"It is with the saddest heart that we must announce the loss of our dear friend and amazing performer Dan Buchanan. Dan passed on Saturday, June 2nd after an accident. Our thoughts and prayers are with all his family and friends. On July 3rd, we will be dedicating the Field of Flight Twilight & Night Air Show to Dan in honor of his zest for life" - Barbara Haluszka, Executive Director
Dan Buchanan is a master showman who has won many awards over his years as an airshow performer. Beyond that, Dan is a very inspirational man. Dan was a New York & Connecticut home builder and flat-track motorcycle racer who then moved to Lake Tahoe where he enjoyed the thrill of flying off mountain tops. While working on getting his private pilots license. However, in 1981, Dan was involved in a serious sporting accident. This accident lead to a spinal injury leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Losing his ability to walk, he returned to college to pursue a career in mechanical engineering. Despite his new handicap, Dan returned to flying within 6 months and amassed numerous hours in hang gliders & sailplanes. He was able to complete his Private & Commercial Pilot training as a wheelchair user and goes on motor-less recreational flights often. These flights usually last 3-6 hours and he sometimes flies as high as 18,000 feet over the western desert & mountains.
Since his first airshow performance in 1989, Dan has performed over 1260 times, has won THREE Distinguished Honors from Airshow Organizations including the Art Scholl Showmanship Award, the Bill Barber Showmanship Award & the ICAS Special Achievement Award. Dan serves as an inspiration to many people who want to live their dreams but feel there is something in the way. He is living his dream. When asked why he flies, his usual response is said with a smile: "I have to fly, you see, I can't walk".
Dan's Hang Glider was designed by NorthWing of Wenatchee, Washington and is registered as an Experimental Aircraft with N numbers under the FAA. Dan gets to altitude during his act via a custom winch system on the back of a truck. Dan eventually climbs to 1200-1800 feet in altitude while he "stair-steps up" via challenging aerial water ski-turns as the tow vehicle makes U-Turns on the runway to ensure that he stays in sight the entire time. When he gets to the altitude and it's time for the show to begin, the tow-line is released and a small ram air parachute is automatically deployed. The line is rapidly rewound electrically back onto the winch without the line ever falling to the ground. That in itself is amazing. During the course of Dan's performance, the colorful hang glider will perform many maneuvers, all with colorful smoke and colorful streamers hanging from the aircraft. One can't help but feel super patriotic as the craft is also flown with a giant American flag on top of it. When his airspeed runs out, Dan lands the glider and his wheelchair is delivered to him.