Films Promoting Free Flight

Let’s face it- aviation in general is not for everyone.  And only a subset of those interested in flight, are looking to do so without a motor.  And of that segment, only some are looking to fly easily portable, foot-launch and landable wings.

But, while being a realist for a moment, I think we also need to recognize that there are plenty of people that WOULD be interested in hang gliding and paragliding… if not for their fictitious pre-conceived notion of these activities.

This means, we shouldn’t just be trying to reach those likely to be interested in hang gliding and paragliding… we need to show that larger group what hang gliding and paragliding has to offer THEM.  And to show what we’re all about, and what flying has to offer the individual willing to take on the responsibility of flight… we need FILM!

If a picture is worth a thousand words… and a video is 24 or 30 pictures every second… then how many words is an entire film about hang gliding worth.  Forget words, words are cheap.  WHAT IS AN ENTIRE FILM DEDICATED TO THE FUN AND THE BEAUTY OF HANG GLIDING WORTH?!

To a sport with limited participants, limited industry, and limited resources… it is my opinion that a film like that is worth more than money could ever represent.

Luckily for us, there is not one, but TWO film projects just like this on the horizon!  And they need our help if they are going to happen.  What can you afford to give?  Better question- if you love flying like I do, can we afford to have these films NOT happen (or happen in a half-budgeted way where they don’t achieve their potential)?

The first film is called The Rhythm of Flight and it features two highly skilled, young, and energetic pilots (Wolfi Seiss and Jonas Lobitz).  Production is being led by the highly experienced and capable Tony Ritter.
More info is available here:
They were funding on, but only reached 35% of their goal before they had to start production.  They are currently on the road, flying and filming on location.  I’m sure they could still use your financial support to improve their product!

The second film is actually a resurrection of a project that started a few years ago- Dreaming Awake- led by David Aldrich.  Dave’s a hang glider pilot with an aerospace engineering degree, and his “day job” is making high-end professional cinema tools for filmmakers.  All of these skills result in what is most likely the most beautiful, cinematic images ever captured of our sport.  The initial push for Dreaming Awake ran into some snags, and never came to be for a multitude of reasons.  This is particularly shameful, because Dave had made massive personal investments into Dreaming Awake, chartering helicopters and cineflex cameras to shoot breathtaking aerials.  His out-of-pocket expenses were easily 5-digits, possibly closer to 6?  Well, good news, the Dreaming Awake project is alive again, with lessons learned from the last round, he’s recollected and more focused than ever.  At this stage the project NEEDS our funding, or it won’t happen.
We, as a community, can not afford for this film to not happen!
For more info, and to support Dreaming Awake:

When I learned of The Rhythm of Flight project from Wolfi, and that they might make their way up to my neighborhood in Ellenville, NY… and might need help shooting while here… that pushed me over the edge on upgrading a lot of my gear.  I’ve put in over $3,000 of my own money into making sure I’m properly outfitted to help.  Sure, I have some projects of my own to shoot, too… but they weren’t enough to justify the upgrade.  Rhythm of Flight is.

Then I learned about the resurrection of Dreaming Awake.  I contributed the day the kickstarter was posted… and frankly I’m considering giving more.  I’m in the hang gliding business… my “income” is laughable.  Interns probably take home more than me.  The point is- I’m not suggesting anyone do anything I haven’t already done, and plan to do again- SUPPORT THESE FILMS.

I respect that every dollar you have is hard-earned… and everyone involved in these projects understands that… but I also know that hang gliding gives us all something greater than words can say, and greater than money can buy.  To fund these projects is to open people’s eyes to the life experiences they could be having, in free flight.  And damnit, isn’t that more important than your Starbucks or a steak dinner?  To me, it sure is…


No, I’m not running through the quad naked…

I’ve had a growing curiosity about doing some night time star time-lapse photography… and finally had the time (and energy) to experiment with it.  Here’s my first crack at it.


With a good camera, Photoshop, and After Effects… it’s pretty easy actually!  Just need the right tools…

Star streak photos are cool.  But what really grabs me is SEEING the swirling action in motion.  Here’s the same 1 hr time lapse (111 images) in motion:

EDIT: And here’s one from the following night, about an hour and a half worth of photos


Lookout Landing Clinic in the news

Someone’s been telling lies about me again!  But it’s cool the clinic has gotten some good press for our sport

Read the article here

I’m also hoping for a little extra-curricular video shoot opportunity… Weather and park permitting


The Ultimate TBT: “Destiny”

I made this video back in 2005… It’s hard to believe TEN years have passed since then!

This is actual home video of me as a little… with a childhood like this, how could I grow up to be anything BUT a hang glider pilot?!  It’s all I’ve ever known or wanted…

When I made this video ten years ago- I heard the song first, and instantly knew the video I had to make.  I was away at school, and had to wait for a trip home to grab all the home video.  Then I needed some more current stuff, so my girlfriend at the time spent a day filming during a “wonder wind” at Ellenville (I married that girl, by the way!).

If you’ve been hang gliding a while you’ve maybe seen this already… but being that it’s ten years old now, maybe some of you haven’t.  I hope you enjoy…

As I re-watch it myself, it inspires me to keep chasing my dreams and passions- that the reward is always worth the work.  I hope it can have an equally meaningful input for you all as well :-)

Contest Entry and HG Publicity

If you follow me here on my blog, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or stalk me from the bushes (must be cold this time of year) you already know I do a bit of aerial photography and videography using a small quadcopter.

Well the company that makes the quad and gimbal I use, DJI, is running a contest where users of their products tell the story of how we’re applying the technology in our personal or business lives.  I suspect it’s a strategic and very smart move that they’ll covertly use in lobbying law-makers to make “drones” as loosely regulated as possible, but maybe that’s just the conspiracy-theorist in me…

Anyway, I shared my story- how a “flying camera” has let me capture some pretty inspirational images and videos of hang gliding, which I think really convey what it’s like to get up there and fly.
You can read my entry here:


Throwback Thursday: Scott Jewell

If you knew him… this is sure to make you smile… and maybe cry :-/

I made this video for the late Scott Jewell as a Christmas present, circa 2006 give or take a year. It’s a mix of some footage we we went out and shot to make a cool hang gliding movie, and some of his favorite video-captured exploits like the skydiver drop (captured on VHS).

All of this was pre-HD video, pre-GoPros… it’s either VHS, VHS-mini, or the nicer stuff was my semi-pro mini-DV camera. It was a lot more work to mount these bigger and heavier cameras on gliders back then!

Scott was a fun, full of life character… and it didn’t matter what you were doing- if he was there, it was going to be a hysterical adventure.

He was truly a man who didn’t JUST live a life worth living, but he made everyone’s lives around him worth living, too!  In respect to this spirit we named our kid after him, starting with the knickname Scottie and working backwards until we finally arrived at the full name Scarlett (which suits her perfect, like it was all meant-to-be)!

Cheers to you buddy, wherever you are now… I miss you every day.

TBT: Aerobatics with Smokes… with Dad!

Ryan-1st Aero-smokes

My first aerobatics with smokes. I’m so lucky to have such a cool dad! Flying into Teddy and Leanne’s party from Ascutney, VT 7/22/1989 (age 4).
I still remember dad let me pull the pin on the smoke, and the pop of the igniter. I was hooked instantly…

The FAA’s Proposed UAS “Drone” Laws are Available for Public Comment

Link to the complete set of proposed laws, and where you can comment:!documentDetail;D=FAA-2015-0150-0017

Summary of proposed laws:

Operational Limitations • Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. (25 kg).
• Visual line-of-sight (VLOS) only; the unmanned aircraft must remain within VLOS of the operator or visual observer.
• At all times the small unmanned aircraft must remain close enough to the operator for the operator to be capable of seeing the aircraft with vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses.
• Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly involved in the operation.
• Daylight-only operations (official sunrise to official sunset, local time).
• Must yield right-of-way to other aircraft, manned or unmanned.
• May use visual observer (VO) but not required.
• First-person view camera cannot satisfy “see-and-avoid” requirement but can be used as long as requirement is satisfied in other ways.
• Maximum airspeed of 100 mph (87 knots).
• Maximum altitude of 500 feet above ground level.
• Minimum weather visibility of 3 miles from control station.
• No operations are allowed in Class A (18,000 feet & above) airspace.
• Operations in Class B, C, D and E airspace are allowed with the required ATC permission.
• Operations in Class G airspace are allowed without ATC permission
• No person may act as an operator or VO for more than one unmanned aircraft operation at one time.
• No operations from a moving vehicle or aircraft, except from a watercraft on the water.
• No careless or reckless operations.
• Requires preflight inspection by the operator.
• A person may not operate a small unmanned aircraft if he or she knows or has reason to know of any physical or mental condition that would interfere with the safe operation of a small UAS.
• Proposes a microUAS category that would allow operations in Class G airspace, over people not involved in the operation, and would require airman to self-certify that they are familiar with the aeronautical knowledge testing areas.
Operator Certification and Responsibilities • Pilots of a small UAS would be considered “operators”.
• Operators would be required to:
○ Pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center.
○ Be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration.
○ Obtain an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating (like existing pilot airman certificates, never expires).
○ Pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months.
○ Be at least 17 years old.
○ Make available to the FAA, upon request, the small UAS for inspection or testing, and any associated documents/records required to be kept under the proposed rule.
○ Report an accident to the FAA within 10 days of any operation that results in injury or property damage.
○ Conduct a preflight inspection, to include specific aircraft and control station systems checks, to ensure the small UAS is safe for operation.
Aircraft Requirements • FAA airworthiness certification not required. However, operator must maintain a small UAS in condition for safe operation and prior to flight must inspect the UAS to ensure that it is in a condition for safe operation. Aircraft Registration required (same requirements that apply to all other aircraft).
• Aircraft markings required (same requirements that apply to all other aircraft). If aircraft is too small to display markings in standard size, then the aircraft simply needs to display markings in the largest practicable manner.
Model Aircraft • Proposed rule would not apply to model aircraft that satisfy all of the criteria specified in section 336 of Public Law 112-95.
• The proposed rule would codify the FAA’s enforcement authority in part 101 by prohibiting model aircraft operators from endangering the safety of the NAS.


I think the important parts are that this DOES open a practical and feasible avenue for people to operate a UAS (“drone” is a stupid, ominous name so everyone stop saying it!) commercially… something even I have seen could be a great boost to the US Economy, with many new creative job and career opportunities created.

I also think it’s VERY important, to anyone that flies *ANYTHING* else, that these proposed laws make certain things unmistakably clear.
1. UAS can only be operated via line-of-sight (you need to see the damn thing, can’t fly it miles away using ONLY a live video feed… although live video feed CAN still be used while flying LOS).
2. UAS must operate under 500 ft unless proper authorization is obtained (doesn’t prevent some bone head from taking out small or large aircraft, but it makes doing something likely to produce that result illegal… what more can you do?!)
3. Cleary defines that ALL UAS must yield right-of-way to all other manned and unmanned aircraft.  This includes hang gliders and paragliders!  Does this mean you’re any less likely to get hit by a bozo’s Christmas present?  NO.  But at least it clearly makes the Bozo in the wrong, legally.  Again, what more can be done?!)


All in all I find these proposed rules agreeable- both as someone who often occupies the NAS (National Airspace System), AND as someone who really enjoys aerial photography and is hopeful to pursue such commercially some day…

Well played Washington, well played… Now, when will these actually go into effect?!  AND… when will that FAA UAS Operator Exam be ready?!  Sign me up!

Winter Play

Having worked through physical therapy for my shoulder, and being fully cleared by my doctor… I’m officially a healed, rehabilitated, physically able-bodied person again!  And despite record cold and getting trounced with snow, I’ve been doing by best to get out and fly when I can.

Here are a couple recent shots from doing some winter flying in my Falcon 4 and my new (used) harness


TBT: First Loops

My first loop was on the day of Scott “Loop It” Jewell’s service.  He was loved by so many, and as such his service was very well attended by pilots from near and far.  It was also forecasted to be a classic flying day in Ellenville.

It was a perfect impromptu memorial fly in!  And it felt so right to do my first loop on this day.