Episode 83- Ziad Bassil and Dust of the Universe

Ziad Bassil is someone most pilots who have gear questions already know. His blog the “Dust of the Universe” is probably (definitely?) the most comprehensive independent gear testing site on Earth. He does it solely for pleasure and is PROLIFIC. If it flies, he flies it and then gives his many, many followers his opinions. In this episode we spend some time discussing the unique challenges but also joys of flying in Lebanon and then get right into the gear. How he tests, what he tests and why. Come along for the ride and learn more about what you should be flying and why.

Find Dust of the Universe here on Facebook: https://web.facebook.com/groups/dustoftheuniverse/

And his incredible website / blog here: http://ziadbassil.blogspot.com

 

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Show Notes: (these are the questions we ran through for the show)

  • Flying in Lebanon- the many challenges, dangers, and the surprisingly good flying to be had
  • Testing- how it came about, the process, and how to keep it fair. And what conditions to test in. 
  • Ziad’s favorite wings in each category
  • If Ziad and I go fly in the Alps for fun- what wing and harness would you bring?
  • Hammock harness vs seatboard harness
  • Favorite race vs light harness

 

Mentioned in this episode:

Rony Jabbour, Felipe Rezende, UP, Flow, Niviuk, Ozone, Artik 5, Bonanza 2, Gin, Swing, Advance, Gradient, Woody Valley, Neo, Nova, SupAir, Sky, BGD

Episode 82- Mark “Forger” Stucky and becoming a Rocket Man

Mark Stucky, the lead test pilot for SpaceShipTwo. “As a Marine Corps colonel once told me,” Stucky said, “‘If you want to be safe, go be a shoe salesman at Sears.’ ”
Photograph by Dan Winters for The New Yorker

On December 13th, 2018 test pilot Mark “Forger” Stucky piloted SpaceShipTwo, Virgin Galactic’s tourism spaceship into space for the first time after years and years of testing and many set backs. He and his co-pilot Rick “CJ” Sturckow had a “long burn” and reached 51 miles above the Earth (over 270,000′), and reached mach 2.9. It was a historical moment in the modern space race being waged by billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson.   Mark is a modern day Chuck Yeager- if it flies, he’s flown it. He began flying hang gliders in 1974 and has over 10,000 hours in over 200 different types of aircraft- including sailplanes, paragliders, fighters, transports, blimps, spaceships and has uniquely flown more than 1,000 hours a piece in the F-4 Phantom, F-16, F-18 and T-38 and even flew the SR-71 before that program was shut down. Remember that scene in Top Gun when Tom Cruise flips upside down over a Russian fighter and takes a picture? Well Mark has ACTUALLY done that! But Hollywood could never do justice to the life he’s lived- one replete with moon-shot type risk, tragedy, unbelievable accomplishments, incredible talent and dedication and after 40 years of perseverence he got to experience what he’s been chasing since he was in his early teens- going into space. If this episode doesn’t make your head spin you don’t have a pulse. Enjoy.

The New Yorker article I reference in the interview that you MUST read: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/08/20/virgin-galactics-rocket-man/amp

The news release about the flight to space on December 13th: https://apnews.com/659f385710cc46fdb381c5f6dfbb6573

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Show Notes: (these are the questions we ran through for the show)

