ST. PAUL, MINN., — Welcome to a new era of hang gliding… well, and everything else, I guess. If you’re reading this, the Y2K bug evidently didn’t stop civilization as some feared. At least you got your Hang Gliding magazine. Is something more important than that? ••• As we start a new millennia, it pays to take stock of the state of the art. Topless flexwings are achieving great flights and cost Six Grand. Rigids wings seem to be the new darlings despite breaking the Ten Grand price barrier. We have carbon/kevlar helmets, highly sophisticated electronic navigation and flight performance instruments, and everybody flies with a parachute, sometimes two. Heck, we’ve even got luxury sport utility vehicles to haul it all around. Aren’t we something, cool 21st Century pilots? So I suppose it makes sense that lots of attention seems focused on the harness as we start a new year. It’s the new front line in the relentless drive for more performance.
AirSports Expo attracts a large crowd and many vendors. On the first day in Ontario, California, you could see this was going to be the largest AirSports Expo yet. In the shadow still lingering from September 11, many wondered and worried about participation and attendance, but the concern was baseless. A flurry of activity in the last few weeks before the show brought so many requests for exhibit space that the already designed floor plan had to be scrapped and redrawn. More than 2200 pilots and other visitors saw the exhibits of 65 vendors. While still small next to Sun ’n Fun or AirVenture Oshkosh, this was a good turnout. The range of vendors included many aircraft suppliers and all manner of accessories and informational products. Gathering of Eagles AirSports Expo represents the combined efforts of the Soaring Society of America (SSA), the U.S. Ultralight Association (USUA), and the U.S. Hang Gliding Association (USHGA).
The ultralight motorglider evolution continues in Europe. Ultralight motorgliders are as rare as hen’s teeth in the U.S., but Europe is blessed with several choices that nicely complement high-end, high-priced full-size motorgliders. While America has the lovely Esprit from Aero Dovron, our soaring friends across the Atlantic continue to lead this specialized market. Full-size (higher-weight) motorgliders start at more than $100,000 and can surpass $200,000. Those who can afford them are surely thrilled with such beautiful machines, but most of us can’t spend that kind of money regardless of their superb performance. However, at $20-$30,000 ready-to-fly, a clean self-launching soaring aircraft is more affordable. Like their larger siblings, these efficient designs can also cruise under power respectably well, giving them broader appeal than pure gliders. Noins’ Excel One of the newest of the breed is the Excel from France’s Noins Aeronautiques Alpaero. Based in beautiful Tallard in the French Alps, Noins is revered by French soaring pilots.
An American finds success building aircraft overseas. This is not a story about a Czech company. It’s about an American company in the Czech Republic, a distinction that makes this story different. For months we have been hearing and reading about sport pilot and light- sport aircraft (LSA). The FAA’s new rule is creating plenty of excitement for some very good reasons. That excitement is not confined to the U.S. Overseas manufacturers are eyeing the new rule as a way to enter the U.S. market. One of those in the best position to take advantage of the new rule is Czech Aircraft Works (CZAW). An American In Prague Chip Erwin hails from Wisconsin. Today, he is an American who owns a company in the Czech Republic. His CZAW has become one of that country’s largest aircraft producers. He accomplished all of this during the single decade when the Czech Republic regained its independence.
Copperstate celebrates its 30th anniversary at a promising new venue. That’s the dustiest place on Earth!” the pilot said upon returning from Phoenix Regional Airport in late 2001. John Kemmeries, a Phoenix-based ultralight entrepreneur, had sent the pilot to check out the proposed site for the Copperstate regional fly-in. The pilot’s reconnaissance report suggested a dry and dirty venue for the Arizona fly-in, but he had no way of knowing the event organizer’s vision. As I approached the area in BRS’s Cessna 172 Hawk XP for the 2002 fly-in, I found myself searching vainly for an airstrip among the desert’s uniform brown color. As the GPS led me along, I suddenly saw a large swatch of green dotted with colored tents. My uncertainty vanished; the site stood out like the proverbial sore thumb. Welcome to the new, improved Copperstate as created by thousands of volunteer man-hours and the support of a local land owner.
This French light-airplane show Tops Anything in the U.S. The name of the French venue is a bit awkward for Americans, though it rolls off the French tongue fluidly. Blois—pronounced Blwah—is a superb airshow that should grab the interest of every light-airplane enthusiast. Light Airplanes Everywhere! I’ve been to Sun ’n Fun for more than 25 years and to Oshkosh nearly as many. I spend a lot of time in the ultralight area of each, and they’re big events, no question. But both take a second seat to Blois. Yes, believe it or not, the event 185 kilometers south of Paris last August is the largest of the ultralight airshows I’ve seen. With 90 exhibitors and more than 500 aircraft, most of which were flown to the event, Blois beats even Paradise City at the Lakeland, Florida, Sun ’n Fun fly-in. I’ve known of this 22-year-old show since the ’80s but attended for the first time last summer.
With 200-foot-tall trees and mountain peaks topped with snow throughout the year, Washington is a scenic place for an airshow. Despite a drought that caused the grass to crunch underfoot, light aviation looked alive and well at the EAA’s Arlington gathering for 2003. Local Boys Make Good One main attraction was the much-anticipated RV-10 four-place aircraft that drew big crowds. But a Washington-area group also revealed their efforts of past months. Sport Flight Aviation displayed in the ultralight area with the first of 50 kits in progress. Two completed Talons—the last of the old design—stood alongside a new Typhoon. The new closely resembles the old. Company owners Todd Thompson and Ron Osborne took pride in showing me extensive CAD-generated drawings printed after a lengthy effort to document the popular northwest design. Each of the men operates a non-aviation business. They teamed up to resuscitate a company left leaderless after the death of its founder, Roger Bitton.
Light aircraft abound at Friedrichshafen’s air fair. Once Oshkosh AirVenture has ended, you may be interested to hear of another gathering that challenges the Wisconsin affair for supremacy when it comes to light aviation. No, I’m not referring to Sun ’n Fun. Inside the vast and numerous indoor halls of Aero 2001 in Friedrichshafen, Germany, the largest aircraft on display was a Cessna 206. But most were smaller, what the European Community calls ultralights, and the choices were as wide and diverse as the great halls that exhibited them. An Air Fair, Indeed When Germans speak English to Americans, they call their airshows “fairs.” Indeed, this July event was as large as some state fairs and resulted in near sensory overload for several U.S. airshow veterans who attended with me. Aero, which alternates years like many European airshows, has been hosted by the southern German town of Friedrichshafen for the last decade.
An American in Ukraine: We develop a taste for the local sport airplane product. The September 2000 KITPLANES® cover featured Howard Levy’s report on Aeroprakt airplane kits about to be imported into the U.S. Recently, I visited the factory and flew the airplanes. Here’s what I found. We’re Not in Kansas In a land far away, people with a strange language are doing something good for pilots in America. They’re building some fine aircraft and coincidentally helping Yankees discover their distant land. The country is Ukraine, the city is Kiev, and the company is Aeroprakt. Don’t feel bad if remnants of the old Iron Curtain blocked your view. I had the same impression until I traveled to the ancient country for a look. Before we get to the airplanes, though, let me give you a brief tour of the country, the city and the company. Then you’ll get my impression of the aircraft.
Like any of the Olympic sports, a world-class hang gliding championship brings together pilots so good that the rest of us can only imagine performing as well. Two hang gliding contests clustered right after Sun ’n Fun draw the best of the best, and 2001 was a banner year for top talent. This year the Wallaby Open and a contest at nearby Quest Air switched positions with the Quest meet coming first this year. The highest-ranking world pilots flew both week-long competitions. Cross-Country Tasks Some power pilots believe that hang glider pilots jump from mountains and slide into the valley. That may have been true 25 years ago, but today, meet organizers routinely call for racing flights from 50 to well over 100 miles. In daily events called tasks, competing pilots are out on the course trying to make goal. As many as 100 gliders are pursuing the destination as furiously as the lift will allow.
Creating Ultralight VehiclesFor the term "ultralight vehicle" Mike gives credit to FAA's Juan Croft, who developed the original foot-launch policy for powered hang gliders. Mike explains: "In the late 1970s, Juan reviewed powered hang glider operations, and he argued that they would not be a hazard to air commerce. Based on his recommendation, the agency chose to classify powered hang gliders as vehicles rather than aircraft and to regulate them differently because they were and are recreational vehicles rather than air commerce vehicles." But, in the early 1980s, FAA's attention was again drawn to ultralights after enthusiasts started putting better developed engines on the machines, which allowed them to fly higher and farther. Mike recalls that FAA's Air Traffic Division was given the assignment to create a sub-chapter to FAR Part 91 that would regulate the activities of these vehicles. "That was the original plan," says Mike, "to figure out how to prohibit powered hang gliders/ultralights from using the most pieces of airspace that also were used by air commerce. FAA didn't want to kill ultralights, but nobody in air commerce was too anxious to see them proliferate. We were trying to find a way to adequately fulfill FAA's responsibilities to control air traffic and assure the safety of the public. "The actual assignment to write the rule came to Bernie Geier and Keith Potts as division managers. Besides myself, others on the team included Jack Reynolds from Airports, Ken Peppard from Air Traffic, and Art Jones of the Certification branch. Art was involved because at one time the thought of requiring some level of pilot certification had been considered. Even though Art was manager of the Certification branch, he was not someone who was particularly into empire building. He had a good feel for what was and wasn't needed, and in the end he felt that pilot certification would not be a significant benefit and could become a burden on the agency if FAA had to oversee certification." According to Mike, one of the biggest discussions that evolved from FAA's initial meetings was coming up with a definition of ultralights. "We could see that the foot-launching rule wasn't working any more as a defining line because more and more people were putting landing gear on the machines, and we could see that was safer, so we began looking for other defining criteria. At that time, we had no idea how sophisticated these machines were going to become."
The Magical 254-Pound Weight LimitOne of the most-asked questions by ultralight newcomers and veterans alike is, "How did FAA choose 254 pounds for the maximum empty weight of ultralight vehicles?" Mike finally tells the story: "The weights were a compromise. First we started talking about how much weight pilots could actually foot-launch. The original proposal was for 155 pounds, but people told us they were routinely launching 200-pound ultralights. We didn't necessarily believe that was the case, but that's what manufacturers and enthusiasts represented to us. After many discussions with those active in the industry, the weight of 254 pounds came down because we thought manufacturers and owners could build a safe machine at that weight, and then we added the weight exemption for a 'safety device to be deployed in a potentially catastrophic situation.'" Mike says that exemption came about as the rule-making team began to consider the repercussions of inair/ structural failures. "We heard a lot of talk about parachutes that could lower the whole machine to the ground in the event of a structural failure, and that seemed worth investigating." Then, as now, some enthusiasts marvel that safety devices didn't include all manner of other safety gear. Mike responds: "In fact, we were thinking specifically of parachutes, although we didn't want to say only parachutes because we didn't want to limit ingenuity. But we decided that safety devices to be deployed in a catastrophic situation did not mean brakes or a radio, as some have challenged since the rule's institution. Frankly, we argued about many of them, including radios, brakes, and a transponder, or even a horn because it would let people on the ground know to get out of the way. People tried to say brakes were needed, but that's not true in a catastrophic situation. "The idea of the whole-airplane parachute was relatively new. Many pilots were wearing parachutes with hang gliders-and there had already been successful deployments. A couple of companies were working on systems for powered ultralights, and we thought, 'Why not give them an extra allowance?' We were limiting the weight of the airframe, thus to some extent interfering with the design, so we thought emergency parachutes would just be a good redundancy. "At that time there was a lot of talk in regulatory circles that if you're going to make some piece of equipment optional, there should be some extra privilege if pilots/owners added it. For example, in other aircraft, if you added a transponder, you were allowed to fly through additional airspace. "We decided that if owners added the extra weight of the parachute, we'd give them the extra weight allowance so that they wouldn't pay a penalty in weight for equipping their vehicle with this safety device." With several "saves" recorded because of the availability of ballistic chutes, history shows the rule-making team's logic was sound. But how did extra weight for floats figure into the special exemption? Mike explains that, too. "Regarding floats, we could see that if people were operating off water they weren't operating anyplace where they were going to be involved with other air traffic. In the examples I saw, people were operating at low altitudes in small bodies of water, and they just were not a threat to other air traffic." Could ultralight manufacturers have convinced Mike and the team that more airframe weight was reasonable? Remembering that "foot-launch" had been the prior rule, Mike says perhaps, but not likely. "The weight was definitely a negotiation. The industry was trying to convince us that these were the same machines they had been foot-launching, but it's hard to convince someone you can footlaunch a 300-pound vehicle."
Speed Limits in the SkyHow about that 55-knot or 63-mph speed limit? Wasn't that rather restrictive? (In the context of the proposed sport pilot/light-sport aircraft rule that carries a top speed limit of 132 mph, this question seems relevant.) Mike responds with typical logic: "First of all we looked at the speeds at which most of the machines were operating, and 55 knots was about average. Second, we looked at the damage that could be caused-the faster the projectile or the aircraft was going, the more kinetic energy you have. "We looked at the type of technology that was being used, the wing designs, and we decided that a 55-knot speed would be adequate for sport and recreation. These aircraft were never going to be transportation machines per se, so it was a compromise, as are most things in regulatory language. We knew that if we kept a limit on the top speed and if we could get the stall speed down pretty low, the chances were we would not have much third-party injury or damage. And I don't think we have had much third-party injury or damage." Many who know him think Mike is some kind of ideal FAA regulator. How might he act today if he had remained in his old role? He muses: "I, for one, would be for a new definition of ultralights with a new, higher empty weight, and I wouldn't object to some speed increase on the top end, but I would object to any speed increase on the bottom end, though that would be a very difficult thing for a designer. The low kinetic energy has been responsible for fewer injuries and fewer third-party damage incidents; consequently, we haven't had a significant part of the public saying that ultralights are a problem."
Why No Certificate?Because most ultralights fly only locally, many certificated pilots will somewhat grudgingly admit a certificate may not be necessary. However, we all know some ultralights fly long distances. Mike explains: "We decided that ultralight flying was a sport similar to mountain climbing and skiing, and we didn't have any intention of coming up with standards for the machines. We had a good model for that in the sport parachuting rule, which is the model that I settled on and became the major advocate for- not licensing the aircraft, not licensing the airmen, just limiting the potential for disaster by (1) keeping them out of certain air space, and (2) limiting the size of the aircraft and the amount of fuel they could carry. "Of course we know that ultralights have gone all around the United States, but I submit that every time, they were being operated by somebody having adequate knowledge to do it safely. In some cases they were already certificated pilots at another level, but even if not, the truth is they were able to do it safely without endangering anyone else, and that's all that mattered. That's all licensing is about-it's just a method to assure the public that a reasonable minimum of knowledge has been gained. Licensing or certification is not some magic panacea." Although Mike encountered some resistance within FAA for his "letthem- fly-freely" philosophy, he continued to use logic to further his goals. "We knew we could not have an inspector at every airport or place where hang gliders or ultralights could be operated. That was foolish thinking. It was better to depend on industry, the community, and the marketplace to determine what's successful." In the end it may have been the political climate that allowed Mike to work his rule-making magic. "The timing was good. Our government was into self-regulation. Politically, the administrations didn't want new governmental functions; this was during the Carter and Reagan administrations. Carter was talking about smaller government, the Paperwork Reduction Act was in force, and simplification of regulations was our marching order, so it all flowed fairly smoothly. Nobody wanted to get the federal government into new areas, particularly in regulatory matters. Whenever you came up with a regulatory scheme you had to show how you were saving taxpayer's money, not spending it. So this rule worked well in that climate." Nearly 20 years later, it is obvious to aviators in and out of the ultralight industry that Part 103 has functioned admirably. However, even such a marvelously simple rule required more detail. Advisory Circulars 103-6 and the very important 103-7, which helped FAA field inspectors as well as ultralight designers determine if a given ultralight met the rule, provided that detail. This still was not the limit of Mike's work. Important innovations that came once Part 103 was written into law included the exemptions for two-place training in powered ultralights and for the towing of hang gliders. Mike states: "I did the two-place exemption and the towing exemption, and both of them were difficult to convince FAA General Counsel to accept. FAA's top lawyers are very leery about exemptions. They feel you should go back to rule making rather than exemptions, but we talked about how we needed expediency and the fact that we could increase the safety of ultralights. "While many cite ABC's 20/20 program in November of 1983 as having been extremely harmful to the sport of ultralighting, it actually helped us get the two-place exemption through because we were able to convince people that just by having some experience in the twoplace machine with an experienced pilot we could essentially replicate the kind of safety that was involved in conventional training aircraft. They went for that, and we got the exemption." In his Hall of Fame nomination document for Mike, Carmen Miranda of EAA Ultralight Chapter 71 wrote, "It should be remembered that the extraordinary success enjoyed by the ultralight community today in the United States is in no small measure due to the personal efforts and vision of this one FAA official."
Offering My CongratulationsIn closing, I'd like to add my personal thoughts. I've come to know Mike, not as an FAA man but as a person and fellow pilot. Since we first met I've enjoyed his calm demeanor and winning smile (not always attributes I associate with my representatives in FAA). We've had numerous conversations, and you know what — he's "one of us." In his acceptance speech, Mike recognized the irony of EAA inducting a "rule maker" into the ranks of sport aviation's finest. Yet anyone who's ever met and talked to Mike finds this of no surprise whatsoever. While some rule makers load regulation upon rule to the shoulders of pilots, Mike and his associates in the early '80s helped create the least imposing rule in the thick book of FAA regulations. As I've often, and proudly, repeated, this is an FAA rule that can be printed in its entirely on the front and back of one 8.5-by-11-inch piece of paper. Lastly, Mike's work has had a profound influence on my life and that of thousands more owing to his dedication to ballistically deployed emergency parachutes. By seeing the future (BRS was very young at the time and had yet to save its first life), Mike not only helped provide me with a career, but he also allowed these devices to save literally hundreds of lives. Please join me in giving Mike a round of applause for his work on aviation's tiniest rule, the famous Part 103. Not only did he accomplish a noteworthy rule creation; he did so in barely one year once the NPRM was published. Perhaps Mike puts it best when he summarizes: "The rule started out to be a prohibitive rule-prohibit the operation here, prohibit the operation there. What we were able to do was make it into a permissive rule that allowed the operation of ultralights and put significant responsibility on the operators and on the industry. That was the whole model. If I became famous for any part of 103, it was because I advocated letting the pilots regulate themselves. Regulation shouldn't limit invention." Amen — and congratulations to Mike Sacrey, an FAA rule maker pilots can applaud! EAA has bestowed a well deserved honor.
Note to readers — This article first appeared in EAA Sport Pilot magazine. The layout is unusual because of magazine formatting, but all the text and photo information is as it originally appears… —DJ AND LEARNING THE HISTORY OF FAR PART 103 Not long after takeoff, the airline captain’s deep voice transmitted the following: “Ah… Los Angeles Center, I see hang gliders not far off my wing. They aren’t in our airspace, but I’m surprised to see these guys up here.” Thus began the impetus to create Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 103. Of course, the rule had no name at the outset, but one FAA official saw the future. Honoring the foresight of this man, EAA recently inducted W. Michael “Mike” Sacrey into the EAA Ultralight Hall of Fame during ceremonies on November 2, 2001, at EAA headquarters in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Mike holds an airline transport pilot (ATP) rating with numerous sign-offs for a variety of jets and multiengine seaplanes.
The FAA’s new sport pilot/light-sport aircraft notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) has been released. With a 90- day comment period underway, the proposed pilot certificate and aircraft categories are on the minds of all light-aircraft producers and anyone who flies for fun. The flying machines that will fit under the proposed new aircraft categories will be called light-sport aircraft, and in this article we’ll take a look at what’s currently available|and what the future may hold. “The FAA’s new rule is destined to globalize the light aviation industry.” The promise is great for Americans. When the new sport pilot/light-sport aircraft NPRM changes are finalized and implemented, we will enter a new era in light aviation. People who have wanted a light aircraft to fly for fun but who didn’t have the time or skill to build it will be able to buy a ready-to-fly airplane. And, they’ll be able to learn to fly in less time and at less expense than the cost of acquiring a private pilot certificate.
ST. PAUL, MINN. — The Wallaby 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. 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. 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. — 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. 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. *** 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. — 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.” 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.
Trikes: they’re enjoyed around the world by thousands of pilots A what? Not sure what a “trike” is, are you? Don’t feel bad. Although these machines may represent the largest production of aircraft in the world, many pilots have overlooked their appeal. A trike is an aircraft made of two principle parts: a wing that resembles a hang glider (but is more stoutly built) and a carriage. The latter element is comprised of an engine, landing gear, seat and instrumentation. Within certain bounds, the wings and carriage can be mixed and matched. They may sound strange, but they are enjoyed around the world by thousands of pilots. In fact, among European light aviation enthusiasts, about one in every two flies a trike. Just a toy? Not! In case you think that such a contraption must be only for young sport enthusiasts that don’t have enough money for a “real” airplane, think again.
Updated: 7 December 2001 If you like hang gliding… then you have come to the right page. Currently, the Website has several Dennis Pagen pilot reports of the most popular hang gliders. (Thanks to Dennis for working me to bring you his fine reports.) I also have posted the last few Product Lines columns from Hang Gliding magazine. This column has run every month for the last 22 years and therefore represents a significant historical record for the sport of hang gliding. I will add the newest versions each month and will go back and add the older ones on a steady basis. Powered Hang Gliding & Soaring Those hang glider pilots willing to add engines to the equation will find some pilot reports on light trikes. These are machines I have flown that can deliver soaring flight to hang gliding enthusiasts. Some are better than others. well, that may be why you visited this site — to see the differences.
ST ST. PAUL, MINN. — Since last month’s column, I’ve been to the USHGA board of directors meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah. As usual, the large group of directors spent many hours — all unpaid, volunteer work and they pay most of their expenses to do so! If you want more details, ask your regional director or read articles elsewhere in this magazine. ••• However, my focus at these meetings is as chair of the Publications Committee. Often, this committee’s work is obscure but this time, the committee recommended and the full board blessed an idea that will affect everyone in Yooshga, including both hang gliding and paragliding pilots. The committee recommended and the board approved a plan to combine our two magazines into one. • Now, before I go off and make someone angry, let me stress that you will see articles in both magazines surrounding this change AND members will be given a chance to provide their thoughts.
Dockweiler Beach renews hang gliding memories. Most KITPLANES readers probably don’t think of hang glider pilots as old folks. Indeed, it remains a younger man’s flying sport due to the athletic nature of the launch and landing. (At least that’s true if you don’t count the 30-40% of all launches that are done via aerotowing behind a specially built ultralight.) Nonetheless, this event at a famed California beach site was dubbed the Geezer Fly-In by many who celebrated in good humor at the landmark where so many first got their feet off the ground under a hang glider. Many of those present qualify as fifty somethings. “Nearly 400 pilots attended,” says Michael Riggs, himself a figurehead in the early days of hang gliding. Riggs started Seagull Aircraft, which became highly successful selling thousands of his distinctive hang gliders with the smoothly curved leading edges. He also described the event this way: “There wasn’t a dry eye all day.” Of the hundreds who gathered, many had not seen each another in the last 20 years.
What’s in a name? A Texas-based event, last summer’s World Record Encampment, predicted accurately its own success; two top hang glider pilots set world records for distance flying and broke another record that stood for nearly a decade. On July 19, Dave Sharp flew his A.I.R. ATOS rigid wing hang glider for an astounding 311 miles (501 kilometers), narrowly beating the long-held record of 308 miles set by another leading competitor, Larry Tudor. Tudor first broke the magical 300-mile barrier by flying 303 miles in July, 1990. He repeated this achievement, flying 308 miles several years later, but nearly a decade passed with no other pilots exceeding 300 miles. That unique status was shattered thanks to participants at the World Record Encampment 2000. Sharp flew more than 9 hours to earn his world record. The one that people will remember is the 311-mile flight of straight distance, but along the way he also set a record for a flight to a declared goal of 203 miles.