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Monday, April 26, 2010

Stunt Update

Patience and perseverance. The saga continues. We’ve decided to move the balloon stunt to southern California. The weather has become too hot to continue in southern Arizona. We had one attempt at it, but had some technical difficulties with the paramotor aerial photography unit, radios and a bit of unexp...ected thermic turbulence due to a late start in the morning.

Get the latest updates at:

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Arizona Flying Circus

Balloon fun...
Oldie, but goodie...skydiving out of Scott Nicol's balloon.

Thanks Scott!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Volcano National Park
I just got back from a week on the Big Island of Hawaii. Eric Weinert had set up an amazing access point to a launch to see the main craters of Volcano National Park. It was an unusual weather pattern to have such light south winds and we were able to launch in an unfinished cul de sac and fly directly to the main Halemaumau crater.

The idea was to thermal in the heat generated from geothermic conditions in the crater. We had two FAA officials with us to help us interpret the sectionals and give us guidance for a legal flight. We launched early enough to make sure there was no solar convection. Flying toward the edge, I could all ready feel the waves of fairly productive thermal lift wafting by. The lift was broken and turbulent, but I was still able to grab chunks of usable lift and stay up.

The interesting feature of this caldera is that it is large and smoldering. The Halemaumau crater is 280 feet deep and 3000' across, so the potential areas of usable geothermic lift are outstanding.

The launch is at 4,000' and, of course, I was not prepared for how cold it got at altitude. After about an hour, the sun began to add the geo-lift and thermaling conditions were becoming epic. As far as I know, we were the first to fly paragliders over the craters.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Collapsible Truth (Article #18)
By: Bill Heaner
Copyright 2008

Paragliding deflations have become a big topic of discussion on internet forums. I think it is useful to offer some perspective on this wildly misunderstood topic.

It’s my opinion that the goal of internet based discussions should not be for instruction…especially when it comes to topics like catastrophic deflations near the ground. Please understand that when those of us who teach this stuff see it battled out on the internet, we usually stay away. I was kindly asked if I would offer my perspective…here it is without really telling you how or how not to do something. For that you will have to come to us and do it over the water under instruction.

Internet discussions get tricky because the variables of the discussion are rarely, if ever, flushed out properly and, maybe more importantly, the perspective needed by those interpreting the topic is not complete. Inevitably though, difficult forum type discussions pop up from time to time without the proper context and, to an extent, take place in reverse. This is one of them.

First of all…
Believe it or not, there are ways to not take random, major deflations, but you have to be down with really understanding what causes them…the sad reality, is that many, many pilots do not get the proper instruction or continuing education and will experience problem deflations for all the wrong reasons…most all are preventable and many times the results are tragic.

Things that go bump in the day that should make you worry:

  1. Flying through mechanical turbulence from buildings, trees, mountains, other gliders, etc.
  2. Flying in natural turbulence, i.e. unstable conditions outside of your skills and experience (gusty winds, thermic)
  3. Radical, pilot induced symmetric and asymmetric angle of attack changes (e.g. motor induced, towing without proper instruction or with an inexperienced tow operator or those practicing maneuvers without proper instruction)
  4. Flying the wrong equipment for your skills, ability and experience – not understanding paraglider speed systems and using them at the wrong time, in the wrong way or for the wrong reasons
  5. Not having a firm grasp of adequate and appropriate brake pressure during every moment of your flight.

So now, you know my opinion that talking about what to do in a catastrophic deflation on an internet forum is the wrong conversation. Talking about why they happen, how to avoid them and finally how to prepare for said deflations is where all of the really good educators in our sport go. All this BEFORE you encounter scenarios that would deliver you major pain and/or expense.

Big Point #1
I would say that ANY active pilot that has ANY chance of taking a catastrophic deflation without knowing why or exactly what to do before and after it happens needs an intervention…please call me or anyone on our team so we can sort this out properly together. You will be amazed (after only a few days on the ground and then over the water) at how much you will really understand this topic at a reflexive level. You can even try out all the suggestions you hear about for yourself and truly find out what works the best. Want to throw your reserve? Yea, you can do that too. And yes, they really work. Don’t fly with a reserve? Start now.

Big Point #2
The only way to thrive and possibly save yourself from injury or death in paragliding is to get into the mind set of attaining “mastery” of your wing and then truly understanding your exposure. This begins with great instruction and a real commitment to persistent and consistent practice on the techniques that improve your mastery. There is no training available that will get you to where you need to be in two or three days. You cannot learn it from watching a video. Accurately understanding and managing risk requires a progressive, phased approach to learning that takes a real commitment, a lot of time and an experienced, great instructor.

Misconception (motor pilots): “I don’t plan on free flight so I don’t need to know about this subject.”

Truth: There is no such thing as free flight or motor flight…get it out of your head. Start talking and thinking about “wing mastery”, then fly with a motor, without a motor, kite, tow, ridge soar, thermal…go for a complete understanding of your wing…really, a complete understanding…no really, a complete understanding. Don’t settle for living in Pleasantville…explore your world. It will make you a SAFER, BETTER, HAPPIER MORE CONFIDENT PILOT – I promise. Not only that, but you will become a resource to those around you instead of a drain.

Big Point #3
Mediocrity plagues our sport. This is a mystery to me. I would understand if you were flipping a coin for a lunch spot, but not aviation.

Accurately and actively understanding and managing risk should be at the top of your list. Mediocrity won’t get you there.

Biggest Point #4
Don’t try out the instruction you read on the internet for things like “how to get out of an 80% collapse at 30 feet from the ground.” Talk about these big ticket items with your qualified instructor. If you don’t get that he/she really understands this stuff well enough then find someone who does. Come see me (not a sales pitch…really) or anyone you can find that does over the water safety training. In addition, also seek out seminars that deal with flying in unstable air, advanced ground handling, etc.

Keep learning, question everything you read/hear…remember, wing mastery and accurately managing risk and exposure are your goals.

Bill Heaner


Saturday, December 01, 2007

Mexican Police Standoff

Lemons into lemonade...
Early in November, I traveled to southern California to train Cliff Ryder and Mark Broderick on the Flat Top for their upcoming Discovery Channel series called "Freefalling." They plan to use the Flat Top to scope out cliff jumps all over the world for the program.

We decided to head down to Baja with all of the toys for some better weather and infamous Baja LOBSTER. We met up with my good friend, Loyal Pennings who wanted us to base jump into a friends wedding at a major hotel on the beach. After a day of practice, we were heading to the hotel when we were pulled over by the Rosarito police. It turned out to be the Chief of Police and his partner. After about a half hour, we were told that we had about $500 in non-moving violations. Things like not having a red rag tied to the paramotor, obstruction of the rear view mirror and several other "serious" infractions.

I could see that they were somewhat curious about the Flat Top on the back of my truck and after I explained how it worked, they started asking questions about it. When I made the offer to take them flying, they seemed amused, but not really interested. But, after really talking it up, Cliff Ryder and I actually got them to commit to following us back to the beach to take them tandem flights!

We scrambled for a video tape and Mark Broderick captured some epic footage of the preparation and the flights (nice work Mark!)

They called most of the police department out to the site to watch and, after they all flew, the chief called his wife out and I took her on a quick flight before it started to rain on us.

Conditions were not great for tandem. We had no wind and heavy passengers. However, with Loyal Pennings and Cliff Ryder pulling them along from either side, we managed to have some great launches (thanks guys).

What started out as a potentially really bad day ended up with a really good group of new friends and a great story. They gave us their official police lapel pins and their personal cell phone numbers in case we were pulled over again. They also invited us to come back to visit them anytime. I'll let you know on this blog when we head back to Baja, so you can join us. We'll be shooting scenes for our next paragliding video there.

Moral of the story...never give just never know how good things can get.

To my good friends, Chief Miguel and his partner Chili...
Hasta Luego y gracias para todo!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Another Broken Aluminium Carabiner

Time to check your gear

For good reason, we generally do not depend on a lot of things in paragliding as being "fail-safe." However, for most, one of those perceived "fail-safe" items is our sturdy carabiners. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors - usually in two varieties of metal: steel or aluminum.

The photograph above was submitted to me by my good friend, Gerry Wingenbach who noticed this AFTER he had landed on the South Side of the Point of the Mountain. This could have been catastrophic as the carabiner could have failed at too low an altitude to get out a reserve.

It would seem that most every harness manufacturer (free flight and paramotor) chooses to use aluminum for their stock harness carabiners. And why not, they are less expensive and much lighter than their steel counterparts. However, I believe that steel is a better choice and that every pilot should have the facts to make his or her own decision.

In 1992, my then business partner, Tom Lyde, and I decided to move our climbing gear manufacturing company from Austin, TX to Salt Lake City, UT. Peter Metcalf (CEO of Black Diamond) offered us a very generous package for manufacturing space in their 3900 south facility. We continued to manufacture their climbing harnesses and sewn runners for a number of years. As a result, I worked with some of the great minds in manufacturing at BD and learned a lot about the aluminum carabiner.

Aluminum carabiners are strong for their weight and I generally trust them for climbing until I drop one. Aluminum has a nasty habit of forming micro fractures that, if formed in the wrong place, can significantly weaken the breaking strength. This is not to say that EVERY TIME you drop an aluminum carabiner that this happens, but it is possible in aluminum and NOT in steel. There are other factors as well, such as improperly side loading the carabiner or loading without the gate locked or fully closed.

For paragliding, I generally do not use aluminum carabiners unless I know the history of the biner and can verify through visual inspection that there are no possibilities of abuse that could result in weakening its strength. This is because I, and others that frequently handle my equipment, sometimes drop my harness unintentionally on hard surfaces and I always here that unmistakeable metallic "ting" sound of the carabiner as it hits.

In hang gliding, I have always used steel carabiners...we even call it out as a recommended specification for tandem operations in hang gliding and paragiding.

For paragliding and paramotoring, I have always used and sold the Austria Alpine steel locking carabiner. Austria Alpine has an aluminum version that looks identical, but that's the one in the photograph above, which I do not recommend. To date, this is the second aluminum Austria Alpine carabiner that I know of that has failed - the first was on my friend, Mike Kung. He had a similar situation as the one in the photo above - he fortunately noticed it before he flew.

So, take a good look at your carabiners. If they are aluminum, make a good visual inspection of the rounded corners - these are the potential trouble spots. If you see any nicks or dents, I would replace them immediately.

Please feel free to contact me if you want any further information on this. I would be glad to help you.

Also, if you have any relevant comments you would like to add you can post them below.

Be safe, have fun-

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hang Gliding Aerobatics

I just posted this hang gliding video compilation on youtube after several people requested it.

There are three hang gliding Aerobatic meets combined in the video - all from 2000: “Jackson Aero Extreme”, “Masters of Freestyle” and The Red Bull “Wings Over Aspen.”

Wings Over Aspen

1st Place Bill Heaner

2nd Place John Heiney

3rd Place Aaron Swepston

Jackson Aero Extreme

1st Place John Heiney

2nd Place Bill Heaner

3rd Place Zack Majors

Masters of Freestyle

1st Place Mitch McAleer

2nd Place Bill Heaner

3rd Place Morgan Hall

There is a maneuver I did in the Masters meet that has always had a lot of people talking. Mainly because it looked blown and planned at the same time. RC Dave (head judge) started referring to me as “Bill Hanger” at the “bag-o-Gas” bondfire after the meet.

About 1:30 in the video you’ll see a very slow inverted entry that resulted in a couple of passes through negative before exit.

I had been practicing this sort of slow yaw over the top, rolling maneuver for a while and decided to try it at the Masters. However, it didn’t go exactly as planned because I had not flown through the apex of the maneuver with enough energy. But as all airspeed slowed, I noticed that I was tracking enough sideways to escape a tumble. This, I assume, because of the rolling entry.Publish Post

As the glider slid, I was suspended with my feet between the back flying wires near the keel…the glider WAS flying upside down and it was apparent the it would be flying out nose first before too long. I exited with another loop mainly to show everyone that things were ok and also because it just felt like the right way to finish the round.

An important observation here is that had this been a straight up loop, there is no question that a tail slide would have ensued causing the glider to tumble. I’ve never been slow on a loop and don’t intend to ever be there, BUT, the rolling entry does have some interesting possibilities. I’ve watched Mitch McAleer, and Ron Young get close enough to this to know there is more to it. Joe Bostic claims to have experimented with flying upside down and, knowing Joe, it’s probably true.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the maneuver is now referred to as “The Leaf Hanger” by some in the hangy community.