ST. PAUL, MINN — Lots of news as another soaring season begins to take shape. Interestingly, even as the mainstream news media microanalyzes the country’s recession, the hang gliding industry doesn’t seem to be suffering badly. Pockets of sluggishness are countered by areas with early, brisk activity. • Notable perhaps, is Wills Wing’s expression of gratitude to its dealers and customers. "We feel very fortunate to have such high sales in spite of the current economy," reports their newest bulletin to dealers. Indeed! Increasing sales is a long-term thing for the Santa Ana company, illustrated effectively by their use of market share graphics in their two-page ad. In the last year alone, their piece of the U.S. pie is up 16% or 6 points from 37% to 43%. In another important area, WW has done very well with their Z3 harness, but such products aren’t surveyed. • Where is Wills finding those extra sales? We’re all pretty sure it isn’t the tidal wave of new student buyers. Truth is, those sales have come from every other Yankee manufacturer. After increasing market share every year since Jean-Michel founded the company, Pacific Airwave slumped 9% (or 2.6 points) according to ’90 and ’91 figures generated from USHGA’s annual survey. Nonetheless, PacAir remains very solidly the #2 American builder (at 25%), well ahead of #3 UP (at 10%). • Those leaping on the "Buy American" bandwagon may take comfort in WW’s success, given their statement, "[We are] the only wholly U.S. owned manufacturer," besides Seedwings. It’s true. Other builders PacAir and UP have majority foreign ownership. Ironically though, everybody’s sail cloth comes from non-American sources. • In spite of remarkable reception to their TRX offering last year, UP slipped slightly (6% down). While the company has enjoyed great publicity, sales still don’t match WW or PacAir. • Seedwings plummeted 39% (to 3.3%), and of course Delta Wing dropped sharply (26%) when they ceased manufacture (but see below). • Curiously, two gainers are non-American manufacturers. Moyes increased their share by 11% (to 5.1%, for 4th place) and La Mouette inched upward to 1.2% of the U.S. market. Enterprise Wings wasn’t counted separately though they have shown well at several competitions. • PacAir won’t sit still under new management by Ken Brown and Briggs Christie. They began the year by collecting the company’s top ten dealers in Salinas. At this meeting they revealed prototypes of their subsequently-named Vision Pulse, which replaces the Vision Mk IV after many successful years. • Features of the new intermediate offering include a light 52 pound weight, a lower aspect ratio (6) and superior low speed capabilities and handling. "We currently have a 10 meter and 11 meter size. An 8 or 9 meter size is coming soon," reveals prez Brown. The 10 meter model has 164 ft2 and fits pilots weighing 120-195 pounds. • Neither will UP be sitting still, recently hiring GW Meadows to head UP America, a new U.S. marketing arm of UP Int’l (they also have a UP Europe and UP Japan). More on this later. • Next month, we’ll also tell you more about the reemergence of Delta Wing’s Dream under the direction of Kamron Blevins (former owner/manager/designer of Northwing, a custom glider builder from Washington state). And we’ll give you an update on Danny Howell’s Apex rigid wing development. • This month, we’ll review the Windsong Video Helicopter Hang Gliding at Lake Berryessa. This $29.95 tape runs about 55 minutes. Opening with an interesting graphic effect similar to posterization (if it was print media), the tape is backdropped with original, synthesized music written just for the video. HHG offers a glimpse of 20 pilots pursuing a unique experience: site exploring via chopper. The goal is intriguing, but the tape drags at numerous places. The music is pleasant, though ethereal. It doesn’t detract; neither does it excite. Some interesting video effects spark the tape, but only spottily. While HHG should satisfy other pilots, you probably won’t want to show it to that new girlfriend or boyfriend you’ve been trying to impress. Though it lacks the slicker production, faster pace, and glorious color wrapper of last month’s HG Extreme, most pilots will find the Helicopter Hang Gliding worth viewing. Next month, we’ll look at Pork’s Torrey Pilots tape. • As you read this, you’ve only a few days to call in sick, pack your gear, and head to the annual East Coast Championships at Henson Gap in Tennessee (April 11-18). The event has not only become the season-opener contest, it draws widely, offers many CPS points, and occurs during a beautiful time of year in Chattanooga. Call Rick Jacob at Sequatchie Valley Soaring at 615/949-2301 for info. • Room’s gone. So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Or call/fax: 612/450-0930. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine