St. Paul, Minn. — Well, as this issue of Hang Gliding & Paragliding goes to press, one of the two big Florida two meets has finished and the other is about to begin. In the second week of April, after the Sun ‘n Fun airshow concluded, Quest launched into the 2003 Flytec Championships. ||| Two leaders won their classes, with Manfred Ruhmer taking first in his Flexwing class Icaro Laminar MR. Christian Ciech took the honors in his Rigid class Icaro Stratos |again! – each of these men achieved this result last year. Mark Mulholland was an American of distinction placing first among the four-competitor Swift class, flying the wing Brightstar invented. | This year’s contest was significant for flying 110 competitors, up from last year’s 106 contestants. In addition, participation by international pilots was higher than ever. In Flexwing class, fully 50% were from the other countries! The top three Flex wing contestants were Manfred from Austria, Oleg Bondarchuk from Ukraine, and Kraig Coomber from Australia. Each flew a glider of his country (Icaro, Aeros, and Moyes). | Yankees were nearly in the minority and last year at Quest, Americans placed higher. This year’s best performances were by Paris Williams in 9th (Aeros), down from his hot-as-a-pistol 2nd and 3rd place finishes at these two meets last year. Curt Warren (Moyes) placed 10th; Mike Barber (Moyes) and Kari Castle (Icaro) were 13th and 14th, Carlos Bessa (Wills Wing) was 16th, Jim Lee (Wills Wing) was 19th and Jerz Rossignol (Icaro) was 20th. ||| Icaro certainly has bragging rights with its brand winning both Flex and Rigid classes. The same two champion pilots flew their Italian gliders to victory two years running. But you can’t judge new glider sales by looking at the top few performers, so I prefer to survey the entire field to see what it suggests about the brands competitive pilots are choosing. Since U.S. participants made up three-quarters of those in the bottom third of contestants, and since they may be more like you, it’s important to tally their brand choices. | Though the world counts several more brands, some of which have strong regional followings, only six Flexwing brands were used at Quest. You might find it remarkable (or maybe not?) to hear that last year’s Quest and the 2003 event had the same brand loyalties. Moyes again lead with 35% of the field (they had 35% in ’02 as well), Wills had 22% (also identical), Aeros had 19% (yup, again, identical), Icaro 17% (getting bored? |yes, again identical), followed by AirBorne and La Mouette with 4% (OK, fine, once again identical to last year). I actually reviewed the results to be sure I wasn’t reading last year’s results. Last year from Wallaby (which went first in ’02) to Quest, the brands did vary slightly. We’ll see what happens this year as the event positions reverse. Once again, we saw no British gliders, though that country once dominated international contests; the French seemed to have replaced them. ||| Fortunately the tight focus on competition in the spring doesn’t completely block the view of single surface gliders nor intermediate models. In fact, recent chatter among vocal pilots – many of whom pursue the competition circuit – has often been about non-competitive gliders (although some of this attention stems from X-C prizes being offered for flights in such wings). | Experts talk about the amazing handing and stability compared to the high performance models they choose for contests. Many took rides on new intermediates like the Aeros Discus, Wills Wing U2, Moyes Litesport and the Aeros Target single surface glider. After flying the most tweaked out bladewings which require more pilot input to extract their greater capabilities, several top-ranked pilots sounded delighted to relax while flying. Gee, relax while flying| what a concept! ||| Speaking of intermediates, Moyes is preparing to offer a bigger Litesport. As with its smaller siblings, Litesport 5 brings intermediate flight behavior, lighter weight and easier handling to what Moyes observers report is “the highest performing kingposted glider ever made!” Moyes itself says, “The Litesport performs similarly to a non-kingposted glider, but handles like an intermediate glider, making it suitable for many pilots whether competitive or recreational.” | Preliminary specs for the Litesport 5 include wing area of 160 square feet (compared to 148 sq. ft. on the Litesport 4), wing span of 32.9 feet, and weight of 74 pounds. Litesport 5 is best flown by a pilot weighing 187 pounds (not including harness or instruments). Big boys may want to pay extra attention. | FMI: FlyaMoyes@aol.com or 530-888-8622 ||| In another intriguing development, A.I.R. the highly successful rigid wing producer of the ATOS, released information about their tandem version called the ATOS VX. Besides beefier parts, the VX model distinguishes itself with some compound-angled wingtips which may aid slower speed handling, an important point in a glider made for training. According to factory personnel, the tips are raised to give more ground clearance on takeoff and landing. No wonder since the big ATOS has a 46 foot span and a wing area of 172 square feet. Sink rate is predicted to be a rather amazing 100 fpm. | With these stats in mind and its design purpose, I’ll be surprised if the VX doesn’t end up on some light powered trikes. A number of pilots have been waiting for an appropriately sized and tested rigid wing for such a use. In fact with the VX wing molds costing upwards of $30,000, some wonder about the market for a tandem ATOS. When you factor in nanotrikes intended as motorgliders, recouping that investment might be more feasible. | A.I.R. still has work to do. At press time the VX had not yet been flown with two on board, so, for example, the sink rate information has not been verified. Nonetheless, demand from flight schools and European flying clubs has reportedly surprised designer Felix Rühle. | FMI: firstname.lastname@example.org ||| So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Messages or fax to 651-450-0930. E-mail to News@ByDanJohnson.com or CumulusMan@aol.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine