ST. PAUL, MN — Folks, right off, I have a couple items of interest that don’t relate to hang gliding products. ••• In the December ’97 issue I wrote about industry leader, Ken Brown. The story mentioned Ken’s employer, a man named Jim Lee, who was killed in an ultralight accident. I didn’t focus on Lee as the story was about Brown. However, perhaps I should’ve spelled it out. Some readers thought I meant Jim Lee, the highly ranked hang glider pilot. THIS IS NOT TRUE. I wrote that the other Jim Lee was an ultralight developer based in the East, while hang glider Jim Lee is not involved with ultralights and lives in the west. Some pilots read the story in December and erroneously put that news together with a reported death at the World Meet in Australia in January, concluding that Jim Lee the hang glider pilot had lost his life. To make matters worse, concerns were expressed to Kathy, wife of Jim Lee (the HG pilot). This surely scared the daylights out of her, so to be even clearer, let me restate: Jim Lee, the hang glider pilot, is very alive and well. ••• Unfortunately, I have bad news of my own that is accurate. As many readers know, I am associated with the Cumulus ultralight motorglider under the business name US Aviation. In late February, after several deliveries had been made on this long-awaited project, designer and manufacturer Jim Collie was killed while flying the factory production prototype. It appears the problem related to a delamination of the D-cell skin which lead to a catastrophic failure of the left wing. Jim was a talented engineer, a man of great integrity, and a credit to the light aviation industry he loved. To say he will be missed is an huge understatement. Many hang glider pilots have inquired about the Cumulus and some had met Collie. Shipments are on hold pending the completion of an investigation. • Now let’s turn to brighter news in the hang gliding community… ••• Yet another Tow Airpark has sprung up, this one in the west which makes it the first of which I’m aware. (If you know of others, please let me know!). The newest addition is the Sierra Dragonfly Club near Carson City Nevada. Currently the club is located at an ultralight park called Parker. They plan to move to Minden, a well known name among sailplane pilots who enjoy the area’s reliable soaring. The Sierra Dragonflyers are expecting designer Bobby Bailey to bring and build their new tug by about mid-May. For more details contact Ray Leonard’s Adventure Sports at 702-883-7070. ••• In additional to aerotowing you’ll be able to see the Millennium since the facility is planned to offer factory service for the new D-cell glider from Brightstar. Sales are initiating for the new competitor to the Exxtasy. I am somewhat aware of the final developments as I’ve just been sent new photos of the wing in flight (looks good!) and because my other employer, BRS, is finalizing a custom-made emergency ‘chute system. The earlier Swifts were sold with a ballistic ‘chute. John Borton, head man at western distributor Thin Air Designs, believes "80% of the purchasers of this glider will opt for a ballistic ‘chute." ••• Speaking of ‘chutes, Mike Sandlin wants to give his away. In truth, after being inspired by Charlie Baughman’s Inverted Hang System giveaway, Mike says, "I have a similar non-product." He refers to his "keel-stabilized hang glider drogue ‘chute." He’s had drawings and text guidelines on the Internet for a year at www.wallaby.com/mackey/drogue. After becoming satisfied with the finished version, Mike now wants to share it… although you’ll have to make your own. He says he’s been flying with it for seven years and uses it on almost every flight as it makes landings easier and safer. Sandlin reports, "The effects on glider handling are minor and the steep glide and short ground skim are major confidence builders in tight situations." Also check the hang glider home page for more details and then, help yourself! ••• Wallaby enjoyed a huge event as Wills Wing launched their 25th Anniversary Celebration. In three days of good weather (thanks, El Nino, for backing off a little), the Ranch logged 426 tows! Three tugs ran consistently and manager David Glover says no one ever waited more than ten minutes. Altitudes reached 5,000 feet and many pilots recorded four hour flights. Not much cross country occurred because of an impending party under the "big tent." Over 130 pilots were present, including representatives from no less than 42 WW dealerships, both U.S. and overseas. The best news: zero problems, zero injuries. Amen! ••• However, since nobody wanted to leave the party, Wallaby’s $1,000 prize for the first flight to reach Georgia went unclaimed. It could happen! The previous record was 147 miles and that’s getting close. If your own glider isn’t good enough for the gold, rent one from the Ranch. Manager David says they have topless gliders plus the Exxtasy and Millennium available. They’ve sold over a dozen of the D-cells already and deal in both. ••• Coming up soon — also at Wallaby (don’t these guys ever tire?) — is GW Meadow’s Atlantic Coast Championships. This event will take place the last week of this month, precisely placed right at the end of the big Sun ‘n Fun airshow. Mike "Hollywood" Champlin is organizing a Cross Country and Competition Symposium. He says he’s already enlisted "name flyers" like Mark "Gibbo" Gibson and Mike Barber. He has also tentatively lined up Larry Tudor, Jim Lee, Brad Koji, and Chris Arai (if all elect to compete). The all-day event is planned for Saturday 4/25/98 just before the contest begins. Info: Wallaby at 941-424-0070, or firstname.lastname@example.org. ••• Outta room. So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Fax or Vmail to 612-450-0930. Post eMail to CumulusMan@aol.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine