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Hmm…….I’m not sure where to start. I just arrived home after going out and watching some students work on there ratings. I am in awe to say the least. I guess maybe even I’m speechless, and probable will have a hard time sleeping tonight.

For the folks on this forum who have never seen a hang glider up close read this.
For anyone on this forum peeking around like me who are just getting interested, I will say this, it’s simply unfair to compare the sport of hang gliding to anything. Keep in mind I still have yet to go up in one but sometimes in life you can just look and a picture truly is worth a thousand words. And the people……..wow…… those folks are as real as it gets. If you’re snooping around Youtube trying to get a hold on what the sport is about, I got news for you also; it’s unfair to even think a video comes remotely close to being there in real life. Again, I still have yet to go up in one, but watching a student come in for a landing in total silence will change your soul forever. My life will certainly never be the same.

For the folks who are hang gliders……You folks have found the secret of youth! I can barely write this because while writing I’m still envisioning a hang glider in the pattern and it’s hard for me to focus. I have to say this is not a sport by any stretch of the imagination, this is a life style. To the rest of the world it’s a well kept secret, hidden behind useless rumors of unsafe machines for the hippies. This truly is a magical machine. I just have to tell you folks a neat story from my youth, but I’ll do it in the next post so as to not make it so long.

To be continued
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By mike johnson
Have you ever had a moment in life where a memory you forgot about gets triggered by something that happens and you say to yourself “Oh yeah, I forgot all about that” it’s rare indeed but it happened tonight.

For as long as I have been in aviation the non-pilot folks ask me how I got into flying and my answer is the same. When I was about 12 I was sitting at the table on a really cold morning talking to my dad when suddenly, out of nowhere he asked me if I wanted to go out to a little tiny grass strip airport and see if we couldn’t find a pilot and ask him about what all this flying business is all about. For a 12 year old kid it was the most exciting thing I’d ever heard. So with smiles on both our faces we jumped in the old truck and drove out excited as hell. When we arrived the only thing we saw was a little old round camper with the light shining through the window so we walked up and knocked. An old man opened up the door and invited us in. He poured my dad a cup of coffee and gave me some orange juice. I sat there in awe, looking at this old guy thinking he was God just because he was an honest to goodness pilot. I listened and never said a word, I just remember him explaining to my dad about airplanes, etc. When the conversation ended, he took us outside and showed us his airplane, it was an old tube and fabric taildragger. When he opened the door it smelled old and it was awesome, still to this day I can remember that smell. We shook hands and we left. The rest of the day my dad and I talked about airplanes. We never got one though, we were so poor, it wasn’t even an option. But for that single day we felt like real folks who had a chance. But many years later I started a business and was luck enough to have my airplane.

This, by the way isn’t the memory I was talking about. All these years I was wrong. That wasn’t my first experience with airplanes. My first experience was when I was 8, and my neighbor and I built a glider out of crappy wood lathing strips and plastic nailed together with roofing nails. All day we worked, and at the end of the day we climbed up my parents shed and jumped off. Matt was a chicken but I’ll try anything once so I grabbed the glider and jumped. It collapsed of course, but something else about that day was even more special, and it occurred to me tonight while watching on the grass runway. While standing there, I suddenly wasn’t a 38 year old watching students, I was an 8 year old again.

All kids, when there young, at some point look up and dream about flight. But if you stop and think about it, did your dream involve a loud motor strapped to your back? Hell no, it was a hang glider! And as I watched students tonight this all occurred to me. My buddy Matt and I didn’t just want to fly, we wanted to fly like a bird. My dad wasn’t excited about airplanes, he was excited about flight. So what I learned tonight was this; There’s flying and then there’s really flying. I’m just glad I figured it out now and not when I’m 80.
I would really like to hear how each of you guys got into flying. This would really make a good thread.Mike
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By Erik Boehm
Well, my dad had been hanggliding since before I was born, then my brother took it up, then I jumped on the bandwagon.
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By PilotGuy
Welcome Mike, and thank you. Thanks for writing it all down and reminding us of everything good and amazing about flying. That was the best thing you could have done, was just to go out and watch.

I started flying GA when I was 17. Worked minimum wage and saved every dime so I could pay for lessons. Got the license and never used it. Showed up for an intro weekend at LMFP in Georgia 3 years ago with xerxes and had no intention of taking up the sport, just thought it would be a fun way to blow $200. Came down from our tandem flights and talked about it the whole drive home the next day. We were both out there on the training hills a few weeks later. :thumbsup:
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By MorphFX
So what got me into flying? Well at the time I thought it was simply because I wanted to fly. After my first few lessons I confessed to my parents what I was doing. Needless to say they were not impressed. A while later my dad mentioned that when I was very young he took me to the Deverill's in Somerset, England to watch this new hang gliding sport. I don't recall this, but perhaps, just maybe, this seeded my ambition to fly! Strange as things happen, many years later, living the opposite side of England, my very first soaring flight on a hang glider was at the Devil's Dyke – strange similarity in name!
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By relate2
What got me flying, I have always wanted to fly from from my earliest memories. 54 years later, kids grown up, wife gone, I finally got my wish and fulfilled my dream.

I tell you one thing it has exceeded even my most fantastic dreams. :mosh: :drool: :mosh: :drool: :mosh: :drool:
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By hiflioz
There are a lot of things in life you dream about. Flying is one of them, one of the best IMO. When you finally experience many of those dreamed-of things in real life, they don't quite live up to what you thought they would be.

The feeling I got in my first tandem flight in a hang glider was *exactly* as I'd dreamed it would be. I mean *exactly* - iIt was like de ja vu, and I was totally, completely and irretrievably hooked from that moment.
I remain a hang gliding tragic and it looks as if you're well on the way already (there's a thread somewhere, "You know you're a hang glider pilot when...", which you should read now, so as to prepare your family and friends for the inevitable :mrgreen:
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By CHassan
I don't remember NOT having a little balsa or foam glider, since I was real little. Eventualy those little gliders got bigger and bigger. Then we found ways to control them and motors to put on them.
Finaly we found away to put ourselves in them.
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By Sky_Walker
When I was ten years old, a friends parents took us to Lookout Mountain to watch the World Hanggliding Championships (1978). I knew right away that the sport was for me. I told everyone that day that someday I would be a hangglider pilot too. It took me almost thirty years to make that dream come true. My only regret is that it took me soooo long.

I honestly can't find the words to describe the peace I feel while I'm flying.

I've really learned to appreciate the social part of the sport as much as anything. The comradery and friendships I've developed with other pilots is amazing. Just hanging out in the LZ and swapping stories after a great day of flying is PRICELESS.

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By enormydude
Mike, really nice thread and great intro. I'm sure most of us who are now addicted felt/feel the magic surrounding hang gliding. I never felt this connected to flight in all the years that I flew for a living.

I hung up my wings years ago, got married and had bambinos. Now with the kids older I thought it was time to discover flight all over again. This time it's all for fun. Everyone needs to have a happy place that they can go to and OMG it doesn't get much better than when flying like a bird.

One thing I used to worry about, and something that steered me away from HG for a while was the control sense. I thought it would be hard to learn the apparently opposite control inputs compared to three axis aircraft (push is pull, left is right) but I found that the brain didn't even try to apply old habits. It's a new set of hand-eye skills that seems to stand on their own.

Anyway, I wish you the best early experiences that you can get your hands on. Get a great instructor with whom you get along well and go have fun.

And tell us all about it - every step of the way! WE LOVE IT! WE NEED IT!

Best wishes, Norm
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Growing up watching George Reeves flying around as Superman is what made me want to fly hang gliders.
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By Spark
Welcome, Mike.

I dreamed of flying frequently as a child. I saw my first hang glider while I was skiing at Jackson Hole, WY in 1974. I decided I had to do it. In late 1975 ( age 18 ) I saw a Chandelle Standard for sale in the local thrifty nickel, bought it and the next spring, I taught myself to fly.

I took a two year break after a structural failure in 1992, otherwise I've been flying every chance I get.
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By sg
In 1976, the first IMAX film "To Fly" came out.
It was showing at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC and I lived in a burb there.

I was 8 years old, and heard about the movie, especially the part about the guy flying around in a "hang glider". That seriously caught my imagination and my mind started racing. Until, the person telling me about the movie told me the guy ended up dead. :shock: Then I quickly forgot about it. It was Bob Wills.

Fast forward 11 years and im 29, and to that day I had never even seen a picture of a hang glider or heard anything about it again. But the internets little fingers were finally coming across some hang gliding pics and I finally got to see one. Wow. I was curious and sucked in, but still feared about safety.

Luck would have it, a consultant on my project at the time in San Francisco was an EX hang glider pilot. We started talking about it, and he told me everything, not to worry, to go try it. It didnt help that he told me the story about how he crashed into the side of a cliff several hundred feet off the ground, and was flat up against the cliff stuck there until he was rescued :rofl:

Again, luck would have it that a few months later I had moved to NC (I didnt even know Funston was 40 mins away from me in San Fran, or that there was any hang gliding in california!!!), and went to the beach for a trip and came across a brochure for Kitty Hawk Kites and their Dune lessons. OOOOOOooo oooo ooooooooooooooo!!!! The weather almost didnt hold, but on the last day I got to go and flew off a dune a few times on a falcon. That was it. It was aaaaaall over. DONE!

A few weeks later I was aerotowing at Lookout Mountain and got my ratings.

Amazing how long it took and how any little mis-step may have prevented me from taking up the sport.
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By TommyT
Keep in mind I still have yet to go up in one but sometimes in life you can just look and a picture truly is worth a thousand words.
Mike, I wish we could have met last night, I left after Terry and Annette did their tandem.

These are some pictures of when people first experienced Hang Gliding.

PS: the first one is Thor after his first tandem, the last one is George our after his first tandem, he is now the Whitewater Hang Gliding Club President .

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By mike johnson
Those pictures are priceless. I'm still in awe of the whole HG thing. I had some really great conversations last night with the people from the HG school. I really connected well with Stan and Joe. When I take lessons I would like to have Stan as my teacher and mentor. The one thing that really affected me was a conversation with Stan. I must of asked him a hundred questions and over time I bet he has had many people ask the same questions over and over. I found it comforting to ask him a question and find his resonse to be very complete and eager. It became obvious he is very commited to hang gliding. But the part that I found most interesting was when we were talking about thermals. He told me he just had a 7 hour flight and landed in Wausau. He said it so quietly and just smiled. It was at that point I learned how deeply some people love this sport. I have met a lot of people in my life and it always makes me feel good when I talk to someone who really knows how to live. I wish we could of met also, i'll be out there again and we'll have a beer or something.

I have been reading how all of you got into Flying and it's cool how each person discovered flight in a different way but somehow we all have a common bond to the sky. Different paths, same goal! How cool is that.

Sometimes we need a thread like this to bring us back to our roots and rediscover how lucky we all are. When I go flying I most enjoy flying alone with no radio and no gps. I enjoy wondering the sky circling watertowers to figure out where I am and most of the time I trim the old girl out and look below at farms and people on the ground and wonder how it's possible they left there youth and dreams behind, grew up ,and got cought up in the rat race never to return.

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By DanTuck
There was a similar thread awhile back. Here's my post from that thread -

My experience, in 2007, was this -
I was out at a park and thinking about how much I hated the daily grind. Work all the time, no more surfing, no more skating, no more rock band, I wanted to do something about it. As I was thinking, I was watching the buzzards launching and soaring over the river and hang gliding popped into my mind. I'm sure I hadn't seen a hang glider since elementary school when Nasa and the Rogallo wing was part of the curriculum. I had no idea what modern HGs were made of, or capable of, had never seen one in real life, but still for some reason, thinking about HG got me excited, like I might have stumbled on something really cool. And hey, nowadays I actually have the funds to look into something like this.
I had never really been seriously interested in aviation primarily due to cost. I, like most people, had childhood dreams of cruising around the sky, free from gravity but had long forgotten them and focused on things like music and sports. Then moved into the working world and didn't have the extra cash to even think about that kind of stuff. So that evening, back at home, I looked up HG on youtube and could hardly believe my eyes. That one video from Oceanside OR and sg's video(s) from Torrey had me drooling. I searched HG instructors in my area and found one very close. That next weekend I took my first lesson and was hooked. Period. For me, just being exposed to the capabilities of a hang glider was plenty to get me to try it. And the first time my feet left the ground was enough to completely hook me and make all the training, driving, waiting, commitment, and expense worth every bit of it from that moment on.
Last edited by DanTuck on Fri Aug 14, 2009 11:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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This thread has really reminded me how lucky we all are... thank you so much for that :thumbsup:

I got into hang gliding because of my dad. When he was young his family would vacation in Kitty Hawk, NC every summer. One time he saw a guy on the side of the road sitting next to a giant kite with a sign that said 'hang gliding lessons'. He bugged his parents to let him do it until they agreed (it was a good way to get rid of him for a few hours). The funny part is the bum/instructor on the side of the road was John Harris, founder and owner of Kitty Hawk Kites. If you've ever met John, you know how hard it is to imagine him sitting there like that, he's such a successful business man now. Probably a millionaire...

But I digress... my dad wasn't immediately hooked, but every summer he went to Kitty Hawk he would take another lesson. Eventually he decided this was something he wanted to pursue and he and a friend of his bought a glider. By this time my dad was living in NY, near a little flying site called Ellenville. He showed up there with his friend and their shared glider and some of the local guys set them straight on flying there, needing a parachute, etc...

The rest is history... around the time I was born ('84) he quit working at the local hang gliding shop and opened his own hang gliding school and business. He's been doing it ever since.

I grew up surrounded by hang gliding, so it wasn't something unusual for me. Rather than have a babysitter, I'd just hang out on launch while he flew, and the whole flying community would help keep an eye on me. I always had flying toys etc, so hanging out at a flying site was a great place to play with my toys (while the adults played with theirs) :mrgreen:

When I was 4 I went for my first tandem, with my dad. I was immediately hooked. At this point I still didn't know that not every little boy went hang gliding with their dad after school, but I didn't care... I thought it was the coolest thing and wanted more. I flew with my dad all over the country, and once during a trip down to Mexico too.

When I turned 12 my dad bought me a Wills Wing Falcon, and I started my solo training. By 13 I was flying off the mountain, and soaring shortly after that. I've never looked back... now I'm out in Utah and I own/operate Wings Over Wasatch, and hang gliding school and business at Point of the Mountain, a well known site for it's epic flying conditions.

Here's a little video I put together from old home movies, and then some newer stuff from a few years ago, it kind of shows my progression into the sport...
http://www.wingsoverwasatch.com/WOW_2.0 ... stiny.html


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By TommyT
Now these are priceless pictures! Looking down at Stan :shock:

PS:Of coarse I didn't get shots 5 minutes later when he climbed over me. :oops:

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By Skyhighwoman

It is threads like these that keep me here.

For me, my story is boring but I do consider HG my habit not my hobby. :thumbsup:

Looking forward to hearing about your first 'real' flight experience. :lol:

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By mike johnson
Skyhighwomen! There is no such thing as a boring story! Spit it out, lets hear it!


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