ST. PAUL, MINN., — An interesting thing happened last fall. As 2000 came to a close, Italian flex-wing (Laminar) producer, Icaro, reached an accord with Germany’s top rigid wing (ATOS) producer, A.I.R. ••• Web writer, Davis Straub, reported in his Oz Report, "A.I.R. has moved its assembly operation and shipping to Icaro in Italy. Icaro has been a strong partner with A.I.R. from the start, producing parts and making sails, as well as being responsible for a significant portion of the distribution. Now it looks like Icaro is in a stronger position with respect to A.I.R." • Icaro confirmed Straub’s report saying, "In these past years, Icaro played already an important role at A.I.R. with producing the major part of the sails, the A-frames and the keels for the ATOS and, in addition, has sold over 130 of them." Icaro expressed, "Since the ATOS has been performing in such an incredible manner (present World and European Champions fly ATOS), we will not modify it for next year." • Straub, an outspoken supporter and user of rigid wings — such as in his notable record reported here in October — adds his personal feelings, "As a customer I feel more secure in having a larger and more diverse hang gliding company taking on more responsibilities for the ATOS. • Designer Felix Ruhle will stay with the ATOS but will remain in Germany doing the design work. Berndt Weber, the Managing Director [business manager] of A.I.R., explained, "With Felix focusing on design we will be able to offer an intermediate ATOS (easy to fly, safe, less weight and cheaper)." Weber added, "We have sold more than 400 ATOSes." The deal was set in stone on October 24th when Weber signed a contract with Icaro allowing A.I.R. to develop new gliders while Icaro becomes responsible for the assembly and shipping of the ATOS from their base in Italy. However, A.I.R. will hold onto the ownership of the German certification (DHV Gütesigel) and A.I.R. will continue to design all projects in the future. Straub reports, "Berndt says that he is very optimistic with a partner like [Icaro boss] Gianni Hotz and Icaro behind A.I.R. and Felix [Ruhle]." • A.I.R. indicated that Ruhle and another engineer plus a composite worker will continue working out of the Zainingen, Germany office. Apparently, reported Straub, "Felix would like to move the A.I.R. office to a place closer to his home, but this won’t happen in the next four months." • As the story continues to unfold, A.I.R. will allegedly be working on a new intermediate version of the ATOS, and perhaps a caged glider. (The enclosed ATOS is not an entirely new idea, with an experimental version having already appeared, but this is the first indication of which I’m aware where Felix Ruhle and team will put their minds on it.) For more information direct from the source, contact email@example.com; more information is also available on Straub’s website where editions of his Oz Report are archived at davisstraub.com. ••• My personal observation is that rigid wings may have truly arrived when a flex wing company embraces the rigid concept in such a direct fashion. Many American pilots are aware that Wills Wing worked with Brightstar, putting a triangle control bar on a Millennium and gaining some flying experience with it. No word on any future for this Yankee collaboration, but it is my hope that we see some emergence of rigid work in the USA to compete with the Europeans who currently dominate the rigid developments. • In the East, I’ll try to update info on the Raptor 2 project from Matt Kollman, a totally Made-in-the-USA rigid wing. ••• Down in the south of Florida, James Tindle has opened his aerotow park located roughly halfway between Miami and Ft. Myers, Florida, near the town of Libell. Local enthusiast and supporter, Juan Arraiz, sent photos of the first flights from the new 90-acre hang gliding preserve on November 11th. He says, "Working with Russ Brown from Quest, I took four tandem [aerotow] flights with him and soloed Sunday afternoon. Thus, I became the first pilot to be trained and fly solo from this new airpark." He is now a confessed aerotow proponent, adding, "aerotow is a wonderful means to launch hang glider. This is the future." • Tindle new towpark now has a name, a clever one in my opinion: Florida Ridge Soaring Center. Pilots who fly Florida know all about the Florida ridge that has let sailplanes run the whole north/south of the long state for years. Those who don’t always ask, "What ridge?" giving Tindle a great conversation starter to invite newcomers. He wants to offer his students a place to continue training so newcomers are definitely part of the game. • Florida Ridge took delivery of their new 914 Turbo Dragonfly tug that should yank up tandem flights with ease even in warm weather. "Both [Lookout’s] Matt Tabor and [Quest’s] Russ Brown strongly advised the 914 [engine] over the newer 912S," says James. • But as a new season starts, he won’t have to rely just on one plane as Arlan Birkett will be bringing his plane as a backup tug from the Chicago Hang Gliding group that is quieter in their winter months. Arlan will help James by managing Florida Ridge over its beginning days of operation. Birkett is a midwest aerotow leader with a Tandem Administrator rating from USHGA and a BFI (Basic Flight Instructor) rating from USUA, the ultralight association. • Tindle reports that a new hangar will be erected on the property in January and that a Grand Opening will happen concurrently. So, if you’re going to be in the area contact Tindle at 305-285-8978. You can get more info and see aerial photos of Florida Ridge at www.theFloridaRidge.com. • A Corrections Dep’t. Item: I’ve misspelled James’ last name in the past. The above version is the proper one. ••• Outta room! 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. • All "Product Lines" columns will be available later this year at www.ByDanJohnson.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine