Hang gliders return to Sicamous for memorial reunion

Eyes were set to the sky over Sicamous on Saturday, for the colourful show of grace and skill put on during the B.C. Hang Gliding Reunion.

Hang glider pilot Leo Salvas of Lumby takes to the air

Eyes were set to the sky over Sicamous on Saturday, for the colourful show of grace and skill put on during the B.C. Hang Gliding Reunion.

Organizer Brian Dodd says there were about 18 active pilots in the air, though about 100 people showed up for the weekend reunion.

What made the event possible was the reconstruction of the hang glider launch, which had been rendered unusable by age and vandalism.

“We did secure a donation from a local lumber person this year and he gave us all the wood to recover it so the ramp has now been rebuilt for the third time,” says Dodd, noting the reunion and the ramp were and are in honour of fallen friends and fellow flyers, including Dano Saunders  of Invermere, who passed away earlier this year.

“This was a memorial flight for him. We threw some of his ashes in the air. We rebuilt the ramp with him in mind and now he’s with us up in the air,” says Dodd.

Dodd, a former Sicamous resident, was part of the local  hang gliding scene during its heyday in the late ’70s, early ’80s, when the community hosted two Canadian nationals competitions and hang gliders were a common site over Sicamous. With the ramp restored, and growing interest in the sport, Dodd expects Sicamous will become a hot spot for hang gliders once more.

Local pilot, Rick Carr, who was taught by Dodd how to fly, was elated to be up in the air again.

“I was going to get out of flying and now I’m not; I’m going to keep flying,” says Carr. “ I want to keep active with that new ramp; it’s just beautiful. It’s the greatest thing to happen.”

Other residents, says Dodd, were also thrilled to see the gliders back in the air over the community.

“Most of the people residing at Sicamous Sands at the time, they had a heck of a show,” says Dodd. “We were just landing right in front of all their units, and they’re always very receptive. Those guys came out to ask us how we’re doing and where have you been for all these years. They’ve all been there for many years.”

Dodd says a plaque will be placed on the hang glider ramp as a memorial to those who fly no more. He hopes people will show their respect and leave the ramp for what it’s intended.

“I’d really like to impress upon the people of Sicamous that this ramp was built as a memorial to some of our fallen friends and pilots over the years… Hopefully they will respect it now and not burn it for firewood,” says Dodd.

Anyone wishing to revisit those early days of hang gliding in Sicamous and area can check out photo galleries at www.bchangglidingreunion.com. The Sicamous link contains 87 photos dating back to the early 1980s. New images from this weekend’s event will be posted soon.

A video from the reunion of one of the flights over Sicamous can be found on Youtube at:

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