Not all light aircraft will fit the light-sport aircraft mold. In light aviation, excitement appears focused on FAA’s proposed Sport Pilot/light-sport aircraft proposal. The proposed rule may hold great promise, but it won’t consume all of light aviation, not by a wide margin. Near and dear to KITPLANES® readers’ hearts is the so-called 51% rule. The legality of building your own plane from scratch or from a kit is in no danger, and it will continue to be a source of satisfaction for many aviation craftsmen. A second safe harbor is the lightly regulated Part 103 ultralight segment. The FAA has made it abundantly clear that there are no plans to alter FAR Part 103. In fact, it points to Part 103 as a success story that can offer guidance to industry leaders as they fashion a new set of rules for light-sport aircraft, which KITPLANES®has labeled SportPlanes™. (Under the FAA’s sport pilot/SportPlanes™ plan, manufacturers will arrive at their own consensus standards for airworthiness—a situation successfully achieved by hang glider manufacturers.) Celebrate Part 103 It lives!
New ultralights and light aircraft were featured at Sun ‘n Fun As flying season begins, Florida’s popular Sun ’n Fun airshow brings a focus on new aircraft of all types. Aviation writers review the new machines revealed at the event. Yet many machines are often overlooked in the rush to place the most attention-getting aircraft onto magazine covers and into survey articles. This month, we cover a few ultralights and light aircraft you should find interesting. While aircraft like Titan’s T-51 Mustang, Just Aircraft’s Escapade, Airborne’s XT and Sabre’s Wildcat garnered lots of attention, designers of other ultralights have also been working hard. Ramphos One machine no one had seen before was the Ramphos amphibious trike. Though the amphibious trike concept has been used by numerous other companies, the Ramphos has features the others have lacked such as its counter-rotating propeller. A prior model required a small vertical tail and distinguished itself by a composite hoop surrounding the propeller arc.
In the previous two installments, we’ve discussed you, the pilot, and the many types of aircraft choices you have. As we wrap up this series, we’ll put it all together and try to help you narrow your choices to a few models. Notice the word “try.” It is important that you understand that it is not possible to direct you to the one-and-only best choice of aircraft. Novice buyers often seek assistance but even experienced pilots can become swayed and end up purchasing the wrong aircraft for their needs and desires. Because aircraft purchases are commonly emotional decisions, it is helpful to gain a “second opinion” to help make a more rational choice. Many years ago, at the beginning of my career writing articles in light aviation, I made a similar attempt to help hang glider pilots choose the right glider. I compared nine contemporary models to an idealized “perfect” glider and through a series of questions much like those below, tried to steer pilots to the one right glider for them.
FACING THE BUYING DECISION, PART II Last time we discussed the pilot (you!); this time we discuss the many types of aircraft choices you have. In the last installment, we’ll put these together and help you narrow your choices to a few models. What Kind of Pilot Are You? Let’s just say you actually know yourself. While this sounds like a comment that deserves a “Duh!” response, don’t be too quick to judge. If every pilot or buyer of aircraft knew what they needed or wanted, my job would be easier. But it isn’t so. Most pilots know something about what they want, but many don’t have enough information to make the best decision. Some readers are “experts.” A good many ultralight or light plane enthusiasts have been around long enough and owned enough variety of ultralights to know what they like. These veteran sport aviators represent a lot of combined experience.
WANT TO BUY A LIGHTPLANE? Task Can Be Daunting, Yet Rewarding I’m one lucky pilot. I love airplanes and get to fly more of them than the average sky jockey. Writing pilot reports for several magazines has given me the opportunity to fly about 250 different aircraft in the last 23 years. This makes me a “Master of None” type of pilot (except in my own planes) but does give me a feel for the huge variety of light airplanes you can buy. The choices are fantastic. Counting the whole world of sport aircraft, you can have just about anything you want| and that’s the problem. What to buy? TRYING TO HELP At every airshow I attend, and through phone calls between airshow, pilots often make a request: “You’ve flown all these lightplanes, which one should I buy?” Frankly, the question makes me uncomfortable. While I appreciate the feeling of confidence some pilots place in my experience, telling someone what to buy is a sure way to be considered wrong eventually.
St. Paul, Minn. — You’ll probably be amazed to hear that Wallaby Ranch and Quest have merged. Yes, unbelievably, the two rivals flight parks signed an agreement to become as one. • This stunning development comes just after Wills Wing purchased Moyes “for a song” crooned WW president, Rob Kells. “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” he added. How much more shocking news can you withstand? Well, in keeping with a few fun items elsewhere in this magazine, the above is pure April Fools fiction. I’ll leave more inventive humor to others and return to what this column does best. ••• Amid all the excitement, I completely forgot to blow my own horn… Yup, with the February 2004 issue, “Product Lines” finished 25 years of continuous publishing. In all that time, the column never missed an issue. As I am working to post all these columns on my long-in-development Web site, someday you’ll be able to scan through a lot of hang gliding history presented in a familiar format.
St. Paul, Minn. — As I write this up here in the southern tundra, the wind howls and the snow flies and the joy of hang gliding or paragliding seems quite distant. Soon enough, though, the thaw will occur and life takes on a friendlier look that invites soaring flight. ••• While huddled inside, I heard from Gerry Charlebois who told me the temperatures in his native state of Hawaii: high of 86° and low of 72°. His invitation to come fly Kauai sounds mighty inviting this time of year. • The real reason Gerry wrote was to report how his DVD production, Extreme Kauai,is doing. His commercial venture is a means of interesting non-flying folks in what the rest of us enjoy. Gerry wrote, “It has been 11 months since [Extreme Kauai’s] release and four months since the main distributor for Hawaii picked it up. It is now in 280 stores statewide, including Walmart, Kmart, Costco, and Borders.” His DVD may well be the first flying-based production to go mainstream.
ST. PAUL, MINN., — Congratulations to Kari Castle who won the Women’s World Meet 2000 in Beotia, Greece in the last full week of June. I expect a fine article will enter the magazine pages but here’s a little numerical overview of the meet as released by the FAI. • The international meet drew 31 competitors from eight nations, including the USA, France, Germany, Australia, England, Japan, Russia, and Kazakhstan (showing surprising strength with four pilots). America and Germany each had six team members, France and Japan had five, Russia and the UK had two plus the lone Aussie pilot. • They flew nine Icaro gliders (32%), followed by eight Aeros (29%), five Wills Wings (18%) and one each (4%) of Moyes, La Mouette, Solar, Seedwings, Bautek, and Guggenmos. Wings for three pilots were not identified. • In five tasks ranging from 42-70 km (26-44 miles), the German team came in first (with 6 scored pilots), followed by France (5 pilots), the U.S.
ST. PAUL, MINN. — Have you been noticing the change to your magazine? Some pilots have had loud discussions about those changes yet many members have said little (as is common). You’ve been seeing the work of new art directors after a hard push by leaders to spark the magazine’s look and feel. Other major changes are ahead (more next month!) lll Are you ready for the combined magazine? Every other country I can think of has, for a long time, integrated their magazines for hang gliding and paragliding. The USHGA board of directors has worried through this decision with great care (I’ve a had a front row seat). It won’t please everyone; no decision ever does. But it will be the future. s The good news is, art directors Aaron Swepston and Tim Meehan have given each magazines a snazzier look. Most members to whom I’ve spoken seem enthused about the changes.
St. Paul, Minn. — Please bear with me as I use all of this month’s column on something that has little to do with products, the usual focus of this column. I’ve been doing this bit of writing for Hang Gliding magazine for a long time (“PL” finishes 24 years with this issue), but one man has been even more long lived. lll After 25 years on the job, Hang Gliding editor Gil Dodgen handed off all his duties to Dan Nelson, a new paraglider pilot with an editorial background. Gil started with USHGA’s magazine with the January, 1978 issue. For those with weak memories or those too new to hang gliding to know the past, an extremely brief history lesson is in order. s In 1978, the Big Three of hang glider building in the USA were Seagull, Electra Flyer, and Wills Wing. We had other prominent Yankee brands like Sky Sports, Bennett Delta Wing, Eipper-Formance, Ultralite Products, Manta, Sunbird, Highster, and CGS Aircraft.
St. Paul, Minn. — The vote is in! Members voted yes on both initiatives, overwhelmingly (84%) so on the towing question but convincingly (62%) on the powered harness (HG & PG) question. Now, as politicians advise after elections, we must consolidate and move forward. Griping about the results, if you took a not-winning position, no longer benefits anyone. • I doubt we’ll experience many problems from powered harnesses for three reasons: (1) not that many of them flying… a few hundred, realistically, and many of their pilots respect silent-flyer sensibilities; (2) most powered harnesses won’t show up at flying sites. They don’t have to… they can launch almost anywhere. Plus, clubs running sites always have had and still do have the right to make their own rules about who can launch and land on property they control; and, (3) powered harnesses find their best demand from pilots who otherwise must travel to mountain sites or towparks.
ST. PAUL, MINN. — The USHGA board of directors met in mid-October and some interesting news developed. Though “just a bunch of hang glider pilots,” this group often amazes me with the level of its professionalism. Don’t forget that around 30 persons volunteer their time, pay their own expenses, and work long hours to direct the association’s business — backed up by a paid but equally hard working headquarters staff. This fall finds USHGA in admirable shape with membership up and finances in good condition. At a time when I know most of aviation — from recreational flying to the airlines — to be suffering, this performance is more than satisfying and I hope all members appreciate it. lll Work of the board will appear in the magazine in various ways, but I’d like to note three actions that I believe members will find of interest. s First, the magazine will go to a combined publication with the March 2003 issue.
ST. PAUL, MINN. — Since last month’s column, I’ve been to the USHGA board of directors meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah. As usual, the large group of directors invested many hours of their time — all unpaid, volunteer work and they pay most of their own travel expenses! If you want more details, ask your regional director or read articles elsewhere in this magazine. ••• However, my focus at these meetings is as chair of the Publications Committee. Often, this committee’s work is obscure but this time, the committee recommended and the full board blessed an idea that will affect everyone in Yooshga, including both hang gliding and paragliding pilots. The work involved a plan to combine our two magazines into one. • Now, before I make someone angry, let me stress that you will see articles in both magazines surrounding this change AND members will be given a chance to provide their thoughts.
ST. PAUL, MINN., — Good words continue to flow for Joe Greblo’s Dockweiler Beach Reunion Fly-in. Joe reported nearly 400 people were present and about 150 qualified as genuine-article hang gliding pioneers. From all accounts, a great time was had by all. Perhaps even more amazing — considering the FiftySomething age range of many who attended — was the flying. Yep, pilots hooked themselves into all manner of antique wings from standard rogallos to bamboo-and-plastic models and gave ’em another try on the gentle slopes of the Pacific right off LAX airport. ••• A new model several tried was Wills Wing’s new training glider, the Condor. This is a big boy, at a whopping 330 square feet (30.7 sq. m.). The Texas-sized glider has other interesting specs: span is 39 feet, yet it weighs only 53 pounds; stalls at only 13 mph, while sustained max speed is 32 mph; pilot weights run a very broad spectrum from 100 to 265 pounds.
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).
ST. PAUL, MINN. — Tucks and tumbles and tails and winglets. What’s happening out there? Rigid wings had good showings at recent competitions and their participation in places with stronger conditions has revealed the value of a fixed tail. Aeros has also fitted sleek winglets to their Stalker 2. My guess is more controlling surfaces are headed our way. At last summer’s Worlds approximately a third of the rigid wing pilots flew with tail-equipped wings. Some pilots have even made the normally fixed tails moveable. Alex Ploner reportedly installed an electric servo motor on his tail which allows him to set the angle of the tail for climb and glide. At minimum, tails cause a damping of control bar movements which helps in distance flying by reducing fatigue. It isn’t clear if the tail alters the likelihood of the glider tucking or tumbling but contest pilots have said they’ve been helped with a higher confidence level.
