ST. PAUL, MINN — As we circle into the soaring season, I have an eclectic group of topics. But first… ••• Like it or not, it appears some kind of FAA rule change is coming. Our reps to the ARAC group meeting with FAA are Dennis Pagen and Mike Meier, two solid individuals who will present our position well. It’s simply too early in the process to report what’s happening as the game could change following the response FAA requested of the ARAC industry group. Nonetheless, it appears certain that some changes are imminent. If more information is available by next month’s column I’ll provide more on this subject. Meanwhile, back at the grassroots… ••• I’m personally pleased (being financially involved with the project) to report that the Cumulus ultralight motorglider flew. Under development since 1993, the pace quickened in the last half of 1995 and the motorglider flew in March 1996. Four pilots have put a dozen hours on the machine. Performance appears about as expected although it’s too early for measurements. The target of 20:1 and sink rate under 200 fpm should be achieved. At present, the Cumulus requires additional work on the control system. Aileron response is presently too weak for flying in strong thermal conditions, and overall, the three-axis controls need to be better harmonized. However, developers are "pleased with the initial flights" and refinements to a proof-of-concept aircraft are expected. As US Aviation moves to continue development work, a preproduction prototype kit will be built next. This second aircraft will incorporate changes suggested by the proof-of-concept version and the #2 Cumulus will essentially be the first kit. ••• On a related note, US Aviation’s SuperFloater is now settling in at early sites in Florida, Texas, Nevada, Utah, and Europe. A new batch is coming soon and will be flying shortly after you read this in Arizona, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Iowa. As production continues, Tennessee and Minnesota will be added plus a west coast tour is under consideration. Response from those renting the ultralight glider at flying sites has been quite favorable, and the SuperFloater has proven to operate particularly well in the company of hang gliders. US Aviation has a video tape for $10 postpaid that shows foot launches at Point of the Mountain in Utah. ••• While the SuperFloater has demonstrated foot launch and foot landings, the overwhelming percentage of flights has been via aero towing. In fact, as you read here last month, towing now provides launches for nearly 30% of all hang glider flights nationwide (with aero towing accounting for 10% of all launches nationwide). Given this, more aftermarket items for towing is no surprise. ••• Florida entrepreneur Ron Rarick has created a quick release for hang glider and paraglider pilots which he says, "will release the tow line with or without line tension." Once the "firing pin" is released a spring holds it open and it will not close on the tow line. Made of Delrin and stainless steel, the $69.95 device never needs lubrication. Write Rarick at 614 Pinellas St., Clearwater FL 34614. You can E-mail to RipRarick@aol.com. ••• Barry Steele of Appropriate Engineering believes he’s got a way to lower the cost of building a winch for ground-based towing. In late ’95, Steele completed a 70-page guide called the "Payout Winch Construction Plans Manual." In addition to a step-by-step instruction set for building a winch, he covers towlines, line recovery ‘chute systems, tow bridles, nose releases, glider racks, and flotation systems. "Although the manual describes the complete construction of all parts of the tow system," Steele recommends, "a checkout by a skilled tow operator for critical parts (i.e., line tension settings, tow speeds)." The manual — which I did not see — claims you can build a winch for under $300 and is said to include dozens of illustrations and a complete parts list. A sample illustration generated on computer looked very proper. Order the Manual for $39.95 plus $3.50 S&H from Steele at 971 Fisherman’s Cove, Seneca SC 29672. Call 803-885-0949. ••• Hang Gliding on the ‘Net is alive and well, says computer guru, Bob Mackey. While doing a regular review of home pages he’s created, he found that in the previous 12 months, about 6,000 people have been to the "school" page on his site. "I would assume the majority of these are not pilots but wannabes," says Mackey. He admits to being surprised by the figure but suggests, "instructors on the Web should look into getting a page for their business." View his page at http://www.mainelink.net/Skyadventures/school.html. ••• Speaking of the ‘Net, I mentioned Britain’s Skywings magazine home page back in the April issue. What I didn’t know was that editor Joe Schofield’s work on the BHPA rag won him the 1996 Bettina Gray Prize for "editorial production and excellence." Gray has been awarding such prizes for a number of years but I missed her anointment of Skywings. Congratulations, Joe! ••• Finally, west coast pilot, Paul Dees, is building a replica of the biplane glider that Octave Chanute flew 100 years ago this summer on the southern shore of Lake Michigan. Paul is done with fabrication of individual parts and starting assembly. "I am using original materials, or close substitutes, such as aircraft quality Sitka spruce," he says. "I want it to look good enough that a museum would want it for display." He’ll trek back to Michigan in July in time for a 100-year celebration planned at the original site. Dees noted that Chanute’s glider "had hundreds of safe flights with no injuries, which was certainly better than the unfortunate fatal crashes of Otto Lilienthal and Percy Pilcher." Fascinating… Good luck, Paul! ••• Outta room. So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Fax or V-mail to 612-450-0930. E-mail to CumulusMan@aol.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine