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This forum is dedicated to discussions on how to grow the sport of hang gliding. We will take a methodical approach to collect data and come up with implementable ideas on how to increase our numbers. This includes effective marketing, lead generation, site access issues, improving regulations, lack of instructors, lack of sites, etc

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By syncnsarc
#340710
I have been in the hang gliding world since the 70's, and I've seen many people come and go. Where I fly, in the Rockies, there are fewer pilots returning each year, and they are grey-haired grandpas, for the most part, with few newbies to replace them. Over the years, I have tried training and inspiring enthusiasts, but they rarely reach soaring ability, and it has generally ended up with my damaged equipment, and they with false, bragging rights. I see the younger generations desiring constant social contact; the need for instant gratification, and an aversion for spending the many years necessary to become a proficient, mountain pilot. Why would they when there is no glory or recognition in a lonely vigil, which requires undaunted dedication not to mention a serious element of risk? It doesn't help matters when the local perspective is that it is foolhardy, irresponsible and negligent behavior. I realize it is somewhat different in other places where there is a support network, and an established core of people who greatly help to continue this activity, but not where I live. I fly alone.
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By mark selner
#340714
i bet its great flying up there.
User avatar
By TjW
#341115
syncnsarc wrote:I have been in the hang gliding world since the 70's, and I've seen many people come and go. Where I fly, in the Rockies, there are fewer pilots returning each year, and they are grey-haired grandpas, for the most part, with few newbies to replace them. Over the years, I have tried training and inspiring enthusiasts, but they rarely reach soaring ability, and it has generally ended up with my damaged equipment, and they with false, bragging rights. I see the younger generations desiring constant social contact; the need for instant gratification, and an aversion for spending the many years necessary to become a proficient, mountain pilot. Why would they when there is no glory or recognition in a lonely vigil, which requires undaunted dedication not to mention a serious element of risk? It doesn't help matters when the local perspective is that it is foolhardy, irresponsible and negligent behavior. I realize it is somewhat different in other places where there is a support network, and an established core of people who greatly help to continue this activity, but not where I live. I fly alone.
It isn't done. We're a self-selected group. I don't think you can make people want to fly.
In the "olden days", instruction and equipment were terrible, but far more accessible. Wills Wing used to take the "shop glider" out to a training hill and let people try it for free. There would be twenty or twenty-five people sometimes, standing around waiting their turn to give it a shot. It was, in a way, a social occasion. Some of them -- not all of them, by a long shot -- bought gliders and continued to fly.
But I don't think many people will be interested in a lonely vigil.
User avatar
By ChattaroyMan
#341126
My feelings are that you've got to have a place where people can see you fly - a flying site that is near a population or a launch or LZ that is along a major highway. Out of sight - out of mind. Maybe there's a possible site-to-be near a population center near you(??) It may take a lot of work and a long time - but, we can always use more flying sites.

I also feel that it takes more than just one or two pilots here and there helping to promote the sport. It takes a group of pilots who see the value in attracting newbees. Even an event like a club car wash where gliders are set up and pilots wash cars could attract a new pilot. But, that takes pilots who're willing to possibly pass up a day of flying to do the wash. Same goes for a group picnic at a park - set up the gliders in the park.

I believe that to gain new pilots the general public has to see our sport conducted and to see it often. The more this can take place where out-of-doors oriented people gather the better.
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By DAVE858
#341130
I think that if you own a hang glider, you should own a GoPro or some equivalent camera type & share your experience on YouTube or some sort of social network. This is a great way to expose our sport & inspire people.
User avatar
By dayhead
#341137
In some ways, "Brave New World" isn't all that great of a read.

But there is some stuff in it that is quite prophetic, in a general, perhaps metaphorical sense.

I get "Gizmag" in my email, many times I've been reminded of that novel as I read it.

What we are seeing is social evolution, driven by the chip.

I believe that most, if not all, of us here on this and other discussion sites were simply born to fly. And we want it, hell, we need it, so bad we'll put up with a lot of crap to get it.

In our brave new world, there are many who may be in our boat, but won't be willing to put up with the crap that we put up with.

I'll stick my neck out here, I'm not afraid of criticism, and offer up my oh so humble opinion (OSHO?) that some of the crap I'm referring to is our inferior technology that we currently use to fly.

Paragliding, and it's popularity and the reasons for it, offer up a lesson:

"Thinking Outside the Box" may be a tired cliche in these modern times, but most good wisdom is old, There's nothing new under the Sun.

As someone who has done a share of instructing, I see that we need to perhaps start over with a clean sheet of paper and/or it's modern equivalent, to do what we can to make things safer and easier.

A point: Many radio control transmitters are sold that will never be used to control an "analog" flying machine, their users will fly and crash and just hit the reset button, and make great flights all in the comfort and safety of their magic box. The magic boxes will continue to improve and make the virtual world more and more real, and eventually the experience of gluing the broken pieces back together for another attempt will be only a dim memory, just a bunch of Reminiscences from old pharts.

But it's really OK, the "feelies" are coming, and we'll get all the flying we want without actually taking any risks.

And The Beat Goes On.....
User avatar
By OverloadUT
#341151
As a new pilot, and a guy definitely young enough to be in that "constant social contact" generation (hell I even do social media for a living,) I have given this a great deal of thought.

There is a lot that could be done to market the sport better than it is currently. Simple things like Groupons are a good start to this: it's exposing the idea of the sport to tons of people that would never have even given it a second thought before. That's the kind of things I'd love to see more of.
dayhead wrote:I believe that most, if not all, of us here on this and other discussion sites were simply born to fly. And we want it, hell, we need it, so bad we'll put up with a lot of crap to get it.
This is absolutely true, at least for me. People ask me why the hell I want to fly (especially after they find out how much money I've spent on it already) and my honest answer is that I don't really understand how someone could NOT want to. I've always wanted to fly, for as long as I can remember.
User avatar
By hblock
#341155
This is a sport that is hard to get into and not for the faint of heart. Most of us drive a long ways do a lot of hang waiting and take a lot of flack from family and others who can't understand why we do it. Truth be known I would probably drive twice as far and hang wait twice as long just for the privilege of doing what we do. As said above I think most of us were born to fly not content with some artificial form of it.
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By dave hopkins
#341157
We were a generation of a cross between superman and a bird. Almost all the new pilots I see are old guys that are getting back to their roots. We were like acorns growing into oaks. We had the inner stuff and nothing was going to stop us. Young people today don't have it. They have the seed to do what ever their generation came to do. We came to fly HGs.
Plus it can cost 6 to 10k $ to get into the sport. It cost me 300 $ for all my equipment and I taught myself. I could not afford to learn today especially if I was a young person.
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By piano_man
#341159
If you want something bad enough it'll be yours, maybe not on your own terms but if you show up and keep at it and do what you can to get the training, gear, knowledge, skill, etc. it's been my experience 90% of things you conceive of and dream of and work for are definitely doable.

Geez, I had two people offer to GIVE me a glider. Hawk Eye, rest his soul - died at King Mountain - offered me a Mark IV, when I first got into the sport. Another hg buddy gave me his Climax because he hadn't flown in over a year. And I just happened to be the one lucky bloke to call him up one day and say; Hey Jim Bob, where have you been?

I hear excuses every day why so and so can't do this or that. IMO you can do most anything you want if you have the drive and fortitude. Sorry for disagreeing with you Dave, it's rare that I do. Still wanting to fly with you XC some day soon I hope.
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By flybop
#341179
Believe me when I say that money itself is not a barrier. All I ever wanted to do was fly. When I began college I stopped by a small, local airport. All I wanted was to get an idea how expensive, ie unattainable, flying lessons would be. I could barely afford gas to make it to school every day. I hit it off with the airport owner and he turned my stopping by to ask about flying lessons into a job interview. Half an hour latter I was lying underneath a very dirty airplane washing it. For two years I cut grass, cleaned toilets, pumped gas, etc, etc. I got my pilot's license, met amazing people and made a dream come true.

My entry into hg was similar. I simply had no way to afford this. Then, I found, or it found me, a good beginner wing for very cheap. Scrapped some money, gave up many other things for flying lessons and then a year later I flew off of King Mountain.

What drives me is the knowledge that there are many out there who do have the desire and drive to fly hang gliders. What is missing for them so often is simply the first exposure. This is what I want to accomplish with my project at work. To have someone who has always wanted to look into this walk up to a hang glider, talk to me, watch some videos ask questions and realize that h*ll yes, this is very achievable.

So then, how is it done? By us. By taking the time to answer questions when someone asks what that thing on your truck is at the gas station. By inviting someone to go to the sites with us when they express an interest and then, helping them to find an instructor. Hang gliding will never have a super bowl commercial, but we do have a bunch of pilots who can try to express to others what it is like to soar with eagles
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By TjW
#342063
flybop wrote:Believe me when I say that money itself is not a barrier.
I agree. But if you're not part of the flying community, you won't know this.
People tend to look up prices of new gliders, harnesses, and lessons on the internet, and gulp, "I'm gonna have to drop 6K into this? I don't even know if I'll like it!"

One of the things I try to emphasize when I'm evangelizing to wuffos who ask how expensive it is, is that it will almost certainly require some commitment, but it won't necessarily be money. If you continue to come out and fly, or come out and hang out and help out, deals appear. Equipment gets loaned. Sometimes even given.
I can't explain how or why, but it quite often does.
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By Aldpal
#342068
I have always thought that the best way to grow, or at least maintain the level of HG is to try to refer at least one person a year to go for a tandem HG ride with a competent and enthusiastic instructor. A certain, perhaps small, percentage of tandems will be hooked after that first flight and will not care about the cost or other difficulties in getting into our sport. The other, one and done, rides will still support the livelihood and number of instructors, which is also essential to maintaining and growing the sport. If every active pilot during their entire flying career only turns on one other individual to becoming a HG pilot, that alone should keep our numbers static.

I remember a few years ago being on vacation in Key West with my family. I offered to treat my two nephews and nieces to rent scooters and cruise the streets. My two nieces jumped on the chance to drive scooters. My two teen age nephews preferred to stay in the house playing video games, rather than ride real motor scooters. Go figure. See you in the air, Alan
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By TjW
#342479
I don't know. In some ways, the tandem experience is a little less flying and a little more being flown.

As awful as the performance was on standards, and as spotty as the instruction was, there was something about that first flight of the glider pulling you -- not you and someone else flying you, but just you -- into the air that just grabbed hold of people. Well, me, anyway. I smiled so long and so hard that day my face muscles hurt in the morning.

What I've noticed about tandem rides, is they mostly show up, take the ride, and disappear. Very few of them stick around to watch other flights land and talk with people. So it's hard for me to tell what they think about it. Maybe some of the tandem pilots will chime in.

I'm leaning toward some sort of method that would approach what was done in those early days. I think it needs to take place in a group, so they have other neophytes to compare their skills to, instead of already-competent pilots.
After all, half of the students are bound to be above average.

Right now, it's a fairly vague idea. One major issue I have no idea of how to solve is how to get the group of people in the first place. I don't know how or where Wills advertised to get people to come out to fly the shop glider, but there was generally a crowd. Hard to believe it was all word of mouth

On the other hand, something like this could be fairly cheap. If a tandem is say, two hundred bucks, then a few hours of novice training in groups of five could be forty bucks each without the instructor taking a pay cut.
I don't know if you could do it with ten people per instructor, but I think twenty bucks is a price point that a lot of people will pay. A college student might find it hard to justify the two hundred bucks in one swell foop. But a twenty this weekend and that... might be more doable. And once a susceptible person is bitten... well, we all know how it goes after that.

I agree the key is to be able to expose as many people as possible. I don't know that the conversion rate to life-long hang glider pilot will be any greater than it is for tandems, but if all the sport wound up with was five times as many people saying "Oh, yeah, I tried that... it's not as crazy as most people think", we could probably count it a net win.
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By stephmet
#342539
syncnsarc,

To answer your question regarding the lack of younger people (20s-40s); poor marketing aside - it has to do with time. Most of my peers are mired in jobs working in excess of 50 hours weekly. After work, those with spouses and/or children simply don't have the time to do much of anything. I was fortunate in that I had flight park 40 minutes from my home, my then girlfriend - now wife, knew that hang gliding came with the package. Not so for others. The work / life balance is a hard walk in the 21st century and most simply can't commit the time to learn, let alone fly regularly enough to maintain currency.
Last edited by stephmet on Sun Jan 05, 2014 12:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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By peanuts
#342578
stephmet wrote:syncnsarc,

........................... I was fortunate in that I had flight park 40 minutes from my home, ...........Not so for others. The work / life balance is a hard walk in the 21st century and most simply can't commit the time to learn, let alone fly regularly enough to maintain currency.

maybe if we built more mountains, then people could find more flying time.
User avatar
By combat.is.hell
#343123
It is an intresting topic and I have had many discussions with fellow pilots about the ever decreasing numbers of new people in the sport.

It is definatelly a good idea to send people for a tandem flight, even for a 1 or 2 day trial course. Just make sure you send them to a proffessional instructor that makes a living out of it. Even if only one of 30 or 40 decide to get into the sport, you are at least providing an income for a valuable resource in our sport (the instructor that is).
If, on the other hand, the instructor is not a proffessional and is not making any real money out of it (me for example) then it might be better to let the curious find out themselves what kind of a sport this is, the level of commitment it requires, the time it takes to start flying "like those cool guys up there" and let them come in contact with the poor soul that is the instructor themselves. Although I am a new instructor, I am already tired of people taking up my limited instruction time only to discover in grave dissapointment that after one week on the training hill they are still not allowed to fly cloudbase on a badass topless.

I live in Sweden where all the instructors are taking time out of their proffessional and family lives to go out and teach. None of us makes any real profit out of instructing, we are happy if we break even. The students we want to have are the ones that will continue flying. If this means just a couple of students then that is just perfect. Why have ten students take up your time only to be left with one or two by the end of the season? It is a waste of my precious time as far as am concerned. It is a waste of the commited students time also.

Promotion? There are hundreds of films on the net - just from Sweden, not talking about the thousands upon thousands from other countries. We take part in fly-ins. We fly mosquito along crowded beaches. We have been featured on TV and newspapers.

Reach us? Anybody within a 10 km range of a working computer can easily find our national association website with listing of all local clubs and their websites, our videos and our contact details. Full details of all available courses in the whole coutry are also available on the association homepage. Does that wealth of information lead to more interest? No, it just means that we don't get contacted with questions about the sport very often - almost everything in answered on the website.

This year we have a particularly discouraging FAQ describing the sport as it is: expensive, time consuming, hard to get into, does not combined nicely with other expensive & time consuming hobbies. In that way we hope to reduce even more the amount of students who enroll for training only to leave after the end of the basic training.
User avatar
By combat.is.hell
#343125
I don't think that young people today are couch potatoes but young people thirty years ago were tough and commited and more willing to jump off mountains. In my opinion the good times that our sport experienced back then were a bubble.
Paragliding has also had it's days of glory and is now seeing the number of active pilots dwindle - the paragliding bubble is leaking air. Paragliding is easier, more accessible and more practical than HG but people in the sport stop flying and complain about lack of free time, expenses, distance to flying sites etc etc. Sounds familiar?

I also don't think distance to flying sites is much of an issue. I have invested in a mosquito so that I can fly locally when time doesn't allow for longer drives to free flying sites. An easy solution for increasing your flying hours. You fly with the motor and keep yourself current, then when the opportunity arises you make that full-day trip and free-fly to your heart's content.
User avatar
By combat.is.hell
#343126
Finally I don't think money is much of an issue either. If somebody is complaining about the cost of HG then you can be sure that their money is needed somewhere else: their ill-afforded big house, their pimped car, their consumption of stuff, their social lives, other expensive hobbies and so on. And it is probably a good sign that this person is going to quit HG pretty soon. From people with low income I have heard that as soon as they get some money they'll be getting into the sport but I have not really heard them complaining about the cost of HG.

I think we just have to accept the fact that most people are just not ready to put so much effort into a hard sport that requires a lot of commitment, a crazy desire to want to be a hangglider pilot (not just any pilot) and an appreciation of flying in this way, with no control sticks, no windshields and no mechanical landing gear. I reckon the amount of new people getting into & staying in the sport is not going to increase, despite the fact that training is better and safer, wings are easier to fly and information plentiful and readily available.
Personally I am planning to make sure that I only come out and in
User avatar
By combat.is.hell
#343127
The whole text here

It is an intresting topic and I have had many discussions with fellow pilots about the ever decreasing numbers of new people in the sport.

It is definatelly a good idea to send people for a tandem flight, even for a 1 or 2 day trial course. Just make sure you send them to a proffessional instructor that makes a living out of it. Even if only one of 30 or 40 decide to get into the sport, you are at least providing an income for a valuable resource in our sport (the instructor that is).
If, on the other hand, the instructor is not a proffessional and is not making any real money out of it (me for example) then it might be better to let the curious find out themselves what kind of a sport this is, the level of commitment it requires, the time it takes to start flying "like those cool guys up there" and let them come in contact with the poor soul that is the instructor themselves. Although I am a new instructor, I am already tired of people taking up my limited instruction time only to discover in grave dissapointment that after one week on the training hill they are still not allowed to fly cloudbase on a badass topless.

I live in Sweden where all the instructors are taking time out of their proffessional and family lives to go out and teach. None of us makes any real profit out of instructing, we are happy if we break even. The students we want to have are the ones that will continue flying. If this means just a couple of students then that is just perfect. Why have ten students take up your time only to be left with one or two by the end of the season? It is a waste of my precious time as far as am concerned. It is a waste of the commited students time also.

Promotion? There are hundreds of films on the net - just from Sweden, not talking about the thousands upon thousands from other countries. We take part in fly-ins. We fly mosquito along crowded beaches. We have been featured on TV and newspapers.

Reach us? Anybody within a 10 km range of a working computer can easily find our national association website with listing of all local clubs and their websites, our videos and our contact details. Full details of all available courses in the whole coutry are also available on the association homepage. Does that wealth of information lead to more interest? No, it just means that we don't get contacted with questions about the sport very often - almost everything in answered on the website.

This year we have a particularly discouraging FAQ describing the sport as it is: expensive, time consuming, hard to get into, does not combined nicely with other expensive & time consuming hobbies. In that way we hope to reduce even more the amount of students who enroll for training only to leave after the end of the basic training.

I don't think that young people today are couch potatoes whereas young people thirty years ago were tough and commited and more willing to jump off mountains. In my opinion the good times that our sport experienced back then were a bubble.
Paragliding has also had it's days of glory and is now seeing the number of active pilots dwindle - the paragliding bubble is leaking air. Paragliding is easier, more accessible and more practical than HG but people in the sport stop flying and complain about lack of free time, expenses, distance to flying sites etc etc. Sounds familiar?

I also don't think distance to flying sites is much of an issue. I have invested in a mosquito so that I can fly locally when time doesn't allow for longer drives to free flying sites. An easy solution for increasing your flying hours. You fly with the motor and keep yourself current, then when the opportunity arises you make that full-day trip and free-fly to your heart's content.

Finally I don't think money is much of an issue either. If somebody is complaining about the cost of HG then you can be sure that their money is needed somewhere else: their ill-afforded big house, their pimped car, their consumption of stuff/s***, their social lives, other expensive hobbies and so on. And it is probably a good sign that this person is going to quit HG pretty soon. From people with low income I have heard that as soon as they get some money they'll be getting into the sport but I have not really heard them complaining about the cost of HG.

I think we just have to accept the fact that most people are just not ready to put so much effort into a hard sport that requires a lot of commitment, a crazy desire to want to be a hangglider pilot (not just any pilot) and an appreciation of flying in this way, with no control sticks, no windshields and no mechanical landing gear. I reckon the amount of new people getting into & staying in the sport is not going to increase, despite the fact that training is better and safer, wings are easier to fly and information plentiful and readily available.
I am personally planning to make sure that I only come out and instruct those few students that I could not be discouraged in any possible way.
Last edited by combat.is.hell on Sat Jan 11, 2014 3:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

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