From the Gulf to Canada; Hang Gliders Raise Funds for Cancer Group

Liftoff From Lamar (Courtesy Photo)



While most of us made last minute plans for July 4th parties, picnics or provisions, a group of hang gliders were at the Lamar Airport on Wednesday, July 3rd, going over their equipment in preparation for another leg in a 1,600 mile north/south, border to border journey.



What had been a competitive sport for several gliders, some for over 40 years, became a mission to raise awareness and funds for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization, a cancer awareness group.

Glider Taxi

The five member team had raised $2,000 and through their facebook site: “X Flight:  Gulf of Mexico to Canada”, and have developed a following for the journey that averages from 85 to 150 miles a day, weather permitting.

Air Powered

Larry Bunner of Byron, Illinois had the only motorized glider, used to take the other gliders aloft, one at a time. “We have each of them mounted on a wheeled sled and I tow them over the runway and up to a certain altitude at which point we drop the tow rope and they’re on their own.  I go back for the next one until all are airborne and then I land, break down my glider and follow by car,” he explained.

What the way is always isn’t clear. Because the gliders can land in the space of a football field, finding an open area isn’t usually a problem, but sometimes getting the ground vehicle to the gliders can be problematic.  “One time we landed behind the fence of a large area fracking field and it took several calls to officials and law agencies to get someone to come let us out.”  The group doesn’t always take off from their landing point, either.

Bunner explained, “The night before, we landed in Buffalo, Kansas, but the forecast was for rain and storms, so we searched the maps, saw and contacted the Lamar airport, made a call and now we’re assembling all our gear for the next leg of the journey.” While it may be 90 degrees at the runway, at 16,000 feet, the temp drops to about 38 degrees and each flyer is equipped with thermal clothing and oxygen.  Bunner only goes aloft to about 600 feet before he lands, so he can get by with shorts and a tee shirt and a parachute, standard gear for all of the gliders.  He also uses an array of support equipment such as GPS monitoring for all the gliders relative to his position, cameras, batteries, radio, water and energy bars.

Other fliers and support crew includes Robin Hamilton from Texas, Rick Mullins and Carl Bauknecht from Cincinnati, Glenn Volk from San Diego, Pete Raymond from Pittsburg and Mike Degtoff from Round Rock Texas.

The group will not land in Canada, but come close to the border, staying on the American side. Hamilton said there were too many legal logistics to be worked out for flying several non-motorized aircraft from one country to another and the 1,600 mile journey will be plenty of travel for the sport these men love.  Degtoff said, “Gliding is like being Superman, Peter Pan and Mary Poppins.  It’s an amazing experience being a part of this group, doing what we love to do.”

By Russ Baldwin

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