ST. PAUL, MINN., — For the first time I can remember, in 22 years of writing "Product Lines," my column had to be substantially changed after it left my desk (or, these days, my computer desktop). News from Peter Radman of Altair cast doubt about the future of the newest American hang gliding producer. Fortunately for Peter and the old organization, the news improved… • Radman wrote on August 26th: "Basically my original news was that Altair was ceasing operations. The update is that Altair has sold operations to [a new company called] US Altair, led by Steve and Marcia Schuster who are continuing to manufactuer the Predator and Saturn from facilities in Calfornia. A second company, Altair Industries LLC headed by Ivan Mrazek will continue to market the ATOS from facilities in Utah." Peter didn’t want to say more as he "no longer has any vested interest beyond personal interest." However, he added, "I see this as a positive development.
ST. PAUL, MINN., — Another new world record. This time it is Davis Straub in the news with a stunning 347 mile flight on August 9th! Of course, both Dave Sharp’s ATOS flight reported last month and the new one this month are Class II gliders when the record they broke was Larry Tudor’s in a Class I, but nonetheless, these things are still "hang gliders." ••• Straub flew his ATOS for 347 miles or 555 kilometers. Only three weeks after Dave Sharp hit 311 miles for a record, Straub’s effort also came as a result of the now-so-aptly-named World Record Encampment. As with Sharp, Straub flew north in favorable conditions from the far southern Texas town of Zapata. You can read the entire trip report and see maps and altitude plots on his website (DavisStraub.com) but a few points are worth highlighting here. • Lift developed so that he could fly from 10 am to 8 pm, 10 hours of prone (whew!).
St. Paul, Minn. — At this fall’s meeting of the USHGA board of directors debate will continue regarding the inclusion of powered paraglidersand powered hang gliders in our national club. This debate won’t go easily or swiftly. Many pilots of either wing type feel engines don’t belong in USHGA or at their flying site. Yet the popularity of these flying machines is growing and they are more like us than powered ultralights. • Last month’s story about the Minnesota pilots exceeding 10,000 feet of vertical gain might not have happened without the Mosquito powered harness allowing those pilots find thermals. Besides, the old questions exist: Doesn’t the tow vehicle have an engine? Don’t we have to drive up to most mountain launches? Ironically, the Mosquito engines may use less fuel to get pilots up than a monster 4×4 often used at mountain sites. • So, perhaps you won’t be surprised to read that editor Dan Nelson has asked me to include more power coverage in this column.
ST. PAUL, MINN. — Results are in from the World Record Encampment. In short it was not the year most hoped for due to the massive rainfall Texas sustained. The bad weather was north of Zapata, but it significantly affected those hang glider and paraglider pilots who had converged on the south Texas town. Many pilots had traveled a long way, some internationally. Many got skunked. lll However, some records were set and FAI has already approved a few. s In a “joint flight,” both Pete Lehmann and Mike Barber were awarded the Straight Distance to a Declared Goal record of 516 km (322.5 miles). Lehmann flew a Wills Talon 150 and Barber flew a Moyes Litespeed 4. s Paraglider pilots were perhaps the most celebrated of the 2002 Zapatans since two pilots managed record on successive days (before the rains started). Dave Prentice flew his Ozone Proton GT Small for 386 kilometers (241 miles) earning a Straight Distance record.
ST. PAUL, MINN., — When they first named it the World Record Encampment (WRE) last year, the name seemed a little pretentious. Then, lo and behold, with help from weather technocaster, Gary Osaba, records were set. The 300-mile barrier that had alone been the domain of Larry Tudor — who’d, impressively, done it twice — fell not once but twice. • Dave Sharp held the record for mere days before Davis Straub smashed through to log his now-recognized World Distance Record of 347 miles. Both flew rigid wings and Straub was able to retain the title for a whole year. (Are we talking "Internet time," or what? Used to be records stood for years, even decades. No more…!) ••• As this year’s WRE started anticipation was high. Last year, others whispered about and Straub waxed enthusiastic about breaking the 400-mile barrier. Davis was sure it’d be done. The 2001 edition of the WRE started "normally" in the heat-baked terminology of Zapata, Texas — an obscure location now thrust onto the world’s radar owing to the flight accomplishments in 2000.
ST. PAUL, MINN., — We have a Brand New World Record! Of course it has to be verified (or homologated) by authorities but Dave Sharp flew 311 miles (501 km) on his A.I.R. ATOS on July 19, 2000. Sharp and several others have been HQ’d in the unlikely-sounding spot of Zapata, Texas for the World Record Encampment. This boondocks location is estimated by weather guru and soaring technowizard, Gary Osaba, to be the most likely place in the U.S. for a record flight. He’s done well supplying weather forecasts to help meet directors plan cross country tasks, and it turns out he was right on the money again. • Oz Reporter and X-C enthusiast, Davis Straub, reports on his website (davisstraub.com) that on Sharp’s record distance flight, he also "took a FAI sector photo of Barksdale, Texas at 200 miles to set the world record for distance to goal for Class II gliders.
St. Paul, Minn. — High times in Minnesota… a story about great thermals up here in the southern Tundra. In late May this year, a group of Minnesota pilots had flights that may have set a record for the midwest. Bruce Bolles, who formerly worked with me at BRS parachutes, related events of this surprising day. • Bruce’s Flytec logged a gain of 10,460 feet from the landing area. He could’ve gone a bit higher (one pilot did) but at that height the temperature was 21° with a 30 mph wind chill equating to something like zero. Bruce had gloves on but none of the pilots expected such huge altitude gains so they weren’t dressed for the occasion. Minnesotans are keenly aware of factors like wind chill, so Bruce wisely elected to go down to warmer altitudes before he sustained frost bite damage. “I couldn’t feel my nose or thumbs,” he recalls.
ST. PAUL, MINN. — Well, diver fans, the combined May issue of HG/PG has been seen and we’ve gone back to separate issues until a final decision is made. The voter cards are in and mostly (but not fully) accounted for at this time. I won’t spill the beans about the exact count (as it isn’t done yet) but I can tell you that the early votes were heavily (76%) in favor of combining. Total votes at press time were around 10% of the membership base suggesting the issue didn’t strongly motivate pilots. So, the other 90% of you evidently thought it was a good idea and/or that it would happen anyway. No decision has been made — nor will one be made until a full analysis has been done and blessed by the board of directors. s USHGA Executive Director Jayne Depanfilis gave board members a review of the effort to announce this combined issue and its vote.
ST. PAUL, MINN., — Hoo-yaa! Another, yep, ANOTHER new world record was set at what is being called the 2001 Flytec World Record Encampment (thanks to generous support from Steve Kroop’s instrument enterprise). On June 28th, Davis Straub, reporting from the South Texas site of Zapata wrote, "Mark Poustinchian flew 369 miles for a new world hang gliding record." Flying an ATOS after parting with his Ghostbuster, Mark flew a mere 10 klicks short of an even 600 kilometers. Very nice job, Mark! ••• The big 2001 World Meet (with 139 pilots!) is history. Naturally, Manfred Ruhmer won again, leading a trio of Austrians who came in 1-2-3. The highest placing Yankee was Paris Williams in 11th place. More details next month. ••• Before I get to other news, however, I’d like to make a clarification. It seems some Aeros fans read my words much differently than I intended last month.
St. Paul, Minn. — I don’t intend for “Product Lines” to become a place where you read government regulatory updates (God forbid!) but I was in a place to hear some recent developments that I believe you’ll find of interest …some of you anyway. That place was Kansas City, where several ASTM groups gathered for rule-writing Committee Week in mid-May 2003. • At first, I shied away from this whole ASTM rule-writing business as it sounds dull and far from flying fun (and it is, believe me). But this is an historic opportunity to affect federal rule making that directly impacts hang gliding and powered ultralights (two activities that draw my focus). ••• OK, let’s say you’re interested as well — and you should be if towing or tandem flying is part of your hang gliding or paragliding. What the heck is ASTM* anyway? • ASTM has created a group, creatively called “F37,” that will help guide industry officials to build the new standards for Light Sport Aircraft.
ST. PAUL, MINN. — The big Florida aerotow meets are now history. Oleg Bondarchuk performed well taking his Aeros Combat 2 to the top of both meets, an impressive accomplishment when flying against Manfred Ruhmer and a large field of talented pilots. u Yankee Paris Williams and his Icaro MR700WRE has also confirmed his position at the top of Team USA, adding a fine Second Place to his Third Place finish at Wallaby the week prior. Other great finishes by Americans included Glen Volk in 3rd on his Litespeed and Curt Warren in 5th also on a Litespeed. lll In fact, Moyes had itself a terrific representation at Quest. The Australian manufacturer mustered an even greater field at Quest (35% of flex wings) after holding the top position at Wallaby with 29%. Competition has always been a strong suit for Moyes and it seems to have a firm grip on that mantle as the 2002 season starts out.
ST. PAUL, MINN., — Wills Wing froze the design of their successful Talon topless glider. Wills’ successor to the Fusion, Talon performed well in the twin Florida tow meets. Though owners like their Fusion gliders, the Talon is said to yield superior cross country capabilities. Understanding the main market, Wills wanted to keep it within range of a broad flying population. "Under intensive development since October of last year, the Talon — in the competition edition — offers true world-class performance right out of the box. From other manufacturers you can purchase a glider with the same name as the gliders that their top factory pilots are flying. However, as is well known (and fully acknowledged) on the competition circuit, you cannot purchase, at any price, the same glider that their top pilots are flying. With the Wills Wing Talon, you can," writes Wills Wing in their E-news. • They specify that comp pilots will fly Talons with optional carbon mylar LE inserts and full carbon control bars plus "competition thin" 5/64 inch bottom wires.
ST. PAUL, MINN., — The East rises again! Two spectacular flights within days of one another put a focus on the eastern half of the U.S. Internet author Davis Straub writes, "I was able to stay long enough in the air to break the current east coast hang gliding record by 20 miles. I flew my ATOS 212 miles from Wallaby Ranch to northwest of Valdosta, Georgia in about seven and half hours. This breaks the previous record set by Mark Poustinchian of 192 miles. It does not eclipse Pete Lehmann’s flex wing hang gliding record of 182 miles set in 1997 at Templeton, PA." So the $1,000 prize offered some years ago by Wallaby boss Malcolm Jones has been claimed. He put up the purse for anyone who could fly from the Ranch to the Georgia border. Reportedly, Jones is contemplating another XC prize to spur further achievement. ••• Shortly after this excellent accomplishment Aeros distributor GW Meadows wrote (with understandable pride), "Larry Bunner flew 213 miles from Leland, Illinois on a three-year-old Stealth 1.
St. Paul, Minn. — Well, as this issue of Hang Gliding & Paragliding goes to press, one of the two big Florida two meets has finished and the other is about to begin. In the second week of April, after the Sun ‘n Fun airshow concluded, Quest launched into the 2003 Flytec Championships. ||| Two leaders won their classes, with Manfred Ruhmer taking first in his Flexwing class Icaro Laminar MR. Christian Ciech took the honors in his Rigid class Icaro Stratos |again! – each of these men achieved this result last year. Mark Mulholland was an American of distinction placing first among the four-competitor Swift class, flying the wing Brightstar invented. | This year’s contest was significant for flying 110 competitors, up from last year’s 106 contestants. In addition, participation by international pilots was higher than ever. In Flexwing class, fully 50% were from the other countries! The top three Flex wing contestants were Manfred from Austria, Oleg Bondarchuk from Ukraine, and Kraig Coomber from Australia.
ST. PAUL, MINN. — Wallaby’s Open started the season with a bang. While wet spring weather brought challenges, four valid rounds left Ukrainian Oleg Bondarchuk as the winner of the flex-wing class, beating Italian Manfred Ruhmer and Yankee Paris Williams in a field of 72 pilots. Mike Barber (6th), Chris Arai (10th), Jim Lee (17th), and Curt Warren (18th) were among Americans in the top 20 finishers. u For rigid wings now grouped in Class 5, Alex Ploner held his title taking first over fellow Italian Christian Ciech. Top Yankees were Bruce Barmakian, Davis Straub, Campbell Bowen, and Heiner Biesel in 4th through 7th respectively. This class saw ATOS dominating with 63% of the field, Ghostbusters at 13% and five other models in the field of 24 Class 5 rigids. u Brian Porter again won in Class 2 rigid wings flying his Swift, though he competed only against Brit’ Robin Hamilton in another Swift.
ST. PAUL, MINN., — A significant period for hang gliding competition, two events in Florida and a smaller version of Bassano (Italy) just finished. Over 100 pilots signed up to compete in each of the twin Florida tow contests with the total field divided 75% flex wing, 25% rigid wings. Flex and rigid flew in different classes, barring direct comparison. No competing glider had a kingpost. So many tugs were available that better than 100 launches were made in less than an hour. ••• Both events were won by reigning X-C contest guru, Manfred Ruhmer on his signature version of the Icaro Laminar. He’d have won Bassano, too, probably (instead Bob Baier won on his Litespeed), but the Bassano meet was so off-and-on-again that many top ranked pilots skipped it. Online pilots can read long, detailed reports on the Oz Report (davisstraub.com) and others can read stories sure to follow in this magazine, but I’ll take my usual view of what got flown, by whom, plus a few other tidbits.
ST. PAUL, MINN., — Wallaby and Quest are done with their big contests and each event will surely generate stories in our favorite magazine. But, given this column’s focus on products, I surveyed the glider brands used by competitors. • In the Wallaby Open, Wills Wing had a slim lead with 26% of the field, closely trailed by Aeros with 25%, Moyes with 22% and Icaro with 15%. Largely unknown to Yankee pilots, UK’s Avian brand made a small mark at 6%. Airwave had a minor 3% and La Mouette even smaller at 1% of the field of 68 flex wing pilots. • In the Atlantic Coast Championships the next week (but without exactly the same participants), Aeros lead at 31%, followed by Wills at 26% of the field of 54 flex wing entrants. Well below these two leaders were Icaro at 15%, Moyes at 13%, trailed even further by Altair at 6%, Avian and Airwave at 4% each and La Mouette with 2% of the total.
St. Paul, Minn. — Time is growing short! Perhaps by the time you read this, FAA may have issuedtheir new rule called Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft (SP/LSA). • Why should you care? Well, perhaps you don’t. If you fly solo in your hang glider or paraglider and are not towed aloft by a tug of some kind, you may continue to operate under F.A.R. Part 103 as blissfully as ever. However, if you’re one of the many who enjoy aerotow launches, you may be impacted by this rule. • The good news is… the trio of Jayne Depanfilis, Mike Meier, and Bill Bryden have been pursuing actions on the new rule and have the matter quite well in hand. The issues of two-place flying have been addressed and face few obstacles. Aerotowing, however, is less certain. Operations such as Lookout Mountain Flight Park have been fighting local battles with adversaries who brought FAA into the picture.
St. Paul, Minn. — By the time you read this, the Wallaby/Quest tow meets have recently concluded. Last month I hinted at some non-Florida tow meets. Each has its own spin on the competition theme. ••• Raven Sky Sports announced a tow competition set for the week of June 7 to June 14 or 15 and in mid-March USHGA’s board awarded sanction for a Class “B” meet. Business owner, Brad Kushner, has hired David Glover to perform as meet director. • Raven has four Dragonfly tugs to use for the Midwest Regional Hang Gliding Competition and they’re inviting more. Situated near Chicago and Milwaukee, pilots from all over the midwest may be interested. Free camping is available with low-cost motels nearby. “Our local pilots usually score a handful of 100+ mile flights every summer,” reports Kushner. Landing fields are plentiful and the operation generates good reports from visitors. FMI: 262-473-8800 or firstname.lastname@example.org ••• Traveling east you arrive at the home of the recently announced Dragonfly Cup, a season-long event to work around midwest weather fluctuations.
ST. PAUL, MINN. — My opening segment should start, “Once upon a time, there was Escape Pod, Pod Racer, and Porky Pod…” You’d probably be baffled (though perhaps intrigued). I’m referring to the Pod series from former Seagull hang glider boss, Mike Riggs. I’ve unabashedly promoted this project since it came from my challenge for a true “soaring trike.” u Pods are sleek fuselages to house pilots attached to hang glider wings. Their goal is to offer more comfort, low drag and light weight, and a rigid attachment to the glider. You fly seated/supine — and have a full enclosure. Think of a powered ultralight trike except one with all the draggy bits pulled inside. Escape Pod and Pod Racer (and surely Porky Pod, too, when it’s ready) will feature fully retractable tri-gear, in-flight C/G adjustment, and a molded clear plastic canopy that fits smoothly to a composite body. A positive aspect is the rigid connection to glider, such that you can never fall into the wing, possibly preventing broken gliders after a tumble or tuck.