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Man sets out to hang glide from South Texas to Canada to raise money for breast cancer research

Man sets out to hang glide from South Texas to Canada to raise money for breast cancer research

Photo: Craig Moseley, Houston Chronicle / Staff Photographer
Photo: Craig Moseley, Houston Chronicle / Staff Photographer

There’s something about announcing a mission to the public that makes it so real, not to mention the extra accountability it adds. But one man was so determined to make a hang gliding trip from Texas to Canada, for a great cause we might add, that he even made it Facebook official.

The distance from South Texas to the Canadian border is far – and quite further if the trip is being made on a hang glider. Robin Hamilton, a Scottish-born hang-glider pilot living in Houston, launched from West Houston Airport Friday, June 21, with the Canadian border in his sights. Hamilton who has been enjoying the sport for about 35 years, is tackling the challenge, not only because he’s constantly striving for new personal bests, but for raising awareness for breast cancer.

“Of course, there are many worthy causes which need attention, but for me the breast cancer cause is personal. I chose breast cancer awareness because I lost my mother to breast cancer when I was 13,” he said. “There are millions of people in my situation. That’s a realization on its own – breast cancer is so common that it’s become normalized, but it’s such a terrible disease that we need to keep investing money and research and effort into finding a cure, so I was happy to partner up with the Susan G. Komen foundation for this trip.”

Photo: Craig Moseley, Houston Chronicle / Staff Photographer

Apart from having very sophisticated instruments to measure and report data like location, weather and winds (and having backups for those, and then still backups for those), there isn’t much about the trip which can be planned.

“You’re forced to be very flexible,” he said. “Depending on the wind, the heat, weather, a number of other factors, we could end up at the Canadian border in Montana, we could end up far, far east of that. We just don’t know.”

Photo: Craig Moseley, Houston Chronicle / Staff Photographer

The conditions, he said will determine the entire trip. If the winds are southerly and favorable, the team could cover as much as 100 to 200 miles a day. Winds from the north could set them back ten miles per day. There are many unknowns that needed to be factored into the long trip.

“We will also be flying over areas we’ve never flown over – over areas almost no one has flown over, so we’re not sure how those parts of the country will be. We fly out of Central Texas a lot. Central Texas is one of the best places to fly, especially for distance flying, because it’s so hot and the wind blows in off the gulf. Most of the distance records are being set in Texas as compared to other parts of the country, where its mountainous and you’re dealing with a lot of crosswinds. We’re not sure how the winds will be on this trip though – if we get strong winds from the north it will be challenging. It’s a little unknown at this point. Will be as good as Texas? Will things be a little stickier? Will it be better? That’s part of the challenge but part of the fun, too.”

Photo: Craig Moseley, Houston Chronicle / Staff Photographer

Hamilton won’t be making the trip entirely alone.

“There is one other pilot committed to doing the whole course, but as we pass through north, other pilots will come out and join us for maybe a couple of days. It will fun, flying with a bigger group on those days,” he said.

Apart from both pilots, other members will be following on the ground with supplies and to ensure the safety of Hamilton and the rest of the team during the trip. Each time they leave an area, the aim will be to make it as close as possible to the next airport, but, he said, that might not always be possible.

“That’s another thing that just depends on the weather,” he said. “We’ll try to stay locally in motels nearby, but if we end up not being able to make it, then we’ll just have to camp, which will be interesting, but we’re fully ready to do it.”

At airports, like the West Houston Airport Hamilton and his team will be launching from in Houston, the pilots rely on a tug to get them into the sky – essentially a craft to bring them up and get them started. While he believes there won’t be any problem finding those tugs at surrounding airports, Hamilton said that there are other alternatives in case they have trouble finding someone to bring them up.

Photo: Craig Moseley, Houston Chronicle / Staff Photographer

“We’ll just have to look for a hill,” he said.

Whenever they finally reach the Canadian border, regardless of how long that takes, Hamilton hopes the trip is successful in accomplishing a few things, including leveraging the feat for breast cancer awareness.

“I hope the flying is fun – not to difficult, but still challenging because that’s what makes it fun,” he said. “I’m looking forward to completing the challenge, because it’s something I’ve never done before. I’m excited about seeing parts of the country I’ve never seen before. Most of all, I am truly serious in that I hope it brings awareness to breast cancer and the Susan G. Komen foundation. If we can get people to follow us, donate to Susan G. Komen, and be a good partner, I’ll be happy.”

Photo: Craig Moseley, Houston Chronicle / Staff Photographer

The group will be updating people on their progress during the trip on the Facebook group X-Flight: Gulf of Mexico to Canada.

Source Houston Chronicle

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