ST. PAUL, MINN. — The USHGA board of directors met in mid-October and some interesting news developed. Though “just a bunch of hang glider pilots,” this group often amazes me with the level of its professionalism. Don’t forget that around 30 persons volunteer their time, pay their own expenses, and work long hours to direct the association’s business — backed up by a paid but equally hard working headquarters staff. This fall finds USHGA in admirable shape with membership up and finances in good condition. At a time when I know most of aviation — from recreational flying to the airlines — to be suffering, this performance is more than satisfying and I hope all members appreciate it. lll Work of the board will appear in the magazine in various ways, but I’d like to note three actions that I believe members will find of interest. s First, the magazine will go to a combined publication with the March 2003 issue. The idea was tested. Members voted (overwhelmingly in favor), and it has been settled. You’ll start getting a magazine with both hang gliding and paragliding coverage… just like the rest of the world has been doing for years. As with other board deliberations, you’ll read more about this as the date approaches. You can also consult your Regional Director for his or her thoughts. s Secondly, both big Florida airparks (Wallaby and Quest) will — with sponsorship and direction from USHGA — bid to host the World Meet in 2005. While this seems a long way off, it is a major event that will draw the best pilots in the world to come to the USA. The matter had its share of controversy but the request to the international body, CIVL, should move forward. I know I’ll want to go to Orlando to catch some of the action. You, too, perhaps? s Thirdly, a simmering debate heated up regarding powered paragliders and powered hang gliding harnesses and whether these machines should in some way be embraced by USHGA. The discussion ranged from “Hell, no!” to more thoughtful approaches though all leaders are keenly aware this issue can be divisive. Nonetheless, at the October board meeting board directors heard eloquent presentations on the subject. No decisions were confirmed but this issue is not likely to go away. After all, many of these pilots use the auxiliary power to get altitude for soaring flight — though they sometimes simply drive around in smooth air. And, it was observed, with aerotow launches comprising some 30-40% of all launches in the USA, power is already part of the equation. lll One of the neatest things that happened as part the board meeting was a special event commemorating and thanking all the presidents of USHGA since the beginning. Not every president was able to make it but most were. Each man contributed something that lead your association forward and they deserved the recognition and applause. lll One person in the audience at Wallaby Ranch was Sue Gardner. For those that have forgotten, Sue is the pivot person in FAA’s new proposed rule often called “Sport Pilot.” I’m aware she has been taking powered trike lessons in her new home of Alaska, but she’s not hesitant to try free flight. In fact, at Quest Air, Gardener went tandem in a hang glider, and, as ex-prez’ Bill Bryden put it, “She LOVED it!” Good for Sue for being an open-minded FAA official and good for the Quest and board folks who arranged her flight. lll Thinking about how hang gliding is surviving the aviation recession, I had a chance to visit with longtime Canadian entrepreneur, Michael Robertson. His High Perspective operation is having a banner year. “I don’t know about a hang gliding decline but we’re kicking ass up here!” He says his boat tow operations doubled this year and had done so last year as well. Michael’s boat towing experience goes back to 1965 with the old flat kites. Like most big schools, he’s been offering tandem instruction for more than five years. s Robertson has also created his own glider pontoons which are built like a surfboard with a foam core and a fiberglass shell. “Two people can actually climb up on the glider and hook in. Waves don’t cause a problem and you tend not to get wet due to the long outward-curved bow,” Michael says. s Robertson runs two full-time operations not far from his base in Toronto and plans to open another operation next year. All locations except the boat tow operation use hydrostatic winches which allow step towing. To maintain his high standards, Michael trains all his own instructors. FMI: www.FlyHigh.com lll At the board meeting, I spoke with David Glover about yet another successful towpark, this one in Wisconsin. About the site’s operator, Glover said, “Brad Kushner is doing a great job and has built a flight park operation that provides an excellent blueprint for flight parks that might be created in other parts of the U.S.” David feels Kushner didn’t have some of the advantages of the Florida flight parks, but “through hard work and drive, Brad has built his business from the ground up. Anyone who wishes to replicate this effort ought to talk to Brad,” added Glover. s When I indicated I’d be writing something about Raven Sky Sports and the aerotow park operation, Brad said, “We’ve been working to bring aerotow hang gliding to Midwest pilots since August 15, 1992,” making the Wisconsin Hang Gliding Club among the oldest of aerotow operations in the United States. His business “offers flying and lessons from 7:30 a.m. until sunset, seven days a week.” He uses “four Dragonfly tow planes and four T2 tandem hang gliders on landing gear with modern over/under harnesses.” Not totally dependent on aerotowing, Kushner also has seven grassy training hills (facing all wind directions) for foot-launch and foot-landing training. Also offered: locked glider storage; camping; clubhouse; discounts at all local motels; close-by mountain biking trails, fishing holes, and swimming pools. Brad reports summer temperatures are usually in the 80s, seldom in the 90s. He also says his location offers “A+ cross-country potential with hay fields as far as the eye can see.” The Wisconsin Hang Gliding Club has over 200 members. FMI: www.hanggliding.com lll So, got news or opinions? Send ‘em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Messages or fax to 651-450-0930. E-mail to News@ByDanJohnson.com or CumulusMan@aol.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine