ST. PAUL, MINN., — The tragic death of Michael "Hollywood" Champlin sent a wave through the hang gliding community recently. While others will surely document the incident, it causes me to think about my longtime support of rigid wings as a form of glider to supplement the flex wing. One thing we’ve added to the equation is control surfaces and for HG pilots without "stick time" (or something equivalent), the experience is genuinely new. That’s a good thing except… When an expert tackles anything new, doubt can enter the equation. Experts don’t always know they’re in "learning mode." While discussing the loss, my wife Randee (an HG pilot herself) reminded me recently of the old hang gliding axiom that advises you only change one thing at a time. In learning to fly rigids, one encounters several new things at once, among them the use of controllable surfaces. ••• In the case of the Millennium, one further adds the joystick, and that’s how I relate the story to Champlin. Here is a case of an expert and well respected weight-shift pilot getting familiar with a joystick aircraft. He was extremely knowledgeable in flex wings but was practicing spins in the Millennium. The practice isn’t the problem; it’s a good thing. You must know how to extricate yourself from a problem and practicing such maneuvers ahead of time and at altitude is one of the best ways to know the aerodynamic sensations so that you recognize the situation and act accordingly. Champlin was high and had already done two spins with proper spin exit. On the third his pullout involved excessive speed and the wing failed. (The subject of the failure itself and Brightstar’s rememdies will be left for another report.) Some observers suggested Champlin had not gone through a training process to learn spin entry and recovery in a three-axis-controlled aircraft. Although Cessna training seems pretty distant from a Millennium, it may have been useful. And even if it would not have for Champlin, how about you? Maybe it’s time we learned more — as a group of experienced weight shift pilots — about control surface flight? In any event, my sincere condolences to all who were close to "Hollywood." ••• We are learning more about rigids as they continue to have an impact on the HG world. And as we enter the "second generation" of rigids, the field continues to shift. Ken Brown has backed away from his import of the French Ixbo (a slightly refined Exxtacy), and has joined with North American Flight Designs. NAFD imported the Exxtacy gliders sold in the USA and will now add the new Ghostbuster to the mix. I’ve seen them both in France recently and the Ghostbuster — like the ATOS — is clearly a second generation model. Brown will reportedly deal for Flight Designs and recently visited Germany to learn more. ••• Another man who dedicated himself to learning more is Jim Zeiset, whose Pendulum Air Sports will import the E-7 from Josef Guggenmos. After logging 20 hours in his new E-7, JZ feels the glide is 18.5 as claimed (at 36-38 mph). He also ran some three minute glides in smooth air to find a sink rate of 140 fpm (138 is claimed). Zeiset also found the wing’s small flaps don’t help much on approach but instead are mainly "high lift devices." Back on the ground, Jim weighed the package twice to find a 70.5 pound weight. Look for a more thorough report in HG. ••• At an FAI-sanctioned contest in Euroland, evaluations done show about a 15% performance advantage (measured in average speed difference) for "stiffies" versus "flexxies." This suggests the hype about a 50% gain is overstated — very similar to a comment once offered to me by leading designer, Steve Pearson, of Wills Wing. In fact, one participant in the glide-off wrote, "If the Laminar ST has a 14 or 15 glide, then ATOS is 16 or 17." ••• Briefly on the subject of the Laminar and glider selections… World Team members in various countries are making their choices for the big contest. Web writer Davis Straub reports that England’s team will fly three Laminar STs, two Topless gliders, and an Avian Cheetah. ••• I haven’t heard much from Bob Trampenau lately, but he wrote in late May that he believes "as strongly as ever that the high performance Rogallo-type hang glider is alive and well!" To prove it he’s offering his "Carbon Cantilevered Spar and Flap equipped Sensor 610" with a new size coming (at 154 squares and 36 foot span). He expressed that "Today’s rigid wings are twice the price and hassle for just a few extra points in glide" though not everyone may agree with his assessment. Bob is familiar with rigid design after developing his Sunseed back in the mid-’70s. But he felt too many compromises existed and that those same conditions hold today. His new carbon spar 610 has completed design and development work and Seedwings is building up inventory for production. The Santa Barbara company is also creating a web site to help disseminate information on the new wing and hopes to get a write-up in HG soon. ••• While Trampenau and other designers create new wings, other creations appear in aftermarket work. One such product is "Bill’s Wing" tips from Bill Woloshyniuk in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada. His tips are trumpeted as a "lower cost alternative to factory carbon fiber tips." The colorful winglets (predecessors have been plain vanilla gelcoat white ones) have proven popular with prototype users and the tips are now being offered for sale. White-only versions start at $218 and colors add $26 more. You can get more info at 403-932-7303 or via e-mail at email@example.com. ••• We’ll wrap up this month with the return of the "Glider Condom" from Mountain Wings in New York. In case you forgot, these are simple plastic tubes (22 feet long and 6 mil thick) which "fit snugly over a hang glider to protect it from the weather, road dust, rain, etc." Proprietor Greg Black says that "when it rains, not only does your glider get wet, it also comes in contact with acids, oils, and fuels that are in the air as mist when you are driving down the road." For $16.95, the protection is cheap, well… like its namesake I guess. Info: MtnWings@aol.com or at 914-647-3377. ••• So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Messages or fax to 651-450-0930, or e-mail to CumulusMan@aol.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine