St. Paul, Minn. — At this fall’s meeting of the USHGA board of directors debate will continue regarding the inclusion of powered paraglidersand powered hang gliders in our national club. This debate won’t go easily or swiftly. Many pilots of either wing type feel engines don’t belong in USHGA or at their flying site. Yet the popularity of these flying machines is growing and they are more like us than powered ultralights. • Last month’s story about the Minnesota pilots exceeding 10,000 feet of vertical gain might not have happened without the Mosquito powered harness allowing those pilots find thermals. Besides, the old questions exist: Doesn’t the tow vehicle have an engine? Don’t we have to drive up to most mountain launches? Ironically, the Mosquito engines may use less fuel to get pilots up than a monster 4×4 often used at mountain sites. • So, perhaps you won’t be surprised to read that editor Dan Nelson has asked me to include more power coverage in this column. For even longer than my work to create “Product Lines” I’ve been involved with powered aviation. I communicated back to Dan that I did not want to have only powered coverage, but that I’d watch developments closely and chronicle them in this column. With that in mind… ••• I can hardly contain my excitement! A product I’ve been hoping for and waiting for is almost ready. Michael Riggs of Seagull fame (two decades ago) plans to show his Escape Pod at the Oshkosh airshow in early August. He’s been working seven days a week for months. It isn’t quite ready to fly, but it’ll turn lots of heads at the big event. This is the fully enclosed “pod” for hang gliders with fully retractable gear and in-flight adjustable hang point. With only a single “mast” connecting pod to glider, the pilot will have wide-open visibility. Flown seated like most trikes, Riggs believes the frontal area will only be a bit more than many hang glider harnesses. The Escape Pod is the powered version with its powered paraglider-type Cors-Air engine fully enclosed aft of the pilot, separated by a sound-deadening bulkhead. Also in this area will be a BRS rocket parachute system. Kevlar straps connecting BRS to the top of the wing will hide in a special channel on the aft side of the mast. Next month, I’ll provide more details and in the future, I’ll probably write a flight report… because I’m going to the show with my checkbook to be the first buyer. • Now, for those silent flyers who don’t want to hear anything about powered hang gliding, the Pod Racer is not far behind. This model of Seagull Aerosports’ line will not have an engine. It was my original request and is still what I find the most exciting aspect of Riggs’ endeavors. But look at the logic: the soaring season dwindles as fall stretches on and the giant Oshkosh airshow in August gives a better chance to show off a powered aircraft. Come next year’s Sun ‘n Fun airshow, Mike will feature both Escape Pod and Pod Racer. Even more importantly to the hang gliding and paragliding crowd are the twin Florida contests where Mike can truly show off the Pod Racer …a coming-out party. Hooo Boy! I predict an interesting season for Seagull Aerosports. I know I’ll be doing more hang gliding with a Pod Racer for rent at places like Wallaby or Quest or Brad Kushner’s towpark in Wisconsin. At home I hope to catch thermals after motoring aloft in an Escape Pod. FMI: 952-473-1480 or Mike@fly-seagull.com ••• Speaking of flight parks, welcome another one to the fold. New Hampshire’s Morningside, run by long timer, Jeff Nicolay, added aerotowing to their many activities as summer began. Most HG pilots don’t have objections to the noise a tug makes — though some neighbors do. Morningside was enlisting signatures to turn back some pockets of resistance. To help or FMI: www.flymorningside.com (has a terrific launch page I watched from beginning to end!) ••• Still on towparks, Kushner’s Whitewater, WI operation called Raven Sky Sports has kept up with Wallaby and Quest Air very well (considering he doesn’t enjoy the year-round weather of the Florida enterprises). Now he’s keeping up in a new way, offering wireless high-speed Internet service to those who visit. FMI: www.hanggliding.com ••• Just when you though you’d heard everything about towing, along comes aerotowing a paraglider.Oz Report (davisstraub.com) had a short story on what participants believed was “the first ‘successful’ aerotow of a paraglider behind a Moyes-Bailey Dragonfly.” They used close to 1,000 feet of line and a “drag device” to keep tension on the line. Dragonfly designer Bob Bailey was able to tow Dave Prentice to 250 feet. More experiments are planned. • Hans Bausenwein of Germany indicates that he has a paraglider pay-out winch intended to be mounted on the towplane. Submitting to the Oz Report, Hans says, “This little payout winch only weighs 44 pounds, has a Kevlar drum and an exact means of setting the thrust. It has a guillotine to cut the rope in an emergency. The drum has 2,000 feet of 3 mm spectra line. The unit even has a DHV certification.” • Neither project represents the first aerotow of a paraglider. Frenchman Gerard Thevenot of La Mouette tried this in the mid-90s but gave it up. • Also, in February of 2000, Albuquerque powered PG pilot Eric Dufour towed an unpowered PG at the end of 100 feet of line. They report climbing to about 200 feet but landed for safety reasons. Their web report says, “Eric knew it could be done, but technically, it is dangerous.” ••• Another fixed wing tug is coming. I’ve been asked not to say too much about it yet, but players I know in the ultralight industry are preparing a tug to compete with the Dragonfly. I hope to see the first example at the big Oshkosh airshow starting shortly after this column is submitted. More next month. ••• Finally this month, Scott Heiple started a mail order business doing sail repairs, carbon repairs, and custom carbon fiber helmets. His specialty is leading edge repairs and replacements. Since he’s kept his overhead cost low, he says he can do carbon fiber work beginning at $400 plus shipping. This kind of work is not widely available, so those of you with carbon in your hang glider might want to look at his website: www.geocities.com/franknaxis2001. ••• 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