FLYING COLORS -- HANG GLIDER
Dan Buchanan, 50, of Minden , Nevada flies some of the quieter aircraft on the air show circuit
A silent tow launched hang glider and also a quiet, motorized hang glider for the night-time performances that are not always over an airport. He flies in complete counterpoint to most other air show professionals in the business and this great hearted entertainer always throws in a few surprises during each performance.
Hes received the Bill Barber Award for Showmanship and a Special Achievement Award from the International Council of Airshows.
Dan was a New England home builder and flat-track motorcycle racer and enjoyed the thrill of flying off mountain tops when in 1981, when he paralyzed his legs trying to land in stormy weather. Losing his ability to walk, he returned to college to pursue a career in mechanical engineering and work in Silicon Valley , CA . Despite his handicap Dan returned to flying in six months and since then, his tenacity and adventurous spirit has allowed him to accrue more than 2,800 hours of flight time in hang gliders and sailplanes; his recreational flights are typically 3-6 hours long thermal soaring as high as 18,000 feet over the western mountains. After his first air show performance at Medford OR in 1989 and getting very busy performing after 5 years, he went full-time, sharing his thrill of flight with millions of people around the world during his annual 25 city Airshow tour. Performing principally across North America his international venues have included Australia (8 times), Thailand , El Salvador , The United Arab Emirates, Canada , and Mexico .
During a typical motorless performance Dan launches his glider from a custom designed rolling launch trailer that he designed and constructed specifically for Airshow take-offs. Lifting off the towed vehicle at an air speed of about 30 mph, while talking live over the PA, he steadily climbs to an altitude of 1200-1800. A winch on the launch vehicle, operated by a trained crewmember, spins out up to 3,000 of tow-line against applied brake pressure during his ascent. Dan performs two challenging aerial water-ski turns as the tow vehicle makes two U-turns and the towline comes tight again in the opposite direction, allowing him to stair-step to required altitude. Timing is everything during these maneuvers! An aerobatic pilot will sometimes pick on his third world fighter and harass him as he climbs, cutting yards of material from his long trailing streamers. The humorous radio transmissions between Dan and his aggressor are carried live to the audience.
Releasing at altitude, he is flying free as the tow-line and its small drogue chute are rapidly rewound with a high-speed electric winch. Now, watch and listen to the action as he wheels, circles and dives to a stirring musical accompaniment whilst sharing his joy of flight via a radio link to the audience. During his graceful descent, smoke and streamers trail behind, punctuated with brilliant flashes and streaks of custom daylight special effects
and, he does it in the dark too! To witness the full glory of his dazzling night-time pyrotechnic performance, be sure to catch one of his spectacular after dark displays with the motorized hang glider. Dan is also a Federally licensed pyrotechnician trained by Hollywood experts. He installs and wires all of the special effects on the fabric wing himself. Can you blame him?
The performance concludes with a short but smooth landing on the two small wheels and leather skid pad, while waving. Quickly getting into his wheelchair, he rolls to the show-line, signing programs for the kids and answering questions.
Dans air show glider and motorized wing are the only two aircraft of their type in North America to carry N numbers and airworthiness certificates. Both aircraft are registered with the FAA and certified as experimental aircraft rather than undocumented ultra-lights. Hang gliding has come a long way since the perilous build-your-own70s. Dans factory built aircraft are rigorously engineered and stressed for 6 Gs positive and 4 Gs negative. Instruction is mandatory these days. He is also a FAA Commercial Glider pilot, enjoying sailplane aerobatics and giving glider rides at Minden , Nevada and San Diego , CA when not on the Airshow tour. Some of his other adventurous pursuits still include flat-water kayaking, SCUBA diving on wrecks and caves, ATV cross-desert riding, sailing, and snow skiing.
When asked why he flies, Dans usual smiling response is, I have to fly
I cant walk!