Gliding for a Cause

  • Nov 14, 2013 3:33pm GMT

Matt Philips, 23, a hang gliding pilot, recent graduate of the University of Cincinnati and a good friend of mine has a goal set out to make dreams come true through flight. He teamed up with Wings for Life – a nonprofit research foundation dedicated to find ways to cure those affected with spinal cord injuries – to make history by attempting a world record by flying his glider across the United States, and all for a good cause.

A little background information on Matt - he grew up always striving to push himself to not only learn new skills, but also living life to the fullest. He has mastered snowboarding, slack-lining, wake-boarding and more. In 2010 he took hang gliding under his wing and hasn’t stopped since, and is now the proud owner of his own hang gliding school in Pittsburgh – Learn2Glide LLC.

The mission

The start of his adventure is to take place at none other then iconic Kitty Hawk, NC where the Wright Brothers made aviation history in 1903. From there Matt will launch his mission to Los Angeles, California. According to Matt’s estimates, he plans to cover 45 miles a day with the entire trip from point to point adding up to 2500 miles. This comes out to just under two months of flying (56 days total). However, he is planning on allowing for three months to complete this mission, allowing a buffer for weather, equipment problems, and other unforeseen issues. If you are asking yourself “How can one hang glide for that allotted time?” Matt’s glider comes power assisted, a small 2 stroke 15hp engine – similar to a chainsaw engine – connected to a propeller is outfitted on the back of his glider. With that help, he can fly on average an hour and half without additional lift on a single tank.

The Team

Matt will not be attempting this dream alone, he will be having a ground crew traveling along his route of flight in a chase car. Safety is key when conducting this attempt so the ground crew will be tracking his every move with the use of GPS, and be in constant communicating with Matt, informing him of weather conditions with the use of real time radar and forecasts. During the course of the journey Matt will be keeping followers and supporters up to date with videos and pictures with the help of Brien Vincent, a freelance photojournalist, and Ben Lester, an expert at obtaining brilliant shots from the use of unmanned aerial vehicles wired with wireless video equipment. As I said earlier, safety is their priority, Ben Hagstad is there to ensure its there – a firefighter and paramedic – Ben will the team’s survival expert to keep them safe throughout this endeavor.

The Goal

What does this mean to the Wings for Life organization? Matt and his team has set out a goal to make this project attract national attention by the time May 2014 comes around. Bringing Wings for Life, their mission, and their work to the attention of thousands of people that may never have even thought about spinal cord injuries becoming curable is the Glide for Life Project’s passion. If Glide for Life is as successful as the team hopes, it will also mean a large amount of funding going directly towards the cause. Page 2