Hang Glider Log
Oct 21, 2015 shifting weight. This serves also as my official hang
since I'll lose the paper one anyway. |
This isn't about paramotoring but may be interesting to someone
wanting to try something new. It is, after all, foot-launched flight.
My first exposure to hang gliding was at 13
years old. My brother brought home a book showing a hang glider on one
page and a sailplane on the next. I went nuts thinking that I could
actually fly at this age. My parents forbade the hang gliding but let me
pursue sailplanes in what became a long aviation affair. In 2014, with
aviation career fully engaged, I decided it was time to try "the other
For the purpose of this log, a hang
glider flight starts from the beginning of the run/roll to coming to a stop after
getting airborne. Even though some of these "flights", namely the ones
in San Diego, only got me airborne going into the flare. I asked John
Heiney about this and he confirmed that our bunny hill runs count.
1998 - Intro
It was apparently September, 1998 -- I just found the pictures! John Gijsen,
a fellow captain from Midway Connection (who had gone to Air Wisconsin)
asked if I'd join him for a
one-day introductory hang gliding lesson. That sounded cool so we
flew my Cessna 150 up to Whitewater, WI where we did a half-day of hill flights and one aerotow. I don't remember the hill
instructor's name but I do the tandem pilot -- Jeff Neilson. Dr. Jeff
Neilson. I remember him because several years later, when I went to learn
hang glider trikes, he was the guy who soloed me. I digress. (cont'd
Top Row: 1) Yours truly suited up. 2) Jeff Neilson. 3) John Gijsen. 4)
Seth (someone I met there)
2nd & 3rd
Row: Flying off the bunny hill.
4th & 5th Row: Aerotows. John in helmet.
It felt like a lark because actually
sport was too far out of the way. So I chalked it up as a cool mark on
life and moved on.
5 foot launch (FL) hill flights, 1 Aerotow (AT) launch, 0.5
hours. Guessing Wills Wing (WW) Falcon One 170.
2004 With Alan Chuculate
Alan was a paragliding mentor mostly by example. He showed me what
was possible if you could really master kiting. Before paragliding,
though, before I knew him, he was also an advanced hang glider pilot and
continued to teach and write for the USHGA magazine. The year the Wills
Wing Condor came out (may not have been 2004) he got a hold of one and
gave a couple of us an evening ground session. I did probably 4 runs
down the mountain but that glider was so big it felt like cheating. I
don't remember the details of whether or not I landed on my feet but I
do remember it seemed surprisingly easy at those speeds. And I knew that
a normal glider would take much better reactions.
4 FL hill flights, 0.1
hours, WW Condor, San Diego Training Hill
Totals: 9 FL hill flights,
0.6 hours, 2 flying days, 2 sites.
2008 HG Trike Marty & Jeff
Not sure of the start date but a friend of mine, Harry Rosset, asked
me if I wanted to go in with him on a Cosmos Soaring Trike. "Sure!" I
said, and let the training begin. Marty was my initial instructor. I
warned him about how much more difficult a student I might be based on every possible control being backwards.
In an airplane pushing forward on the stick makes you go down. Pushing
forward on the hang glider's control bar makes you go up. Same with
left/right. Marty kept a close eye on
things. At some point, though, he had to attend to another commitment
(yeah, probably got scared) and handed me off to Jeff Neilson. Hmmm.
Where had I heard that name before? Yup, hang gliding back in '98--Oh yeah!
He was my tandem pilot.
Jeff finished my training and soloed me in his super beefed up, fire
breathing, turbo boosted monster machine. He's a big boy -- 7 foot worth
of 250 pound human -- a super nice guy, patient and capable teacher. But
when I flew that thing alone it went straight up. At least that's what
it felt like as I held the wobbling bar in a nearly vain attempt at
going over into a loop. Of course when I landed and asked for ballast he
said "my 98 pound wife doesn't need it, just let up on the bar, let it
climb and you'll be fine." He was right, of course, I just wasn't ready
for that steep climb in spite of his telling me to expect it.
After that I started flying the Samba and flew the wheels off it.
What a great time. It was at Harry's place, though so eventually I flew
it less and less. Alas, Harry sold his share to Mike Koval who never did
fly it. Sadly, Mike was involved in a Motorcycle accident and is
starting the long road to recovery. I had already agreed to buy his half
out and will then take the craft to FL (on a truck) where it will live
in a corner of the hangar.
None of this counts for hang glider ratings
nor should it. Flying a trike is surprisingly different mostly because
you move the bar rather than moving your hips. Do that in a free
flight glider and nothing happens. Believe me, I know.
7 flights, 3 hours,
two-place, Marty Mcinstry
5 flights, 1.5 hours, two place, Jeff
50 flights, 20 hours all on wheels, Cosmos Samba
Mar-Apr, Let the Lessons Begin
Tim & I were arriving home in the Bonanza one day only to find a
sailplane on the runway. At least he was far enough north that I lande4/21d
past him. But that got me curious so I went down to talk. A towplane
soon landed to fetch him back to Seminole gliderport so I talked with
his wingwoman (and wife). I wound up heading up there and got checked
out in a Blanik sailplane.
That also got me looking at the hang glider places that are really
near our house. Quest air to the north and Wallaby to the East. Both
parks have a good reputation but Quest has a long enough runway to land
Quest Air's "Spinner" drew the short stick and started my
training. We did about 6 aerotows then he soloed me in a Falcon 170 with
wheels. What a hoot. Aerotowing is kind of nerve wracking. The first few
solo flights were on a glider with built in castering wheels just like
what I was used to on the tandems. But soon I wanted to fly and that
glider was busy. So I got to fly A falcon 140 from a cart.
Launching from a cart is interesting. You're already holding the
control bar like before but now have to hold a little rubber hose in
each hand that's attached to the cart. Don't hold them tight or you'll
bring up the cart. Not good for the cart when you finally realize you
won't be able to hold it for long. Thankfully I didn't do that but was
worried about it. And yes, it has been done. The cart required some
6 AT Tandems on Wheels, 1.2 hours.
3 AT Solo on Wills
Wing Falcon 170, 0.4 hours.
12 AT Solo on Wills Wing Falcon 140, 2.0
hours. 8 landings on my feet, four of which would have qualified for a
2014 Apr 21-24 Foot Training
Here is where the fun begins.
I want to get my Hang 3 rating which is the minimum required to fly
most sites. That requires, among other things, 90 flights, 30 flying
days and some number of flying hours. The 90 flights, though, can be
short hill hops. And since I'm wanting to become proficient at foot
launch, and I was already coming to California, I scheduled two days of
One discovery, foot launching in mellow air on these
training slopes is brainless -- MUCH easier than aerotowing. Obviously
the vagaries of winds and terrain can make mountain launches treacherous
-- and the accident data supports this -- but the training hill makes it
almost trivial. Landing is where the practice is valuable. I don't have
it down yet.
2014 April 21, Santa Barbar, CA, Training Hill, Willy Dydo
12 Footlaunch (FL) Runs on top of Santa Barbara hill. Did get into flight briefly
before starting the flare. Falcon 170. 0.2 hours. Only flare if the
wings are level. Feel trim, wait, full flare if wings are level. Hold
the Downtubes low enough to have good control, slide hands up to the
"stick up" position before flaring.
2014 April 22, San Bernardino, CA,
Training Hill, Rob McKenzie
These were real flights requiring
airborne steering corrections. Emphasis was placed on being level and
rounding out without worrying about the flare because there was a steady
wind of about 5-7 mph. His comment was basically that a full superman
flare is the reward for arriving at trim speed with wings level. If a
bank starts, stop flaring (but don't pull the bar back in).
incredibly useful because I got to do the landing from a normal flight.
All were on my feet, including a couple full flare touchdowns but I
touched a wingtip on two of them. That's not terribly uncommon from my
observation of others landing.
8 FL Runs from training hill. Falcon 1,
170, 0.2 hrs.
April 24, San Diego, CA, Training
Hill, John Heiney
This was part of an
Enterprise trip started April 18.
1) John snapped this one just before a run.
2) My partner in this particular crime, Mike. He's also just learning in
spite of some
kidney difficulties due to Bicycle riding.
Interesting you don't see many overweight and/or out of shape people
This was different than the previous 2 sessions mostly because the
shallow hill made it more of a run and flare rather than a
run, fly and flare. It was mostly about the flare and, on most runs,
the glider did not actually lift me until I started the flare. I'd get
to trim while running, push out...then flare. It got better but I'm far
from there. John's words after my last run: "you need more work on
this." Oh well. I'll do what I need. Proof will be if and when I master
this thing. I'm more motivated than ever to get this landing flare.
Unlike paramotor, where I push it, I have no plans on pushing this. I'll
strive for consistently competent.
One time, just as I started, I felt
an abrupt change in the wind, enough that I aborted with only a few
steps. There wasn't much wind but it doesn't take much, at least for my
level. John offered to take me to a mountain launch the next time out
but, as you'll see shortly, that wouldn't be wise. As brainless as bunny
hill launches are, I've read enough to give mountain launches great
I can see why most hang gliding mishaps
happen on takeoff and landing (like most aircraft). It's when
they're most vulnerable control-wise and necessarily close to he
ground. The round out and flare especially. It can be learned,
obviously, since some pilots almost never bend anything. Downtubes
in hang gliding are like props in paramotoring--they get broken on a
regular basis. Talk to hang glider pilots who travel to comps and
they frequently have spares. Some have bristled at this statement
but I'm just pointing out what I've seen since starting. In the 10
days or so I've spent at Quest I've seen 3 bent gliders. Admittedly
that's a small sample but it suggests a crash occurs approximately
one out of 20 or so flights and, in my book, if I bend something on
an aircraft, it's a crash.
Unfortunately, my left hip, which had started hurting just a bit on
the previous lesson, started to scream. I pushed through it to get as
many reps as possible but that probably wasn't so bright. Today the
piper is being paid and certain motions are nearly impossible.
Strangely, I can climb stairs and walk almost normally, but if I'm
laying on my right side with my legs bent it hurts like mad to lift a
leg--pain shoots to a 9. Bummer. Hopefully it's just a pulled
muscle. I'm not surprised, these muscles have been resting peacefully
for years until this week. I'd be pissed, too.
PS. Remarkably (and
thankfully) I awoke with most of the pain in my left hip gone. That's
23 FL runs (according to John), 0.1 hours. Dream 205 (Built/sold
by Bill Bennett).
2014 Apr 27 San Diego,
CA, Mountain Flying
Originally I was just gonna fly Torrey early then pack up my
paraglider to be shipped home. I couldn't carry it on the
But John Heiney, my San Diego instructor from the previous day, was at
Torrey and showed the videos of my previous day's buffoonery. He was
polite enough not to use that term. While there I asked about a
mountain flight and a plan was hatched. Another airline pilot, on a San
Diego overnight, wanted to get his first mountain flight, too.
The weather looked good for a popular free flight site known as Blossom.
Getting to launch was, by a long shot, the day's best drama. The last
few hundred yards is a steep, severely rutted path--no place for wheels.
John Heiney has what looks like a rather run-o-the-mill minivan. It's
creatively equipped for sleeping but it's a minivan. So when we passed
the normal parking spot I mentioned that I was used to walking up. Not
He put this thing in 4-wheel drive headed up a dirt wall. It
was the most impressive piece of driving I've experienced. And that
wasn't the worst part. I brought my video camera to bear after wrangling
my bag through severe turbulence. Damn what a ride! Come to find out
this VW thing is made for off-roading and John has modified it further.
No doubt, he has replaced a few under things, too. Whew.
Yes, yes, I
know, it's a hang glider log.
We put the two Dream 205 gliders together, got the harnesses adjusted
and began waiting for conditions.
Initially it was too rowdy. We got there at probably 3pm with
strong cycles pulsing through, driving gusts that I had no interest in.
Several paraglider pilots were already flying, though, and had gotten
way high, reportedly getting into the mist 500 feet below cloud base.
Phil was kind enough to let me borrow his Ozone Mantra 4 for a pre-hang
glide flight to check out the ridge, feel the air, and mainly just for
fun. What a nice performing ride. I was on my toes, though--a bit edgy,
in fact, given its D ratedness. I must be getting old.
By about 5pm it
had mellowed to the point where I felt comfortable launching and John
agreed so I got ready and walked to the launch point.
Some interesting Notes. I had wire helpers, one on the nose and
one on a wing for which I was very thankful. But I wasn't
sure if I was fighting them or the wind so I asked them to keep their
hands on the wire but not apply pressure so I could feel it. Turns out I
was indeed fighting the wing wire person who, no doubt, thought they
were fighting the wind. John told me that his
only injury accident was where a wire person walked off slowly and he
launched, catching that person on the shoulder, causing a turn into the
cliff. Obviously it's up to the PIC to check but it's a good lesson.
It's not necessary to have wire helpers but it's helpful as long as you
pay appropriate extra attention. Pictured left is me getting ready with
Jon keeping close, but not applying pressure, to the nose wires.
When ready, I yelled "clear", looked around and ran with vigor.
It felt good. A turn to the right put me in Blossoming "wonder wind" --
easy soaring conditions that were mostly ridge lift. There were still
thermals, and some mechanical turbulence down lower but it was easy to
stay up and nothing ever got me close to the margins. Until I decided to
start practicing top landing approaches, that is.
I gained some altitude then got into the harness after fishing for
the kickbar for a few seconds. Soon I started to relax and try things. One was using the
least amount of input to do what I wanted.
Control via weight shift is decidedly different and COMPLETELY
different than what paragliders do. Moving mass around while
hanging from the glider means using arm strength to move your hips.
Where the hips go so goes the glider. Hips right, turn right. That's why
I wanted to avoid over control. It's bad enough muscling this thing around but double bad if you've got to
do it twice --
once to correct something and another to fix an over correction.
As mentioned before, just pushing the bar sideways only swivels your
body under the hang point. The glider does nothing. In fact that's kind
of fun to play with, twisting left and right, flying sideways to the
slipstream. In this much lift the little bit of extra drag was
unnoticeable. Keep those hands close, though--turbulence could throw you
out of position.
The actual soaring was brainless--I was light on a big glider so
I could just bumble about in front of the
hill. But there were little thermals coming through which gave me great
pleasure in trying to core. Thermals try to kick out a hang glider
more than anything else I've flown. Lift on your right makes punches up the
right wing. A few times I was pulling in a bit to increase control
authority and had to swing way over to counter a roll. It's quite physical.
That's why I was working on reducing over control--using just the right amount
of correction. Laziness has it's plusses.
1) Each flyby I exit the harness, grab the downtubes, and prepare to
Jon Irlbeck, a United Captain overnighting in San Diego, is preparing to
3) Another flyby. Check out John
Hiney's van behind me. That's one incredible vehicle.
Photos by Phil Russman who mounted the camera *AND* remembered to
turn it on.
After a half hour or so I started doing top landing approaches. High
at first then working my way down. I was leery of going too far behind
though and, a few times, created drama when I banked too steeply. I was
told that yes, I can go a bit behind the hill to make an approach so
long as I have enough altitude to dive for speed.
Each time I got out of the harness, changed bar position so I was
flying by the Downtubes like I was landing. On one approach everything
was looking good so I allowed myself to dive right down to the hill,
still planning to fly through. Alas I started running out of energy,
touched down on the ground and stopped. Whoa! Watching the video later
we could see my wingtip grazed a boulder just as I touched but otherwise
it was straight and exactly where I intended on flying through. Still,
that could have gone very badly and I begged off doing any more really
low passes. I wanted to get more experience and watch other hang gliders
land up there.
While I was standing there processing the landing, John
said "you gonna launch again?". Of course! Off I went. This one was
better, too, with no jumping. Just a smooth acceleration into a blissful
The second launch was better -- no jumping. I soared for a half hour
or so then followed Jon (the other student) in for a landing.
near him and on stayed on my feet with the wings level but had to run it
out more than necessary. I could have had a better flare. Winds were
about 3-5 mph.
What a trip. Jon and I were both ecstatic about it. It
feels kind of like I've arrived. Yes, I've got a lot to learn, and to
master, but this is the experience I was seeking at age 13. It felt
2 FL Flights from mountains on Dream 205. 1.5 hours. Light
turbulence. Mostly ridge lift, some thermaling. 1 Top landing on
2014 May 09 Florida Ridge (Miami
Tim & I were on an Enterprise trip to check out the
East Coast Paragliding Championship and I decided to get some hang
glider flights. It was a last minute thing but owner James Tindle was
Florida Ridge is between Miami and Ft. Myers on an
expansive piece of grassy perfection. We pulled in fairly late at night
and stayed in the parking lot so I'd already be there to get as many
flights as I could before the weather became too bumpy. It was forecast
to get windy. Their facility is top notch, new and well maintained.
Somebody cares to be sure. Glider storage and fairly extensive workshop
space is in Storage containers but there are wooden 3 bunk houses and a
camper available for rent for students coming in from abroad.
was the main tow pilot but also a hang glider instructor. Him and James
helped get me set up. I put the glider together. Jonathan, who is
helping out on the field, also gave me some pointers regarding glider
assembly. It's the Falcon 140 that I've been flying at Quest.
were already picking up by the time I launched but they were pretty
Fight 1 - 2000 feet. 0.2 hours including tow.
Tow was normal including coming cleanly off the cart. This cart uses
a rope to hold the cart to the control bar but that turned out to be a
trivial difference. This glider flies so nice with such light control
pressures that even tow in turbulence requires minimal effort.
I practiced getting out of the harness a few times up high. There was
a lot of wind but, even mushing the glider up high I was slightly
penetrating so windspeed was probably about 20.
On landing I was going
for the cone and found myself low. I turned base seemingly high and
extended the base a bit because it still felt high. But when I pulled in
it sank like a brick. So I eased off the speed to extend glide, which
worked, but I still came up short. The gradient was quite strong (17 mph
headwind at 100 feet, 10 mph at the surface).
Landing was wings level
and cleanly on my feet. I didn't have much roundout because of the
Steve commented that I should avoid slowing down at all
costs and gave me some other pointers. I was still above trim speed but
best glide in a headwind *IS* above trim speed. His point was more about
the greater control authority at higher speed. File that for next
flight. Of course "all costs" is always relative. If you're going to hit
a wire and slowing down will clear it you do what's necessary.
2 - 2000 feet, .2 hours including tow.
It was getting stronger, probably 12 to 15 on the ground but
Everything went well and this time I resolved to
have higher speed yet on final and did. I turned base even earlier,
closer to the cone and higher. I STILL came up short but this time I
kept up the speed, hand more time in the roundout, held it off the
ground and got a nice flare.
Neither flare was full because there was
no need. I really like Rob Mackenzie's advice about a full flare being
the reward for arriving wing level at the appropriate place and, even
then, only if it's necessary.
Landing in a wind in these conditions is
much easier. I can see my challenge will be calm wind landings on the
It had become noticeably stronger wind and they said it was too
much. I was good with that -- it would have been more wind than I've
flow in although I felt comfortable. What's weird is that two hours
later I launched my paraglider on a truck tow 2 miles away. The
difference of experience!
2014 July 19 Enjoy Field (Chicago Hang
This was an eventful weekend, centered around the Kankakee Paramotor
Fly-in. But it was also first paraglider competition, informal though it
was. We winch towed up to about 2000 feet which is impressive since I
used to have to aerotow up that high in a sailplane.
I also took this opportunity to do some hang glider flying.
Flight 1 - 2500 feet, Freedom Tandem, .3 hours including tow.
This was a checkout flight with their instructor. Unfortunately,
since I'm I'm recording this several months later I don't remember his
name. There was still lift out there and some turbulence. At one point
on tow I hit something that required full control input. It didn't feel
like it was correcting fast enough and, for the first time, I released
early instead of risk a lockout. Just as it released I felt it trend
back towards position so hindsight shows that I was premature. No biggie
since we were plenty high. The pattern and landing were normal.
Flight 2 & 3 - 2500 feet, .4 hours including tow, Wills Wing Falcon
140 (maybe the larger size).
Tows uneventful. Both landings on my feet although the first one was
barely successful. Conditions were getting increasingly smooth. By the
second tow it was glass which made the landing a bit more challenging
but I still managed to get onto my feet without letting the glider
touch. The wingtip dropped a bit but didn't ever touch. Still, I need to
get on that quicker.
2014 Dec 3, Quest, Tandem with Spinner
After several months without flying I took a tandem to knock off the
rust. At first I over controlled: too much absence and reacquainting
myself with the longer reaction period of the tandem glider. After a
few hundred feet, and with admonishment from Spinner I got the feel
again and it went smoothly. Landing on the wheels felt really easy.
Aerotow has some dark corners and high angle of attack is one of
them. I was told about an experienced pilot last year who
apparently caught a dust devil, got into a high angle of attack, broke
the weak link then tumbled in a fatal impact. Although he was "pro"
towing (towline only attached to his body) I could imagine it happening
on any strongish day. This can't be taken lightly. Thankfully the feel
came back pretty quickly but I ascribe great respect for hanggliding's
need for attention.
There are also several nasty hookup scenarios that could go bad so a
preflight is key.
Next time, hopefully soon, I'll take up the solo glider. I'm probably
gonna need to buy a used harness and glider, at least for a while, if
I'm to master this thing.
2015 Oct 21, Ellings Park,
6 TOTAL Hill Flights,
6 minutes (0.1
with Instructor Willy Dydo, Fly Away Hang Gliding, Wills Wing
Alpha 210 sq ft.
I haven't even flown the hang glider trike but a couple times at
Flanders Field. Tim & I found ourselves at the training hill in Santa
Barbara and it reminded me of my aborted hang glider lessons here due to
fog so I contacted Willy.
Looking up on the log I see that I got some runs on the Hill's very
top on April 21, 2014.
Willy brought a low time Wills Wing "Alpha" 210. I'm light on it but
it made landing on my feet every time seem almost easy, leaving Willy
working on finer points. Not MUCH finer, but at least he didn't have to
worry about me crashing as much.
Some notes about the training for my later review.
Glider assembly. RTFM, of course, but some highlights are: Unzip
center 80%. Bring downtubes & bar up, lay over sideways.
Put control bar on. Roll glider onto bar. Separate wings. Hook up luff
lines. Slide in center ribs out to luff lines. Pull the little chord to
get the backhaul hook out to tension the glider and hook it in. Putt the
remaining battons, tips and washout tubes in.
Launch: Arch back, ease into the run, let the glider slide up, open
palms facing back on front of control bar. Keep nose down a bit on the
3 runs at bottom of hill with flare. As speed slows to trim, start
pushing out, flare at moderate pressure.
1 flight from partway up the hill.
5 flights from the top. Never went completely prone. Used a training
from the day, including pics.
Morningside Flight Park,
2 Tandem Flights, 3000' & 2000'
20 minutes (0.3 hours)
with Instructor Josh, Morningside Flight Park, NH, Wills Wing
Two tandem flights on a calm evening. 3000' aero tow behind DragonFly
or similar then another tow to 2000' with Josh. He put me out of
position several times and had me take the control back and regain it.
One of these felt like the flight where I released because I was already
putting in full control and didn't think it was coming back. They worked
out reasonably well with improvement on the second flight.
Overcontrolled a few times on the first tow with some PIO's that I
noticed right away. On the second flight, while pulling the bar in a LOT
I got into a brief PIO then the landing went normal. Of course this is
landing on wheels so it's REALLY easy compared with landing on foot.
Simulated rope break. Pull forward a bit then turn right. The pulling
forward dives through the prop wash or wingtip vortice.
We also did a dive where you bend your knees and pull them up as well
as near stall flight where the controls felt really mushy. Pull in the
bar a bit just before turning then let it out to trim while in the turn.
Slips and skids are confusing to me, probably because I confuse how they
work with airplane stuff.