ST. PAUL, MINN — A few places in the country are beginning to look like fall, as tree colors mark the close of another soaring season. ••• The much-debated Owens Nationals is history. Getting right to the point… Tony Barton was the victor, flying his TRX, a fact that must be making the year-old UP International smiling widely. In second was Thomas Suchanek (Moyes XS) followed by Jim Lee (HP AT 145) in third. In the top ten only five were Americans, what with the contest being widely attended by pilots from at least fifteen countries, beginning their two-year preparation for the 1993 World Meet in the Owens, the first ever in the USA. Some 126 pilots registered in what Bruce Case (12th) called, "hands down, the toughest Nationals ever." Fortunately, tough didn’t mean it was cruel (as some labeled the Dinosaur Nats). Six rounds were flown in good conditions and no one was injured, though a few "There I was…" stories were told about pilots finding themselves sinking out in an Owens’ canyon. Tom Kreyche got kudos for running a good meet. Other Americans in the top ten included Chris Arai, Nelson Howe, and Dave Sharp. ••• Using the recently popular "tarp start," the contest brings some new features worthy of note by those who don’t compete. The tarp start involved a large hunk of material spread out roughly four miles in front of launch. Pilots launched whenever ready, working to accumulate altitude. When the tarp was unfurled, pilots rushed in from all quarters… kind of a Gentlemen-start-your-engines beginning. It put everyone on the course during the same conditions. The best pilots end up flying with one another as they took lead of the pack. It also makes the ending very exciting, as pilots pulled in for final glide, one behind the other. The Owens seems especially well suited for tarp starting. ••• In a related product story, Bruce Case flew his wild looking composite pod "harness." He’ll go back to the drawing board on a couple small points but seems quite pleased with the results, claiming he’ll "definitely keep flying with it!" The revised Jim Lee fiberglass-shell pod attracted much attention. It weighs about 40 pounds when you include instruments and all; "about 10 pounds more than a comparable fabric pod," says Case. He continued, "In fact, weight wasn’t a problem at all; in the Owens Nats, pilots like Ted Boyse were flying with 65 pounds of sand ballast." Case has plans to continue refinements on the clear nose cone, attempting to improve ergonomic performance on long glides ("two mile course glides were common; some were ten miles!"). The cone slides forward for thermalling allowing good head-up vision, but when slid back for max glide, Bruce reports his visibility above the horizon was too limited. Case is preparing an article on the composite marvel for a later issue of Hang Gliding, where photos will amplify his description. ••• The safety of the Owens Nats seems to subdue criticism voiced at the April 1991 FAI meeting held in Lucerne, Switzerland. When the international delegates gathered, France’s Gérard Thevenot (boss of La Mouette) expressed concern that, "a Championship in the Owens Valley would be excessively severe and no fun for the pilots." Perhaps use of August versus June or July was wise, but this contest seemed not to bring the dangers which worried Thevenot. ••• Oxygen use was a factor at the lofty Owens meet, a fact that is probably music to the ears of Mountain High, makers of the newly announced XCR systems. The latest model from the O2 supplier uses the Oxymizer® (oxygen conserving) nasal cannula, a nose fitting that eliminates the more cumbersome mask. The composite fiber wound cylinders are small and light, yet — with the cannula — provide a stunning 4 or 8 hours of a flow rate good to 18,000 feet (and you shouldn’t legally be going higher, we all know). Looks good. If it interests you, see their ad in this issue. ••• To close, a bit of legal humor… R.V. Wills, a name any old veteran will recognize (father of the famed Wills bros.) has penned a new book since he retired from the legal profession. Called "Lawyer’s Are Killing America," it throws darts at the lawyers who have proliferated the legal liability environment which has been so hard on aviation. While L.A.K.A. isn’t an aviation book, you might find it of interest. The lessons of liability haven’t been lost on his sons’ organization. When Wills Wing hosts a flying seminar, you’ll have to sign the usual document prompting the slogan, "Where There’s A Wills, There’s A Waiver." Good chuckle!. Outta room. So… got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Or call/fax to: 612/450-0930. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine