St. Paul, Minn. — Please bear with me as I use all of this month’s column on something that has little to do with products, the usual focus of this column. I’ve been doing this bit of writing for Hang Gliding magazine for a long time (“PL” finishes 24 years with this issue), but one man has been even more long lived. lll After 25 years on the job, Hang Gliding editor Gil Dodgen handed off all his duties to Dan Nelson, a new paraglider pilot with an editorial background. Gil started with USHGA’s magazine with the January, 1978 issue. For those with weak memories or those too new to hang gliding to know the past, an extremely brief history lesson is in order. s In 1978, the Big Three of hang glider building in the USA were Seagull, Electra Flyer, and Wills Wing. We had other prominent Yankee brands like Sky Sports, Bennett Delta Wing, Eipper-Formance, Ultralite Products, Manta, Sunbird, Highster, and CGS Aircraft. Rigid wings were made by companies like UFM, producer of the Easy Riser that wowed pilots with its amazing performance and steep $900 price tag. Another was the Quicksilver, made by Eipper, though it wasn’t a powered ultralight in those days. s While many pilots wore wrist altimeters and used Makiki varios, which needed no batteries, Wills Wing introduced their integrated Chad Flight Deck; it occupied ten times the volume of a Flytec instrument and offered less functions. s The Price harness was a leader with its stirrup concept that was replacing knee-hanger harnesses. A few companies were starting to promote back-up parachutes, but pilots weren’t sure they helped. s Wills Wing stunned their competition with full page ads stating, “We test fly every glider we make.” Of course, HGMA had only recently come into existence and test flying every single glider off a producer’s line was not common practice. s FAA’s Part 103 was still four years in the future and some saw a dark cloud of government regulation altering free flight. From then to now — a period of remarkable development — Gil Dodgen was this magazine’s editor. lll Gil has seen the hang gliding industry through an entire generation. He has edited the magazine during a time free flight schools went from one-day training classes, after which you learned by yourself, to sophisticated organizations with ground schools, lesson plans, and training glider fleets. s He has been at the center of activities that saw 99% of pilots doing mountain launches to aerotowing that today comprises as many as half of all launches in the United States. s Well into the second decade of Dodgen’s reign as editor of USHGA’s flagship Hang Gliding magazine, paragliders arrived on the scene. While paragliding has never become as popular in the USA as it has in Europe, it still made great inroads to the American flying community and contributes substantially to USHGA’s membership and financial health. s Gil has survived several challenges including my own Whole Air magazine which once vied (unsuccessfully) to take over the leadership of Hang Gliding magazine. Throughout Gil’s long tenure, USHGA has seen ups and downs of generous proportions. At times he acted as the anchor for an association that went adrift in its direction and management. Even with the recent art direction and other changes, Gil Dodgen was the hand on the tiller and he leaves Hang Gliding magazine in fine shape and the Association in an upswing. lll However, USHGA leaders wanted something different from the magazine. The organization’s new Executive Director enlisted new art directors, one for Hang Gliding and another for Paragliding. As these two titles are combined, a further reshuffling will occur and USHGA leadership felt it was time to have a new editor in charge of the new Hang Gliding & Paragliding magazine that will debut next issue. Thus, the Executive Committee took steps to replace Dodgen and a new chapter in USHGA history is beginning. lll Gil Dodgen is a very bright fellow likely to rise to the top elsewhere. He is the author of a world-class artificial-intelligence computer program and is a concert-quality pianist who speaks French fluently. s The editor’s job Dodgen has filled so faithfully is not an easy one. Almost single-handedly, Gil produced years of the magazine. About a decade ago, he enlisted an art director who added a new look to the magazine and helped Gil with production duties. When USHGA took over from the American Paragliding Association, Gil added Paragliding magazine to his schedule. Very few people among the membership know how much work this is. But as a testament to his efforts, the task has been done in recent months with four or five people playing a role (though not all of them full-time). s Many Southern California pilots know Gil personally and virtually every member is well aware of his name, but much of his work for the Association’s magazine has been behind the scenes. He’s done gritty stuff like chasing down writers and photographers for material and checking their submissions for spelling, grammar, and content. He’s done tough stuff like handling irate letter writers and has negotiated even more difficult maneuvers trying to satisfy the USHGA office and a 25-person board of directors which has changed notably over the years. He helped the magazine win a Maggie award and has brought much to Hang Gliding and Paragliding. s Yep, after 25 years, a veritable icon of hang gliding in the USA will step off the stage. I’ve worked with Gil pretty closely since joining the USHGA Board of Directors 20 years ago. In my role as an aviation writer, Gil’s work has had value to me that others don’t see; many other contributors also found him a resource. s At the outset of this column I said I wasn’t going to write about products. Yet USHGA’s most visible product is Hang Gliding magazine, so this column has indeed been about a product… a product made immensely better by the steady hand of Gil Dodgen. Gil, I salute you for a job well done for a long time. I can think of no better way to say thanks than to note the indelible mark Gil has left on me and thousands of other USHGA members. Best of luck to a good guy as he takes his leave of the editorship of your favorite magazine. lll So, got news or opinions? Send ‘em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Messages or fax to 651-450-0930. E-mail to News@ByDanJohnson.com or CumulusMan@aol.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine