ST. PAUL, MINN. — This month is my review of the product-oriented aspects of the USHGA’s annual survey. Since it comes with the ballot, a high percentage are returned. Because of this Yoo-shga enjoys more reliability in its surveying than do most organizations. ••• The overall statistics haven’t have shifted much but a couple surprises do reveal themselves, notably increases in hang gliders flown (relative to paragliders anyway) and more women than ever flying. While more and more leaders are becoming convinced of the need to expand hang gliding, the commercial industry which serves present enthusiasts continues steadily with few changes. ••• One non-product item worthy of note. Our "maturing" sport has now crossed a benchmark line: The average age slipped quietly by the fortysomething figure, coming to rest for 1995 at 40.4, up half a year from last year. Fortunately, personal income also crept up, stopping at an average $51,295 per member. We continue to "gray out" even as leaders search for answers on bringing in more young enthusiasts. However, balancing that is USHGA’s success at encouraging women to fly hang gliders. That number has now passed the ten percent figure, reaching 10.5% for 1995. In my wide-span view of aviation segments, hang gliding is doing measurably better at bringing female participants into the fold. ••• The once-closely-watched glider brand shares have become almost boring (a boredom industry leader Wills Wing probably enjoys). The WW brand inched up to 44.0% from 42.7% last year. In the ’90s — a period for which I have records close at hand — this performance is the highest Wills has reached. Their success with the Falcon may have helped. Second position Pacific Airwave slid slightly to 28.4% from 29.6% last year, a change so tiny as to be statistically irrelevant. A recent factory move doesn’t seem to have hurt the central California company. UP/Blue Sky held on to about seven percent, sliding imperceptibly to 6.8% from 7.3%. In the earlier ’90s, they had just over 10% of the market; we’ll see if the new company’s Predator can change that. Seedwings crept back up modestly from 3.6% to 4.0% reversing a continuous slide from early periods. The success story in a well-entrenched market is Moyes, who wins the "Most Improved" market share, moving up 28% from 7.1% to 9.1% of the total community. In the earlier ’90s they sat below 5%, and have advanced steadily since then. The "Others" category declined sharply from 6.0% a couple years ago to only 2.9% in 1995. This suggests non-U.S. brands are still struggling to establish any American presence. ••• In regional strengths, Wills leads in ten of thirteen USHGA Regions (1 through 8, plus 10 and 13). Pacific Airwave owns the remaining three (9, 11, and 12) with Moyes showing particular strength in Regions 3 and 10. Seedwings has some brighter spots in Regions 6 and 12. Wills Wing lead seven regions in 1994, so picked up several points in this analysis. PacAir had lead five regions but declined to three, however, PacAir has the largest plurality of all in Region 12 where their gliders represent 52% of the field. ••• The number of gliders owned per member continues upward, as always, reaching 1.9 gliders each (the last two years were 1.8 and 1.7). The number of pilots saying they’ll buy a new glider dropped from 22.8% to 20.5%, translating to a forecast 1,900 new gliders that may be bought in 1996. ••• The fractured market of paragliding is split up among 14 brands plus "Other." Edel is the clear leader with a solid 24.2% of the community. ProDesign is a distant second at 12.7%, followed by Flight Designs (10.8%), ITV (7.3%), and Firebird (6.9%). American representation is well down the list, with UP in eighth at 4.6%, followed by PacAir in a tie for ninth place at 3.8% and Wills in thirteenth at 1.9%. ••• By the way, industry leaders say paragliding is experiencing decline in Europe where they think "the market is saturated." This tells me PG is simply maturing as hang gliding had done earlier. Conversely, hang gliding is now enjoying modest growth in Europe. Indeed, in the USA, for the first time in the ’90s paragliding lost ground. Of all types of wings flown, paragliding dropped over eight percent, from 29.6% of all wings to 27.2 percent. Hang gliders increased from 73.6% to 78.5%, with rigid wings also growing 25% from 3.2% to 4.0% of all wings. A four percent share calculates to about 375 rigid wings flown, a figure down slightly from two years back. ••• In other trends, towing continues its inexorable climb relative to foot launching… possibly related to the aging of the pilot population? In 1994, foot launching accounted for four out of five launches (79.4%). Last year, foot launches sunk to 72.7%, possibly due to the strength of three busy Florida tow operations which helped lift the category to 27.3% of all launches. All three types of towing: aero, platform, and stationary — were up, but aero towing did the best, accounting for over ten percent of all launches nationwide and one third of all tow launches, up from only a sixth two years ago. ••• Well, I’m off to Sun ‘n Fun in Florida. Let’s see what hang gliding news results from that gathering of 750,000 aviation enthusiasts. 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