ST. PAUL, MINN. — Back home in frigid but thawing Minnesota after a temporary warmup in the Sunshine State last month. Halfway in between is a place virtually every hang glider pilot knows: Chattanooga. My former hometown, it was the birthplace of "Product Lines," but these days it’s best known for its major hang gliding enterprise — Lookout Mountain Flight Park, or simply LMFP. ••• Owner and boss, Matt Taber, though well known to most anyone in the sport, is something of an unsung hero. In recent memory surprisingly little has been written about the country’s biggest shop. LMFP is "biggest" by virtue of enrolling more students in the USHGA pilot proficiency program than any other school, a laudable achievement. The Lookout Mountain site is one of the country’s best known flying sites, visited by pilots from all over the USA and the world. You might also call it the biggest shop because Taber owns both launch and landing sites, to include a huge LZ where he is now building cabins for visiting pilots. In addition to running a preeminent mountain launch site, LMFP provides aero towing out of the big landing field. They use a trike that Taber built using his mechanical background but they also have a Dragonfly and are working on another tow plane of Taber’s design. • He plans to expand beyond pure hang gliding, to wit, LMFP is taking a SuperFloater dealership. After his main tow pilot, Jim Hook, was tragically killed last year, Taber assumed tugging duties, racking up 600 hours in part of a season. As you’d imagine, this stretched Matt pretty thin for a while. He’s a survivor though, adding the alternative launch methods as business slacked off a bit due to three active schools in Florida, long a state that was LMFP’s biggest source of customers. (The three include newcomers Quest Air and Wallaby Ranch plus well established Miami HG.) • As if his other duties weren’t enough, Matt also serves the USHGA board plus he publishes the association’s official training book. All this may be old hat to you, but this very familiarity has caused a dearth of material to be published about the big school. I felt it was deserved to give LMFP and Matt a little ink. We can all hope he and his staff can keep going strong! ••• Speaking of keeping it up, GW Meadows is sort of single-handedly tackling the ’96 Nats, naming it the Just Fly Nationals after his business. Too cozy? Hardly! Think of any big sporting event which benefits from a major sponsor; the brand name/logo is often part of the event’s full name. Besides, it shows a creativity that might not come with a local club sponsorship. • Listen to a few of GeeDub’s ideas. He’ll have several classes of competition, including "Rookie, Intermediate Glider, Never-Been-In-The-Top-50, Over 45 Years Old," and more. The Just Fly Nats will have a contest for the the "Wildest Photo" at the Turn Point each day, a Driver’s Contest… and all the above will have cash prizes plus gifts galore (the last being no great surprise given Just Fly’s growing dominance of the accessory market for hang gliding). GeeDub adds, "The best prizes will not go to the top-placing World-Class pilots; they always get the good stuff." • Sounds cool to me and GW says he’s working overtime to be sure its fun and safe. Maybe this is the one you oughta’ attend? Entry fee is $325 with a refund policy. Check it out… call Just Fly at 919/480-3552. ••• Hadn’t heard from industry leader Wills Wing for a while, but they’ve got new bragging rights after hotshot Kari Castle won the Women’s World Championships on a WW XC 155. CONGRATS, KARI! WW prez Rob Kells observed that she’s the first American ever to be a Class I World Champ (though Rex Miller was Class II Champs back in the ’70s). • Wills also reports a satisfying response to their Falcon intro glider, having now sold over 500 copies. Since the wait lengthened considerably last year, they’ve built a hundred for spring delivery this year. Interestingly, some 150 Falcons are being used for Skyfloating, the Wills technique employing a paragliding harness for supine (or suprone) flying. German certification appears imminent offering access to that big market for the U.S. brand. • My own flights on a Falcon at the Wallaby Ranch aerotow center suggested this glider towed as well as any hang diver that comes to mind. I flew a 195 and it all but handled itself through three tows to 2,500 feet, even throughout turns. Most satisfying, and it provided me with three dandy landings that made me look good. • Finally, WW says that their prototype XC 132 is flying well, though "no telling when it will be in production." ••• Errors & Omissions Dept. — German company Bautek’s Sunrise model is not a topless glider as reported here earlier. My source was incorrect. Doesn’t change the possibility implied by the trend, but the question remains: Is is real or is it marketing? • In my brief review of some Internet World Wide Web sites, I failed to mention one you may find of interest… at least those of you who enjoy keeping an eye on the rest of the hang gliding world. One of the best English-language magazines other than the one in your hands is Britain’s Skywings. You may not care to subscribe, but they’ve got a WWW site that contains portions of the well-edited rag. "Check out http://test.ebrd.com/skywings/home.html," says editor Joe Schofield. ••• Hey! Outta room. Next month, I plan my product-oriented review of the 1995 USHGA member survey. So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Vmail or fax to 612/450-0930. Email to CumulusMan@aol.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine