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Heroes in Hang Gliding: Rob Kells

Postby magentabluesky » Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:16 pm

Heroes in Hang Gliding: Rob Kells

There was something special about Rob Kells. To say he was a people person would be an understatement. He was gifted in social skills. It was like Rob Kells was on a mission to see what he could do for people. It was not like he would ask you what he could do for you. Just in a normal conversion with Rob, he would figure out what your needs were and even before you knew yourself what you needed, he was figuring out how he could help you.

I only ran into Rob Kells a few times and yes he was not going pass up an opportunity to be giving.

I was flying a Wills Wing Alpha 215 at Hidden Valley just west of Temecula in August 1980. There was a light breeze and soaring the ridge was marginal that day. I had a few flights and they all went the same, launch was followed by sinking about 20 to 30 feet below ridge line and slowly scratching back up only climbing 20 to 30 feet above the launch with just enough altitude to make a top landing.

Between flights the Wills Wing Test Flight Gang shows up with a bunch of virgin gliders and three or four factory test pilots. Rob Kells asks me “How is the flying? I reply honestly, “Marginal, but I was able to top land each time.” They have a discussion and are not real excited about the prospects of not being able to top land. If they have to do bottom retrievals it will be a long day test flying all those gliders.

I told them, “Here watch, I’ll launch for you.” I would be their wind dummy for the day, and as before after scratching on three or four passes I was 20 to 30 feet over but never getting really high.

The Wills Wing Gliders came off the trucks and they began setting up. When they were ready to fly, I got out of their way and top landed. In no time all the gliders were test flown and everybody top landed.

Rob started a conversation with me asking me how long I had been flying and where I had I been flying.

I replied I had been flying hang gliders for six years and was going to college in Prescott Arizona. This spring I had been getting some altitude at Mingus Mountain and was just back in California during summer break.

Rob then asked me what my Hang Rating was. I told him I had never been signed off even though I had been a member of the USHGA for about two years.

Rob’s instant reply was “We are going to fix that right now. You’re an H-3.” He then went to the cab the truck, pulled out some paper work and we started filling in the blanks. He said there were plenty of guys out there like me that had been flying for years but were not rated and they (USHGA) were trying get them their appropriate rating for their skill level.

The thing was I had not even asked Rob to sign me off. I had not even thought about it, but Rob in his own unique way took some time out of doing the company business to get to know me and take care of my needs as a hang glider pilot.

Was I somebody special to Rob Kells? I think everybody was special to Rob Kells. That is the way Rob Kells approached life.

Rob Kells, the Hang Gliding Community Misses You.

Wills Wing Remembrances of Rob Kells

Rob Kells R.I.P. Aug 9 HG.Org
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Michael Grisham
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Re: Heroes in Hang Gliding: Rob Kells

Postby Frank Colver » Sun Jul 08, 2018 8:37 pm

I knew Rob very well because he was the person at WW that I communicated with about the variometers they were distributing for me. I frequently met with him at Wills Wing. I was greatly saddened by his illness and death and miss him to this day.

My story of his seeing a person's need and helping to fill it happened at the September 2000 Dockweiler HG history meet put on by Joe Greblo. I had not flown a hang glider in 18 1/2 years until that day. After getting a flight of a few feet in my Eipper Flexi Floater I then flew the school's Condor 330 and it brought flooding back all of the things I had loved about hang gliding.

Later that day I was talking with Rob and I said I wanted to buy a Condor and start flying again at Dockweiler. That's when I learned of Wills' policy of only selling them to schools. A little while later Rob walked up to me and said that he would sell me a Condor if I promised to not use it for general flying, in heavy conditions, or from the mountains. He said he knew he could trust me to keep that promise and I could buy one. Then when i told Joe G that Wills was going to sell me a Condor he said you don't need to buy one because you can come here and fly ours any time you want. Unfortunately, I never took him up on that offer because a dislocated shoulder from a motorcycle accident, a couple of months later, took me two years of recovery. Since I had no contact with Joe G during that time I didn't try to get back to him after two years.

You all know that I did start flying again at Dockweiler in 2015 and I now own two sizes of Condors thanks to Mike Meiers giving the OK to a school that was selling out their stock. But I often think of Rob and Joe's promise and how many fun days at Dockweiler I missed because of that motorcycle accident.

Frank Colver
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