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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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User avatar
By RobertKesselring
#384554
Most of these pondering occurred after watching "Playground in the Sky" so, take them in that context.

It seems to me like the initial popularity of hang gliding was largely due to the fact that it was dirt cheap, and almost anyone could try it up on a whim. Of course, once people tried it, many of them liked it and kept doing it. The problem now, is that relatively few people try it because lessons and equipment cost many thousands of dollars. It's not something that many people can do on a whim.

Why not go “Retro-HG” and organize some old fashioned fly-what-you-built events?

Obviously this would have to be at training hill kind of sites, and we'd have to resurrect the "don't fly higher then you care to fall" motto, but I think it would be great fun. It would be a very different kind of fun from running off of high mountains and soaring for hours, but I think training hill fly-in days would be great fun in their own way. Add a 4 wheeler and a cart and folks could get in 15 or 20 short flights in a day. Low time, as well as experienced pilots could stay more current on landing skills. Prospective pilots could be introduced to the sport on the cheap. And, it would appeal to people who like to design and build their own toys, and I think that could be a big crowd.

Since this kind of event would, by design, attract untrained pilots with home-made wings, I think liability would be the biggest problem. USHPA would obviously have to steer way clear of this. It would probably have to be on unregulated public land (which there isn’t any of anywhere near me). And, it would have to be very informally promoted, as anybody who could be named as the “organizer” of such an event could have liability problems.

So, what do you think? How :crazy: am I?
User avatar
By jjcote
#384557
Well, the more expensive, professionally designed wings that we fly now are a lot less disaster-prone than many of those early kites, especially when the latter are flown by the inexperienced. I've been doing this for a little while now, and I've got zero interest in leaving the ground under a standard Rogallo wing. Upping the injury rate doesn't seem like a great course of action.
User avatar
By TjW
#384560
Having started in 1973, I have a toast:
"Here's to the good old days -- may they never return."

My first Wills Wing cost $565 -- but that was 1973 dollars.
The inflation calculator at http://www.dollartimes.com/calculators/inflation.htm
tells me that's the equivalent of $3,144.39 in 2016.

A new Alpha, which is waaaaaay higher performance than that 18' standard, is $3675.00, or $660.34 in 1973.dollars. Would many people have paid the extra hundred bucks for that level of performance, slick hardware, and documented pitch recovery?
You bet your sweet ass they would have.
Today, I'm sure I could get all my equipment used but in good shape for under that $3100. If I were willing to settle for a refurbished but safe single surface "garage queen" like a Dream or Gemini, I could probably do much better than that. So I don't think equipment cost is the limiting factor.

Granted, I paid nothing for instruction -- because none was available.
Last year was certainly a bad one in terms of accidents, but 1974 saw something like 40 pilots dead. A lot of that was due to no information or bad information about how gliders fly. Something as simple as a 360 was a "killer maneuver".
Instruction at that time was your buddy taking you out to the hill and letting you try. I think that may account for the rapid spread of it, but I know there was a certain amount of "blind leading the blind"

If you'd like to try that sort of flying, attend the Otto Lilienthal meet in LA.



.
User avatar
By Bouyo
#384561
I understand where the sentiment comes from Robert; whenever I see the origins of the sport and the huge enthusiasm that went along with it, it seems like the Hayday of Hang Gliding to me. I think that a lot of the unbounded enthusiasm and pioneering spirit was down to the fact that this was new and exciting.

Now that people have lots of knowledge about Hang Gliding and that initial public excitement has faded, I don't think you'll see people lining up to try and fly their home made gilders - the culture is different now.

The fact that there's such a body of knowledge out there and such excellent gilder designs has to be for the best, despite the fact that it might cost more today to get into the sport than it did. Maybe in reality it didn't cost much less than it does today, especially when you factor in how many gilders you'd have to buy/repair! Any older pilots care to make a comment about that?
By Roadrunner
#384591
Though at the time. The Time being the earlier part of the 1970's. Even though I was not a participant in flying a Glider. But being that I lived in Concord California. I had a line-of-sight view of Mt. Diablo these guys, these Guys built and flew what were called Phantom Wing's. Well I thought that this was so Cool! One Day my Brother John , His friend Chuck and I drove over to the range of Hills that divide what is Concord and Pitts-Burg. There I watched a Guy do a launch into a strong N-E wind. He went straight up. He did one of those elevator launches. I tell you I really need to go back there. I need to look around for my Jaw. Because when I saw that glider go straight up during launch. My lower jaw hit the ground!

Yes, I say yes to found memories of the early Days of our sport. I wish I could go back.

Good By Chris McKeon . . . . . CCMCK@GOLDSTATE.NET 925-497-1059
User avatar
By Mavi Gogun
#384596
Bouyo wrote:Now that people have lots of knowledge about Hang Gliding and that initial public excitement has faded, I don't think you'll see people lining up to try and fly their home made gilders - the culture is different now.
While modern hang gliding is a wonder in an age of wonders, I reckon that "initial public excitement" had little to do with our greatest participation- in the early 2000's- surpassing the 70's marginally in membership and by many, many orders of magnitude of airtime! We're in a downward trend in adventure sports participation that extends over 10 years.
User avatar
By CAL
#384598
i started in 1976 when Hang gliding was dangerous and Sex was safe, now Sex is dangerous and Hang gliding is much more safe, mainly because of the knowledge and instruction, and the modern day gliders have much more performance and much easier to fly

i wouldn't trade what we had in the past for what we have today, but to each his own, i love modern Hang Gliding!
User avatar
By dayhead
#384605
I've always found it interesting that homebuilding hasn't been in existence in Hg, since the early to mid seventies.

Building a glider frame isn't too difficult, but sailmaking is as much art as science.

A rigid wing glider can be built at home. But no one does it anymore. Good reasons have been mentioned for some of this.

It should be kept in mind that homebuilt airplanes are popular, and many 250+mph airplanes have been built in a garage. I'm sure a rigid similar to the Atos type could be built at home.

And of course there's Mike Sandlin's designs, requiring a roll-off launch.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention. If and when Hg shrinks to the point where it cannot sustain a factory, homebuilt foot-launchable rigid designs will get developed for the homebuilder.

What saddens me is the lack of research into aerodynamic devices that can reduce stall speed without hurting the top end too much. It's amazing what the Alaskan bush pilots have done in this area. No one has the resources to do it, but I suspect we'll be seeing some more experimentation here.

The decline in the level of participation is at least partly due to our leaving an Analog culture and headed firmly on the way to the Digital culture.

The gearheads don't want to take risks so they buy a quality flight simulator and it does the trick, without the need to travel to fly and risk getting hurt. Makes sense, but I grew up in a culture of gears and pullies and glue, we had no ones and zeroes.

The tech developed to allow the success of the multi-rotor "drone" will someday trickle down to where artificially stablized Hg's will become viable.( Fly by wire has served Airbus quite well, thank you.)

:punch:

It's a Brave New World.
User avatar
By Everard
#384978
It's a problem with western society as a whole. Hang gliders have never been less expensive in real terms. However, the difference between rich and poor where I live in Britain, and I suspect in the USA, has widened enormously since I bought my first glider in 1974 with money left over from my government student grant.
User avatar
By waveview
#384994
Fly screen mesh and concrete - and it flys - well gets of the ground at least :)
[youtube]
[/youtube]
User avatar
By HGXC
#384996
It seems we had double the number of participants in the late 70'searly 80's. If someone can find a chart that far back it would be helpful.

Count me as one who never believed that the lack of participation is cost. I know that is sometimes given as a reason but if you look at the number of people who go snowmobiling, motorcycling, Kayaking etc. you see that if there is a string interest people find the money.

I think there are people who want to fly and people who don't and most don't.

Dennis
By blindrodie
#385000
I think there are people who want to fly and people who don't and most don't
This too is my sentiment...and I grew up in a flying family, so 57 years of exposure. GA struggles too.

8)
User avatar
By mgforbes
#385007
One other thing to remember is that back when HG started, it was brand new, and none of the "shiny" had worn off yet. It took a couple of years and a bunch of fatalities in the early days, but our membership numbers quickly declined to the core of people who actually wanted to fly.

I have a chart somewhere (gotta find it, probably on my home computer) which shows the membership of USHPA from the very beginning. There was a surge right at the start in 1972 to about 20,000 as I recall, but that's when dues were $2/year and membership was basically just a newsletter. Numbers dropped precipitously over the next couple of years to around 4000, then slowly rose to a peak about 2003 of around 11,000 total. See the chart here for numbers since 2002:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/aaye8w28a5hdq ... 6.pdf?dl=0

Membership declined a bit after the 2000 bubble, and we've been fairly stable since then at slightly under 10,000 members. Back at the start, HG was the only game in town, although that covered a lot of different flying contraptions. As the dust settled, the modern hang glider became the dominant life-form and the rest of the evolutionary tree faded into obscurity. Here's a look at where things stood in 1975, wing-wise: (big file, 36MB)

https://www.dropbox.com/s/ghztkdnczwhop ... r.pdf?dl=0

The arrival of paragliders changed things because now there was more than one option for a foot-launched soaring craft. Given the relatively small number of people who want to fly, it makes sense that HG numbers would decline because now pilots have a choice to fly something else. Viewed from the perspective of overall foot-launched flight things are fairly stable, but the mix is changing.

Part of the problem with hang gliders is the longer learning curve, and the logistics of handling a long, skinny wing that won't fit inside a car or store in an apartment. I think a lot of prospective pilots take up paragliding because it's easier to learn initially, easier to haul around and easier to store. And the wings wear out quicker, which is beneficial to instructors and dealers who rely on equipment sales to help keep them in business.

I had the opportunity to fly the Wills Wing Alpha when I was down to San Jose recently. Nice glider! Sure, it's no XC machine, but it was easy to launch and land and very docile to fly. I think that wings like this, particularly if they could be designed in an easily-short-packed form, would be very attractive to PG pilots looking for something more comfortable to fly in wind or stronger thermal conditions.

Let's consider the barriers to entry for new HG pilots and work on overcoming them. Access to instruction is a big one, but it's driven in part by the lack of a profitable instruction model for many instructors. Why do PG instructors manage to make a living at it, when HG instructors do not? (Generalizing wildly here)

MGF
User avatar
By Everard
#385010
Here's another possible reason based on one short conversation with a [x]whuffo[/x] spectator and photographer at a cliff paragliding site in Bournemouth, a popular holiday town on the south coast of England. He said he considered taking up hang gliding some years before, but, judging by the appearance of the wings, it looks both difficult and dangerous.

In contrast, he was clearly blown away by the soaring paragliders. He said they look safe. They look like parachutes! What could go wrong?
:?

That must be about ten years ago now, but it has stuck in my mind. First impressions count for a lot (so they say).

So, yes, the reason is that most people do not actually want to fly hang gliders. It makes no sense to me because you only have to look at a good video or photo of a thermalling hang glider to see that nothing else compares. However, either most people don't see it that way or they don't have the need to do the most spectacular thing. They would rather float about in calm air. No harm in that, especially given that their larger numbers help us keep sites open.
User avatar
By flybop
#387460
Personally I can make the argument that money is not a barrier. I decided that I needed to fly (After losing my medical, ending my flying career.) and nothing was going to stop me. And believe me, the money did not come easily.

Very early on I made some connections, found a good, very used wing for less than 500 bucks and I was on my way.

Unfortunately what I think has changed is there are few and fewer true free spirits with the drive, ambition and willingness to commit to learning how to fly a hang glider.

I have managed to get two friends interested. One got a wing, took lessons and is now ready to go off a big hill this season. The other had one day on a T-hill but wants to pursue it.

As others have said, one very real barrier is the size of our wings. I so hope WW will work on an easily short pack wing!

Of course, the very big barrier is instruction. If the hang gliding world does go retro this is where I think it will happen. See the other thread on this.

In the meantime it is up to all of us to try our best to get new students who are willing to pay the dues interested in hang gliding.
User avatar
By Lucky_Chevy
#387462
I contend that we have gone back the old days in many respects. People are excited and learning how to fly in droves. The new technology wings are forgiving, inexpensive, light weight, and portable without vehicular modification. Instruction is brief and inexpensive and its possible to soar after only a few lessons.

New sports involving hiking and flying are being developed and are being televised.

Of course the "new" sport is paragliding. The wings don't quite have the performance of hang gliders but new designs are rapidly closing the performance gap and new XC records are being set at an unprecedented rate.

Don't believe me? Just check how many P1s and P2s were earned last month and compare it to the number of hanggliding pilots?

So what is the response from the hang gliding industry? So far I've seen a new generation of single surface wings that are lighter and easier to set up. I think long term we need to make wings more portable.
By Comet
#387468
I believe it was in the book "Downwind" (written by Larry Bunner?) that the theory was espoused that hang gliding was most popular in the beginning when it was accessible to everyone. But then, as the sport became more extreme, only the extremists were left. The sport was a victim of its own success. To elaborate:

In the early pre-soaring days, all activity centered around the LZ. Every flying day was like a big party - multiple sled rides, lots of socializing. But then some pilots learned to soar and spent more time aloft and much less time at the LZ socializing. The mood became somewhat less jovial. Ultimately, pilots learned to go cross country and didn't visit the LZ at all. The socializing died and so did much of the sport's popularity among the masses and fringe participants. Hang gliding became more extreme, leaving only the extremists - by definition a small percentage.
User avatar
By miraclepieco
#387469
thermalfinder wrote:
RobertKesselring wrote:Should we go back to our roots?
NO! But we do need more sites.
:lol: :mrgreen:
Can't tell if you're being facetious or not, but seeing as you live in the Northwest, if you are looking for more sites you should come to southern Oregon. It is with dismay I watch as launch site after launch site overgrows into extinction because there aren't enough pilots to maintain them. The few fliers there are automatically go to Woodrat, while all around Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, and Douglas Counties, takeoffs go begging. Within 1/2 hour of my house I can think of at least a dozen spectacular sites that I have visited that simply have no one to fly them. Here is a photo of one we cleared two years ago that has never had a pilot launch it. It's 2000' high and faces due east on a 20-mile ridge line, probably soarable every sunny day. And just look at the sheer number of clearcuts in the distance, each one a potential takeoff. Many sites I have been the first, the last and the only pilot to ever fly them. So much wasted potential!
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By janetfdoss
#389253
Bouyo wrote:I understand where the sentiment comes from Robert; whenever I see the origins of the sport and the huge enthusiasm that went along with it, it seems like the Hayday of Hang Gliding to me. I think that a lot of the unbounded enthusiasm and pioneering spirit was down to the fact that this was new and exciting.

Now that people have lots of knowledge about Hang Gliding and that initial public excitement has faded, I don't think you'll see people lining up to try and fly their home made gilders - the culture is different now.

The fact that there's such a body of knowledge out there and such excellent gilder designs has to be for the best, despite the fact that it might cost more today to get into the sport than it did. Maybe in reality it didn't cost much less than it does today, especially when you factor in how many gilders you'd have to buy/repair! Any older pilots care to make a comment about that?
Would you brief a bit .

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