ST. PAUL, MINN., — Wallaby and Quest are done with their big contests and each event will surely generate stories in our favorite magazine. But, given this column’s focus on products, I surveyed the glider brands used by competitors. • In the Wallaby Open, Wills Wing had a slim lead with 26% of the field, closely trailed by Aeros with 25%, Moyes with 22% and Icaro with 15%. Largely unknown to Yankee pilots, UK’s Avian brand made a small mark at 6%. Airwave had a minor 3% and La Mouette even smaller at 1% of the field of 68 flex wing pilots. • In the Atlantic Coast Championships the next week (but without exactly the same participants), Aeros lead at 31%, followed by Wills at 26% of the field of 54 flex wing entrants. Well below these two leaders were Icaro at 15%, Moyes at 13%, trailed even further by Altair at 6%, Avian and Airwave at 4% each and La Mouette with 2% of the total. ••• Among rigid wing gliders, AIR’s Atos was undisputed at better than half (55% at Wallaby and 53% at Quest). Flight Design’s Ghostbuster did credibly well at 30% and 35% respectively, trailed by Brightstar at 13% and 12% and Guggenmos with 7% at Wallaby and no entry at the ACC. ••• Adding both contests and looking at just the four clear flex wing leaders, Aeros comes out on top with 28% of the total of both fields, followed closely by Wills Wing at 26%, then slipping to 18% for Moyes and 16% for Icaro. ••• Since each contest was loaded with foreign pilots, I resurveyed to see how Yankee pilots selected their contest wings. Again Aeros won at Wallaby with 38% to Wills Wing’s 30%, followed by 18% for Icaro and 10% for Moyes, and 3% each for La Mouette and Airwave with no Altair gliders entered. At the ACC, Aeros did even better at 36%, followed less closely by Wills at 28%, Icaro at 15%, Moyes at 9% Altair at 6%, Airwave at 4%, and La Mouette at 2% of the field of 47 Yankees. Notably different, Wallaby had only 59% American pilots entered in the field of 68 flex wing pilots, while the ACC had 87% U.S. competitors. ••• I’ll leave the figures to speak to you however they do, but remind you that these are contest pilot wing selections, not choices of the general U.S. flying community. However, a number of lower placing pilots were not the so-called "circuit pilots," so the percentages could somewhat reflect the overall purchase decisions of U.S. HG enthusiasts. ••• At the ACC, competitor and e-mail writer Davis Straub did an informal survey of varios in use by the competitors. With my paraphrasing, he writes, "I would say that the number one choice was Flytec. The next most popular, and quite popular it was, was the Tangent (built by Chris Arai, one of the top US competition pilots). Next came the Ball Graphics Comp with a class of pilots that love the big screen and advanced functionality of the Ball GC. The Brauniger IQ/Comp had the least number of adherents, perhaps 4 to 6, though I understand that pilots in Europe and other countries are much more likely to use Brauniger varios." For the full text, go to Straub’s web site at DavisStraub.com. ••• As I watched all these hot pilots fly at Wallaby, it stoked my flying interest as well. My time available to fly hang gliders has decreased due to a heavy work load and other responsibilities… like many HG pilots. One time when I flew at Wallaby, my old friend Malcolm offered me my choice of gliders. I chose a Wills Wing Falcon 195. Jones teased me asking why I’d pick a trainer glider, wheels and all, when I could have anything I wanted. My reply was that I knew I could successfully land the Falcon whereas I had concerns about a bladewing with no wheels, given my shortage of very recent experience. I no longer hate to admit I’m not a hang gliding skygod. For whatever it’s worth, I skied out in the Falcon, topping even the hotshots, though I didn’t try any cross country flying. I had a ball on the Wills trainer and never regretted my choice. ••• With this thought in mind, I want to interject a personal desire of mine. For several years I’ve been asking various people to develop a piece of HG equipment. A market might exist (I can’t be the only one who wants one), but unfortunately I don’t possess the skills to create it so I’m asking for help. To date, my efforts have fallen flat. Either I’m off base or others haven’t seen its appeal. • What I want is a soaring trike. Before you no-motor types sneer, what I’m talking about is a trike that has no engine and is not intended to have one. I believe that if a trike-type package was designed to be very smooth (read: drag efficient), it could become a harness replacement for those of us concerned about landing high performance gliders. • Imagine a fiberglass body, perhaps with an aluminum or steel frame, that hooks up to any hang glider. Wheels could be designed into the trike so that they provide almost no drag but allow roll-on landings. By towing from the front of this hypothetical soaring trike, aero tows might be child’s play (as my experience with the SuperFloater proved). • "Won’t control bar wheels suffice," some have asked me? No! I have yet to see a truly low-drag set of wheels, and besides, the hang glider control frame was never designed to handle landing loads. In the event of a hard landing, I don’t want the wing airframe compromised. • A soaring trike could allow an instrument panel, so these devices don’t hang off the control bar. And a ballistic parachute could be hidden out of the airstream. It would be flown seated, but aging pilots could actually come to prefer that. Lots of powered trike flying experience tells me this posture of flying is comfortable and, frankly, flying seated (supine?) plus having some structure around you is safer. • I’ll save further explanation for my "rigid hang gliding harness" after I hear of any interest in helping to create such a contraption, but to add a little incentive to those of you with builder skills, I’ll put $1,000 on the line to pay (partially?) for one if it meets my desires. That won’t hardly pay for all the development, but it’s a start-up fund. Are you up for it? ••• 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