ST. PAUL, MINN. — The Wallaby Open started the season with a bang. While wet spring weather brought challenges, four valid rounds left Ukrainian Oleg Bondarchuk as the winner of the flex-wing class, beating Italian Manfred Ruhmer and Yankee Paris Williams in a field of 72 pilots. Mike Barber (6th), Chris Arai (10th), Jim Lee (17th), and Curt Warren (18th) were among Americans in the top 20 finishers.
For rigid wings now grouped in Class 5, Alex Ploner held his title taking first over fellow Italian Christian Ciech. Top Yankees were Bruce Barmakian, Davis Straub, Campbell Bowen, and Heiner Biesel in 4th through 7th respectively. This class saw ATOS dominating with 63% of the field, Ghostbusters at 13% and five other models in the field of 24 Class 5 rigids.
Brian Porter again won in Class 2 rigid wings flying his Swift, though he competed only against Brit’ Robin Hamilton in another Swift. The tiny class will take on new meaning as it was reported that Manfred Ruhmer will fly Hamilton’s Swift instead of his Laminar in the Quest meet beginning as this column was submitted.
*** From a total of 98 competitors, 16 countries were represented in a display not unlike the World Meet. Team USA was far out in front with 58% of the field, followed by Great Britain at 8%, Austria at 7%, and Brazil at 5%.
*** Looking at the assortment of glider brands flown in flex wing, we see Wills Wing making a strong recovery from prior-year contests with a second place 26% of the Wallaby field. Moyes barely led with 29%, and the two leaders were trailed by Icaro, down to 18% from stronger representation in years past. Next came Aeros, barely behind at 17%, followed by AirBorne (4%), La Mouette (3%), Avian, and Solar Wings (1% each).
*** Wills Wing not only had a good turnout of contest flyers, they also revealed their latest prototype Talon with one of the cleverest ideas I’ve seen in a while. WW-brand unveiled their “Variable Reflex” technology on the latest Talon prototypes. To operate their VR system, a line runs from leading edge to trailing edge on the upper surface. As you tighten the VG system (which functions inside the sail, of course), you tighten these reflex lines and draw the flexible aft rib upwards. It can be varied to suit different levels of VG-on racing or off completely, returning the wing to its familiar undercambered shape. Wills’ VR system allows a lower sprog setting and puts the trailing edge to work on a topless glider somewhat like luff lines do on kingposted models. The function was easily — and stunningly — evident on a glider with a clear top sail.
*** WW-brand has also come out with an updated edition of the Falcon, a version 2.0 (borrowing a term from the computer industry). Enjoyed by experienced pilots too, the new Falcon 2.0 has a Mylar leading edge pocket, spring tip battens, 7075 material in all ribs, a new sail cut, and a price just over $3,000. Wills says Falcon 2.0 has a reduced stall speed, enhanced stall characteristics with more gradual air flow separation, decreased sink rates, and better handling. You can fly fully pushed out on the Falcon 2.0 because it retains control nearly at stall speed. Wills says it has delivered 2,000 of the Falcon model, first introduced in 1994. Fv2.0 is available in four sizes as was its predecessor: 140, 170, 195, and 225.
Focusing on flight school operators, the Orange, California company also reported that their 225 Falcon is now available in two models. A solo model has a smaller control bar and a two-place tandem glider can be fitted with big wheels… three of them to hold the glider and two pilots clear of the ground. In the future Wills Wing will reportedly sell the whole tandem tow package with the wheels and extra boom for the back wheel. FMI: 714-998-6359 or check their Website at willswing.com
Not to be outdone, Aeros brought their new Stalker 2, which was warmly received. The rigid entry has a new tip treatment invoking a fairly tall, outward-leaning winglet. Many advanced aircraft use winglets for performance enhancement though they appear to give a marketing edge as well. Reports are starting to come in regarding flight characteristics. For those of you with older Stalkers, take heart in the word that most “upgrades” on the 2 model can retrofit to the first edition. FMI: justfly.com
*** Felix Ruehle, designer of the ATOS and boss of producer A.I.R. showed up at Wallaby with the first wheelpant-faired hang glider wheels I’ve seen. Actually a tandem set of wheels (that’s one-behind-the-other tandem, not “tandem” as in two place hang gliding), the wheels are small and fit neatly in a thin fairing. A couple years back, Felix injured his knee and he has concerns about landing in light winds.
*** As this issue went to press, Oleg Bondarchuk was leading the gang at Quest. In addition, Manfred Ruhmer was getting used to flying the Swift and his times have been improving. It appears Brian Porter will get the contest he was hoping for and that more attention will be focused on the “ultralight sailplane” class of hang gliders.
However, it ain’t over till it’s over, so we’ll have to wait until next month to see how Quest turned out. Those who want the scores quicker can go to Flytec.com, though the results from the first couple days had not been posted at the time this column was turned in to the editor.
*** So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Messages or fax to 651-450-0930. Send e-mail to: News@ByDanJohnson.com THANKS!