ST. PAUL, MINN. — Of course, nearly all the news in the last month has focused on the War on Terrorism. Each of us sees this through our own eyes. We cope with the events in millions of individual ways. A logical way for many hang glider or paraglider pilots is to fly. Many of us find a quiet peace in the air. But in a time of national emergency, officals must make decisions. Among those was the grounding of the entire American aviation fleet, an action that has never occurred in the history of aviation. Naturally, hang gliders and paragliders were included in the grounding. • Led by our capable CEO, Jayne Depanphilis, your USHGA office kept in regular contact with other hang gliding leaders, plus those from the U.S. Ultralight Association, to get word from the FAA regarding the ban on flight and its subsequent lifting. On September 20th, only nine days after the attacks, Jayne said, "I now have it in writing from [FAA official] Mike Henry… that USHGA can operate/resume all aspects of Part 103 outside of Class B enhanced airspace." For those unfamiliar with sectional charts, Class B is controlled airspace around major airline hubs; the "enhanced" part of the new ruling means to-the-ground, rather than the upside-down wedding cake look of normal Class B airspace.
ST. PAUL, MINN., — You know, it seems like quite some time since I wrote about a new flexwing hang glider but in this month’s "Product Lines," I’m pleased to tell you about a new topless entry. It’s AirBorne’s new Climax 154. First some specs: area is 154 squares, span is 34.1 foot, AR is 7.6, nose angle is 127-133 degrees, and it has 90% double surface with 32 battens, a weight of 77 pounds, and recommended pilot weight of 155-275. AirBorne says it takes only 10 minutes to assemble and packs down to 17.4 feet (short pack to 12.8 feet). Well, the specs don’t differ much from any other topless, so let’s look a little further. • The company has already found success with their entry-level Fun, intermediate Sting II, and recreational Shark. As principal Ricky Duncan said, "The only product missing from our range was a truly high performance glider." Besides the obvious removal of upper rigging, they reversed prior AirBorne patterns and went with the more widely accepted elliptical tip and changed their older Shark cam-VG system to allow a tighter VG full-on setting.
St. Paul, Minn. — The buzz continues over power and USHGA. Actually, most of the racket appears to be emanating from a vocal few while most pilots are either ambivalent or fence sitters. • Invited to vote, hopefully all pilots studied the USHGA position and then expressed their interests. Ten years ago, in 1993, USHGA accepted all APA (American Paragliding Association) members into our club. The assimilation worked with few problems. Now the same decision is facing us with power for soaring. You got your voting card. Did you send it? We’re all waiting for you… ••• Executive Director Jayne Depanfilis writes that one reason to think carefully about HG&PG power in USHGA is because FAA is all-but advising the association to take these aviators under our wing. • With that in mind, Jayne asked if I’d go listen to the new FAA administrator speak at the Oshkosh airshow in late July.
ST. PAUL , MINN. — Wills Wing was surely pleased by the recent performances of Nene Rotor who won the Brazilian Nationals in his Talon, and by Chris Zimmerman, who won the US Open on a Talon. Jim Lee came in third on another Talon. lll About their topless entry, Wills Wing says, “After a lot of development and wide ranging experiments… production 2002 Talon 140s and 150s sport a significantly improved sail design, and several new features which are immediately apparent, including an extended tip chord and an extended double surface which fairs in the hang loop, enhanced handling and slow speed capabilities, and improved L/D across the speed range.” s In June I wrote about one of Wills Wing’s experiments seen at the 2002 Wallaby Open — variable reflex. This clever system showed promise but Wills said it “would require a significantly more refined execution in order to be viable on a production glider.” The U.S.