  • Mark your resume and achievements is well beyond ridiculous but before we get to that, this Thursday the 13thyou co-piloted with Rick “CJ” Sturckow the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo rocket to 51 miles above the Earth, considered the boundary of space, and reached mach 2.9- three times the speed of sound. I can’t imagine putting a flight like this into words, but can you try?
  • Mark you’ve flown hanggliders, paragliders, sailplanes, fighters, transports, blimps, and obviously most recently spaceships, including I believe uniquely over 1,000 hours a piece in the F-4, F-16, F-18 and T-38 so clearly “pilot” would be how I would describe you, but if someone asked you at a party what you do how do you answer?
  • There was an article in the New Yorker printed in August about you titled “Virgin Galactic’s Rocket Man” that I can honestly say is one of the most riveting long-form reads I’ve come across in years. It documents the modern space race going on between Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Bezos’s Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX. SpaceX and Blue Origin are pursuing a vertical-launch scheme, like we’ve seen in the movies. You say in the article “It’s automated,” “They’ve got some astronauts, but I don’t know what the hell they’re going to do besides act like they’re doing something.” Can you explain this difference (automation- “Spam in a can”)?
  • Take us through Virgin’s plan (WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo) and how it all works (difference in “sub orbital” vs orbital, costs, engines, ….)
  • In 2014 your best friend Mike Alsbury was killed when he made a critical human error, you watched the whole thing from mission control. You say in the article that the rocket is the most fearsome thing you have piloted in over 40 years of flying…and many experts have said these projects are “irresponsibly risky.” Is taking rich people into space a worthy objective, and is it worth the risk?
  • Lets roll the clock back. I understand an article in National Geographic inspired you to get into Hang gliding and in fact there’s a photo of you launching in Kansas, where you went to college in 1974 in the New Yorker article. We just did an episode on the history of Hang gliding, I’m assuming this is the same Nat Geo Article that made hang gliding a national obsession? Talk about those early days flying…
  • Your dad was a Mennonite and while he supported your early fascination with the stars and flight, he knew the only way in was via the military, which obviously conflicts with those beliefs. But after college you defied him and joined the Marines. I think a lot of kids, especially during that time were fascinated with being an astronaut, but you actually became an astronaut. Where do you think your drive and persistence come from?
  • In 1985 you graduate Top Gun school, you were flying on a patrol mission over the sea of Japan, spotted a Russian bomber, caught up to it, flipped upside down and snapped a photograph- Mark this sounds a lot like a famous scene in the movie! Care to comment?
  • Then you transitioned from the military to NASA in the late 80’s and ended up where Chuck Yeager spent most of his career…tell me about being a test pilot?
  • Then in the 90’s drones come along, funding for spaceships dries up, and you find yourself flying commercially for United and selling mortgages. I’m going to make a wild guess that this wasn’t exactly how you saw your life going?
  • So…You join the Air Force in 2003 and head to Iraq…and then in 2004 while sitting in one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces watch Burt Rutan’s “SpaceShipOne” go to 62 miles above the Earth. What did this moment mean for you?
  • In 2007, after 4 deployments to Iraq, and a Bobby Bond Aviator award you move to the Mojave to work on some highly classified stuff, you get back into paragliding and even co-author a manual of paragliding which is still popular today, but it sounds like your family life begins to take a dive. By 2009 your three children won’t even talk to you. How do you balance a family and such lofty aspirations?
  • And then you have a bad crash paragliding in Vegas…let’s talk reserves and PLF, as I understand you’ve got maybe a unique view there?
  • I want to explore a sentence in the article about another pilot you begin flying with in 2009, Peter Siebold: “For aviators, confidence is an asset but arrogance is a liability. As Chuck Yeager wrote in his memoir, “Arrogance got more pilots in trouble than faulty equipment.”
  • You start doing a LOT of test flights for Scaled Composites, Burt Rutan’s company behind the engineering of Virgin’s rocket ships. Tell us about the most harrowing flight during those years?
  • Tell me about “Transonic” flights and why it’s the “Bermuda triangle of airspeed”?
  • How do you stay current during the LONG periods of testing and downtime? The article talks about all kinds of G-Force training and stick time- any cross-over to paragliding?
  • Let’s go back to your friend Mike Alsbury, who made a life-ending human mistake on a test flight in 2014. The fallout from that sounded like it almost ended the whole Virgin Galactic program. What happened and how can we as pilots avoid making these kinds of mistakes? Takeaways to PG?
  • As we already know in a way how this story plays out with you just flying to the edge of space on Thursday looking back over your long and storied carrier- if you could change one thing, what would it be?

“To paraphrase Harrison Storms, the North American Aviation project manager for the X-15 as well as Apollo, we need to work with thoughtful courage and not be blinded by fearful safety.”

Mentioned in this episode:

Paul Guschlbauer, Ken MacDonald, Myles Connolly, Burt Rutan, Rick “CJ” Sturckow, Bruce Weaver, Nate Scales, Richard Branson, Sam Branson, Peter Siebold, Roy Haggard, Tony Lang

Owens Valley, California from Space, Photo Mark Stucky

Episode 81- Damien Lacaze and Touching the Void

Damien and Antoine dial up the Trango Towers

“During their six-week expedition to Pakistan this summer, Damien Lacaze and Antoine Girard traveled more than 1,500 kilometers in just 14 days of flight, making the second highest flight in the history of paragliding, bivouacked at more than 6,000 meters and attempted the ascent of Spantik, which rises to more than 7000 m. It was an adventure at the extreme boundaries of what is humanly possible.” – Alpine Magazine

Damien Lacaze has had an incredible couple years. He was Benoit Outters supporter in the 2017 X-Alps, the only other team to reach goal in Monaco and he flew EVERY SINGLE FLIGHT in the race with Benoit. But that was just a warm-up for the main event: a monster 1500KM vol biv with a big mountaineering objective in the Pakistan Himalaya. In this episode Damien recounts one of the most harrowing and yet magnificent and inspiring adventures in the history of the mountains, let alone human flight. Enjoy- this is flat out AWESOME!

DO NOT MISS Damien’s amazing three part story of the expedition- it’s an incredible, jaw-dropping story:

Episode 1: https://alpinemag.fr/le-survol-des-geants-episode-1/

Episode 2: https://alpinemag.fr/le-survol-des-geants-episode-2/

Episode 3: https://alpinemag.fr/le-survol-des-geants-episode-3/

And another great article and photos on the Advance website.

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Show Notes:

  • 2017 Red Bull X-Alps- Damien was Benoit’s supporter (the only other athlete to make goal in Monaco in 2017, in second place behind Chrigel). And he flew EVERY flight with him!

  • Why their team did well and what it’s like to support an X-Alps athlete.

  • Dicey flying on Day 2 of the race

  • How the team met and how the expedition took shape

  • What gear was used and how did the team decide what to bring?

  • Things go bad right off the start when Antoine lands hard day one

  • Problems on the climb of Spantik- including Antoine getting a bad case of Cerebral Edema

  • A close escape

  • Flying at 7900 meters in the biggest mountains on Earth- how does it compare?

  • The size and scope- how to compute MASSIVE?

  • Flying without oxygen- how did the team deal with acclimatization?

  • The mental side- how to deal with the unknown?

  • Making big decisions when you can’t fuck it up- rescue is not possible

  • How to come back to the “real” world after such an undertaking?

  • Damien discusses the difficulties of leaving on the expedition when he has a 6 month old girl, his first child

Mentioned in this episode:

Jayne Desantis, Foundation for Free Flight, USHPA, Willi Canell, Tony Lang, Marko Hrga, Doug Sharpe, Benoit Outers, Red Bull X-Alps, Chrigel Maurer, Antoine Girard, Gaspard Petiot, Cross Country Magazine, Maxime Pinot, Tom De Dorlodot, John Sylvester

Episode 80 – The History and Future of Hang Gliding

 

Hang gliding is arguably the first “extreme sport” in human history and its influences radically changed the world. Drawing inspiration from Leonardo Davinci, Otto Lillienthal built the first foot-launched hang gliders in the late 1800’s. His wings inspired Octave Chanute and his assistants to make thousands of flights at the turn of the last century on the shores of lake Michigan which led to the Wright Brothers’ remarkable inventions- and humans take to the skies. Orville and Wilbur Wright’s flights in the early 1900’s are still hard to wrap your head around. Imagine picking up a 150 pound glider built out of bamboo, balsa and muzzen cloth in 30 miles per hour of wind and actually soaring! Their flights in 1911 wouldn’t be matched until the early 1970’s! Their passion for flight lead to the rapid development of powered aircraft which had a massive impact in the devastating air campaigns of World War I and World War II. Interest in unpowered flight returns after the Wars and the arrival of Francis Rogallo and his genius leads to Hang gliding as we know it. Suddenly we can chase the birds, fulfilling a shared dream that has existed from the beginning of human history. The sport goes crazy in the early 70’s, over a hundred manufacturers get into the game, performance gains go through the roof, but then so do the accidents. In the late 70’s the Hang Gliding Manufacturers Association creates a certification process and the sport becomes more interested in safety than just getting off the ground at any cost. Gliders continue to innovate at an insane pace and incredible distances are flown- the first 100 mile flight goes down, then Larry Tudor flies 200 miles, then 300 but as wings get more and more sophisticated and fast, they also get more difficult to fly and importantly- to learn. In 2012 Dustin Martin flies an unbelievable 475 miles in Texas, the farthest anyone has flown on unpowered aircraft but the future of hang gliding is anything but encouraging. What’s next for the sport, and has what’s happened to hang gliding foretelling of paragliding’s future? This is a remarkable tale told eloquently by the legendary Bruce Weaver from Kitty Hawk Kites, the president Wills Wing Steven Pearson, the former president of USHPA and former world record holder David Glover, the “Dark Prince” Larry Tudor and the current world record holder, Dustin Martin.

 

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Show Notes:

  • KittyHawk kites and the beginnings
  • Otto Lillienthal and then up to the Wright Brothers. The first “hang gliders”, taking from Divinci and Lillienthal
  • “Sacrifices must be made!”
  • Octave Chanute carries on the legacy of Lillienthal and the Wright brothers take notice
  • Wright Brothers Innovation and inspiration- thousands of flights go down before they add engines!
  • Changing the course of mankind
  • First time soaring- on a 150 pound glider, in 30+ mph wind with bamboo and a kitchen curtain!
  • Francis Rogallo- the lightbulb goes off. NASA and the space race
  • National Geographic and the birth of Wills Wing under Bob and Chris Wills
  • Wills Wing- from the Boom to accidents to the decades of decline
  • The space race and how it affects Hang gliding and free flight
  • David Glover and Rogallo and the “Killer van”
  • Steven Pearson and the birth of Wills Wing and the crazy boom of Hang Gliding in the early and mid 70’s
  • Hundreds of manufacturers form around the world, performance increases and the accident rates goes through the roof
  • Distance flights starts to hit, and the Dark Prince- Larry Tudor flies 200 miles, then 300 miles…
  • Zapata “fucking” Texas- chasing the longest flights on Earth
  • Dustin Martin and Johnny Durand battle it out, and Dustin goes farther than anyone ever has on a hang glider. The record still holds.

 

Mentioned in this episode:

Miguel Gutierrez, Rob Kells, Chris and Bob Wills, Steven Pearson, Mike and Linda Meier, Larry Tudor, Benny Abruzzo, Ben Abruzzo, Dean Potter, Gerry Katz, Trip Millinger and Gene Blythe, Steve Moyes, Don Partridge, Joe Bostik, Gerry Forberger, Manfred Ruhmer, Bobby Bailey, Moyes Dragonfly, Campbell Bowen, Bill Moyes, Brad Kushner, Mark Knight, Icaro, Moyes Gliders, Aeros, Pete Lehmann, Gary Osoba, Frank Brown, Davis Straub, Alex Ploner, Bruce Weaver, Nick Greece, Leonardo Davinci, Ted Boyce, Pete Layman, Gary Osoba, Dustin Martin, Jonny Durand, Bill Moyes, Pete Brock, Zac “Zippy” Majors

1959 Wind Tunnel Test

 

1976 on an SST

 

Bamboo Bombers

 

 

Chris and Bob Wills

 

Rogallo’s Daugher Carol on a Rogallo design, 1968

 

David Aldrich

 

Roger Flying Jockey’s Ridge

 

Francis Rogallo on Jockey’s Ridge

Watch this amazing film, “Playground in the Sky” that documents the beginnings of hang gliding:

 

Episode 79- Felipe Rezende and breaking the mold

Felipe Rezende is a fascinating individual. His roots in surfing and windsurfing and growing up in the Sertao in Brazil and his background in architecture, surfboard design, and kitesurfing wing design lead him down an unplanned path to paragliding and eventually designing paragliders. Now based in Sydney, Australia Felipe is five years into FLOW Paragliders and their designs and wings are getting some serious attention. Felipe is also a really accomplished pilot. He was on the Sol team for years, regularly races on the PWC circuit and has done some wicked big XC flying. In this episode we discuss why we are sometimes in the “flow” and confident and everything is just clicking and why at other times we can’t seem to get anything right, and how we can maybe improve the odds to be in the former. Felipe talks about how important it is to visualize how a wing flows through the air and how understanding fluid dynamics, which he learned through surfing and shaping lent to not only flying better, but lent to designing better wings. Felipe’s story is fascinating, hope you enjoy!

PLEASE- our feathered friends in Indo need your help. Our community lost 7 pilots recently in the Earthquake and the Cloudbase Foundation is leading the charge in trying to raise $60,000 for their families. This is urgent- if you can help out, any amount goes a long ways. Click here to learn more

 

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Show Notes:

  • Gavin recounts a story of nearly dying in a waterfall back in his kayaking days and some thoughts on “listening to the voice”
  • Felipe recounts how he got into flying and how he learned to fly in the Sertao in Brazil
  • Flying the Sertao- it’s not for the faint of heart and a great place to cut your teeth
  • Team flying magic
  • How surfing and shaping surf boards lead Felipe to flying and designing wings
  • Glider design
  • How do we get more performance out of wings going forward?
  • What goes into building a glider- design software, prototypes, certification…
  • Gliders are getting better and better, but it’s not safer if you look at the accident numbers- why?
  • What do the future’s paragliders look like?
  • RASP safety system in gliders
  • How can the certification process be improved?
  • Why make paragliders?

 

Mentioned in this episode:

Hugh Miller, Ed Ewing, Cross Country, Cloudbase Foundation, Ozone Paragliders,  Sebastien Benz, Rafael Saladini, Donizete Lemos, Frank Brown, Sol Paragliders, Che Golus, Bruce Goldsmith, Nova, UP, Ozone, Niviuk,  Flow Paragliders, Luc Armont, Tao Berman, Chrigel Maurer, Bill Belcourt, Goran Dimiskovski, Garmin, Marko Hrga Hrgetic

Episode 78- Cade Palmer and the Ultimate Pursuit

 

Infinite warped, photo Cade Palmer

Cade Palmer is a speed test pilot and designer for Ozone Paragliders; is one of the most accomplished aerobatics pilots in the world; flies tandems professionally in Jackson Hole, Wyoming; regularly sessions some of the most awe-inspiring terrain on Earth with his paramotor; of course flies small planes (and jumps out of them!) in his free time; flies RC planes and lives year-round in a van with his girlfriend and fellow air junky Becca Bredehoft and their dog Talla in pursuit of all things free-flight. In other words- he’s got the life most pilots can only dream. Cade learned to fly when he was only 19 years old and has found a way to make it his year-round pursuit. In this episode we tap into Cade’s vast knowledge of small wings and tackle some of the subjects I’ve been dying to ask him for a long time. Can you learn to speed fly without learning paragliding first? How do you teach risk and consequences to a new student who hasn’t been involved in extreme sports in the past? Why are baby steps so important? How do you stay within your boundaries if you don’t know where they are? How do you learn to respect a sport like paragliding when you’re new and don’t understand the risks. How do you learn the most advanced maneuvers safely? Is #vanlife all it’s chocked up to be? Why is finding a good mentor so critical…and how do you find them? I think you’ll find this talk inspiring, interesting, at times serious and throughout- makes you want to go fly. Hope you enjoy!

You can follow Cade in Instagram @paracade and Becca @turquoise.sparrow

And follow their van build and adventures @aves_sin_rumbo

Or their website: sustainablevanlife.com

PLEASE- our feathered friends in Indo need your help. Our community lost 7 pilots recently in the Earthquake and the Cloudbase Foundation is leading the charge in trying to raise $60,000 for their families. This is urgent- if you can help out, any amount goes a long ways. Click here to learn more

 

A buck an episode, that’s all we ask.


Support me via Patreon
We also accept donations via cryptocurrency: Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Litecoin

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Show Notes:

  • Cade recounts flying off a volcano in Guatemala
  • Cade recounts getting into flying and why
  • Finding mentors and why they are so important
  • The speed world grabs Cade and tandems pad the wallet
  • Why do mistakes happen and how can we reduce accidents?
  • Test pilot- what they do, how it works, how wings get made
  • Could the certification process be improved?
  • Baby steps baby- why a set progression is so critical
  • Want to learn to Tumble? There’s a LOT to learn first
  • Why are some pilots drawn to acro vs xc?
  • Speed flying is about launching and landing- so seat time isn’t nearly as critical as it is with PG
  • There is a safe way to speed fly- so why are there so many accidents?
  • How to stay within your boundaries
  • Van life- how good is it and what are the downsides?

 

Mentioned in this episode:

Cloudbase Foundation, Cross Country Magazine, Becca Bredehoft, Chris Santacroce, Carson Klein, Jake Walker, Chris Hunlow, Michelle McCullough, Nick Greece, Robbie Whittall, Nik Peterson, Jamie Lee

 

Let’s fly!

Episode 77- Comp Tactics and Strategies

The gaggle at the PWC in Australia, Feb 2017. Photo Jimmy Huang

We’re bringing you a live show from the road this week at the Argentina Nationals. I sat down with veteran comp pilots JP Robert Vandenbegine (Canada and Belgium), Chin Chien Huang (aka Jimmy from the US), and Francisco Mantaras (Argentina) to discuss the A to Z of comps. These guys collectively have decades of competition experience and we dove into pre-race strategies, how to get a good start, gaggle flying, finding good lines and gliding, safety and cautionary tales, tactics for winning a task vs winning the comp, instrument use, speed bar use, hand position and using the B’s, how to get into comps and why and a whole lot more. We’ve been getting a lot of questions from listeners on comps- this should answer a ton of questions. Enjoy!!

 

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Show Notes:

  • Gavin takes us around the world to the best places to fly month by month
  • The crew discusses strategies before the race starts and their race background
  • Fitness and flying
  • How to get a good start
  • Gaggle flying
  • Gliding and finding good lines
  • Flying with the B’s
  • Speed bar use, instrument use, tactics
  • Comp strategy for the day vs for the week

Mentioned in this episode:

Miguel Gutierrez, Alas Del Hombre, Bill Belcourt, Chris Galli, Cody Mittanck, Francisco Mantaras, Chin Chien Huang, JP Vandenbegine, Gareth Carter, Andre Rainsford, Chrigel Maurer, Yassen Savoy, Luc Armont, Russ Ogden

 

On Glide. Photo by Robert Vandenbegine

 

 

 

Episode 76- The Ask Me Anything show! And a fun little story of a Big day:)

It was a remarkable week- nearly 1,000 km in three flights, all of them one personal best after another. But the big one is a pretty wild story in extreme conditions in huge terrain on a very marginal day at best, and one that probably should never be repeated. Top speeds of 115-120 km / hr in the flats is one thing, but flying over 6 major mountain ranges from Idaho deep into Montana at that speed is certainly living on the edge!

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Episode 75- Dominic Rohner and Chasing the Dream

Dominic flying the Rift Valley in Kenya

I met Dominic nearly a year ago in the Sertau in Brazil and I’ve been wanting to get him on the show since. This one starts with a great (and a little harrowing!) paragliding story in Switzerland that leads us to discuss some safety stuff that cross country pilots really need to implement, and just keeps getting better. Dominic has been flying for 21 years, recently sold his share of a very successful school (Paraworld) in Zurich and has been living the dream- traveling the world in the pursuit of the skycrack. From Tanzania and Kenya to Brazil to Colombia Dominic takes us on a journey that only a paraglider and some imagination can do. This one is filled with great advice, many laughs, a few solid warnings, fantastic travel stories, the heuristic decision making process, and does what any good free flight talk should do- get you STOKED to go flying! You’re going to dig this- enjoy!

“I like flying, I like being with people, and I like drinking beer so I need to start a paragliding school!”- Dominic Rohner

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Show Notes:

Discussed in the episode:
  • Dominic discusses a pretty scary incident near St Moritz, Switzerland we discuss the takeaways- are there times you shouldn’t throw your reserve?
  • Acro training and cut-aways
  • Dominic takes us around the world and defines the magic
  • Flying into Guerrila country:)
  • Flying in Tanzania
  • Dominic discusses his school and travel business, paraworld and their unique approach
  • The world of acro and training and why acro is important
  • A risk pilots should avoid…and one they should take
  • What are the most important skills to tackle and master in the early days?
  • How to find a good school and a good instructor
  • Little things you should do that make you much safer- mentors, practice, SIV, reserves…
  • How acro helps your head, and what wing to learn on

 

Mentioned in this episode:

Aaron Durogati, Erik Reinfeldt, Odrej Prochazka, Michael Witschi, Cody Mittanck, Josh Cohn, Miguel Gutierrez, Alas Del Hombre, Monarca, Eric Reed, Stefan Wyss, Horacio Lorens, Felix Wolk, Michael Gebhart, Nik Hawks, Mitch Riley, Pal Takats, Theo De Blic, Niviuk E-Gravity, Jocky Sanderson

 

Those special moments…take off madness in Kenya

Want to Learn Acro? Start with the right kit.

Full stalls with the EGravity are hard to get wrong

Let me be clear. I am not an acro aficionado by a long stretch. After learning some of the basics- SAT’s, asymmetric spirals, big proper wing overs, etc I took my first acro course in 2012 with Jocky Sanderson in Oludeniz with the goal of dialing in deep stall and learning helicopters. But my instructor, Johan said attempting to learn helis with only a week would just be frustrating and suggested we focus on the dynamic stuff- loops, SAT to loop, dynamic full stalls, etc. At the time I was flying the Niviuk F-Gravity and doing the dynamic stuff on that wing is a blast- it’s a wing that has a lot of energy.

Fun for the whole family!

 

Since then because of where I live I rarely get an opportunity to practice acro and when I’ve done it the goal isn’t to become a rad acro pilot but to become a safer XC pilot. After the X-Alps in 2015 I made a goal to get totally dialed on deep stall, tail slides and spins so I could more safely get out of trouble flying in dicey conditions. After speaking to some of the greatest acro pilots in the world on the podcast (Pal Takats, Theo De Blic, Ondrej Prochazka, etc.) it became clear that learning these more technical maneuvers that require a much finer touch on a freestyle wing is really hard. These guys all said the same thing- want to learn Acro? Get a low end B wing! A freestyle wing like the F-Gravity is twitchy and jumps at mistakes. Tail slides are easy, but the next progression is deep stall and helis and it seemed like every other attempt at deep stall would end up in riser twists and one in four would have a cravat.

My acro partner Cody Mittanck could see that I was struggling, even though I clearly had good wing management skills and could acro and full stall all day. He made the same recommendation as the acro jedi’s I’d spoken with on the show- get a low EN B wing to learn.

 

tail slides are a walk in the park

Wing manufacturers have also been listening to this advice and I was thrilled to get my hands on the new Niviuk E-Gravity which is built specifically for learning acro. It’s a certified B wing, infinitely more forgiving of mistakes than it’s cousin the F-Gravity but still energetic enough for all the playful stuff- Misty’s, dynamic full stalls, SAT, Rhythmic Sat, loops, wing overs, etc. The deep stall range is much, much wider than on higher end acro wings and after my first few stalls and tail slides I started playing around with doing things wrong just to see how it behaves. I’ve yet to have a cravat- in fact the shape of the wing and the line plan makes me think a cravat might be close to impossible? More testing is needed, but I did some pretty silly stuff and muffed up a ton of helis and never once had a riser twist or cravat. Was I nailing helico? Far from it. I’ve got a long ways to go, but it was a lot of fun landing after every run with a big smile and wanting more rather than trying to talk my heart down from being pinned for 5 minutes.

 

In summary- if you’re like me and keen to learn some of the more technical acro moves and also like me and have a limited playground, do yourself a favor and get the right kit. It’s sexy getting a bad ass acro wing, but you’ll pay the price trying to tame it. Everyone I’ve spoken with who has helis dialed says it takes hundreds and hundreds of attempts just to get close. You can get lucky every once in awhile, but to really nail it you’ve got to have a lot of time, a lot of patience and the right tool.