ST. PAUL, MINN. — Long recognized as the premier hang gliding contest of the year, the 1998 Nationals are over and we have a winner. Well, in a sense, "we" don’t because the two top placing pilots in flex-wings (Class I) are not Americans. Congratulations to one of the world’s winningest pilots, Manfred Ruhmer, flying his Icaro Laminar ST. In second place was a Ukrainian not well known to U.S. pilots. Oleg Bondarchuk flew his Aeros Stealth KPL past the first Class I American, Chris Arai, in his Wills Wing Fusion. All three pilots deserve a virtual round of applause. As with other contest reports, I’ll leave the main story to a follow-up article, but in this edition of "Product Lines" we’ll look at the gliders that made up the field. ••• Certainly the U.S. Nationals bore more than a passing resemblance to the Atlantic Coast Championships last April (both directed by USHGA president GW Meadows, by the way). Among flex-wing models entered, the first eight placing gliders and 21 of 22 of the top-finishing hang gliders were topless types. Logging a respectable performance were two kingposted Altair Predators in positions 9 and 23. Like their prices or not, topless gliders are apparently here to stay — at least in the rarefied world of competition flying. ••• Unlike the ACC, new rigid wings did not make up a substantial portion of the field. That did not prevent these new D-cell constructed machines from doing well, though. When you mix Class I and Class II results (meaning they are not the official results), the smaller showing of rigid wings did very well. • Exxtacy put three of the four entered among the top 15 finishing pilots with Utah hot shot Dave Sharp coming in second overall. Veteran pilot Jim Zeiset came in fourth place in his Exxtacy and Davis Straub took the #15 spot. • With only two entered — and one removed from competition early on — John Borton (aka "JB") took fifth place in his Millennium. JB is the western distributor for Brightstar’s new rigid and he must be enjoying another respectable performance for the new wing (one placed first at the ACC). As it turns out Brian Porter, flying the prototype Millennium, was forced to deploy his parachute when a tip/rudder connection failed in flight. Reportedly, he had not noticed prior damage in this area stemming from a launch crunch the previous weekend. All is well with Brian, but this left only JB flying the new wing in the Nationals. ••• Laminar was the winner not only by securing first place but by having the highest number of aircraft in the meet: 13 gliders or 21% of models listed in the final standings. Of these 13 gliders, 3 of them or 23%, ended up in the top 15 places. • Also with 3 in the top 15 were Exxtacy (75% of those entered), and Moyes’ CSX (43% of those entered). Two of six Fusions also fit into the top 15 but the balance of the top-finishing gliders were different: one each of Stealth, Millennium, Predator, and Xtreme. ••• Looking at all gliders entered according the final results list were: Laminar at 21% of the field, the CSX and Stealth at 11%, Fusion at 10% and Exxtacy at 6%. The preceding accounts for all models with at least four examples represented. • In the next "tier" were three each of the Predator and Klassic, and two each of the Millennium, La Mouette Topless, TR3, K5, and Moyes SX. • A series of single examples made up the remaining eight gliders entered. The final contest results listed a total of 62 participants. • The Dinosaur Nationals were decided based on six rounds of tasks ranging from 78 to 158 kilometers (49-99 miles). ••• Wills Wing announced that they’ve released their 135 Ultra Sport with certification expected by the time you read this. The new model joins the 147 and 166 Ultra Sports in WW’s "high performance intermediate" glider line. It sells for $3,975 suggested retail. This new 135 model is rated for pilots weighing between 120 and 145, effectively covering most women pilots and lighter males although Wills says it will be certified for pilots up to 210 pounds. The company reports that it has "pleasant, easy, well coordinated handling characteristics, a great climb rate, and an extended VG range for maximizing cross country glide." ••• In related announcements to their dealers, Wills indicated engineers are working on a smaller 141 Fusion. They are now flying the second prototype reporting that "the results have been very encouraging." WW also fielded questions about a rigid wing in their future. After a number of dealers and customers asked them about one they state that at present, "We have no such plans. However, if it turns out that this type of wing is what a large percentage of hang gliders pilots want, we will seriously consider such a project." For the present, WW feels that "it’s not clear that enough pilots are willing to pay the substantially higher price, and put up with the substantial increase in weight and transportation difficulty to make it economically feasible for us to develop and market this type of wing." ••• Wrapping up, Airwave USA is boasting the competition successes of their Xtreme 150 topless glider. Designed by Mark "Gibbo" Gibson at Lookout Mountain Flight Park, the new glider is credited with a win at the ACC and the 1998 British Open. ACC flex-wing winner Mike Barber also came in tenth at the Nationals flying the only one entered. • Gibbo reported that Airwave (UK) went through a reorganization and is now guided by Toby Parker. They feel good about their future with the Xtreme doing well and with a World Championship paraglider in their line. In a modern evolution, R&D is no longer done at the factory what with Bruce Goldsmith working on paragliders in the south of France and Gibbo doing his development in the USA. Gibson reports that work is proceeding on a 138 Xtreme to join the already-certified 150 model. • Departing from the K4, Klassic, and Concept, the Xtreme uses a "very high aspect, nearly 100% double surface wing with ultra state-of-the-art components." Gibbo adds, "This glider shares nothing from our past machines." Thanks to lightened parts, he says the 150 Xtreme weighs only 73 pounds and has "great static balance." In addition the Xtreme boasts an easy-to-pull VG system ("only one pull required for full VG"). The glider, developed behind a tug, is said to tow well and claims a very wide flare window. Delivery is 4-6 weeks with standard colors and every glider is flown by Gibbo "to assure customer satisfaction." Info: phone 706-398-9545 or eMail to email@example.com. ••• That’s it! So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Fax or Vmail to 612-450-0930 or use CumulusMan@aol.com for eMail. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine