The Beginning By Vincene Muller pg 208 More Big Hill Country 2009
In 1971, Willi Muller was skiing at Lake Louise and watched Les Oitz (then the Area Manager) fly his Jobe Kite down the Men’s Downhill. As Les folded his kite at the bottom of the downhill run, Willi took his ski pole and measured the kite. At that time he was the Area Manager of a small ski hill in Calgary with a large day lodge.
Back in Calgary he found a sailmaker and gave him a rough diagram, bought tubing, and built the frame in the day lodge. The first test flights were down the ski hill, but the kite wouldn’t fly, even when Willi went off the ski jump built by fledgling freestyle skiers! Willi soon realized that he had been one ski pole length short in his measurements. The Jobe kite was 13′ 6″ (wing length) and Willi’s was only 11 feet! Back to the drawing board to build a new kite.
The new model was a massive 15 feet; the sail was 3 oz. nylon (bigger and heavier will always be better). He attached a broken ski tip on a hinge on the nose (in case of a less-than-perfect landing) and went back to the ski slope to try it out. It flew! The next day he went up to Mt. Norquay Ski Hill near Banff, took his kite to the ski jump, and tried it out. It flew down and over the ski lift to land in front of the ski lodge. Next, up to the top of the Lone Pine Ski Run (1300 feet). Skiers lined the run to watch him take off. Local photographers took photos which were sent around the world on the wire service. It was quite spectacular to see the kite (no kingpost and very narrow control bar) with the snow-capped Rocky Mountains in the background. This was March 1971.
By the next winter Willi had built a larger kite, an 18-foot wing with 15’8″ keel. The reason for the shorter keel was because with 18 feet all around, the sail didn’t fit in the sail maker’s loft. So the sail was designed to fit!
Willi continued flying at ski areas around Western Canada and the Spokane area. People started asking him to build kites for them so in January 1973 he formed Muller Kites Ltd. and started off his factory in downtown Calgary. His first foot-launched flights were in Palmdale, California.
In January 1973 Willi entered the “World Snow Kite Championships” at Big White in Kelowna. Some 26 pilots entered. Most pilots were from California and included soon-to-be ‘big’ names in the new sport; Bob Wills, Chris Price, Dick Eipper and Dave Cronk to name just a few. From Canada were Terry “Birdman” Jones from Edmonton and Bob Jones from Kelowna. Norman Proctor was there from Wetaskiwin with his Cronkite that he had built from plans (but at that time he hadn’t learned to fly), and Dave Cronk, who was flying a plastic version and was very impressed with Norm’s superior construction. By the way, Dave soon found that plastic in -20 degrees doesn’t hold up too well. It fell apart on his launch run. The Meet Director was Bill Bennett.
Willi won the ‘free-flying’ competition (time in the air and target landing). Terry Jones won the tow competition (towed up by snowmobiles) and Bob Wills was crowned overall champion for demonstrating superior skill. He flew with Bill Bennett’s backpack and also hung upside down as he flew down the hill.
In 1973 Willi and Vincene Muller purchased land on Cochrane Hill which is now the Cochrane Flying Site. At that time a few local pilots were using the site and were told by the realtor to buy it soon otherwise it would be developed for housing. There are many stories of dealings with municipalities and government that the Muller’s have had to contend with over the years to keep the flying site open.
Back in Calgary the kite business grew. Muller Kites manufactured kites until 1978. At that time due to changes in design, kites were using a large amount of different sized tubing. Due to difficulties with tubing and dacron supplies, Willi started importing from the US. At this time Muller Kites Ltd. became Muller Hang Gliding Ltd.
Due to the many ski areas allowing kite flying in the early 1970’s, Willi formed the Alberta Hang Gliding Association in 1973 in order to get insurance. He started the school in 1973 also. Transport Canada approached him and said that they would like a National body to deal with and the Hang Gliding Association of Canada was formed. Willi was founding president for both organizations. In 1975 he was part of a group of instructors who met at Todd Mountain Ski Hill to write up recommendations for Instructors Standards.
In 1978 he imported the first Soarmaster Powerpacks. At that time Transport Canada were interested in hang gliding and the new powered hang gliding. At a meet- ing in Calgary, a demonstration was put on at the Cochrane Flying Site. Shortly after that Transport Canada came out with regulations for powered hang gliders but allowed the sport of unpowered hang gliding to remain self-regulated.
The shop was moved out to the Cochrane Hill Flying Site in 1985. In 1987 Willi bought his first paraglider. Paragliding became part of Muller Hang Gliding in 1988. Willi had a Master Rating in the Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association of Canada and Senior Instructor Status for both hang gliding and paragliding. Willi represented Canada internationally several times in hang gliding and he held a World Paragliding Record and many Canadian Hang Gliding & Paragliding Records. He was Canadian Hang Gliding Champion three times and Canadian Paragliding Champion once. His best international result was seventh in the 1981 World Hang Gliding Championships in Japan. Chris Muller started flying tandem with his father Willi in 1981 at age 5. Over the years they had many soaring flights and a few cross-country flights togeth- er. He started flying paragliders at age 11 and hang gliders at 13.
In 1990 he flew his first competitions in both the Canadian Nationals (Golden, B.C.) and US Nationals (Dinosaur, Colorado). In Paragliding he competed in the Western Canadian Paragliding Championships which eventually became the Canadian Nationals. He was Western Canadian Paragliding Champion twice, Canadian Paragliding Champion three times and Canadian Hang Gliding Champion three times.
He has represented Canada at the World Paragliding Championships in Switzerland, Japan, and Spain and the World Hang Gliding Championships in Spain and Australia.
His best results were second in the 1998 Pre-World Paragliding in Austria and 17th in the 1998 Pre-World Hang Gliding In Italy. He placed second in the 1999 World Paragliding Championships in Austria. He held the Paragliding World Record for Flight to a Declared Goal (shared with Sean Dougherty) of 101.5 km set in 1991 which he broke in 1992 with a flight of 146.22 km. He set the South American Record flying 242 km in Brazil in 1999. In 2000 he flew 246 km from Golden to Jaffray, BC, the longest flight in Canada. In 2002, he flew from Golden, British Columbia to Morley, AB, 138 km. In 2004 he flew a hang glider 331 km from Golden past Trevo, Montana. This equaled the Canadian Open Distance record set by Willi in 1989.