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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.

Winter break is traditionally a time for me to dig in work hard to fund the upcoming season. This holiday I was adopted by the Pearsons and spent every waking moment at the Wills factory while all their employees were away, allowing me to work on a lot of projects without getting in the way too much.

The pod mold is done, jigs are built, an infusion pump arrived, and it's just a matter of ordering a few bits of material and glue to start the transition to resin infusion. Looking forward to that, but the need for $$ has shelved the project for another few weeks.

The primary project last month was to build four tandem harnesses - that is, eight cocoons. Feedback from my last two customers resulted in some major improvements this time around. I was using a straight pattern to build the last few harnesses but switched to a pattern Steve Pearson gave to me that's basically the bottom half of a Z5. The harness seems a little more supportive than before.

After shipping the harnesses and building one more just to have in stock, I started in on some of my own projects. My covert got its annual overhaul with an updated foam liner, new teeth on the pitch lever gripper, and new bungees throughout, along with a vacuuming and a wash. Looks amazing as it just about finishes two years and 500 hours of flight.

Final piece of business was to make a cocoon for myself. I've been talking about it and talking about it, but wasn't ready to pull the trigger until the trip to point of the mountain a couple months back. I got to get hands on with some of the latest ultralight paragliding gear and that's when the weight of all of our hangie gear just came crashing down on me. I think ultra weight reduction and return to simplicity will be a theme for me this season. I begin with this:

Using the same pattern as used on my tandem harnesses, with an eye for simplicity and minimalism in every aspect of construction, I managed to finish this cocoon at just a hair over four pounds. Weight in a drawstring, ultralight bag, with lara gold 175 chute, 5/16 quicklink as biner, and lubin helmet: under ten pounds.....

It turned out extremely comfortable and, even more than the weight savings, it's compactability is crazy:

Using scraps of odl06 literally from the trash can, along with other scrap laminate cloths in places where heavier woven fabric wasn't necessary helped save a little here and there. I went without legstrap padding or buckles, and the backstrap cincher is aluminum. The interior cloth is light but could be lighter! There is plenty of room for improvement but for now it will be cool to put the entire harness kit in my backpack in the overhead compartment..

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Things were going so well..

After buffing the mold halves to a fine shine, I layed up the first part. Anxiety was relieved when it practically jumped out of the mold the next morning. The first thing I did was trim the flashing and squeeze the 76 into its slot - and I really had to squeeze it - both hands, one on the back of the pod, one on the front of the 76. Unfortunately removing it basically required a crowbar. That was not going to work - this was supposed to be a friction fit, tool-less removal slot. The project came within a breath of being abandoned after weighing my limited options.

I won't go into the numbing details of the mold modifications. It's enough to say that had it been too big a slot, a little sanding and polishing would have done the trick. Since it was too small, I would have to add material. Adding to a mold is the worst possible outcome and that's what I spent last week doing! A thick spray of gelcoat in the concerning area (about 20 mils) followed by about 40 hours of blending and refinishing brought the mold back to life and as good as new:

Masking the offending area in prep for gelcoat.

Bringing the width to within 1/50th of a mm along the length of the GPS box.

Sanded to 1500 and ready for endless polish and wax - two days of just waxing.

SUCCESS tonight!

Since I was in remodel mode, I brought both mold halves to an even finer finish than before. Next two photos are directly out of the mold, no polish.

Garmin 76 slides in - and out - by hand, all is well in Scottsdale, AZ.

I'm setting up the shop for resin infusion to reduce exposure and have an overall cleaner work environment. As soon as that's done, production will begin. Should have parts rolling by new year's.

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After repeating the process for the back half of the mold, this morning I went out to the shop and separated the mold halves to see if I was successful.

The anxiety with molds, especially multi-part molds, is the investment of time. You have to completely finish the project before you can know if the very first layer of gelcoat actually cured out.. or if the plug was prepped well enough to release from the tool.. or if print through has ruined the mold surface.. etc.

This mold was a six week project. The details between all of the steps have been skipped here. Between each picture there were usually days of sanding or spraying or buffing or sweating, often just to fix a mistake. Each small step took a painful amount of time.

Another week will be spent improving the mold surface for production quality - and constructing jigs and flanges that will allow me to pull a joined and fully completed part from the mold without any work after the layup process beyond drilling a few holes and buffing out the finish.

Cross-bracing the back side mold, just like the other side. Bondo is used to space the wood away from the glass, preventing print through and pooling of resin under the wood - which would go nuclear during the curing process and compromise the mold surface underneath.

The final step: glassing the cross-braces on as well as the 16 tee nuts that will align and join the mold halves later. Bolts are already holding everything together and will be broken free of the resin with an impact drill later.

Sneak peak.. All is well inside the mold. The roughness and flaking is left over mold release film that hasn't been cleaned off. The mold surface looks awesome. The plug broke in half in the process of removing it, but I was expecting that considering the lack of relief in the gps and vario boxes. Same thing happened on the Geko/6030 mold.

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The front mold half is finished and being prepared for the layup of the second this weekend.

Stabilizing boards were added to prevent warping and curving. Attached with bondo first to insulate them from the glass itself and prevent resin from pooling underneath and printing through to the mold surface.

Next, they're glassed on.

Fender washers are glassed around the perimeter to give perfect bolt alignment later.

Here's the mold and plug fresh off the parting tray after some wet sanding. Next, wet sanded down to 1500, polished, and then waxed endlessly.

Here's the front side mold after two days of waxing.. two more coats today and the gelcoat for the back mold gets sprayed.

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The mold for the new 6030/garmin 76 pod is cruising along. The new pod features a pressure fit for the 76 just like my Geko pod (except the 76 has a slot for securing a safety cord). The 6030 slot also has a cutout to allow downloading without removing the instrument. Mounts will be the same, but the rod will be grade 8 instead of stainless in order to support the greater mass of the new pod.

First step: rough cut and generous bondo use.

This is what it looks like after hitting the belt sander and rounding the profile a bit.

Gray primer helps show irregularities in the shaping process.

A parting tray is built to create a line for dividing the two mold halves.

The plug is positioned and dammed up with bondo to create a perfect parting edge.

Primer is sanded and polished to create a nice finish on the parting flange. A huge flange was chosen to allow for resin infusion process if I decide to go that way.

I walled up the parting tray to avoid the mess of spilled resin, overspray, and cutting the mold edge after layup.

Black tooling gel was sprayed through a siphon gun until about 20 mils thick to create a hard, durable surface capable of producing many parts.

Two layers of resin and chop fiber were layed up on the tacky gelcoat to stabilize it and prevent shrinkage overnight. This is where it's at now.. more later.

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Rollin into Phoenix before the practice day. Epic conditions

SCFR sunset from the roof of the hotel

The SCFR wraps up a long season of comps for me in 2011. I have been on the road since March. There were seven competitions. If I wasn't flying, I was building harnesses. If I wasn't doing that, I was flying a towplane. Around the edges of this schedule, the Wills team also managed to squeeze in a ciniflex helicopter shoot in Big Sur and many late nights of partying..

Growth is difficult.

I am satisfied with my performance this season and feel like I made a small breakthrough in Brasilia on the second last comp of the year. Rooming with Michel and Davizinho, I was on their schedule for the duration of the event. That meant early to bed, early to rise, every day. Not a single late night, easy on the alcohol, and I felt relaxed and confident throughout all the flights. I brought that method back to Casa Grande and it worked equally well.


After the comp, Jamie, Ben, Jochen, and I went north to check out some of the sights. Starting out with a drive through Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon, we took our first full day to hike the highest point in the state. Condtions were perfect.

Entering Sedona with Ben, Jamie, and Jochen at the start of a week long tour.

On top of Humphrey's - more hypoxic than I've ever been on foot.

Next day we headed straight for the south rim of the Grand Canyon with eyes bigger than our lungs. We managed to drag ourselves clear of the rim again at about 5pm after setting off down the trail at 930am. We did play in the river for a couple hours though..

The rim of the canyon at South Kaibab trail. After a roundtrip to the river in a day, one day after climbing Humphrey's, the highest peak in the state.

Last stop was Meteor Crater to see a 50,000 year old hole in the ground. The surviving pieces of iron are so heavy that they don't secure them against theft. They just lower them onto the display case and trust that you won't be able to get away with them.

Highest range in the state and starting point for the longest flight ever in Arizona. As seen from the rim of Meteor Crater observatory deck.

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After a season of intense windshield time and some.. questionable comp conditions abroad... I finally stumbled onto one of the few decent events of the year - Brasilia. The comp was scheduled from August 21st-27th and, although the second day was cancelled, all seven days were flown. Conditions were spectacular with 6 m/s thermals to over 12,000 feet on the best day.

I went into the last day with a 27 point lead over Nene, followed by the Moyes boys in 3rd and 4th. The last day had amazing conditions but was unfortunately cancelled due to an accident before the first start clock. About half of the field was unaware of the incident and flew the course all the way to goal at the Esplanada. So, with a huge shadow hanging over the day, and the loss of our humble friend Enio, we cancelled the day and the awards ceremony and left the Esplanada all going our separate ways and coming to terms with what had happened.

It was a Wills 1,2 finish with my first Brazilian comp win, Nene very close in 2nd, Andre 3rd, Jonny 4th in his last comp of the season - on his way to get knee surgery after flying all of 2011 on a non existing ACL, and Michel blazing the final cancelled day on his T2C, a 121 km task in under two hours.

I am looking forward to Santa Cruz Flats edition 5.0. We're pretty certain to have good, long, flyable days. We're even more assured of closed courses ending up in the laid back luxury of a resort that caters to all our desires. As usual, I will be the one pushing for long, open tasks in all sorts of odd directions so we can see new terrain. In the end we will probably only head outbound on one day, but no doubt we will still walk away with 20-30 hours more airtime than at the start of the week.

As usual, at the end of the season my plans include a new pod design. The difference this year is that the traveling has been so intense that I have decided not to fly the Canoa race just to have some precious idle time... or was Daniel Velez getting just a little too fast?? hmmm...we'll never know! This means the 6030/Garmin 72/76/96 pod is likely to finally become reality by winter. One change is the mount for Wills gliders - I have replaced the carbon with a a smaller, tougher delrin version by modifying the existing basetube skid stock. Lastly, the new model will have a slot for downloading and charging without having to remove the 6030/Compeo.

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Day one of the worlds - cancelled due to wind.

Basically the first half of this year has been spent chasing down cash to fund the finale: the worlds. Arriving, unwinding, and flying the big air of Fiesch was a welcome decompression. To then reach Sigillo find the welcoming committee to be represented by the sprog police, Tomas Pellicci in particular, was an unfortunate twist in an otherwise sweet trip. Some people radiate positive energy; others are a drain on the world around them. If you are a comp pilot interested in having a hand on the wheel, I highly recommend joining a growing group of pilots who have become weary of the growing strangle hold on competitors at top level events. Go here with your comments:!/groups/118763844883239 We can go down with the current ship or put pilots in the driver's seat - comps should be for pilots, by pilots. Think: Hang Gliding World Cup...

My sprogs were deemed acceptably high. They are always among the highest. But off to the story:

Directly after the mid west comp in Illinois, I joined the Whitewater, WI crew as temporary tow pilot. The crew is awesome and things were starting to go well financially and weather-wise, but the slow start to their season forced me to abandon them and cruise over to Missoula to sew up Coverts. I wish I had less obligations and more free time because Whitewater and Madison would make a nice summer home. Greg Dinauer and Rich Cizauskas hosted me and we partied it up.

The next three weeks were spent feverishly constructing Coverts for more than a dozen customers on the waiting list. We made a huge dent in the now very short list, and each successive harness gave me ideas for my new harness - after Santa Cruz I plan to incorporate a few changes into my own harness and see how they fare in Canoa.

Fiesch was the first stop in the Euro itinerary. After a night in Swiss Nic's house in Baden, a hip little town close to Zurich, Blenky took a day to drive all of us and our huge pile of harnesses and wings to Fiesch, about four hours away. As we approached the Alps, it was clear we were in for some amazing views and huge air later in the week. Aside from one very rough day and a cancelled day, the flying was awesome. You need only to climb a thousand or so feet over launch to find yourself perched above a collision of three separate glaciers, sliding forever from the peaks around the Eiger. My bump tolerance is up a few notches or more after last week's event. Modern gliders are amazingly forgiving of unbelievable turbulence. We met some cool pilots, some of them flying their first comp ever. Quite an indoctrination.

And now we await the first task of the 18th worlds. For now, it's an ongoing party as old acquaintances keep reappearing in corners of the small village of Sigillo. We were fortunate to get a few days of great flying off the south launch up on Cucco before the start of the comp. The rest of the nights have been spent partying, and the days hiking - there is a trail from nearby Costaciarro up to the top of Monte Cucco that has one of the best continuous inclines I've ever found. More than 3000 feet of punishing single track with probably 95% of the trail at a continuous grade. Yesterday my mom and I made the climb to the 1566 meter peak in a little under 1:30. Clouds were raging by starting about 50 meters below peak height as they joined a growing cu nim between the mountain range and the Adriatic sea.

Tomorrow looks a little worse for weather but we expect to fly on Thursday. I'm just happy to be here with the health to do what we do. Here are a few pics of the journey - and my new sail. The Wills crew hooked me up with the best flying T2 I've ever had. Totally stock sail that has the most balanced and lightest steering yet.

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Our approximate track over the course of the Rally

Paris on opening day launching out of Quest

Shapiro launching out of Live Oak on day 2

Couple of T2s in goal at Moultrie municipal

Launching off the taxiway at Americus airport in southern Georgia

Aerial view of the Americus apron

Taking the day win on the 194k task from Americus to Vidalia

The Vidalia welcoming committee

Curt, Lou, Wylie, and crew after a long day

Jonny departing on the last day of the Rally on his way to Allendale, SC

The combined weather for the Ridge and Rally comps had to be about the best I can remember in Florida. The ridge was tricky as usual with some light days and lots of wind but we still managed several 100k + days and had a strong field with jr. and the rest of the moyes boys there as well as the wills team. The US team got great practice for the upcoming Italian worlds and I think we have honed our radio comm at this point. Several new gliders were delivered at the ridge comp as well, and Miguel Molina and Mike Glennon were stoked with the way their new 154s were going. Fillipo, Stinnet, Bunner, Bostik, Davis, and others all seemed to be nearby when the going was good.

The rally had basically the best weather I've ever flown in the east. Mostly 6-700 up with the occasional 9 up just to keep it interesting and allow you to leapfrog from behind if you got lucky.

Coming off of a light spring schedule, I was a bit worried about how I would settle into comp mode. Two weeks of 16+ hour days working in the Shapiro harness shop right before the comp weren't the best training I could have been doing, but it seemed to be working for the first 3 days of the ridge... there's no doubt our T2s are going as well or better than they've ever gone with zero issues gliding with anyone out there. By the end of the 2 competitions, Jonny had 5 day wins, I had 4, and Paris and Curt each snagged a day win, both after a long absence from the US comps. When it was done, Jonny's consistency had won him both comps, however I am super happy with my performance and can narrow down my mistakes to just a couple over the entire two weeks - which is a rare thing.

The ridge comp marks one year since I first flew my proto covert, and after a solid season of racing it is looking pretty much new. I'm taking it to the worlds along with a new sail on my current frame (T2Cx...after a little skunk working). Looking forward to a full season of comps..

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Hmmmm... seems as though the rumors are true. Shapiro would like to remind me that he beat me in Santa Cruz as well as the pre worlds, but it must have just been that I was flying the FASTEST HANG GLIDER IN THE WHOLE WORLD at less than its top speed.
And since my current glider is, well, FASTER... hmmm....

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