Dave Sharp in the front seat of a Grob at
Sundance Aviation, Moriarty, New Mexico
David Sharp started flying hang gliders at the age of 19. He was a professional hang glider pilot, paraglider pilot and an instructor for 14 years. He got his first sponsorship after only two years of flying. On July 19th, 2000 he broke two world’s records in a ATOS glider (with a glide ratio of 19:1); the longest declared goal of 203 miles and the overall distance record. He flew his ATOS glider for 9 hours and went 311 miles (501 kilometers).
Outdoor Life Network hired Dave and two other pilots from the States to fly hang gliders and paragliders over ancient ruins in Peru. This was the brainstorm of one of the film produces who happened to have a wife from Peru. Dave was the #1 cross-county racing hang glider pilot in the U.S. and went on to become #1 in the world in 2000. The other two pilots Mitch McAleer (the top aerobatic pilot) and Kari Castle (one of the top hang gliding cross country pilots) joined him for a month of hiking and flying over Cuzco, Arequipa and Machu Pichu.
Dave started flying sailplanes in the year 2000 with Rick Kohler at Sundance Aviation. He now works for Rick part time as a commercial pilot and line boy. You can arrange an aerobatic flight with Dave or Rick by calling Sundance Aviation at 505-832-2222.
Dave owns IMG, Inc. which does real estate investment acquisitions. He buys and sells lower income residential properties in New Mexico. He has been married 17 years and has two children, a 16 year old daughter, Danielle and a 13 year old son, Ryan.
What got you into hang gliding?
I was looking for something to do when I got out of high school. I use to watch them fly off of Sandia Crest from my house when I was a kid. Of course my parents would not have anything to do with that. In January of 1985, when I was 19 years old, I took my first hang gliding lesson.
What was your most memorable flight in a hang glider?
The world distance record.
Tell me about the trip Outdoor Life Network Sponsored for you to fly your paraglider in Peru. What was it like there?
Peru has a magic feel about it, like: desert with red, yellow and white sands that meets the ocean, giant volcanoes near Arequipa, jungle, glaciers , Alpine. You really feel like you on another planet. Oh and the Andes have awesome soaring !!!
What were you hired to do there?
The Mission was to fly the Nazca Lines, Machu Picchu, Arequipa, Cusco and Pisco. We climbed Mount Misti, a volcano that is 20,000 feet above sea level. We were hired to paraglide off the top and land in the town of Arequipa below. It would be a 13,000 foot decent. We also flew over the ancient city of Cusco.
Tell us about the hike up. Did you have a guide ?
Franz was our local guide (Swiss born) he ran a paragliding school from his apartment on the beach at Lima. He had us take some sort of drug that allowed our blood to do a better job holding on to O2 molecules. We were supposed to take it 12 hours before the hike. We all did except Kari who took it the day of the hike and ended up getting swelling of the brain. We just about ran up to the first base camp, 14,500 feet. None of us slept much that night. Kari had a bad headache all night. The next day Franz was just gone he never slowed down except for smoking breaks. All the slow local hands passed us around 17,000 feet.
With less than 3 hours before sunset at about 18500 feet we just ran out of energy. Each step felt like a major effort. So I took off my 50 pound pack and pulled out 2 large oxygen bottles. I offered one to Kari but she had some sort of ego challenge going on and declined. I shared the Oxygen with Mitch which did not really snap us out of it. We slogged our way to the top with
1 hr and 20 minutes to spare.
Paragliders stall at about 12 mph and at 20,000 feet it could not have been slow enough. It took Mitch and I three attempts to get off the top but we did it. Poor Kari would only have enough energy to watch. Kari, Franz and the film crew spent the night sleeping outdoors in 6 inches of snow. They would not launch until 10 am the next day.
The Glide out was un-eventful except for a light head-wind which meant that I just cleared the foot hills and made it to the edge of town. We would enjoy pizza and beer that night and a warm toilet (as I had some problems for most of that trip.) The film crew had ran out of water during the hike and pissed orange for two days (dehydrated).
That event was something I have no desire what so every to repeat, too much pain and not enough joy for a big sled ride.
Why did you make the transition into gliders (sailplanes) from hang gliders and paragliders?
I wanted something interesting to do after retiring from hang gliding. Soaring seemed like a great substitution. I have a family and the traveling and maintaining the sponsorship took a backseat to my family. That led me to pursue flying sailplanes in my backyard.
What is your most memorable flight in a glider?
Doing the Diamond Distance (500 Kilometers) in Dior’s Ventus with water ballast in the wings.
Does any one else in your family fly?
My wife use to fly hang gliders, she got her intermediate rating and flew off the Sandia Crest a few times.
During a family vacation at Zion’s this July my daughter, Danielle and I ran up to Salt Lake to see my friend Chris Santacroce. Chris works for Super Fly, Inc. and is my old partner from the days of running the SOARING CENTER, a hang gliding and paragliding school. While we were there I arranged for Danielle to have her first paragliding lesson. It was fun to watch.
I think she has the knack as I watched her learn I can see little things. Like the way she tucks her arms in before the tandem launch (reduces the center of mass) making it easier for Chris to ground-handle the glider. Or during one of her bunny flights the way she twists and turns facing the PG. This is the correct technique as facing forward means you can get pulled over backwards. Little things like that make me think she could be a great pilot.
However you know how kids are, they have their own plans. Next summer I think both Ryan and Danielle may take the whole course.
You can see a video of Dave performing aerobatics in a Grob and a video of Danielle’s first hang glider lesson at: http://web.mac.com/tenpines/Site/Movie.html
If you are interested in learning how to fly hang gliders a great place to start is Super Fly, Inc. at: http://www.superflyinc.com/