ST. PAUL, MINN., — For the first time I can remember, in 22 years of writing "Product Lines," my column had to be substantially changed after it left my desk (or, these days, my computer desktop). News from Peter Radman of Altair cast doubt about the future of the newest American hang gliding producer. Fortunately for Peter and the old organization, the news improved… • Radman wrote on August 26th: "Basically my original news was that Altair was ceasing operations. The update is that Altair has sold operations to [a new company called] US Altair, led by Steve and Marcia Schuster who are continuing to manufactuer the Predator and Saturn from facilities in Calfornia. A second company, Altair Industries LLC headed by Ivan Mrazek will continue to market the ATOS from facilities in Utah." Peter didn’t want to say more as he "no longer has any vested interest beyond personal interest." However, he added, "I see this as a positive development. Both operations are streamlined from the original Altair, Inc." He says the original company invested heavily in establishing itself and its gliders in what Radman calls "an extremely competitive market." The two operations, US Altair and Altair Industries, don’t have to support the "heavy overhead carried by the original Altair," he explained. Those investments combined with lower-cost imported gliders to make it tough going for the Utah-based glider maker, Radman indicated in earlier correspondence. • Peter didn’t offer contact information for the Schusters, but to reach Ivan Mrazek, call 801-814-3812, or e-mail to email@example.com. With the continuing success of the ATOS in Class II meets and in cross country flying, it seems Altair Industries has a future. Thanks for your efforts, Peter; good luck Ivan plus Steve and Marcia. ••• After the dust settled from the Hearne Texas U.S. Nats, I was able to glean some stats of interest relative to the gliders flown. Now, unlike the Florida meets of this spring, this meet was much more "American," that is, way less foreign pilots. A solid meet, the Lonestar Champs had mostly good task days and a good-sized field of 80 pilots, 22 of which flew (28%) flew Class II rigid wings. Congraulations to Class I winner Paris Williams, flying his Icaro Laminar, and to Class II winner Robin Hamilton on a Swift (not a Millennium). • I looked at what everyone flew and here are the results of my tallying. Moyes and Icaro tied for the most gliders flown at 28% of the Class I field. Next was Wills Wing at 21%, Aeros at 9%, La Mouette at 3%, and a three-way tie for fifth (2%) between Altair, Seedwings, and Airwave. Among rigid pilots, A.I.R.’s ATOS again swept easily, with exactly half the field. Flight Designs (either Exxtacy or Ghostbuster) had 23%, Brightstar had 14% — and won the meet — followed by Guggenmos at 9% and Aeros (Stalker) with 5%. ••• News from FAA… concerning proposed new rules often referred to as "Sport Pilot." Some reverberations within the hang gliding community are inevitable. Change is afoot, and that can be a scary thing with big government. Reading federal government proposals is even duller than reading some computer manuals, but the information contained may be important to pilots. • One problem that remains unresolved is the proposed no-towing provision. In conversations with rule writers, I found them largely unaware of the major impact that aerotowing has had on hang gliding. Their concern about commercial towing of other objects by powered aircraft spurred the no-towing language. When made aware of the difference as early as the February Air Sports Expo in Indianapolis, FAA presenters indicated that they wouldn’t change the proposal but instead would wait for the comment period. • The rule ain’t a rule yet! At the big Oshkosh airshow which concluded in August, even Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta was unable to make the big announcement. An anticipated easy trip through the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) proved otherwise (it’s still at OMB as of early September). Despite his special appearance and a reported call made every 10 minutes from his executive jet enroute to the big show, no announcement was made… still a "no-go." Even with pressure from a big shot, OMB obviously remains unsure about the financial side. • Background politics: Mineta, a Bush appointee, came to (hopefully) make the announcement. The expected announcer would have been FAA boss Jane Garvey, but she’s a Clinton appointee and if there was good news to be announced, it was going be done by a Bush man, gol’ dang it. Indeed, I don’t recall seeing Mineta at Oshkosh before. • But the GOOD NEWS is that Part 103 is not changing, period. So all non-towed hang gliding is in no jeopardy from the new rule. Neither are genuinely light-weight soaring trikes or powered paragliders. But those who tow, or support towing, better plan to write your government rep when the comment period opens. [Disclaimer: This has only been a little FAA news and is neither official nor complete.] ••• Finally, in a rare personal note, I’d like to congratulate my friend Malcolm Jones and his lovely wife, Linda, on the arrival of their new baby named John Arthur, who joins daughter Lauren. In time, perhaps little John will take over his dad’s successful flight park in Florida. Congratulations to the Jones family. ••• So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Messages or fax to 651-450-0930, or e-mail to CumulusMan@aol.com. • All "Product Lines" columns will be available later this year at www.ByDanJohnson.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine