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My thoughts on HG, PG, USHPA, Hawks, and the RGSA

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My thoughts on HG, PG, USHPA, Hawks, and the RGSA

Postby Bob Kuczewski » Mon Feb 03, 2014 3:44 pm

Hello Paragliding Pilots and Hang Gliding Pilots of the RGSA,      :wave:

I want to start by thanking your club (RGSA) for voting to become a Chapter of the US Hawks at your annual January meeting this year (2014). I am writing this note to offer some thoughts on what this means to both hang gliding and paragliding pilots at your club. I've given these issues a lot of thought, and that's what makes this a somewhat lengthy message (sorry about that). I ask for your forgiveness for its length, and I hope you'll find the time to read it slowly and thoughtfully. Please feel free to post any comments ... that's what forums are for!!    :D

Thanks,
Bob Kuczewski - Founder of the US Hawks Hang Gliding Association


Introduction

Let me start by introducing myself. Some of my earliest flying experiences were inside military cargo planes concluding with parachute jumps (US Army Jump School ... 1976). The earliest of my jumps used completely round parachutes, but later jumps used a modified canopy with toggles that steered the parachute somewhat like today's modern paragliders. I began flying both airplanes and hang gliders around 1978. I started flying seaplanes around 1980, and paragliders around 1990. In the early 80's I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering and I've worked in the aerospace industry for most of my career (including one summer at White Sands Missile Range during college). I hold a Private Pilots license rated "Single Engine Land and Sea", and I hold advanced USHPA ratings (H4/P4) in hang gliding and paragliding. I was also the first person to fly a hang glider, paraglider, sailplane, and model (RC) sailplane at the Torrey Pines Gliderport all in a single day (published in USHPA Magazine - August 2007). I've flown many other sites around the country, and I've helped introduce people to both sports (HG and PG). While I like introducing people to flying, I am not an instructor and I have never taken any money for my efforts to promote either sport. I was elected as Region 3 Director in 2008 by a vote of 122 to 98 in a very contentious election which was largely split between hang gliding and paragliding interests. Torrey Pines (our most visible site to the general public) has been pushing paragliding for 10 years now, and that has skewed the population of our local HG/PG club toward paragliding by a significant majority. My directorship was dedicated to gaining fair representation for both sports, and many of the local PG pilots didn't want to yield their control at Torrey Pines. Throughout 2009 and in early 2010 they organized a recall effort, and I lost the resulting election by a vote of 222 to 188 during the last year of my term (2010). It was shortly afterward (summer of 2010) that I realized that hang gliding issues and hang gliding representatives could always be voted down in a predominantly paragliding organization. That's when I decided to start a national association dedicated to hang gliding. That organization is the US Hawks.

With that flying background (and that political background), I've certainly given a lot of thought to HG/PG issues. I've come to believe that there are two factors that are primarily responsible how well (or not well) the two sports can work together. Those two factors are terrain and culture.

Terrain

One of the great influences on HG/PG relations is the local flying terrain. At one extreme are sites with wide open terrain. These are typically thermal sites which produce a large 3 dimensional space for flying. It's 3 dimensional because the thermals are often scattered across the two dimensional ground surface and they can produce lift for many thousands of feet. This huge flying space tends to reduce conflicts between soaring aircraft of any type, and promotes cooperation between HG and PG. My best example (here in Southern California) is the Crestline flying site which supports one of the best biwingual clubs I've seen. At the other extreme are the one dimensional "lift band" sites typical of many coastal ridge soaring cliffs. These are essentially one dimensional because they typically have a long narrow pipe of lift ... sometimes only wide enough for a single glider to pass and remain in the lift. Unfortunately, this type of site amplifies the differences in flight characteristics between HG and PG, and these ridge soaring sites are often the source of great conflict between the sports. My best examples of these kinds of sites are Torrey Pines (San Diego) and Fort Funston (San Francisco).

Culture

The other great influence on HG/PG relations comes from the local flying culture. A culture of friendliness and tolerance can go a long way toward promoting HG/PG cooperation. Again, I think the Crestline club is a good example of friendliness and tolerance and their club is welcoming to both glider types. On the flip side, a culture of entitlement and intolerance can turn HG/PG relations into a war zone. Torrey Pines and Fort Funston are also good examples where cultural differences have made cooperation very difficult ... if not impossible. There are things that could be done to improve relations at both Torrey and Funston which are not being done because one side or the other has dug in their heels ... often for no reason other than to hurt the other side.

Rio Grande Soaring Association

From what I've seen, I believe the RGSA has good HG/PG cooperation because of both its terrain and its culture. This is a credit to your club, and it helps you work together to pool resources for the betterment of both sports. If the club needs a hang glider ramp at one location, there's no objection from the paragliding pilots. If the club needs to clear an area of obstructions for paragliding pilots to lay out their wings at another site, there's no objection from the hang gliding pilots. That's the way it should be. If something can benefit the hang gliding pilots, the PG pilots don't object. And similarly, if something can benefit the paragliding pilots, the HG pilots don't object either. That's the spirit of cooperation that works in a marriage and it also works in the "marriage" between our two sports.

San Diego Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (Example)

In contrast to the good relations within the RGSA, the San Diego Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (SDHGPA) has been one of those "war zone" clubs. The SDHGPA has become a mostly paragliding club (another result of the years of PG-only training at Torrey Pines), and they have refused to provide fair representation for hang gliding interests at Torrey Pines (their President once told me to "get lost" when I was asking for just one hang gliding representative on the Torrey Pines Soaring Council). This is the attitude of entitlement and intolerance that caused the formation of a separate hang gliding club here in San Diego (the Torrey Hawks). We now have two clubs to this day. The lesson from the SDHGPA is that keeping pilots happily together in a club requires ensuring that the needs (and desires) of both groups are met as well possible (within practical limits of course). When one wing type has a grievance or suggestion it should be accommodated as best as possible. Failure to do so can be a disaster. In the case of the SDHGPA, it would have been very easy (and quite reasonable) for them to simply ask the Soaring Council for another seat so both sports (hang gliding and paragliding) could be equally represented. Their failure to take that easy step (similar to simply allowing hang glider pilots to build a ramp) has led to the fracturing of the San Diego flying community. I am no longer an SDHGPA member, and I know many other pilots who've left them as well. I point out this example so the RGSA can hopefully work to keep all of its members (HG and PG) happy and united behind one local club.

USHPA and the US Hawks Hang Gliding Association

The US Hawks Hang Gliding Association was started because hang glider pilots (including myself) began to feel that USHPA was not treating both sports fairly. We began to feel that in our combined organization (USHPA) the sport of hang gliding would continue to lose support and representation over time. As with the SDHGPA, this was clearly visible through USHPA's actions on the Torrey Pine Soaring Council where USHPA has resisted (even to this day) our club's efforts to balance the Council. In 2010 (when I was Director) I worked to get a slim majority of the USHPA Directors to pass a resolution to gain more representation on the Council, but in the past 4 years, the USHPA leadership has taken no action to implement that resolution. They are effectively telling hang gliding pilots they have no representation in San Diego.

But USHPA's failure to fairly address HG/PG issues at Torrey (and elsewhere) hasn't been the only problem. The USHPA Board has a long history of other failures to treat pilots fairly. Here's the short list (off the top of my head):

  • No published voting record of USHPA Directors
  • Lack of due process when removing ratings from pilots
  • "Gag Order" on Chapters - clubs risked losing site insurance for being publicly "critical" of USHPA ... or USHPA policies
  • Lack of a Public Forum where members can ask Directors questions about the association
  • Lack of support for bringing Chapters together

The US Hawks is committed to addressing each of these issues. We will publish the voting records of our Directors just like the US Congress does and just like the HPAC (Hang Gliding Paragliding Association of Canada) does. The US Hawks will provide due process for our members and value pilot's rights to be critical of our organization and its policies. The US Hawks will promote public discussions between pilots and Directors, and the US Hawks will work to bring Chapters together through our public forum.

The US Hawks is a hang gliding organization, and we are dedicated to promoting hang gliding. But we are also dedicated to core principles of openness and fairness which apply to pilots of all wing types. We believe that even the existence of the US Hawks (as a healthy alternative to USHPA) will cause USHPA to do a better job. We expect that someday USHPA will begin publishing the votes of its Directors and opening public forums where pilots can interact with each other and with USHPA's leadership. We expect these things not because USHPA wants them, but because the US Hawks will set an example that they cannot ignore. By supporting the US Hawks, your club is also supporting a better USHPA.

USHPA, US Hawks, and the Free Market

The United States is based on the concept of a free market. That means that it's not the government's job to decide how many restaurants or gas stations belong on each block. Those decisions are best made by the "give and take" of the free market where businesses make an effort to get customers and customers choose which businesses meet their needs. That competition is what makes all businesses better and it's why we (acting through our government) have the power to actually break up monopolies. Monopolies tend to stagnate and get stuck in a rut because they can't really tell when their members are unhappy (after all, with a monopoly, there's nowhere else for members to go!). That's why competition is the key, and we can only have competition when there are multiple choices. The US Hawks is just the first (and hopefully not the last) choice to come along for hang gliding and paragliding pilots. More choices will mean more competition. It will mean national associations that offer better insurance rates. It will mean national associations that offer better services (like shared club forums and open voting records). It will mean having national association leaders that care enough to visit your local club's flying sites and attend your local club's meetings. That's what the US Hawks hopes to bring to our sports.

What does all this mean to a paragliding member of the RGSA?

Do you remember the example I gave of an HG/PG club creating a hang gliding ramp for hang glider pilots and also clearing a layout area for paraglider pilots? That's a good example to apply to becoming a US Hawks Chapter. The RGSA doesn't have to choose between building a hang gliding ramp or clearing a paragliding area. You can do both! The same is true with USHPA and the US Hawks. Your club can be (and currently is) a Chapter of both. Just like the HG ramp / PG clearing example, some pilots might be more happy about one than the other, but everyone has a choice and no one's wishes are stifled. That's the path to keeping both hang glider pilots and paraglider pilots happy and working together in the same club.

In addition to the issue of individual choice (which is a big issue), the US Hawks and USHPA each offer things that the other doesn't. The US Hawks offers a club forum integrated into a national framework. The US Hawks offers open voting and accountability by its leaders and might someday offer insurance. USHPA currently offers insurance, and might someday offer a forum and open voting. As a club with choices, the RGSA can choose to get some services from USHPA and other services from the US Hawks. It's very much like banking. You can have a checking account with one bank and a money market account with another. Your choices depend on what's best ... for you. That's the kind of choice that the US Hawks is opening up for clubs within the free-flight community.

Conclusion (sorry this was so long ... thanks for reading it)

I want to thank all the members of the RGSA who voted to become a US Hawks Chapter at your January meeting. Whether you're a hang glider pilot or a paragliding pilot, your club has helped to give pilots more choices in national associations and that's good for all of us. Thanks.

Bob Kuczewski
February 3rd, 2014
Join a National Hang Gliding Organization: US Hawks at ushawks.org
View my rating at: US Hang Gliding Rating System
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Bob Kuczewski
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Re: My thoughts on HG, PG, USHPA, Hawks, and the RGSA

Postby Bill Cummings » Mon Feb 03, 2014 10:16 pm

QUOTE by Bob K.,>>>
“In addition to the issue of individual choice (which is a big issue), the US Hawks and USHPA each offer things that the other doesn't. The US Hawks offers a club forum integrated into a national framework. The US Hawks offers open voting and accountability by its leaders and might someday offer insurance. USHPA currently offers insurance, and might someday offer a forum and open voting. As a club with choices, the RGSA can choose to get some services from USHPA and other services from the US Hawks. It's very much like banking. You can have a checking account with one bank and a money market account with another. Your choices depend on what's best ... for you. That's the kind of choice that the US Hawks is opening up for clubs within the free-flight community.”
____________________________________________________________
USHPA's insurance + US Hawk's Forum = Expanded service for me :thumbup: :thumbup:
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