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Jack Axaopoulos and the 2019 deaths at Torrey

Postby Bob Kuczewski » Sun Dec 01, 2019 2:30 pm

On March 9th, 2019, two pilots - Glenn Johnny Peter Bengtsson and Raul Gonzalez Valerio met their grizzly deaths on the cliffs at Torrey Pines Gliderport. See the U.S. Hawks topic titled "Two Dead at Torrey - Paragliding Collision (March 9, 2019)".

So what does this have to do with Jack Axaopoulos? Let's take a walk down memory lane and see what we find ...

On February 7th, 2010, I was a USHPA Regional Director for Region 3. I was at Torrey Pines Gliderport and I witnessed an out-of-control paragliding student make a crash landing in the hang gliding set up area. No one was hurt, and there was only minor damage to one of the gliders. I identified myself as a USHPA Director to the student, and I asked first if he was O.K. (he was) and second if he could tell me who his instructor was. Brad Geary (one of the concessionaire's instructors) rushed in and told the student not to say anything. The student clammed up immediately. Suddenly no one would talk. As Jason reported on hanggliding.org, there was "an immediate gag order" in place. The instructor was never identified. There was a lengthy discussion of the event on hanggliding.org at this link:

    http://forum.hanggliding.org/viewtopic.php?t=15666

As Regional Director, I participated in that discussion on hanggliding.org and I included my correspondence with USHPA about the incident. That was documented in February of 2010.

Fast forwad to 2011 and Shannon Hamby's accident. My publicly posted correspondence to USHPA (on hanggliding.org) was solid evidence that USHPA had been aware of the ongoing training problems at Torrey Pines and that USHPA did nothing. That solid evidence helped ensure that Shannon Hamby got justice, and it was irrefutable evidence to back up my own expert witness testimony in the case.

Fast forward one more time to the March 9, 2019 deaths of Glenn Johnny Peter Bengtsson and Raul Gonzalez Valerio. Then take a closer look at this topic from 2010 on hanggliding.org:

     http://forum.hanggliding.org/viewtopic.php?t=15666

Where are the posts by "bobk" in that topic? Where is the letter that I had written to USHPA's Chairman of Safety and Training about the incident? Where is the email message that I had copied to the entire USHPA Executive Committee? All of that had been posted by me right there in that topic. But now it's all gone. Vanished. Poof. A massive cover up for USHPA by Jack Axaopoulos.

If you look carefully, you can still find remnants of posts made by myself and others (like Scott Wise) who had been quoted in other posts (Jack Axaopoulos did an extremely sloppy job on the cover up). For example, on page 1 of that topic (see below), you can see that Jason quoted Scott (then known as "Wingspan34"). But where is the post that Jason had quoted? It's not there!!! It has been deleted!!!

You'll find another clue on page 3 in a post by Tom Galvin where he quoted "bobk" (see below). But where is the actual post by "bobk" that Tom was quoting? It's also gone!!!

In fact, it appears that ALL of the posts by myself and Scott Wise have been deleted by Jack Axaopoulos. That amounts to a wholesale destruction of years (maybe decades) of documented history in the sport of hang gliding. It's the kind of massive cover up that can only happen with corrupt site operators in the so called "Information Age".

So what does that have to do with the 2019 deaths of Glenn Johnny Peter Bengtsson and Raul Gonzalez Valerio? It's exactly these kinds of cover ups that allow the Torrey concessionaire to evade oversight and make it difficult for anyone to track down the history of what's actually happened at Torrey Pines over the past few decades. Shame on Jack Axaopoulos for aiding and abetting the continued accidents and deaths at Torrey Pines. And shame on anyone who posts on hanggliding.org without at least demanding that Jack Axaopoulos stop rewriting the history of hang gliding by deleting and/or changing the words that people have written.

--- Evidence ---

Here's the first post (page 1) to that topic. It's by Jason, and he outlines the incident:

By Jason
Feb 08, 2010 10:12 am

Witnessed an Incident yesterday- don't see the form on the USHPA website- and knowing Torrey---this will never be reported


Sunday Feb 7
While standing in the landing area talking to a friend, I hear him say “whats this guy doing”

I look towards the ridge to see a paraglider pilot flying directly downwind low over the the PG set up area. The pilot then intiates a right hand turn, impacting two stationary hanggliders, and crashing between several others. 

After checking to see if everyone was ok and inspecting the gliders for damage(one of them had a bent washout tube) Bob, the local RD, asks the pilot who his instructor was and if he was on radio. Brad Geary immediately tells the pilot to “don’t even talk”

An immediate gag order was in place, no one knows who this pilot was, or who his instructor was. The pilot WAS on radio as evidenced by the radio strapped to his chest. And that he carried with him in his hand for close to 15 minutes afterward

A few possible outcomes
1- the pilot crashes into something hard and goes to the hospital
2- a hg pilot on landing approach is cut off by this “wrong way driver” crashes and goes to the hospital
3- the pilot crashes into the parking lot damaging someone’s car


Here's another post by Jason (page 3) where he quotes Scott. But where is Scott's post in that topic??

By Jason
Feb 08, 2010 12:48 pm

Wingspan34 wrote:A little while back I looked over the City of San Diego's regulations pertaining to Torrey Pines Gliderport. Here are some interesting facts quoted from the San Diego Municipal Code.

§63.0201 Soaring or Gliding Regulated

(a) Definitions.
“Full scale glider soaring” means flight by any motorless, heavier–than–air
aircraft now known or hereafter invented, used or designed for navigation of
or flight in the air in which the pilot, crew and passengers are carried
internally within the frame of such aircraft.

“Hang gliding” means flight by any motorless, heavier–than– air contrivance
now known or hereafter invented, used or designed for navigation of or flight
in the air in which the pilot, crew and passengers are carried externally to the frame of such contrivance.

“Radio–controlled model glider operations” means flight by any unmanned
motorless, heavier–than–air contrivance, now known or hereafter invented,
used or designed for flight or navigation, which is controlled from the ground
by radio signals.

(b) Any person who on any park, beach or other property owned or maintained by The City of San Diego conducts or participates in any soaring or gliding
activity, including full scale gliding, hang gliding, and operation of radio–
controlled model gliders, in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of
persons or property, or without first obtaining a permit from the City, or whose permit has been revoked or suspended is guilty of a misdemeanor. [emph. add.]



Here is Tom Galvin quoting me (my username on hanggliding.org was "bobk"). But where is my actual post in that topic on hanggliding.org??

RE: APPALLED

By TomGalvin

-  Mon Feb 08, 2010 6:33 pm

bobk wrote:The fact that the instructor himself didn't step forward is appalling to me. The fact that Brad Geary (whether he was *the* instructor or not) would tell a student to hide the name of his own instructor is even worse. What kind of an organization are we running here when students are told by USHPA instructors to hide the name of their USHPA instructor?


The elephant in the room is the assumed "threat of legal action"


My post is gone. All of my posts are gone. Jack Axaopoulos wiped out the public evidence of my warnings to USHPA that foreshadowed both Shannon Hamby's injuries and the deaths of Valerio and Bengtsson. How can the sport of hang gliding survive when it can't learn from its own history because Jack Axaopoulos destroys that history?

Finally, this is the email message that I sent to USHPA's "Executive Committee" and USHPA's Chairman of Safety and Training back on February 8th of 2010:

USHPA Region 3 Director Bob Kuczewski wrote:
To: Dave Broyles <broyles.dave@gmail.com>
CC: Ken Baier <airjunkies@sbcglobal.net>,
        Mark Gaskill <airutah@hotmail.com>,
        Rob Sporrer <rob@paraglide.com>,
        Brad Hall <brad.reg3@gmail.com>,
        Rich Hass <richhass@comcast.net>,
        Rich Hass <richhass@mac.com>,
        Lisa Tate <lisa@lisatateglass.com>,
        Lisa Tate <lisa@soaringdreamsart.com>,
        Lisa Tate <lisa.tate@ushpa.aero>,
        Mark G. Forbes <mgforbes@mindspring.com>

Date: February 08, 2010, 04:03:10 PM


Hello Dave (cc Brad Hall, Rob Sporrer, Ken Baier, and the EC),

I was at Torrey Pines yesterday and I witnessed an incident. Rather than describe it myself, I'll just pass along what was posted on hanggliding.org this morning by another witness who I know was there...

     ------------------------------------------------------------------------
     Jason writes (http://www.hanggliding.org/viewtopic.php?t=15666):

     Witnessed an Incident yesterday- don't see the form on the USHPA
     website- and knowing Torrey---this will never be reported

     Sunday Feb 7
     While standing in the landing area talking to a friend, I hear him say
     "whats this guy doing"

     I look towards the ridge to see a paraglider pilot flying directly downwind
     low over the the PG set up area. The pilot then intiates a right hand turn,
     impacting two stationary hanggliders, and crashing between several others.

     After checking to see if everyone was ok and inspecting the gliders for
     damage (one of them had a bent washout tube) Bob, the local RD, asks the
     pilot who his instructor was and if he was on radio. Brad Geary immediately
     tells the pilot to "don't even talk"

     An immediate gag order was in place, no one knows who this pilot was, or
     who his instructor was. The pilot WAS on radio as evidenced by the radio
     strapped to his chest. And that he carried with him in his hand for close to
     15 minutes afterward
     ------------------------------------------------------------------------

I agree with Jason's description of this event, and I do not request any action be taken regarding the incident itself (unless it is found that the instructor on radio was willfully neglecting his or her duties to keep the student safe). We all understand how this can happen, and we can just do our best to minimize it.

But what does concern me is having a USHPA instructor tell a USHPA student to NOT reveal the name of his instructor to a Regional Director.

I certainly don't know all the legal requirements behind what a Director can ask, and what a student is required to give (I suspect it's zero). But we are supposed to be a self-regulated sport, and that means that our members (and particularly our instructors) are supposed to comply with standards of safety and accountability within our organization. If an instructor is telling a student to NOT reveal the name of his own instructor to an official within USHPA, that strikes me as a fairly severe violation of those standards.

There have been other postings to that topic, and I suggest that you skim through them. I posted two comments myself (which I have included below).

I am not sure what action should be taken at this time, but having USHPA instructors telling USHPA students to NOT reveal their own instructor's name after an incident is NOT something that USHPA can defend.

Bob Kuczewski
Regional Director - USHPA Region 3


These are my posts to hanggliding.org which I had included in my email message above. These posts have now also been deleted from that topic on hanggliding.org:

Bob Kuczewski wrote:I agree with Jason's original reporting of the incident, and it was very very fortunate that the pilot wasn't hurt. He only hit two of the hang gliders in a very very dense area, and it could have been much much worse.

I also agree with Jason's reporting of the subsequent discussion. I approached the pilot (who appeared to be a young student - late teens or early 20s) after everything had settled down. I asked who his instructor was. Immediately, Brad Geary inserted himself and told the pilot "Don't tell him".

Now, the incident itself was very minor, and I was sure that the student had done his best to avoid those hang gliders. So I really didn't feel the need to say much to the student or to ask any questions of the student. But I did think it was appropriate and prudent to at least have a discussion with the instructor to understand if proper safety procedures were being followed. I suspect that discussion would have been fairly brief, and I was hopeful that the discussion alone might raise the instructor's safety awareness.

But what turned a relatively minor situation into a pretty big deal was having one USHPA instructor telling a relatively new student (USHPA member?) not to even tell a Director who his instructor was. That put that young student in quite a bind. I could tell by the look in his eyes that he was caught in the middle, and that's why I didn't press the issue with him.

If USHPA is going to have any credibility in terms of our instructor program and our safety record, we cannot have instructors telling students that the name of their instructor is a secret. That's lunacy.

Now maybe Brad was worried that I might "turn them in" over the incident. That was not my intention. But even if it was, there are (or should be) mechanisms in place to keep all Directors (Bob Kuczewski or David Jebb) from abusing their power. We cannot use "fear" as an excuse to go down a road where we condone instructors telling students not to tell who their instructor is after an incident has happened - regardless of how major or minor.

But most of all, I am appalled that the instructor (whoever it was) did not have the integrity to step forward and be accountable for the situation. I suspect those actions would get an instructor fired at many good schools. The fact that this behavior is condoned at Torrey tells us a lot about how that site continues to be managed.

I am still considering how to best handle this matter...

Bob Kuczewski
Regional Director - USHPA Region 3


Bob Kuczewski wrote:
SlingBlade wrote:If this guy has students careening around the place all the time I would certainly think it cause for concern. If this student was a fluke then maybe it's the student not the instructor.

I think you're missing the point here. We all know that students can freeze and make poor decisions. I'm sure it's happened to many of us, and our goal should be to try to minimize these events through good skills training, good communication, and good training of our instructors. We all agree with that.

The problem here is having an instructor tell a student to NOT reveal the name of the instructor who was supposed to be on the radio monitoring the student's safety. No one is blaming the student at all.

The fact that the instructor himself didn't step forward is appalling to me. The fact that Brad Geary (whether he was *the* instructor or not) would tell a student to hide the name of his own instructor is even worse. What kind of an organization are we running here when students are told by USHPA instructors to hide the name of their USHPA instructor? That sounds more like what I would expect from a street gang than from a national pilots association. Could you imagine if an FAA instructor was telling a student (who had crashed) not to tell the name of the student's instructor to the FAA?
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Re: Jack Axaopoulos and the 2019 deaths at Torrey

Postby Craig Muhonen » Sun Dec 01, 2019 3:05 pm

"Hang gliders" (the air craft, not the person) should sue The city of san diego for defamation of character. How dare they call a "hang glider" a "contrivance" and a "sail plane" an aircraft. Maybe If the name was changed they would show more respect. "Hang plane" and "sale glider" . Ha

Craig
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Re: Jack Axaopoulos and the 2019 deaths at Torrey

Postby Bob Kuczewski » Sun Dec 01, 2019 6:42 pm

When I was in the Army, a platoon was made up of about 50 men. Who was the most important among those 50 men? The radio/telegraph operator because communication is critical.

The sport of hang gliding is being murdered (Rick's term) because we are fragmented by Jack and Davis. Anyone who dismisses the importance of communication doesn't understand the fundamental nature of human conflict.

USHPA loves Jack and Davis for slicing and dicing the hang gliding population into impotent little cliques that can't muster enough pilots to accomplish anything. Jack and Davis are USHPA's "Iron Curtain", and the sheeple are herded and fleeced. Valerio and Bengtsson were unfortunate victims of this dysfunctional mess.
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Re: Jack Axaopoulos and the 2019 deaths at Torrey

Postby Bob Kuczewski » Sat May 15, 2021 1:48 am

One takeaway message from this topic is to make copies of anything important on hanggliding.org or OzReport.com. During the recall election, Davis set up a special forum where Bill Helliwell and I could debate. Helliwell dodged the issues, and Davis covered up for him by deleting the entire forum. All of that history is now gone.

It is highly likely that USHPA would not have lost their insurance if that recall election had turned out differently. With Bill Helliwell looking the other way at Torrey, they had no oversight. Shannon Hamby's accident or something similar was bound to happen.
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Re: Jack Axaopoulos and the 2019 deaths at Torrey

Postby Bob Kuczewski » Fri Jun 04, 2021 1:35 pm

By the way, there's another new low in the behavior of Jack Axaopoulos ...

In the posts above I showed proof on Jack's own site (http://forum.hanggliding.org/viewtopic.php?t=15666) that he had deleted important selected posts regarding the safety history at Torrey Pines Gliderport. But now ALL of the posts have been either deleted or moved. The links to the topic itself now produce a page that says:

      "The requested topic does not exist."

I suspect that Jack considered that his partially deleted topic revealed even more evidence of his misdeeds than if the topic were gone altogether. So "poof" another important portion of hang gliding history was lost. That's more brain damage to the collective history of hang gliding.

There's another important lesson here for people like Tom "Red" Howard who might think that their legacy on hanggliding.org will be preserved if they just kiss Jack's behind with appropriate reverence. There were dozens (maybe hundreds?) of posts in the topic that disappeared - even after all of the posts by Scott and myself had already been removed. All of those posts - many by Jack's most loyal bootlickers - were also deleted as "collateral damage" in Jack's war against Scott and myself.

That is the house of cards (along with USHPA's own house of cards) holding up both the history and the future of hang gliding. That's why so many of us built and support the U.S. Hawks as an alternative to both of those corrupt organizations.
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