ST. PAUL, MINN., — Welcome to a new era of hang gliding… well, and everything else, I guess. If you’re reading this, the Y2K bug evidently didn’t stop civilization as some feared. At least you got your Hang Gliding magazine. Is something more important than that? ••• As we start a new millennia, it pays to take stock of the state of the art. Topless flexwings are achieving great flights and cost Six Grand. Rigids wings seem to be the new darlings despite breaking the Ten Grand price barrier. We have carbon/kevlar helmets, highly sophisticated electronic navigation and flight performance instruments, and everybody flies with a parachute, sometimes two. Heck, we’ve even got luxury sport utility vehicles to haul it all around. Aren’t we something, cool 21st Century pilots? So I suppose it makes sense that lots of attention seems focused on the harness as we start a new year. It’s the new front line in the relentless drive for more performance. ••• I’ve already reported on Jay Gianforte’s well regarded Carbon C-G (Sept. ’99). Despite its newness, the Carbon C-G has gone through some updating including a new tail hold-up that eases launch run. Several pilots swear it’s the most comfortable harness they’ve ever flown. • Now comes word of Brazilian Nene Rotor (great hang glider name, huh?). His Rotor Harness was first seen at the Italian World Meet last year, but has now reportedly entered production though few details have been received. • Also, Oz Man Davis Straub reports the "Gerolf Heinrich was flying a cigar-shaped M2 from Austria… and the Woody Valley harnesses from Italy had second skins that fit completely over the pilot and harness." Wired pilots interested in these developments can subscribe for free to Straub’s report: email@example.com or davisstraub.com ••• Moyes is enjoying the limelight once again as attention is focused on their new Lightspeed high performance glider. Various reports reflect on great performances at the Brazilian Nationals and Australia’s Canungra Classic. In both contests the Lightspeed performed strongly. I haven’t noted this kind of dominance in results since Italy’s Laminar became a very hot property. One pilot, Gerry Furnell, even switched from an Exxtacy to the Lightspeed. Accounting for the good results, the glider is said to do well at slower thermalling speeds plus sustaining good high speed glide performance that is so necessary for a winning glider design these days. • As if to show the public’s response to such victorious flying, the results of the U.S. National Team raffle confirmed yet another win for Moyes. Raffle winner, Bill Watters, selected a Lightspeed. He had $4,000 to spend on a glider from any manufacturer participating in the raffle (which, of course, is a fundraiser to assist Team USA in international contests). The participants included — alphabetically — Altair, AV8 (Laminar), Brightstar, Flight Designs (Exxtacy), Pendulum Sports (Guggenmos), US Aeros, US Moyes, and Wills Wing. Each contributes $500 to the fund and the winner can use the dough toward any glider from a participating manufacturer or distributor. ••• Jim Zeiset wrote about the new Guggenmos rigid wing model. Called the ESC for its "Effective Sophisticated Camber," the wing uses undercamber in the aft section of the inboard five ribs. Davis Straub adds that "The [Porter/Brightstar] Utopia exhibited a superior sink rate at the [’99] Worlds partially because of aft undercamber." • The Guggenmos ESC has a 40-foot span, 143 square feet of wing area, and is said to weigh "less than 70" pounds. Jim didn’t report any performance changes but ESC also has a higher aspect ratio (shorter ribs). Zeiset said that the "glider breaks down into two halves, can be delivered in 5 weeks [as of early December ’99], and costs $10,500." Info: 800-933-5992. ••• Though the purists among hang glider pilots frown on powered hang gliding, it continues to develop. Mark "Gibbo" Gibson has opened his own wing and trike factory in the sunshine state of Florida. Seeking an optimal trainer, he finally chose to use the skills he’s acquired over the years (including a design stint at Airwave UK). His new Butterfly reached the goals of "truly very low speed, no yaw, easy landing, affordable trike and wing." Butterfly uses lower cost 6061 tubing, simple hardware, and an advanced sail design that Gibbo says is simple and quick to build… all to keep the cost low. Since it sells for $9899 complete, I’d say he did pretty well. Remember this is a big trainer. (If you don’t get the concept, just think about using an engine to boost you and your student to 3,000 feet where you shut down and learn hang gliding — albeit in the seated position.) • Butterfly has 240 squares (which should help it get a good sink rate even with two occupants and all the engine and wheel weight), almost 33 feet of span, and eleven battens per side with a 35% double surface wing. Engine choices include the Rotax 447 or 503 which should assure plenty of power. A website with more details will be available "soon!" Info: 863-318-9530 or Gibbogear1@aol.com. • On a similar vein, Australian John Reynolds has put lots of time into joining trike carriages with hang glider wings. Now he’s reported his homebuilt soaring trike, the Thistledown, is flying. Using an Aussie AirBorne Fun 190 (intended for single place flight), he says, "I don’t expect it to have a great glide, but it should be a lot fun for stooging around in the local area." He added that the "measured sink rate is quite decent and handling is excellent." His Thistledown weighs just 66 pounds (as light as the Polaris Slip). Including the slender Reynolds, gross weight is only around 265 pounds, which represents an allowable load for the Fun 190. Info: www.ozemail.com.au/~aerial/thistle.htm. ••• Speaking of cross-pollination, the same is happening between HGs and sailplanes in Maryland where Highland Aerosports "has successfully integrated their HG aerotow operation with a newly-forming sailplane club," writes USHGA regional director, Geoff Mumford. • Purists may resent these mixings of disciplines, but if we can get along, we’ll have more clout with the likes of bureaucrats. ••• In closing, a note about Francis Rogallo, the originator of the delta wing which gave birth to our modern wings. He suffered a mild stroke but is recovering satisfactorily. The stroke totally paralyzed him for several days, but he’s walking again with the aid of a walker. His spirits are reportedly high. Cards and well wishes would be appreciated, says Kitty Hawk Kites. Write to 91 Osprey Lane, Kitty Hawk NC 27949. ••• 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