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Author: Jeff O'Brien Created: 5/13/2009 2:45 PM
Jeff O'Brien revolutionized his life when he learned to hang glide in 1998. He dropped most other interests and promptly moved to Utah to fly full time. He's flown hang gliders on five continents and began competing in 2005. Jeff is probably most known for his wing mounted photography which can be seen in hang gliding publications and press worldwide.

Skiing on the fringe...

Dramatic weather yesterday. I took the dog out for a walk @ 6:45 in a still winter wonderland. 2" had fallen overnight and it was temperate with flurries. By 7:15 the sky was puking snow and it made for the worst commute of the year.

From 8-11am it was 3 inch an hour snow here at work. I absently listened to meetings while it accumulated outside. I got caught up just in time for lunch and headed out with my brother-in-law Reid.

If you want to truly exploit a powder day, you've got to follow a local to the fringes of the resort. The places slightly out of bounds where you can still traverse back if you don't get too greedy. :) Reid took me there.

These are the places tourists never see. The places just a few hundred people know about and maybe less than ten exploit on the right day. It's magic when you happen on a glade or chute no one has touched.

You see the line between the trees and beyond? We had three runs in this vicinity. Yipping and hooting as we took turns between meandering traverses to more fresh. By 2pm the snow had subsided and I was back at my desk with tingling cheeks and a wide smile.

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Took 5 runs at lunch.

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Refining the body rocket...

It's just getting better...

Just drool over the above - Seam Welded pockets. Dirt and abrasion resistant shell. Smooth aggressive taper aft of the parachutes. Highest quality waterproof zippers. The collaboration of Jeff Shapiro, Steve Pearson, and Dustin Martin has yielded a winner from Wills Wing.

There's been constant refinement of The Covert. The pattern is cleaner, the internal storage is more functional, the backplate and components have been refined, and we've all brainstormed about what could be just a bit better. Shapiro is constantly researching, pulling on, and dragging new fabrics over rocks and staying current with outdoor clothing construction trends. If you've seen his blog posts, you know he's staying current with climbing industry trends too.

There were half a dozen or more Coverts on hand at the factory, from each phase of development, which was cool to see. It's been quite a progression from the prototype that was overloaded with the 180lb. crash test dummy, to the newest iterations.

On Shapiro's personal harness, there's always experimentation and scrutiny. Better construction methods, better materials, etc. He's been working hard to perfectly tailor the neck and shoulder gasket to render a fitted, shelf-less finish. You can discern the carbon plate and shoulder flanges contouring the body.

Dustin's the parasitic drag abater. The mad scientist and accepts nary a pubic hair of drag on his gear. I'm surprised he doesn't use a jewelers loupe to comb over components. He accepts nothing less than flawless form which bodes well for all the products he's associated with.

Do you have a harness with a backplate? Torque on it with your hands. Can you bend it? Bummer. Mere mortals can't manually flex The Covert's carbon.

Teflon anodized SOLID billet aluminum slider, machined slider, tool-less backplate removal, and a sorcerer's blend of high strength exotic materials.

Dustin ever scrutinizing what will make him go faster. Wills Wing employs his practices when they show objective advantage, and provide performance benefit without a reduction in handling, safety, or comfort.

Personally, it was a medicinal weekend for me. Since traveling with Filippo last spring, he's become a closer friend that's great to hang with. Seeing Zippy, Dustin, and the WW crew is always inspiring, and it's cool to see the company evolve into their fourth decade. The factory is staffed with highly efficient and super-skilled one of a kind employees who are each a vital asset. The local Andy Jackson Airpark community is one of the most vibrant and involved I've experienced. It's a great place to fly.

Usually Shapiro and I get an overnight caffeine laden drive to hash out life, but busy schedules didn't make that possible this time. Instead, we got caught up on sixth floor hotel balcony after midnight the last evening of my stay. After 45minutes of conversation, Shapiro looks past my shoulder into the dark and quietly exclaims, "Holy shit - Is that a red tail roosting right there?" Sure enough, there was a mature red tail perched 30 feet away, still alert,but settling in for the night. We stared at the pseudo-apparition trying to discern if it was facing us or not. The urbanized red tail was un-bothered by us and we savored it's presence in between subjects of conversation. An exhilarating visit... but from whom? :)

Airtime: 3:20. Flights: 4.

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A weekend to re-LAX.

It's below zero tonight at home, but I was able to escape to the 70's and sun this past weekend. A convergence of flying friends...

Italian team member Filippo Oppici dug himself out from record snow in Boston to try on a new glider and harness courtesy of WW. Shapiro drove out of meat locker Missoula, Zippy sauntered from Santa Barbara, and Dustin ah-hem from Brazil.

We were welcomed by the Wills Wing / Crestline crew for a meteorologically fortuitous and festive weekend. The vibe is alive in Orange, CA.

It's been kinda cold as of late :)

Filippo and I met at the rental car counter around 1am. Half way through the rental process, I was informed the last car had been rented to the woman I courteously let off the shuttle before me. Hmm... I should have tackled the rotund renter on the way out the shuttle bus. I rented from another company off the first company's computer and 30 minutes later we were driving Dollar out of the lot. Useless to complain as renting a car elsewhere was $4 more and 30 minutes.

Saturday morning at the chocolate factory. A half dozen Coverts to finger. Dustin tweaked machine in the foreground.

Friday morning turned from casual to rush, rush. The crew had 30 gliders to test fly and after weeks of inclement weather, it was ON. Everyone converged late morning and rounds up the hill began.

Effortless all day flying at AJX

I flew three rounds all day on a couple of Sport 2's and a sweetie U2. The U2 let me work the very lightest lift at the end of the day low on the hill. The rest of the WW test crew ripped out rounds and Shapiro, Filippo, Zippy, Barker, etc. got their race face on in the afternoon. It was a warm day where you landed after as long as you wanted, with a smile.

As Filippo said - "Very paraglider".

The conditions lasted well past sunset and we went out as a group to dinner to celebrate the day. BIG thanks to all the Wills Wing Crew who hosted us so graciously over the weekend.

Finishing the final rounds of test flying.

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Dr. Batman is getting quality airtime over Cape Town:


Photo over Table Mountain looking toward the Cape - Photo by Adam West.

Below is the remote LZ after a 140km flight into the interior.

Photo by Adam West.

Check his blog for more photos with details:

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I just saw Avatar last night and found much of the futuristic concepts fantastic. Wish we were looking out on three planet satellites at night :) It's not so fantastic when you see these photos: (From a link Peter Kelley shared)


Italy seems saturated population wise - check out the lights.

Also: Remember the vocanic ash that stopped commercial flights in Europe this past spring? Check out the radar video - each "trace" is a flight. This was linked to previously in the Oz Report or somewhere:


Like industrious bees - volume of flights at the end is striking.

Speaking of bees - there was this EPIC story on bees on NPR recently - I can't find it. A guy was promoting a book about the amazing practices within hive culture.

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Total Lunar Eclipse Tonight... It'll be cloudy at my house :(

Nearly three years since the last.

Coinciding with the winter solstice.


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A couple of weeks ago Alex came up from the front range and we headed across the desert to The Point.

Arrived at 2am and I slept in the front seat. Alex set up his tent and I had a panting serenade to drift away to.

It was chilly at dawn, but bearable. I don't have much tolerance for cold flying these days. The day warmed and we had food, so it was a twilight to twilight session. Top ten day for the dogs.

The day displayed every kind of wind condition. Alex had a loose Falcon 1 225 that was a joy to fly. The new T2C was effortless. The handling is intuitive and immediate.

After dinner out, we came back to launch and slept.

Sunday the winds picked up and all the rest of the usual suspects came out. We were sore and satiated from Saturday, so we socialized before motivating to set up. Pre-frontal conditions just got stronger and un-fun so by noon we said our good-byes and gratitude for the amazing conditions.

It was great to see fresh faced Hang 2's and some who have come back to the sport after decades. John Linberg is a perpetual fixture who I hope never goes away. Never seen anything like him.

Robert Bagley is a pilot who's come back to the sport after a few years. He took some video:


The weekend was medicinal. Depicts operation outside of recommended limitations - this greatly increases risk. Please see for more information.

Airtime: 5.30. Flights: 25.

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Adam West - Dr. Batman - on his 10th flying anniversary flight over Cape Town.


All photos and video by Adam West.

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Daniel Velez voodooing Dustin.... HILARIOUS!!!


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