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. Thanks to many of you who have written to say you truly enjoy “Product Lines,” often making it one of the first things you read (most folks say they “go to the back of the book” after reviewing the cover and centerfold). But, enough about me… ••• The flight park billing itself as the “country’s oldest” has changed hands at last. On February 17th, founder and previous owner Brad Kushner reported, “I’m pleased to announce that Eric Thorstenson and I have reached an agreement on the sale of Raven Sky Sports, Inc. and all associated property.” Brad indicated that Eric “intends to reopen Raven very soon, with a target date of April 1st to resume flying activities this year.” (This is not an April Fools joke.) The contract for sale was not completed as this issue went to press but the intent of each party is clear; Eric sent mail confirming the agreement. • Kushner reports that putting the deal together took a long time. “Even as recently as last Sunday’s hang gliding club meeting, the official word was that there was nothing to report on the negotiations. In fact, it wasn’t until late Monday (2/16/04) that Eric and I reached an agreement.” Brad wished to express special thanks to Terry Kramer and John Gamble, who worked behind the scenes as liaisons between Eric and Brad. • Even while the enterprise is currently closed for the winter, plans are afoot. “Eric is going to try to be here for the Seventh Annual Betty Pfeiffer Safety & Parachute Clinic,” Brad says. It was scheduled for the March 13-14 weekend. Raven Sky Sports also had plans for a prominent booth at the 10-day-long Milwaukee Sports Show. • On a related note, Betty, owner of High Energy Sports, will be on a Midwestern tour. She and I are each scheduled to speak before the Illinois Ultralight Safety Seminar which commonly attracts 400-500 participants. It’s powered ultralight stuff but Betty’s knowledge is valuable to both groups. • For those with questions or willing to lend a hand to the transfer of Raven Sky Sports from Brad to Eric, contact Brad at (262) 473-8800 or 903-8800 or Brad@hanggliding.com • One final note on this arrangement. It turns out Raven will probably change names. An ultralight company has warned Brad that they own the name SkySports and he should cease using it. Ironically, that outfit bought the name from SkySports hang gliders. The Connecticut company, at one time with Tom Peghiny as its teen-aged designer, sold the brand to previous owners of the ultralight company. Oddly, SkySports no longer does any business with hang glider pilots. Nonetheless, a name change is imminent and you could be the one who renames it. Supply the winning name and Raven Fill-in-the-Blank will present you with a one-year, fully-paid membership. ••• Another new development involves a powered product leading to a hang glider product. Ken Brown of Moyes America writes, “After the introduction of the Bug 2 Suprone Motor Harness, a number of pilots expressed an interest in a non-motorized soaring harness.” You get what you ask for in this case as Ken adds, “We now offer the Supine Flyer.” The new harness is based on the powered unit design and incorporates weight displacement of the pilot for prone-rigged gliders. “The Supine Flyer has all the comfort and stability of the Bug 2 for those that want to foot launch or tow up with a Suprone harness,” reports Brown. • According to developer FlyLight, the Bug 2 powered harness has evolved from the original DoodleBug to provide even better touring and soaring performance. FlyLight reports, “Stowage volume has been significantly increased to easily accommodate the essential camping gear for real bivouac flying while the frontal area has been reduced for improved aerodynamics and soaring ability.” Bug 2 sells for $5,895 including electric start, prop brake and other accessories. FMI: email@example.com or (530) 888-8622. ••• Still on suprone flying, I wish to report, somewhat late, that famed British hang glider pilot, Colin Lark, succumbed to cancer last fall. While the UK copes with the loss of a former “living legend,” his name came to me as he had been promoting a suprone harness before his demise. • This harness style had a renaissance back in the 1980s but faded then as it had before. Now, however, as hang glider pilots age, add power, and consider rigs like Michael Riggs’ Pod Racer, the suprone concept may be getting a new burnish. The idea of sit-down flying was pooh-poohed by many pilots who prefer the lean aerodynamics of superman-style prone posture. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of pilots fly this way — at least if you fail to count our paragliding brothers who fly seated. The Supine Flyer from Ken Brown’s shop and other projects indicate this posture has not died along with Mr. Lark. ••• Still on sit-down flying, Alan Chuculate’s SlowTow project continues. Alan, you may recall from previous “Product Lines” columns, is developing a special trike tug purposed with aerotowing of paragliders. While this has been done before, the concept needed further development and Chuculate jumped into the fray. Next month, I’ll have a further update on his efforts. ••• So, got news or opinions? Send ‘em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Messages or fax to 651-450-0930. E-mail to News@ByDanJohnson.com or CumulusMan@aol.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine