ST. PAUL, MINN. — Well, whaddya know… this particular "Product Lines" column marks the end of 20 full years and the start of year #21. Sometimes that just sounds kinda unreal to me; 20 years of putting out this column every single month (except one where I was one day late on deadline and the publication went to press without "PL"). Anyway, I’m proud to do my little piece of work for our wonderful sport and I sincerely appreciate those loyal members who send me stuff for consideration in this column. I also appreciate the many comments I get from readers who often tell me "PL" is one of the first things they read in HG. • Finally, I want to repeat my thanks to Bill Allen who inspired this column with his own "Flying Bull" of the 1970s. Though his effort ran only for a short time (or so it appears with my ancient 20-year hindsight), his folksy style literally gave birth to "PL." He called for someone to take over "FB" in HG mag, and when no one did, I borrowed the style for Whole Air magazine which I’d begun to publish back in 1978. Gosh, that’s probably more than enough meandering through the history of this column, but heck, once every 20 years or so, I may repeat this exercise. Now, on with the product news… ••• Partly thanks to Davis Straub’s continuing stream of info via his e-zine (www.davisstraub.com), rigid wing news is plentiful. While flexwings from Wills, Altair, Seedwings, Moyes, La Mouette, Icaro, and others still comprise by far the majority of wings being sold in the U.S., rigids seem to have grabbed the limelight. • The ATOS from Exxtacy designer Felix Rühle is undergoing DHV (German) testing on their rig like HGMA’s. Pitch stability was completed and apparently "values are good in the full range." Felix was expected at the Wallaby Open with the new wing. Undoubtedly he’ll also show at Quest for GW’s dual contests at that tow park. • The Ghostbuster is the new rigid wing from Flight Designs, manufacturer of the Exxtacy. The new wing is also slated for time on the German test rig. Straub reports that the Ghostbuster will be about 140 squares with a claimed weight of 77 pounds (which, like the ATOS and the new rigid coming from Aeros, is something like 20 pounds less than the Exxtacy). • Contrary to rumors at one point, E-7 rigid wing importer, Jim Zeiset, will fly the new Guggenmos rigid wing at the Wallaby Open. As it has been reported, the E-7 has already earned DHV approval, even before the ATOS was completed. Guggenmos is often described as a designer with the finesse of Bob Trampenau of Seedwings, so interested pilots may want to pay attention to his new rigid wing. • US Aeros reports that their new rigid will employ carbon D-spars with a tapered wing that uses ailerons activated when you shift your weight through a central hang point connection. Exxtacy and most D-cell rigids to date use spoilerons and the two do not operate the same aerodynamically (a discussion I may go into later). Allegedly, the spars on the Aeros rigid are not sail covered like all the others which will be interesting to examine. • By the time you read this, I hope to have seen all these new rigids as I attend the huge Sun ‘n Fun airshow just down the freeway from both Wallaby and Quest. More later… ••• The web-based OZ Report also speaks about the new Laminar ST from Icaro. According to German team member Hans Bausenwein, the ’99 version of the topless ST is quite a bit different than the ’98 model. A new sail cut is said to "come with fully enclosed battens," and "the airfoil has changed a bit." The new Laminar reportedly has a new sprog system, though Davis adds that this system is not new and has been seen on gliders from Wills and Aeros. However, "the whole pitch stability system is a lot more rigid" we hear, allowing adjustments to the dive recovery devices which bring improvements in handling. Recently, Icaro extended their strong contest results with top finishes in the Brazilian Open. More info on Hans’ opinions are available directly from him at email@example.com ••• While on the subject of flex wings, it appears that La Mouette is gaining the strongest foothold I’ve seen in the U.S. market, thanks to importer Don Reinhard’s deal with Mark Gibson and Mike Barber under the name Personal Flight. Straub reports that Wallaby hotshot Ryan Glover (brother of marketer David Glover) will fly a LM Topless in the Wallaby meet and at GW’s Nationals up at Quest. In fact, based on current decisions (which can change as rapidly as the wind direction), about half the U.S. World Team may fly Topless gliders. ••• Up in Michigan, longtime instructor, Norm Lesnow has been operating a new 914-powered Dragonfly tug. He had an active last quarter of 1998 (despite the onset of winter) and is expecting a strong 1999. A new club was born as the Southeast Michigan Soaring Club, and they’ll be offering tandem and solo tows plus training in both fixed wing and trike aircraft. Lesnow says he is operating "full-time, seven days a week" only a 40-minute ride from the Detroit metro. "Business has been real good," Norm relates. Info: 248-399-9433 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. ••• Flying Humans founder and Lookout Mountain Flight Park marketer David Glover called to say his 1-800-HANG GLIDE promotion is off to a flying start. He reports that "most of the top ten schools are involved" and that 40% or 76 of the 200 national area codes have already been bought. "Ads are coming" next he reports. Info: 706-657-8485, or email@example.com. ••• Wrapping up, National Geographic magazine wrapped their March issue with a promo for the statement "Ride the Desert Winds on a Propeller Powered Paraglider" above an image of a PPG over a group of camels. They gave this form of our lightweight soaring some fine coverage inside and indicated it would also be shown on their "NG Explorer" TV show aired on TBS. Pretty neat; National Geo has a vast subscriber audience. ••• Outta room again. So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118, or fax/message to 651-450-0930. Send e-mail to CumulusMan@aol.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine