Like huge, multicolored vultures, the hang gliders circled slowly over the desert, their delicate wings tilting to catch the tricky air currents. The event was the first Moab World Invitational tournament in Utah, and 40 top-rated pilots from five countries gathered to demonstrate their skill at slaloming around pylons, pinpoint landing and endurance flight. But the real test for some was the first step off Dead Horse Point, the 2,000-foot-high launch site. "It's very simple," said the meet director. "If you make a mistake going off this cliff, you're dead."
With the Colorado River in the distance, an intrepid pilot, perched on the brink of Dead Horse Point, prepares to pounce on an unsuspecting thermal.
Wafted along on wings of Dacron (overleaf), a contestant admires, but avoids, the prominences and jagged rocks of Canyonlands National Park.
A hang glider floats through the clear desert air like some mythical creature, while its pilot enjoys a spectacular bird's-eye view of canyons and cactus.