Oct 21, 2015 shifting weight. This is also as my official hang glider logbook since I’ll lose the paper one anyway.

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 page”.

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 below)

It felt like a lark because actually learning the 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 Neilson
50 flights, 20 hours all on wheels, Cosmos Samba

2014 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 the Bonanza.

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 surgery help.

First solo (click here) in a hang glider was more exciting than it should be.

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 rating.

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 hill training.

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).

This was 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.

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 respect.

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 VERY encouraging.

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 helicopter. 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 today.

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.


American Airlines pilot Jon is holding my nose wire. He’s also doing training.

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 land.
Jon Irlbeck, a United Captain overnighting in San Diego, is preparing to launch below.
2) Relaxing.
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.

Top Landing

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 ridge lift.


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.

I landed 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 good.

2 FL Flights from mountains on Dream 205. 1.5 hours. Light turbulence. Mostly ridge lift, some thermaling. 1 Top landing on wheels.

2014 May 09 Florida Ridge (Miami Hang Glide)

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 most accommodating.

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.

Steve 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.

Winds were already picking up by the time I launched but they were pretty steady.

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 slower speed.

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.

Flight 2 – 2000 feet, .2 hours including tow.

It was getting stronger, probably 12 to 15 on the ground but reasonably steady.

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 feet.

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 Gliding)

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. Wheels.

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 hour)

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 hill.

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 harness.

Here’s more from the day, including pics.

Morningside Flight Park, here’s more.

2016-07-06 Morningside

2 Tandem Flights, 3000′ & 2000′
20 minutes (0.3 hours) 

with Instructor Josh, Morningside Flight Park, NH, Wills Wing Tandem

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.