Why does USHPA need insurance, anyway?!

In a recent conversation with another pilot, he was stating that none of the land owners where he flies have asked or care about insurance.  This isn’t the case everywhere, obviously… but this pilot’s experience isn’t entirely unique, either.  There’s a number of sites that don’t have insurance, and are more-or-less unregulated…

I’d like to suggest a reason to insure a site, whether the land owner requires it or not.

There has been a lot of talk of supporting the RRG fundraiser, supporting USHPA, supporting free flight (hang gliding and paragliding).  I’d like to introduce a different, much more personal, perspective… Being good people, doing the right thing, and taking care of the most important things in this world- our family and friends.

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Landing Last Sunday

Here’s a short clip, thanks to John Morse, of my first hang glider landing in 2016.  It’s great to be alive! :-)

Last Sunday was a decent flyable day at Ellenville.  Not the first of the year, but probably the most friendly air I’ve had yet this year. (more…)



Why RRG Will Succeed Where Past Insurance Failed

First, the background- extremely abbreviated- hang gliding and paragliding is an inherently risky activity.  While it is also something we can do quite safely through proper training and diligence, the risk potential is always there.  For this reason, among others, the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (USHPA) has provided 3rd party liability insurance to all members.  This insurance is a necessary level of protection because most of the places we fly, we would be considered a liability to landowners and anyone nearby.

Recently, the provider of our insurance policy issued a notice of non-renewal, leaving us looking for a solution to a potentially VERY big problem.  There are a number of reasons for discontinuing our coverage, but let’s keep it simple and say that it was either too costly or at least not profitable enough to the insurance provider to insure us.  The insurance provider USHPA has been using was actually the *ONLY* provider willing to insure them… which complicates things further- when the last bar in town closes, where do you go to get a drink?

Home!  USHPA has considered self-insuring for quite a while, but the capital necessary to get that started is large… and the formation of such a thing wasn’t quite worth not just going with the insurance we had.  With the notice of non-renewal, this has changed.  It’s still a big amount of money, and a big pain in the butt honestly, BUT this will be much, much better for us if we pull it off…

For more information about the plan to self-insure by forming a Risk Retention Group (“RRG”), USHPA’s site has good info and FAQ’s HERE

A question I am hearing often, and I would like to address: Why will the new RRG insurance be successful when our past insurance failed???  This is a great question, and something we should all logically be asking before investing our money into the RRG fundraiser.  I haven’t seen a DETAILED answer to that question- and I think it’s holding a lot of people back from financially supporting this- so let’s answer it right here and now! (more…)



Freeing Scotty T

Today I released Scotty’s ashes from a couple thousand feet over where he loved to fly.  It was a beautiful day to be out and up in the air, he would have been so excited to fly today.  It was pretty surreal flying “with” him… and it was hard to let him go, too…

But I think he’d be really happy to know we did this for him… Fly forever my friend!

RV



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: http://www.rhythmofflight.com/
They were funding on indigogo.com, 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: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1262624297/dreaming-awake-web-series

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…



Streaking

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.

StarStaX_IMG_7468-IMG_7578_gap_filling_sm

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

image



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: http://event.dji.com/dji-stories/content/what-it-feels-fly

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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.