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 Larry Fleming
The book, "Downwind, A True Hang-gliding Story" was written by Larry Fleming, 44 years since 1974 and still flying hang-gliders. I still believe that hang-gliding moved beyond the general population, but I do see pilot socialization in the landing fields. It is no longer totally about freedom and doing your own thing, but rather working to keep our sites open. The sport now requires insurance, organization, etc and we have become responsible. We no longer fear authority; we work with it. We have become"the man". We now have established, regulated flying sites and our pilots socialize there and on the ride up the hill. However, many of our sites are out of the public view and I do not see the general public there, like in the 1970's and 1980's. My experiences as a high school teacher (summers free to fly, yahoo!) have shown me that young people just don't do stuff like I did in childhood; active stuff like building tree houses, flying and crashing line-controlled model planes, playing sandlot football and baseball on Saturdays, riding miles away on adventures with a bicycle, working on my first car, jumping off the roof of my house, etc. People today tend to have had passive childhood experiences with computers and video games, or sports that are organized by adults. Today, we have many people who go through life as passengers, not pilots. There have also been many new inventions that allow the few active people to do stuff; para-gliding, drones, kite-surfing, new technology for bicycles, etc, which draws away from the pool of possible pilots.
In short, I believe that our decline in numbers is due to several factors;
1. a change to a more passive culture
2. more choices of activities for the fewer active people
3. the need for insurance and organization, which creates more hoops for future pilots to jump through

The beginning years of hang-gliding were exciting, a special moment in time, and I still see and relive that excitement with the very few new pilots, who are learning, but we have learned that freedom is not free and we are paying the price with organization, dues, insurance, cost of instruction. The general population does not dream of flight strongly enough to pay that price. Should we go back to our roots? I don't think we can.

Best Wishes and Good Flights,
Larry Fleming

By blindrodie
...stuff like I did in childhood; active stuff like building tree houses, flying and crashing line-controlled model planes, playing sandlot football and baseball on Saturdays, riding miles away on adventures with a bicycle, working on my first car, jumping off the roof of my house, etc.
You read me like a book Larry. How can I get a copy of yours?

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By Baitrunner
As a newb I cannot tap experience to provide valuable feedback here although the topic is very interesting. I would like to ask something of the very experienced H3,4,5's. . . . When is the last time you provided assistance to a new pilot/student? Have you considered mentoring? Instead of looking outward and attempting to place cause and effect to the decline of our sport, take ownership of it. I ask this because of my own experience in the sport. I've met narcissistic H4's that won't lend a finger to help or offer good advice to new pilots. EVERY H3 and up pilot should be ready to assist students from transferring off of the training hills to the cliffs. I understand that the newer generation may not show interest in our sport and that's very disheartening, but - how may potential pilots have we lost, or are losing because they fail to transition properly from student to technician? Just food for thought.....
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By wblvizion
Great question? Cause when I started a little time ago (83) and other guys found out, they wouldn't let you go and not teach them too. Right or wrong that's how we learned, later I did get a instructor rating but never taught officially. We had a group that flew and we were happy, but that group has died out (couple literally, not flying) most just faded off into to sunset. Some of us the fire still burns, but age is catching up too and to mentor is a lot of work and time. But I think the politics and liabilities you now face are not as friendly as back then, I live less then a 1 1/2hr drive to the world famous point of mtn (SLC UT) and haven't flown there since 88 because of politics, ratings and fees (Oh and crowded). I miss the free flying part of gliding or would love to have a group of younger yahoo's say old man take us out and teach us how to fly. I'd like to have new blood flying next to me caring on the torch to next generation, but what that's going to take I don't have the answer.
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By mtpilot
My answer is purchase training hills and cut the nanny state bs. As stated more fines, fees, ratings, pecking orders
and layers of insurance will not promote hang gliding. I talk to younger people who are awed by our sport but think
it is beyond reach due to hassles and cost.
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By raquo
At 30 years old I'm the youngest HG pilot in Vancouver BC that I know of. I know you oldskool guys have your opinions on why there aren't more young (lol) pilots like me. But allow me to share my perspective. I hope you do actually read this because your general "passive video gamer culture" meme is mindnumbingly uninformed, please excuse my strong language here.


I had to start hang gliding (was 5 years ago) in secret from my family because they'd rather I die of boredom watching tv than fall out of the sky. Overprotection of children became much more prevalent in recent decades. So don't blame the children for being exessively risk averse to things their parents are afraid of (which has little to do with actual risk but rather "everyone is doing it so it must be safe").

It's ridiculous how the only cost of hang gliding that you're discussing is the gear cost. I have easily spent 10x that amount on hang glider logistics - owning a HG-capable SUV alone is $2K insurance, $1K maintenance, $1.5K fuel - all per year. Plus the actual cost of it, you know.

Besides monetary cost, I've spent unfathomable amount of time driving 2 hours to the closest flying site, then waiting, then the conditions being too weak for my skills to stay up (at least that part is steadily improving), then waiting for others to land, then drive up to get the car, then drive back for another oh and we need to stop for food because I'll be home at 7pm at best, and I've been on the road since 10am. This time is not free, you know. This is what my typical hang gliding day looks like. It probably looks better to those of you who have been flying for 40 years because you wouldn't be flying otherwise. You gotta recognize that young noobs won't have it nearly as good.

I have to live in a big city because that's where my job (software development) is. I can't live closer to a flying site right now because in total commuting an extra hour each way by car would be more of a time waste and an expense than driving to flying sites. This is a basic condition of most young people who have enough money for hang gliding. Moving to a smaller town would bring my salary down almost 2x, and the work would be stupid, with little career (income) progression. This is also why young people like me can only fly on the weekends whether that is good weather or not.

Alternatively if you consider lower income people in low-skilled or semi-skilled occupations - they just can't afford hang gliding - neither the time commitment nor the logistics of it (garage? Lol) because of vastly increased income inequality in recent decades. They are barely surviving as it is.

I started learning around five years ago, and had seen much less than 100 hours of airtime despite my best efforts, going out almost every flyable weekend, and doing HG roadtrips every other long weekend. That is a really, really piss poor payoff for the amount of time and money that I poured into it. ALL monetary costs considered, my average flying hour costs about $200. So much for "the cheapest form of aviation", and that does not even include the incredible time waste that this sport is.


But you know the worst part? No one cares. You folks make these occasional threads like "growing the sport" and "dwindling numbers" and yet you are in aggregate completely blind to how bad of a deal hang gliding is. I know exactly what a bunch of you will respond with to my comment: "suck it up pussy, you need true passion to fly like a bird, then you'll manage to solve all your problems, if you really want to fly. I've done it so other people can do it too". Well, you know why all hang gliders are so desperately passionate about gliding? It's because no one else other than irrational weirdos with a dream like me and you can endure the horrible experience that this sport provides to young pilots nowadays. And the world just happens to produce less of such uniquely weird people nowadays.

Well that and they mostly go paragliding because it's easier, more enjoyable overall experience, easier to do XC (hitching a ride, tight LZs, easier transport, etc.).

A lot of the problems I listed are fixable by manufacturers - for example quickly short packable gliders (I know all that are available, none of them are adequate options for very obvious reasons), electric rolling flatland launch/landing are just top two that come to mind. But this will never happen because neither the HG community nor the manufacturers care about making hang gliding easier.

So in your own words, take it or leave it. Either stop whining about the same thing over and over, or as a community stop ignoring the needs of modern young pilots. You can't have it both and you're only hurting your own goal of getting more people into HG. Assuming you even care about that, because it sure looks a lot more like cross generational trolling to me.

Alright, that was probably angriest post here. You've largely deserved it.
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By DMarley
TjW wrote:
Sat Mar 10, 2018 10:26 am
Sorry you're not having a good time and that it's everyone else's fault.
Yeah, I betchya Raquo's fine attitude this morning could be from waking up on the wrong side of the bed, with a nasty hangover headache, and would gripe about other little things as well, at least this morning he would. :P
Let's take a look at some power sports such as dirt-biking, four-wheeling, sand-rail racing, motorcycle racing, etc. Plenty of people doing these sports that are WAY more expensive, time consuming, require much larger investments in transporting vehicles and trailers, further distances to travel, larger facilities and properties to store all the vehicles, tools, and equipment, much more maintenance, etc. Yet, most every town, large and small, has at least one on/off-road rec vehicle dealer and repair shop. So, I don't fully believe that the barriers to HG are necessarily what Roquo is talking about, but perhaps to him they are, just as on/off-road motorsports would be to him.

Most young people are in the beginning stages of their professional lives, live in limited-sized accommodations, and will gravitate to activities that do not require large items if they live in the city. And if they do not live near LMFP or similar flight park that is located near a large population center, providing storage and a social atmosphere, it's gonna be harder for them to participate in HG compared to Pg.

Perhaps we should look at the powersports arena and those kinds of people for recruitment rather than people that have limited resources in space and time.

When I was young, I was absolutely nuts for sailing. It was in my blood from conception. I did EVERYTHING possible to purchase my first sailboat (racing catamaran) while in high school. Had to sell it to help put myself through school, finally graduated, found a good job and one extra, found a house to rent that had a big enough drive for storing a cat, worked my arse off, saved money, finally purchased another race cat (package dimensions of only 28 ft long, 8 ft wide, 8 ft tall, and ~600 lbs with trailer) and all the gear and sails to race the boat, a 4wd Super-Roo (lucked out and purchased almost new but cheap due to clapping valves that I was able to repair myself) to transport the boat and launch it from sandy beaches, etc. Nearly every summer weekend, races were between 1.5 to 5 hours drive after hooking up the boat and packing all the gear and food, etc. Never would return home before 2000 hrs, and usually late the following evening, then get up early the next morning for work. And if I was crunched for time, I'd go sail my sail-board. Talk about logistics. And yet back then, many people did the same ('80's and 90's) and we all had a blast and learned a lot more than just sailing, motocross, and occupational stuff. I can't recall any one who lived in the city that did what we did. :P
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By raquo
Oh great, you've found a slightly different way to express your willful blindness to the problems, congrats. How unsurprising.

How many young people do you know who live in a city apartment and do dirt bikes / skidoos / snowmobiles / etc.? I know zero. Everyone my age is doing mountain/downhill biking, mountain skis or snowboard, kayaking, less often kiteboarding. What do those have in common: You can store all your equipment in your apartment (or if not, rent it), you can do it independently of anyone else, you don't need a special vehicle, and you spend much less time on logistics than you do enjoying the activity itself. Hang gliding offers none of that, which is why it fails to attract young people.

Oh and all those activities are also much cheaper per hour of activity than hang gliding, but I personally have enough money and don't care much. There's plenty of people who have money who would love to trade that money for time savings. You can't do that with hang gliding though.
By cheesehead
I started flying at age 20 in 1988. I had seen some coverage of it on TV growing up and always thought "I absolutely, positively must do that someday." When I discovered that it was actually possible to fly in my region (midwest), I immediately called my parents from college to borrow money for lessons. Lessons were $65 apiece at the time, and the instructor gave my college club a special deal: if we didn't get the H1 rating required to use the club's very crappy old equipment after 2 lessons, further lessons were free. We had access to several nice training hills. The step up to H2 and beyond usually took a couple tandems (somewhere around $50) at Indiana Dunes or on a road trip to Tennessee. Then we had the crappy club equipment or rented better stuff from the instructor. Now single lessons, hill or tandem, are over $100 apiece, and it can take 10 or more of those to get an H2. Good training hills facing a variety of directions are practically extinct (none left here). There are essentially no soarable sites left around here. Thank God for aerotowing, but it's pricey. I PG too now, for awhile more than I was HG. But I prefer HG despite the hassles. If PG existed when I started, I don't know which I would have chosen.
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By Charlie Romeo
This question to me means, how do we make HG popular again?, by going back to our roots? This applies to HG worldwide, as Larry F said "i don"t think we can".In 2016,this topic had these replies which rang true to me. Mavi Gogun "were in a downward trend in adventure sports participation that extends over 10yrs, HGXC "i think there are people who want to fly and people who don"t..most don"t,Mgforbes "the arrival of paragliders changed things because now there was more than one option for a foot launched soaring craft...part of the problem with hanggliders is the longer learning curve and the logistics of a long skinny wing.." PGs are easier to store and setup,easier to haul around and almost stupidly easy to fly,{wierdly unique people need not apply} I see where you coming from Raquo and i"m with you mate, another " irrational wierdo with a dream like you ". I"ve always said every now and then you need a magic fly. A fly that makes you realize why you fly,why you put up with all the shite you must overcome to fly.In a particually low point i even considered PGing,then came back to my senses when i remembered my fantastic mountain launches are unsuitable for PGs and this favourite quote from a former HG pilot.....one of our intermediate HG pilots decided to give pg a try....when we finally caught up again we were curious about this developing new craze and what he thought from a hg view. AP said "paragliding compared to hanggliding is like making love wearing a condom...its ok but you know..." :lol: Yeh we know, that unique hanggliding feeling of carving through the air, I lived a very poor life when i learn"t to fly however that lifestyle doesn"t fit todays students.The gliders,equipment and knowledge are so much better now but the potential pilot demographic has changed too.Ability to short pack your gliders is a real helpful move for city folks and sharing your flying day with a similar experienced mate helps the driving duties to and from sites and much hg talk.. Indeed in our club, we now have a intermediate pilot who flies a flphg and uncouples the power pack and joins us soaring the hills.Encourage and support all your new chums and maybe if they are wierdly unique {thanks Nikita :wink: } you just might have a new HG pilot...
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By Blue_Seleneth
I think raquo has the start of another thread I've been thinking about too: "How not to Lose your Stoke." Continuing cost is something I (and I assume others) don't even talk about really with wuffos and prospective new students. There are too many questions about safety and up-front cost (and hopefully, the rewards), to get to the continuing cost. It's as highly-individual as every other part of the sport.

Myself, I flew as hard as I could as a weekend, H-2 pilot. After 38 months and 150 flights, I finally earned my H-3 and traded my trusty Vision Mk IV for a Super Sport. It didn't take long to make clear that those milestones did not make me a better, or even more successful, pilot, and I hit the wall. For several years after that I limped along with 10-15 flights a year, stuck on my plateau, not seeing the way forward. I lost my stoke. Fortunately I never faced serious financial pressure to sell my equipment.

If a penny saved is a penny earned, an intermediate pilot kept flying must be as good as a new student pilot recruited. How can a pilot keep stoked about powering through all the hassle to fly? Recreating the Liliethal Birthday fly-in (at least, in a real sense and not just as a costume drama) is impossible, but the lesson of that shared experience remains. People were having a blast learning how to do adrenaline-pumping and formerly-impossible things, together. A sense of personal progress is good, probably necessary. Can there be more of that for intermediate pilots? There are the training comps, Team Challenge and Green Swamp; that's all I've heard of. I tried those, and I was way stoked the first few days. Until my own inability to land the damn hang glider became undeniable. But that's a story for the landings thread.
By blindrodie
Well all I can add is: "I just want to fly." The single fact that I can drive a relatively short distance to attach myself to wings and actually fly off the freakin' ground and into the air and maybe GO somewhere using my own abilities is just that! I wish I could help others fly but it's damn hard just to get myself in the air.

The difference for me? It's all worth it. It's all worth the privilege to actually fly on my own. I'm OK with a lot of the issues that keep a lot of folks on the ground. They prolly should stay there anyway! I'm OK with the sport being hard to get into. I don't want "everybody" flying...

Would it be great if it was easier to get into the air? Yes. Would it be great if wings and things were cheaper? Yes. But they aren't and as much as I would love to win the lottery and help the industry I can't. So I just keep plugging away "hoping" it will get better. Meantime I'll do what I can and that's all I can do.

Back to our roots? I would love to spend a day on a bunny hill, IF I could get a ride back up each time! :twisted:

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By Takeo77
"When is the last time you provided assistance to a new pilot/student? Have you considered mentoring? Instead of looking outward and attempting to place cause and effect to the decline of our sport, take ownership of it.

Read more: viewtopic.php?t=34141&start=20#ixzz5DVp8qyHd"

Almost every weekend. Somehow I've been elected team leader of a group of about 6-10 H-2s in our local area that were my wife's classmates in the training process. I have no problem with this as it's simply an extension of the sorts of things I did in the military. You want to improve your community and the survival of your sport? Then a pipeline of new recruits, new instructors and new community leaders is what is needed. From what I see this is pretty lacking. I see few schools making active efforts to groom and mint new instructors.

I see many people quit at Hang-2 because it is difficult to get the required 10 hours of flight time. All the local coastal sites are 100% blocked to hang-2s even in benign conditions for various reasons (zero tolerance for accidents no matter how minor, the good old boy network, insurance etc). This means most new Hang-2s have to spend a year or more going on road trips to more tolerant inland thermal sites, or spend big bucks on towing to get their hang-3s (like I did). Some people (like me0 can do weekly 6 hour round trips to fly, but nowadays most can't. The value judgments surrounding personal commitment aside, this is reality. I've also seen many new pilots blocked from local sites because they rubbed this influential person or that the wrong way. This is unacceptable and feudalism should not be tolerated.

Some other posts are also hitting on something that sociologists are seeing in the rest of the world:

http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/n ... -2014.html

All of humanity is urbanizing. In the near future the majority of human beings will live in cities, and have comparatively less living space per person than we do now. To ignore this reality with regards to our equipment means we cede the skies to the para-gliders, which for me, is a dismal vision to contemplate.

Apologies in advance for being a little disjointed. I'll edit this post down a little more when I have an opportunity to spend more time on it.

PS Somone mentioned the gator at Crestline. We've had a number of similar set ups at Ed Levin locally. Here's ours:

More flights, more training, more skill, more fun. (Photo credit to John Taylor)
20294316_10155587838648841_4093910113895180504_n.jpg (105.28 KiB) Viewed 1588 times
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By TjW
Takeo77 wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 12:29 pm
PS Somone mentioned the gator at Crestline. We've had a number of similar set ups at Ed Levin locally. Here's ours:

More flights, more training, more skill, more fun. (Photo credit to John Taylor)
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