The Wallaby Ranch

Wallaby Ranch - People



  • Malcolm Jones, "the guru of hang gliding," is, as Channel 13 News observed, a man with his eyes on the sky--and a dog close to the ground. The dog is Jonesy, a dachsund well-adapted to life very near sea level, and her owner is the vision behind the Wallaby Ranch, its founder and king. It is his attitude and personality which more than anything else define the Ranch culture. Combining the exuberance of a man who genuinely loves to turn ordinary people into hang glider pilots with the safety-consciousness, weather-awareness, and sound judgment that comes from more than two decades in the business, Jones has carved out a unique and almost revolutionary niche in the unpowered flexwing world. His vision and determination have transformed a couple hundred acres of cow pasture into an oasis of good friends and good soaring. A world champion from the old days, he is a veteran of many international competitions. The reputation he has acquired over the years for being a conservative director of operations is well-deserved, as is his standing fame for being a great host to visiting pilots. He has created a flight park that is part aviation center and part family resort. "We're here because we want to be," he says, summing up the feelings of the entire staff. He is a tandem instructor and the chief executive everything. When not taking tandem passengers or overseeing some aspect of the micro-village he has wrought, he can usually be found buzzing around in his Cosmos trike, a powered hang glider in which he enjoys offering rides. He has a wife, Linda, and a daughter, Lauren. E-mail: Malcolm@Wallaby.com

  • Rhett Radford joined the Ranch as an aerotug pilot and soon became its chief mechanic, and his wizardry keeps the four-tug fleet running. Coming from a phenomenally diverse aviation background that includes building his own hang glider out of scrap materials when he was just fifteen, flying such aerobatic aircraft as the Pitts, flight instructing, and designing an experimental airplane that won high honors from the EAA, Radford brings many years of practical expertise to the job. His skill as a tug pilot can compensate for the inexperience of student and novice hang glider pilots or those new to aerotowing, and can even smooth out a turbulent ride. He has been known to seek out thermals so intuitively that he sometimes out-climbs hang gliders with his engine off, circling in that elusive core while hapless Xtralites and Sharks who were floundering nearby come racing towards him. He keeps several engines at a time in good working order--having more engines than aerotugs guarantees always having a 'plane on line and ready to go. His proficiency and knowledge have earned him the sincere respect and admiration of those who work with him. (His particular and infectious vernacular, moreover, has caused us all to "go for the cheese" if you've "got the berries," because "we've seen that movie before, honey," and if you aren't "dialed in" you can "hug a root.") Radford shrugs off the high praise frequently lavished upon him with characteristic self-effacing humor, dismissing compliments to his mechanical and aerial abilities with, "I'll take luck over skill any day." Many recognize his name from his motocross days, and he is also well-known as one of the leading experts in remote-control aircraft, which he builds, repairs, flys, and teaches other people to fly. He has helped to foster an RC craze here at the Ranch which has captured almost everybody. E-mail: Rhett@Wallaby.com

  • Ryan Glover, Placed 9th in the world meet and was the second highest placing American. Ryan is Dave's younger brother, and is an advanced-rated hang glider pilot and instructor at Kitty Hawk Kites before relocating to Florida to become the Wallaby Ranch Launch Marshall and Ground Operations Coordinator. When not fulfilling his role as the hardest-working, fastest-moving member of the gang (When it gets busy, he becomes a blur.), he is out competing at the expert level, bringing honor and pride to the Ranch with his impressive showings. (He commutes to soaring contests around the country in his white Mercedes-Benz ("almost an antique"), complete with a glider rack on the roof. While there is certainly no reason to list any of the people he beat at the 1996 U.S. Nationals in Dinosaur, Colorado (They know who they are.), suffice it to say that he came out #34 out of 141. Back at the Ranch, he demonstrates a real love for the sport that participants and spectators alike can appreciate. Whenever he can, he takes to the air and shows everyone how it's done. During slow times when the weather is mediocre and his services are not required to keep the Ranch humming along like a well-oiled machine, he often retires to the open field to practice his driving--his golf swing, that is. E-mail: Ryan@Wallaby.com

  • Tom Ramsuer says he would prefer to be known as a "licensed aviation grand poobah." He is an extraordinary pilot--where the word "extraordinary" is used to mean "other than ordinary." When not building bottle-rocket cannons out of PVC pipe or zooming around on "fiesta flights" wearing a paper Waffle House chef's hat (held firmly in place by a pair of headphones) and dropping party balloons to mark thermals, he is out in the middle of the field flying (and as often as not, crashing) his radio-controlled glider, or hanging around one of the Ranch's several social epicenters, entertaining the Ranch population with his droll and singular wit. When volume gets extra heavy or when Austin or Rhett has a day off, Ramseur generously donates his time and acts as tow pilot. He has a reputation for flying a highly expeditious tow. He also flies his own hang glider, the SuperFloater ultralight sailplane . . . and anything else he can get his hands on. While his official title may be "part-time aerotug pilot," his job description would not be complete without the term "comedian." Ramseur exemplifies the colorful and eccentric characters that are attracted to the Ranch. Like many employees and aficionados, he has his own camper on Ranch property, so he almost never has to leave--even though it is rumored that he has an actual job out there in the real world, unlike most of the rest of the hardcore Ranch hands, who do not believe in work in the classic sense. "I'm an aquatic engineer," he tells everybody, and whatever that means, it is widely suspected that it has something to do with the swimming pools he sells. E-mail: Tom@Wallaby.com

  • Roger Sherrod is one of the Ranch's weekend volunteer tug pilots, and one of the longest-standing members of the Ranch social scene. Both he and his girlfriend Choddi have been flying here for years. A contractor by trade, when Roger is not flying the tug or a hang glider he is likely to be found playing with one of his remote-control airplanes. Besides his ultralight experience, he is also a licensed general aviation pilot, and in general an all-around heck of a nice guy.

  • Carlos Bessa nickname "Cloudbasa" is one of the Ranch's full-time tug pilots, and one of the longest-standing Brazilian members of the Ranch social scene. A billboard artist by trade, when Carlos is not flying the tug or a hang glider he is likely to be found playing inside his ranch castle cabin (a detailed map and GPS are required to enter). If you need answers to questions in Portuguese you can write to Carlos. Carlos@Wallaby.com