WALLABY RANCH, FLA. — In a rare state of upset, the focus of American hang gliding — even the focus of the world, perhaps — is on the eastern half of the U.S. In two remarkable back-to-back weeks, Florida took center stage of world of hang gliding competitions. It all started with the Wallaby Open and ended with the U.S. Nationals, however, as this column tries to sneak off to the printer at the last possible second, I’ll speak about the already-concluded Wallaby Open this month and next month will report more from GW Meadow’s U.S. Nationals at Quest Air. Fair enough? ••• Malcolm Jones’ kingdom of flight was the site of the Wallaby Open and I was able to make the opening once again as it trails the Sun ‘n Fun airshow which I attend for work. • With good lift, fast racing, and superlative hospitality, the Wallaby Open was well received by a number of pilots who made comments, including the top two finishers, Manfred Ruhmer and Oleg Bondarchuk. • Manfred flies a Laminar and Oleg the Stealth; both are hot as a pistol. The first American in flex wing class was Jim Lee, flying his Wills Fusion to third place. South Americans filled several top spaces followed by Yankees Paris Williams (8th), Ryan Glover (9th), and Mike Barber (10th). In all, 44 pilots were registered in flex wing Class I. Only six pilots flew kingpost gliders, including a pair of Altair Predators in 8th and 19th with the rest being several Airwave models in lower positions. See "Airwave" below. • The big buzz at Wallaby, Quest, and throughout Europe has been rigid wings. With little more than two years behind the Exxtacy, the new wings are more vibrant than ever, and the excitement is the most I’ve noted in 20 years of following rigid wing news. For Felix Rühle, the meet results must have been especially satisfying. Not because of his own 9th place performance on an Exxtacy (now ironically built by his competitor), but because Dave Sharp flew Rühle’s brand-new ATOS to first place in Class II (rigid wing) competition. The separate class was noteworthy with a dozen pilots entered representing over 20% of all contestants! The surprisingly strong field was comprised of the ATOS, a Millennium, Brian Porter’s modified Millennium, the Utopia, and nine Exxtacys. Porter came in second in what e-zine reporter Davis Straub called a "spaceship" (see OZ report below). An Ixbo was flying at Wallaby but was not entered. • The much anticipated E-7 from Josef Guggenmos didn’t make it until the last day of the Quest Nationals and the Flight Designs Ghostbuster follow-on to the Exxtasy didn’t show at all according to last reports (though it was unveiled in Europe recently). ••• VERY LATE BREAKING NEWS included this from Quest. According to OZ-man Straub, "Jim Lee edged out Mike Barber by 7 points… for National Class I Champion. The Europeans (including the Ukraine [Bondarchuk]) and Brazilians kicked butt in Class I." Full results can be seen at www.justfly.com/natscore.htm. Straub’s interesting daily OZ reports can be found at www.davisstraub.com/OZ/ ••• Despite all the excitement in Florida, some bad news arrived from Airwave in the UK. An electronic post from director Rory Carter says "Airwave is not able to continue in its present form." The company ceased trading at the end of April and is seeking a new owner, "either as a whole or for its individual valuable parts." Carter sees good parts sales for the many Airwave gliders in the hands of pilots. The assets will also include the rights to all their paraglider line and what the British call the "spares" business. • The company offers its wing design software and hardware and, for a qualifying company, their "Flexible Aerofoil Numerical Simulation tool" that can "predict the wing shape and simulate the flight characteristics of any cloth wing. It will also be able to measure the shape of paragliders and hang gliders in flight." Airwave values this project in development at about $1 million. No figures were mentioned for the entire company or any of its other parts. • With wings like the Magic, Klassic, Pulse, and Xtreme, Airwave is a brand we’ll miss. Failing as the company did while the news is all about rigid wings makes me wonder if they’re just the first flex wing builder to take a tumble. • I’ve stuck my neck out with a prediction that powered trike ultralights will eventually switch overwhelmingly to rigid wings… developed by hang gliding designers, just like the first wings that powered engineers used. If my prediction comes true, and assuming different skills for building carbon fiber structures rather than tube and bracket assemblies, we may see more flex builders disappear and new names appear. • Carter concludes his announcement with this reflection: "Airwave has… hopefully influenced the personal flight market in a positive way. It was only ever my intention to have some fun for a few years developing and building gliders. It grew to be much more than that, but got out of control when we took on paragliding." • I salute Airwave for a job well done over many years. ••• So much more news is happening; the season is hot! But it’ll have to wait. So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Messages or fax to 651-450-0930. E-mail to CumulusMan@aol.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine