ST. PAUL, MN — Well, I don’t know about you, but I was most impressed in March when I looked at the then-new Hang Gliding. The issue was full of new four-color ads. These were from American companies, too! Terrific. ••• Welcome to eye-catching displays from U.S. & UK Airwave for their Xtreme, developed at Lookout Mountain, Tennessee; from Thinair Designs on behalf of manufacturer Brighstar for the Millennium; and from U.S. Aeros for their Stealths and gear. They join regular color advertisers Seedwings, Wills Wing, and Altair. ••• All totalled, I counted no less than nine suppliers of gliders and that’s the best news I’ve seen in a while. Of these, five brands are Made-in-America gliders. Welcome newcomers! I can’t believe the established brands have much to worry about; their wings have weathered other foreign invasions and new domestic brands. More hopefully, perhaps such combined efforts will help in enlisting in new enthusiasts to the sport. ••• Still the way-ahead market leader, Wills Wing reported some price adjustments to their line. The best news for latest-and-greatest buyers is a price decrease in the top-end Fusion. Yep, WW is lowering the cost of an inventory (that is, not custom colored) Fusion to $5,495. Even a custom job went down $95. • On the other end of their performance scale, the hot-selling Falcon went up $100, to $2,895 retail. Wills announced no change for the Ultra Sport, "in spite of continually increasing costs." The Southern California company said deliveries were running eight weeks as of March, although Wills has long maintained a lengthy list of in-stock gliders. Info: 714-998-6359 or see any dealer. ••• Even with a full order book and lowered prices, WW’s success appears to be having no effect on one of the "newcomers." GW Meadows and his U.S. Aeros partner are quite pleased with their penetration into the American hang gliding marketplace. According to GW, sales are way higher than planned when they wrote their business plan. On an annualized basis, sales are up 500% over target, as the Kitty Hawk, North Carolina-based importer reports already exceeding their year-long forecast for glider sales in the year’s first quarter. • Sales are concentrated on the top end model, the Stealth KPL (kingpostless) which accounted for 70% of their orders. A spring sale may have helped and Meadows is realistic that they may not be able to maintain the torrid sales pace. Nonetheless, U.S. Aeros is gearing up in a big way. • "Pilots have expressed concern over the availability of spare parts," GW said. The response? "We will double our inventory and intend never to be out of stock. One way to assure this is to American-source some parts, for example, downtubes. They’ve bought enough material to make 400 of them. • The tremendous sales surge caught the importer off guard, suggesting a trip to the Ukraine factory to discuss production. The former Soviet country regards Meadows as "their capitalist" in marketing matters and welcomed the visit by GW and partner. "A new production system is in place now," reports Meadows. "We’re quoting 6-8 weeks delivery." • There’s enough excitement about the Aeros brand that even Bill Moyes has requested the distribution for Australia. And three-time World Champ’ Tomas Suchanek has reportedly asked about being the Czech rep. • In related news, Meadows also reports that a 142 Stealth KPL is undergoing British glider certification, which will add to the 130 and 150 models that already have approvals. • "We’re incredibly impressed with the know-how over there," glows GW summing up his visit to the old country. Info: 919-480-3552. ••• Among other importers, new La Mouette/Cosmos rep, Don Reinhard and his Personal Flight business are gearing up to push the French combine’s well-established goods. Since Don can promote both the glider line — including the trail-blazing Topless — and an ultralight trike line, he has a wide spectrum of flight hardware to offer. Though a top world builder, La Mouette has never made much of a dent in the U.S. market, but Reinhard hopes to change that. He’s also ordered a few Cosmos Samba trikes, including one for himself. The littlest model of the powered line, the Samba features a Topless wing complete with hang strap that can be used either as a hang glider or a trike. The trike itself is extremely light and may find favor with soaring enthusiasts as a form of motorglider (much like the Freedom Machine Trike that Matt Taber is also promoting). Info from Personal Flight is available at 800-685-8238 or firstname.lastname@example.org. ••• Running-Out-of-Time Dept.: In case you were avoiding the big crowds for their 25th anniversary last year, Kitty Hawk will host — yes, once again! — the 26th Annual Hang Gliding Spectactular. Surely the sport’s longest-running event, this year they’re focused on the Kitty Hawk Air Games, which they describe as "an air extravaganza." All forms of light flight will be featured including aero towing, paragliding, paramotoring, parachuting, ultralighting, kite flying, and a trade show plus seminars. The event takes place May 8-11 so you still have time to attend if you move quickly. Info: 919-441-4124 extension 11. ••• Outta room with other worthy items; watch here next month. So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Vmail or fax to 612-450-0930; eMail to CumulusMan@aol.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine