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Heroes in Hang Gliding: Bob Wills

Postby magentabluesky » Sat Jul 07, 2018 8:33 pm

Heroes in Hang Gliding: Bob Wills

I never really formally met Bob Wills. My friends and I were on a bike ride and came across the Wills brothers giving hang gliding lessons on La Paz Road in Laguna Niguel sometime around 1973. We watched from a distance and a seed was planted.

Excerpts from :

Bob Wills An Eagle Among Men By Chris Price August 1977 Hang Gliding

I have known Bob Wills for over twenty years. In today’s mobile society it is rare for a person to have the same friend through childhood and on into adult life. A long friendship gives life more meaning. It also . . .

Bob was a forgiving, optimistic person who never held a grudge. He would always look for the best in people and refuse to accept the worst. Once a dealer who was already copying of Bob’s gliders showed up from out of state on the pretense of learning as much as possible about Bob’s newest model so that he could sell them better. I knew the guy was just going to copy the glider I wanted to physically throw him out of the shop. Bob believed him when he told Bob that he would not copy it. Bob even let him stay at his house. Bob felt that if we threw him out, it would make it that much easier for him to justify copying it. Bob also pointed out that he could always just order one and copy it anyway, but he would never be able to copy the attitude that went behind the glider. I was right. The glider was copied. Bob was right. The copy was missing some things that made Bob’s glider easier to fly . . . and the attitude.

Bob and I were arguing about some employees at Wills Wing that had screwed up for the umpteenth time. I wanted to fire them. Bob said, “Price, we are not dealing with computers; we are dealing with people. Point out their mistakes to them and they will do better”. . .

Bob Wills and I spent a great deal of time arguing. He argued with most of the people close to him. He and I had a different way of looking at life, and if, from our different viewpoints we agreed, we were always right. If either one of us could prove the other one wrong and the other one would concede, we knew we were right. This interchange of ideas and thoughts I had with Bob Wills is what I will personally miss the most.

One evening I wanted to make some changes on my glider. Bob told me he wanted to make some changes on the sail floor and asked if I could come back first thing in the morning. When I left the shop he was sitting in a chair looking at the different patterns he had laid on the floor. When I came back the next morning, he was still sitting in the same chair. I asked if he had been sitting in that chair all night. He said yes. I asked what for. He said he was considering all the possibilities.

Bob Wills chose to lead a life that put him in precarious situations. He did what he wanted, and had few regrets. He left his mark in the world of hang gliding and in the minds of the people who knew him.


Other articles in the August 1977 Hang Gliding Issue: Jerry Katz Breaks 100 Mile Barrier.

Jerry Katz was at the 2018 Otto Lilienthal meet at Dockweiller on May 27.
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Michael Grisham
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