Monday, June 24, 2013
I have been an actively contributing member of www.HangGliding.org since I joined in August of 2007. Since then, I have made 6169 posts. I make no claim that every one of them were positive contributions to the sport... but I will insist that many were (and still are, if people read the old threads).
But all good things must come to an end... and for me, that time has come regarding contributing to that forum. I will say Jack, the founder of the site, has done and continues to do a very good job creating an online forum to join hang glider pilots. There are good people there, many I consider friends. They are the minority, unfortunately.
Now I would like to run through the issues and reasons for my departure from that community:
-Paragliding. For a site who's url is HangGliding.org, they sure do talk about paragliding a lot. And that alone would probably be fine... but the outrageous ignorance they have about it is what is so disturbing. People with usernames like 'Paraglider Collapse" who I'm pretty sure *only* talk about paragliding (on the hang gliding forum, I remind you). They are quick to point out any accident, any news coverage, anything really, negative about paragliding. They are mum when similar situations arise involving hang gliders. For example, there was an accident with a paraglider pilot launching at the Rat Race, covered in the mainstream media (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTVWVVKQVWE). It was shared in a thread titled "And they're still proclaiming how safe it is..." where people complained that the rather detailed and informative news piece displayed a brief image of a hang glider before cutting from the news anchor to the reporters on the scene. They even contacted the news agency to correct them. If you have that much time and energy to spend, surely there's a more productive way you could use it? Hey, I've got a world-class flying site that needs saving... want to help there?! Which leads me to:
-Do it for me. There seems to be a mentality, and maybe it's not unique to that forum, but it prospers there: Teach me, help me, tell me what I need to do, or need to know. Many of the users that ask questions on the forum, seem to want the community to solve their problems. Hang gliding doesn't really work that way. The solution to MOST technique problems in hang gliding? PRACTICE. And that doesn't just mean go flying. That means, if you want your landings to improve, go to a hill with docile conditions and land again and again and again. Posing a question on the internet will not improve your skills as a pilot, no matter how good the information you receive (which usually isn't very good)
-Everyone's an expert! The sport of hang gliding is generally filled with kind and caring people, who legitimately want to help others. This is a good thing! But a forum like HangGliding.org takes this good thing, and turns it terrible. Someone posts a question, and everyone wants to help, so they answer it. Really nice, right? Well, there are very few "experts" in this sport. I don't even consider myself one, but I do know quite a bit more than most. And I have quite a bit of experience, something many of these "helpers" lack. What is meant to be helpful turns out to be a sea of "answers" where everyone has the same voice. New H2's, H3's, and people that flew many years ago and are just barely returning, have the same voice as professional instructors who's lives are dedicated to teaching people to fly, and to helping them do it higher, longer, farther, safer. It's not just me, there are several people on that forum that *DO* know what they are talking about, and like me they are there out of the goodness of their heart to help others learn and improve. Sadly, the effectiveness of their message is drowned out by the would-be-do-gooders who only want to help. Questions that should have simple answers like, "I'm a new pilot, what glider should I get" or "What VG setting is recommended for launching or landing" get as many wrong answers as right ones. And yes, there are wrong answers to these questions!
-Mentors no more. What I see in the real world, out at the actual flying sites, is less in the way of 'mentorship' by the experienced pilots. I see a lot less of newer pilots seeking out mentors, too. Questions that never get asked tend to go unanswered... questions asked of the wrong person tend to get wrong answers. I see pilots that, in the real world, struggle themselves with launching and landing, mentoring new pilots online. A recent example is a well-known pilot on that forum, who's "landings" are best described as impacts (mostly when flying his high performance wing and race harness) is now mentoring a very very new pilot on how to fly a topless wing. Brilliant. But since this new pilot has a mentor, they aren't seeking the help of the people that know what they are doing, and can actually help them. This might partly be due to any good-advice-giving individual would smack this new pilot and tell them to get a lot more practice and experience before moving to a competition class wing... but THAT is what they need to hear. And that is *ALL* they need to hear.
-Monkey see, monkey do. Not HangGliding.org's fault, but the internet in general often exposes people to what is the culmination of a life of training and preparation... then others say "I want to do that, too!". They will do it with or without help, so people try to help advise them. We'll tell them what they need to know, and what skills they need to build over the course of many many years. A year or two later we see them performing flights well beyond their years. This could be XC, aerobatics, mountain flying in big mid-day conditions, whatever. This also applies to equipment choice. Topless wings and back-plate-slider harnesses are very demanding and unforgiving, period. Even the most beautiful house will eventually crumble without a solid foundation. I do not blame HangGliding.org for this one, but it really pains me to see this, and I really don't need that negative energy in my life.
-Conditions. We all know that "pilot error" accounts for nearly every hang gliding accident. And we see many topics on incidents and near misses and what was learned and how to avoid it moving forward... and almost never do people discuss CONDITIONS. I'm talking weather, and pilot/aircraft limitations. In all those paragliding threads I mentioned earlier, most of them this is the mistake the pilot made... not what aircraft they were flying. In my 28 years being completely immersed in hang gliding, nearly every accident/incident I am aware of could be traced back to the flying conditions being a largely contributing factor. But people aren't talking about it, and they don't want to hear it when you do. The fact of the matter is pretty simple- the safest conditions are when it's smooth, and it isn't soarable. As it gets more and more soarable, conditions get riskier and riskier. Once pilots get a taste of soaring, that's all they want. Rarely do they take sled rides anymore, where they can work toward perfecting their core skills. They instead are working on building skills in challenging, variable conditions. Good luck.
-Splitters. I once read that there are two types of people, "lumpers" and "splitters". Lumpers see similarities in things, and in turn lump them together in the same category. Splitters focus on the differences, splitting things into different categories. I don't know why, but HangGliding.org is a community of splitters. It's not just hang gliders and paragliders... it's rigid wing hang gliders, it's single surface hang gliders, it's manufacturer of comparable gliders. In my opinion, the definition of good technique and practices is that it must work across many different platforms, and that is what I teach. There are plenty of things you can 'get away with' consistently on a Falcon that will result in injury on a topless wing. Is telling someone not to do that bad advice? How about those people that think they are helping by saying "well I do it this way and it works great!" (when it's the thing that shouldn't be done, even if it doesn't result in negative outcomes in that one case). It's a mess.
-Thin skin. I have always made it a principle of mine to speak up, and to say what I feel- and to do it as directly as possible. I don't pull punches, and it doesn't mean I don't like you, I just find that pleasantries and political correctness tend to dilute the important message. Sometimes people don't like my directness, taking offense to my words or tone (or both). Sorry. But it doesn't make me wrong in my concern, or my advised solution, and it's only because I care about ya'll. It's too bad people don't seem to want to hear anything but how great they're doing, and that all I see in their videos is rainbows and butterflies.
-Noise. All of the above could be summarized into saying there is just too much noise on HangGliding.org. Too many self-proclaimed experts. Too many people offering advice. Too many people asking questions and then not listening to the answers, or only listening to the answer they wanted to hear (if you didn't want to know, why'd you ask?!).
Before making my decision to 'formally resign' from the HG.org community, I took some time away. In that time, I was happier. I had more time for myself, and for people/things that are important to me. One of those things is flying at the North Side of Point of the Mountain... which was what actually brought be back to the forum. I came back to ask for help from the hang gliding community, not for myself, but for the savior of one of the most major flying sites in the US. I did get some positive comments, but I also got comments like I need to move, or that I need to find an endangered species to save the site. Where is the WE? This isn't "save a flying site for Ryan Voight".... In the end I am left not only feeling like the flying site got very little help from the members of HangGliding.org... but I am now grumpy as shit as a direct result from my interactions there. Hang gliding is good for my health; It makes me happy. HangGliding.org makes me miserable, cranky, grumpy, sad, depressed... and I have swallowed it for YEARS in hopes I could share my knowledge and experience with others and improve their experience in the sport. No more. The dynamic of that forum is toxic and in my opinion beyond savior. It is no fault of the founder, but at this time I feel like the best thing he could do for the sport of hang gliding is to take the site offline. I'd do it myself if I could... but I can not... so I must remove myself and be content to never reappear.
Cheers to the good forum members... I wish there are more of you, or you spoke up more often...
Monday, April 22, 2013
But Spring also brings with it many challenges. For example, many of the roads to our mountain flying sites are still gates and/or snowed in. And for many of us, we don't accumulate much airtime over the winter months... so we are far from current in our skills.
What this usually means is that this is the most dangerous time of the year... we are not the sharp pilots we remember being at the end of the summer.... and conditions are more volatile than ever. Add to that limited open flying sites, and what you have is a recipe for bad decisions and dirty underwear (or worse).
So as we get the warm days coming and we all come out of winter hibernation, let's remember to take it slow and safe out there.... step back the conditions we fly in, give ourselves a little more clearance from the ground or other pilots, and on that note be weary of everyone else's rusty skills as they fly around you!
See ya soon, hopefully in the sky...
Friday, October 19, 2012
Probably the last day I'll get to fly the mountains before the snow flies and the gated roads close. Figured I'd go out with a bang, doing an aerobatic run with smokes. Anything worth doing is worth doing right, so planned on a sunset launch, and being such a photogenic site I mounted up the cams.
This was one of my most memorable flights... this one will stick with me for a long time to come...
Friday, October 5, 2012
Should fit someone 5'7"-5'10" and 160-175 lbs.
More info on the Covert here: http://willswing.com/prod2.asp?theClass=hgharn&theModel=Covert
Saturday, September 1, 2012
Last winter was the lowest snow year in like EVER... so let's skip right to summer. D and I bought a new house, on the North Side bench in Draper. Love the house, the community, and being so close to friends and flying.
I registered for my first hang gliding competition- the Santa Cruz Flats Race down in AZ mid-September. In preparation for that, I picked up a new harness- A Wills Wing Covert. Check out the September issue of USHPA magazine for a full review and photos. I've also started flying XC, with mixed results... here's my XC experience to date:
-Camels to Yuba Lake. Yes, Camels is a South-facing site. And yes, I headed South. I wasn't sure, but I thought I could do it, and I thought it would be a fun challenge. It took me nearly 2 hrs to work my way around the bend in the mountains and get on Mount Nebo (tallest mountain in the Wasatch). After that, it wasn't too tough to link some climbs and glides together and make my way South.
Takeoff-to-touchdown distance: 63 miles
-Heber to Lyman, WY. My first downwind, over-the-back XC. Not an epic day, and not a huge tailwind... but a fun day none-the-less. This day required a few 'moves' where I needed to get up and connect one landable area to another by flying over no-man's land in between. Not too nerve racking, because I did it with lots of altitude to spare...
Takeoff-to-touchdown distance: 80 miles
-Heber to Moonscape WY. No, Moonscape is not a real place. But as you fly East into WY, the open featureless desert out there looks like you're flying over the moon. This was an epic day with Shadd and Jo Bostik. Gibson should have been there, but was taking out of play by some food poisoning the night before. We had good tailwind, and made great time... especially in the beginning of the day. Launched at 11:30, and was enroute by 12. Past Lyman, WY around 1:30 and was nearing the 100 mile mark by 2:00. This WAS a record day... I just didn't (don't) have the XC experience to make all the right decisions to maximize the day. I got low several times, having to dig myself out to keep my day going. Also made some strategic errors, like doing a dogleg to the North at the end of the day to avoid a large area of shade (see experiences above). I got low, but was able to continue on a little further. Jo later said the clouds that were creating that shade were working great if you were high enough. If I stayed and flew those clouds, despite the shaded valley, I just might have stolen the Utah XC record. Maybe still not... but either way... I'll just have to keep trying...
Takeoff to touchdown distance: 179 miles
So- I've flown almost 650 miles this summer! I would say I'm as prepared as I'm going to get for the Santa Cruz Flats Race. I'm also fairly accustomed to the new harness now, logging so many hours, highs and lows, in it. Drum-roll pleasssssseeee... I hope I don't embarrass myself!
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Friday, September 2, 2011
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
It's a small and light package, but it's feature-rich. It takes 16 MP photos (15MP when set to 3:2 aspect ratio, the standard for DSLRs)... but the big upgrade over my previous camera is the video capabilities! This little camera records beautiful full 1080 HD video at 24 frames/sec... or 720 HD at 60p- perfect for slow motion effects. The other really nice thing is that this camera allows full-manual control over video recording- something my last camera lacked.
The more I play with the video, the more I am impressed. I've begun to think of this little camera as a film-like VIDEO camera, that also takes photos. Here's a quick sample of how sharp the video looks:
Because it was very bright (direct sunlight in some cases), I had to stop down to F/22... this meant everything was in focus... which isn't my favorite effect. In some of these shots, particularly ones where I was lazy and zoomed in, rather than get closer, the foreground has very little separation from the background. I figure with was about the lens and shooting parameters much more than the camera... but I'll have to do more testing...
Obviously, this little camera is capable of taking some nice images! I'm not convinced that it takes better images than my Nikon D300s- which I have absolutely loved everything about, except for it's video capabilities. The GH2 photos require a quite a bit more 'developing' to get the colors how I like them (or even how I remember it looking in real life). GH2 photos also tend to favor a cooler tone, versus the Nikon favored warmer photos- I prefer warmer, looks less 'digital'...
The Nikon D300s is only 12.2 MP, but the color reproduction seems much better, and much more true-to-life. I'm not really surprised by any of this, the D300s is a fairly pro-level camera, and the GH2 is clearly consumer oriented. I had originally planned on selling the Nikon... but now I'm torn... When I ordered the GH2 I was ready to trade some photo quality for vastly better video capabilities... but now I'm having a hard time biting that bullet....
Here are some Nikon D300s images for comparison (different location, different day)...
Also worth mentioning- I'm editing the GH2 images using Photoshop RAW... and I edit the Nikon images using Nikon's Capture NX2 software. I absolutely love photoshop (for some things)- but I have been very, very impressed with Nikon's software, and feel it is a better tool for developing digital photos. Unfortunately, although not that surprising, the Nikon software does not support the GH2's raw file format...
Sunday, July 31, 2011
Friday, July 8, 2011
Launch is a 'butte' with a good road all the way up... it's paved about 1/3 of the way, then it's dirt. We took the Subaru Outback 'cause it gets twice the MPG of my truck, and it was able to go up and down no problem at all. There are several launches, and you can fly there in pretty much any wind direction!
Being on vacation, we were going up pretty early and doing late-morning flights, leaving the rest of the day for other activites. It's one of the only sites I've ever flown that can be thermal-soarable at launch, and still super-smooth and mellow out over the LZ.... which made it perfect for some aerobatic routines each day
On one side of launch is Lake Chelan, which is a beautiful blue lake... kind of reminded me of Tahoe... on the other side of launch there is a big river that runs through the valley. The 'soccer field' LZ we were using is in this valley, right next to the river. After flying you could take a dip in the river to cool off if you were so inclined (our dog, Jackson, a black lab-mix was very appreciative of that!).
After flying there's tons to do.... there are wineries all over the place, and my wife and I enjoy some vino from time-to-time... so we did some relaxing wine tasting while we were there. The town is small, but we found several funky little eaterys that we really enjoyed, and look forward to returning to...
Last but not least, all of the people there were super nice! A group of pilots there took us in and treated us like family! On top of having a great time, getting good flying, etc etc, we feel like now our extended flying family has grown a bit more, and that's always cool.
We're already hoping to do the same trip next year....
Here's a quick video from some of my flights there:
Did some most excellent relaxing and unwinding in Chelan this past weekend. What a cool place, and the people there are all awesome!
The flying was great, too! We did some mellow-morning flights, with some thermals, but still smooth conditions out over the river/LZ... perfect for some freestyle practice!