St. Paul, Minn. — High times in Minnesota… a story about great thermals up here in the southern Tundra. In late May this year, a group of Minnesota pilots had flights that may have set a record for the midwest. Bruce Bolles, who formerly worked with me at BRS parachutes, related events of this surprising day. • Bruce’s Flytec logged a gain of 10,460 feet from the landing area. He could’ve gone a bit higher (one pilot did) but at that height the temperature was 21° with a 30 mph wind chill equating to something like zero. Bruce had gloves on but none of the pilots expected such huge altitude gains so they weren’t dressed for the occasion. Minnesotans are keenly aware of factors like wind chill, so Bruce wisely elected to go down to warmer altitudes before he sustained frost bite damage. “I couldn’t feel my nose or thumbs,” he recalls. Other pilots Ralph Karsten, Paul Kilstofte, and Bill Manual — all made it to the five-figure mark.••• An important part of this story is the use of Mosquito engines on Woody Valley harnesses. While many pilots in the west and elsewhere around the country disdain powered hang gliders, it may be time for an new sense of tolerance. • “We don’t want anything to do with #@*&€ engine noise [either],” Bruce emphasizes. “We use the power to launch up to a couple thousand feet and then we shut down.” He admits that if the powered pilots get outfoxed by a dud thermal, they can restart in the air and try again. However, he notes that they also enjoy the luxury of landing, grabbing a sandwich and a soft drink, and then relaunching, all without the need for a tow plane and pilot or other trappings of towing. • “Everybody’s got them,” says Bolles, referring to his core group of active hang glider pilots. “After the first one arrived and we all saw what it offered, everyone ended up buying a machine from Bill Fifer” of Traverse City Hang Gliders. With ground truck tows, a mile-long road only yields about 1,000 feet and this won’t assure you get into steady lift in the midwest. The group contemplated a Dragonfly, but then you need a place to keep it, fly it, and you must have a pilot. Such talk died when the Mosquitos began arriving in the northern state. Interested in Mosquito? FMI: 231-922-2844 ••• Power isn’t just happening in the flat midwest. Moyes of America boss Ken Brown recently informed me he’s the new national distributor for the Doodle Bug powered harness from Flylight Airsports in England. This different rig allows you to fly suprone inside the bar after normal foot launch. “More comfortable for long flights,” is one advantage says Brown of the feet-first posture, plus a “change of view.” Ken adds, “The handling is very predictable and controllable.” About his Mosquito, Bolles said the engine-off handling was virtually identical to an unpowered hang glider, so obviously these second-generation suppliers of powered harnesses have figured things out well. Ken believes the Doodle Bug can climb under full power with greater stability in turbulence than prone powered harnesses. Additionally, the space formed by a rear fairing — to lower drag and ensure smoother air to the prop — can contain “a glider bag, sleeping bag, or even a light tent,” says Flylight. A two-gallon fuel tank is also contained inside. Even during a full power climb the 14-hp Radne Rocket engine (same as on the Mosquito) consumes less than a gallon an hour. At cruise this drops to a half-gallon an hour, giving the rig 2-4 hours of operation. • Ken concludes, “The Doodle Bug can be used on the Moyes Sonic 190, Litesport 148 &160 and Litespeed 146 & 156 with no modifications.” Doodle Bug has been fitted to a wide variety of brands and models says Flylight. FMI: 530-888-8622 or firstname.lastname@example.org ••• Regardless how you get aloft, we must all come down sometime. When we do, we need reliable wind indicators. One of the most dedicated suppliers is Hawk AirSports with their popular Windsok line. • Boss Bruce Hawk recently announced a new office manager, Joe Harper. “A whizz on computers and in manufacturing and business management, Joe will streamline the company and provide superior service and quality,” says Hawk. “His new web page design for www.windsok.com will enable easier on-line ordering of the entire product line.” Hawk AirSports offers both permanent and portable models. FMI: 800-826-2719. ••• Many of you can remember the Attack Duck, Wills Wing’s oddly named high performance glider of its day. Now bid welcome to the Attack Falcon. “The PX05 mylar sail ‘Attack Falcon’ caused quite a stir at Wallaby,” says Wills Wing, referring to their spring bash last April at the Florida towpark. Available in the 195 and 170 sizes for $3,650, Attack Falcon includes the Litestream control frame including streamlined aluminum base tube, PX05 mylar in the top surface behind the leading edge panel, and your choice of sail colors in selected panels. “The Attack Falcon looks really cool; they fly great, and the Litestream frame puts the glide over 10 to 1,” exclaimed Wills! • Team WW also brought and flew their 20,000th and 20,001st gliders at the spring event. The new wings displayed well alongside Chris Wills’ original 1973 U.S. Nationals-winning standard hang glider — serial number 35. WW brand has come a long way, and I’m pleased to see Chris still involved with the company (as an owner; he’s a physician who branched out into ultralights and a GlaStar homebuilt). ••• Raven Sky Sports, the midwest’s largest towpark went live with version 2.0 of their website in mid-May. Grab another look at www.hanggliding.com. Proprietor Brad Kushner says, “This is the first really significant update to the site since the mid-1990s.” ••• So, got news or opinions? Send ‘em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Messages or fax to 651-450-0930. E-mail to News@ByDanJohnson.com or CumulusMan@aol.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine