Events

April 12, 2012

Dan Buchanan Hang Glider

David S. Ricker/Aerotech News and Review

The daytime version of the Dan Buchanan Hang Glider show has become a comical “screw-up” act. Buchanan’s “unscheduled” tow-launch into another aerobatic performers “act” starts the funny banter on the public address system between Buchanan, the announcer and the other pilot. The police are also chasing his tow winch vehicle on the runway and the airplane is buzzing Buchanan, all while he’s being winch towed to 1,500 feet. The aerobatic airplane will closely buzz Buchanan several times trying to get him to cooperate with the announcer and officials, as he shoots special effects from the glider in defense.

Buchanan is eventually allowed to finish his show, and the police car arrives to his landing spot at show center to deliver his wheelchair which he had left behind. Buchanan will taxi off stage holding onto the wing of the airplane or door of the police vehicle (all in 8-10 minutes).

“OTTO” the Helicopter and Buchanan also have a dual act and upon landing, OTTO then “sling-loads” his wheelchair to him.

Buchanan actually launches his glider from a moving winch trailer, driving down the runway at about 35mph with the flag, streamers and bright orange smoke trailing. He steadily tow-climbs to an altitude of 1,200 -1,800 feet while speaking live via a radio link to the audience. A variable tension winch on the launch vehicle can spin out up to 3,000’ of towline during his ascent.

Buchanan will perform a number of challenging “aerial water-ski turns” as the tow vehicle makes U-turns during his climb, for three laps in front of the audience.

Now, watch as he descends, wheels, circles and dives to a stirring musical accompaniment. During his graceful descent, smoke and streamers trail behind, punctuated with brilliant flashes and streaks of custom special effects.

An aerobatic plane will harassing Buchanan as he climbs, maybe even attacking and cutting off yards of his long wingtip streamers. All of the humorous radio transmissions between Buchanan and his aggressor are carried live to the audience.

Chasing the pesky airplane away with his “3rd world warbird impression,” Buchanan releases from the towline at altitude. He is now flying free as the tow-line and its small drogue chute are rapidly rewound back onto the high-speed electric winch.

Buchanan continues the fun by talking and waving to the crowd while landing smooth and slow right near the show line.

It’s now when the crowd discovers that Buchanan can’t walk as a police car with lights and siren screaming arrives or OTTO the helicopter delivers the wheelchair on a long line into his hand.

Buchanan’s unpowered hang glider (which he uses in the daytime act) and the motorized hang glider (which he uses for the night time act), are both designed by NorthWing in Wenatchee, Wash. Both are registered with the Federal Aviation Administration as experimental aircraft with N numbers because of the commercial entertainment work he does. Hang gliding has come a long way since the perilous 70s. Buchanan’s factory-built aircraft are rigorously engineered, stress tested and instruction is mandatory. He also holds a commercial glider pilot license, enjoying sailplane aerobatics and giving glider rides at Minden, Nev. when not on the Airshow tour.




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Photo by David S Ricker/Aerotech News and Review

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