patch to sail on L tip and R nose and where undersurface meets undersurface battens in two stations, cut keel .5" and replace endcap.

I'm very happy at this point and can't wait to get underneath the white wing...


A photograph I recieved in e-mail.

Over the course of my life, I have started and quit hang gliding three or four times. For what ever reason, I just put it away, sometimes for good but I always come back to it. The last time I quit was for some ridiculous reason, I had "grown out of it" and I had become someone I didn't know, I didn't have time, no longer important or you pick a reason. The desire to fly did not outweigh the effort it took.

Anyway, enough of that.

Recently, I had the revelation that it was time for me to quit paragliding because I was doing the exact same thing that I quit hang gliding for, I wasn't flying enough. I've been paragliding for nearly 20 years off and on but most of my time was spent gliding, not soaring and with my new paraglider, even the light days you can soar, the problem is, the wing is so easy to fly but the rocks below are still hard even on light soaring days. A paraglider is not a hang glider and hang gliding is what I know. I needed to invest time into manuevers clinics in order to advance in my skill but I didn't want to spend any more time or effort that I was already giving it. So I sold all my new paragliding equipment to purchase better hang gliding things and to keep my limited time devoted to one thing, hang gliding.

During my life, I've had the opportunity to custom order a few wings just so. I would talk with the Wills Wing people, "What's the lastest cloth that you have?" and imagine what the upper surface colors would look like as they bleed through with the sunshine on the lower surface. But I always wanted a white glider, an all white glider.

I had sold my last glider, Cielo (Spanish for "sky") to a soaring friend. He had used the glider's expected lifespan up and had moved on to the newer model by Wills Wing, a topless "Fusion SP" which I understand to be Wills Wing's last topless glider without fiberglass tip wands.

I have a Falcon which I call Aliyah, an entry level wing that you can set up in 5 minutes flat but has very little in the flat glide and penetration department. But this is the glider I will use at our local hills here in Phoenix where the earth is rocky and filled with cactus, not kind places to launch and land. Our big sites are more condusive to higher performance gliders and landing options are much more kind with larger unobstructed fields, some of which even have grass. In season, if you are going to get anywhere, a higher performance glider will help you reach the next thermal or landing zone with far fewer tense moments.

I hate tense moments.

So I bought a used Fusion SP, the latest version of the Fusion before it was replaced by the Talon series. It is a first generation topless glider (I've always wanted a topless glider) and although it is heavy, it has great handling and a large flare window like the Ram Air. I had been looking for one online for a few months and when this one came up, I started asking questions about it.

An old E-Team pilot had owned it, he got it from another E-Teamer and said it was "low airtime" and in pretty good shape. The glider was in Las Vegas, a nearly 300 mile one way trip but the price was right so I got in LaToya (Melissa's RAV) and did a day burner up to get it.

Left PHX @ 6:45a got to LV @ 11:45a
Left LV @ 12p got to PHX @ 4:45p

Total miles 579

At this point in my life, I'm not able to afford a lot of things like time and a lot of money for a new custom hang glider, I did however able myself to afford a new harness because I outgrew (read got fat) my old harness. I like fixing things, tinkering with them and the Fusion SP will get the full on cleaning and maintenance treatment. I'll fully take it apart and go through it and after I fly it a few times to make sure this is what I want, I'll start to upgrade it.

This will be the place where I will keep a log on my progress with my yet unamed wing.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

"Soaring for Diamonds" review

ISBN 0-87358-104-0

Soaring for Diamonds
Flying for the Highest International Flying Emblem

By Joseph Colville Lincoln

The year was 1978 and a friend of mine told me about a job that he was doing after school. I had never had a real job before and well, this friend of mine was a skateboarder like myself and if they had hired him, long hair and all, then they would probably hire me. The little out of the way place was called "Glassart" in Scottsdale, Arizona. It was a stained glass studio that made commercial and residential stained glass windows. I told them that my friend worked there and they brought me around to the different stations in the shop and told me that I could have the job if I wanted. The pay was minimum wage but the hours I could make on my own up to around 6p when the last full time guy went home.

My occupation was full time skateboarder with interests in surfing (snow and ocean) and my parents had just bought me my first hang glider. I was quickly inducted into the art of making industrial sized stained glass panels. One panel was 3' by 4' or so, weighed about 40 pounds, one inch thick (epoxy matrix) with different colored stained glass blocks that were cut out by a diamond bladed lapidary/mason saw. Each piece of glass took a few minutes to cut and there were anywhere from zero to 100 pieces per panel. A big window could have thirty or so panels all connected together with iron frame work so you get the idea. Lots of work at the saw, zoning out with earphones on with Black Sabbath cranked up high to drown out the screaming of the diamond blade cutting into glass.

I helped build and install many projects around Phoenix in the late 70's and had no idea that Joe had passed away from a brain tumor or what he or his family stood for. There were no photographs of gliders in the shop, nothing that would have keyed me into his other life. I just know that somewhere in the mid 80's when I learned to soar my hang glider in Makapuu, O'ahu Hawaii, I would go to the library and search out good reading on the subject where on hang gliding, there was none so I looked to sailplanes for books and there it was, all the flights in Arizona and the references to Glassart, Joe's studio and I put the two together.

I had been working for a Arizona soaring champion's business, I never knew. To this day I feel it is or was my destiny to be linked in some small way to this person.

Soaring for Diamonds is a wonderfully written piece on the beauty of soaring flight and the pursuit of the highest accolades in it's organization...

The chapter list includes:

1. First Flight
2. Solo
3. What Keeps Them Up?
4. Silver C
5. Back to Arizona
6. Cirro-Q
7. A Naitonal Soaring Contest at Elmira
8. The Crash of the HP-7
9. Beyond the Caanadian River
10. My Golden C
11. Tombstone
12. Mountain Soaring at Bishop
13. Another Diamond Try
14. Across the Continental Divide
15. The Great Climb
16. Record Soaring Camp at Odessa
17. Flight to Esperanza

By the same author: On Quiet Wings, Soaring on the Wind, The Windows of Trinity Cathedral

In memorandum: Reflections of Joseph C. Lincoln

Monday, September 18, 2006

La Estrella


Pegged vario

Looking back

Sky below...

Low save


Circling together

Bird swoop

Ridge pass

All photographs and movies were from this single flight.

September 17, 2006
3+ hours
Grob 2-place

Sony digital and Nikon film

Friday, September 15, 2006

"On Being a Bird" review

ISBN 0 7153 7426 5

"On being a bird" is my favorite soaring book that captures the soaring pilot's intimacy with the desire to fly. Written in 1953 by a witty Englishman, Philip Wills writing style is an eloquantly flowing description of what it is to understand the air from a glider pilot's perspective.

The chapter list includes: (click chapter 5 for a pdf)


An excellent short biography on Philip Wills was found at the Lakes Gliding Club website and is as follows.

"With the death of Philip Wills on January 17th 1978 at the age of 70, a great mass of British gliding history seemed to have suddenly shifted into the past. The records show that he started gliding in 1933. He found what he described as "the most absorbing sport of all time", and glider pilots for generations to come are going to benefit from his decision in 1932. The gliding world, with good reason regards him as rather especially their man, because he was one of the pioneers who demonstrated time and again to pilots that there were new frontiers to conquer and, in addition, taught the movement how to organise itself and look after its interests.

He was the second man in the UK to obtain his Silver C in 1934. In 1938 a magnificent flight of 209 miles from Heston to Cornwall which, together with a subsequent height record of 10080ft at Dunstable, won him the third Gold C in the world. In those early days the mere ability to stay airbourne was a major achievement. It was this above all that we learned from Philip, for he was always willing to pass on his hard earned experience. His peak as a competition pilot was reached in 1952, when he won the World Gliding Championship in Spain."

By the same author: The Beauty of Gliding, Free as a Bird, The Inevitability of Confrontation, Where No Birds Fly

Philip Wills

Philip's son: Justin Wills
Home of the Lakes Gliding Club profile: Philip Wills
Lasham Gliding Bookshop

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Mingus Mountain

Cross Country hang gliding flight is a sport of "men" and although I think that is ridiculous, I do find some truth in that idiotic thought. Miles flown from launch, the farther you fly? The better you are? Yes, I can see through that rose colored shield but it just isn't the price I pay for admition into manhood. You see, I learned a very valuable lesson quite some years ago, to fly my own flights and I take that lesson to heart in my every day life...

There is a lot to the sport of hang gliding. It can be as wonderful or as terrifying as you want it to be. I learned as a surfer should, at the beach, barefoot and giggling at how fun it is to push out into the wind and float off the sand for a few seconds.

And I got board with the beach, as I should.

There were longer and longer glides but those were farther from the fun at the sand and quite different in nature.

I started reading about cross country flight in the early 80's. Stories written in Hang Gliding magazine and the Thermal Flyer, the little club newsletter that I got in the mail while I was living in Hawaii. Flights of hundreds of miles distance and miles high, epic stories of true human endeavor.

The Owens Valley was the mecca of cross country flight but our own Mingus Mountain was once the leader in that game too. I would lie in my bunk dreaming of turning in thermals that I hadn't even experienced yet but I knew I would countlessly twist soon.

I returned home with my glider and had to learn to fly all over again.

There was no beach, just a big mountain and the surf there was on a much different scale. Soon I was flying with the pilots I had been reading about. I had been introduced by these very pilots to hang gliding years ago when I was just a young boy on a bicycle venturing farther from home. Now I was a man venturing farther from known...

Quickly all of what I learned was turned around and around. The smooth lift of the sand was replaced by "bump tollerance" and edges I couldn't see but knew where there. The grinding tubes were lifted up on end and now, my glass glider (surfboard) was replaced by a sail only to dip a wing and pivot on it for circles on end. Really for me it was a much different game but still one in the same.

I learned where to fly and more importantly, when to land.

Over the years, flying my flights, many of my friends died flying theirs.

I couldn't stand it and I stopped flying.

Mingus was completely out of my everyday thought.

At times, I would re-visit launch and the pilots would change yet the gaggle was the same. Many times I would walk up to a pilot and ask them "how do you fly those things?" just to see how they would react. I wanted to understand, what they saw, who they where and why they were flying.

Again, for everyone it is different.

My life has changed and I am flying again but on a much different scale.

I'm about to make my first flight at Mingus. I'm really looking forward to it, it's only a few days away...

[September 3, 2006]

The above images are my first flight at Mingus in 10 years.

Below is a story that I wrote about a cross country flight at Mingus in the mid-nineties.


My ears were the enemy. The sun was shinning brightly out in the valley, but thousands of feet above, behind my sail was a boiling mass of the young Cu-nim. I could not see it in my immediate vision, it wasn't a factor now. I knew that I would be well away from the mountain before it became dangerous to me. But looking out at the valley, even though it looked like a bright sunny day, my instinct told me there was trouble. My instinct turned out to be my hearing. The sound of the wind was that of a horror movie. Whistling, a quiet rush of swirling hissing, the sound of the tall pines all around us on top of the mountain masif being pushed by the strong convection. Yes, it was my ears that gave it that emotion.

I was waiting to launch. Kneeling on the ground, holding on to the control frame, waiting until the time was right. Looking back, there was no real right time. The wind blew straight in to launch, just go before a big gust comes and ride it up. So I picked up my wing and that is just what I did. I spiraled up a big column of rising air, trying to stay within it's confines in order to stay upright. My circles were uninterrupted. A vertical flight path to the black cloud anchored above Mingus mountain. The radio was my connection to the ground. I am way too nervous to fly today, but this is what I know, so I go like I do every time.

The cloud above is now the cloud below. I had flown over the backside of the mountain ridge to the big flat Prescott Valley. The wind was being deflected up the face of the anchored cloud creating the ride that I was taking along the side of the cloud. Everything was the cloud now, towering, just a few yards to my right as I aimed toward the area of Chino Wash. The other pilots, many of them my friends, had launched just after I had. They climbed in the same column that I did and were only a few hundred yards away, yet the distance was surreal. I could hear their chatter on the radio, talking to their chase. They were there yet I could not see them below and behind the base of the cloud.

Bob, Hans and Jim, there were few pilots in the world better than these three. All had many hundred plus mile flights every season for many years. The three of them were flying as a team, a cross country team, each communicating to each other through their radios. They knew the strong conditions that Arizona mountain flights contained, and yet I could detect a strain in Jim and Bob's voice, Hans was as rock steady as ever. I was out in front, I let them know that the cloud was as long as the mountain was and it also had tremendous vertical development. Thanks alot came the reply, didn't know which one was talking to me, it didn't matter, they all flew as a team.

For a few years now I had been trying to concentrate on making a long flight. Now a long flight to me is one that is farther than twenty five miles. I had done a few flights of this distance and was ready to put one a little further out. I knew that all I had to do was follow these guys and the possibility of me making a really long flight was close at hand. The season was grinding down but there was still time for me to make it, with Bob, Hans and Jim behind me and on course, I felt elated. The big black wall of cloud just a few yards away began to eat away my hopes.

The radio:
(Bob to Hans) Hans, the cloud suck is strong, I am going over to the edge.

(Hans to Bob) Yeah Bob, me too, I am a few hundred yards farther back, I may not make it.

(Jim to Hans) I am behind you and I am entering the cloud. I have the bar stuffed and I am still going up at seven hundred feet per minute. Starting to lose sight of the ground, Damn it!

(Hans to Jim) Don't know if I am going to make it to the edge Jim, I am in the base of the cloud, keep your heading. I am whiting out.

I am only seven or eight miles away from where I took off but over seven thousand feet higher than the top of Mingus which is near eight thousand where we take off at it's peak. During the track of my flight, I made about twenty five continuous circles to near the base of the cloud then speed to fly in a straight line, climbing the rest of the way to where I am at now.

To my left is a long glide to a unknown dirt road. Many miles from the road that my chase is on. I don't know if I can direct my driver to this road to pick me up. It is just too much for me to try to land out in the heat down below. The sweat from launch had soaked into my tee shirt and jeans. Underneath my coat and harness, I had become cold and clammy, it was near the freezing point at my altitude of fifteen thousand feet.

The cloud is massive and seemingly impenetratable. I could only imagine what it would be like to be sucked into the ink, not knowing up or down, left, right, any direction, only the darkness of the cloud that has enveloped you creating a very small room full of wind, again very surreal. The radio conversations between the three pilots was scaring me. Scaring me to the point of wanting to land. I am sure that I am somewhat hypoxic, and being nervous and in a hypoxic state, flying near a massive black cloud was not my idea of fun. It was then that I found out that I was truly wrong about just following those guys getting my long flight. I was now flying my own flight going as far as my own skill level allowed me to go. I must fly my own flight, this is my lesson today.

Off the end of the mountain chain the cloud did not exist. It needed the bump of the mountain to trigger the surface to let go of its blanket of sun warmed air. Flying away from the mountain cloud I began to sink slowly, then faster. Then the sound of my sink alarm started. The sink alarm was set by me in the comforts of my living room. I set it's trip point at seven hundred feet per minute down. Anything more than this and it stayed on. The sink alarm was now on and staying on. I sped up to zoom out of the sink that I was in.

Down to about nine thousand feet now, only a few thousand over the flat Chino Valley Wash my driver had caught up with me during my sinking glide away from the mountain. I had switched channels on the radio so that I might be a bit more relaxed not listening to those three and their advanced flying tactics. My driver signaled that a dust devil was forming in the corral that was to the left. Yeah, I see it now, but I am about a mile away and sinking like a stone thrown in a pond.

My thoughts are only of the ground. So I circle down in the sinking air away from the lift of the dust devil. This is a big mistake in a cross country pilots life and I am committing it in full consciousness, fully cognizant that I am about to blow out the flame of my flight. A smoke bomb is in my glove box, over the radio I ask my driver to throw it out. I watch like a hawk while the driver reaches in the truck through the open window and retrieves the smoke bomb. Pulling the pin and dropping it a few yards from the truck, I see that it is a very light westerly wind, completely against the wind at altitude.

Out come my feet from the aerodynamic harness, and down in ground effect bleed off speed, flare the wing. Silence. No radio, no vario, no whistling wind, I am safe again. The tension is gone, no more horror movie wind and cloud, no more strained voices of world class pilots. My flight is twenty five miles from launch. Another long flight for me I am thinking to myself, now that I fly my own flights.

I can't remember how far Jim, Hans and Bob flew that day. It doesn't matter to me. I no longer compare my performance to others. Maybe at twenty five miles my flight was actually farther. It is my mind that I want to make happy, today I am a soaring pilot with introspection, the number of miles does not matter to me. My safety is paramount to my success. If I fly as far as my mind will take me safely, then I have made a long flight. The numbers will come with my tenure.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Wingsuit Dreams

Tales from the Mexican blanket...

Something that is on the event horizon for me is to fly a wingsuit. I haven't even learned to free fall yet but that is the fun of it, learning and more importantly, seeing it through to reality.

There are wingsuits that are available commercially and now it's pretty much all figured out. As a father and a husband, I don't have a problem with letting others figure it out, just so long as I get a taste of it and that's where I'm headed as I grow older and hopefully more wise...

Let me begin by saying that a long time ago I started following the exploits of Patrick De Gayardon and Bruno Gouvy and they had it right.
Patrick De Gayardon

Bruno Gouvy

As a surfer, I would emulate skateboard moves that I would do in pools. Graduating on to Wintersticking (snow surfing) I could catch more air and about that time is when I bought my first hang glider.

The French in Chamonix and Verbier had the mountains and snow at their disposal and they took their sports there. I would see Patrick and Bruno pop up in magazines like Powder, Surfer, Action Now and even in the National Enquirer. These guys were insane mixing snowboarding with parachuting, paragliding with surfing, hybrid sports, they seemed to understand something only a few could imagine early on.

Bruno and his weighted fairing would jump from the Pilatus so high and bullet straight down to the earth at tremedous speed, unreal. Patrick took skysurfing to the public with jumping a snowboard from a plane...

They invented so many sports that are just now emerging as true disciplines.

The wingsuit was just one of them.

"Sure there is a chance I might be killed. But in exchange, I have such a powerful sense of being alive." -- Bruno Gouvy

Patrick De Gayardon & Bruno Gouvy, rest in peace.

Below is something I wrote many years about dreaming of doing things...


Dreaming is where the idea begins. This is the conception of realistic goals in the disciplines we use to describe our inner expression.

Each year in the late summer/early fall, I begin to dream of the oncoming snow surfing season. This being my twenty third season, I am no stranger to these dreams. I've purchased a new board on the advice of an old friend in the sport. The swallowtail has not yet arrived but already I have ridden this board in my dream forest of dry powder. Snow so light and deep, you look like you are on fire with a smoke trail long in the distance, fans high on each turn. And then I open my eyes and see this computer screen and my words and realize, "I will make this reality, but it began with a dream."

I have many people to thank for keeping my dream alive. The French have always inspired me with their creative ascent and decent. Jean Vuarnet and the Wedeln technique (outside trailing shoulder turns) when I began skiing. I studied the book of technique in the library of my high school. This technique actually played a small part in helping my skate boarding style. Layback turns have roots in Wedeln and on to the ocean, surfing backside and front side, this technique crosses over. Patrick De Gayardon and Bruno Gouvy, two friends and their dreams of exquisite rides. Both of these Frenchmen were accomplished snow surfers and I would see pictures of them even in the checkout line of the grocery store, on those rumor magazines, sky surfing or snowboarding the Matterhorn. I remember seeing a picture of Bruno with ice axes in both hands making turns on the Eiger on a swallowtail, a mountain steeped in climbing death and here Bruno was making his turns, living his life on board. Patrick fashioned a fairing with a small window to work out the visuals to become a human bullet. Diving from 30,000' reaching tremendous speed in order to "live life" I can assure you that many of his epoch journeys began with dreams.

On the North Shore of O'ahu I had realized the power of the wind while surfing the huge groundswells that were the result of the wind on a large body of water. I used to watch Gerry Lopez surf, he is epitomized as the master of the Ehukai Pipeline, turning in the seething barrel, making style of what others feared from before him. Ken Bradshaw dropping into a moving mountain of water, over the edge and beyond at Waimea Bay. Sitting there on the beach, thinking of my soaring flights on three thousand foot airwaves on the other side of the island, I began thinking of Rich Pfieffer and his aero-dynamic pod, soaring at 18,000' above the Owens Valley, racing against Larry Tudor from Draper, Utah. Yeah Utah, ohh the powder there is so pure, so deep and smooth. Lighter than air, deeper in some areas than you can imagine and there to meet this challenge, Dimitrije Milovitch honing his technique on the board he invented for this medium, the swallowtail snow surf board. My swallowtail being at home in Arizona, the fatigues I wore, taking a break from maneuvers in the infantry of the United States Army, dreaming got me through then, and it got me to where I have been and where I am at now. It is all a circle, and there is no end, just being.

I love dimentional sports, those that are driven by the forces in nature I find myself drawn to. In a bit of creative writing, I will attempt to describe this idea.

1.) The first dimention is the creative thought and nothing more.

It all starts here as an idea. It's hard to define this 1D but I would say that dreaming and planning are the best way for me to describe this dimension. Everyone must start with the planning, the invention, working out the logistics and we all have ideas of what we want to describe here. What you read here is 1D.

2.) The second is riding upon the surface. Jumps above are momentarily described by the following dimention, but it is only momentary.

This would be in my opinion, carving a alpine board with hard boots on the groomed piste. Here we can make our turns as hard or soft, but as quiet as the hiss of the snow will allow, only the wind disturbing the flow that we produce. The surface of the snow is inscribed with the signature of our creation. I love carving and with my old Peter Bauer and Jean Nerva alpine race board, my hard boots clicked in, I understand this. Downhill with my skateboard, arms tucked, leaning into the leading foot, setting up for the turns minding the aerodynamics learned from such enthusiasts as Rodger Hickey then, or John Gilmour now. These are boards, all of which I have grown to enjoy and love this 2D.

3.) Disciplines such as surfing the swell, the snow, and soaring the sky in a hang glider are all part of the continuous three dimension. The surface is often breached, the body moves with a loose association to the medium and the mind is affected upon in a special way by the purposeful control of gravity.

I trend toward these disciplines.

Soaring my hang glider up a huge column of rising air over the mountains. Up to the base of the cumulus cloud, scooting over to the side and on up the side of the cloud. Surfing the wave of deflected air looking down at the snow falling, melting into rain, drying into a virga. Seeing it snow in June, above the same mountains we surf in winter, while surfing a glider near cloud base. Dreaming of surfing the snow of winter in a swallowtail board while surfing high above those very mountains, this is 3D.

Snow surfing turns with a centered stance, your turns are more involved with the depth of the snow. The tail releasing pressure as well as acting independently on the changing snow density. Choosing a wide forested valley, banking each side with sweeping arcs, at times fully covered, immersion, turning into the medium with no pre-defined track. The board becomes somewhat of an elevator of a wing describing pitch in it's flight. Three constant dimensions in the snow.

These are my favored disciplines that I gravitate towards. The feelings are unique. Making a stairway to heaven (hiking up a slope) and descending my 3D dream, this is what I plan for every year, this being my twenty third year of dreaming and doing.

Have fun snow surfing this year.



Felix Baumgartner

Phoenix-Fly: Wingsuits
Loic Jean Albert: Mountain Swoop
Patrick De Gayardon: 1 - 2
Adrian Nicholas
Felix Baumgartner
Skydive World: Birdman - Wingsuit

Sunday, August 13, 2006

South Mountain

I think the first time I flew South Mountain was in my Hang Glider back in 1986. To the South towards what is now know as Awatukee, there was nothing. You could land anywhere in the desert but what that afforded you was the ability to really search and look for thermals knowing that there were pleanty of places to land.

South Mountain is still very good but the landing area is quite small and it is difficult to land a high performance glider in the small area without flying all the time. It's perfect for paragliding and flying a single surface glider that you can land anywhere.

The winter is when I love flying the place because often I will land on the South side and hike my way back up to the top to get my car.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


The Crators were fun.

I got to meet some good PG people and had the local guru (Tanner) bark at me for not being aware of dust devils. It was comical, the guy goes over to my wing and grabs the tip while giving it an academy award performance shaking it and waving his arms. I don't know how long he has been flying paragliders but I didn't see him at the Crators back in the mid-80's when I started flying there.

"What are you going to do if a dust devil comes?"

You see Tanner had a big booger sticking out of his nose and I got fixated on it. It's hard to take someone serious when they have snot hanging from a nostril.

"Gees Tanner, you have identified a problem, what should I do?"

And he goes on to tell me how to act like a paraglider pilot...

Personally, I think it was fully an ego trip.

It was about 10a and I didn't see one "quite el polvo a diablo" anwhere (EspaƱol for dust devil) till I got back to the valley at 1p. With the moisture in the air, didn't think it was that unstable to wait for at least a light cycle to come in to run. Hot, altitude, hadn't been flying in a while.

So I pull up a forward and start to run, cursory glance up, go and tried to jump into the air ended up skimming and balling up on the slope, fully wrapped up in my paraglider.

G~d it was funny.

A couple of the good guys started running towards me (Steve, thanks) but I gave him the thumbs up and made tidy and did the walk of shame back up the 50 yards to the top.

Steve asked me what happened, I told him I couldn't breathe (I'm fat and out of shape) to wait a minute. Graeme did a perfect launch and I told him that "I didn't do that" and we sort of laughed. I said it was Tanner's fault.

Anyway, after that, I was left alone at the top and did a reverse and loped off.

The air was lively and I did some turns in lift but it wasn't there for me, landed by the Scion at the bench and took some pictures of Graeme after folding it up.

I got two nice flights, er, two and a half. Pretty much a blast.