ST. PAUL, MINN. — Of course, nearly all the news in the last month has focused on the War on Terrorism. Each of us sees this through our own eyes. We cope with the events in millions of individual ways. A logical way for many hang glider or paraglider pilots is to fly. Many of us find a quiet peace in the air. But in a time of national emergency, officals must make decisions. Among those was the grounding of the entire American aviation fleet, an action that has never occurred in the history of aviation. Naturally, hang gliders and paragliders were included in the grounding. • Led by our capable CEO, Jayne Depanphilis, your USHGA office kept in regular contact with other hang gliding leaders, plus those from the U.S. Ultralight Association, to get word from the FAA regarding the ban on flight and its subsequent lifting. On September 20th, only nine days after the attacks, Jayne said, "I now have it in writing from [FAA official] Mike Henry… that USHGA can operate/resume all aspects of Part 103 outside of Class B enhanced airspace." For those unfamiliar with sectional charts, Class B is controlled airspace around major airline hubs; the "enhanced" part of the new ruling means to-the-ground, rather than the upside-down wedding cake look of normal Class B airspace. • Thanks to Jayne, her staff, and other leaders for their steady efforts to allow us to return to flight. I also wish to add my personal condolence to all who lost loved ones in this unimagined horror. ••• Just before this tragedy, a Grandfather Mountain reunion proved a memorable event. Several anecdotal reports I received told of a great time atop the east’s must rugged mountain. • My former partner at Crystal Air Sports, Tom Phillips, wrote "It was like a time-warped dream… with wuffos asking questions and watching in awe as Sky Gods from the past dove off a rock the size of a kitchen table with a hastily cobbled 2×6 lumber extension." Tom wondered how many other pilots would have made the event had there been more notice. Indeed, I only heard about it from Kitty Hawk’s John Harris at the Oshkosh airshow mere days before it occurred. • Names like Burke Ewing, Terry Sweeney, Tom Peghiny, Tom Haddon, Jeff Burnett, Doug Lawton, Bubba Goodman, and Pete Knebel joined contemporaries like organizer, GW Meadows. At night, old movies and modern computer presentations were enjoyed along with talks by Harris, Meadows, and the Hugh Morton family. Many hoped it would become an annual thing. I see it as the east coast version of Joe Greblo’s Dockweiler Beach reunion. ••• Music was also part of the Grandfather Mountain reunion. Only this wasn’t just any old music; it was hang gliding music. Yup, fer sure, dude! More correctly, it was — and I quote — "Songs That Only Hang Gliding Air Junkies Understand." An entire CD, "Pelican Tunes" is surprisingly listenable with newly recorded cuts. Or, you can simply enjoy the humor of LA artist, Michael Helms. You’ll recognize the melody behind every song but the words have been, uh… creatively altered to make a fascinating parody. Order at the eStore of justfly.com for only $9.95. I found easily enough smiles listening to the album to be worth ten bucks. Matter of fact, I can’t pry it away from my wife (a one-time HG pilot herself), so be sure to listen to it before loaning it to your flying buddies. ••• With no more Millennium gliders forthcoming Brian Porter has been piloting his Swift (also a Brightstar design for those who’ve forgotten). In fact, I understand Brian is marketing the now-European-made Swift in this country. He has also done very well in contests with the slick wing. Of course, he did well in his Millennium, so the impressive performance of the Swift isn’t all of the reason for his success. • Some pilots feel this glider — and perhaps all the rigid wings — hardly represent the hang gliding we always knew. Add paragliders into the mix and clearly, "hang gliding" has diversified in various ways. So, is the Swift a true hang glider? • In the same vein, try to puzzle the coming Pod Racer from Mike Rigg’s Seagull Aerosports. Racing pilot Davis Straub refers to the Swifts in competition with him as "space ships." What will pilots think of Rigg’s fully enclosed soaring trike with its retractable wheels? Of course, it won’t have the small cross-sectional area of a tight-fitting pod harness, but it may be clean enough to compensate in other ways — for example, all instrumentation and a rocket parachute will be enclosed as will be most of the base tube. Will you still be "hang gliding," in a Pod Racer… especially as it isn’t intended for foot launcing? • Another interesting note is the mountain launch of a gorgeous Italian "ultralight" motorglider called the Silent. It is also built without an engine and one recently launched "effortlessly" from a mountain slope to the surprise of observing hang glider pilots. • As with the Millenniums, Swifts, ATOSes, Stalkers, and Ghostbusters, Mike’s coming Pod Racer and perhaps even aircraft like the Silent may redefine what we call hang gliding in much the way paragliders did in the 1990s. Perception, not rule definitions, directly affects what pilots buy. Witness the 20% turnout of rigids at contests to see that this isn’t the marginal rigid wing market of the 80s. And with the number of paragliders at over 60% of the number of hang gliders in America, it’s clear that hang gliding is redrawing its boundaries. ••• In closing, Wills Wing is now the distributor for Airwave Paragliders in the U.S. This news comes from Marcus Villinger who for many years imported lots and lots of WW-brand hang gliders into Europe. After many changes — including Villinger taking over the remains of the old Airwave company from England, to include their paragliding line — now he is selling to his old supplier. Obviously they know each other well and Airwave is pleased to have Wills Wing and their 45 paragliding dealers across the USA. Info: 714-998-6359. ••• So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Messages or fax to 651-450-0930. Please note my new e-mail address of News@ByDanJohnson.com… though you can still use CumulusMan@aol.com for the foreseeable future. • All "Product Lines" columns will be available later at www.ByDanJohnson.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine