ST. PAUL, MINN. — In April, USHGA continued what is now something of a tradition by having a strong presence at the massive Sun ‘n Fun airshow, one of the ways we can reach out to other potential new members. The Florida extravaganza has been closing on the world’s largest airshow — Oshkosh — and in 1995 nearly tied the big Wisconsin event for attendance. These conventions are the largest gatherings of pilots in the world, and I think it’s terrific hang gliding is represented. Even if you’re one of those who don’t desire growth, we need to be recognized among the greater community of pilots, if for no other reason than having some clout and contacts when one of our flying sites is threatened. ••• As if to show the effort is paying off, UNpowered ultralights were recognized in several significant ways this year. • A window was created daily to allow one hour of solely unpowered flying. The sky filled up with hang gliders, Swifts, and the new SuperFloater. Four trike brands did tug chores: Air Creation (French), Airborne (Australian), Cosmos (French), and Mountaineer (American). They were joined by a couple Dragonfly tugs and Steve Flynn’s new Arrow Tug. • New USHGA prez’ Bill Bryden and yours truly got the announcer’s microphone for this hour and promoted hang gliding and ultralight soaring till we became hoarse. • USHGA had a prominent location for its big tent, which housed a display for GW Meadows’ Just Fly. Right at the main entrance to Sun ‘n Fun, the ultralight area has nearly 100 exhibitors plus nearly continuous flying, so it draws a good percentage of the 750,000 visitors to Sun ‘n Fun. Where else can you replicate that kind of outreach? • Finally, for the second year running, an UNpowered ultralight won the Outstanding New Design award. Last year it was the beautiful Swift. This year it was US Aviation’s SuperFloater. Look for their new ad in this issue. In a field packed with motorheads, it raised some eyebrows that a glider won again. Congratulations to the development team at Wind Walker, builders of the 1995 SuperFloater. ••• Hang gliding’s own Bruce Hawk — the Windsok Man — increased his presence, running a booth at each end of the big show. He’s selling those hang gliding wind indicators to spam can drivers… Go Bruce! ••• Ken Brown represented his hang gliding company at Sun ‘n Fun since two exhibiting trike builders use his wings for their aircraft. It was neat to see the Airwave name in big letters in a few places in the display area. ••• As if all the action at Sun ‘n Fun wasn’t enough, I stayed a few extra days and toured around the Sunshine State. Florida is some kinda aviation heaven. In truth, I never ventured out of central Florida and in two weeks I ran out of time to see it all. ••• Besides Sun ‘n Fun, you can find several hang gliding aero tow operations, some of the world’s largest sky diving drop zones, several kitplane, ultralight, and general aviation manufacturers. Airports and residential airparks dot the countryside regularly. Disney often hires hang glider and ultralight pilots for shows to entertain their guests. Now, millionaire aviation enthusiast, Kermit Weeks, is preparing to open Fantasy of Flight, billed as "Florida’s Premier Aviation Themed Attraction." (…more on that below). ••• The busiest diver park is Wallaby Ranch, which though attracting lots of pilots and tandem students, is tightly run for safety and fun. On my visit, proprietor Malcolm Jones bought his fourth (yep, count ’em!) aerotowing tug, this one a trike. One evening, working with only one tug, you had to watch yourself or you’d be in the way of a couple dozen tandem aero launches. The pace was brisk, the action exciting, all safely and smoothly performed. Earlier in the day, two tugs snatched pilots as fast as they wanted to be launched. Early starters hung it up after a couple tows to hit the pool and refreshments. They’ve got a fun newsletter to send that’ll tell more. Call 813/424-0070. ••• Wallaby’s success has helped spawn other aero tow operations. I visited Russell Brown and Campbell Bowen at their Groveland, Florida operation. Operating off a longtime grass airport, the duo resurrected a nearly-defunct facility and begun renewing it. Twenty miles northwest of Wallaby, it’s a great little place with cross runways and their three-cylinder, 90-horsepower Dragonfly tug which can deliver a very swift lift to altitude. Call 904/429-0213 or leave a message at 407/644-2151. ••• Gregg McNamee and his wife Diane have also entered the business, under the name Gray Bird Airsports. Gregg bought the original Bobby Bailey Dragonfly tug and went over it in detail. As he’s a Tandem Instructor, Gregg will be doing training as well as towing. Fifty miles north of Wallaby, in Summerfield Florida, call the McNamees for more info at 904/245-8263. ••• Finally, a fourth operation is that of Steve & Barb Flynn, a USHGA Regional Director. Steve recently completed his Arrow Tug. Although essentially a Dragonfly, Steve has added his own refinements. Meanwhile Barb has taken three axis training so she can fly at either end of the rope. The Flynns run Central Florida Flyers and operate at several area sites. Call them at 407/894-5715. ••• Orlando is the site of the next USHGA board meeting. One of the places directors may want to visit is Fantasy of Flight… a dazzling and sophisticated project executed professionally enough to compete with the big Orlando attractions like Disney. Three theme areas will artfully showcase many of Week’s 300(!) vintage aircraft. His collection is the largest such in the world and I could hardly believe either the sheer amount of aviation gear or the enormous investment involved. Thanks to Richard Johnson, a private tour of FoF brought eight of us to sensory overload, so extensive is Weeks’ accumulation of aviation memorabilia. Be sure: he’s spending big and it’s gonna be great when it opens this summer. Among all the vintage planes are new ultralights… Weeks likes flying them, too. Call for info: 941/984-3500. ••• We’re outta room again. So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Voice mail or fax to: 612/450-0930. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine