By Doc Watson
Special to the Herald Times
MEEKER | Hang gliders converged on Meeker last week during the Dinosaur Open 2017 competition in long distance flying, sponsored by the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association and involving about 40 pilots not only from the US but several other countries.
Competitors included the world champion and national champions from Australia, Brazil, Italy and the US. Launching each day around noon from Blue Mountain, there were five landing zones: Craig, Hayden, Maybell, Meeker and Rangely.
Hang gliding can actually be dated as far back as the days of Leonardo da Vinci, whose surviving sketches portray his desire for human flight, one of the oldest dreams in human history. With his invention of the “flexible wing,” American aeronautical engineer Francis Melvin Rogallo (1912–2009) is considered the “father” of modern hang gliding.
Flights of 100 to 200 miles are not uncommon with today’s gliders. The world record, in fact, of 435 miles was set by Austrian Manfred Ruhmer in 2001. Today’s pilots utilize altimeters, variometers, reserve parachutes and even on-deck flight computers.
About 10 pilots made it to Meeker on Sunday (June 18), but only a single pilot, Greg Chastain, landed at the Meeker airport on Wednesday before the day’s event was stopped due to weather. His maximum altitude that day was 14,800 feet.
Chastain, 56, has been hang gliding since he was 20. He is from Dallas, Texas and is vice-president of the North Texas Hang/Para Gliding Association. He is also a small plane pilot and revenue management senior manager and advisor for Southwest Airlines. While not a professional hang glider pilot, his many years of experience has equipped him to hold his own in these kind of events.
Also on site aiding in various capacities were county employees Katelin Cook, economic development coordinator, Aly Ridings and Keely Winger, as well as Stephanie Kobald of the Meeker Chamber of Commerce.
We hope this event will continue in the future and that Meeker will remain a landing target.
By Doc Watson