ST. PAUL, MINN. — Well, diver fans, the combined May issue of HG/PG has been seen and we’ve gone back to separate issues until a final decision is made. The voter cards are in and mostly (but not fully) accounted for at this time. I won’t spill the beans about the exact count (as it isn’t done yet) but I can tell you that the early votes were heavily (76%) in favor of combining. Total votes at press time were around 10% of the membership base suggesting the issue didn’t strongly motivate pilots. So, the other 90% of you evidently thought it was a good idea and/or that it would happen anyway. No decision has been made — nor will one be made until a full analysis has been done and blessed by the board of directors. s USHGA Executive Director Jayne Depanfilis gave board members a review of the effort to announce this combined issue and its vote. She feels that many steps were taken to NOT surprise the membership with this idea. She also emphasized that “every opposing letter received was printed” in the magazine though not many were received. Maybe some who would’ve written opposing letters felt it was a done deal. If so, they were wrong and failing to act cost them a chance to make their point. I watched all this from an insider’s position and I feel USHGA handled it quite fairly. s No definitive word yet on what members think of the magazine’s new art design, however, lots of words have been flowing in e-mail discussions. As with much art, some loved it, some hated it. lll The 2002 edition of the World Record Encampment is underway as you read this, in fact, I hope the electronic press already has word of a new record (and, hopefully!, no mishaps). Again, Steve Kroop’s Flytec company is sponsoring WRE‘02 and has supplied two tugs for the event plus prizes worth several thousand (if record setters fly with a Flytec vario). One of the two tugs that will be present is the Super Tug or — because I feel it’s more to the point — the Turbine Tug. This amazing invention of Quest Air’s Russ Brown is its turbine engine. Yup, not a mere Rotax-914 Turbo, but an actual turbine — in reality an APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) as used on most jetliners. I’ll have more on this in a future installment as I’m working on an article for Kitplanes magazine. I think the powered flying world needs to know what the lil’ ole hang gliding industry is able to do… well, at least what a rather motivated Russ Brown can do. The new “Sport Pilot” rule currently has a line barring turbine engines so the Turbine Tug has an uncertain future as a towplane. But such a cool development can’t remain hidden away in some remote flying location. Meanwhile, the Turbine Tug has been doing duty towing gliders and Kroop says it is a dream to tow behind, with no vibration coming down the towline — as is discernible with piston engines, he says. lll Let’s ponder for a minute hang gliding’s Big-Five manufacturers. I’ve heard from a few folks who, apparently not following the brand name game too closely, were surprised at the distribution of these top wing builders as represented in April’s aerotow meets. Based on contest pilot choices — which may not match purchases by rank-and-file pilots — Moyes of Australia presently has the lead, followed by Wills Wing of the good ole US of A, followed by Aeros of Ukraine, then by A.I.R. of Germany, and finally by Icaro of Italy. Currently, no country dominates as sometimes occurred in hang gliding history. s In the ‘80s La Mouette had a huge share of the market and reportedly produced 1,800 gliders a year. Of course, the French outfit is still very much a player though the French Nationals recently ended with no French gliders among the top five flexwings (3 Litespeeds, a WW Talon, and a Laminar). s A decade or more ago, British pilots were top of the roost, regularly winning competitions with tightly-organized teams. Yet today British gliders compose a small fraction of competitors and their much-vaunted team concept seems to have given way to individual stars. s American brands were once more prolific but have narrowed sharply as our favorite sport matured and became increasingly globalized. Once, the U.S. invented the industry and composed some of its primary brands. Remember names like Seagull, Sky Sports, Electra Flyer, and UP who once sold cutting edge gliders (Seagull III, Kestrel, Cirrus, and Comet)? All gone today. s Despite keeping my eye on this for decades and recognizing the global market concept, I’m still amazed that the Big-Five are each from a different country. And note that one of the Big-Five is a rigid wing; a new fact as best I can recall. Who can guess what will happen in the next decade? s Following these Big-Five are Flight Designs of Germany and La Mouette of France. With smaller-yet shares of the market we find AirBorne of Australia, Avian of England, Altair of USA, and Guggenmos of Germany. lll Among American companies, the obvious leader is Wills Wing. Other current players have niche roles although boutique designers like Bob Trampenau occasionally devise concepts that are ultimately purchased or co-opted successfully by the Big Five. No gliders from Seedwings, Altair, or North Wing were seen at Florida’s major contests. lll So, got news or opinions? Send ‘em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Messages or fax to 651-450-0930; please note my new e-mail address of News@ByDanJohnson.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine