ST. PAUL, MINN — Last month the big news focused on UP; this time look to WW (we all know who I mean). The reason? Wills held their first-ever paragliding seminar. Intended for dealers, the event drew well, including Morningside (NH) and Fly High (NY) from the east, five pilots from Japan, and the usual pros from the west coast (Windsports, Mission, HG Center, and Hang Flight, among several others). Total attendance was 35+ for the 10-day long event. The first days were basic training in flying paragliders, followed by an ICP and advanced canopy handling. The basic days were incredibly reminiscent of hang gliding 15 years back. Guys like Larry Tudor, Rob McKenzie, and Joe Greblo were seen jumping on the launch truck like it was their first day of flying, counting the number of flights they made in a day, and looking ever-so novice as they grappled with new wings and techniques. I got to join in this, and you know what? It was really fun. Still not sure I want to fly these things in potent soaring conditions, I have to admit I truly enjoyed the outing with so many friends in the trade. The instructional duties were handled by Claudia Stockwell, Mark Axen, and Chandelle SF’s Andy Whitehill. From Europe came Helmut Walder (instructor of 4,000 students) and Armen Graf (designer of Wills’ paragliders). This quintet proved they knew their stuff. The event took place at Ken de Russy’s superb training hill in Santa Barbara. Between Ken and wife Bonnie Nelson, and the professional advance preparation by all the Wills partners (Linda was also out flying!), the seminar came off extremely well. Over one thousand flights were made without an incident. And hey, those WW-brand paragliders… gosh, they flew beautifully. Only time will show whether Wills can jump start American paragliding, but the seminar effort cannot be faulted no matter the outcome. Look for another report the seminar. ••• Mentioning Wills, prez Rob Kells reports sales of the company’s Z-3 harness line are doing extremely well. They implemented changes ÐÐ basically making most options standard — and now production runs better and quicker. Kells feels the Z-3 will become the leading model in sales of this important kind of equipment. ••• They won’t have the market all to themselves, as Chris Smith’s Cloudbase company readies a "Z-3 type harness" for customers. Much the same as the Wills predecessor, the Tennessean’s new harness will employ tubes on the sides. It also boasts in-flight variable pitch (first popularized by Jay Gianforte’s Center of Gravity line, if memory serves). Plus the Smith model will feature zip-in, zip-out breathable panels so you needn’t sweat summertime soaring. This feature is a Cloudbase original says Chris, and he expects it will be well received. Of course, it’s front opening in the current tradition. Call Cloudbase at 615/344-2993. (Gianforte is 315/687-3724 and Wills is 714/547-1344.) ••• A very familiar address for American hang glider pilots is no more. After twenty productive years — many of them as a leading mover and shaker for our sport — Bill Bennett’s facility on Saticoy in Van Nuys has been closed. Today Bill’s activities concentrate on his Torrey Pines operation. He reports he will seek other space as he still has plans to manufacture again (as reported here a few months back … an opportunity involving his old friend, designer Dick Boone). In the meantime, Bennett/Torrey Pines are focusing heavily on paragliding. The famous San Diego site is well suited to the newest aviation segment. ••• Pleasantly, I can report that the Florida aerotug gang is hard at work on two new tugs that offer several significant changes: further wing shape enhancements to lower the towing speed, better towing attachments, and more versatile cockpit. Two aircraft are in the works; the first to be finished was slated to fly near the end of January. Near this first-flight date, lead designer Bobby Bailey was to leave for his second trip to Bill Moyes’ facility in Australia. Bailey was down under last year to build a first prototype and may now be in Australia crafting five more tugs for Moyes. Facts and photos were promised to keep you aware of the exciting potential offered by these leaders of aero towing. ••• In closing, Russ Brown (associated with the tug builders) reports a possibility that the Disney ultralight and hang gliding show will be restarted. The flight spectacle at Disney World’s Epcot Center was one of the most widely seen promotions for sport flying. Let’s hope this rumor proves true. Will keep ya posted! ••• Got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Or call 612/457-7491 (days). Fax: 612/457-8651. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine