Monday, June 24, 2013

Mouse Pad Pilots

I warn you now... this will be a thorough vent-session.  If you don't want to hear my ramblings, well no one's making you read on.

I have been an actively contributing member of 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, 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 (  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 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'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 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 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  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 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 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. 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

Spring is upon us!

As another winter lays to rest, spring rolls in along the Wasatch.  And with it, comes some fantastic flying conditions!  Cool nights with warm days and lots of solar heating, mean strong thermals and high altitudes.  With the valley drying out and plenty of snow still on the mountain peaks, the lapse rate along the range is quite nice.

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

Willard with Smokes

Willard with Smokes from Ryan Voight on Vimeo.
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

Wills Wing Covert race harness for sale

Silver/grey with a red stripe. Dual parachute containers.  Used one season.
Should fit someone 5'7"-5'10" and 160-175 lbs.

More info on the Covert here:

 $1700 FIRM.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Well... it's been a whirlwind summer!  So much so, that I haven't posted since Nov. of last year... nearly a year ago?!  Let's see what's new since then...

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
Packing up just South of Lyman, WY

-Commodore Triangle.  Jo Bostik offered to give me some coaching while flying a task, and with a good thermal forecast and unusually light winds aloft, we headed for Commodore to fly a 60 mile triangle task.  We had a difference of opinion regarding race strategy, and it turned a great day of flying into one of the most frustrating days in the sky I have ever experienced.  In summary, I got "Bostik'd".  Lessons were learned, so I guess it was still constructive...
After the task it was still quite thermic, so we decided to head South and land at a small airport.
Total distance: 60 + 15 miles
 Packing up in the small grass picnic area at our impromptu airport LZ

-Horse Heaven to Parawon Airport.  This was a big day, and it almost didn't happen... it was a tough day to get up, and I had instrument trouble.  My 6030 froze up, and I was getting low just on the North end of Yuba Lake... when I made the lowest save of my life!  I was unzipped and turning final, hit a thermal, decided to try a (risky) 360 and gained a little, so went around again, and again, and again... and clawed up and off the deck.  My plan was to follow I-15 South, so that's exactly what I did.  It was another light winds aloft day, so getting around wasn't too challenging.  Climb, glide, repeat... 
Takeoff to touchdown distance: 125 miles

-RedCliffs to Inspo Church LZ.  Flying with Sam and Shadd, we thought we'd head North up to the Point.  Due to recent fires, there was a lot of smoke and haze, which really limited thermal activity.  This day also had a lot of overdevelopment, which forced some of my moves faster (lower) than I would normally make them.  I was never without LZ, but I had to glide a couple times to safer areas and then work my way back up.  When I landed, everything from Inspo to the Point was shaded, and there wasn't even a hint of thermal activity... it was butter-smooth.  This was my first time landing in that church LZ, and it was exciting but uneventful.  It's a tricky approach, and if you blow it you either hit trees or overshoot into downtown Orem/Provo... not good!
Takeoff to touchdown distance: 44 miles

-Horse Heaven to Kanosh, UT.  Fun day with Tom Webster, Lisa V and Bruce Hibby.  I was hoping for a repeat of my first Horse Heaven flight... but when some clouds moved in and shaded the whole valley, lift shut down and put me on the deck just short of I-70.  Still a fun day in the mountains...
Takeoff to touchdown distance: ~58 miles
 Almost made a low save over these black rocks... but alas, I had to land

-Heber to Coalville, UT.  Thought this could be a record day, because it was highly unstable.  Too unstable, as it turned out... spent much of the flight dodging overdevelopment and rain.  Again, a shaded valley put me on the ground early... not that I'm complaining on this particular day.  Being as competetive as I am, it was hard landing and watching Shadd thermal up and go on to Evanston, WY... but I also felt a wave of relief come over me as soon as I landed.  Can't say I've felt that before... but I think I knew it was riskier than I'm willing accept to keep going, just didn't realize it until landing.  Shadd still sucks for going further...
Takeoff to touchdown distance: ~24 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

Summer Comes to a Close

Well, it was nice while it lasted... but another summer has come to a close. As usual, I have mixed feelings about it. We sure had an action packed summer, with lots of flying, a honeymoon to Italy, and more flying ;-)

Catching an epic day at the Crawfords in Randolph, UT. Photo by Kristjan Morgan

On the topic of hang gliding... I've begun a new project and business venture! I have been pursuing becoming a harness maker- specifically Cocoon hang gliding harnesses. Things are still in the early stages, but I have a new heavy-duty machine and have been plugging away at some prototype harnesses. I do NOT have any for sale at this time, so don't ask... you can be sure I'll be vocal when we're ready for orders!

Testing a cocoon prototype on the beach in Kitty Hawk, NC. Photo by Paul Voight

In other flying news... I'm bi. Bi-wingual, that is. This summer I finally found (made) the time to take paragliding lessons, and SuperFly Paragliding has been outstanding in getting me going and keeping me alive. I was even able to meet my goal of doing a sweet hike-and-fly before the end of the season. On Halloween day a group headed up to hike-and-fly Mahogany Ridge (the ridge in front of Mt Timponogos). It was about an hour hike, launching a little above 9k ft if I remember correctly. Conditions were light and mellow, and it was an awesome experience. We all landed in the big park just a few blocks from my house, and I packed up and walked home, wing and all. That part of paragliding is way cool, I won't lie!

Jackson the Dog and Instructor Chris Granthom watch as I fly away from Mahogany Ridge. Photo by Wendy Stein

As much as I'd like to, I can't be in the air ALL the time... and for those situations, why not ride in style?! Starting mid-November I begin working at Deer Valley, which means commuting to and from Park City 5-days/week. I LOVE my truck, but at 16 mpg those miles really begin to add up. This year we thought a more fuel efficient commuter car might be a wise investment, even if I only drive it on non-snow days. If you've known me for a while, you might know I have an obsession with second-generation Toyota MR2's... I think they are some of the coolest, sexiest, most fun to drive cars ever made (for less than six-figures). Well, after much looking, we found one at a very reasonable price right here in SLC. We checked it out, and it was a gem! So, I present to you, my "commuter car"! Or, our "date car", depending on circumstance. I had one of these when Des and I met... and it's true, the guy with the fast car does get the girl... at least it worked for me :-)

Beautiful... and I'm quite fond of the car, too

Lastly, as winter is rolling in, we've stayed true to our season kick-off tradition of going to Alta and hiking up before they're open. This year there was enough snow on November 6! Des and I were accompanied by Karl Yates and Nile Williamson... and much fun was had by all! Here's a quick peek at our first day on skis for the 2011-2012 ski season...

Friday, September 2, 2011

A sneak peek at team Wills Wing hard at work making the world's best hang gliders!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Testing the GH2

If you haven't already noticed- I've had a new electronic appendage by my side the last week or so... a new digital camera. It's a Panasonic GH2, which is best described as a mirror-less DSLR. Picture a DSLR operating in 'live view' mode, all the time. By removing the mirror, the camera is considerably smaller and lighter than a traditional SLR or DSLR.

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:

Wing-mounted GH2 shooting 1080 HD @ 24 fps

But for me, the question has remained... how good of a PHOTO camera is it? I had some spare time yeserday, so I headed up American Fork Canyon to see what I could find to take some test photos of. I noticed the river that follows the road (or does the road follow the river?) was still quite high- and I had my sticks in the car, so I thought some slow shutter speed water shots might be a good test.

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...

Click an image to see it larger

All of these photos were taken with the 14-140mm Panasonic 'kit' lens. I believe they were all at f/22, with shutter speeds around 1/6 sec, all at ISO 160.

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

Over the Top

Too much? ;-)

Compilation of a few aerobatic flights. Pilot is Ryan Voight, flying a Wills Wing T2C 144 ("Sundancer")

Friday, July 8, 2011

Chelan, cont

Des and I spent 4th of July weekend up in Chelan, Washington. Neither of us had been there before... what a cool place!

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 Mr. Green

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!