ST. PAUL, MINN. — Fall is here and your soaring will soon take place over a sea of colorful foliage. A lot of this may take place thanks to towing. True, "Product Lines" has focused on towing a lot lately, because I’m hearing plenty about it. Now this can be a self-fulfilling "prophecy," I realize. I write about towing and those with an interest in towing respond with information so I have still more to report. A cozy little circle. Yet in fact, I submit to you that I’m hearing about more towing because more towing is happening. If that’s true, then towing is indeed a subject worthy of more ink. I don’t portray this as supplanting mountain foot launching. Not at all, in fact, I’d say one complements the other. My opinion isn’t important, but if my perception is correct about towing occurring on a more consistent basis, then it deserves the coverage. ••• While I’ve looked at aerotowing a lot, the majority is still ground-based towing. Aerotowing demands a tug and a competent pilot, plus an airpark from which to fly. A glider dolly is useful as is a launch assistant. Ground-based towing needs a vehicle, winch, competent driver, and a long, uncluttered stretch of road or turf. An observer can be valuable. Supplying the ground based towing enthusiasts are two main outfits: TLS and TBT. ••• TLS is about to complete its sixth year in business, a fairly long time in the hang gliding industry. With over 50 systems in use, TLS has supplied U.S. tow operators as well those in ten foreign countries. TLS says it is "under sub-contract to NASA and Drydan Research Facility." Besides hang gliders, TLS systems have towed aloft paragliders and light sailplanes. Two new units were available for 1995. One system is "a completely automatic payout and line level rewind hydraulic winch, which includes a stainless steel line leveling drive." The unit can hold 3,000 feet of tow line and sells for under $2,000. The second unit is specifically designed to hold 2,000 feet of Spectra Tow Line and sells for only $1,395. It features the same automatic payout hydraulic system. Contact TLS at 210-824-1803. ••• TBT claims it is the "number one selling tow system of the market." Regardless of market shares, both companies are enjoying successes. The TBT is also a very slick-looking system built in a compact manner. TBT also offers an auto level wind set up ($2,295) plus a manual line leveling model for a lower cost ($1995). Neither are offered with line, which can be a mere $80 for 3,000 feet of Ultraline (3/16"-900 lbs. tensile). Or, you can choose the much costlier Kevlar, Spectra, or Spectron lines. The more exotic choices run from .075 inch to 3/32, 7/64, or 1/8 inch at strengths from 750 pounds tensile to 1,000, 1,200, or 1,500 pounds. TBT can sell you the extras you need such as line-saving recovery parachutes, three-"string" releases, weak links, and hook knives. Call 913-764-2991. ••• Not to be outmarketed, aerotowing and its suppliers continue to develop. John Dunham’s Air Creation America has a "Special Offer for Clubs." His import of aircraft now includes a bargain tug from French giant Air Création (arguably the world’s largest producer of ultralights… all trikes). For a limited time ACA is offering a Fun Racer 503 Tug for only $12,550. The ready-to-fly trike is Air Création’s basic single place trike fitted with a beefy 52-horse Rotax 503 engine. With tug releases — directly through the prop hub for better flight dynamics — the Fun Racer can provide low operating costs as a tug. The price compares well to the popular Dragonfly which approaches $20,000. Aside from its tug potential, the Fun Racer is a quality machine with many standard features. It also happens to be quite a blast for solo flight (without towing), as I found out at last spring’s Sun ‘n Fun airshow. Get an info sheet by calling ACA at 702-882-6046. ••• Though it’s not new, Texan Dave Broyles revived his old Pterodactyl ultralight and refitted it with the Jack McCornack tow system. (McCornack is concurrently "re"-developing the Ptug, the same idea only done new and with more horsepower.) Broyles has a long interest in towing and his recent acquisition of a SuperFloater dealership has him stoked about aerotowing in particular. Besides the ultralight sailplane, Dave figures to tow hang gliders and paragliders. He says, "a little more horsepower is desirable, but lots of choices are available." Broyles is now using a 35-hp Cuyuna, but has his eye on a 50-hp AMW/Cuyuna, the same as McCornack, he says. He’s excited, feeling the ‘Dac is "going to be quite a towplane, perhaps better than trikes." FMI: 214-727-3588. ••• Winches and tugs aren’t all you need, and some other suppliers are stepping in to help. Appropriate Engineering has a towline parachute available using the tried and true parafoil shape. Says developer, Barry Steele, "…it won’t accidentally open if the towline goes slack, yet it automatically opens when you release or break a wink link." A parafoil won’t spin even "at high rewind speeds," claims Steele. Sold complete and ready-to-use, the Parafoil Line Recovery System sells for $59.95 (4,000 foot Spectra line model) or $79.95 (larger or longer tow line model). Call 803-885-0949 ••• Wallaby Ranch has a tow release system, proven at their busy aerotow operation. For $99 you can obtain their ready-to-use, welded spinnaker release complete with a Finsterwalder base tube attachment. Wallaby is promoting their release as "a deluxe, well crafted model." For info, call 813-424-0070. Or, for you netsurfers, Wallaby has just initiated a Home Page on the World Wide Web. Though the online address is typically awkward, the "page" is nicely crafted and has hypertext content that allows you to jump to more areas for detailed info or explanations. I enjoyed looking at it and easily sent Wallaby some E-mail following my site visit. Address: "http://azazel.sdsc.edu/wallaby/wallaby.html. (If you can swallow the dang address, you might have a good time.) Hey, we’re outta room again! ••• So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Fax or V-mail to 612-450-0930. (or… New!) E-mail to: CumulusMan@aol.com THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine