ST. PAUL, MINN — Say diver fans, another World Meet is history and again we didn’t win. We have some of the best pilots, perhaps the best gear, yet the dang Brits beat us regularly. Ah well, you’ll read a full report elsewhere. In this column, we’ll look at what brands were flown by the world’s best pilots at the world’s top meet. Think you can guess? Try. Then read on… ••• Team USA was third, only 2.7% behind the leader (UK). Australia was almost 12% back (in 4th). The stackup of brands reflects something about the largest glider builders. Here we go: #1– Airwave (UK) at 23% of the field; #2– Wills (USA) at 16%; #3– a tie between La Mouette (France) and Moyes (Australia) at 11%. Thus the big four accounted for 61% of the gliders present. In #4– Enterprise (Australia) at 9%, coming on strong with their Foil; #5– Solar Wings (UK) at 6%; and rounding out those with at least 5% is #6– Firebird (Germany) at 5%. American companies were further represented at 4% by UP. Quite notably, not a single Seedwings Sensor was entered. All told, 16 brands made up a field of 80 pilots from 30 countries, making a fair sampling though not representative of the overall sales of brands. Well, enough worldbabble. Let’s go home. ••• No mention above of Pacific Airwave as they are Airwave UK’s American partner, so the brands are the same. Truth is, they may have built some of the Airwave gliders being flown (I had no way to know). ••• PacAir reports very strong sales this spring, quoting 6-8 weeks which they believe will get longer. They’re encouraging dealers to "book slots," European style. Seems to suggest if you’re interested in a PacAir diver, you might want to start talking to your dealer. ••• PacAirMan Kenny Brown has been "flying tandem extensively" on the Double Vision. The company is very pleased with the results of the new purpose-built model. They promise not to ship before HGMA certification, of which they’re confident. In related news, PacAir has sold all the Black Magic paragliders they brought in from parent Airwave UK. More were expected as I wrote this. ••• On the road again traveling to your favorite site, you might see one of 200 U-Haul trailers emblazoned with hang gliders, a city identifier for Seattle (though they’ll be seen across the nation), and a slogan, "America’s Moving Adventure." The glider is fairly modern, though with a tall, rakish keel pocket. The pilot is using a cocoon harness. But hey! It’s better than an old standard, and it is a national company. The sign is about 3 x 2 feet and is placed at an attention-getting angle. Thanks to PJ of USHGA for the info. ••• Sentek instruments of Washington State (206/338-3081) offers their new SVA2 electronic altimeter with audio vario, a nice combo considering how many of us fly by sound when working lift. It’s tiny: 3 x 4 inches and must weigh about nothing. Mount via a quick clamp or leg/wrist strap. Altimeter has a one-foot scale. Audio-only vario has up or up/down sounds and can be zeroed. The device has a low battery warning, temperature compensation and warranty. Retail is $259. ••• Do you think "Stone Fabric" is an odd name? Maybe. But they make stuff we all know and love: harness/gear bags, XC glider bags, tip bags, padded stuffsacks (for instruments or cameras) plus various sail protectors. Proprietor Don Ruzek says his company has new designs and colors and offers an economical source for custom work (which the biggies often dislike). Call ’em at 415/945-1233 in Walnut Creek, California. ••• Summer in Telluride, and upcoming events: the L/D contest over Memorial Weekend; the Manufacturer’s League July 10-17; and the grand daddy of fly-ins, the HG Festival Sept 9-16. ••• Want further info? Call former Bennett rep’, Luigi Chiarani, who is running an operation called Telluride Airsports. His number is 303/728-9525. ••• Nick Kennedy, who will run the League Meet, announced some exciting news, that Gold Hill has sold to three purchasers. That often spells bad news for hang diving, but one of the three gents flies paragliders! "So," says Nick, "Telluride, one of the last of the ‘ski area-based’ sites in Colorado, is looking forward to a long and much more certain future." This should firmly entrench the Festival as the single largest annual gathering of hang glider pilots in the nation! ••• Couple last items… Been spelling the Florida name wrong. The club with the HG ultralight tugs is the Draggin-Flyers, a great "makes-sense" name for a motivated bunch of experienced flat-land soaring pilots. ••• GW Meadows, recent manager of the HG Center of San Diego, is now relocated back in his home state (N. Carolina). GW accepted a position running the tandem flight ops for Kitty Hawk. Attaboy, GeeDub! ••• That’s it. Got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Or call 612/457-7491. Fax: 612/457-8651. THANKS!
ST. PAUL, MINN — The competition season is upon us once again forming our top story in this edition of "Product Lines." The East Coast Hang Gliding Championships is being sponsored by Henson Gap’s Sequatchie Valley Soaring Supplies, the resident shop. The only significant (remaining) east coast contest has filled the void left by the disappearance of the Grandfather Master’s meet. The ECHGC will be the 3rd contest under this name and the 4th year for a world class meet at the popular Tennessee site. Now, it is the "only sanctioned cash purse meet," says contest director and organizer, Rick Jacob. "We’re expecting a minimum of $1,000 in cash, but more importantly, we’ll have numerous prizes with a cash value exceeding $3,000. It continues to grow from last year, when for example, Jim Zeiset won $250 worth of goods by hitting the spot at the end of one of the X-C tasks," added Jacob. ••• For those seeking competition points, this is the first of a 1991 series of 450-point meets (others include Telluride, the Nats, and one other contest). Jacob will be using a modified version of the Australian Nationals contest format; pilots will fly in two heats. "Thirty four pilots are already entered out of a max’ field of 60, and we have a waiting list if selected top ranked pilots don’t reserve space," reported Cliff Whitney, Jacob’s partner in the SVS shop. ••• Whitney is assembling a program with pilot facts to guide spectators. Many manufacturers have indicated support, with Ball, Pacific Airwave, Enterprise Wings, BRS and others making donations or giving presentations at the meet. Others have expressed interest but are unverified at this writing. Local support is excellent, with many town businesses assisting the organizers. Readers might recall that Dunlap, Tennessee showed its support of our favorite way to fly by declaring itself, "The Hang Gliding Capital of the East!" ••• Time is short. The event is April 13-22, so if you don’t have plans made, you better hurry. Dunlap motels report space is already reserved, but Chattanooga (40 min away) has ample facilities. You can call 615/949-2301 (shop) or 404/416-7171 for further information. ••• While Wills Wing revs up their promo machine on their new paragliders, PacAir has also jumped into the fray. They’ve begun importing Airwave’s Black Magic line of paragliders. Sales manager Kenny Brown went to the Elk Mtn Fly-in up in northern California finding rave reviews for Black Magics. ••• In other PacAir news, their Double Vision tandem glider is in final prototype stage. Says Brown, "The original sail has become 215 square feet and some additions to the hardware include a pre-launch adjustment to ‘dial in’ frame to sail settings for a variety of wing loadings." Sort of a stationary VG system, you could say. Roll reversals are called "very pleasant," and the glider flies well even with only a single pilot aboard. The effort to make a purpose-designed, double surface tandem hang glider seems worthwhile. The company says many customers are waiting impatiently. ••• USHGA offices report good interest in Peter Cheney’s training book introduced last year. Following some initial problems, the books are moving well. If you haven’t seen one, you should take a glance. It’s a beautifully produced effort that really enhances the image of training materials. Cheney will now try to market the book to other english-speaking countries. He is a reporter for the Toronto Star newspaper, perhaps helping to explain the volume’s very professional appearance. The book was published by Lookout Mtn’s Matt Taber; art was created by Cheney and Patrick Corrigan (also with the Star). ••• Two corrections on the aerotowing fatality referenced here in recent months: Tennessee pilot Greg Wonowski informs us that the aircraft was not owned by hang gliding shop and site owner, Bruce Hawk. Also the aircraft was equipped with a parachute, but the pilot was simply too low to use it, reports Greg. The Florida Dragon-Flyers also plan to have parachutes on both machines currently being built. ••• We’re outta room once again. Got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Call (days) 612/457-7491. Fax to: 612/457-8651. THANKS!
ST. PAUL, MINN — Last month the big news focused on UP; this time look to WW (we all know who I mean). The reason? Wills held their first-ever paragliding seminar. Intended for dealers, the event drew well, including Morningside (NH) and Fly High (NY) from the east, five pilots from Japan, and the usual pros from the west coast (Windsports, Mission, HG Center, and Hang Flight, among several others). Total attendance was 35+ for the 10-day long event. The first days were basic training in flying paragliders, followed by an ICP and advanced canopy handling. The basic days were incredibly reminiscent of hang gliding 15 years back. Guys like Larry Tudor, Rob McKenzie, and Joe Greblo were seen jumping on the launch truck like it was their first day of flying, counting the number of flights they made in a day, and looking ever-so novice as they grappled with new wings and techniques. I got to join in this, and you know what? It was really fun. Still not sure I want to fly these things in potent soaring conditions, I have to admit I truly enjoyed the outing with so many friends in the trade. The instructional duties were handled by Claudia Stockwell, Mark Axen, and Chandelle SF’s Andy Whitehill. From Europe came Helmut Walder (instructor of 4,000 students) and Armen Graf (designer of Wills’ paragliders). This quintet proved they knew their stuff. The event took place at Ken de Russy’s superb training hill in Santa Barbara. Between Ken and wife Bonnie Nelson, and the professional advance preparation by all the Wills partners (Linda was also out flying!), the seminar came off extremely well. Over one thousand flights were made without an incident. And hey, those WW-brand paragliders… gosh, they flew beautifully. Only time will show whether Wills can jump start American paragliding, but the seminar effort cannot be faulted no matter the outcome. Look for another report the seminar. ••• Mentioning Wills, prez Rob Kells reports sales of the company’s Z-3 harness line are doing extremely well. They implemented changes ÐÐ basically making most options standard — and now production runs better and quicker. Kells feels the Z-3 will become the leading model in sales of this important kind of equipment. ••• They won’t have the market all to themselves, as Chris Smith’s Cloudbase company readies a "Z-3 type harness" for customers. Much the same as the Wills predecessor, the Tennessean’s new harness will employ tubes on the sides. It also boasts in-flight variable pitch (first popularized by Jay Gianforte’s Center of Gravity line, if memory serves). Plus the Smith model will feature zip-in, zip-out breathable panels so you needn’t sweat summertime soaring. This feature is a Cloudbase original says Chris, and he expects it will be well received. Of course, it’s front opening in the current tradition. Call Cloudbase at 615/344-2993. (Gianforte is 315/687-3724 and Wills is 714/547-1344.) ••• A very familiar address for American hang glider pilots is no more. After twenty productive years — many of them as a leading mover and shaker for our sport — Bill Bennett’s facility on Saticoy in Van Nuys has been closed. Today Bill’s activities concentrate on his Torrey Pines operation. He reports he will seek other space as he still has plans to manufacture again (as reported here a few months back … an opportunity involving his old friend, designer Dick Boone). In the meantime, Bennett/Torrey Pines are focusing heavily on paragliding. The famous San Diego site is well suited to the newest aviation segment. ••• Pleasantly, I can report that the Florida aerotug gang is hard at work on two new tugs that offer several significant changes: further wing shape enhancements to lower the towing speed, better towing attachments, and more versatile cockpit. Two aircraft are in the works; the first to be finished was slated to fly near the end of January. Near this first-flight date, lead designer Bobby Bailey was to leave for his second trip to Bill Moyes’ facility in Australia. Bailey was down under last year to build a first prototype and may now be in Australia crafting five more tugs for Moyes. Facts and photos were promised to keep you aware of the exciting potential offered by these leaders of aero towing. ••• In closing, Russ Brown (associated with the tug builders) reports a possibility that the Disney ultralight and hang gliding show will be restarted. The flight spectacle at Disney World’s Epcot Center was one of the most widely seen promotions for sport flying. Let’s hope this rumor proves true. Will keep ya posted! ••• Got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Or call 612/457-7491 (days). Fax: 612/457-8651. THANKS!
ST. PAUL, MINN — This month’s big news focuses on the UP company. As many of you readers are veterans of the sport, the history of UP is familiar. The illustrious SoCal builder has undergone several designers, managers, and owners. Each such change no doubt extracted a toll. As ’91 begins UP launches into yet another transformation. ••• To begin, the mysterious Terry Reynolds wing mentioned in December has now popped up… guess where? Yup! UP will be the builder of the newly named TRX. Check their ad in this issue. Reynolds will fly the TRX in the Australian Nats, then will join fellow ’91 World Team Member, Tony Barton, at the Brazilian Worlds. The TRX is a high aspect ratio wing (8:1) with contemporary span (36 ft) and planform (132¡ nose) that tips the scales very lightly (60 lbs) by using carbon fiber spars built in a $9 million shop. If cost can be contained, the new UP might get a leg up on a vexing situation confronting other U.S. manufacturers: importing aluminum tubing from Europe. Reynolds assures the wing won’t be sold until HGMA certification is completed which he expects in January. ••• The story continues for UP with the company being completely reorganized under new ownership! Japan maintains a presence via Chairman Eiichi Isomura, whom Reynolds labels, "a successful international businessman and strong supporter of hang gliding internationally." Reynolds himself will become president, well-known sailmaker Dick Cheney will become Chief Operating Officer, and a "high level ski industry executive," Dave Stetler, will offer his business savvy as CEO. Adds Reynolds, "UP moved to Utah at the end of December and is reorganized under majority U.S. ownership." He didn’t elaborate on the ownership breakdown and had just departed for Australia as this was written. Reynolds wrapped up his comments saying, "We look forward to reestablishing UP to its former position in the hang gliding industry with state-of-the-art products and close dealer support." Somehow, call it intuition, I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this story. Address/phone info appears in their ad. ••• Glider Sport Int’l, developer of the composite rigid wing glider Apex, called with more specs on the new wing. We’ll see two versions offered: one is cable braced, a "recreational" model priced at about $4,000; another, the full-out cantilevered version, priced at about $6,000 due its 47% use of composite material (the rec’ model has 25%). Both figures may drop based on new discoveries of lower priced carbon fiber, yet the company stresses "We don’t know if we can hold these prices." Performance on the big span, high aspect aircraft appears to be about 14:1 for the rec’ model, 16:1 on a non-faired cantilevered model, and 20:1 with full pilot fairing. GSI is taking extra steps to not overstate performance. They wish to verify claims before making a lot of noise. A video tape of test flights certainly reveals a strong glide. Certification has begun and may be concluded as you read this. Weight has been shaved already to "90-94" pounds on the cantilevered model, and is a reasonable 67 pounds on the rec’ version. At last report (updates come frequently) GSI planned to relocate in Southern California. More than other rigid wing efforts I’ve observed GSI will bear a close watch. The structure and capitalization of the company seems well orchestrated. ••• Last time, I missed a proper ID of the paraswivel developer. The SkyRohr Para-Swivel was originated by Kurt Rohr. But, Denver’s Golden Wings will handle the marketing. Call them at 303/278-7181. ••• Finally, on the aerotowing fatality referenced last month, not much additional information was discovered. The towplane was sold to Bruce Hawk’s east Tennessee business by the Draggon Flyers hang gliding club of Florida. They reported no problems with it. In fact, Steve Flynn was at Hawk’s site to fly the Cobra tow plane only weeks before the accident. Apparently a shackle carrying the flying load on one side failed due to prior damage or fatigue. Witnesses said the flight exhibited no unusual maneuvers. Sadly, the low altitude breakup (100± ft) occurred with no parachute and impacted just 20 feet away from a river that might have lessened injury. The pilot was described as a very careful conventional airplane pilot with increasing time in ultralights. ••• Meanwhile ultralight designer Bobby Bailey and the Florida group had already begun and will continue building two new towplanes (with aileron and other mods). ••• Room’s gone. Next time, poop from Europe. Got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Call 612/457-7491 (days) FAX: 612/457-8651. THANKS!
ST PAUL, MINN — Aloha! With his wife, Toni, Jerry Forburger completed his deal with airpark developer, Bill Fulton. The ATOL’ers have begun employment with Sport Aviation Hawaii and will begin by offering tandem intros to the islands’ millions of visitors. Tourists and students will get to soar some the smoothest lift in the world (“…after about 700 feet, lift seems to fill the whole valley.”), viewing spectacular scenery: incredibly steep green mountains, cascading waterfalls, and an uncommercialized tropical landscape. Few outsiders have ever set foot in the Kaaawa Valley ’til Fulton made his deal with the Kualoa Ranch family. Says Fulton, “We’ve had visits by several experts. Many think Sport Aviation could be one of the world’s largest schools.” To qualify for such a title, the business will count an expected 20,000 Japanese tourists a year flying on the world’s longest Hang Glider Simulator®. ||| Fulton orchestrated hang gliding participation in the Navy Hydrofest ’90, a fund raiser (needed after budget cuts) to help the Navy provide recreation for the thousands of sailors who regularly dock and restock at Pearl Harbor. The Navy opened the facility to the public for the first time ever, drawing the largest crowds of any Hawaiian event. Fulton and the Forburgers provided 70 ATOL tows during three days of optimum Kona (non-tradewind) conditions, earning a repeat invitation from the Navy organizers. USHGA provided colorful merchandise which was displayed in Sport Aviation’s booth. ||| PacAir is experiencing good response to the little K2s. “Performance from our 190+ pound K2-145 pilots [seems to show] that the K2-155 will be ‘the large version’.” Deliveries are reasonable now, about 6 weeks. ||| The Salinas outfit ran a survey (as they often do). A plurality of their dealers wanted PacAir to get involved with paragliders (though most weren’t themselves actively involved). PacAir will discuss with Airwave UK plans to bring in the British company’s Black Magic line. Topping the request list was a tandem glider, surely reflecting the growth of this activity as a teaching medium and “cash crop.” PacAir promises a Double Vision (cute, huh?). Possible specs: 212 ft2 area, 6.15 aspect, weight range 220-420 (!) pounds. Unlike regular Visions, this one will probably have an exposed crossbar. Surprisingly, they claim weight is only 61 pounds. ||| Down the coast in Santa Barbara, Seedwings has attracted well-known, repatriated sailmaker Bob Schutte to chief the loft. Owner Bob Trampenau was pumped about the company’s latest version of their venerable 510 series. In certifying the E model to the tough 1990 HGMA standards as well as the German Güteseigel (“Seal of Approval”), Seedwings performed many performance tests. Says Trampenau, “We think [we’re experiencing] 15:1 [with] fully streamlined airframes and harness. Min sink is on the order of 155 fpm.” You’ll have to fly one and decide for yourself of course. Trampenau feels 15:1 is achievable; though he observes the “real world flying, like at the [Morningside] glide angle contest” doesn’t fully exploit the performance. Nor, he says, did Pagen in his magazine report, as the test 510 was a pre-certification model. Pagen’s glide-angle report in the Sep ’90 issue concluded a top glide of 10.5 based on 133 test flights with pilots trying their hardest. Seedwings 15:1 claim may reflect glide “potential,” but glide “performance” by real pilots in real air seems to be much lower. ||| Further south in Santa Ana, Wills has released their smallest 144 Spectrum. They rate the beginning glider at 130 to 200 pounds. Order taking began about Oct 1 and deliveries should now be underway. ||| Wills Wing raised prices in October, reflecting the declining value of the dollar and their heavy purchases of cloth and tubing from Europe. Interestingly, the company reports that bright yellow accounted for 23% of the total colored cloth sewn into wings. They express consternation over the effort of stocking a wide variety of colors when these must all be imported and those distant mills change colors frequently. ||| Greg “Fly America” DeWolf was at the Washington D.C. board meeting. He reports settling in nicely at his cross country destination: Kitty Hawk. Having amassed a great deal of towing experience, it seemed logical to begin offering tandem instruction on the beaches of the popular resort town. After his first summer, DeWolf reports delivering nearly 1,000 tandems (at $65 each). “Local officials have been very accommodating.” ||| Finally, bad news… the first aerotowing-related fatality in Tennessee. After release, the ultralight tug pilot apparently suffered a structural failure (flying-wire shackle?). The glider pilot is OK. More news on this unfortunate incident in next edition. ||| Outta room. Got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Call 612/457-7491 (days). Fax 612/457-8651. THANKS!
WASHINGTON D.C. — This month’s “Product Lines” comes from our nation’s capital at the occasion of the USHGA’s fall board of directors meeting. Other reports will relate the actions of the board. But at the gathering, two interesting and nascent product-related stories emerged. ||| No. 1 is confirmation by mainline hang gliding writer, Dennis Pagen, regarding his plans to pursue a longtime desire to design and build his own glider. A rumor that he would abandon his writing efforts (supposedly to focus on a new manufacture undertaking) proved to be baseless. He does plan to take preliminary steps toward a “limited production” of a new design. But “I’m not doing this as a income-earning venture,” says Pagen, “That’s not my present goal.” ||| No. 2 comes after lengthy prototype activities by World Team member, Terry Reynolds of Colorado. Employing exotic new airframe materials, you’ll want to read more on this exciting project next month, after additional tests. ||| In recent years it’s been rare to have several gliders to report in this column, but the parade continues. ||| Though not representing new announcements like the two above, Seattlite Kamron Blevins’ Merger gliders are overdue for some national publicity. His company, called Northwing, has been developing a swallow-tailed ragwing for four years. Blevins feels feedback from sales in Region 1 warrants a more ambitious effort to reach buyers. Besides the swallowtail, the Merger’s wing distinguishes itself by an enlarged volume of double surface area near the wing tips. Mergers are sold as a 151 F/X and a recreational model, 151 R/T. Specs: 151 ft2, 35.6 ft span, 8.4 aspect ratio, 73 lbs weight (67 for the R/T), with the primary differences between the two models being a variable geometry system (F/X only), round tube control frame on the R/T, and more ribs on the F/X (25 top & 10 lower vs. 18 top & 6 lower). Northwing builds the entire aircraft including sailmaking, a job-shop activity Blevins has been providing to Seattle area pilots while he gears up Merger manufacturing. ||| Concluding our review of gliders, yet another glider company has been formed in the aviation-intensive state of Washington. Like Reynolds’ effort above, designer Danny Howell has worked on his ship for several years. This represents only the beginning of the story about Glider Sport International and their just-named Apex glider (formerly codenamed “Mistral”). Some intriguing aspects of Howell’s development include his capital fund raising success (very unusual for the hang gliding industry) and the airframe materials (it uses a composite structure of non-conventional configuration). Basically, the Apex employs not one, but two spars, the forward one of which has a “D” shape to begin the wing’s formation. Unlike more conventional D-cells, Howell’s leading edge is “non-sacrificial,” a term meant to suggest the D-shape doesn’t contribute to the structure, so surface damage (dings) doesn’t require immediate repair. Specs: span be either 40 or 42 ft (by pulling out retractable tips!), area thus 150 or 156 ft2, aspect ratio 10.6 or 11.3. The weight is still right at 100 pounds, but Howell believes he’ll trim this slightly. ||| To wrap up, a couple accessory items: first, an updated model of a trusted name as Ball Vario company announces their M50 audio vario/altimeter flight computer. Reflecting the cross country fever of the ’80s, the M50 Ball deck offers an optional barograph function with a “Flight Linker” and software. The M50 can switch between metric and English measurements. And importing the riot of color sparked by the European paraglider community, Ball now breaks a black-only tradition by offering a choice of nine colors. You can also select from four different audio patterns (vari-pitch, beep, interrupt, vari-beep). Another useful feature is the low battery indication which blinks the main display first, then goes steady to suggest you switch to your back-up 9v battery. ||| Ludwig Goppenhammer of Colorado has been recognized recently for his swivel for parachutes, intended to reduce the chances of line twist up. The in-line device has been tested by Free Flight Enterprises, a leading supplier of hand-deployed ‘chutes, and been further examined by BRS, the rocket-deployed parachute manufacturer. Both companies have given their blessing to the Goppenhammer unit, based on load tests run by the Golden Wings shop owner, by air drops employing a spinning parachute design, and by function analysis attempting to be sure the device will not interfere with extremely rapid rocket deployment. Additional tests are planned. Contact Goppenhammer at 303/278-7181. ||| T-t-that’s all folks! Next time: Wills, Seedwings, PacAir, Reynolds wing. Got news or opinions? Send ’em to 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Call 612/457-7491 (days @ BRS). Fax: 612/457-8651. Merry Christmas to you! THANKS!
ST. PAUL, MINN — In announcing minor refinements on the Sensor E model, Seedwings begins to reveal their accord with the Austrian distributor now representing the brand in Europe. ||| First, the E model has control bar hardware which permits the glider to be laid down flat without disassembly of the wings. This has long been a requirement of the European pilot. Next, the Sensor has a speedbar, which they’ve subjected to 1,000 pounds without seeing deformation. It has only a 2.5 inch offset, reducing flex and allowing better in-bag storage. ||| Bob Trampenau’s design will now use streamlined down tubes offered by Finsterwalder, one of Europe’s up and coming manufacturers (who recently acquired the Charly company, a big manufacturer of safety and accessory products in Germany). Seedwings has enabled the airfoil downtubes to fit all models of the Sensor line. ||| While many pilots are attracted to the airfoil downtubes, some pilots raise a question. “At $100 for a single [Moyes] XS downtube,” says San Diego pilot Bob Schwartz, buyers may want to to reconsider plain old round tubes. Round is better for side loads and are often safe after repairs from minor “bonks.” Not all companies charge $100 for airfoil downtubes. ||| Apparently “Kiss” is too long a name, as both Airwave companies rev up their promo machine for the K2. Sold by Airwave UK and PacAir, the K2 is enjoying notable competition success. PacAir announced plans to HGMA certify the wing which has a Hang III rating. Apparently pushing the K2 as their high-end glider, PacAir states, “[It’s] the best glider [we’ve] ever produced. Period.” They say particular attention has been paid to setup/takedown, noting that “tensioning of the crosstubes is far easier than any of our previous performance wings.” It’s also said to exhibit good tracking. No price was mentioned. The wee K2s (145 & 155) seem to compete with PacAir’s Magic Formula 144 and 154 which they are also interested in promoting harder. Given a $3,200 retail for the Formulae (a “low” price these days!) and a generous dealer discount, you may want to pay your local rep a visit. ||| In a final PacAir note, the Airwave team has recently enlisted the famed Australian Duncan brothers — Rick and Russell (listed #24 and #30 on the international PIRS ranking system) — to fly the K2s. ||| News in the towing “industry” reveals a new opportunity for ATOL owner and truck launching founder, Jerry Forburger. The Texan is near agreement with Hawaiian airpark developer, Bill Fulton, to become operations manager and chief tandem pilot of the new business on Oahu (across the island from Honolulu). If the pact goes through, Forburger will arrive on site in November for all of 1991. He plans to continue support for current ATOL customers with spare parts and service, but may suspend production of his high-class rig due to prohibitive shipping costs from Hawaii. ||| Meanwhile TLS (Tow Launch Systems) owner, Chris Gagliano, has announced a “kit” version of his Mk III winch system. Normal retail is $1,899, but those with mechanical aptitude can save $600 if they want to perform the assembly. TLS will even sell the kit in several packages to allow pilots to purchase the system in pieces, lessening the cost burden. Though different from the tow system sold by ATOL, the TLS unit has attracted 25 buyers in the last 14 months. Call TLS at 512/824-1803. ||| Some pilots have resisted paying the ATOL price (some $6,000 for the deluxe outfit). However, Todd Braden of Skyhook Towing, Inc (not to be confused with the Gibbo Skyhook) is betting the opposite of TLS, offering a beautiful, all-hydraulic winch system for $6,950. The impressive package uses no disk brake, instead using a controllable line tension adjustment to limit tow line pressures. Rewind is via a 10-horse, electric start gasoline engine driving the hydraulics. The slick package is similar to the top ATOL model in that it has all the required items as part of the price. Contact Braden/Skyhook at 407/452-8143, or write: 2105 N. Tropical Trail; Merritt Island FL 32953. ||| I observe that though these prices seem high, buyers must recall you pay for not only the components but all the manufacturer’s costs of being in business. While TLS’s approach to economy is commendable, $6-7,000 for a state-of-the-art tow package may be acceptable for the smoothness and durability of the costlier packages. When clubs purchase, the cost is spread over many users and years of operation. If everyone tried to build these units themselves, no businesses would offer support, innovation, or service. It’s a well worn adage, but generally you still get what you paid for. ||| Next issue, news on parachute swivels, saves, a new Ball vario and more. ||| Got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset; St. Paul MN 55118. Call 612/457-7491, or FAX to: 612/457-8651. THANKS!
ST PAUL, MINN — According to several newspapers across the USA, Eric Raymond has finally flown his solar-powered ultralight motorglider from San Diego to Kitty Hawk… well, almost. He reportedly called it quits nine miles short. I find this a fascinating project but can’t figure why Eric didn’t talk about it to the aviation press, in whose rags nary a word has been seen. Raymond once told me the project was “secret.” Even the San Diego HGA’s newsletter, the Flier, had to adapt the news from the LA Times ||| The bird looks sleek, with a shape surprisingly similar to Advanced Aviation’s Sierra (see earlier “Product Lines”), and has Sanyo sponsorship, using their new solar cells with a power-to-weight ratio ten times higher than conventional cells. The 57 foot span machine weighs 198 pounds and can cruise about 40 mph. Eric, you talkin’ yet? ||| Mr. Test Rig, Mark West, has a newer yet version to use in dynamically testing hang gliders. Up and running in May, West’s ARV (Aerodynamic Research Vehicle) has three component test ability: pitch, lift, and drag. All this feeds directly into an IBM AT-class computer. West has motorized the connection to the glider so that from inside the cab, he can adjust angles. One of his earliest projects with the ARV was for Moyes on their XS model. ||| Les King has a slick new helmet, MAX, purpose designed for hang gliding. It’s a high tech, high price, superlight job made of carbon fiber and spectra cloth. If you’ve got $150, they don’t get any lighter. Call King at 805/822-9244. ||| Wills’ latest news states their new Spectrum (begin/inter.) glider is a flying sweetheart, deliveries of which have just begun. ||| But the biggest news from the Santa Ana bunch (in my opinion, of course) is their formal entry to the paragliding market. Of course, a new product line could increase their business. Plus the entry by the USA’s biggest diver builder could add a new thrust to the growth of paragliding in America. Maybe this quote says it all: “Our experience [time spent in Europe last summer] has convinced us that paragliding offers probably the most easy access to aviation that presently exists, and that because of this the sport of paragliding will see significant growth in the United States during the next five years…” Wow! In 1995, I’ll look back on that comment and we’ll see if the WW’ers guessed right. Many are skeptical. The APA has a mere 500 members. On the other hand, Japan allegedly forecasts 100,000 paragliding pilots in five years — more than all hang glider pilots in the world today!! With nearly half of their hang glider production leaving the USA, maybe Wills is betting they can at least sell enough paragliders internationally to risk a dilution of their talent by entering this newest form of flight. Only time will tell. ||| Bill Moyes in Australia seems to be orienting himself in another direction but one which still suggests all manufacturers may be bumping along the top of the hang glider’s performance envelope. It is my observation that if new performance gains are hard to realize, then sales may decline (since last year’s diver might keep up with tomorrow’s superwing). If so, new business must be generated to sustain our largest glider manufacturers. Bill Moyes is clearly focused on aerotugs (see prior editions of this column), but he chose a 3-axis design over using a trike. He wrote a long explanation of this decision and has allowed me to excerpt portions. In summary, he feels “Builders are expecting too much from these [rogallo-based] wings.” By that he mainly refers to powering hang gliders via trikes, even though this has been done successfully all over Europe. As our “butterfly wings” have evolved, Moyes feels we have reached a point where “further development of this wing [construction] for powered use [is restricted] by airframe limitations.” In related references he also suggests that crossbar loads have reached a rather finite point as well. Don’t misunderstand. Moyes still loves and will continue developing tailless wings. But for towing he believes the 3-axis wing with tail is superior. Unlike the Wills paragliding diversification, Moyes appears to be searching for new ways to grow hang gliding participation and good tow capability is fundamental. ||| If hang gliders, ultralights, and paragliders are the “New Aviation” (my term), each of these disciplines may argue that they are the most likely way that new people will enter aviation. The introduction of the ultralight sailplane (Sierra) and ultralight motorglider (Cloud Dancer) further blur the lines between the three “New Aviation” segments. ||| What’s your feeling? Let me know! ||| Outta room. Next time, news from Seedwings, PacAir, and more! Got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118, or call 612/457-7491 (days). FAX: 612/457-8651. THANKS!
ST. PAUL, MINN — September ’90 begins year #2 for this column in Hang Gliding magazine… thanks for your enthusiastic readership. This is also the month that Prez George Bush has declared to be Sport Aviation Month (thanks to a lengthy effort by the NAA). Does this mean we’ve arrived? ||| Aero towing development continues to complement the successful truck tow method initiated by ATOL. Florida designer, Bobby Bailey, has returned from a couple months in Australia helping Bill Moyes develop a prototype aero tug based on Bailey’s work for Advanced Aviation. Bailey reports the plane flies well. After further changes stall was seen at only 18 mph. Plans call for Bailey to return to Australia next year to assist with intitial production. ||| Why is Moyes so keen on this idea (that he’d spend considerably to hire and transport Bailey plus equipment costs)? A veteran towing enthusiast like Moyes may just be expanding his understanding of the art. But rumors say Moyes has also spent funds on a Horten wing derivative. Ah ha! More evidence? …to suggest “conventional” hang glider manufacturers could be eyeballing rigid wing development? If you hear any reports along these lines, pass ’em along. ||| Recently, Airwave UK announced the successful competition outing of their Mylar Magic Kiss 144 in the hands of British hotshot, Bruce Goldsmith. As you’d expect, he spoke highly of the small wing and its ability to act like a larger glider. This continues a trend in the sport, as manufacturers offer a proliferation of micro-bladewings. Wills Wing promotes their 145 HP AT with similar enthusiasm. Moyes is marketing a mini-XS and as announced last month, Pacific Airwave has certified their Magic Formula 144 to 200 pounds of pilot weight. UP International, Enterprise Wings… well, just about everybody is offering products in micro sizes. Do such small wing areas provide slow enough launch and land speeds for “normal” pilots? Are we targeting cross country speed and performance to the detriment of newcomers? Nonetheless, one has to commend the irrepressible development energy of our fine manufacturers. ||| A conversation with Steve Moyes a few weeks ago helped to focus on a favorite subject, the international market, and which manufacturers seem to dominate. Moyes again affirmed that France’s La Mouette seems top of the heap productionwise (in spite of rarely occupying that position in contest results). Steve thought La Mouette was pumping out some 1,600 gliders a year, followed by Airwave UK (he didn’t estimate, but the figure is widely thought to be 1,100 units). Wills should exceed 1,000 gliders again as America’s clear market leader. In Steve’s opinion, Moyes ranks 4th at about 1,000 units a year. What’s fascinating about this is that the majority of these (700 units) are moved through Icaro-Italy, a longtime Moyes rep’. Moyes has done well in competitions. But perhaps their best efforts have been consistent travel around the world, pushing their gliders. In this business, nothing seems to beat on-site visits by factory gurus, and the name Steve Moyes doesn’t hurt. ||| To close, Hawaiian Bill Fulton leads a group that will soon burst upon the scene with an operation many can envy, and for more reasons than Hawaii’s “Paradise” reputation. For years, Fulton and a partner have pursued a full-blown flight park concept to promote flying sports while earning a few bucks. Their dream is nearly reality. Using a 4,000-acre private estate valued in the hundreds of millions, Sport Aviation Hawaii will offer a complete valley for hang gliding and ultralight flying. You’ll be able to start on a Hang Glider Simulator®, the longest in the world, offering a quarter-mile flight into the Kualoa Ranch, itself a successful operation appealing to Japanese tourists with several activities guests can select. The Simulator will be one of several new activities. ||| Next, you may choose full “conventional” training using groomed Hang II and III sites in the Kaaawa Valley. Initial reports from students and experienced pilots are very enthusiastic. ||| Perhaps you’ll tow aloft on an ATOL-launched tandem glider in the smoothest and most plentiful lift on the island. ||| Or you could get intro training in a two-seat ultralight. Both the tandem and ultralight flights can likely roam all around the 2-mile deep, 1-mile wide valley, until recently reserved exclusively for Kualoa Ranch’s 2,000 head of cattle. Few outsiders have set foot in the stunning valley which has spent 140 years in the owners family. ||| Write Fulton at 46-389 Nahewai St., Kaneohe HI 96744, Or call the Ranch at 808/237-8529 Give the Ranch personnel who answer a chance to understand your call; they’re new to hang divers. Got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Or call 612/457-7491 (days). FAX to: 612/457-8651. THANKS!
ST. PAUL, MINN — New-age harnesses have arrived. They feature several innovations, but perhaps the most salient is the integral BRS rocket (to deploy the ‘chute of course). Don Quackenbush of Sylmar produces the Mantis harness, a beautiful example of the harness-maker’s art. The rocket is almost entirely tucked inside the harness with only a few inches of the launch tube showing. This with BRS designers’ blessing. Pilots seem excited about the harness, “…can’t stop talking about the comfort, easy pitch control, and flashy fluorescent colors.” Dial Don at 818/367-6050. ||| Another is Jeff Williams’ Avsac harness, a second harness designed with integral BRS rocket. Jeff uses a different style but achieves similar rave reviews from Region 2 flyers. Jeff is also sail loft manager for Pacific Airwave so you can reach him at 408/422-2299. ||| Speaking of BRS, the rocket maker has three new products. One is advertised in this issue: their Cordless model. (Pssst. It’s got no “cord” to route.) Next is their Wedge in sizes 16 and 18. The triangle form is aerodynamic and hues run to many of the European neons. Using modified pull-down apex parachute technology, BRS has specially coupled the rage of Europe — most sales on the continent are PDA canopies — to ultrafast rocket deployment. They claim, “This is the fastest-deploying parachute you can buy!” Call ’em at 612/457-7491. ||| In ‘chute news unrelated to BRS, both Pacific Airwave and Wills Wing announced price hikes in canopies as forecast here earlier. ||| Pacific Airwave supports John Olson’s Tours which for the summer visits Reno, Nevada sites. Glider rental is included for $695, plus lodging, rides, retrieval, and guide services. PacAir is motivated by the great exposure they get through Olson’s use of Magic Formulas (and Vision Mk 4s). Olson reports 56 pilots got 127 flying days out of 133 total days while touring sites in Mexico. Call for reservations: 800/824-2584. ||| Pacific Airwave is thrilled over numerous competition successes, from a 1-2-3 at the Marina Steeplechase to a 1-5 sweep of Brian Milton’s #2 Superleague in Italy. No less impressive is Kari Castle’s 12,001 foot altitude gain on her Kiss FR 154. Towed aloft behind the Gibbo Skyhook system at Hobbs NM, she’s filed for world record status after breaking the 10,700 record set back in 1979. Maybe most recognizable though, is PacAir’s “capture” of Joe Bostik to fly their team. ||| PacAirBoss Bernasconi called to observe that though his outfit may be majority owned by the UK, they operate quite independently, as the markets and flying conditions are different. In Jean-Mi’s opinion, American pilots demand more documentation of certification and strength in general. Conversely, Europeans seem more accepting of the testing done by manufacturers. ||| PacAir reports finishing another record breaking quarter in June. Not bad from Bernasconi’s paltry $6,500 nest egg back in the early ’80s. ||| In product news, the Magic Formula 144 earned its HGMA papers on June 11, continuing the general trend toward smaller gliders. MÐF 144 specs: 59 pounds; 32.8 ft span; 126¡ nose; 9 top, 3 lower ribs; designed for 120-200 pounds on 145 ft2. ||| Wills Wing has released their newest: the Spectrum 165. Once codenamed “Spawk,” the new Wills is said to be “…the first truly high performance first purchase glider in the industry.” That’s a broad statement, but so is the Spectrum, at 34 feet of span. Certification was anticipated at the July 3rd meeting. Slow speed performance is optimized, referenced by this factory comment, “It’s possible to enter a mush, fully reverse the tufts on the wing, and still roll the glider in and out of turns at will!” Because the control mounts aft of the keel hang point, the Spectrum boasts a good static balance. ||| To close, another edition of the “OOPS!” Dep’t: a couple major news geekouts regarding ultralight builder, Advanced Aviation. Worst was saying their Sierra ultralight sailplane costs $9,900. It’s actually $7,500! Secondly, they will produce their Cobra aerotug. Prez Angel Matos sent a well-worded letter clearly identifying their position. They want to solve other problems, both with the aircraft and the ability to use it legally and efficiently. Basically, he sums it up adapting a familiar ad line: “We will build no tug before its time.” Angel and his staff have worked hard to offer products of interest to hang gliding community. ||| Nonetheless… Bobby Bailey reports from Australia to say the Moyes Team has flown the tug they built downunder. More on that next month! ||| Got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Call at 612/457-7491; Fax: 612/457-8651. THANKS!
ST PAUL, MINN — Several recent calls and letters referred to rigid wings presented here. Are we experiencing an upsurge of real interest? Or just another bubble of enthusiasm that will burst with the announcement of some new hotter-than-ever rag wing? No one knows. ||| Meanwhile in response to several inquiries, you can contact the Owens Composites Swift people at 10000 Trumbull SE, Albuquerque NM 87123. Their February Swift News announced work on an article for Hang Gliding. Watch for it. ||| Two other projects bear mention here: Advanced’s Sierra and the Cloud Dancer ||| The ultralight company Advanced Aviation, is flying their second prototype Sierra ultralight sailplane (42 foot span and greatly cleaned up). I saw #2 flown by towplane designer Bobby Bailey — who is also the principal designer of this bird — and I flew the #1 machine some months ago. The original prototype had promise which the successor significantly reveals. Far slicker, #2 performed beautifully on a mildly soarable day in April. The Sierra goes a long way toward the ultralight sailplane dream. Weighing in over 180 pounds, it won’t qualify as a “legal” unpowered ultralight. Performance on the new machine should exceed 20:1, and might hit 25 with refinements. It tows well behind any ultralight equipped for towing. Advanced wants to make it towable behind conventional aircraft. A Sierra II goes for $9,900, for a kit (no engine). Even with hang gliders exceeding the $4-Grand barrier, I forecast slow acceptance at this cost. I could be wrong. Contact them at 323 Ivey Lane, Orlando FL 32811. ||| A similar amount of money will buy you a proven ultralight motorglider: the Cloud Dancer, from a group that recently bought the company from engineer Erwin Rodger of New York. Rodger is a former hang glider pilot (no airplane time) who designed this craft in 1983 to satisfy his need to soar with less preparation than hang gliding takes. A dozen ‘Dancers wer sold. The motorglider boasts several strengths, notably a 14:1 glide and min sink of 260 fpm. Flying just above hang glider speeds, it’s a quiet design using a small, fully-faired engine. Electric start is standard; you can shut down and soar with confidence. The $8,950 airplane will be sold custom-built, ready-to-fly. Specs: a 40 foot span with cantilevered wings; three-quarter cockpit enclosure; stall at 26; top end better than 80; X-C cruise of 42-45; honest 20-minute breakdown for car top carrying. As a public notice, I have a business interest in this design. If you’d like more info, write: US Aviation, 265 Echo Lane, South St. Paul MN 55075. ||| Before leaving rigids, I have to pass along one juicy rumor. A reliable source told me that one of the major American producers of rags is taking early steps to evaluate a rigid design for possible production. Could it be…? Some of the true believers think further performance gains will be very difficult to achieve with rags. No word on who the “major” is! ||| “Step right up, sir, hear the message on the greatest way to fly!” USHGA will finally have a booth at Oshkosh, in cooperation with all other members of the NAA; here we go, alphabet soup… SSA, USPA (parachutes), AMA (modelers), HCA (helicopters), USUA (ultralights), EAA, BFA (balloons), and IAC (aerobatics). Terrific contact is possible; literally hundreds of thousands of aviation-enthused people pass these booths, and your staff can seriously talk to over a thousand people a day. Any region interested in providing a club member to work the booth half a day should contact USHGA HQ ASAP! ||| NAA is also spearheading a drive to produce a National Sport Aviation Show. Potential from doing such a show correctly? Look at Oshkosh, a multi-million dollar affair primarily staffed by volunteers. Organizer John Worth says, “Imagine in one show: sailplanes, balloons, parachutes, ultralights, models, hang gliding, helicopters, homebuilts, aerobatic aircraft etc. The visual impact and public appeal would be tremendous.” Given our new office staff, perhaps we can professionally respond to these possibilities. ||| Well, lots more news… outta room. Got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Call 612/457-7491 days or FAX 612/457-8651. THANKS!
ST. PAUL, MINN — With this issue, “Product Lines” begins its twelfth year. I thank each of you for your loyal readership. Every year, “Product Lines” sets a new record for a continuous run of any hang gliding column… it literally couldn’t have been done without your interest. ||| Let’s look south to the new, improved Florida towing scene. The main attraction is the “elephant aileron”-equipped Bobby Bailey aerotug (also see Barbara and Steve Flynn’s story in the February ’90 Hang Gliding). After the kickoff Sun ‘n’ Fun airshow in Lakeland, Florida, the Dragonflyers club had an Easter weekend cross country contest at Lake Wales. The close dates allowed a number of out-of-staters to get some air behind the King Cobra ultralight. Bailey has been the pivotal designer, but he’s had active “consultants” like Campbell Bowen, a longtime kingpin of Florida hang gliding. Bobby himself towed me to 6,600 feet above flat Florida. We went so high, I could see each coast easily. After release, I descended for 3,000 feet before I got back down to the lift. On tow, pitch was nearly hands off. It’s best to input continuous, small lateral corrections. The bar remains out by your face, not at your waist. I didn’t find it as slow as promoted (avg. 32 mph on my Ball 652), but it’s vastly better than behind a Cosmos aerotug trike or a standard ultralight (which perhaps were really flying 40). I’m told faster gliders like the HP series or Moyes XS require no pitch pressure at all. Several Dragonflyer club members have their own ground launch vehicle (GLV) which makes the departure easy and safe, one even for a supine pilot. Only the occasional pilot launched at a yawed angle, and I think this could be controlled by using only the newer GLV designs with linked, castoring wheels. A second aerotug is now operational. They also have several pilots qualified and willing to fly the ultralights. For them it works, beautifully so. ||| The X-C contest was thwarted by inconsistent conditions over the three day event. But Gary “Sugarman” Davis nearly broke the state record, with his one-mile-short 74 mile trek toward Fort Myers. ||| The glum aero tow news, reported by Hawaii airpark developer Bill Fulton, is that Advanced doesn’t seem at all interested in selling the tow rigs. Ah ha, the good news is… Bobby and wife Connie are, about as you read this, setting up a shop in Australia under the sponsorship of Bill Moyes. Yep, turns out Bill may begin a production of the Bailey tug. For Bobby: the recognition he deserves for his many innovative contributions to sport flying; for Bill: a working prototype aero tow vehicle; for the rest of us: the opportunity to purchase these tugs from someone ready to develop and support the method of towing. Is it a case of yet another foreign company doing something with Yankee technology when Americans failed to pursue the chance. Consider Pacific Airwave, UP International, and Moyes USA… a good chunk of U.S. hang gliding muscle has foreign ownership. ||| Lest you think I’ve shortchanged other forms of towing… from all I hear, truck/platform towing strives on, presently far eclipsing aero towing in the sense of getting more pilots aloft (tho maybe not as precisely into thermal lift). Towing is widely spread; I have regular input from South Florida via truck and boat platform towing; near Chicago with the Reel Pilots club; and in Texas with ATOL or similar systems. These groups are towing safely and satisfyingly nearly every weekend. Many, excited by this activity, feel “towing holds great promise for the next phase of growth and development in American hang gliding.” ||| In other late-breaking news, USHGA’s Jerry Bruning and staff have positively secured the Transamerica liability insurance policy which was alarmingly denied, literally as the old policy expired. The company sent USHGA a FAX at 5:19 p.m. on Friday the 20th–too late to contact company officials for more explanation. They alleged a standard aviation exclusion ruled out coverage. Very oddly, no discussion had uncovered this exclusion earlier in the process. Hmmm? ||| Well folks… got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Or call (days at BRS) 612/457-7491; FAX 612/457-8651. THANKS!
ST. PAUL, MINN — As you read this, the spring board of directors meeting is history. Prior to the assembly of regional leaders, a storm of information was mailed by our new, more businesslike headquarters. In the deluge were stats on our sport: the results of the fall director ballot and its member survey. Of our 11/89 member base of 7,496, 1,157 of you responded (15.4%), a high “confidence rating” number. Like most tables of figures, these don’t make fascinating reading (unless you’re in the business perhaps). What I’ll focus on here are two areas: glider brand market share and interest in paragliding. ||| It should surprise no one that Wills is the leading U.S. builder of gliders. At 34.1% nationally, they lead by ten points over second place Pacific Airwave (24.7%). PA’s rank may also not surprise you, but it proves the Salinas bunch–now with majority foreign ownership–has come a long way in just a few years. An old name in new clothing, UP is in third with 14.6%, though its hard to know how many are UP Int’l gliders versus those from UP Inc (the Pete Brock, Roy Haggard and Chris Price incarnation). Next in the top four is Delta Wing (9.0%), riding on the success of their Dream, which they’ve now licensed to UP Int’l. These Big Four are followed by a second tier lead by veteran Seedwings (5.8%), Moyes (4.6%), La Mouette (1.7%) and “Other” (5.5%: American Windwright, Odyssey, Northwing, a foreign name or two and the odd custom shop). ||| Another interesting aspect to all this is where the companies are strong or weak. Wills has very uniform leadership, except in “maverick” Region 11 (TX, LA), where PacAir (24%) dominates Wills (14%). In this region of statistical anomolies, Seedwings, Delta Wing, and Moyes all have double digit shares, twice their national rank. PacAir is also exceptionally strong in Region 10 (Southeast), Region 8 (New England), and Region 5 (ID, MO, Dakotas). UP has a quarter share in Region 4 (CO, NM) but is otherwise very even. Seedwings has a large 17% in Region 6 (KS, MO, OK), while Delta Wing has good shares in Regions 2 (Bay area), 7 (midwest), and 11 (Texas). Moyes has double digits in Region 7 (13.3%) and TX/LA (12%). La Mouette only has strength in Region 1 (WA, OR) where their best dealers are. All manufacturers tend to do well in their own locales. ||| In paragliding opinions voiced, a very even split has occurred among those who’ve decided: 38.4% FOR, 38.3% AGAINST, and 23.3% UNDECIDED. This contrasts to a similar ultralight question of a decade ago, where 70% voted AGAINST inclusion in the association and in the magazine. ||| In other product news, the Owens Composites’ Swift has flown! Veteran test pilot J.C. Brown took the rigid wing to California and used the UP Int’l truck for initial efforts toward HGMA certification. Photos indicate a composite D-cell with “conventional” dacron covering the aft two-thirds of chord. Ribs are two-part wishbone affairs that form both upper and lower shapes of the fully double-surfaced wing. Tip rudders look to be exact copies of the Fledge’ versions. Director Kent Owens reports an 82 pound weight on the prototype but hopes to shave a few pounds, possibly through the use of an exotic mylar and kevlar strand material inspired by windsurfing designers. The design group is working to reduce launch speeds. Their Swift News is used to keep all interested parties informed. ||| Rigid wings never die… and may one day catch on. In addition to the Swift, old friend Tim Morely reports that a new prototype Odyssey is flying now with an aluminum D-cell. They have a few in the field already, so have a slim lead over the Swift. And Don Mitchell has yet a newer version of the Mitchell Wing that he boasts will have 50% more performance than the B-10 wing (onto which Morley once hung a triangle control bar). After a wood mockup, Don will use the Kevlar material he says will help gain the performance jump. While many of us get charged up over the performance rigids offer, they have yet to penetrate the market, suggesting the main obstacle is one of marketing rather than engineering. Say! Outta room once again, so… Got news or opinions? Send ’em to: “Product Lines,” 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Or call 612/457-7491 (days @ BRS); FAX: 612/457-8651. THANKS!
ST. PAUL, MINN — Easily the biggest news in American hang gliding is Bill Bennett leaving glider manufacturing. After Delta Wing celebrated their 20th Anniversary last year this would come as a shock! But, “It’s nonsense!” replies Bill. True, UP International will now be building Uncle Bill’s successful Dream series. Also true, he stopped his ads. But Bennett reports he and old crony Dick Boone have recently collaborated on a new high performance design. It just flew at Torrey; they’re pleased. Before the unfortunate loss of his wife Paulette, due to cancer, Bill wanted to eliminate some obligations to dedicate more time to his ailing spouse. Licensing the Dream to UP for 3 years was part of this effort. Delta Wing may next move to smaller quarters. ||| Bill was also considering a bid on the beach operation up near Monterey, a site currently served by Jim Johns’ Western Hang Gliders. The Marina site was open to bidding in February. Johns, however, knows the ropes well and was prepared to bid competitively. At press time, this was still undecided. ||| The insurance debacle worsens. Now to compound the problems being felt in the Bay Area with the (hopefully) temporary closure of Ed Levin, John Harris’ Kitty Hawk Kites has been shut out of Jockey’s Ridge. KHK was given no warning before being informed of new insurance requirements. Harris has faced battles before and remains positive. He believes he’s secured insurance to meet state demands. (For years KHK has added to the USHGA coverage by buying extra of their own.) But they were closed at least a month, and says Harris, “It’ll definitely hurt our spring business; people are inquiring now and we aren’t sure what to tell them.” ||| Municipalities have a distressing habit of communicating with one another on these issues. By the “grapevine,” regulators for one recreation area can “warn” their counterparts elsewhere. Sadly, even our excellent claims history may not win battles with county commissioners. ||| In more upbeat news, USHGA offices have been contacted by Sports Illustrated magazine. Though these things often remain iffy until just before press time, the big sports rag offered some valuable coverage. Editors were given data so they could visit (and report?) several sites across the USA. ||| In the “Oh-yeah, well-how-about-this” department: Wills reported that video producer Tom Tatum had his newest show (“Daredevil Fliers II”) aired on several cable sports channels, reaching 16 million viewers, not only with his excellent scenes of spectacular aerobatic flying in Telluride, but with six 30-second commercials for Wills Wing. Wills offers the 45-minute production for $30 retail. A larger-yet TV event featured BRS founder, Boris Popov on a German show, “One Step Ahead.” The live show-and-tell format was seen by some 28 million viewers throughout German-speaking countries via the EuroVision link. Popov fired off one of the company’s rocket-deployed emergency parachutes right on the stage, inside, in front of 2,800 live viewers. Somehow, show producers got this dramatic event approved by fire and other officials, even in conservative Austria, site of the live broadcast. Popov joined such luminaries as Joe Cocker and Tina Turner. Congrats to Tatum, Wills, BRS, and Popov as they delivered the thrill of sport aviation to major audiences. ||| Strictly World Class… Tom Kreyche of Owens Valley fame has competition on his bid to host the 1993 World Meet. A second package was recently mailed to USHGA executive committee members, produced by the same folks ÐÐ Terry and Christine Reynolds ÐÐ who will host the 1990 U.S. Nationals. Both “teams” want it; looks to be a battle. Kreyche has experience with major contests and the Owens site going for him. Reynolds has lots of ski hill support and a sharp package. ||| Finally a calendar item: Candi and David Thomason’s Silent Flight will host NoCal’s first aerobatic clinic on March 17 & 18. For $150 you’ll get Super Looper John Heiney’s expert counsel plus video critique, classroom, tows, and lunch. Lower rates if you don’t plan to fly. Call 916/938-2061. ||| So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to: “Product Lines,” 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Or call (days at BRS) 612/457-7491; FAX: 457-8651. THANKS!
ST. PAUL, MN — Used to writing “1990” on your checks and letters yet? A new decade begins to unfold… against a backdrop of the most astounding political changes of modern history. The effects of the so-called “democratization” of eastern Europe may have profound influence even on lil’ ol’ hang gliding. USHGA Boss Jerry Bruning sent along a copy of a FAX to Prez Russ Locke. The letter from General Director Kakurin of Interaero requests info on the U.S. competition schedule for 1990. It seems Soviet pilots may plan to attend some contests. Interaero’s duties for the Soviet HG Federation also include the inviting and receiving of foreign teams to its own competitions. Most notably Comrade Kakurin suggests the “Peace Cup” and the USSR Championships. The Peace Cup is in May; the Championships in July. ||| Also in the month of May, Brian Milton (remember him?) will kick off his Superleague. A new attempt at a truly professional hang glider competition circuit, Milton announced he’s targeting a minimum of $40,000 in prize money. Apparently, the Forty Grand will be divvied up over three planned contests for 1990. The first is slated for Wales in May; two more to be announced. Meets #2 and #3 may be on-going contests that havn’t previously had prize bucks. Milton will also entertain other new offers. Knowing how much trouble we Yanks have generating even our U.S. Nationals, I’d expect all these ’90 Superleague events to take place in Europe. Top pilots will be consulted to assure their satisfaction, but Milton will be the principle pivot man, using his years of competition experience (you might recall he founded the British League). Interested? You’re already late… entries closed 2/1/90. Entry fee is set at $650 for all three contests. More info in future “Product Lines.” ||| On contests yet, the ’90 Nationals will be in the ominous-sounding location of Dinosaur Colorado (approximately midway between Denver and Salt Lake City). Organizationally, it appears off to a good start, thanks to Christine Reynolds. Since mentioned in last “PL,” Reynolds has signed up GW Meadows, prior Nats meet director and now shop manager for San Diego’s Hang Gliding Center. The event from July 27 to August 5 has wide community and government support, offers predictably good weather, good launches and landings, and even a Hang Driver contest with an $800 purse (!). For more info: write Reynolds at PO Box 281, Conifer CO 80433. ||| Gosh, more contest poop. While I know it only appeals to perhaps 1% of all Yoo-shga members, contests are one of hang gliding most visible elements. Since I’m interested in seeing our sport grow (at least, and perhaps most, modestly), contest coverage is beneficial. Anyway… Jim (Mr. Green) Zeiset hopes to sponsor his own private team for the Brazilian pre-World Meet contest later this month. He plans to fund the “Brazilian Express” himself, through his business; and to select and coach a non big-name team of relatively inexperienced competition pilots (a kind of “control group,” perhaps?). Currently he’s planning on all UP Axis gliders, CG 1000 harnesses, BRS rocket parachutes, plus other sponsoring vendors. He hasn’t yet identified how he’ll select his flyers. ||| Finally in some product news, parachute prices are soon going to jump. BRS, Wills Wing, and parachute builder Free Flight say the supply of the preferred canopy cloth is increasingly scarce. Wills is forecasting hand deploy price hikes of at least $125. All three businesses predict such increases before summer 1990. Though it may sound like the alleged oil shortage of the ’70s, you might want to consider a new chute sooner than later. ||| Last, old timer Dave Rodriguez and wife Judy have sold their Wasatch Wings hang gliding shop and school. The buyer is Wasatch instructor Gordon Pollock and his wife Anne, effective November 1, 1989. They’ll rename the business Thermal Dynamics and continue the good work Dave and Judy started. Pollock is a 15 year veteran of the sport whose has been Wasatch’s main instructor for the last three years. ||| Hey, outta room again, so… Got news or opinions? Send ’em to: “Product Lines,” 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118, or call (days) 612/457-7491 | FAX: 457-8651. THANKS!
ST. PAUL, MINN — Hey! Welcome to the ’90s… beginning of the third full decade for our sport. Oh god: “thirtysomething!” The final leg of the century (and millennia). Glad to have you along for the read. Thanks for a continuing stream of notes or calls. Y-O-U help write this column! ||| First, in the “Bet You Didn’t Know This Dept,” HGM editor Gil Dodgen had every piece of his nearly-new, high-tech desktop publishing gear stolen from his office last month. Luckily, his insurance replaced everything. Notice any delay? Extra effort on Gil’s part kept HGM mostly on schedule. ||| The heat is on… for Mexican flying tours. I’m amazed at the interest pilots are showing to be chauffeured around our neighbor to the south. Other SoCal shops offer tours, but the primary forces are Paul Burns’ Windgypsy (714/678-5418) and John Olson’s Safari Mexico (702/786-3944). Windgypsy offers two 8 day/7 night tours (differing sites) and provides bilingual guides, hotel, drinking water, ground transportation, and site refreshments. They’ll give a few keepsakes to take home, and will pick you up at the airport, all for $600 per person, based on double occupancy. Glider rentals are $125 extra. Group discounts are possible. Burns’ tour has a track record, earning not only flying hours but good reviews from earlier Mex-trekkers. Safari Mexico offers a similar program but has one extra: glider rental included for $495 total cost. Pacific Airwave brags that “Olé” Olson just stopped in their Salinas plant to pick up seven new Airwave gliders for use in his tours. They claim Olson was first in the Mexican Sky Guide biz, and that he’ll give the most bang for the buck. (Of course, their bias is pretty clear; you should inquire of each and make up your own mind.) As the two tours offer different sites, maybe you should try each? ||| After an understandable slowdown in orders following Wills Wing’s splashy announcement of their HP-AT, PacAir reports Kiss deliveries are picking up again. So will Kiss prices, and Vision Mk 4 prices. Amounts are yet unspecified. At something like 500-600 gliders a year, PacAir can boast a Top Ten spot among manufacturers around the world. (That’s for the American plant only; no Airwave UK numbers.) When Jean-Michel and his Salinas band began with the Vision, their profile remained fairly low key. Concentrating on the “advanced beginner” market, old PacWind did well enough to attract a takeover from European giant Airwave (UK). They’ve become a genuine American industry asset. As an example of a maturing company, PacAir has initiated a comprehensive survey of American flight instructors. The effort could yield the best student activity statistics yet. After many a survey question in my old “Whole Air” magazine, I can recognize a good effort. My reaction to the choice of questions is very positive. It will take each respondent some time to complete, but if PacAir receives these in sufficient numbers, valuable data might be obtained. They’ve offered to provide me with the results, and I’ll summarize these in a future column. ||| Meanwhile, not sitting still, Wills has just announced their Sport AT 180 and Sport AT 150. They proudly claim the Sport AT 180, “has lighter roll bar pressures and a faster roll rate than the Sport American 180.” It’ll be priced at $3,500. The company also feels a wait will be justified for the “easy-to-coordinate Sport AT 150.” It’s not yet certified (so not yet released either); it’ll retail for $3,300. Wills claims their AT models — Sport and HP alike — offer “the longest list of standard features found in the industry.” For example, customers may choose half-race or non-race sail, speed or straight base tube, streamlined or round downtubes. Yet the Sport ATs don’t have WW’s two-position VG lever system. Wills reports that factory reps have logged 175 demo flights to dealers’ customers. This allowed them to pass along several recommendations on how pilots should properly employ the VG system Wills finally implemented. As but one hint of this wisdom, Cap’n AT sez, “only use the tight VG position in straight-line glides between thermals!” Now you know. So! Got news or opinions? Send ’em to: “Product Lines,” 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118, or call (days at BRS) 612/457-7491. THANKS!
How do we evaluate light-sport aircraft?
The FAA’s proposed SportPlanes™ /light-sport aircraft (LSA) rule is being discussed in hangars across America. But it is also being discussed at airports all over Europe—more than you may think. The global reach of this initiative is visible by the large number of European suppliers aiming their sights on the huge U.S. market. Many believe they have an aircraft that fits the standard.
In the previous issue of KITPLANES®, you read Brian E. Clark’s summary of how European aircraft manufacturers are responding to LSA. In this issue, you can look at Barnaby Wainfan’s analysis of the aerodynamics of aircraft that meet the standard.
In concert, this column attempts to add information about LSA candidate aircraft that are flying now. I’ve had the pleasure to fly many of the aircraft that may one day call themselves LSAs. In that flying, I’ve learned some lessons about what you might expect and how to evaluate what interests you.
While you may not get to fly every LSA you are interested in buying, you will surely read a pilot’s report about them. My goal is to help you decipher those articles as well as the manufacturers’ sales brochures.
I once employed a flight instructor who told his students, “Only three things matter in a landing approach: airspeed, airspeed and airspeed.” His wisdom is not lost on the performance of LSAs. These aircraft must meet stall minimums of 44 knots (51 mph) clean and 39 knots (45 mph) when flaps, slats or other aerodynamic devices are deployed. LSAs may not cruise faster than 115 knots (132 mph).
How do you know if the aircraft genuinely meets those numbers? In the FAA’s certification plan, consensus standards must be reached by participating manufacturers and other parties regarding the certification of LSAs. Though industry leaders have been meeting for months to devise such a program, at this point a manufacturer need only state that the aircraft meets the standard. The FAA can investigate the manufacturer, but with the agency’s modest manpower budget such visits may be rare.
When aircraft reviewers fly an LSA candidate, they must rely on mounted instruments. In my experience, nearly every airspeed indicator is off to some degree—more so when the angle of attack is quite high as in stalls. Writers can be fooled. Each aircraft is unique. For example, designs that seat you far out in front (such as the Drifter) look different in stall than a fully enclosed aircraft with a conventional instrument panel. Deck angles in stall also look quite different from aircraft to aircraft.
I’ve tried GPS units to verify airspeeds, but they respond too slowly at the moment of stall (though they do well for cruise speed evaluations). The only way to gain an accurate stall speed is to use a pivoting-head pitot that points straight ahead no matter what angle of attack the aircraft has. Preferably, this pitot is mounted at the wingtip away from disturbances from the fuselage and propeller. The best results will also be found with a long-line trailing static source using a wind-protected vent for the ASI. Such appendages may be mounted by a factory establishing proof, but they are not practical for 1- to 2-hour flight tests.
How It Handles
How an aircraft handles has some effect on how writers evaluate qualities. For example, smoothness is not just a good attribute in normal flying, it is essential in evaluation flying. The controls of every aircraft are slightly different, so it can take some time to perform graceful movements with an aircraft’s controls.
When I perform power-off stalls, I try to maintain a consistent technique. Many test pilots use a 1 knot per second pace to decelerate into stall, but I believe the number is less important for a reviewer than consistency. Therefore, evaluators with more experience may be able to judge more accurately. Nonetheless, without a floating pitot and trailing static source, the reviewer cannot depend on the number showing on the ASI.
Some aircraft that will qualify as LSAs will have non-standard controls. This category includes trikes, powered parachutes, gyroplanes and airships. If you’re already flying one, you’re fully aware of the differences. It’s when you switch that problems can arise.
The LSA candidates I’ve flown have ranged throughout the spectrum. Stalls on a trike behave essentially the same even though they may go into the maneuver differently than a three-axis design. However, a powered parachute doesn’t stall in the usual understanding of that term (though they can reach something called a meta-stable stall).
For varying aircraft, the challenge for a writer is to write for his or her audience and at the same time inform pilots of different aircraft. Three-axis pilots looking at delta-winged trikes flown by weight shift need to read consistent reviews despite different control techniques.
So the Whizbang Aircraft Company salesman told you, “Sure, our Speedster stalls at 39 knots, and it cruises at 115 knots.” How do you know for certain?
You don’t know. Does it truly matter if the stall is 42 knots or the top speed is 110 knots? If you are satisfied with the aircraft in other ways, what difference do a few knots make? Very little. This fact also applies to certified aircraft—Cessna 172s don’t all stall identically. However, if the stall is 55 knots, your ability to land in small or rough fields might be compromised. An LSA might also prove too fast.
Manufacturers are disciplined to provide good data by several forces. First, the manufacturer of an LSA must build and fly an example of the kit or fully built LSA it wishes to sell. It must also follow ASTM consensus standards about how it verifies stall, weight, cruise and other attributes that define LSAs. Because it must agree to allow an audit by the FAA when it applies for an LSA certificate, the manufacturer is subject to inspections that will ask precisely how it proved the stall speed among other points.
Second, any manufacturer hoping to build a significant business will want insurance. Most pilots who buy a $50,000-$60,000 aircraft will insist on coverage against its loss. All pilots who finance their LSA will require insurance. Therefore, inspectors from willing insurers will verify that a given LSA meets the standard.
Third, the rubber truly meets the road in U.S. courts of law. Even if a manufacturer never goes to trial, the threat of legal action will keep any responsible manufacturer adhering to the standards.
While uncertainties will always exist, several mechanisms are in place to help consumers. I believe most LSA suppliers are honest, hard-working folks selling well-engineered aircraft. This is the light aircraft industry’s chance to show that it is worthy of the rights enjoyed by general aviation aircraft. I hope they succeed and that you are delighted to own a LSA. Nevertheless, buyer beware is still good advice.
Admirers of aviation and music convene at this annual Florida event.
Naturally, pilots have interests besides airplanes. I’d bet all fliers enjoy one kind or another of music. Hang glider pilots occasionally fly with a portable CD player at sites such as Torrey Pines near San Diego. The California glider port shared jointly by sailplanes, hang gliders, paragliders, and RC models offers butter-smooth ridge lift. The gentle sea breezes make for such mellow conditions that some say music complements the flying.
Yet most pilots are too busy with controls and instruments, are concentrating too hard on navigation, or are simply too engrossed in the joy of flying to want music aloft. CD players in homebuilts or factory aircraft are hardly commonplace. But another way to indulge your musical and aviation interests is to visit Florida’s Fantasy of Flight tourist attraction on the occasion of the annual Wings & Strings Americana Music Festival. I went in the fall of 2000, and it was a wonderful experience for my wife and me.
The Planes, The Planes
While it may be true that the music is the main attraction on this one weekend a year, the planes are still omnipresent. You might expect this from collector Kermit Weeks, the owner and developer of Fantasy of Flight. Weeks’ collection consists of more than 300 machines, most of them flying and many of them quite rare.
Sitting in the middle of the field was the signature aircraft of Fantasy of Flight-the Short Sunderland-aviation’s last airworthy civilian four-engine flying boat. Set upon a massive wheeled dolly, the non-amphibious Sunderland was surrounded during this event with craft booths.
Scattered around the massive concrete ramp or inside the park’s art deco hangars were such memorable machines as the B-24 Liberator, the British Spitfire, the Wright Flyer and too many more to name here.
Along with the throngs of music lovers, I admired the Antonov AN-2, the world’s largest single-engine airplane seating up to 12 passengers. Unlike the others, I was lucky enough to go aloft, camera in hand, in the authentic German Storch. Other countries made variations of this aircraft, but the original German one is thought to be the finest. Weeks’ example was scrupulously restored to factory original. Even the hand-lettered instrument panel labels and placards were carefully replicated.
Flying the real Storch is much like flying the ultralight Storch. This is amazing when you remember that the real McCoy is a big aircraft that you climb into with several steps. Yet the Storch can fly at the absurdly slow speed of 40 mph and launch from an unimproved strip in a couple hundred feet.
My photo flight in the Storch served another purpose: spectator demonstrations. Although Wings & Strings toned down the low level airplane flying in deference to the musicians performing below, Weeks did several flybys in his P-51. The Mustang and other machines please the crowds, whether they be pilots or fiddlers.
Music lovers seemed to enjoy frequent flights by several hang gliders and a SuperFloater modern primary glider, all towed aloft by a Dragonfly ultralight tug. These silent fliers came from nearby Wallaby Ranch, a popular hang gliding tow park just up Interstate 4 toward Orlando.
The music was top notch, nonstop, and served up something for everyone. Wings & String’s main stage featured the top musicians in the field. The Aviation Depot stage offered continuous performances throughout the weekend that sometimes drew the audience into the act. The Flying Solo stage let musicians jam with one another in a setting that allowed those watching to have interact close-up with the artists. The Florida Pavilion featured local talent from around the state.
As is the case at most airshows or outdoor events, food vendors served up interesting fare in the best Sunshine State cooking traditions. Huge operations such as Sun ‘n Fun tend not to offer the diverse food choices that smaller venues do. So many mouths to feed demands common items that can be prepared quickly. In sharp contrast, my wife and I enjoyed soft-shell crab and stir-fried rice and vegetables washed down with fresh-squeezed Florida lemonade. You could also consider alligator steaks, and everyone seemed to be carrying a bag of the made-on-site caramel corn.
As we nibbled your way from stage to stage, we passed numerous craft tents where artisans plied their creative works. While my wife examined every item with great care, I gave the many aircraft dotting the festival a closer review. We were both happy.
Kids enjoyed various crafts, comedy and games organized for them. Those youngsters not getting their faces painted could hop into airplane cockpits, ride airplane-like tricycles or watch the flight demonstrations. Most pilots want to see kids enjoy airplanes, and Wings & Strings gave them a personal opportunity to do so that’s often missing these days.
A partial list of the artists performing included The John Cowan Band, IIIrd Time Out, Austin Lounge Lizards, Jimmy Lafave, Reckless Kelly, Donna The Buffalo, Freg Eaglesmith, Robin and Linda Williams, Still On The Hill, Kathy Chiavola, The Crabgrass Cowboys, Charivari, Mark Johnson, Sam Pacetti, Dave Hardin, Bob Rafkin, Clyde Walker, Liz Meyer and Mark Cosgrove, Steve Blackwell and Friends, and Upsala. Numerous guests brought their own instruments in the hope of strumming a few tunes with their favorite entertainers.
Many visitors camped on Fantasy of Flight’s property. Only a few hookups were available, so most went without them. Hot showers, ice, drinking water, hand-wash stations and the usual lines of porta-potties were provided.
Mark Your Calendar
Wings & Strings 2001 will be held November 9-11. Central Florida is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, and there’s a lot to do there. Disney World is only 30 minutes north, and Fantasy of Flight’s vintage aerodrome is about halfway between Tampa and Orlando. It’s only a few miles from Lakeland, home of Sun ‘n Fun.
Pilots who want to spend more time for a longer back-lot tour of the park can stay the day while the family goes to Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens or Sea World. But if you and your family enjoy American music in many forms, Wing & Strings provides a great way to spend the day-or weekend- together.
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! And it will live for a long time. I’ve often said that if the magic of Star Trek ever comes and we can beam ourselves around, we will still fly airplanes for fun. The airlines may disappear, but ultralights will still fly, and people will still assemble their own aircraft.
I also find it a sure bet that certain types of light aircraft will continue—even prosper—under the SportPlanes™ proposal. These include flying machines such as hang gliders, single-place ultralights, powered parachutes and paragliders, and light sailplanes.
Several manufacturers of ultralights have told me they will continue to build their Part 103 models, and a few have said they will develop new aircraft that meet the rule.
Hang gliding—now a mature industry with a Big Five group of manufacturers, each from a different country—will continue to sell thousands of gliders a year.
Powered parachutes and their foot-launched siblings, powered paragliders, remain in a growth mode with each group claiming not only to add participants but finding them among the non-flying public. U.S. sales representatives for primary engine supplier Rotax (Bombardier) confirm that powered parachute makers are the largest buyers of engines.
Light sailplanes weighing less than 155 pounds empty are starting to approach the market and can operate in the Part 103 environment.
Who Needs 103?
Most pilots see the allure of factory-built, ready-to-fly, two-seat airplanes capable of cruising at 130 mph (that’s part of the new proposal). Already numerous models are emerging with sleek appearances, surprising roominess, good range, agreeable handling, and many creature comforts.
The downside is that such a machine will cost $40,000-$60,000, according to most industry experts. That may be a quarter to a third the price of Cessna’s least expensive Skyhawk, but it’s at least three to four times the average price of a genuine Part 103 flying machine.
The Part 103 aircraft still won’t require a pilot’s license nor any medical, you won’t have to register your aircraft with FAA or have them inspect it, and you can do 100% of your own maintenance. As long as you abide by a set of regulations that can be printed on both sides of one 8.5×11-inch piece of paper, you have freedom to fly that stands as a marvel of government non-intervention.
But are these aircraft questionable? They have no certification, the pilot may be unlicensed, and maintenance varies widely. They also cannot fly in weather like an IFR-approved GA plane.
All these points are true, but the safety record is simply not significantly different between GA aircraft and ultralights. Pilots do have accidents, and fatalities are suffered, but the numbers are low and compare well with other forms of personal aviation. Part 103 accidents are usually not investigated by the NTSB, so facts are less certain in ultralight incidents.
In Their Own League
Forget prices. Forget regulations. Ignore the safety record for now. Instead, think about why we all fly (or build). We do it because this activity inspires and satisfies us. For the sheer joy of flight, ultralights and other Part 103 aircraft offer special pleasures.
Hang gliders can coast silently along mountain ranges or in thermals, sometimes for hundreds of miles (the world record is well over 400 miles). In the last year, paragliders have also achieved impressive long flights exceeding 200 miles.
Powered paragliders and powered parachutes offer low-level flying that you simply don’t do in other aircraft. They may be restricted to calmer winds but under the right conditions, these machines offer a type of low-and-slow flight that many find delightful. They also take little room to transport and store.
True 103 powered three-axis ultralights (which means single-seat and empty weight less than 255 pounds) have always maintained a respectable share of all ultralight sales because these vehicles are pleasurable to fly. They take off quickly, climb steeply, can maneuver in small areas, land easily on short fields, make marvelous float planes, and cost pennies to operate.
So it’s welcome to sport pilot(once the FAA publishes the final rule). Yet this is not goodbye to Part 103 or homebuilding. The new proposal adds new choices without losing the old ones…and that has to be good.
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.
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. However, company officials said new versions were able to drop these appendages for a cleaner look.
Its wheels retract into a fiberglass boat body, although you can obtain a Ramphos without the amphibious gear. Stainless steel is also widely used in the structural frame. This will be welcomed by operators who plan to use the rig in salt water. All Italian-designed Ramphos trikes feature the Hazard wing (which appears to fly beautifully despite its name).
Aerolites, Inc., has been in the business for quite a few years and has attracted a good regional following, enthusiasts say. However, almost everyone who knows the brand immediately thinks of a low-wing model that has been promoted as an agricultural micro-spray crop duster.
At Sun ’n Fun 2003, Aerolites indeed had the spray plane, but directly in front of its display was the Bearcat. This roomy single seater is a high-wing model with a parasol-style wing connection to a Dacron-covered 4130 steel fuselage.
With dual struts running from leading and trailing edges to the fuselage (unlike the usual arrangement which tapers to a single point), Bearcat appears to show its built-tough heritage. Despite the beefy construction, the Bearcat is said to work well with the Rotax 447, although you can use the R-503 as an option.
Air Creation, based in southern France, is one of the world’s largest aircraft producers with annual sales averaging 300 units. You won’t be surprised to hear that it’s also one of the largest trike builders.
You stay ahead in this business by innovating constantly, and Air Creation has set a high standard for this tactic. When the company with the red trike carriages introduced a new wing at Sun ’n Fun, it was almost expected.
The iXess may become the replacement for the company’s wide line of XP wings (11, 12, 15, and 17 square-meter models). According to company spokesmen, their Kiss wing has lighter handling, while the iXess is for faster flying (like the XPs). Jean-Luc Tilloy, sales director for the U.S. market, says Americans may pronounce it access—perhaps in a nod to American partner and importer John Kemmeries.
Another striking Italian design is the Stork (different than Storch), represented in the U.S. by American Ghiles Aircraft. The company became known to American pilots by selling the MCR 01 Banbi under the name Lafayette.
Stork has a shapely fiberglass body over a steel frame and is powered by a Rotax 912 or a Jabiru 2200. It has a roomy cockpit and is popular for its huge visibility. With two sizes of wings, the plane is available as the Classic, Highspeed (shortened wing) and Superspeed (separate flaps and ailerons).
What distinguished the plane at Sun ’n Fun was the folded-on-a-trailer display. It showed that you can store the plane in your garage or one side of a conventional hangar. Many pilots found that appealing.
Destiny and Buckeye
Powered parachutes continue their amazing development. While some think sales growth in powered parachutes has peaked, numerous competitors still push to take the idea further.
At Sun ’n Fun, two companies showed dashing new bodies or fairings for their powered parachute models. Destiny’s Fusion used an entirely new airframe with a simplified construction that looked quite robust. Yet it was the smoothly contoured fairing that got the attention of passersby.
Not to be outdone, Buckeye Aviation added a sweeping fairing to the front of its Breeze model. Complimenting the curvaceous lines of the nose pod is the glowing metal flake paint job that matched the finish of the vinyl seats. The Breeze, like the company’s Hornet model, uses fuselage bars that protect occupants in case of mishaps.
After a five-year absence, the Cumulus is back as the Cumulus 2. While the basic airframe is similar to the popular motorglider first introduced in the mid-1990s, the wing has changed significantly.
Original designer Jim Collie was killed flying the prototype Cumulus when a delamination of the bonded spar and D-cell structure apparently caused the machine to collapse in flight. Ultralight Soaring Aviation owner Dave Ekstrom put an engineering team together and found a way to fix all the original Cumulus models in the field. Once they are all flying, the company will begin producing the second-generation ultralight.
Ekstrom amazed those who watched him assemble the two wings on-site from a 35-gallon drum that contained all components other than the D-cell and spar. Interest was so strong that Ekstrom ran out of brochures and business cards.