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Author: Zac 'Zippy' Majors Created: 7/24/2009 12:36 PM
Zac "Zippy" Majors was the 2008 US National Champion and calls California home.  This "mountain specialist" has been steeped in Utah XC during his seventeen years of flying and has been cracking off impressive flights in the Rockies, Wasatch front, and Sierras. He's also owned and operated a hang gliding school for the past fourteen years. Zippy's recent rise in the competition ranks has been impressive, with a notable fourth place finish and the top US finisher in the recent world championships.
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    Here's the start to the 2011 European tour that includes the Swiss Nationals and the World Championships.

    Flew over to Zurich from LA with Jeff Shapiro on the 4th of July. Swiss Nic and Steve Blinkensop picked us up at the airport and we headed to Nic's home in Baden (originally a Roman town). Upon unpacking my glider in Zurich, I found a large dent in my leading edge tube.

    Nic had a spare tube that need to a slight modification, so Blinky and Carole helped my get the tools to fix it. Dustin arrived later and we had some fantastic home-made green curry a la Blinky.
    The next morning we were off to Fiesch with 4 gliders, 10 harnesses and 4 bodies crammed in Nic's sweet Mercedes. driving south past Interlaken we drove the car onto a train that took us through a tunnel deep through the Alps. In Fiesch we met up with Derreck and James to register and parade through town.
    Weather looked pretty bad and there were doubts as to whether we would fly at all, but day one turned out great.

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    It's always fun to try to capture our sport on film. We know it's beautiful and cool, but how do we share it best? Get lots of angles, so guys like Aaron Swepston made mounts like this one. Of course, it seems we're always re-inventing the wheel, but at least he's happy to share what he knows.

    Here's a video I shot to see how it behaves (thanks Marge for the use of the GoPro). I believe it will be a much better platform for still photos.
    I know of at least two friends who've recently built dangle mounts, only to have them fail under load. Well I haven't loaded mine up yet, but I'm going to add some lead on the next flight. I want to see if gets any more stable or hangs more beneath me.
    I think tying the PG line to the XB / LE junction would help laterally, but then you need another line part way out that connects to the BT to pull it in.
    I wonder if adding some weight at the attachment points on each side would reduce the twisting?
    Any thoughts on aerodynamic stabilization? I don't want to add much drag and have it end up farther behind though. I'm also not a modeler, so fashioning a wing to put it in seems difficult.
    Hope you enjoyed this. Keep in mind that there are some safety issues involved with this kind of mount; or any flying with a camera for that matter. The most dangerous piece of sporting equipment is the camera!

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    This weekend Sylmar Hang Gliding Association had its annual Spring Air Festival. Expecting Friday traffic around LA, I was pleasantly surprised to make it to the Flight Park in under an hour and half from Santa Barbara. On Friday a few cars headed up to the Kagel launch.Sylmar has an outstanding group of local pilots and has turned out several National Team members such as, Phil Bloom, Ron Weiner, and Chris Smith. Several of the locals were kind enough to show me around, Rob Burgis, Jeff Chipman, Jonathan Deitch, and Phil Bloom took me on a tour to the east. We quickly raced past Lance’s and over to Big Tujunga. A little under 4000’ I led the charge across to little Lukins. This is a little lower than they would normally cross, but there were clouds forming and it had been pretty easy so far. There are LZs in the Big T, but as I dove over a few spines I soon noticed that the landing options had gotten a bit sparse, to say the least. I was slow in noticing the drastic wind direction switch which was causing it to quite turbulent. I tucked tail and ran back downwind toward a school with a football field. I couldn’t see any of the guys I was flying with, and was hoping they were doing better than my situation. I was down to 300agl when I found 100fpm up which quickly improved and got me high enough to cross the wash where I found everyone climbing back up. We started heading back towards home and could see a small fire had started on the side of Lance’s ridge at the top of a gun club.

    By the time we were crossing over, there were helicopters coming in to drop retardant. We passed through without disturbing their operations and once back to launch headed out to West Towers to complete the introduction. Landing at their club owned LZ is very civilized and inviting. After the flight a group went out for Thai food to complete the day. Phil and Kathy Bloom were kind enough to put me up overnight so we could do it all again Saturday.

    The next morning, Mike Meier arrived with the trailer full of Wills Wing’s entire lineup of gliders. Joe Greblo, Mike and I were lining up demo flights and briefing pilots on what to expect. In my spare moments Chippy downloaded my waypoints and we put in the competition route. I helped a few people with their Flytec instruments (Make a new route, copy to competition route by pressing McCready, then use McCready again to set the start parameters). Our task was several laps around the local area, with the hope of a high completion percentage. On launch Mike and I helped pilots with pre-flights and adjusting hang heights. Mike pointed out I was about to miss the start, so I launched 12 minutes before the first clock at 2pm. I raced towards start, but figured I wouldn’t have time to get good position. The guys seemed OK with not having perfect position, and taking the first clock, because there were leading points. I drove down course line looking for the next climb and went a bit farther than the rest of the gaggle, at first they were out-climbing me, but then mine turned into 600up and I topped out while they raced under me. From there I took a line under clouds that seemed farther out then they were running and that gave me a big jump getting to the second turn point.

    From there on I used all the other pilots in the air as markers and didn’t slow up, because I have too much respect for those guys to give them any second chances.


    # Id Name   Nat Glider Sponsor SS ES Time km/h Dist. Dist.
    1 4 Zac Majors M USA Wills Wing T2C   14:00:00 14:53:54 00:53:54 40,9 36,78 302,4 90,4 361,4 64,5 819
    2 3 Rob Burgis M USA Moyes Litespeed RS 4   14:00:00 15:05:03 01:05:03 33,9 36,78 302,4 55,6 239,4 48,8 646
    3 5 Phil Bloom M USA Moyes Litespeed RS 3.5   14:00:00 15:05:05 01:05:05 33,9 36,78 302,4 54,5 239,2 36,7 633
    4 1 Jeff Chipman M USA Moyes Litespeed S4   14:00:00 15:05:50 01:05:50 33,5 36,78 302,4 55,6 233,8 27,7 620
    5 6 Ron Wiener M USA Moyes Litespeed RS 3.5   14:20:00 15:25:12 01:05:12 33,8 36,78 302,4 7,4 238,3 14,7 563


    After the competition I flew a lovely tandem flight with Alice from Carpentaria.

    Lynn and Jeff hosted a nice award ceremony and a local artist David fashioned a beautiful glass trophy that I was lucky enough to take home. There was plenty of liquid refreshment, and fun characters to share the rest of the beautiful evening which included a bonfire.

    Sunday, Mike and I were continuing the demo flights, the thermals weren’t going as high or as strong, but fun none the less. The Sylmar club is a great group that you should definitely visit if you’re in SoCal. I said my goodbyes and headed off to Andy Jackson Airpark where I would fly great tandems on Monday and Tuesday from Crestline.

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    This morning even the National Weather Service was in the spirit talking about the April Fool's storm (the forecast was way off). North winds still looked a bit questionable, but I figured if I dragged a bunch of people up to launch and I was wrong I could just say "April Fool's". Hammer and Pokey came along to fly and Jay was a saint for driving.

    Conditions looked great the moment we got to the Eliminator launch and our excitement expedited our set-up. I wore winter clothes today as we were below normal January temperatures. Hammer launched moments after I did, but apparently I got the end of the cycle. I was quickly up and away headed east down the range, Hammer had to work for lift.

    Below is White Ledge at the East side of Casitas Pass, a formidable jump over some tiger country to get into the Ojai Valley.
    Looking ahead to the Santa Paula ridge. Tops for the day slowly increased from 4000' to 5600'. Greg had made a good decision to not run the range and eventually landed at his car at Parma Park. Hammer was on the back side of the wave I was riding and having a much tougher time, but plodding along none-the-less.
    On my way to Santa Paula I got a fly-by from a Red-Tailed Hawk, a bird that I feel a special kindredness to. Around the corner I saw massive log float by... the large dark mass was actually a California Condor. I've seen Condors from launch before, but never actually flown with them.

    We got to thermal somewhat close together, but always out of sync. I was surprised how early the bird would alter course if we were heading towards each other (maybe they're used to having their space). I missed my chance to read the tag on the wing (notice the white circle on the left front wing) because I was going for my camera. Our paths converged a few times as we were both flying easterly. It's one thing to say "yeah, Condors are really big birds", but to fly next to one and see both the wing span and shear girth of it's body- awesome.

    The flight ended unceremoniously as I failed to slow down and climb in some weak lift. I landed at 60.8 miles after 2hr, 45min. After breaking down I started walking out only to be told I was behind locked gates (am I in Texas?). Ed the environmental restorationist gave me ride out to meet Jay (who did exceptionally well considering the radio frequency got bumped), and then escorted us back in (gotta appreciate the adventure!).
    Hammer hit his glass wall and landed at a field he's been to many times near Magic Mountain (61.8mi). We picked him up and rallied back to SB for our local HG/PG club meeting.

    Watch for another post soon about the presentation from the Ojai Raptor Center!

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    So my trip was always just a bit in question because I was flying on an airline employee voucher thanks to Joe Bostik. I checked in with my glider and held my breath as they called one supervisor after another. Finally Mike from Delta's baggage came up and personally approved my glider and now it was just a matter of getting a seat for me. I had a couple margaritas to ease the tension and dull the possible agony if I didn't get on. As they were boarding the plane I was given a seat assignment and let out a sigh of relief.

    As I got off the plane a had a new concern; getting a ride from the airport. A pleasant surprise was getting to bypass the long customs line because of the size of my glider. As I weaved through the crowd and out the front door, I was stoked to see Jeff Shapiro off to my right. Jeff told me that James Stinnett was on his was to pick us up; it was the morning of new years eve.
    James arrived in a flash green Comador wagon, we loaded up and headed off to meet up with Jamie Shelden, Karl Wallbank and Dave Shields. Jamie took us to a great restaurant at Coogee beach, and we followed it a dip in the Tasman Sea.

    After a quick disco-nap we got ready for dinner that Cathrine had arranged and we met her and Gerolf. Lovely 4 course dinner, outside on the sidewalk, with fireworks to boot. We finished shorlty before midnight and tried to race up Brondi Beach to meet up with Jonny Durrand and his entourage. Well the cabbies wouldn't take us all the way and we walked to where we could see the Harbor Bridge fireworks as the year 2010 fell upon us. Happy New Year everyone! We finally caught up with our friends and we partied well into the morning hours.

    Day one: Totally blue. 138k? dogleg. I'm very turned around in the start circle (give me a mountain for reference!). Conditions are light and some people leave at the first clock. Most go back for the second clock and a group of us get low with about 8 pilots landing at the edge of the cylinder, but most pilots get on course. After grovelling back up for 20 min we're still only 2k outside the cylinder so about 10 of us get the 3rd clock. I didn't find out till later that I made most of the run to the first turn point with Blay from Spain. We are topping out about 4000', so not a lot of altitude to work with. I caught up with the leaders a bit after the turn point, but pushing too hard I found myself down below 300' (it would be so painful to land here after so much hard work), but I found a bubble and started to dig out. Somehow I made up the little bit of time I lost here and finished just behind the first guys. Having started 20 minutes later I won the day, my first day win in a major international competition.

    Day two: Very different. A sky full of beautiful cumulus. 194K dogleg in the opposite direction (SW-S) This time we're at 6000'at cloudbase for the first start clock. Having thermal markers out from worked so well yesterday, that we Shapiro wasn't ready to leave, I was happy to wait. Davis started anyway because a bunch of people left, and Larry Bunner waited with me. We left at the second clock and the race was on. It wasn't long before I started finding 700-900fpm. After the turnpoint the conditions got faster. Cloudbase had risen to over 8000' and it was a glorious day! I watched the kilometers click away. Getting a bit low over a town I saw a cemetery and gave thanks to those who came before the splendorous life us hang glider pilots enjoy. At about 35K out I saw Karl, Jonny, and Attila and figured I was probably in good shape. A couple short climbs together and we started our final glide about 20k from goal. For the last few Kilometers my GPS was not getting coverage more than it was (mabey because Atilla was blocking all the satellites)(Carl was having the same issue), we were racing down to the deck and I wasn't sure I would make the edge of the cylinder, I tried to have a look and cause a wiggle that allowed Jonny to snake by me to win the day about 1-2 seconds. (My GPS didn't indicate goal until I was flaring, and the score keeper said my time was 58 sec after Jonny, hopefully they can sort it out.) I haven't seen results yet, but probably 2nd for the day.

    Thanks to everyone who's making this dream a reality

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    So I battled Friday traffic through the middle of LA; it was grueling. I thought I'd timed it right, but I'm not sure that's actually possible in LA. I made it down to Wills Wing in time to score a free plate of food from their Christmas party. I'll drive a long way for free food...  but that wasn't the only reason I was there.

    Wills Wings Skunk Works department had finally processed the glydetonium for my new wing.  It was nice to see the crew and wish them a Merry Christmas.  Unfortunately, while on my rack, the glydetonium didn't do anything for my car, so I was back stuck in traffic again.

    Saturday, my girlfriend Erin gave me a ride up to the Alternator launch in Santa Barbara.  As I unfurled the sail and began stuffing battens, plenty of things were getting stiffer.

    I went up to launch sure it would only be a sled ride, but some paragliders showed there was at least a little lift to be found. US PG team member Matt Beechinor and Nick Greece of USHPA magazine were floating around in some little bubbles and were kind enough to share the air. We would gain every so often, but mostly we were sinking 50fpm. They had their cameras out so hopefully they'll share those photos soon.
    The glider handled better than I would expect for the first flight. Roll was quick tip to tip, and very predictable. There's something to be said for how nice the VG pulls on a new glider. With the sail tightened up like a drum the base tube came back about 6" and we were soon speeding along (I'm glad there's no cops or radar up there!). Doesn't make sense that a glider with great handling would also track exceptionally straight at high speed, but I'm not going to argue. I pulled a few wing-overs, to help seat the sail ;) and then set up my approach into the "T" LZ.

    Here is a video shot on a phone from the LZ:

    I'm in love again! Thank you to everyone at Wills Wing for a work of art.   I hope I can fly it with the skills it deserves.

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    In the spring, I had donated a couple gift certificates for tandem flights to the Ojai Raptor Center ( The center rehabilitates and releases sick and injured birds of prey as well as other animals in need (I was introduced by my girlfreind Erin who volunteers there). Today I redemed a certificate, and Allen paid for his wife to fly also. We met at the "T" landing zone in Santa Barbara (the local club owns this property). We drove up to the Alternator launch 4000msl (about 3500agl) as the SE winds favored this over the usual Eliminator/Skyport launch. After the preflight briefing, Valerie (the fearless one; was nominated to go first) and I flew off for her first experience of free-flight. She manuvered us to the places I thought might have lift, but alas it wasn't meant to be any more than a glorious sled-ride. I hadn't really expected much more as the sky was overcast. I was slightly disappointed with our landing which consisted of 4 steps before she gently dropped to one knee; then she made a comment about our "crash" ...really?


    The second flight was windier on launch and still a little cross from the East. Allen was eager to get his hands on the controls, so he flew until we found a bubble where I circled trying to maintain briefly. We glided on to a nice landing at the "T".

    Both flights we enjoyed by all, and I walked away knowing I'd contributed to saving the same bird who "save" me.
    BTW- these were two other top pics for my Red-tail tattoo

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    So this last flying season has been amazing. In Florida I had a great time with my friends and was excited to have finished 2nd in the Flytec Race and Rally against such a talented group of pilots.

    This post has been long overdue. In Europe my camera went missing on the same day our lunches disappeared. Maybe someone was confused, or really hungry, but I just couldn’t believe that anyone would steal my camera up on launch. After sending out a few emails, a friend (Scott Torkelsen, FAI official) replied with news that he’d found a camera that had been run over by a car (probably fell of the seat or something). He sent the SD card with the pictures to my PO box which I finally picked up in Tahoe – Thanks so much Scott! So here are some of my remaining pictures of flying with my buds at the World Championships in Laragne, France (4th place).

    Here’s Dustin saying “whuttup Bitch”

    I found a great picture online of me silhouetted above some cu’s. My girlfriend Erin bought a copy and framed it for my birthday. (Since it’s copyrighted, here’s my version featuring OB)
    On one of the days that the task was cancelled we were flying back to camping together and at my request Shapiro dove right below me and pull up straight over the top for a beautiful loop that I had framed perfectly, but alas a camera malfunction (operator error) meant I’d missed the money shot (sorry Jeff), but here’s one O’Brien gave me when I asked for a little undersurface.
    Getting to make new friends and catching up with old friends is an important part of our travels; this continued through the rest of the season, Ridge-racing at Torrey (2nd place – thanks Robin!), Big Springs (2nd, again), and Santa Cruz Flats (5th, where my dad and girlfriend supported me and got to socialize with the flying crew). I feel very lucky to have found hang gliding not just for the freedom of flight, but for the community (eccentrics and all).
    Pizza and Paella night at the Worlds.

    This is the remnants of a castle tower just above a fantastic restaurant we enjoyed thanks to Davis and Belinda.

    I’ll leave you with a scenic of the Alps and why everyone should take a flying trip in Europe.

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