Adventure: Sailing Seas of Air

High above the California desert, pilots soar and dive for the championships of hang gliding

"Dust devil!" someone yells, and a stinging, 30-ft.-high spiral of sand, sagebrush, shale bits and a lizard or two snicks up the cliffside. Everyone grabs for the gliders, fluttering half assembled and helpless an hour before launch.

! "We've got good instability today," a lean fellow with the quick eyes of a race-car driver says with satisfaction. He's an American hang-glider pilot named Jim Lee, and he is talking about air masses, not temperament. Instability, good to violent, is what the high desert of California's Owens Valley, near Bishop, is known for. Very hot, light air, cooking on the valley floor...

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