ST. PAUL, MINN. — Summer’s hot and so’s the season. Here we go as the summer thermal season reaches a zenith. El Niño is predicted to cause fluctuations in worldwide agriculture this year, acting up as it reportedly does on a ten-year cycle. Dependent as we both are on weather patterns, Niño is also of interest to hang glider pilots… (Gee, do we have any hang gliding farmers?) ••• I was excited to hear through air show hang gliding pilot, Dan Buchanan, that Brightstar is nearing the end of development on their new Millennium. This is a folding wing Swift-type glider based on that same sexy planform and computer-enhanced aerodynamics that made the Swift a winner. It will use a D-cell construction with very light fabric wings. Dan reports the ribs cleverly fold against the D-tube as part of the folding process. • He also relayed an impression that it flew slower and appeared easier to fly than the Swift. Its also less complicated — no flaps on this one — to appeal to a wider pilot audience. Brightstar is said to be aiming for an $8,500 pricetag. If they can achieve that in production and if it comes reasonably close to the Swift in performance — and given more hang glider-like foldability — Brightstar might finally move the market for rigid wings. For years, rigids have formed a 4-8% share of the U.S. glider market, showing the best strength during the Manta Fledgling years. Millennium just might have some effect, what with topless hang gliders hitting the $6,000 mark. • Brightstar also plans a two-place trainer, Dan said. (Hmmm… wonder if he’s considering a Millennium for his popular air show act?) The Brightstar gang had a pretty good run with the Swift, reportedly building nearly 60 of the glass wonders (not including what their European licensee built). Of course, it compares to only a few weeks production at Wills Wing in unit numbers, but the Swift was expensive (over $13,000) and the mainstream hang gliding population wants conventional weight shift. Yet since pilots also want more cross country performance Millennium could find more sales at the lower price. We’ll watch and see. Info: 707-576-7627. ••• U.S. Aeros, seller of those Russian hang gliders, reports that they’ve taken orders for and have delivered "a good number" of their Target intermediate glider. No wonder perhaps at $2,650 retail, but pilots also reportedly like the very light pitch and roll pressures. Performance is pegged at something a bit more than the beginner Falcon, closer to a Pulse. At Kitty Hawks big 25th event last May, the Target showed off in front of big crowds by outsinking everyone. That may not be cross country performance, but it sounds like it delivers what a lot of us like: an easy ride up and lots of fun loafing at cloudbase for an hour or three. Info: 919-480-2774, or see former PacAir road warrior, George Reeves, as he tours for U.S. Aeros ••• I wonder how well AV8’s new marketing plan is being received by pilots? The idea of buying a glider with up and downgradeability is novel I think. Their "RST" (for "Recreational") version of the ST topless is achieved with what they call a "degrade kit" which eventual sellers of Laminars STs can install to render the hot bladewing a bit more tame. AV8 has not said how this kit works. Info: 888-422-7620. I recall Wills Wing’s Raven once had a cable restraint device fitted to the tall keel pocket which reduced PIOs resulting from the glider’s snappy roll rate. ••• North Wings reports hiring Jose and Maria Gonzales, two longtime sailmakers for PacAir. Proprietor Kamron Blevins says their 12 years (each) of experience assure quality repairs for PacAir and Delta Wing gliders. It’s nice to see someone doing a good job of helping out stranded pilots. Info: 408-883-9142. ••• North Wing makes a tug wing for powered trikes, and it’s best to have choices. But the king of tugs remains Bobbie Bailey, now partnered with Bill Moyes. They must be close to, or even over, 50 units flying by now. The latest iteration, which I first saw at Sun ‘n Fun ’97, is powered by the awesome Rotax 914 Turbo. This four cylinder powerplant puts out 115 horsepower for long enough to get a hang glider to altitude (after a few minutes you must back off to only 100 horses). WOW! It really makes short work of single place tows, and reportedly can reach 1,000 fpm even tandem. The price must keep rising, what with the engine alone going for $14,000 retail in the USA. However, these things are airborne tractors, worked unbelievably hard at times. Power makes for reliable towing and the four stroke operation should help the engine run a long time between major maintenance. Even gas economy should be fair, though clearly fuel miserliness isn’t the objective. Info: 352-429-0213. • Tracy and Lisa Tillman and their Cloud 9 Sport Aviation enterprise have acquired one of these potent flying beasts. They sent out a notice that they’re planning an aerotow operation near Ann Arbor, Michigan, inviting interested pilots and Wind Walker club members to get together to discuss techniques. Norm Lesnow will provide aerotow tandem training. Especially as we often seem to face loss of our precious mountain sites, these all-private tow operations seem to offer another path to growth in hang gliding. I wish the Tillmans well. Info: 313-669-8449 ••• Outta room. Next time some accessoary items that just wouldn’t fit this time. So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Fax or V-mail to: 612-450-0930. Or, send E-mail to: CumulusMan@aol.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine