Here is an early, quick look at Skytrek SLSA
by Triton... China's first FAA approval.
Video sponsored by Continental Motors,
maker of the Powerful Titan X-340 Engine

Product Lines - December 2004

By Dan Johnson, Hang Gliding Magazine, December, 2004


WALLABY RANCH, FL -- While northerners prepare for winter and snow, it's hot and sunny here in Florida. I'm in the state for a collection of aviation events, kicked off by a big gathering at Malcolm Jones' "Ranch." They called it the Moyes Boys Reunion. When most of us hear "reunion" we think of Class Reunions, and many groan about having to attend. Since I similar gatherings like Dockweiler and Grandfather Mountain, I was pleased to make this one. I saw old friends I hadn't seen in 20+ years. But what really moved me was meeting John Dickenson, who may have been THE man who invented the hang glider as we know it today. John taught both Bill Moyes and Bill Bennett to fly "ski kites" as they were then called. Moyes went on to become a major brand name. Bill Bennett once directed a leading company that gave Bob Wills his start in the business. Without John Dickenson, we might not have gotten modern hang gliders as soon|or maybe at all! Who knows? John tells a great tale about how he happened into this endeavor. A water ski club, of which John became a member, planned their annual event and "assigned" John the duty of building and flying a towed kite. They were thinking of a flat kite or some variation. But early in 1963, John saw photos of Francis Rogallo's work. From January when the club made their request to November when the event occurred, Dickenson developed an airframe for Rogallo's wing design and added a version of the control bar we accept as standard today. He even filed a patent for the invention way back in 1963. His total cost: $24. John added many other facts I found fascinating but which are too numerous to present here. For a more complete account of the Dickenson story go to www.bchpa.org/newsletter/may04/hghistory.htm John mentioned that the British Hang Gliding Association (BHPA now) gave him a free lifetime membership in recognition of his ground-breaking work to develop the modern hang glider. Other nations have also honored John but the U.S. -- arguably the biggest benefactor of his work -- has never formally recognized his formative work. Perhaps it's time we changed that? For a minor annual expenditure, USHGA might provide John with a complimentary membership. It seems a small gesture for a man whose work has given so many of us so much pleasure. One glaringly obvious missing element in the festivities was Bill Bennett. As reported here last month, Bill perished in a trike accident in early October. He was reportedly pursuing lessons and had taken the front seat after a few flights in the rear. Details will surely follow but hang gliding has clearly lost one its true pioneers. For pilots with some memory, "Uncle Bill," as he was affectionately known to many, was one of the first brand names they knew. Delta Wing Kites was a leader for many years and Bill's company released numerous essential products. The gliders developed rapidly in those early days and Delta Wing was right in the forefront. However, as Bill came from a tow-flying orientation, he also sold tow equipment and floats. His company was one of the first to promote "back-up parachutes," and he offered the first commercial powered back-pack power setup of which I'm aware. Beside his technical developments for hang gliding, he was also one the sport's genuine characters, always with a quick smile and a joke. Most would agree he was one of a kind! Bill, we'll miss you. Well, it was after all a Moyes reunion. Moyes USA sponsored the event in concert with Wallaby Ranch. Naturally, Ken put plenty of pilots on demo Moyes gliders. A Doodlebug flew many times and, of course, the Dragonflys did the towing -- all are Moyes (or Bailey/Moyes) products. Ken was pleased with the results as he took orders at the event and believes he'll see more in the weeks ahead. Together with Wallaby, Ken and his wife did a bang-up job with the event and all 350 or so attendees had a terrific time. Even though it was a Moyes reunion -- and perhaps as a sign of our growing maturity as an industry -- A.I.R. man Felix Ruhle showed up with four of his still-quite-new ATOS VX designs. Felix reports about 45 VXs are flying, but it was the first time I saw one live. What a beautiful construction, from its compound leading edge to its cascading spoilerons to its shapely all-carbon control bar to its high-tech leading edge junction hidden under a nose cone. VX is built big for tandem flying with a 46 foot span, 172 square feet of area, and 92 pounds of empty weight. My tandem flight with Ruhle proved to be an excellent way to check out a new wing. Felix gave tips about operation while skying out in decent thermals. When I took over the controls, I didn't squeeze as much out of it, but I did credibly well|enough so that following lunch at the Ranch, I took up Malcolm's new specially configured VX for an solo flight. In a word: impressive! Nice job, Felix and crew. The ATOS effort has been a solid one over the years. Ruhle reports selling 980 ATOSs since the first one went out the door. Given their lofty prices, this is an enviable sales record for a new kind of hang glider wing. The tandem-capable VX is priced at 12,500 euros, which at today's exchange rates is about $15,600, a rather wide gap from flex wings at something over $6,000, but this VX a different bird altogether and you have to pay for technology this high. While I enjoyed free flying the wing, I admit I looked at the VX as a soaring trike wing, given it's capacity to carry almost 500 pounds of load (Felix said A.I.R. is also pursuing use of the VX on nanotrikes). It appears as well suited for that use as it is for big pilots or tandem operations. I feel sure you'll hear more about ATOS VX in the months ahead. So, got news or opinions? Send 'em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Messages or fax to 651-450-0930. E-mail to Dan@ByDanJohnson.com. THANKS!

 



 

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