U.S. Hang Gliding Pilots

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 Post subject: Larry Tudor
PostPosted: Wed Aug 05, 2015 10:46 am 
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Larry Tudor

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Milena SCHOETZER | Intern / Project Associate at the FAI writes:

Today marks the 30th anniversary of an FAI Word Record made by an American pilot described as both “Part Bird” and “Skygod” and who is perhaps the “World's finest Hang Glider pilot” for tandem or solo flights: Larry Tudor. A fidgety Californian, he has been pushing the edges of how far hang gliders can go since the air sport's early days in the 1970s. During his long career, Tudor set a total of ten FAI World Records and the one we are commemorating today has not yet been broken.

On 4 August 1985, Tudor launched his Flexwing Ultralite Product GZ 155 hang glider from Horseshoe Meadows in Owens Valley, California, at 10.15 am. After 8 hours and 15 minutes in the air he landed safely on the highway 361 south of Gabbs. During this flight he gained a height of 4343 m and exceeded by 3% the previous existing FAI World Record of “Gain in Height”, which was set on 22 July 1981 by New Zealander Ian E. Kibblewhite by 3% (4175m).

US pilot Kari Kastle, the most decorated women in hang gliding, record holder and multiple champion herself, on what makes the record so special: “The altitude gain record is very limited because of our legal height restrictions, so my thoughts about this are simple: Someone had to do it. Congratulations Larry!”

Owens Valley, the Hang Gliders Mecca and a perfect place for a World Record

The summits of the White Mountains and the Sierra Nevada, which Tudor overflew, are higher than 4000m and the deepest American desert between them, the Owens Valley, is one of the world's most famous locations for flying. The sky in this region is known for radical turbulences and past experiences have shown that it can take years to get the perfect weather conditions. Kari added: “The timing has to be just right in order to launch at a low enough altitude and get up high enough without going over 17,999 feet (ca. 5.500m). Pilots must stay below 18,000 feet above sea level for air space restrictions without prior clearance.” In fact, pilots call the “Owens” the world's greatest thermal corridor, because the gyres of air that rise out of the canyons can be enormous and strong.

So it is that this particular geographical and weather configuration has allowed many world records to be set and sky sailors from around the world still flock there during the summer months for their longest and highest flights.

A sports bum born to fly

Larry Tudor was born in 1954. While growing up and graduating from high school in Denver, Tudor was a passionate juvenile chess champion. He achieved an expert ranking before retiring from tournament play and discovering hang gliding in 1973. He used to always equate the mind game with the air sport: "It's like chess," he said in an interview by the Outside Magazine in 1995. "You build a strong position, you try to keep safe, and you anticipate where you want to be." Tudor's birdlike similarities clearly appear when he takes the wing and so it is not surprising that his adventures in hang gliding are almost uncountable: He was the second person to fly 100 miles (around 160km) and the first person to fly 200 miles (around 320km) in 1983. In autumn 1986, he and American pilot Steve McKinney became the first pilots to fly a hang glider from the West Ridge of the mystical Mount Everest.

In this challenging region Tudor always seemed to be as comfortable in the air as on the ground and to understand the skies so well. "In fact, I get neurotic when I don't fly", he mentioned in the same interview. Kastle stated, “When I think of Larry Tudor I think of a legend in our sport. I think of him as someone who loved the sport and was so driven to succeed in both competition and record setting that he inspired all of us by doing so. He was a driving force in my own motivation to set world records back in those days. He and his energy was contagious!” He is surely one of the best hang gliders, cross country pilots, and a true pioneer of his sport.

Watch the pictures of the flight

Join a National Hang Gliding Organization: US Hawks at ushawks.org

View pilots' hang gliding rating at: US Hang Gliding Rating System

 Post subject: Re: Larry Tudor
PostPosted: Wed Aug 05, 2015 12:30 pm 

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RACING FOR THE RECORD -- 221 Miles Without an Engine!
by Rick Masters
Published in "Whole Air Magazine" -- USA, Sept/Oct 1983; "Wings" -- United Kingdom, October 1983; "Drachenflieger" -- Germany, November 1983; "HanGlider" -- Japan, December 1983; "Glider Rider" -- USA, December 1983; "Soaring & Motorgliding" - REFUSED! Text, photos and maps copyright 1983 Rick Masters.

HANG GLIDING has always been a sport associated with danger, pursued by adventurous souls seeking the freedom of the birds and the exhilaration of the gods. But contrary to popular opinion, hang gliding is now as safe as other forms of sport aviation. Today's hang glider pilot is better trained, flies a certified glider and carries a backup parachute. Modern hang gliding has finally outgrown its daredevil image.

Except in the Owens Valley.

Renowned for its fabulous thermals which lift hang gliders to more than two miles above the Earth's surface, the Owens is the premier site for hang gliding world records. Rising to the top of these updrafts of air, a hang glider pilot can glide great distances in search of the next thermal, and thereby repeat the process, flying farther and farther.

But the pilots and the machines pay a price for the free ride: the Owens is feared (and not just by the hang glider pilots) for its bone-jarring turbulence. And turbulence isn't the only danger. Sometimes reaching altitudes of 18,000 feet msl (and above), hang glider pilots attempting records risk hypoxia -- oxygen starvation -- if they fail to carry suplimental oxygen with them. The thin air and bone-chilling temperature at such elevations sap the strength and endurance needed for flights lasting six to 10 hours (necessary for world-record distances).

For officially recognized records, witnesses must verify both the launch and landing, and a barograph must document the flight's changes in altitude (the same method used with sailplanes).

The Owens Valley is indeed the mecca for world-record hang gliding flights. But it is as far from everyday recreational hang gliding as the Indy 500 is from a Sunday drive. Following is Rick Masters' account of a truly exceptional day of racing for the record in the Owens Valley of California, and the hardships endured by the daring pilots who fly there.

        -- Introduction to "Racing for the Record," Glider Rider Magazine, December 1983

Before disaster struck, he remembered circling easily in the thermal, pushing out gently on the control bar to capture the lift, holding his body slightly towards the high wing to increase its loading. It was a technique he'd refined to gain the highest level of performance from these sleek, tight-sailed aircraft designed specifically for cross country racing. Despite the lack of aerodynamic controls, the feather-light hang glider handled superbly on weight-shift alone. He even found the absence of control surfaces in the airstream worked to his advantage, for without the drag-inducing rudders or ailerons the curved-tip Sensor had the fastest, flattest glide he'd ever experienced.

He'd done well. Very well. He was 114 miles from gusty Gunter launch, riding some of the smoothest air he'd ever flown, pushed along by a marvelous tailwind and averaging nearly 50 mph above the desolate Paradise Range of central Nevada. If he could just reach the Toiyabe mountains across the next valley, he would ride the thermal lift they generated to a new world distance record!

Without warning, the glider rolled upside down and his suspension lines went slack.

He instinctively tightened his grip on the control bar as his legs fell down into the sail, knowing the glider might just as suddenly recover. But a powerful gust punched up into the sail from below and he lost his hold, falling painfully into the apex of the triangular control frame.

His head crashed against the keel. Stunned, he reached for the uprights to pull himself back up to the control bar when an "unbelievably savage" blast of air hit the inverted glider from above, driving it downward with furious acceleration. The limp suspension straps snapped taut and he was slammed into his harness with a force that almost knocked him out, throwing his arms and legs skyward and smashing his chin into his chest.

In the center of the turmoil, he heard a loud "Bang!"

The foremost nightmare fear of the hang glider pilot screamed through him.

"Oh my god!" he thought. "My harness is breaking!!"

But it was the frame of the Sensor.

The glider fell off to one side and began to spiral. He swung loosely in his harness, slamming against the control bar, tearing at the Velcro that secured his emergency parachute. He ripped it free and hurled it through the flapping wires, away from the madly spinning wreckage.

He tried to watch it, to see if it had cleared the glider, but the spinning made it impossible. All he could see of it was that the bridle -- the line that connected him to the parachute -- was wrapping around everything!

He went through another full revolution, then another. The time seemed endless and the parachute did not open. Then to his horror, the top of the peak he had been crossing leapt up next to him not 500 feet away.

He knew he was dead.

The 'chute burst open.

The force of deployment threw him through the control bar and onto the glider's nose. He saw he was drifting downwind, through the rotor of the mountain, descending rapidly through the thin, turbulent, unpredictable air towards a violent impact on a boulder-strewn slope. He reached for the transmit key on the FM walkie-talkie attached to his harness shoulder strap.

"Bob!" he yelled. "I'm going down! Going down on my parachute!"

Far below, near the base of the mountain, Bob Trampeneau, designer and manufacturer of the Sensor, had brought the chase vehicle to a halt. He had heard the sporadic transmissions as Rik's head had inadvertently slammed into the transmit key. He knew something had gone wrong. Now the sound of the tires on the dirt road was gone. He turned off the squelch and listened carefully.

There, in the static, he heard ". . . going . . . parachute . . . ," followed by silence.

He thumbed the mike.

"Rik! Where are you?"

No answer.

'He must be on the other side of the mountain or I'd hear him better,' Trampaneau thought. He jammed the chase car into gear.

He tried to climb up the keel to get away from the nose -- to let it take the force of impact. He was pulling himself up through the control bar when the glider suddenly pitched over just before it hit, hurling him against the ground. He hit flat on his back, sliding headfirst down the 45-degree slope, and the glider crashed down on top of him.

He lay there for a while, trying to breathe . . . .

"It was that piece of turbulence that everybody has nightmares about," Rik Fritz told me later. "Everybody told me about it; people who've had it happen to them. They said it could happen anywhere. Anytime. But I could never imagine the air being that violently savage. It was incredible!

"Until that point, I thought I was having one of the smoothest flights of my life. The only way I can explain it is I feel I ran into a really strong wind shear. It couldn't be seen, but it was there. And it was pretty good.

"There was something I read the other night. It's out of a book by Joseph C. Lincoln, called Soaring for Diamonds, and it's about the sky. It said, "The sky, to which some men are drawn like lost children going home. The sky, sometimes lover, sometimes mother, sometimes savage master."

"That really stuck in my head after that experience...."

With the XC Classic over and most of the pilots drifting away, one might have thought that the summer flying season was about to wind down in the Owens Valley. But the season was late. Many of the world's very best cross country pilots remained in the valley, waiting for the change in conditions that would make longer flights possible.

All of us knew that Horseshoe Meadows road, climbing high into the Sierra escarpment at the southern end of the valley, held the greatest promise for the starting point of a flight that would break Jim Lee's unofficial yet undoubted 168-mile world distance record of two years before. Here, the morning light would touch the sheer, vertical faces before 6:00 a. m., heating the granite and generating upslope convection hours before either the White Mountains or the Inyo Range directly across the valley were soarable. If a pilot could launch early, run up the Sierra and somehow cross the valley before noon, he could pass above the well-known launch sites at Gunter and Paiute on the Whites at a time when it had already been proven possible - by Tom Kreyche in 1981 - to fly 150 miles from Gunter.

This meant that a flight of 200 miles was just a matter of time for a pilot with the skill and stamina to fly for 10 hours -- and, most importantly, the diligence to be at the site when the right day came.

It had become my custom, since Helmut Denz had made the year's first 100-mile flight from Horseshoe three weeks before, to meet pilots at 6:30 a. m. in the Pines Cafe in Independence, have breakfast and discuss weather and flight strategy. On the morning of July 13, I was extremely pleased to find Debbie Renshaw and Rik Fritz there, in addition to Larry Tudor, Lori Judy and Klaus Kohmstedt.

Kohmstedt had come from Monaco for his third summer of flying in the Owens Valley. The growing popularity of Horseshoe as a starting point for record cross country attempts could in great part be attributed to Kohmstedt's extraordinary flight from there in 1982, when he covered a distance of 145 miles to the roadless desolation of the east flank of Nevada's appropriatly-named Pilot Peak. Although it fell 23 miles short of Jim Lee's unofficial record of 1981, and 7 miles short of Tom Kreyche's unofficial 1981 flight from Gunter, it remained one of the longest hanggliding flights in history. Today, he told us, he planned to break it.

Excitement was running high. The previous day, 10 flights from Horseshoe had been reported in excess of 100 miles. Ed Goss and Rick Schuster had reached Mina, Nevada, 132 miles north. Klaus had set a new world distance record to a declared goal with a 123-mile flight to Mina Junction. And Jenny Ganderton, the hard-driving British pilot who had come to Owens Valley exclusively to set world records, had flown 115 miles on her Airwave Magic, a new woman's world distance record.

We studied the weather forecast intently. For some reason, the National Weather Service had been unable to supply the Los Angeles Times with the usual detailed isobaric data, but it remained clear to us that a pressure distribution with ideal cross country potential was happening. Lows covered the entirety of California, with a high to the east and a cold front sweeping down the Pacific coast above Oregon. Also, the sailplane pilots who were holding their regional competition in Bishop had told Larry and Lori that the conditions today would be the best of the summer!

Klaus, Larry, Lori and I arrived at Horseshoe's upper launch, after a stop in Lone Pine for fresh film and Gatorade for the water bottles. The wind had already begun to cycle upslope, overcoming the weakening katabatic drainage winds of the night. On the shallow waters of Owens Lake, the reflection of Cerro Gordo at the beginning of the Inyos was cut by fingers of disturbance that told us the typical switch of the valley wind from north to south had already occurred. In fact, the wind appeared southeasterly, offering a hope that the Sierra downwash and associated turbulence, driven by the typically increasing southwesterlies of the late morning, might be delayed. Without the downwash, which broke up the thermals and made the second half of the Sierra run a battle with turbulence, faster flights at higher altitudes were possible, although greater difficulty might be encountered in crossing the valley if the wind increased in strength and held the southeasterly direction.

Larry Tudor, like Fritz, was one of the few American pilots at launch. Quiet and contemplative, he was regarded by most pilots as simply the best. In the air, he possessed a skill that seemed almost magical. He had been one of the early hang gliding pioneers in Owens Valley, making the world's second 100 mile flight with a launch from Cerro Gordo. A constant competitor in the yearly cross country races held in the White Mountains, 60 miles north, he had accomplished a series of wins unmatched by any other pilot. As a matter of fact, Tudor was given the highest accolade in cross country hang gliding. Other pilots watched him to tell when the best time was to launch.

John Pendry was one of England's top cross country pilots. He had won the sponsorship for a summer's flying in the United States and was making the best of it. Like most of the pilots on the mountain, he was flying with a barograph and the sanction of the FAI, the international overseers of sport aviation records.

Larry had been present at launch the day before, but he had not flown. He knew that what he was about to attempt would be one of the greatest efforts in a lifetime of extraordinary accomplishments. The day would have to be "right," and he would have to feel right -- mentally and physically. He did not want to wear himself out on a day that proved not quite good enough, then have a better day follow on its heels, only to find him exhausted. These intangible factors had not matched up on Tuesday. His Comet had remained on Klaus's AMC Concord.

But today, he felt good. He was confident that, weather permitting, he could navigate the 200 miles north. He was also intensely aware that at the end of such a flight lay the spectacular $5000 prize offered by Peter Brock's Ultralight Products, builder of the Comet. But to Larry, even greater was the challenge of being the first to break the magical 200-mile barrier that had eluded every hang glider pilot on Earth up to that day. He set up his Comet II and watched the wind and the birds carefully.

At 10:30, Larry and Klaus decided it was time to go. Klaus launched his Comet II into a big, gentle convection cycle.

Larry followed less than a minute later, taking only two steps down the steep mountainside to become airborn. Klaus found a thermal over the north end of Horseshoe Canyon and thermalled up Wanoga Peak to 11,500 feet with Larry close behind. They headed north in excellent lift.

At launch, there was a flurry of activity. Many pilots had arrived late and were still assembling their gliders. When they saw how easily Klaus and Larry had gotten away, a few curses were heard as they hurried with their preparations. Oxygen cylinders were secured, equipment bags stowed, water bottles filled, food packets tucked away, radios checked, altimeters calibrated, variometers tested, and carabiners locked into hang straps. Rik Fritz, on a new Sensor, followed Lori Judy around 10:40. John Pendry launched his Magic, followed by lone wolf Australian Steve Blankensop on a curved-tip Probe. Judy Leden took off in her Wills Wing Duck in hopes of beating Jenny Ganderton's new distance mark. At the lower Horseshoe launch, however, Jenny snagged a bush with her wingtip and spun around back into the mountain, demolishing her control bar. She stood there, amidst the wreckage of her glider, unhurt but in extreme anguish as she watched Judy Leden launch from Upper Horseshoe and smoothly thermal away alone.

Steve Moyes reached launch with the Australian contingent just as Larry and Klaus were taking off. Steve, the present World Champion on the competition circuit, had never flown Horseshoe before. As a partner with his father, hang gliding pioneer Bill Moyes, he was anxious to prove the capability of his newest design, the Moyes Missle GT with its vertical fin tied like a flag to the kingpost. He had me sign his barograph and launched last, but by no means least, on his sleek, curved-tip speedster.

It looked like a race to me.

As Larry flew north, he didn't bother to work much lift. He was after distance today, and would only fly in circles when it was absolutely necessary to gain altitude. Klaus soon lost sight of him, even though he was trying his best to stay with him. Larry cruised along the Sierra escarpment for 35 miles, rarely climbing above 12,000 feet MSL, with the biggest mountains towering a mile above him.

South of Big Pine, Larry left the Sierra with 13,500. He did not expect much lift crossing the valley. Here his glide meant everything, so he pulled his hands close together and tucked in his elbows, reducing the drag of his body to the barest minimum. Holding his best glide, he encountered surprisingly light sink of only 200 to 300 feet per minute over the valley. Nearing Black Mountain, the powerful thermal-generating peak that pushed out into the valley at the southern end of the White range, Larry found a thermal and gained enough altitude to reach the southern end of the mountain. There he began working lift. He needed lots of space between himself and the top of notorious Black to feel comfortable about going over the back.

As he passed above Black, he thought about Navy Seal Woody Woodruff, who had tumbled his Comet here only the week before. Woody had been wearing one of Jim Lee's bullet-shaped fiberglass pilot fairings and flying a Comet in the XC Classic. He'd tumbled low on the south flank of Black and lost the leg section of the Pod harness. Etsushi Matsuo, Japan's National distance record holder, flying nearby, had seen the accident and believed for a horrific moment that Woodruff had come detached from his glider. The fiberglass tailpiece had fallen to impact Black with a sound like a rifle shot.

"The Pod's an interesting piece of gear to fly in," Woody told me the following day. "It's very clean in the air. It's easy to fly with, but the technique's different. You fly almost entirely with your arms and shoulders. You can't kick your body into turns, so it changes your whole thermal technique. Once you pick it up though, it flies very well.

"I had one on order but Jim Lee didn't have his production version ready, yet. So when we got up here, he offered me the opportunity to fly one of his prototypes and I took him up on that. In fact, it was the very first prototype, the ZD50001. The first of the new design.

"I was flying the ridge task and it had pretty much been light and variable with a little push from the north all day. But as the day progressed, the north wind was picking up and picking up. What we had was the pretty typical north shear moving down the valley and, to my experience here, it seems to set up, or park, around Black Mountain late in the day. I had run down and picked up the second turn-point which was at the end of the south leg, down by the south end of Westgard Pass. Coming back, I had a good glide and there wasn't much of a north head wind until I got to Black Mountain.

"Jeff Huey and I were flying together and just south of the mountain we caught an extremely ratty, turbulent thermal -- very strong. It felt like a leeside thermal. It was very broken up. Where we got in it, it was strong, but in spite of being strong, it wouldn't climb right. It wouldn't climb straight. That was our first hint of a good north wind.

"When we figured out that we couldn't really climb above Black Mountain in that thermal, we both made a run for the mountain to try to get around to the windward side. And on the way to the mountain, we were just getting drilled! I got pretty low behind the mountain and I was trying to skirt the flanks and fly the ground heat to kill my sink rate a little bit. As I skirted around one of the spines, I caught alternate strong lift and strong sink which seemed, pretty obviously, a lee thermal situation. As I started to come around the point of the ridge, I caught an especially strong updraft or thermal and I pushed out in it, hoping that I'd get enough altitude that I could shoot straight across the spine instead of wasting all the time and distance flying around the end.

"Just after I pushed out, it felt like the wind gods just hit me on top with a really big hand. I don't think I moved. It was just the glider, slamming down on top of me. I was hit pretty hard by the keel and I think that's when the Pod broke. Immediately I pitched down, then pitched back up again. I think I just went through a strong wind gradient where I passed through extreme sink first, then flew into a really strong patch of lift. Then I went from pretty much a normal flight attitude into laying on top of my sail in, I estimate, half a second!

"It happened pretty quickly. Etsushi Matsuo, who was flying about 40 or 50 yards away from me and watching the whole thing, said that I mostly got rolled into it. I felt like I back-looped into the inverted situation. I expect it was a combination, pretty much a half a wingover where I ended up on my back.

"It was pretty disorienting. I was looking around. I knew that my glider was underneath me instead of me being underneath the glider. And what's more, I was on top of my suspension. I had no positive gs relative to the glider. It was hard to pick out exactly what the attitude was. Looking over my shoulder, the ground was off to one side and below me. And I could look straight up at the sky, so I knew I was in a really bad situation.

"It was a pretty stable inverted situation. I was on my back on the glider long enough to think about the parachute system. Now, this was an entirely different system, in the Pod. The parachute was on my back with just a little lanyard coming around that you're supposed to pull it out with. When I packed it, I wasn't sure I'd be able to find this lanyard if I was really disoriented. And it had a problem, anyway, because it was a really small piece of gear. So the first thing I thought was "Oh, s***! I wonder if I can find this parachute? Can I look for the parachute, find it, and pull the parachute out before the glider rights itself?"

"But then it did right itself. It flipped back over as fast as it had been turned over, probably a half-second maneuver. And I had the parachute pulled out! I was pulling it out while I was on my back, then I was back in a relatively normal flight attitude before I could actually throw it and release it. And there was no intentional hesitation between these two actions. The parachute was going.

"But when my glider turned right-side up again, I was sitting there with half of my fiberglass Pod hanging down around my knees and a parachute in one hand. And I was trying to fly my glider, now. I was in turbulence, so I didn't know if my glider was flying right or not. I was trying to figure out if I was getting bounced around because of turbulence or if it was because my glider was broken.

"It seemed stable enough that I could take the time to look. I started to throw my parachute anyway and just say, "I'll take a good parachute over a bad glider!" But I looked around and I couldn't see anything broken.

"I started pulling the bar in slowly -- very slowly -- since I didn't know what the stability situation of the glider was, now. And it was pulling me out in front of Black, so I thought at least I'd try to get out over the flats before I threw the parachute.

"As I went out, the parachute was sagging in the bag. I kicked off the Pod from my knees, since it seemed pretty useless, and I pushed the parachute between my knees and grabbed it there. It was pretty hard with that nylon bag -- it kept slipping and I had to keep readjusting it.

"I had a relatively normal landing. A couple of minutes later, Matsuo landed. He got drilled behind Black. I think he was shaken more than I was. He kept asking me, "You okay? You are okay? You are okay?"

"I kept telling him, 'Hey, I'm fine, Matsu. Really, I'm okay!'

"'You are okay? You are okay?'

'"I'm fine, Matsu!'"

Klaus, on the other hand, was having terrible difficulty getting across. Finding strong sink as he left the Sierra, he was down to 6500 feet, scarcely above the volcano south of Big Pine. At 12:56, he called on the radio: "I just caught a good one!" I raced the Concord to Black Mountain and waited. Finally he approached, unbelievably low but utterly determined. At 500 feet MSL, where most pilots would turn away to seek out a safe landing place, Klaus struggled for every bit of lift and, joined by Rik Fritz, slowly worked his way up.

Larry crossed to the next mountain north of Black. He found a weak thermal there and was working it, drifting downwind, when he spotted a sailplane in better lift further back into the range. He joined it and rose to 13,000 feet. From there, he made Paiute Peak, almost half way down the range, on a glide. Above Paiute, with the help of another sailplane, he climbed to 14,500 feet and raced over White Mountain, gaining another 500 feet as he dolphined in the abundant thermals. He kept looking for sailplanes -- they were really useful!

Lori knew that if she could just get to Black Mountain, a flight into Nevada above the Whites would be relatively easy. She would then have an excellent shot at the woman's world distance record, needing only 20 miles off the end of the range to break Genny Ganderton's mark. But she lost 2000 feet as soon as she flew away from the Sierra. If the sink continued like this, she wouldn't even reach the highway halfway across the Owens, much less reach Black!

She turned back and spent half an hour searching for the wondrous lift that had abandoned her. At 1:50, she headed out again. The sink was still there!

"I'm approaching Big Pine in big sink," she radioed to me.

I stood at the base of Black, searching the sky for the tiny speck that would mark her approaching hang glider. Finally I found her, low -- much too low -- but drifting steadily toward Black in slow, wide circles. The wind was still southeast and pushing her at a slight angle away from the mountain. With her altitude, it was impossible for her to reach the desirable upslope southern flank of Black, so she headed for the west face where the wind was crossing. She reached it much lower than Klaus, lower than I'd ever seen anyone make it and still try to get back up.

But try she did. She brought her tiny Comet 135 close into the jagged black cliffs, sometimes coming within a wingspan of the rocks, her wingtip and the glider's shadow almost touching. I watched anxiously as she battled the turbulent crosscurrents, traveling back and forth across the face, fighting the headwind on each southern leg so close to stall she often lost all headway, searching out the broken thermal eddies that occasionally buffeted her wing. She worked the dark face for several minutes, maintaining her altitude but never gaining, desperately hanging on to what altitude she could keep, hostage to the thermal that surely must come to carry her to the crest of Black. But suddenly she hit a fickle gust of down air and it was over. She fled the mountain and landed near me. Overwhelmed with the heartbreaking frustration of having come so close -- so close! -- she turned her back to me, fighting to stem the tears and hide them from the public eye of my Elmo.

We looked up. Judy Leden, high, raced overhead.

As Larry passed over a ridge six miles northeast of Bishop, where the crest of the White Mountains begins to broach 12,000 feet, he was surprised to see the wreckage of a Rollanden-Schneider LS3-A sailplane between two knolls, slightly nose up, wings level. It appeared to have been caught in the lee and pancaked in. The crash looked survivable and Larry hoped the pilot was all right. He had eaten dinner with several sailplane pilots the night before. He and Lori had garnered high quality weather information and swapped flying stories, casually presenting themselves as normal, engaging, intelligent, handsome and lovely and polished practicioners of one of the world's most dangerous and misunderstood sports. Had this pilot, a member of an association that engaged in similar pursuits but had for years banned even the mention of suicidal hang gliders from its journal, been one of the sceptics?

The sailplane pilot had been racing with two others along a quadrangle laid out for the contest. Shortly before Larry flew by, they had seen the pilot turn away from the first turnpoint and fly back into the ridge, likely in search of lift. Perhaps he had stalled as he approached the ridge too low to safely cross, pulling back a little, a little more, a little more, with the stall warning screaming and the ridge looming...

We will never know. He was in the cockpit as Larry passed over. Dead. A marker on the mountain: Flying into the ground can be dangerous...

Larry was down to 11,000 feet as he jumped the canyons below the great plateau of the White Mountain's Pellisier Flats. He found a thermal above a ridge and began circling. At first, it was weak, but after a few minutes it began lifting him at 1200 fpm. He rode it high above the Flats. North of him he saw convection cumulus forming above Boundary Peak at the end of the range. He flew in a straight line for the peak, hitting lift all the way.

Klaus reached the southern end of the Pellisiers with 15,000 feet, aware that Larry was constantly pulling away from him. John Pendry was racing toward Paiute. Steve Moyes, late, was climbing Black and moving fast. Lori and I loaded her Comet onto the car and sped back to the highway, anxious to catch up with Larry and Klaus, 40 miles ahead.

Larry rose above Boundary Peak, Nevada's highest mountain, on a 600 fpm thermal, then headed north to a group of flat-bottomed cumulus. He had expected to sink on the way but he kept going up. Then, north of Boundary, he began to encounter severe turbulence. He forgot about his radio and gripped his control bar tightly. Upward he climbed, higher and higher. Above Montgomery Pass, he was at 18,000 feet and the cold was numbing his hands. As the turbulence eased, he pulled his fingers from his gloves and balled his fists, concerned about frostbite.

He left cloudbase on a course to solitary Miller's Mountain. But there he found little lift there and continued toward Pilot Peak, the highest mountain at the south end of the Gabbs Valley Range. Crossing the southern edge of the Excelsior range on the way, he began to drop quickly. The depressing thought crossed his mind that he might now be driven to the ground after coming so far in such a short time, but then, when he reached the flats at Mina Junction, a powerful thermal took him to 12,000 feet ASL -- high enough, he thought, to reach the shoulder of Pilot Peak on a glide.

Skirting the edge of the dry lake south of Mina, Larry suddenly realized that the southeast wind was increasing in strength, driving him down as he tried to cut across it. At 9000 feet, he began working another thermal but as he rose, he found he was drifting away from Pilot. He knew he had to gain altitude at Pilot to make the jump over the Gabbs Valley Range and reach the town of Gabbs. The alternative, cruising north to Mina and crossing the mountains above Luning, then fighting the crosswind all the way to Gabbs, would waste valuable time. He left the thermal early, determined to reach Pilot this time or go down in the attempt.

He reached the side of the mountain after passing through a few thermals on the way. He had expected to find some lift on the eastern flank. It was there! He caught a thermal and rode it over the top. Above the mountain, the thermal gained power, carrying him aloft at 1500 fpm and he stayed with it to 17,000 feet MSL. As he headed north on the Gabbs Valley Range, he looked back to see a cumulus cloud forming in the previously clear air above the arid mountain.

Between Boundary and Montgomery Pass, Klaus had lost 7000 feet and we had watched him lose precious time working himself back up to 12,000 over Sugerloaf at the end of the Whites. At 4:00, with Larry leaving Pilot, Klaus crossed over Basalt on his way to the cinder cone that lay between the Excelsiors to the north and the Candelaria Hills to the south. Now he was gliding north without the slightest hint of lift.

From the ground, Lori and I reported a light northwest wind.

"This is heartbreaking . . ." he radioed down, expecting to land soon. But above the cinder cone, he found a weak thermal at 100 feet AGL. Like a drowning man grabbing hold of a life preserver, he shouted, "I've got some lift!"

Larry, meanwhile, speeding north above the Gabbs Valley Range, spotted some sailplanes in a thermal and joined them, climbing to 17,000 feet MSL. Down on the sagebrush flats north of Luning, he saw dust devils drifting out of the north and his heart sank. This was the time of day the wind frequently changed its direction, blowing out of the north and killing all record attempts.

He radioed Klaus on the secret radio channel to warn him.

Steve Moyes, approaching Pilot Peak at 13,000 feet MSL, also saw the signs of a north wind beyond Luning. He was more than an hour behind Larry and decided to gamble. He radioed to his chase crew that he would fly north of Pilot and cut across the Gabbs Valley Range near Mina.

John Pendry, now ahead of Klaus, was crossing the Excelsiors on a course to Mina.

Klaus had reached 13,000 feet MSL west of Mina Junction, above the Excelsior foothills. He now faced a difficult decision. He knew that his best chance for an open distance flight lay in the direction of Pilot across the dry lake. But he had declared Luning as an official FAI world record goal, and he would have to overfly the town on the way north to get that record. He decided to go for both records.

"Wish me luck," he radioed down. "There is always a first time for everything."

It was 5:00.

Larry left the Gabbs Valley Range with nearly 18,000 feet MSL. He knew that he could pass to the east of Gabbs and be very close to beating Jim Lee's unofficial world distance record. But as he flew north he encountered strong sink. He tried to fly out of it but he couldn't escape it. At 9000 feet MSL, he was beginning to worry that it might take him all the way to the ground.

He flew toward some sharp-tipped hills halfway to Gabbs, hoping they would be generating thermals. Sure enough, he found one and circled up -- but it was drifting toward the northwest, away from his northeast course. He followed it over the center of Gabbs where he found a stronger thermal and rode it as high as it would go. Off to the northeast, he spotted a cloud street forming above the Shoshone Range. It was a magic highway stretching away towards the lonely town of Austin.

Austin. He had reached Austin in the 1981 XC Classic!

A mile south of Luning, Lori and I passed Rik Fritz breaking down his Sensor beside the highway.

At 5:30 Klaus came on the radio.

"I'm getting down over this valley. I can't find lift!" he cried in frustration. "Rick, I need lift! I need lift!"

Klaus was two miles away from us, now, a speck at 9000 feet MSL but circling only a few hundred feet above the rugged foothills of the Excelsiors west of Luning. We watched in apprehension as he spent the next 30 minutes scratching for anything that would keep him aloft. At this point, we knew, he would be happy just to reach Luning.

We stopped on the west side of town and rounded up some witnesses. They served us icy lemonade while we tried to explain just what in the world this Klaus fellow from Monaco was doing up there and why it would be so important to him for them to watch him land. But the tiny bubbles of lift gathered together into a fine thermal that Klaus rode right over the town and on toward Luning Pass across the valley.

He'd made his goal. What fantastic determination!

But I hadn't heard from Larry for half an hour.

"Larry Tudor, give me your position," I radioed.

His voice came back slow and thick.

"I am at . . . eighteen . . . thousand feet . . . five miles . . . north . . . of Gabbs."

Lori and I looked at each other, eyebrows raised.

"He's out of it," she said.

"Larry," I called back, "Lori says you're hypoxic. Keep it together!"

"I am . . . without a doubt . . . hypoxic . . . right . . . now . . ."

Larry reached the Shoshones about 6:30 and immediately found good thermal lift. Because it was late in the day, he decided to stay high and use whatever lift he encountered.

He headed north toward the end of the range, hypoxic, but keeping it together.

Klaus had sunk down to 800 feet AGL where the steeply-climbing Luning-Gabbs road approached the crest of the pass. His crossing foiled, he turned around and headed back to Luning. There he found a powerful thermal that carried him to 12,000 feet MSL. Again, he headed for the pass.

The cloud street beyond Gabbs beckoned to him like the Holy Grail. If he could just get to that street!

But his luck was running out. As he crossed the crest, he began sinking. It was hopeless. We called out the wind direction and he brought the glider in next to the road, 151 miles Great Circle Distance from Horseshoe launch.

Lori and I had witnessed Klaus Kohmstedt's dual achievements of World Record Declared Goal and World Record Open Distance. He was the most accomplished cross country hang glider pilot on earth!

For the moment . . .

Klaus waved us on. We were a long, long way from Larry.

As we raced toward Gabbs, we heard Steve Moyes on his frequency telling his crew that he wasn't going to make it out of the east side of the Gabbs Valley Range. And back on the Excelsiors, Judy Leden was desperately searching for lift. Although she had already flown 20 miles beyond Jenny's mark of the previous day, she was shooting for Luning Pass. She would not reach it.

"Rick!" Larry called. "You'd better hurry if you want to film this!"

We left the paved road at the south end of the Shoshones as Larry passed 25 miles uprange. If he got drilled when he left North Shoshone Peak, there would likely be no witnesses. And he had neither a camera or a barograph to prove his claim. We had to catch him!

Winding down from the Shoshones beyond Ione on the narrow dirt road that led to the Reese River valley, I asked Lori to fasten her seat belt and did my best to wring the speedometer needle off Klaus's rental car. Behind us, we raised a rooster-tail of dust 100 feet high. I kept asking Larry if he could see it, but he was too far ahead.

Somehow Steve Moyes made it to Gabbs, a flight of 165 miles. John Pendry flew even further, landing on the west side of the Shoshones miles from any traveled road with 186 miles between himself and Horseshoe.

Larry Tudor, on the other hand, wasn't done, yet.

"It's really pretty up here," he radioed at 8:00. "The sun is setting . . ."

Just south of Highway 50 (known as the "loneliest road in America"), Larry turned north up the Reese River valley. With the cloud street dissipating and the thermal activity dying off with the setting sun, he figured that this would be his final glide. But as he passed by Austin, nestled back in a canyon of the Toiyabe Range to the east, he encountered an evening lapse-off or convergence of some kind. Without turning, he was not losing altitude -- even with the control bar pulled halfway in!

"Rick, please hurry!" Larry called. "It's getting dark!"

Lori and I were hanging out the windows, searching the evening sky, driving fast, trying to find him.

"What's your altitude?" I asked.

"11,500," he replied, the signal strong and clear. "I've been going up for the past 15 minutes. I just want to hug Lori and go to sleep."

We crossed 50 and turned north on the highway to Battle Mountain, up at the junction of Interstate 80. We knew Larry must be just a few miles ahead. At 8:20 we spotted him -- directly above us.

I slammed on the brakes and jumped out to flag down the only vehicle we'd seen on the road, a big 18-wheeler. The driver, Pat Alles, must have thought I was some kind of nut at first until he saw what I was gesturing at. It was Larry, descending. Then he was eager to witness the landing.

Larry touched down at 8:29. He had been in the air for 9 hours and 50 minutes and had flown 221.5 miles from the world's foremost footlaunch cross country site, Horseshoe Meadows road. His body ached where his harness had scuffed tight. But his arms were not even tired. Kudos to Roy Haggard, designer of the Comet 2!

We celebrated the most spectacular day in the history of hang gliding at a burger bar in Austin, Nevada. I called Pete Brock of Ultralite Products, Larry's sponsor..

"Guess what! We're in Austin. Nevada!"

Larry bought.

He's got the bucks.


Larry's flight was so amazing, I was sure that the Soaring Society of America would publish my article in their magazine. Imagine my amazement (and disgust) when SOARING's editor Bob Said continued the SSA's ostrich-like policy of self-imposed censorship of other forms of soaring by returning the manuscript with the following letter:

Dear Rick:
Thanks for thinking of Soaring with the piece on Larry Tudor's flight. While I agree with the desirability of contacts between all manner of soaring activities, I think this piece really belongs in a hanggliding publication rather than in Soaring.
I tend to get a little hesitant about printing accounts in which FAR violations are routine, and I gather that in this sort of flying it is considered normal to fly at altitude without oxygen for hours at a time. Aside from being extremely cold, that is also extremely risky and I would judge that Larry Tudor is lucky to have survived it.
I am quite familiar with the area around Austin and the Reese River valley, having lived there in 1945 and shot rabbits by the pickup load in the valley, so I could follow his route with interest. No way to belittle it; it was a hell of a flight. It is worth mentioning that not too long ago it would have been considered a hell of a flight for a high performance sailplane. Thanks for letting us see it.
Robert N. Said, Editor

 Post subject: Re: Larry Tudor
PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2015 8:09 am 
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I started reading this at 2am last night after a long day at work. But as tired as I was, I could not stop reading it. That's a super article and it was very well written. Thanks for posting it!!

Join a National Hang Gliding Organization: US Hawks at ushawks.org
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 Post subject: Re: Larry Tudor
PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2015 11:31 am 
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What a fascinating report!!!! Thank you!!!

When I was still hang gliding in the late 70's, several HG pilots I flew with, at LA area HG sites, would always try to talk me into flying the Owens Valley with them (they were also doing that frequently). The Owens flying at that time meant a morning launch from the Eastern Sierra (they called it Cottonwood) and then driving over to Cerro Gordo for the afternoon launch. They weren't trying to cross the valley at that time (at least from what I understood, from their stories). My response was always; "those are heavy conditions and these are light gliders". So I never did go up to the Owens with them and fly. :(

Recovery parachutes were just coming into use then and a lot of us were not using them yet. One of those guys told me about just barely saving himself from 200 AGL when he had a structural failure (I think he had tumbled).

I wish I could remember what their names were. Some of them may have done some significant cross country flights after I quit hang gliding and took up foot launch ballooning in '79.

Now I look up at those mountains, while paddling and drifting down the Owens River, and wonder what it would have been like if I had flown up there with them.

E Sierra background.jpg
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Frank Colver

 Post subject: Re: Larry Tudor
PostPosted: Tue Aug 22, 2017 11:07 am 

Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2011 5:11 am
Posts: 3260
Tudor killed in paragliding accident in Italy

 Post subject: Re: Larry Tudor
PostPosted: Tue Aug 22, 2017 11:36 am 
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Not being able to read much Spanish, the only name I saw was "Simon Tudor, age 55". Would this be a son of Larry's?


 Post subject: Re: Larry Tudor
PostPosted: Wed Aug 23, 2017 12:02 pm 
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That would be another record for him.
Larry Tudor was born in 1954.

 Post subject: Re: Larry Tudor
PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 10:30 am 
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Hmm....so who is Simon Tudor, age 55?

 Post subject: Re: Larry Tudor
PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 12:30 pm 

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A 55-year-old paraglider, Simon Tudor, of English nationality, lost his life today, Sunday, August 13, on the Gran Monte in the town of Taipana.

 Post subject: Re: Larry Tudor
PostPosted: Sat Aug 26, 2017 11:06 am 
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Bob my post may be moved from the History section if you think it necessary.

Rick Masters wrote:
A 55-year-old paraglider, Simon Tudor, of English nationality, lost his life today, Sunday, August 13, on the Gran Monte in the town of Taipana.

Precipita con il parapendio dal Gran Monte: muore a 55 anni
Taipana, l’allarme è stato dato da un compagno di volo. Un elicottero ha sbarcato con il verricello il medico e il tecnico di elisoccorso del Cnsas: vani purtroppo i soccorsi
TAIPANA. Un parapendista di 55 anni, Simon Tudor, di nazionalità inglese, ha perso la vita oggi, domenica 13 agosto, sul Gran Monte, in comune di Taipana.
A dare l’allarme è stato il suo compagno di volo, un connazionale che l’ha visto precipitare dopo un avvitamento della vela.
Sono state allertate contemporaneamente le squadre del Soccorso alpino sloveno e quelle del Cnsas di Udine - attraverso il Nue 112 - perché in un primo tempo non si era in grado di stabilire se l’uomo fosse precipitato in territorio italiano o sloveno.
Poco dopo, con le coordinate fornite grazie alla strumentazione in dotazione al compagno, l’elicottero della centrale operativa di Udine è stato indirizzato sul Gran Monte ed ha sbarcato con il verricello il medico e il tecnico di elisoccorso del Cnsas, sopra l’abitato di Montemaggiore a quota 1450, mentre le squadre di terra facevano base a Campo di Bonis assieme ai tecnici del soccorso della Guardia di finanza di Tolmezzo.
Il medico non ha potuto far altro che constatare la morte dell’uomo.
A quel punto sono stati portati in quota i quattro tecnici che erano in base.
Si è poi provveduto al recupero della salma con il gancio baricentrico dell’elicottero della Protezione civile.
Pubblicato su Il Messaggero Veneto

Below: google translate
Rides with paraglider from Gran Monte: he dies at 55
Taipana, the alarm was given by a flying companion. A helicopter landed with the winch of the doctor and the Cnsas helicopter technician: Unfortunately there are no reliefs
Taipana. A 55-year-old paraglider, Simon Tudor, of English nationality, lost his life today, Sunday, August 13, on the Gran Monte in the town of Taipana.
To give the alarm was his flying companion, a fellow who saw him plummet after a sailing of the sail.
At the same time, the Slovene Alpine Rescue teams and the Udinese Cnsas teams were warned - through NUE 112 - because at first it was not possible to determine whether the man had plunged into Italian or Slovenian territory.
Shortly afterwards, with the coordinates provided by the instrumentation provided to the companion, the helicopter of the Udine headquarters was directed to the Gran Monte and landed with the winch the doctor and the hitch technician of Cnsas, above the town of Montemaggiore at 1450, while the ground teams were based in Campo di Bonis together with the Tolmezzo Finance Guard's rescue technicians.
The doctor could not but see the death of man.
At that point, the four technicians who were in the base were brought to the ground.
We then recovered the saliva with the barycentric hook of the Civil Protection helicopter.Posted on Il Messaggero

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