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 Tsanlaredes
A lot of folks much wiser than myself have been wrestling with this issue of how we will bring newer generations into hang gliding. (I have a short documentary that I will be releasing soon that captures some of these conversations, the teaser is on my website.)

Mike Meier, of Wills Wing, very succinctly exposed this conundrum to me when I interviewed him several years ago: “They [pilots] look at people who don’t fly and they have a hard time understanding: how can anyone know that this is available to them and not want to do it? And this is one of the...the mysteries really within the hang gliding community.”

He also pointed out, “It’s almost as if hang gliding was something that happened to...one group of people, at one, relatively brief moment in time and that a relatively smaller percentage of future generations have been inspired by it.” (I use this in the preface of my book WIND, you can read this excerpt in full on my website should you so be interested.)

I think it would be the understatement of the year to suggest that hang gliding is in real trouble as sport.

My answer is the same as it was 10 years ago: this is a hearts and minds thing; we need to capture people’s imaginations. And I believe very much in the power of filmmaking and story telling to accomplish this.

After having looked into producing a film that was hang gliding centric once before (Hang Dogs) and having co-produced a pilot for a HG/PG reality show I have come to realize that Hollywood just isn’t that interested, particularly in view of our meager numbers. But that doesn’t mean the project isn’t worthwhile, it just means that bean counters, count beans; and having the imagination to know how profound a hang gliding movie could be isn’t in their skillset.

That said, Point Break, The Mighty Ducks, and even The Hunger Games have had (accidentally though they may have been) very profound effects on the sports associated with those films.

There are a lot of magic ingredients that would need to go into the making of a hang gliding film that would inspire people to get involved. It’s tricky enough just making a good film let alone one that touches people’s souls in just the right way. But this is it; this is the only hope that I can see. Everyone has tried everything else. It is up to us, and for me it starts with my book/script, WIND.

We’re building it right now (the book is out to the printer’s as I write) we know how to produce it, we have the gear and we know that there are people in hang gliding that want to see it. And more importantly for our sport, people outside of hang gliding want to see it.

So our plan is simple: get the word out about our book, WIND, through our networks of pilots and use that buzz and success to generate interest with an outside market. Even modest successes within our community will provide a strong network inside and outside our community to crowd fund the film.

This is something we must do. You know what they say: do something, do anything even if it’s wrong, just don’t do nothing.
I believe; I truly believe that we can do something for hang gliding and if anyone would like to help push this boulder up the mountain with us, we’d be grateful for any support we can get—it’s pretty heavy, as you all know.

By cheesehead
OK, I love teaching, have done a lot of mentoring of pilots who are pretty fresh H2s, no charge. But I'm way too poor to invest in the necessary equipment for beginner lessons, I don't think there's an open training hill anywhere around here, and I'm not going through all the BS that I did long ago to get my now-expired instructor and tandem ratings.
User avatar
By AlaskanNewb
You don't need USHPA ratings to instruct in legal ultralights!
I am teaching HG at the University of Alaska for free to members of the university Outdoor Adventures Club. Using the university sled hill.
Get after it. All you need is a falcon and training harness.
The cost points are excuses in my opinion, no disrespect, but if you really wanted to grow sport....then grow the sport.
Once again, no disrespect.
All the best.
User avatar
By Tsanlaredes
Hi AlaskanNewb, thank you for posting.

I can personally attest on behalf of Cheesehead’s point of view, that there are many, many pilots in our community that are already generously giving of their wisdom, knowledge, and experience very much for free...that is; to the pilot benefitting from said wisdom, knowledge and experience. The cost to the teaching pilot is greater now, more than ever, what with insurance and equipment not to mention the precious time they themselves could be spending in the air instead of mentoring, or with their families, or working to make actual cash. They seem to do this out of a genuine passion for this sport and a concern for the safety of the people that choose to join them in it.

Quite near the early Wild West days of hang gliding a few colleges had hang gliding clubs and for 20 bucks a semester I had access to gliders, harnesses, and helmets. Of course I had to pay a lot of money to be a full-time matriculated student – which was not exactly free by any stretch.

I was taught by a student that had a year in the club, on me, maybe two and I can’t say that those were great credentials, but luckily that student had done a stint in the service and was a mature and responsible individual beyond what might be expected in the normal college age group (not to say college kids aren’t responsible). He also had been working on his private pilot’s license (motorized aircraft) so even if his hang gliding credentials were light, he certainly had some solid aeronautical experience under his belt. And very importantly he put a copy of one of Dennis Pagen’s early books on hang gliding into my hands (this book very definitely saved my bacon a couple or so times—I highly recommend his works, and of course no book is a substitute for qualified instruction).

Without getting bogged down in the economics of the concept of free, it suffices to say that as a business model, it is a financially unsustainable proposition in any systemic application to growing the hang gliding community, because at the end of the day, instructors need to feed their families, and pay the mortgage or rent just like everybody else and the industry seems to be in somewhat financial dire straits.

And as for the college thing, well, lots of colleges became liability weary and those programs withered. And again, they really weren’t free—I’m certain of that because I had to pay those student loans off.

Sincerely, if you can suggest a sustainable model that we might be missing; we’re all ears.

I think there is room for finding solutions to the impediments to entry into this sport (financials ones included), and that solution is always related to gross sales. And in the economy of scale more pilots equal more sales, and that equals lower prices for everything. I know that when I was learning at a flight park, the owner was always throwing an informal flying scholarship my way, here and there, by way of free camping, or free rides to launch, or a stupid reasonable price on a glider. And it was appreciated, greatly, but without a lot of paying customers, no one can afford that these days.

If we can get more people into the sport, then we have a hope. Now, you don’t care for my idea, okay. Yeah, it’s a long shot, hail Mary pass on a good day. But it is what I can do and it’s what I believe in and I’m just spreading the word (and if it is not too much to hope for: maybe a little kind support from the community).

In 35 years the sport has essentially (no pun intended) gone straight down hill in terms of membership. I have heard two really plausible solutions to this problem: one was to make less expensive, easier to pilot gliders (solid strides have been made) the other was to sanction aerobatic hang gliding in an effort to publicize it the way Xgame type sports are publicized (to my knowledge--not done).

The effects that films can have on the sports that are associated with their plots have been well documented on an anecdotal and statistical level. I shoot Olympic recurve bows and the instructors and shops in my area definitely saw a huge bump in interest and they attributed it to BRAVE and THE HUNGER GAMES in 2012. An article in the Guardian states that archery jumped from 16,000 people in 2004 to 36,000 in 2012.

While getting the film to the audience is more akin to alchemy; the effects it would have if it got there are academic.

I do not know if you are a new pilot, new to the forum, new to Alaska, or if it’s just a name: Either way, I wish you the best of luck on the journey.
User avatar
By Tsanlaredes
You're post came in while I was writing.

I take it you are not a Newb and it's funny that your program runs through a University. I guess the administrators are more grounded up there. It's great that you help out.
User avatar
By Tsanlaredes
So now I am very curious as to how the program got started and is running up in Alaska. Because any insights into how to get hang gliding more firmly rooted into the colleges again would be something really great to share. In discussions I have had with a couple of folks at flight parks it's been difficult.
By Lazypilot
Hang Gliding will be remembered as something that happened once upon a time.

When I say "hang gliding" I'm referring to the "sport" of flying a glider that is very restricted in what it can do.

We have Part 103, we're allowed up to 154 lbs empty weight--that's at least double what the average hang glider weighs. If that limit is taken fully advantage of, we'll have some really impressive equipment. And expanding the horizons of "ultralight soaring" is what will keep it available to you, and every other air-minded person now and in the future.

When gliders that are designed from the ground up to be using landing gear (this won't necessarily prevent the option of foot launching, or foot-assisted wheel launching), the limitations we now enjoy will be lifted, just how much we'll have to wait and see.

There will be high aspect ratio gliders for the XC crowd, aerobatic gliders for those so inclined (me!), and two-seaters for those that want to share and/or teach the experience.

My own personal view is that we come up with some design factor that would designate this type of air operation from others, I say no enclosed cockpit--no fairing forward of the pilot, except for foot and leg protection from the elements.

Hang Gliding, as it would be defined by most present day pilots, will never see a resurgence of the good old 70's and eighties. It requires too much time in an era where there is so much stuff laying claim to our time. A glider that can have wings and tail folded in a few minutes and stashed in a hangar will be a boon to those with full schedules.

There's a kinda sorta joke about how hang gliding takes all day, whether you fly 500 miles in 11 hours or make a 15 minute sled run. It's really not that big of an exaggeration.

Hang gliding will continue to decline in numbers, but the aeronautically minded will have other avenues to explore.

I flew them for 40+ years, did some instructing, and in general had a lot of fun. I no longer appreciate the dumbed-down type of flying that I can do with a hang or para glider, and also I don't feel that I should recommend it to anyone. The "sport" has turned a blind eye to things that should have been addressed, and had they been addressed the activity would be more popular than it is. Resting on your laurels won't promote your cause, you must remain progressive to do that, and while we've seen a lot of progress it's been in a limited area--the refinement of the sail-glider, as a type.

The imaginative will see what I'm trying to say, I apologize for not knowing how to communicate very well.
User avatar
By AlaskanNewb
Tsanlaredes wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 4:35 pm
So now I am very curious as to how the program got started and is running up in Alaska. Because any insights into how to get hang gliding more firmly rooted into the colleges again would be something really great to share. In discussions I have had with a couple of folks at flight parks it's been difficult.
I started the program. Simple as that. I wanted to use the hill so I made a deal with the U. I told risk management what I wanted to do, gave them my professional resume (for my day job) and pilots license (FAA not USHPA) to show what kind of person I am and did a demonstration. Permission granted. I said max 50 words to them.

It IS free, you don't have to be a university student to participate but I do have to work with outdoor adventures club. Anyone that drives by (and Alaskans are very interested/confident in outdoor physical activities) are welcome. And they do. I charge nothing but if the damage my glider they pay for that (which hasn't happened).

Your problem, in my opinion, is all the talks...like you said talks with flight parks have been difficult. Just go fly, don't talk at all and if people want to come...let them.

People are naturally interested in this. Anyone that really cares can get a hold of an old falcon cheap. You don't need USHPA. Just show the folks how to fly the glider. Nothing to it really.

Another thing that drives me nuts is the idea that hang gliding instruction should pay the bills. No disrespect. But that isnt a real job. People need to get real jobs for crying out loud. It takes almost no commitment to give a 2 hour lesson for people and it should be free. People waste more time than that every day watching youtube and TV.

I consider it my rent for using the hill. No big deal.
User avatar
By AlaskanNewb
Also I do consider myself a "new pilot" in hang gliding.
I have only been flying them for 8 years.
I have just under 2000 landings.
Hours in the 1000+ range easy I no longer tabulate time but landings are important I count them.

But i fly trikes too, paras, paramotors, FLPHG. airplanes. They are all the same.

One secret thought is number one deterrent to Hang Gliding is the pilots. Paragliding pilots way easier to get along with.
User avatar
By Tsanlaredes
Lazy Pilot. I thought you were most eloquent. And you may very well be right, certainly the technological march dictates it to some extent. Yes, landing gear! As one gets older that sounds good! I recently saw a small resurgence in big bikes, like the old fashioned, giant wheel, super high off the ground rigs, and with some very interesting twists, there might be a parallel.
User avatar
By Tsanlaredes
AlaskanNewb. Well done! What's the plan to replicate, assuming one believes in the value of growing the sport?

And can I ask how many students are engaging per semester and how many make it through to the equivalent of an H3 (just to have some metric to gauge the outcome of sustained growth)?
User avatar
By Tsanlaredes
A clarification: in a previous post I use the word, sanction. In my context I am using it as meaning approval or endorsement, as opposed to its alternate meaning of a deterrent or penalty. Sure it's probably obvious from the context, but clarity is always good.

'the other was to sanction aerobatic hang gliding in an effort to publicize it the way Xgame type sports are publicized (to my knowledge--not done).'

Read more: viewtopic.php?t=35930#ixzz5AUKxn6wy
User avatar
By aeroexperiments
AlaskanNewb wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:23 pm

Another thing that drives me nuts is the idea that hang gliding instruction should pay the bills. No disrespect. But that isnt a real job. People need to get real jobs for crying out loud. It takes almost no commitment to give a 2 hour lesson for people and it should be free.
O man, you are really going to piss off some instructor types by saying this. Haven't you heard the spiel about how people value something more when they pay a lot of money for it? People who have invested hundreds and hundreds of hours into developing the ultimate ground school course and the ultimate simulator and so on and so forth shouldn't have to hear that they should be teaching for free... Come on, if YOU were a student who would you want to learn from, someone who was charging you lots of money like a good professional should or someone who was trying to teach you "on the cheap"? Students who learn for free probably aren't even prepared to understand certain esoteric yet vitally important topics such as "the history of the crossbar" and so on and so forth--

:) -- KIDDING-- partly--

If you feel moved by the stars above to offer free hang gliding lessons, by all means do it, and more power to you--

DISCLAIMER-- I cannot claim to be an unbiased observer in this sort of discussion as my initial entry into the sky (sailplanes while I was a kid in high school) was dirt cheap and so much so as to be almost free-- tows were the biggest cost but relatively inexpensive; hourly flight time was almost negligible; and instructor time was essentially a no-cost donation, at 1$ / hour charged to the student-- how could such a thing come to pass at any time within the last large handful of decades (mid 1980's) ? -- I honestly have no idea--

User avatar
By AlaskanNewb
Feel like I was a little harsh with my comments about instructing not being a "real" job, I apologize for that, it is a lot of work I know.

still think HG training should be free. It sure shouldn't cost the same as PPL trainng.

As for the H3 question, I dont do the USHPA ratings, they are not necessary up here and I am operating more like I was trained to for FAA CFI training. To me "Intermediate" suggests more like 100 hours, not 10.

And I freely admit I am an awful teacher and student. That is why I am free. I am more of a "doer" than a "teacher" in fact I can sit there and be told how to do something but frankly I just can't listen, it is just words and I can't even pay attention to it or relate until I have done it. I used to get people interested and refer them to guys I know are awesome like Rob M or Willy D, but the travel usually scares them off. I will now add Rudy G to that list I did some flying with him and got world class advanced training...best part 95% flying and 5% talking. Perfect.

I have to do it to learn anything. I do ask questions, but only yes or no answer type.

here is a student launch vid.

By blindrodie
Major props for driving out of the grass to launch. Where's that weed whacker!! :twisted:

User avatar
By AlaskanNewb
I am never going to cut that grass.
They need to learn to launch with adversity.
People talk about it like running hard for 50 feet is a challenge.
Running 50 feet is not a challenge. If it is there is something very wrong.
User avatar
By Paul H
If hang gliding instruction is free, who pays for the equipment? Or do you believe that whoever is doing the instruction should eat that cost along with their time? Normal wear and tear, not just damage, costs money. Too many people don't have much leisure time and expecting them to give up what little time they have for their own flying is asking a lot. Not everyone who flies is a good instructor and not everyone who is a good instructor can afford to teach without receiving an income for it. A structured program of instruction works best for most students and that has a price.
And what's wrong with and instructor making a living from it? If they deliver a quality product, then why shouldn't they be paid for it? Nobody is forcing anyone to fly hang gliders. It's a hobby/sport/recreational activity just like so many other things. If someone wants to instruct for free then they should do so. It's just not realistic to say that they should.
What is really helpful for hang gliding is having pilots willing to mentor newbies. Encouraging new pilots and making them part of the local flying community helps everyone.
User avatar
By Blue_Seleneth
Evidently Steven Spielberg thinks in 2045 hang gliding will still exist as a video game, anyway. Maybe some John Muir-reading stoners will ask themselves, "what if we could do that in the real world?" But good luck persuading an autonomous car to drive you and your "Bamboo Butterfly" up to launch.
By dshman
I would love to find a "Bamboo Butterfly" for fun. I have a 1973 Manta. Built in Santa Barbra only flown 4 times looks like it was stored in a time capsule. I just love to set up and check out those old wings.
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