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Author: Dustin Martin Created: 5/20/2009 5:42 PM
Dustin Martin began his flying career in sailplanes at the age of 14! He made the transition to hang gliders at age 16. While he calls the skies over Arizona "home", he's mostly nomadic making competition forays down to Ecuador and Brazil every few months. In 2008, Dustin cracked off the third longest XC flight ever - 410 miles narrowly missing the world record mark.

Quick update from Brasil:

Jack Simmons and I flew down here for the first stage of the nationals in Sapiranga. Most locals don't like it for the lack of big distances and powerful air but I think it's heaven. Jack agrees. Out of 9 days we flew 7, probably around 3 hours average each day. Unfortunately the comp committee only thought 2 days were suitable for a task. The tasks were slightly overcalled given the fact that we were running over saturated ground, mostly rice fields. Goal was never made but the flying was still moderately fast and fairly tactical. Ferro is the current Brasilian champ and walked all over everyone else, winning both days. He wasn't gliding the best and he wasn't climbing the best (nearly), but he was clearly making the best decisions of anyone and walked away with the trophy.

The day after the comp we headed north with Eduardo from Mato Grosso and his awesome driver Flavia. We were intent on bagging a site on the precipice of the Atlantic range overlooking the ocean 50km distant. We arrived a day and a half later to find three wile e. coyote concrete ramps hanging over the edge of a cliff completely socked in by cloud. Long story short, we all flew, it was epic, and I consider it one of my best flights ever. About three hours after launching I landed just short of the beach in a beautiful field in a tiny village.

Next stop Betinho's chalet in Garopaba. Betinho Schmidt was good enough to lend us his chalet overlooking a lake next to the beach Praia do Rosa. We spent a day hiking the coastal cliffs and soaking up the sun. Betinho is doing great and planning a stand-up paddle from Floripa to Garopaba...too much open ocean for me. Good luck man.

Then Floripa - I had planned to show Jack some great island flying at some of the best beaches of Brasil. The wind swung too north after a frontal passage and left us stranded on Praia Mole, nothing to do but soak up the sun, sand, and surf for a day. I made a go at the PG launch above the beach but by the time I got up there it was simply unlaunchable. The guy up there saw me shouldering the wing on to the launch and questioned the wisdom of flying a hang glider there. He told me in all his years there he had only ever seen one hang glider fly there.. about two years ago.. gray top, yellow bottom with blue stripe? Yeah. Looping out over the surf for a couple hours? Yeah.. Ahh those were good times..

The group had to split up at that point. I headed due west to Foz do Iguaçu, and currently Jack and Eduardo are near the Pantanal and planning to fly Corumbá tomorrow.

Back in one week to Quest to take care of tandems and harness back plates. Deep in materials research right now, and after several protos the harness appears to be nearing production.

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Stepped out of the house this morning and the next step was 6 feet lower - where I landed on my side after slipping on ice covered steps. Busted the guard rail out with my leg and slid to a stop, pinned down by the rusty pointed end of the rail, with another 6 feet to go if I went any further. The only sharp pain was my ground down knuckle, grated by the diamond plate stair surface. This is the most significant crash since the mountain bike wipe out that wrecked the same shoulder years ago. Good thing nothing is broken...

Because I'm heading off to Brasil next Thursday - fully loaded. Glider, harness, backpacking gear, and a bike.. Jack Simmons is joining me for the 3 week trip. First week will be at the competition near Porto Alegre, then we'll head north up the coast at a leisurely pace, checking out site after site and meeting up with old friends along the way. Uruguay and the Pantanal may find their way into my itinerary as well, but plans are still in the air and funds are limited. At some point I hope to slip away on the bike with my backpack and get a closer look at one of my favorite areas for a while - the high plains just behind the coastal mountain range at the RS/SC border. I've only sped through in a car a couple times and I'm sure there is a lot more to it.

Here is Morro do Ferrabraz in Sapiranga, site of the nationals last year, and again this year. Just perfect:

photo by Manu Sanches

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6500 feet just northwest of Caguas, PR

View of San Juan looking to the northeast

North shore with the deserted landing strip in the upper left of the photo

A few more pics from the last week in Puerto Rico. The dragonfly had to be flown back to Arecibo from Humacao and I ended up flying it over the edge of San Juan and out to the north shore for a quick swim at a deserted beach before hopping back in for the last leg to the Arecibo airport. Flew past a two lane drag strip lined on both sides with bleachers and completely blackened by burned rubber. I couldn't resist one quick run before heading home.
For who hasn't been down there, it has some great flying and is a really cheap roundtrip ticket from anywhere in the states. I will probably be back at some point now that we have the dragonfly available, to attempt a true end to end crossing of the island - towing up over the east shore and landing on the western beaches.

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On Thursday I set the new Puerto Rican distance record as I passed the 52 mile mark, over the west end of Ponce - a town named after the first governor of the island (de Leon) - elected just barely 500 years before my overflight.

After meeting a local Puerto Rican pilot in the process of buying a Dragonfly, I decided to go and help out with the set up of his new flight park. He decided I needed to break the long-standing XC record to maximize publicity of the grand opening.

Just about five hours after getting off a plane and taking a nap, we were on the morning sports radio show speaking prophetically of my still unflown record. It seemed like dangerous shit talk to me, considering the extremely small chance of encountering the necessary conditions to complete the task. For the rest of the week the station would advertise our upcoming event - and air my shit talk.

Five days later, after sorting the tandem glider, tug, accessories, potential tow sites, etc - a couple of locals felt like flying Cubuy and I figured I should give it a try. After all, if I flew a record that day I wouldn't have to worry about it on the weekend of the grand opening.

We headed up a little late to the sweet grassy launch overlooking the east shore. Clouds were streeting and it was definitely go time if I wanted to make the west coast before sunset. Conditions were (apparently) epic, because 3.5 hours later with little trouble I was in a farm field a short distance from the southwestern corner of the island, with 84 miles in the bag. It felt about like an 84 mile comp task normally feels - about a dozen thermals from 3-600 up, long flat glides, and great clouds.

Below is the photo-tour, tracklog coming..

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Tool of the trade:

On Tuesday I came back from lunch and decided I didn't feel like working on pods, so I hopped in the T2 without my wallet, phone, or packup gear. The lines worked so well that after a few minutes I was on my way to Wallaby. I just couldn't give up such a good day this late in the year. On my way down an Atos passed under me heading the opposite direction. After turning at Wallaby I soon found myself on a 15 mile final from about 4700 feet into a light headwind. My wing ate that for lunch and had about 500 feet to spare.
Joe Bostik came over Wednesday and took my glider out for a test fly and didn't come back until late in the day after doing basically the same exact flight with a similar late day long final. Two days of out and back about 45 miles each time in late November. That's pretty sweet.

Here's the pink Dragonfly being packed into a 53 foot sea container for it's journey to Puerto Rico. Jamie, Ricker, and I are going to down there next month to do some tandems, freeflying, charity work, and party. This is just the beginning:

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Coming back from Ecuador is typically a letdown, but this was my view on my first night back.. a good way to ease back into the states.

Former US champ Joe Bostik is jumping back into the game this season and his first stop is Australia for the comp series starting this winter. I've got a 6030/Geko pod on rush for him and took some pics of the process. I popped it out of the mold this evening and when I get another 4 or 5 layed up and popped out, they're going to the clearcoater. When I can find the time I will begin the plug for next season's pod... bliNG BLING

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Here she is:

I went with a slightly different approach to Canoa this year - instead of just tweaking and polishing, which I also did - I headed out to Orange County and worked alongside Steve Pearson in an effort to incorporate some small ideas from last year's winning wing into this year's glider on the sail table. For my part, I only refined the existing air seals from last year and added some arm fairings to my rotor harness. Steve, however, had some big plans with new exotic sail materials, batten density experiments, and some general clean-up of the current T2 sailcut.

Some of these were already incorporated in the glider that Jeff Shapiro flew in Canoa, the rest were put into action on my wing. Jeff O'Brien came on a stock 144 produced earlier in the year, so the playground was ripe for objective performance comparisons.

Both Shapiro's and my glider seemed to handle just a touch too well to have real glide performance. That would be the first misconception shattered on the first practice day in Canoa....

Kraig Coomber came sporting Moyes' latest offering, the same wing he won this year's Santa Cruz Flats on. I was nervous at the very least. Some rough wing loading chatter over shots of tequila the first night confirmed we were all very close in wing loading, with OB perhaps a bit higher with his lead diving vest. It would come down to raw glide at the course speed range, which is historically 55-90kph. I was confident but on my toes.

Day one and a wrench was tossed in the spokes: we would fly a course never before flown by any of us, and no doubt a course intensely practiced by Raul and company in the months preceding our arrival. Always a pleasure to see how their gears turn down there! After a little cloud play, the start time approached and after a furious dive to the first set of ridges south of the river, I found myself in pole position with Shapiro and OB right in line behind me. Kraig was nowhere to be seen and I smiled as I realized the fastest wingmen were with me. We flew a clean course finishing 1,2,3 and later I hung around at the finish line to time Kraig's finish. We had him by a minute plus. Day one Wills.

Day two and the final race day saw more murky cloud play with the same furious approach to the compression but this time Kraig was in hot pursuit while I gained the lead again. The wingmen were on his tail and our positions wouldn't change until near the last turnpoint where Kraig pushed harder than I thought wise out over town and I held back about 50 yards behind him. I resolved to snag the pylon cleaner than he would and with a little luck I pulled a cleaner turn and took the lead into the final 7km which would be impossible for him to reel back in. The big question was if OB's solid close third behind Kraig would make up for his gap on the first day. None of us knew until the downloading was finished, but the shots were passed around when we learned it was Team Wills 1 - 2 - 3 baby!

The really satisfying feeling was knowing that the new glider development was going in the right direction. Shapiro's and then my new glider handled progressively better and better than their predecessors and the performance likewise incrementally improved with each proto. My wing was truly a pleasure to fly all around.

Despite our rivalry, it was a real pleasure having the Moyes boys join us for such a sweet event. With some team flying, earlier in the week in Guayaquil Kraig and I managed to pull off the longest flights in Ecuador's history launching in the Guayaquil and ending up across state lines in Manabi in a tight farming valley after several hours and a final glide through an epic convergence. Etched in my mind forever for sure.

Here we go up the new road at Guayaquil's newest foot launch site 10 minutes from downtown..

And the man with the plan, spark behind the new force of free flight vs desperation in the slums, seen here warming his nipples...

Here is the light you can see in one of Guayquil's poorer areas...

Deeper inside, I found one man's pride and joy being constructed stick by stick and it hit hard. Each of us eventually had our turning point, for whatever reason this was mine. That is not grass, it is water...

Driving directly from there to town on our way to fly, we were introspecting a bit...

I won't dwell on it, because the wheels are in motion. I would say we are all more appreciative for it though. It was time to look forward...

Rest and relaxation awaited in Canoa...

Here are a few shots from James Byrd's school in Canoa...

The highlight of my year is here. Once again, I can't wait until 2011, but I doubt it will be that long before I'm back again.

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It's been a trying couple of months but I feel somewhat back on my path and I'm feeling focused and confident about Canoa.

The comp in Arizona was as layed back as ever and I was able to sit back and enjoy a few years of work instead of organizing and flying the event, thanks to Jamie.

On the way to Arizona looking out over southern New Mexico.

I flew a prototype glider produced in September that had the sweetest handling of any T-2 so far. Glide performance seemed intact and I won day 2 on a blazing downwind day into the saguaro national monument area. Distraction was all it took for me to fall down on day 4 and no amount of flying was going to get me back on the podium. All that was left was to sit back and enjoy round after round of black russians in the hot tub.

The week after AZ was spent working on the latest prototype at the factory. Along with the new sail mods, I got a bunch of drag reducing tweaks done to my harness and peripheral gear so it was time well spent. Steve and I got to rap about gliders and cool aero ideas and now I'm putting some of that to the test with practical modifications for next week's race. The new wing looks HOT..

Spotted this item hanging in the airport terminal in Santa Ana on the way to the factory...

From LAX, I flew straight down to Brasil for a two week visit with Manuela. We visited Paraguay, Argentina, and all of the local attractions and had a great time.. it was a real boost of positive energy spending time with her. I skipped the comp that was happening in Carmo do Rio Claro, but I will be sure to catch the next one. It's one of the few sites I haven't seen down there but it sounds like last week's comp suffered some pretty poor weather so hopefully next season is better. Here's a shot before launching on task 6, which was eventually cancelled with a cu-nim on course. Looks amazing.

Pictures of this year's Canoa mods will be up soon (a step up from last year's mods, I'm fully aero this year).
Here is a sneak peak of a camera soon available from Flytec usa... I will be using it along with a gopro hero to capture various angles of glider mounted HD video of the race course next week so stay tuned.

And for the conclusion of my circuit, I ended up with a layover in Newark where I had hoped to go run around NYC for a few hours but got this instead:

That 757 has got to be the sweetest, slowest landing airliner I've ever been in.

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Brasilia was quite nice this year. The air was smooth, climbs were still strong to 10000 feet most days, winds were lighter than usual.
Half the comp was flown through a fog of food poisoned agony, but that half was where I was winning. Once I popped the pills, Jonny slipped by with a 23 point lead going into the last day. Unfortunately the last day was stopped halfway through the task due to storms.
Landing in the Esplanada every day was a pleasure as usual. This year the closing ceremony was held there after packing up the gliders, and the atmosphere was strong.
The curiosity of the locals here always surprises me coming from the states and they were out in force every day this year. I'm guessing there will be some new pilots here this time next year.
Special thanks to the organization this year and the local private hospital. When I was doubled over and without a great deal of money, the organizer of the comp and one of the partners in the hospital both arranged for free treatment and took me past a day-long ER line to get immediate help. Awesome.
Anyway, pics..

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Moving right along - Spent almost two weeks in Zapata again this year. Got a record for the 100km triangle on an after-lunch flight on one of the days because I couldn't think of much else to do on yet another sub par weather day.

The two weeks, most of which with my car in the shop, helped me rediscover my motivation to try for the record somewhere else. I need a change of scenery. I have a spot scoped out for next June/July and flying is just one of endless outdoor activites that are possible there. It will be a blast, flying or not, but it's no minor site. Eleven hours soarable air on a good day, interstate highway under you from the first to the 500th mile, hIGH cloudbase, typically strong tailwinds, and you can retry if you landout early. Not as consistent as Zapata (is supposed to be). More consistent than Zapata has been. Need O2, only major drawback.

Off to Brasilia, the 2nd stage of the Brazilian nationals right now. I remember thinking I wouldn't go back there after the last time two years ago, but the bump and wind tolerance is rejuvenated after the French trip. Arriving tomorrow morning and the weather is looking good. Always a good time.

Kit required for a big one:

Landing after 2hr 100km flight:

Last year in Zapata before the big one:

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