Dan Buchanan soars into Wings & Wheels fest at Vail Valley Jet Center | VailDaily.com

Dan Buchanan soars into Wings & Wheels fest at Vail Valley Jet Center

Caramie Schnell
Special to the Daily
Special to the Daily
Special to the Daily |

If you go …

What: Vail Automotive Classic Series of events.

Where: Vail Valley Jet Center on Sept. 12 and Vail Village on Sept. 13.

When: Wings & Wheels Festival takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 12. The Vail Village Car Show is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 13.

Cost: Advance tickets for Wings & Wheels Festival on Sept. 12 are $20 for adults, $5 for children ages 6 to 15 and free for kids younger than 5; family packs (two adults, three children) are $45 and only available online. VIP tickets are $85 and include catered food, drinks, shade and prime viewing for the aerobatic shows. Day-of ticket prices will cost more. The Vail Village Car Show on Sept. 13 is free.

More information: Visit http://www.vailautomotiveclassic.com.

Dan Buchanan can’t walk, but that hasn’t stopped him from flying.

More than 30 years ago, Buchanan, a resident of Dayton, Nevada, was busy pursuing his private pilot’s license and logging his thrills soaring off mountaintops in a hang glider in Lake Tahoe, California, when an accident changed the course of his life.

“I got hurt flying in a storm,” Buchanan said. “I landed, and the glider hit me on the head, on the helmet, and gave me a compression fracture.”


The spinal injury paralyzed Buchanan from the waist down, and while he wouldn’t walk again, it certainly didn’t prevent him from flying. It only took five months post accident for him to return to the air, and he wasn’t the least bit nervous to take flight in a hang glider again, he said.

“There was no reason to have any fear,” he said. “It was a ground accident.”

Buchanan returned to college to pursue a career in mechanical engineering, which landed him in Silicon Valley, and he flew his unpowered hang glider in his first air show in 1989. He’s since accrued more than 2,900 hours of flight time in hang gliders and sailplanes and earned both his private and commercial pilot licenses.


Now Buchanan logs more than 45,000 miles per year driving his truck and trailer cross-country, traveling to air shows around the United States and sharing his love of flying. He’s also performed internationally in Australia, Thailand, Japan, El Salvador, Canada and other countries.

Despite an appearance by the famed U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds at a recent air show in Minden, Nevada, it was Buchanan’s performance that appealed to spectator Sherry Nelson, who dubbed his act her favorite of the day.

“It was cool,” the Carson City resident told local newspaper The Record-Courier.

Trained by Hollywood pros, Buchanan is a federally and state-licensed pyrotechnician; he installs, wires and sequences special effects onto the fabric wings of his hang glider. He doesn’t want to share all the details of his show, but he promised some “smoke and streamers, hootin’ and hollerin’ and a little mischief” when he performs at the upcoming sixth-annual Wings & Wheels Festival at the Vail Valley Jet Center on Sept. 12.


Two air shows (10 a.m. and 1 p.m.) will take place at the festival, featuring performances by Buchanan, as well as Gary Rower, of Rower Airshows, and Buck Roetman, of Wild Horse Aviation. It’s Buchanan’s first time performing at the event, and spectators will see his patriotic performance, which gets high marks time and again for showmanship.

During the event, more than 200 cars, 50 motorcycles and 40 aircraft will be on display at the Vail Valley Jet Center. There will also be an auto auction featuring 75 to 100 cars, car memorabilia, old-school arcade games and destination vacations. No-reserve auction items include a 2013 Harley Davidson with fewer than 5 miles on the odometer and a ’71 Chevrolet Corvette.

A portion of the auction proceeds will benefit Jack’s Place at the Shaw Regional Cancer Center and Eagle Valley Senior Life.

Along with the air show and auction, an entire hangar will be dedicated to entertaining the youngsters at the event. Among other things, it will feature two NASCAR simulators that will give kids an opportunity to virtually get behind the wheel or check out the educational hands-on Air and Space Museum, which will allow them to cruise through a course in a makeshift rocket ship.

Caramie Schnell is a freelance writer who was contracted by the Wings & Wheels Festival to write this story. The Wings & Wheels Festival takes place Sept. 12.

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