St. Paul, Minn. — Time is growing short! Perhaps by the time you read this, FAA may have issuedtheir new rule called Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft (SP/LSA). • Why should you care? Well, perhaps you don’t. If you fly solo in your hang glider or paraglider and are not towed aloft by a tug of some kind, you may continue to operate under F.A.R. Part 103 as blissfully as ever. However, if you’re one of the many who enjoy aerotow launches, you may be impacted by this rule. • The good news is… the trio of Jayne Depanfilis, Mike Meier, and Bill Bryden have been pursuing actions on the new rule and have the matter quite well in hand. The issues of two-place flying have been addressed and face few obstacles. Aerotowing, however, is less certain. Operations such as Lookout Mountain Flight Park have been fighting local battles with adversaries who brought FAA into the picture. Solving this problem may take more time to resolve. Fortunately, at least in a somewhat longer term, good news also exists. • I recently had a conversation with Bill Bryden on this subject. Bill has been front and center, with Jayne and Mike, in negotiations with key FAA people and the ASTM standards-writing process that is at the heart of the aircraft side of the new rule. (Sport Pilot refers to pilot licensing which is being handled solely by FAA. Light-Sport Aircraft certification is being handled by a group of industry leaders under FAA’s watchful eye. ASTM is the organizing body helping industry create “consensus standards” for certifying aircraft of many kinds — fixed wing aircraft, weight shift, powered parachutes, sailplane-type gliders, lighter-than-air craft, and gyroplanes.) • Bryden addressed concerns that towing is in jeopardy. Facts on the matter take two directions. Effort has stalled on a plan hatched with key FAA person Sue Gardener to issue an altered exemption to allow aircraft like the Dragonfly to keep flying. USHGA’s current exemption for aerotowing specifies only a Part 103 ultralight, that is, one which weighs no more than 254 pounds empty. That, regretfully, does not include the Dragonfly. However, while that effort has slipped into unknown territory, the long term view is encouraging. Though SP/LSA was originally released as an NPRM with towing specifically excluded, discussions and plenty of public comment brought about change in FAA’s thinking. Therefore, ASTM groups writing standards for fixed wing aircraft and trikes added tow equipment standards. (The chair of the fixed wing group is Tom Peghiny, a longtime hang glider enthusiast whose company makes a tow-capable ultralight.)Pilots of tugs will have to show a Private License — the Sport Pilot license does not allow towing — but this should not sharply limit the number of powerjocks who can fly these machines. So, except for a delay during release and full implementation of the rule, aerotowing does not look threatened, though this spring and summer may have some challenges. ••• After resigning from BRS parachutes late last year, I started doing marketing on an independent basis. My newest client is EAA — the folks who put on that giant airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin — and this may bring some benefits for the USHGA and hang gliding and paragliding. EAA, with 170,000 members and therefore some serious clout in Washington DC, might be tapped to assist USHGA with regulatory issues. In fact, USHGA’s Executive Director, Jayne Depanfilis, and Regional Director, Bill Bryden, have frequent contact with this leader of recreational aviation. And now that I’m in EAA offices every other week, I may be able to further tighten that relationship. In the meantime, I’ve discovered other connections to hang gliding and paragliding. ••• Paul Hamilton, the hang gliding/paragliding video production czar, has convinced the EAA to carry a selection of his tapes or DVDs. While he still offers plenty of HG or PG videos, Paul has branched out into other aircraft. After doing so he says, “It took me two years to finally get EAA to handle my products.” EAA has a large merchandise operation so Paul’s sales should increase. He adds, “We just released the www.sport-pilot-training.com web site to help pilots get going.” But while Paul’s Adventure Productions company has entered the powered aircraft arena, he remains a free flight enthusiast. Here’s how he ended a recent note: “Keep up the pressure on the manufacturers for nanotrikes, and get USHGA to support soaring trikes with wheels!” Soaring will include such vehicles in the future, I think, and Paul will be ready for them, too. FMI: dial (775) 747-0175 or visit www.pilot-resources.com ••• Speaking of towing, work continues on Alan Chuculate’s Paratug, the powered aircraft he’s building to aerotow paragliders. Alan wrote in mid-March to say, “We’re running behind schedule as you probably guessed.” Alan’s essential talent, Floyd Fronius, “has been delayed fabricating our custom light trike because his music career has been blossoming with both local gigs and in the recording studio. The construction has been steady but slow and we currently project completion later this month.” Despite the tunes emanating from Floyd, Chuculate expects to be flight testing in April. He promises, “I’ll keep you posted on the status of our flight testing.” • Although Paratug progress is temporarily slowed, a revised wing has been evaluated for handing changes with a 550-pound load plus it’s been used for tandem hang gliding with experienced pilots and novices. In the noisier end of Paratug’s development, Alan writes, “We’ve abandoned the small engine approach.” While testing with a loaner trike powered by a Kawasaki 340 cc, Chuculate’s team found only marginal improvements when he tried different propellers. So he purchased an MZ 202 engine that puts out 60 horsepower. Floyd started building a custom trike in March to accommodate the bigger engine and prop. • Alan’s only real competition for the Paratug is Bobby Bailey’s Biplane Dragonfly. Chuculate once hoped to meet the 254-pound weight limit to comply as an Part 103 ultralight but that idea appears to be melting away with the switch to the more powerful engine. The irony is that Paratug’s delayed development may dovetail nicely with the SP/LSA rule announcement mentioned at the start of this column. If so, keeping the weight down may not be the imperative it was at earlier stages of development. ••• So, got news or opinions? Send ‘em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Messages or fax to 651-450-0930. E-mail to News@ByDanJohnson.com or CumulusMan@aol.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine