ST. PAUL, MINN. — A couple months ago, this entire column focused on D-Cell gliders. Now a new story seems to be emerging, even in the depths of a cold winter. The operative words in the story are: Tow Airparks. Actually, several terms are used to describe these flying places, but nothing obscures the trend of more and more dedicated places where towing occurs. I view this as a tremendously good thing as it makes hang glider far more available than mountain-based flying alone can. ••• Of course, we’re all familiar with the big Florida tow airparks Wallaby and Quest plus Gregg McNamee’s operation. And most of you know Lookout Mountain offers aero towing. Over on the coast John Harris’ Kitty Hawk Kites doesn’t miss a trick, offering their own tow operation at the nearby Currituck County Airport. Just north of Chicago in southern Wisconsin is Brad Kushner’s enterprise. "He’s now grown to 150 members and four Dragonfly tugs!" reports Doug Johnson of Duluth, Minnesota. ••• He should know, having recently discussed tow operations with several of bigger businesses. This is in preparation for his own Dragonfly towing activities that will commence by summer ’98. Yep, way up in Duluth, Doug plans to offer regular tugging and tandem. After visiting Kushner’s site, an airport operator in Superior, Wisconsin approached Johnson offering him space at the airport. Doug had been platform towing, but liked the potential of aero towing. "It’s the #1 teaching method," he feels, and certainly he thinks he can do more instructing with towing than by seeking out limited training sites near Duluth. Superior, Wisconsin is just across the state line from the northern city. Info: Skydog@cp.duluth.mn.us or 218-723-1738. ••• Back east a bit takes us to the lower section of Michigan and two more Dragonfly tugs. They’ll operate together at Lisa and Tracy Tillman’s 80-acre sod farm which will now become a… you guessed it — tow airpark. A few months ago, I reported that the Tillman’s Cloud 9 Aviation took delivery on a 914 Dragonfly (the numbers standing for an especially potent, 115-horse engine that drives it up spectacularly). Behind that workhorse, Norm Lesnow provided tandem training. Due to excellent activitiy — over 120 tandem tows in the last six weeks before winter — Norm has purchased a second 914 Dragonfly. Let me tell you, folks, this represents a substantial investment… by all operators. Norm also went through the process of getting properly certified for tandem. The tug duet will be operated under the banner of the Drachenfliegen Soaring Club, says Lesnow. Info: Cloud 9 Aviation at 313-669-8449. ••• Nearly all the operations depend on and therefore thank Bobbie Bailey for his design of the popular Dragonfly tug. His association with Bill Moyes has resulted in increased production and worldwide representation. When he’s not wintering in Australia with Bill, Bailey is based at Quest where buyers often receive training and ideas for their own sites back home. Interestingly, Doug Johnson reported that Bobbie will come to his site to build the plane and train the buyer… a fascinating variation of doctor house calls. ••• For that majority of you who’re still intent on jumping off mountains, Ole Olson offers you a great warm choice this winter. Recently he announced that he’ll have new gliders from Altair, AV8, and Moyes for demo flying. Ole will do his guide thing from December through April while as some of us remain frozen solid. Sites this year include Valle de Bravo, Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende and Nevado de Toluca (featured in the July ’97 centerfold photo). "Interest has been good," says the energetic Olson. Info: Skytours@juno.com. ••• In another month, Wills Wing turns 25!, something of a milestone in our sport. In their anniversary month the big glider builder will celebrate at one of the tow airparks that has consumed most of this column. Wills has selected Wallaby Ranch to host a fly-in Feb 18-25 plus a dealer seminar on the 25th. "Factory demos of our entire product line will be available…" throughout the week, they say. • Pat Denevan will bring his Nintendo 64-based virtual reality flight simulator. I’ve flown this recently and its a trip that you won’t want to miss. • The Wallaby-Quest Corridor is a fertile soaring area (a sailplane operation is in between) that offers loads of other activities for the family or non-flyable days. For a great winter escape, go south and join WW’s party for their 25th Anniversary. ••• Later in the season, GW Meadows will host his Atlantic Coast Championships at Wallaby Ranch in yet another concession to the impact of these Tow Airparks. More on that as we get closer, but plan on the last week of April, just after the nearby Sun ‘n Fun airshow ends. ••• Wow! Outta room once again. I’ll have more good stuff for next month. So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. V-mail or fax to 612-450-0930, or send eMail to CumulusMan@aol.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine