ST. PAUL, MINN., — As we head in winter and the holiday season, news for the next season appears to continue a focus on rigid wing hang gliders. Flexwings continue to do well in contest flying (and sales) but we simply aren’t hearing as much about new developments as we have in years past… for example, the topless buzz is now getting to be some years old. ••• U.S. Aeros is preparing for sale of their new rigid wing, ominously named the Stalker. It either sounds like a challenger trying to take on the leader (Exxtacy and ATOS, by almost any reckoning), or like a johnny-come-lately rigid wing design. Certainly for a company that has shown the ability to compete in the worldwide hang gliding community — for both sales, at which they’ve done excellently, and in competitions — Aeros is somewhat tardy bringing their stiffwing to market. • On the other hand, this is a second generation offering like the Ghostbuster and ATOS. Indeed, like another long-awaited-but-still-unavailable wing, the La Mouette Top Secret, Stalker has bare leading edges, that is, the sailcloth does not cover the leading edge. Instead the LEs are painted. • In another difference, instead of spoilerons, the Stalker has ailerons. Aeros isn’t first with this idea. In fact, before Laminar producer, Icaro, settled on working with ATOS, they had their own short-lived rigid wing called the Lumina which also employed ailerons versus spoilerons. Having a lot of experience myself with spoilerons (on the Cloud Dancer), I’ll wait to hear more about the effectiveness of ailerons on the Stalker. For the speed range we fly in, spoilerons are hard to beat for efficiency and they promote proverse yaw — as opposed to that kind we don’t like: adverse yaw. • In truth, one of the earliest uses of aileron control that I know of was by my old friend, Tim Morely, who installed a pilot-weight-shift-activated aileron control system on a Mitchell Wing back in early 1984. On that pioneering rigid wing, ailerons were said to be surprisingly effective, but of course a rigid wing with drag rudders is a somewhat different flying machine. Control of the Stalker is said to be very similar to the method of Morely’s Mitchell Wing. The ailerons are deployed when the pilot moves his or her body laterally. An internal control linkage moves a pushrod to activate the bell crank which moves the ailerons up and down." Whew! …sounds complicated compared to pure weight shift, but this is something like the way most aircraft do it. • The Stalker followed the second generation pattern of cutting weight; it is said to weigh only 77 pounds. Initial price is reportedly set at $7,995 but may rise to $8,500. At the latter number it is the same as the ’99 Exxtacy, not the undercut price which helped make the Stealth popular among topless flexxie pilots. In another second generation quality Stalker is similar… it won’t be available until around April of 2000, the same as is reported for the ATOS. Ghostbuster, which currently has a less-established market position, is available sooner and I have no updated info on availability of E-7 or Ixbo. Stalker web info at justfly.com. ••• In only the second appearance of an American design competing on the rigid front — along with Brightstar’s Millennium — Matt Kollman’s Raptor is flying in a second generation design. I’ve reported on the Raptor in past columns (’95 and ’97) but Matt is now said to be nearing production, something he’s working out with Jim Marske, a longtime designer and kit supplier of ultralight sailplanes (Monarch and Pioneer). • The Raptor 2 uses very strong carbon rods in the spar, which Kollman says allows the spar/D-cell combination to hold 16-G loads (not that this means the flying wing can accommodate such big numbers). Further accounting for strength are Kevlar skins on the D-cell. Matt believes that the Kevlar makes his leading edges more durable than carbon fiber. • Like Millennium (and Morely’s Mitchell), Raptor 2 uses moveable tip rudders, however, the tip rudders actuate when the pilot shifts the control bar, like the spoilerons on Exxtacy and ATOS. Instead of flaps like all the Euro designs, Raptor 2 uses spoilers (not spoilerons) to aid landing approaches. In concert with a tapered wing planform this allows landings in no-wind situations, claims Kollman. Matt writes that he’s close to deliveries and the first ones will go for $7,500. Working at a great distance from Southern California HG designers, pilots in his area say Matt has been "flying away from their production gliders for years." • The Raptor 2 has a 41-foot span, 162 squares, weighs 75 pounds, and boasts a glide of 18 at 35 mph and a 130 fpm sink rate. Info: 614-436-3230 or firstname.lastname@example.org. ••• Back on the flexxie front, Moyes is blowing their horn over the Lightspeed’s victories in the Brazilian Nationals. The Brazilian Nats was its first outing as a production glider though a prototype flew in the World Meet. Moyes’ new wing took first and second place and the winner flew a "completely standard Lightspeed which easily passed US certification," the company said. (I did not independently verify certification status.) Icaro put five Laminars in the top ten along with one each Fusion, Topless, and Stealth. Moyes further trumpeted that in the six-day contest, "A Lightspeed won 1,000 points every day of the comp!" Congratulations, Moyes. Info: Moyes.com.au or FlyaMoyes@aol.com. ••• If you act darn fast, you might get one of Lisa Tate’s new Soaring Dreams Catalog in time to order for Christmas. Her business offers unique HG and PG-related gift items and trophies. Lisa’s color catalog is available for free. Info: 208-376-7914 or ZooLisa@aol.com. ••• USHGA’s board recently met and a couple interesting things occurred. • In a repeat of last year’s meet selection drama, Malcolm Jones’ Wallaby Open narrowly won a bid for the time slot immediately following the big Sun ‘n Fun airshow. The event — which attracts over 600,000 pilots and visitors — brings more HG tugs into the area, a resource valued by a tow meet organizer. So, the 16-22 April contest will again be followed by GW Meadows’ meet at Quest. Info: Wallaby.com or justfly.com. • In the other news bit, David Glover was elected president of the association on a pro-growth platform. This oughta’ be interesting to watch. Congratulations, David, and best of luck! ••• 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