ST. PAUL, MINN. — As you read this, the 2002 Air Sports Expo is happening. Hope you made it. This event — a rare traveling indoor air show — has great potential for new enthusiasts to find hang gliding and paragliding, I believe. Of course, they may also find sailplanes, ultralights, aerobatic aircraft, R/C models, and more since the show features all these elements of sport aviation. u EAA has a magazine called “Sport Aviation.” Yet their coverage isn’t what we might call “sport aviation”(unless you consider homebuilding an aircraft a “sport”). Conversely, the Air Sports Expo features the kind of flying that’s done strictly for fun, for sport. Some of those EAA aircraft are 200-mph transportation alternatives. Building and flying them may also be for sport, but the aircraft themselves can serve a purpose of transport. Nothing wrong with that, but it isn’t what we do (nor is it what sailplanes, ultralights, aerobatic aircraft, or modelers do). u So, this is the one-and-only show that caters to the true-blue fly-for-fun crowd. If you didn’t make the 2002 event I hope you’ll consider it next year as the country goes nuts over 100 years of powered flight. Many have groused about hang gliding not growing or about a slowdown in paragliding growth. The Air Sports Expo is only one part of a solution, but it is a solid one that also puts us in a kind of partnership with other for-sport-only flying groups. As the show travels around the county, it opens the door to those trying to find us. Seems like a heckuva idea to me. lll As the Air Sport Expo was going on (and understand, I’m writing this before the event occurs), another momentous event in “sport” aviation was happening. As this column went to press, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had finally released FAA’s new proposed rule — often referred to as “Sport Pilot.” u I wish to recommend that you get out your September 2001 issue of Hang Gliding where you’ll find an article and a sidebar about this new rule (page 19). Joe Gregor did an excellent job of detailing the new rule as we know it at this time. He covered the history and listed the implications of the new proposal. u That proposal has now been released from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) where it had been delayed for some months. The events of September 11th added a significant delay in the issuance of the Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) but that’s history now. In early January, OMB sent the proposal back to FAA for them to issue the NPRM (possibly by the time you read this — though such predictions have proven wrong in the past). lll It’s too soon to get out your “Dear Congressman or Senator” letter pad just yet, but please keep your eye on the magazine and USHGA Website for advice from association leaders. When the time does come, you need to get involved! u The two main areas of concern (in my humble opinion) are the lack of a towing provision and the uncertain nature of our exemptions for two place operations. u Now, the basics of Part 103 under which the majority of hang glider and paraglider pilots fly is not threatened. If you foot launch, the NPRM may not seem particularly relevant. But remember, federal regulations nearly always grow and are rarely retracted once implemented. u Originally, towing had been included. But due to FAA’s concern about “commercial activities” in sport aviation, the ability for sport aircraft to tow others was removed. In the draft document FAA presented months ago, towing hang gliders was not be allowed! As Joe Gregor properly describes it, this may deliver a “crippling blow” to the towparks that are responsible for so much activity in hang gliding. u The other areas of concern involve the two-place exemption for tandem training. Again, Gregor did a good job of identifying why FAA wants to stop exemptions. Such “loop holes” in the rule are intended to be temporary fixes but should not remain in place year after year. Yet this is exactly what has occurred with both our towing and tandem exemptions. Both are in some jeopardy within FAA’s proposal. u As Gregor and sidebar writer Bill Bryden reported, the proposals we’ve seen so far may not be identical to the NPRM when it is released. However, proposals often become NPRMs largely intact, so be ready. You don’t need to act just yet, but BE PREPARED! u “A USHGA Committee or Special Task Force has been created to address the USHGA’s position on the Sport Pilot License,” reported USHGA Executive Director, Jayne DePanfilis. This task force includes Bill Bryden, Dennis Pagen, Mike Meier, Matt Taber, Steve Kroop and Jayne. This is a solid group and we’ll all await their advice. lll Finally, the news this month surrounds a blur of mail among the USHGA board of directors and staff. The subject is the possible combining of Hang Gliding and Paragliding magazines. Association leadership does not want this to be a forced issue and is trying hard to assure members can express themselves before the action may be taken. u Jayne proved herself a good listener. Hearing from many board members via a vigorous e-mail exchange, Jayne melded the best ideas together and I think no member will feel he or she was not informed. Look carefully at the March and April issue. The test issue will be May and then we’ll revert to two magazines (for a short while, I hope) to give members a chance to digest it all. As I’ve written before, I’m in favor of combining but I’m only one of more than 10,000 who need to think it through themselves. All anyone can ask is an open mind. lll Yeah, OK, “Product Lines” was kinda light on the products this time. I felt the above news was worthy, but I’ll get back to the stuff that usually appears here next month. lll So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Messages or fax to 651-450-0930. Please note my new e-mail address of News@ByDanJohnson.com| but you can still use CumulusMan@aol.com for the foreseeable future. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine