Tallard, FRANCE — Across the big drink this month for an airshow lending some international flavor to "Product Lines." ••• Perhaps the most fascinating thing I observed was the proliferation of D-cell wings. The question in my mind is no longer IF D-cell wings will proliferate, but perhaps instead, "Will flex wings survive?" In truth, I don’t see the end of our popular, lightweight, easily folded, easily foot-launched and -landed wings. But I’m less sure of this forecast than I once was. ••• I saw a slightly different version of the Exxtasy called the Revolution (aimed at powered trikes) and two new free flight entries from other manufacturers. • One D-cell wing was from Icaro 2000, builder of the Laminar ST topless flex wing. The other was the Ixbo from Tecma, a French company that few Americans know. La Mouette did not show their Top Secret model. • Icaro’s Lumina is nearly identical to the Exxtasy but uses ailerons versus spoilerons and hooks the pilot’s harness to the controls (versus Exxtasy’s control bar linkup). This allows a side-wired control bar that feels tighter on the ground. • Tecma produces a line of flex wings in France. However, their take on the Exxtasy wave has features that may give it different appeal (meanwhile Exxtasy producer Flight Designs is enjoying great popularity with a reported 400 units delivered in less than two years). Editor Noël Bertrand of France’s Vol Libre hang gliding magazine indicated that Tecma’s Ixbo has completed vehicle testing and has logged several hours in field testing perhaps showing the Ixbo is more market ready. • Tecma’s Ixbo uses the same carbon fiber D-cell and ribs as the Exxtasy as well as similar spoilerons and flaps. However, small details appear to offer improvements over the established leader. For example, the ribs do not use double purchase string tensioning as on the Exxtasy. Rather, a clever lever arrangement allows the pilot to tension the ribs without the hand abuse of the strings. Since the lever scheme also tucks away, a tiny bit less drag is generated and the trailing edge is visually much cleaner without the Exxtasy’s dangling strings. • Also, I watched Exxtasy pilots struggle to get the right fit for flaps that fit snugly into the aft pieces of the ribs and into a center hinge point. I don’t know if a difference of operation exists but the Ixbo’s sewn hinge is cleaner looking and appeared effortless to fit as one slides in the flap insert during setup. • Icaro’s big difference uses pilot movement to directly actuate ailerons (though I have no info on the improvement this offers), and their Lumina employs carbon-fiber flaps and ailerons without a Dacron sleeve. In contrast Exxtasy and Ixbo both use a loose control bar method of activating the spoilerons, although this is said to be helpful for foot-launching in windy conditions. (The technique is to leave the control bar flat on the ground where the shifting wings will automatically move the spoilerons the right way to keep the wing level.) ••• I also saw an Exxtasy mounted on a very lightweight trike prototype built by a local HG instructor. For me, this resolved a question wondering if D-cells might take over for those powered ultralight trikes which currently employ flex wings. In addition to La Mouette’s Top Secret, rumors suggested Air Création (perhaps the world’s largest trike producer) also has a D-cell wing in development. ••• As long as I’m mentioning trikes — and here I refer to trikes aimed at hang glider pilots, not powered ultralight pilots — I saw a unique entry called the Relax which featured a tiny little engine, retractable main gear, and a fiberglass structure. These superlight trikes are obviously aimed at soaring flight as are the Cosmos Samba and Lookout Mountain’s Freedom Machine. ••• Swifts were abundant at Gap/Tallard. No Millenniums were present but with the keen interest in Swifts and Exxtasys, sales may follow for the new Brightstar entry. ••• A few flex wing hang gliders were displayed, but from my perspective they labored outside the limelight enjoyed by the D-cells and soaring trikes. More activity surrounded numerous paraglider and powered paraglider producers. ••• The airshow, called Mondial De L’Air (roughly: "Air World"), was produced by French leader René Coulon’s organization and appeared to have started a new event featuring the light end of aviation. Exhibitors were plentiful, crowds were strong, the weather was superb, the food fascinating, and the French Alps in the south of France made for a stunningly beautiful venue. I hope to attend next year as well. ••• Back in the U. S. of A., I have some items left out last month… from Danny Stephens’ Angle of Attack, who brought you Grippies hang gliding bar gloves, comes Attack Tubes, a line of custom manufactured air foil-shaped down tubes. Why is this newsworthy? One reason tells it all: price. With down tubes running $70 apiece, AoA’s models for half that may find plenty of takers. Yep, Stephens is selling his line for a mere $37.50 each and already has stock for Wills Wing, PacAir, UP, and Seedwings. Order 10 or more at a time and get them for only $35 to include free shipping and handling. Some dealers report AoA’s price is less than their factory dealer cost. You can also order three Attack Tubes and get a free pair of "Semi" Grippies. Stephens says they’ve tested the replacement tubes for strength, quality, fit and finish. Info: Call toll-free: 888-530-9940 or eMail: hydrotex@pacbell. net. ••• Speaking of replacements, Airfoil Sales of Australia faxed that the now-independent company "has been doing a brisk business in replacement sails, particularly [for] the [Moyes] Xtralite and CSX." Proprietor Michael Pendleton says he is "selling all standard makes and models of the XS, Xtralite, SX, and CSX [sails] with Mylar or Dacron/Powerrib mainsail [with] your choice of undersurface colors for approximately $600. Info by fax: dial 011-61-2-4323-3869. ••• In France, the U.S., and around the world, Sport Aviation Publications is doing well with their newest book called "Towing Aloft." Written by Dennis Pagen and former USHGA prez, Bill Bryden, the 384 page book covers all aspects of towing hang gliders. The useful compilation addresses the ever-growing interest in tow-launched hang gliding and sells for only $29.95 plus $3.50 P&H. Info on their web site: www.lazerlink.com/~pagenbks, or call/fax: 814-383-2569. ••• Finally, after years of flying the Big O, "Hungary" Joe Szalai has produced a flying map for the Owens Valley. Popular hang gliding locations are found in bold letters, so the map can be easily used by pilot and chase crew. Best of all, Joe’s map is free. Send a self address, stamped envelope to 25 Whistling Isle, Irvine CA 92614. ••• Got news or opinions? Send ’em to 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Vmail/fax: 612-450-0930 or CumulusMan@aol.com for eMailers. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine