Hang Glider Crash

The whole point of this stunt was to land a hang glider in a very tight spot. The original plan was to have the hang glider pilot, Joe Greblo, make this attempt by himself. But in a meeting with Joe, he mentioned that he had a two-person hang glider that could also pull this off. I knew I was committed at that point. 

I had never been in a hang glider before and was really looking forward to my ride. There was no pressure for me since all I had to do was hang on. Joe seemed very professional and I had complete faith in his ability to do this thing. The morning of the stunt I went and scoped out the landing area. It was a small residential cul-de-sac. There were power lines, streetlights, and all sorts of other hazards, but I decided not to bother myself with that stuff. I figured the less mental effort I put into the whole thing, the better.

Joe and I geared up and hooked into the hang glider. That was when I noticed how flimsy this thing was. We were attached by a long piece of twine to an "ultralight", which was basically another flimsy device with a chainsaw engine and a propeller. It would be towing us up to altitude. The takeoff was rather exciting, with our knees dragging along the asphalt as the ultralight blew small rocks into our faces. We were airborne within seconds (which was good because we were in a small baseball field parking lot). I had figured that once we were flying I would relax a little. But being pulled behind that ultralight was a little unnerving. Every time we got directly behind it we would get thrashed by its wash. I was white-knuckling most of the ride up. When we finally released from that stupid thing I was thrilled. The flight quickly smoothed out and I started having fun. Joe showed me the basics and I flew for a little bit.

The fun only lasted about 5 minutes before it was time to get to work. It took us a little bit to find the cul-de-sac. I now realized how small this target was. I could tell that Joe had gone into his mode, so I shut up from this point on. My heart started beating faster as we got lower and Joe got more serious. The ground crew radioed up to us and told us that the wind had shifted a little bit and now there was a slight tailwind. I knew that wasn't good. Joe was silent. At that point I knew he was starting to consider the alternatives. But we didn't have much more time. We were getting low. Joe quickly made his decision and I knew we were going for it. The determination in his face was intense. We dropped into a super tight banked turn and started pulling some serious G's. We were less than 100 feet up now, with our wingtip pointing straight down at the rooftops. I could not believe how much speed we were picking up. The wind was screaming across the wing. This just didn't seem right to me this close to the ground. I knew we were going to have to slow way down to make it into the cul-de-sac. I guess I was wrong, because at the last second Joe dove even harder toward the landing area. We came in right over a house and I was actually pulling my legs up because it looked like they were going to hit the roof. We were hauling ass! Before I knew it we were only a couple of feet above the ground, heading right for a garage door. WHAM! We hit something. I didn't know what. Now we were sideways with our bodies dragging across the ground. We slid up the driveway and stopped right at the garage door. I couldn't believe it. The crowd was cheering. I was still in a state of shock. I had no idea it was going to be that radical. I found out that we had hit a light pole and taken half of the right wing off. We were lucky. Hitting the light pole slowed us down just enough that we didn't crash into the garage door. I shook Joe's hand and told him he was crazy. I also told him that if he ever needed a passenger for another stunt, not to call me.