St. Paul, Minn. — Again with the motor news…? These little contraptions are making quite a… how nicely can I put it? — “joyful noise.” The vote is now history. As I write this in late September, the count has not been made but trends pointed toward acceptance. • Time to take a breather and then move on. Let’s realize that we only have a few hundred of these motor guys. Some flying sites will have to work out compatibility issues, but for the most part powered harnesses, powered paragliders, and nanotrikes allow flight from places closer to home. When they do fly in the company of unpowered hang gliders or paragliders, they are among the quietest of ultralights as their engines have commonly been developed in noise-sensitive Europe. • This column will continue to track the field. But these tiny rigs are simply engines on hang gliders or paragliders and the wings still fly the same (they may even have similar wing loading through the use of larger wings). So, I’ll still be looking for news among unpowered hang gliders and paragliders. If you’ve got some… well, you know the drill. ••• After last month’s review of some soaring trikes on display at the giant Oshkosh airshow, I have one more update. At this event, with 15,000 aircraft on the grounds, many are spectacular showplanes. Nearly all of these are judged for the quality of craftsmanship in building or restoration. Teams of judges, often themselves experienced builders, swarm around the best planes evaluating them so carefully that even such minutia as bolt positions and decal straightness are intimately examined. Those who win are astonishing works of the builder’s art, commonly taking thousands of hours to complete. • Among those feted at the big show was Steve Rewolinski’s nanotrike, which EAA called simply, “Soaring Trike.” Steve’s effort garnered him the prestigious Ultralight Reserve Grand Champion award. Rarely do soaring machines of any kind qualify for this honor and Steve should be beaming that big smile of his. Congratulations to him for putting a hang glider in the ranks of flying machines celebrated at Oshkosh. (Despite the brouhaha over powered harnesses, powered paragliders, and nanotrikes, I believe Rewolinski’s “soaring trike” is indeed a hang glider as it had a Laminar MR700 wing atop Steve highly streamlined creation. He intends it for soaring flight and has often used it that way.) ••• Still thinking of soaring news at Oshkosh… Last month I mentioned a new hang glider tug. Tentatively called “Breese AT,” the new entry is built by M Squared of Alabama. Proprietor Paul Mather is a three-decade veteran of the ultralight industry, 17 years of which were at Quicksilver Aircraft. Naturally his models bear a significant likeness to those from the company he left. Paul stayed with an airframe shape he knew and beefed it up for larger engines and harder work, like training …or towing. • The story develops as former Second Chantz parachutes owner — plus hang glider and paraglider pilot — John Dunham, approached Mather and M Squared. They struck a deal where Mather will built the customized rig and Dunham will market and distribute it. Dunham is already very familiar with M Squared airplanes as he leases one he owns to TV production studios as a filming platform. He explains, “I’ve been working with Paul to develop a new aero tug to compete with the Dragonfly. We will be doing flight and hang glider tow testing in Alabama, and then I will be flying it around to all the Florida parks to show it off. I’ll be the exclusive marketing agent to the HG community.” • In explaining his request to M Squared, John said that he wanted it to be, “…based on the M Squared Breese single place design with the two-place, single surface, slow, strutted wing, a Maule type tow hook release under the rudder, tundra tires, and a specially-built 670 Rotax… almost 100 hp at the same weigh as the 582.” • About his hybrid model Mather is convinced, “She’ll climb all day at 25 mph while towing a hang glider. The climb angle is a real eye opener.” The M Squared model is reportedly lighter than a Dragonfly which explains some of its impressive performance. Another reason is the low-speed single membrane airfoil (a direct derivative from the Quicksilver hang glider of the 1970s). As of Oshkosh, Mather had starting test flying but towing had not been accomplished. Some adjustments are likely to get the tow angles and releases perfected, but these tasks shouldn’t unduly slow progress. • With about 50 operating, no new tug will overtake the Dragonfly anytime soon. But choices are always good. John told me, “I plan on marketing it for around 25 grand ready to fly, including a BRS 750 VLS [vertical-launching emergency parachute] system.” FMI: email@example.com.• Neither Mather nor Dunham have overblown expectations; they only hope to sell a few a year. But since M Squared is a viable enterprise in ultralight aviation, a few extra sales a year are useful if the development cost isn’t too high. ••• Of great relevancy given the powered harness and paraglider debate is Seagull Aerosports’ unpowered Pod Racer. This engine-free, substitute-for-a-harness is still a trike and one that does not allow for foot launching; it is designed to be towed. Perhaps such a soaring trike doesn’t interest you but it’s hard to argue the Pod Racer isn’t a hang glider. What is it otherwise? It isn’t an ultralight; it has no engine. The tandem rigs used for instruction at most towparks take off and land on wheels all the time yet we still think of them as hang gliders. Tow launches so important to modern flying often start (and sometimes end) on wheels. Are we so attached to “foot launch” that the Pod Racer would be disregarded? My point is not to create extra static in an atmosphere crackling with tension over the powered harness or paraglider. Yet the Pod Racer is coming. How will we regard it? …Next month, a return to some unpowered information. ••• 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