Thursday, July 30, 2009

Return to Flight!

I started hang gliding in 1973 in Southern California. I was fortunate to hook up with a start-up company called Free Flight Systems, located in Sylmar, California. They along with many others such as Wills Wing, and Bill Bennett's Delta Wing Kites and gliders were building business on the newest craze of Hang Gliding. All the gliders looked pretty much alike at that time as they were based on the basic "Rogollo" wing design that came from NASA. For the first time, a fairly practical flying machine could be had by anyone with nerve enough to give a go at this new sport.

I mentioned I was fortunate to hook up with Free-Flight Systems. What was fortunate was I received excellent instructions from Rico Blair on the training hills on Kendall Drive in San Bernardino California. He was probably in his 50's at the time and I was 21. He not only taught me the rudiments of how to fly, but also served as a mentor through my first couple of years of flying. His constant reminders of how to go about making sure that we were making the fights as safe as possible, are lessons that I retain even to this day. Fortunate indeed, as in those early days, many pilots did not have the luxury of having formal instructions on professionally made equipment. Many self taught, and on craft that they built from plans that were passed about. Some were successful but often many were not and and suffered injuries or worse.

My first hang glider was a kit from Free Flight Systems. I spent $250.00 for a bunch of tubing and cable and sailcloth. I was able to construct it in a just few days, and I was the proud owner of a Hang Glider!

These were pretty interesting times in the history of foot-launched flight. We pilots were truly discovering what our gliders limits were as well as our own limits. Some were willing to seek the furthest boundaries of the gliders performance limits while most tried to stay in a comfort zone. I most definitely was a "comfort zone" pilot.

My first two years of flight I had hundreds of flights with none lasting more than 5 minutes. I flew mostly at what was then called "Little Mountain" in San Bernardino. I was afraid to venture up to the big mountains like Crestline where icons such as Bob and Chris Wills of Wills Wing would launch and wow us with their skills.

1974-75 saw gliders that started to look different. The manufacturers were seeking to design gliders that would glide better, and handle better. Some were successful and some were not. Over the next decade great advances were made in glider design, and by the late 70's they looked nothing like the original Rogollo design.
The gliders performance had increased more than two fold and now were true soaring machines, with flights that would last for hours, and fly for many miles. And I would be remiss if I failed to mention my loyal hang driver through those years, my lovely wife Sue. She dedicated many hours to driving us up mountains so that we could fly.

It was in 1982 that my flying came to an end due to financial concerns, and I will save that for another Blog, and an interesting story it is.

So I was out of flying for over 20 years. I only occasionally would peek into the world of hang gliding. During these non-hang gliding years, I had moved to Arkansas, built a home and started having babies. Our growing family enjoyed the many outdoor activities available in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas. Mountain Biking was our main family recreation. This was a great family activity and I do not at all regret my non-flying years.

So about 5 years ago, the boys are all out of high school. I have been driving over to Mt. Nebo and Mt. Magazine in Arkansas to see the gliders fly. On my way home from one of these trips, I see a flash of color on a small hillside. Well look at that! It looks like someone is giving hang glider lessons on a hillside near Belleville, Arkansas. I drive around and figure I will watch some of this action.

I was greeted by Tony Middleton, the instructor. I watched a few of the students making there first efforts at flight. Watching and listening to Tony reminded me of my instructor, Rico Blair, back in 1973. Tony seemed to have a keen eye and was very good at picking up what a pilot was doing wrong. So many things you have to pay attention too when launching. Kind of like a golf swing. Wings level, glider nose not to high, check wind, and so on.

I shared with Tony, my experiences from back in the 1970's and at the end of the session for the students, he says.... well I guess it's your turn. Boy did I jump at this opportunity. I had no idea, that this day would end with flying. He started me out at the very bottom of the hill, just like any other student. I slowly worked my way a bit further up the hill with each flight. Within a half dozen flights I was launching from the top. All the old muscle memory of flying kicked in and I new that I was again.... a pilot!

The very next day I met with Tony again and he brought out a used Ultralight Products TRX that was for sale. I made a few launches from the top of the training hill and boy.... was I surprised at how far it glided. I purchased that glider that day, and have been enjoying my return to flight since then.

Most of my flying takes place in the Ouachita Mountains or Arkansas and Oklahoma. We do not get as many "flyable" days as I can remember from Southern California and our mountains and weather presents something very different than what is found in Southern California. Challenging mountains and weather, but I have enjoyed some really great flying and enjoy the great community of fliers that fly the Ouachita Mountains.

If you are a pilot and have not heard of the Ouachita Mountains, take a look at what we have for flying in Arkansas and Oklahoma at

If you are not a pilot, but have and interest in Foot Launch Flight, Visit the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding web site at

And if you have read this far, it seems you have a lot of time to waste... so you might as well take a look at my YouTube Channel at Here you will find several videos that show flying in the Ouachita Mountains as well as some of the old vintage film I converted to digital from the 1970s.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Jamaican Wedding

So how many parents get invited by their children to go with them on their Honeymoon? When we heard that our son, Daniel and his fiance, Megan were planning their wedding to be in Jamaica, I thought that Sue and I would be missing out on their wedding. But the kids were inviting us and her parents to come along.

We had several month to see if we could afford it without taking out a loan, and it worked out that we could. So we pursued getting our Passports, reserving our flight and resort, and shopping for swimwear.

The trip started out a little rough with a delay of our departure flight out of Fayetteville International due to fog. Sitting on the Tarmac knowing that we only had about 30 minutes to spare to make our connecting flight in South Carolina, we were starting to stress. When we hit the ground, we hit the ground running just barely making our flight for Jamaica, avoiding a 24 hour wait for the next flight. I was starting to have my doubts about this trip.

By the end our our 5 days in Jamaica, I will have to declare this was one of the best times we have ever had. But I will save all of that for another occasion as this is about the wedding.

So what do you get, when you take a very handsome young man and a very beautiful young lady, who are obviously deeply in love and join them in marriage in a uniquely exotic location? All I can say is it was magic!

I took a number of pictures of the ceremony on the Jamaican Beach in front of the Couples Nigrel Resort, and later put them into video format, and the results are simply beautiful.

See the video presentation of the Wedding of Daniel and Megan. Click Here!

To Daniel and Megan.
Live High....
Live Mighty....
Live Righteously....

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Leader of the Pack!

Oh my!
I just finished updating the Series Standings for the Arkansas Mountain Bike Championship Series(AMBCS) at I have participated in only 3 of the 5 events of this years Arkansas Racing Series but looking over the Series Standings, I am very surprised to find myself in 1st place.

I have been out of racing for over 5 years due to health issues, (neck and back injuries, and the heart attack and surgery) but have made efforts to return back to being active with bicycling and even dabble a bit in racing just for fun. To make this possible, I have chosen to ride recumbent bikes. Now there are not many recumbent mountain bikes, so I decided to build my own. It took me a year to refine the project but transforming my Diamondback DBR V8 full suspension mountain bike to a recumbent has been somewhat of a success!

Indeed, I can, and do ride this "Frankenbike" on all the trails here in the beautiful Ouachita Mountains that I used to ride on a regular mountain bike. I call the project a success in that it does allow me to once again ride my favorite trails. But the project falls far short in the final result as it is a bike that fails in every every standard one would judge a mountain bike for rideability and performance.

It is heavy, it climbs poorly, it descends poorly, it cannot be ridden over even mildly technical terrain, and it is difficult to mount and dismount. Now there is an upside... It is comfortable! I am not hunched over, but instead reclined back in a comfortable seat with back support. Easy on the back and neck. But all the comfort in the world will not win races. To win races requires a skilled rider that is riding a light well handling machine. Me and my bike are none of that...

I no longer have the fitness level that would allow me to compete as a Class One (Expert) racer, and my bike does not in any way provide me with any kind of advantage. So when I do show up at a race, I now race with the Class Three racers (Beginners) in the 50+ (Old Farts) category. The first two events I participated in had very small fields thus I placed well as far as points as all I had to do was finish.

But the most recent event in Eureka Springs, the popular "Fat
Tire Festival
" had a very large field of riders in the 50+ and I rode the bike very well and finished in 5th place. The trail suited the bike pretty well and I rode very well. I was surprised and pleased. So, now checking the Series Standings I see that I am in first place as far as overall points. Yes, indeed, you can lead without ever winning an event. Some riders may win an event, but may not ever attend another. Thus their total points value at this point in time is lower than mine.

So now I feel that old competitive spirit sparking up again. I tell myself to settle down and get real, (remember what bike you are riding) but I would really like to take a shot at it this year. Kind of like my hero, Lance Armstrong returning to the Tour de France after a 4 year retirement.

Can I keep my lead by continuing to place well? I know I can't win an individual event as these old guys are pretty tough, but if I can continue to ride and place well, and avoid a crash, or a flat and ride enough events, I might at least place top three!

I will update as the year progresses.

October, 2009 Update- I have missed a couple of events as I will not ride my bike in wet weather. It is a very scary bike on wet roots and rocks. So have I slipped into third place in the series. I will be racing this weekend if the course remains dry at the Springhill Challenge in Barling, Arkansas. It is a flat a fast single track course with lots of twisty turns. Should be good for my bike.

Check out the following videos on YouTube, providing more information about my recumbent bike project.

Visit the Arkansas Mountain Bike Championship Series

Support cancer research through the the Livestrong Foundation

Check out the great trails of the Ouachita Mountains

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Infatuation with Paper Airplanes

I am 56 years old and I make paper airplanes. Now that may seem odd to some, but it has provided me with years of enjoyment and has proven to be an excellent way to release some creative energy. These are not your run-of-the-mill paper airplanes that we threw when our 5th grade teacher was not looking, but a craft that flies very well and is designed around solid aerodynamic principles. Let it be known that I have dedicated myself to paper airplane folding for over 30 years and while other activities in my life come and go, I forever remain dedicated to building paper airplanes. It keeps me feeling young and it keeps me out of trouble.

It started out fairly innocently. It was 1973 and I had begun flying hang gliders in Southern California. The gliders were very limited in their performance and at times delivered curious and undesirable flight characteristics. In an effort to better understand the flight characteristics of the "Rogollo" wing, I began making models of sticks and plastic, but these were time consuming. I turned to paper and was successful at making paper airplanes that resembled the rogollo hang gliders of the day. It was fun throwing them off the hills and off buildings and a few of my flying buddies also took up the hobby.

Eventually I started making modifications to my original design and pretty much continued to follow the progress of the hang glider manufacturers as they presented more refined and higher performing wings. Decades later the current hang gliders have amazing performance as well as do my paper airplanes which I now call the OmniWing.

For years I thought about writing a book to describe how to fold the OmniWing, but I was never able to convey the instructions within a 2 dimension format on paper. There were others out there making bundles on selling books about paper airplanes, but my craft was a very challenging design to fold with some very unique folding methodologies and alas the instructions simply could not be conveyed. Also due to the complexity of my paper airplanes, many would find them to be too tedious of a task.

Then came the Internet, and I put up a web site at for my paper airplane designs. It has been active for over a decade providing instructions for a wing I call the Proto-OmniWing. It is a crude method but comes close to replicating the design of the original Rogollo hang glider. With it's simple folds, and a bit of tape, I was pleased to hear from individuals that had built the Proto-OmniWing, but they wanted more. I also displayed the OmniWing, and the Advanced OmniWing. But alas I had no success with presenting instructions that would properly convey a couple of challenging steps.

Then came YouTube. This was the perfect environment and media to present my paper airplane designs. With video, I was able to successfully convey the steps in the building of the OmniWing. I created my YouTube Channel and started presenting videos on how to fold and fly the OmniWings. The response has been excellent, and there is indeed quite a large and dedicated group of people on the Internet that are paper airplane enthusiasts. I believe I have 8 videos related to my OmniWing Paper Airplane on my YouTube Channel as well as many others related to other activities such as hang gliding, mountain biking, and some family stuff.

View the OmniWing Web Site at
To See my YouTube Channel at
See where I fly my hang glider at

Want to feel like a kid again. Get out the paper and scissors and a bit of tape and have some fun!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My life! The Condensed Version...

Welcome to Shady Grove, Arkansas. Shady Grove is a very small rural community near Mena, Arkansas. Shady Grove has only a rural fire department. No store, no gas station, but Mena is only a few miles away. It is in this home on 8 acres that my wife and I finished raising the three boys, and now we go on to the third stage of our lives.

Sue and I have been married since 1972. Married just out of high school we both pursued careers in health care and lived and worked in the Southern California region with me working as a respiratory therapist and Sue as a nurses aid. These were good days, as we enjoyed reasonably good wages, bought our first home and enjoyed many forms of recreation on our free time. Busying ourselves with racquetball, skateboarding, hang gliding, camping, raising our poodles, building paper airplanes and playing pinball made for good days.

We had been married 7 years when we moved to Houston, TX. These were tough days as we did not enjoy this very different city. We were met with grave financial difficulties and made great sacrifices to get out of this city, and thus would begin our 2nd stage of our life together. It was during this time, that we chose to start our family. We moved to Mena, Arkansas with Sue pregnant with our first child. The transition to the country life and extending the family was very challenging, but we are both very happy that we had made this decision.

I continued my work with the local community hospital in Mena, while we had 3 baby boys over the next few years. When all the boys were in public school, Sue pursued her LPN license, while I pursued trying to grow our house in the country to keep up with the growing family. We kept hoping for a baby girl, but alas, after three boys we gave up.

Now the boys are all grown and have moved away to Fayetteville, Arkansas thus we are in the third stage of our lives. I no longer work as a respiratory therapist, but enjoy working at home as a web designer, while Sue continues to apply her nursing skills as a home heath care nurse. We both love our jobs, and with our free time we enjoy riding our mountain bikes and of course, I returned to hang gliding after all the boys were off on their own.

We hope to retire someday, but like many… as we look at the struggling economy we know that we do not have any way to know what the future will hold.

Well…. I did it! I condensed our lives into a few paragraphs. This indeed was a bit of a challenge as like anyone else, the most interesting stories are those that hide between the lines. I will pursue providing some interesting stories about our life experience. Some are funny, some are sad, but all are about living and learning about what life is on this little blue/green orb.

Topics you can look forward to are stories about some of my hang gliding and other flight pursuits, mountain bike racing and bicycle design, our choice to have our children birthed at home, building our own home in the country, some interesting stories about our life long work in the health care industry. Now my mother has joined us here in Arkansas and she always taught me to not discuss politics, religion or football. I may occasionally break this rule. I may dabble a bit in politics, and religion..... but football I will not discuss... Just too controversial!

Fair winds to you!

Here are some applicable links to this story. City of Mena Hang Gliding in the Ouachita Mountains Mountain Biking in the Ouachita Mountains Mountain Bike Racing in Arkansas City of Fayetteville