ST. PAUL, MINN. — Before we get started this month, I want to make note of HG editor Gil Dodgen’s passage into his third decade of preparing our monthly magazine. If memory serves (and it occasionally doesn’t these days), Gil has logged 21 years as this is written. Starting in January 1978, he preceded my own entry by a year or so. "Product Lines" is approaching a big birthday as well, clocking a full 20 years with the upcoming May issue. Geez! Twenty years of a column a month (I think I missed only one along the way)… gosh, are we all getting old? Naaah! We’re all getting higher in better gliders and with greater ease than ever. What’s to lament? So, on with the show. ••• Info arrived from a small survey of leaders in the worldwide hang gliding community coordinated by Dutchman Bart Doets, whose writing I long followed in Britain’s SkyWings. He was asked to do the research by a fellow Netherlander who was considering an investment in a hang gliding business. Although the answers could have a low confidence factor (sample size too small), some highlights may still interest you. • Estimates run from 10-40,000 pilots worldwide to around 70,000. However, when they defined "active" as 25 hours a year, some respondents believe the number falls to 5-10,000 pilots. • They further estimate from 2-4,000 gliders to as many as 12,000 gliders are sold every year, including sales of perhaps 500 Class II hang gliders with Exxtacy no doubt leading this charge. If the high figures are used, the worldwide hang glider building industry generates perhaps $50 million. • One of the most poignant statements came from stats contributor, Harriet Pottinger of England: "I am full of admiration for anyone making a living out of hang gliding these days!" ••• Tell it to Matt Taber whose Lookout Mountain Flight Park, one of our largest HG businesses, reportedly grossed a million dollars in ’98, their best performance ever! Congratulations, LMFP’ers. ••• You could work nearly 20 years like Matt Taber has done while building LMFP into a powerhouse. Or you could just buy an enterprise. A "formal notice" was posted for a boat tow-launched operation in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. With a tourist draw reportedly over 2 million and good local flying conditions, the enterprise claims to be the "first and only legal operation of its kind" in Mexico. For an undisclosed amount of dough, you’d get the Mexican corporation, exclusive beach concession permit, boat, and know-how. I loved P.V. on a vacation a couple years ago and the opportunity sounds alluring. If you’re similarly interested try rainbow@ cadvision.com or call Derek Holmes at 403-660-9577 for more info. ••• A good thing happened in Santa Barbara in early January. The "New Year’s Day Hang Gliding and Paragliding Airshow" was held at Los Positas Friendship Park. This was a fund-raiser for Hang Gliding Hill that has provided launch and landings for many years. The 136-acre undeveloped portion of the park finished purchase payments and is using new funds raised for operational costs. With their in-town prize of a site, no wonder a good crowd showed to help with the upkeep for HG Hill as part of the overall Friendship Park. Their efforts garnered splashy color photos and text in the local News-Press paper as the new year began. ••• Moyes America is focusing on aerotowing, announcing that Dragonfly tug kits from Australia are now in stock in the USA. "The price of the basic Dragonfly kit is $10,800," they report. "For an additional $2,000 your kit can be assembled by [Dragonfly designer] Bobby Bailey, at your site or at [Bailey’s home base of] Quest Air near Orlando, Florida," said a new year mailing. More info on the web at www.zip.com.au/~moyes. ••• The club in Superior, Wisconsin (Duluth, Minnesota area) is looking forward to a new season of using their D-fly. Last year they accelerated past 75 hours on the tug and had done hundreds of tows and tandems. A local FAA inspector was "very impressed with our level of preparation," said club officials, and the Duluth airport control tower manager also gave a thumbs up. "Life is good!" they exclaim while taking care to thank lots of HG leaders for help in getting them airborne under tow. Info: 218-624-4500 or 723-1738. ••• Another recent starter is the Cloud 9 Field in Webberville MI. This group, using a "TurboTug" (D-fly with Rotax 914 turbo engine), announced a "university-designed Cloud 9 GLV-B launch cart." They have carts on hand and ready to ship. Fully assembled, they cost $500 or you can take a partial kit for $350. Operators Tracy Tillman and Lisa Colletti say that last year they soloed "a lot of new students… and our DraachenFliegen Soaring Club membership has grown tremendously." As if it needed to be said, they added, "We are having a blast up here in Michigan." Info 517-223-8683. ••• Outta room once again. So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Voice mail or fax to 651-450-0930 (new area code is now mandatory). Send e-mail to CumulusMan@aol.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine