ST. PAUL, MINN. — Tucks and tumbles and tails and winglets. What’s happening out there? Rigid wings had good showings at recent competitions and their participation in places with stronger conditions has revealed the value of a fixed tail. Aeros has also fitted sleek winglets to their Stalker 2. My guess is more controlling surfaces are headed our way. At last summer’s Worlds approximately a third of the rigid wing pilots flew with tail-equipped wings. Some pilots have even made the normally fixed tails moveable. Alex Ploner reportedly installed an electric servo motor on his tail which allows him to set the angle of the tail for climb and glide. At minimum, tails cause a damping of control bar movements which helps in distance flying by reducing fatigue. It isn’t clear if the tail alters the likelihood of the glider tucking or tumbling but contest pilots have said they’ve been helped with a higher confidence level. Recently at a large ultralight airshow in France, I saw a trike flex wing that had controllable surfaces fitted; controllable surfaces seem destined for experimentation on flex wings if for no other reason than their acceptance on rigids. Going all the way, we arrive at the stick-controlled Swift. Is their popularity growing? According to a Q&A session with Brian Porter, US Airsports Net (usairnet.com) reported the following exchange which began with their question: “Approximately how many Swift gliders are there in the US?” Brian answered, “The exact number of Swifts in the USA is unknown to me. Bright Star produced around 60 Swifts over a two year period. Many of these Swifts were shipped to Europe. On the other hand Aeriane also has produced even a greater numbers of Swifts, some of which have been shipped to the USA. Twelve Swifts [were] expected to be shipped into the country to participate in the… World meet in Chelan.” Even a couple hundred Swifts can’t be considered a large segment of the market. On the other hand, it’s arguably the most successful stick-controlled hang glider ever made. Rigid wings don’t rule the roost, though. Flex wings still dominate recreational and contest flying. For those who have traveled by airline in the last year, the process has become burdensome (putting it euphemistically). If you try to take your hang glider with you, it can be even more challenging. One German producer, Finsterwalder, has long addressed this problem with their Fex line of gliders that pack down to a mere six feet — you can actually carry it back-pack style. Actually, all Fex models break down to your choice of 6, 12.5, or 18 feet. With new U.S. representation we may see more than the occasional odd example. Using Thomas Finsterwalder’s “bayonet-style telescoping fittings,” these designs break down readily to the short length with an assembly time that adds only 5-10 minutes over a conventional wing; and no tools required. They possess German DHV certification and are available in five models: Speedfex (top of the line, high performance), Airfex, Funfex, Perfex (good for training use), and Lightfex. The latter is claimed to weigh less “than most paraglider bags,” or more specifically 43 pounds. It is the lightest of the Fex line but they all feature surprisingly low weights. You may find these gliders worthy of further investigation. FMI: FexAmerica.com or call 760-752-9755. Another glider of interest to non-competition pilots is the newly offered Seedwings Shadow. Though the brand name is familiar, this is not the Seedwings from the USA. It the European version and the Shadow is sold in the USA by JustFly who positions it as an “intermediate” glider. Like JustFly’s Aeros line of gliders, Shadow is reasonably priced at $4,395 and deliveries are said to be fast (“4-6 weeks”). Proprietor GW Meadows says the wing has “a virtually perfect combination of performance and ‘ease of flight’.” Three sizes are available: 133, 146, and 158 square feet. Lots of info is available on their Apple-inspired Website; in fact, you may have trouble deciding between JustFly’s broad line. But isn’t this how shopping should be? FMI: JustFly.com or call 252-480-3552. John “Ole” Olson is again taking up residence in Mexico. He will move from his U.S. base way up in the northwest corner of America (north of Seattle) to a point south of Puerto Vallarta, a familiar resort destination. About 100 klicks southeast down the west coast of Mexico, one arrives at Colima. Since his 1989 Mexico Safaris, Ole has become “ Mexico’s original gringo guide,” not missing a season. This winter, he’ll again locate at the old airfield in Colima’s Antiguo Aeropuerto. Olson says he will “begin work on a flight park named Rancho Deluxe.” Foot launching will be the order (and his personal preference) this season, but eventually he hopes “to offer towing from the runway, too.” He expects to be operational by the first week in December “when the flying season really kicks in,” and he’ll remain in his Southern home until the end of March. He provides the gliders, the guiding, and the Spanish language. Mexico provides the sunshine and thermals. If you want to get the flavor of flying in Mexico, I recommend you go to the following site, where entertaining writer Ole spells it out in colorful detail: www.learntoflytrikes.com/WeFlewMexico.htm 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