ST PAUL, MINN — Several recent calls and letters referred to rigid wings presented here. Are we experiencing an upsurge of real interest? Or just another bubble of enthusiasm that will burst with the announcement of some new hotter-than-ever rag wing? No one knows. ||| Meanwhile in response to several inquiries, you can contact the Owens Composites Swift people at 10000 Trumbull SE, Albuquerque NM 87123. Their February Swift News announced work on an article for Hang Gliding. Watch for it. ||| Two other projects bear mention here: Advanced’s Sierra and the Cloud Dancer ||| The ultralight company Advanced Aviation, is flying their second prototype Sierra ultralight sailplane (42 foot span and greatly cleaned up). I saw #2 flown by towplane designer Bobby Bailey — who is also the principal designer of this bird — and I flew the #1 machine some months ago. The original prototype had promise which the successor significantly reveals.
ST. PAUL, MINN — With this issue, “Product Lines” begins its twelfth year. I thank each of you for your loyal readership. Every year, “Product Lines” sets a new record for a continuous run of any hang gliding column… it literally couldn’t have been done without your interest. ||| Let’s look south to the new, improved Florida towing scene. The main attraction is the “elephant aileron”-equipped Bobby Bailey aerotug (also see Barbara and Steve Flynn’s story in the February ’90 Hang Gliding). After the kickoff Sun ‘n’ Fun airshow in Lakeland, Florida, the Dragonflyers club had an Easter weekend cross country contest at Lake Wales. The close dates allowed a number of out-of-staters to get some air behind the King Cobra ultralight. Bailey has been the pivotal designer, but he’s had active “consultants” like Campbell Bowen, a longtime kingpin of Florida hang gliding. Bobby himself towed me to 6,600 feet above flat Florida.
ST. PAUL, MINN — As you read this, the spring board of directors meeting is history. Prior to the assembly of regional leaders, a storm of information was mailed by our new, more businesslike headquarters. In the deluge were stats on our sport: the results of the fall director ballot and its member survey. Of our 11/89 member base of 7,496, 1,157 of you responded (15.4%), a high “confidence rating” number. Like most tables of figures, these don’t make fascinating reading (unless you’re in the business perhaps). What I’ll focus on here are two areas: glider brand market share and interest in paragliding. ||| It should surprise no one that Wills is the leading U.S. builder of gliders. At 34.1% nationally, they lead by ten points over second place Pacific Airwave (24.7%). PA’s rank may also not surprise you, but it proves the Salinas bunch–now with majority foreign ownership–has come a long way in just a few years.
ST. PAUL, MINN — Easily the biggest news in American hang gliding is Bill Bennett leaving glider manufacturing. After Delta Wing celebrated their 20th Anniversary last year this would come as a shock! But, “It’s nonsense!” replies Bill. True, UP International will now be building Uncle Bill’s successful Dream series. Also true, he stopped his ads. But Bennett reports he and old crony Dick Boone have recently collaborated on a new high performance design. It just flew at Torrey; they’re pleased. Before the unfortunate loss of his wife Paulette, due to cancer, Bill wanted to eliminate some obligations to dedicate more time to his ailing spouse. Licensing the Dream to UP for 3 years was part of this effort. Delta Wing may next move to smaller quarters. ||| Bill was also considering a bid on the beach operation up near Monterey, a site currently served by Jim Johns’ Western Hang Gliders.
ST. PAUL, MN — Used to writing “1990” on your checks and letters yet? A new decade begins to unfold… against a backdrop of the most astounding political changes of modern history. The effects of the so-called “democratization” of eastern Europe may have profound influence even on lil’ ol’ hang gliding. USHGA Boss Jerry Bruning sent along a copy of a FAX to Prez Russ Locke. The letter from General Director Kakurin of Interaero requests info on the U.S. competition schedule for 1990. It seems Soviet pilots may plan to attend some contests. Interaero’s duties for the Soviet HG Federation also include the inviting and receiving of foreign teams to its own competitions. Most notably Comrade Kakurin suggests the “Peace Cup” and the USSR Championships. The Peace Cup is in May; the Championships in July. ||| Also in the month of May, Brian Milton (remember him?) will kick off his Superleague.
ST. PAUL, MINN — Hey! Welcome to the ’90s… beginning of the third full decade for our sport. Oh god: “thirtysomething!” The final leg of the century (and millennia). Glad to have you along for the read. Thanks for a continuing stream of notes or calls. Y-O-U help write this column! ||| First, in the “Bet You Didn’t Know This Dept,” HGM editor Gil Dodgen had every piece of his nearly-new, high-tech desktop publishing gear stolen from his office last month. Luckily, his insurance replaced everything. Notice any delay? Extra effort on Gil’s part kept HGM mostly on schedule. ||| The heat is on… for Mexican flying tours. I’m amazed at the interest pilots are showing to be chauffeured around our neighbor to the south. Other SoCal shops offer tours, but the primary forces are Paul Burns’ Windgypsy (714/678-5418) and John Olson’s Safari Mexico (702/786-3944). Windgypsy offers two 8 day/7 night tours (differing sites) and provides bilingual guides, hotel, drinking water, ground transportation, and site refreshments.
How do we evaluate light-sport aircraft? The FAA’s proposed SportPlanes™ /light-sport aircraft (LSA) rule is being discussed in hangars across America. But it is also being discussed at airports all over Europe—more than you may think. The global reach of this initiative is visible by the large number of European suppliers aiming their sights on the huge U.S. market. Many believe they have an aircraft that fits the standard. In the previous issue of KITPLANES®, you read Brian E. Clark’s summary of how European aircraft manufacturers are responding to LSA. In this issue, you can look at Barnaby Wainfan’s analysis of the aerodynamics of aircraft that meet the standard. In concert, this column attempts to add information about LSA candidate aircraft that are flying now. I’ve had the pleasure to fly many of the aircraft that may one day call themselves LSAs. In that flying, I’ve learned some lessons about what you might expect and how to evaluate what interests you.
Admirers of aviation and music convene at this annual Florida event. Naturally, pilots have interests besides airplanes. I’d bet all fliers enjoy one kind or another of music. Hang glider pilots occasionally fly with a portable CD player at sites such as Torrey Pines near San Diego. The California glider port shared jointly by sailplanes, hang gliders, paragliders, and RC models offers butter-smooth ridge lift. The gentle sea breezes make for such mellow conditions that some say music complements the flying. Yet most pilots are too busy with controls and instruments, are concentrating too hard on navigation, or are simply too engrossed in the joy of flying to want music aloft. CD players in homebuilts or factory aircraft are hardly commonplace. But another way to indulge your musical and aviation interests is to visit Florida’s Fantasy of Flight tourist attraction on the occasion of the annual Wings & Strings Americana Music Festival.
Not all light aircraft will fit the light-sport aircraft mold. In light aviation, excitement appears focused on FAA’s proposed Sport Pilot/light-sport aircraft proposal. The proposed rule may hold great promise, but it won’t consume all of light aviation, not by a wide margin. Near and dear to KITPLANES® readers’ hearts is the so-called 51% rule. The legality of building your own plane from scratch or from a kit is in no danger, and it will continue to be a source of satisfaction for many aviation craftsmen. A second safe harbor is the lightly regulated Part 103 ultralight segment. The FAA has made it abundantly clear that there are no plans to alter FAR Part 103. In fact, it points to Part 103 as a success story that can offer guidance to industry leaders as they fashion a new set of rules for light-sport aircraft, which KITPLANES®has labeled SportPlanes™. (Under the FAA’s sport pilot/SportPlanes™ plan, manufacturers will arrive at their own consensus standards for airworthiness—a situation successfully achieved by hang glider manufacturers.) Celebrate Part 103 It lives!
New ultralights and light aircraft were featured at Sun ‘n Fun As flying season begins, Florida’s popular Sun ’n Fun airshow brings a focus on new aircraft of all types. Aviation writers review the new machines revealed at the event. Yet many machines are often overlooked in the rush to place the most attention-getting aircraft onto magazine covers and into survey articles. This month, we cover a few ultralights and light aircraft you should find interesting. While aircraft like Titan’s T-51 Mustang, Just Aircraft’s Escapade, Airborne’s XT and Sabre’s Wildcat garnered lots of attention, designers of other ultralights have also been working hard. Ramphos One machine no one had seen before was the Ramphos amphibious trike. Though the amphibious trike concept has been used by numerous other companies, the Ramphos has features the others have lacked such as its counter-rotating propeller. A prior model required a small vertical tail and distinguished itself by a composite hoop surrounding the propeller arc.
In the previous two installments, we’ve discussed you, the pilot, and the many types of aircraft choices you have. As we wrap up this series, we’ll put it all together and try to help you narrow your choices to a few models. Notice the word “try.” It is important that you understand that it is not possible to direct you to the one-and-only best choice of aircraft. Novice buyers often seek assistance but even experienced pilots can become swayed and end up purchasing the wrong aircraft for their needs and desires. Because aircraft purchases are commonly emotional decisions, it is helpful to gain a “second opinion” to help make a more rational choice. Many years ago, at the beginning of my career writing articles in light aviation, I made a similar attempt to help hang glider pilots choose the right glider. I compared nine contemporary models to an idealized “perfect” glider and through a series of questions much like those below, tried to steer pilots to the one right glider for them.
FACING THE BUYING DECISION, PART II Last time we discussed the pilot (you!); this time we discuss the many types of aircraft choices you have. In the last installment, we’ll put these together and help you narrow your choices to a few models. What Kind of Pilot Are You? Let’s just say you actually know yourself. While this sounds like a comment that deserves a “Duh!” response, don’t be too quick to judge. If every pilot or buyer of aircraft knew what they needed or wanted, my job would be easier. But it isn’t so. Most pilots know something about what they want, but many don’t have enough information to make the best decision. Some readers are “experts.” A good many ultralight or light plane enthusiasts have been around long enough and owned enough variety of ultralights to know what they like. These veteran sport aviators represent a lot of combined experience.
WANT TO BUY A LIGHTPLANE? Task Can Be Daunting, Yet Rewarding I’m one lucky pilot. I love airplanes and get to fly more of them than the average sky jockey. Writing pilot reports for several magazines has given me the opportunity to fly about 250 different aircraft in the last 23 years. This makes me a “Master of None” type of pilot (except in my own planes) but does give me a feel for the huge variety of light airplanes you can buy. The choices are fantastic. Counting the whole world of sport aircraft, you can have just about anything you want| and that’s the problem. What to buy? TRYING TO HELP At every airshow I attend, and through phone calls between airshow, pilots often make a request: “You’ve flown all these lightplanes, which one should I buy?” Frankly, the question makes me uncomfortable. While I appreciate the feeling of confidence some pilots place in my experience, telling someone what to buy is a sure way to be considered wrong eventually.
St. Paul, Minn. — You’ll probably be amazed to hear that Wallaby Ranch and Quest have merged. Yes, unbelievably, the two rivals flight parks signed an agreement to become as one. • This stunning development comes just after Wills Wing purchased Moyes “for a song” crooned WW president, Rob Kells. “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” he added. How much more shocking news can you withstand? Well, in keeping with a few fun items elsewhere in this magazine, the above is pure April Fools fiction. I’ll leave more inventive humor to others and return to what this column does best. ••• Amid all the excitement, I completely forgot to blow my own horn… Yup, with the February 2004 issue, “Product Lines” finished 25 years of continuous publishing. In all that time, the column never missed an issue. As I am working to post all these columns on my long-in-development Web site, someday you’ll be able to scan through a lot of hang gliding history presented in a familiar format.
St. Paul, Minn. — As I write this up here in the southern tundra, the wind howls and the snow flies and the joy of hang gliding or paragliding seems quite distant. Soon enough, though, the thaw will occur and life takes on a friendlier look that invites soaring flight. ••• While huddled inside, I heard from Gerry Charlebois who told me the temperatures in his native state of Hawaii: high of 86° and low of 72°. His invitation to come fly Kauai sounds mighty inviting this time of year. • The real reason Gerry wrote was to report how his DVD production, Extreme Kauai,is doing. His commercial venture is a means of interesting non-flying folks in what the rest of us enjoy. Gerry wrote, “It has been 11 months since [Extreme Kauai’s] release and four months since the main distributor for Hawaii picked it up. It is now in 280 stores statewide, including Walmart, Kmart, Costco, and Borders.” His DVD may well be the first flying-based production to go mainstream.
ST. PAUL, MINN., — Congratulations to Kari Castle who won the Women’s World Meet 2000 in Beotia, Greece in the last full week of June. I expect a fine article will enter the magazine pages but here’s a little numerical overview of the meet as released by the FAI. • The international meet drew 31 competitors from eight nations, including the USA, France, Germany, Australia, England, Japan, Russia, and Kazakhstan (showing surprising strength with four pilots). America and Germany each had six team members, France and Japan had five, Russia and the UK had two plus the lone Aussie pilot. • They flew nine Icaro gliders (32%), followed by eight Aeros (29%), five Wills Wings (18%) and one each (4%) of Moyes, La Mouette, Solar, Seedwings, Bautek, and Guggenmos. Wings for three pilots were not identified. • In five tasks ranging from 42-70 km (26-44 miles), the German team came in first (with 6 scored pilots), followed by France (5 pilots), the U.S.
ST. PAUL, MINN. — Have you been noticing the change to your magazine? Some pilots have had loud discussions about those changes yet many members have said little (as is common). You’ve been seeing the work of new art directors after a hard push by leaders to spark the magazine’s look and feel. Other major changes are ahead (more next month!) lll Are you ready for the combined magazine? Every other country I can think of has, for a long time, integrated their magazines for hang gliding and paragliding. The USHGA board of directors has worried through this decision with great care (I’ve a had a front row seat). It won’t please everyone; no decision ever does. But it will be the future. s The good news is, art directors Aaron Swepston and Tim Meehan have given each magazines a snazzier look. Most members to whom I’ve spoken seem enthused about the changes.
St. Paul, Minn. — Please bear with me as I use all of this month’s column on something that has little to do with products, the usual focus of this column. I’ve been doing this bit of writing for Hang Gliding magazine for a long time (“PL” finishes 24 years with this issue), but one man has been even more long lived. lll After 25 years on the job, Hang Gliding editor Gil Dodgen handed off all his duties to Dan Nelson, a new paraglider pilot with an editorial background. Gil started with USHGA’s magazine with the January, 1978 issue. For those with weak memories or those too new to hang gliding to know the past, an extremely brief history lesson is in order. s In 1978, the Big Three of hang glider building in the USA were Seagull, Electra Flyer, and Wills Wing. We had other prominent Yankee brands like Sky Sports, Bennett Delta Wing, Eipper-Formance, Ultralite Products, Manta, Sunbird, Highster, and CGS Aircraft.
St. Paul, Minn. — The vote is in! Members voted yes on both initiatives, overwhelmingly (84%) so on the towing question but convincingly (62%) on the powered harness (HG & PG) question. Now, as politicians advise after elections, we must consolidate and move forward. Griping about the results, if you took a not-winning position, no longer benefits anyone. • I doubt we’ll experience many problems from powered harnesses for three reasons: (1) not that many of them flying… a few hundred, realistically, and many of their pilots respect silent-flyer sensibilities; (2) most powered harnesses won’t show up at flying sites. They don’t have to… they can launch almost anywhere. Plus, clubs running sites always have had and still do have the right to make their own rules about who can launch and land on property they control; and, (3) powered harnesses find their best demand from pilots who otherwise must travel to mountain sites or towparks.
ST. PAUL, MINN. — The USHGA board of directors met in mid-October and some interesting news developed. Though “just a bunch of hang glider pilots,” this group often amazes me with the level of its professionalism. Don’t forget that around 30 persons volunteer their time, pay their own expenses, and work long hours to direct the association’s business — backed up by a paid but equally hard working headquarters staff. This fall finds USHGA in admirable shape with membership up and finances in good condition. At a time when I know most of aviation — from recreational flying to the airlines — to be suffering, this performance is more than satisfying and I hope all members appreciate it. lll Work of the board will appear in the magazine in various ways, but I’d like to note three actions that I believe members will find of interest. s First, the magazine will go to a combined publication with the March 2003 issue.