ST. PAUL, MINN. — Ahh… April, when the living gets easier up here in the long-frozen tundra. All over America, trees are sprouting leaves and the thermals are poppin’. Let’s see what’s news. ••• From the end of last year, Dennis Pagen — USHGA’s rep to the CIVL of FAI — reports that the international organization is concerned about the "decline of hang gliding." Dennis clarifies, "While the sport appears healthy [in America], such a statement [by CIVL] should not come as a surprise for it has been well reported that hang gliding is disappearing in many countries of Europe. Paragliding has superseded it because of the ease of access to airtime paragliders afford. Even if the same process does not occur in our country, the disappearance of hang gliding elsewhere will hurt our pilots as manufacturers sell less, fewer products become available and hang gliding receives less media attention." ••• Disturbing talk. On top of which, in the rarefied atmosphere of Washington DC, FAA has thrown cold water all over what looked like promising regulatory changes. USHGA reps to the FAA meetings of late thought possible changes to Part 103 might make hang gliding a little freer. Not! ••• In related news, USHGA’s Planning Committee met to discuss future trends and how the association should respond. Hang gliding has indeed gotten tougher to enter (schools hard to find; glider prices up; skill requirements high) so perhaps Pagen is right to encourage our review of ideas to aid hang gliding growth… assuming we want it to grow. Not everyone agrees with this goal. But enough political babble; let’s get back to products. ••• BRS is combating high prices with a superb deal on emergency canopies. Long a product priced above $400 at retail, the rocket maker has offered a hand deployable canopy for only $295. The "HD" series is also rocket launchable, either by BRS pyrotechnic rocket or Second Chantz’s A.I.R. For a spec sheet, call BRS at 612/457-7491. ••• On the other end of the price spectrum but with potential to increase new HG students… is the Zeiset/Combs Magic 250 Legend Aerosports Boat. A boat?! Yep! Pendulum Sports owner, Jim Zeiset, has been pursuing a water-based towing package that he could sell as a ready-to-use training system. Recently Pendulum sent out info packets full of most of the details. The Magic 250 system is intended for commercial operators who seek to give training in a very user-friendly manner and the packet illustrates a strong effort toward that goal. A catamaran, twin hull boat with 385 horses promises to deliver powerful yet smooth experiences to six students per outing. Unusual for hang gliding, Pendulum has attempted to put all the necessary ingredients together for a successful towing operation. The boat accomplishes the task of towing, but perhaps differently from what you’d expect. The Magic 250 is not a platform towing system. Instead the tandem glider is fitted with large pontoons so instructor and student launch from the water. The 12-foot long floats attach to an extended control bar base tube and to the rear of the keel in what appears to be a very stable design. The Double Vision glider used by Pendulum also has an inflatable nose bladder in the unlikely event of a nose over. In this set up, the student flies above the instructor in a separate harness that supports the student well above the instructor. It should be comfortable — and nearly dry! — for the student, yet the instructor should be able to fly with little "interference." FMI: 800/933-5992. ••• At a completely different towing site, Florida’s Dragonfly Park has changed its name to Wallaby Ranch. It seems a Japanese garden in the Miami area already owned the other name. Old or new name, the place is jumpin’. Proprietor Malcolm Jones has expanded the 52-acre site to be more than a home for the Dragonfly Tug ultralight. His Florida Hang Gliding, Inc., is now offering certified tandem instruction, rentals, sales, storage, ratings, X-C retrieval, camping, swimming, picnicking… well, you get the idea. Open seven days a week only eight miles south of Walt Disney World, Wallaby Ranch is wonderfully located for whole family outings. Days, call 813/424-0070 (also fax); evenings, call 407/896-7311. Watch for FHG ads soon, says Jones. ••• The site is also well located for the airshow season’s grand opener, Sun ‘n Fun, based at the Lakeland, FL airport only 50 miles to the south. USHGA will be represented again at the April 10-16 blockbuster event which is now challenging that 800-pound gorilla of airshows: Oshkosh. Listen up! For years Sun ‘n Fun has been gaining attendance. The growth has been substantial and steady. But last year, the airshow just exploded from 360,000 attendees in ’92 to nearly 650,000 in 1993! Many aviation experts are speculating that the popular Florida event could eclipse Oshkosh in a few more years. That’s quite an accomplishment as Oshkosh is accepted as THE largest aviation event in the world. The satisfying part is that hang gliding participation in both events has become a regular feature and more folks are discovering our dandy sport at one of these monster events. ••• Outta room. So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Fax or V-mail to: 612/450-0930. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine