ST. PAUL, MINN. — In this summer edition of "PL," I want to add a few more places you can fly in what I view to be a subtly but surely changing landscape. Once you leave the big mountains and big air of the west, towing takes on more impact in delivering flight to hang glider pilots. However, towing is also moving west as trikes catch on as tugs and as ultralight sailplanes add dimension to areas formerly occupied only by flex wings. ••• This month, I’ll touch on five more sites where you can pursue towing. In the east but not in Florida or Texas (where towing is well established), we find two Midwest centers, one north, one south. • Well known to hang gliding pilots around the world is Matt Taber’s Lookout Mountain. Matt is well into his second decade running one of the largest and most developed sites in the country. The flight park’s hang gliding presence is well documented but fliers far away may not know of Lookout’s involvement in towing. They have one stock Dragonfly now. And with his strong mechanical abilities, Taber and a staff are working on a more powerful engine on a modified airframe. Their work, like that of Campbell Bowen and Russ Brown of Florida, could lead to a new round of more potent tugs that might better handle the workhorse duty of hang glider towing. For more info, call Lookout at 706/398-3541 • Up in Wisconsin, and tapping the massive Chicago market successfully, is Brad Kushner’s Raven Sky Sports. He operates out of Whitewater, Wisconsin (not far west of Milwaukee) with a Dragonfly. Kushner filled a void created by a reasonable pilot population that had not been well supported by a hang gliding business. To fulfill mountain launching desires, Kushner’s takes students on tour to the Tennessee mountains. For more info, call 414/473-8800. Alright, so the east isn’t a surprising place for towing to exist, what with the lack of high mountains. • Now let’s move west a bit, and back south, to where a newly energized Dave Broyles is preparing a Pterodactyl (Fledgling-winged ultralight) for towing duty. Broyles is a longtime tow pilot and a past USHGA president. He plans to tow the new SuperFloater he has begun dealing. His enthusiasm has brought back Pterodactyl developer, Jack McCornack, who has long been out of manufacturing. Believing "I was the first person to tow a hang glider with an ultralight" (back in 1980!), McCornack will work with the current ‘Dac manufacturer to reinvigorate the aircraft’s tug potential. Call Broyles at 214/727-3588. • More western activity is found near Second Chantz, as the ballistic ‘chute builder takes on two new activities. Proprietor John Dunham will become a distributor for the Air Creation line of trikes. The French builder, arguably the world’s largest manufacturer of ultralight aircraft, has several models that can perform tug duties. Dunham plans to base this activity at an airfield near Reno, Nevada where he will also deal in the SuperFloater and provide towing services. Call Dunham (at Second Chantz) by dialing 702/829-2077. • Our final stop on this month’s tour takes us up to the northwest U.S., to the southeast corner of Washington state. Here we find the base for Scott Johnson’s AirEscape WindSports, seller of Airborne trikes and Airborne hang gliders. Johnson has teamed up with partner Larry Cochrane and the duo will begin a flight park operation offering towing of hang gliders and more. The two have ordered a SuperFloater and will be dealing the ultralight sailplane along with the rest of their line. Airborne tugs are robust pieces of equipment that not only do the job but carry Australian certification, passing a very tough program. Call Johnson or Cochrane at 509/743-7156 or 509/243-4988. (By the way, Air Creation trikes carry British certification, another difficult series of tests.) • Now let’s change topics completely. ••• The indistinct line between Class I and II gliders got a little clearer in recent months, following the early-’90s emergence of the Swift, trailed by more recent introductions of the Apex and SuperFloater. This mid-’90s version of the rigid wing movement suffered its first setback with a fatality on a Swift flying at Lookout Mountain Flight Park. Regretfully, Lookout Dragonfly tug pilot Jim Hook lost his life at the end of May. A fuller report will surely follow when all the details are sorted out, but an Internet report posted by Hook’s friend, David Futrell, says, "Conditions were mellow… Jim began to perform loops. He had done several, all perfectly round, exquisitely executed loops… At about 600 feet AGL, he attempted a seventh loop." Other witnesses said the last loop dive brought a high rate of speed, which was followed by a structural failure. A ‘chute deployment never happened (though one was installed as a standard factory item). My condolences to those close to Hook. We will all be interested to read further analysis. My personal experience with the Swift tells me it is a fine design, but all aircraft have their limits. ••• To close on a lighter note, the nation’s newspapers picked up on a story about New Mexico Governor, Gary Johnson, going tandem to kick off the Sandia Peak meet near Albuquerque. The civic leader flew from the 10,400 foot site on a fifteen minute flight which ended with a perfect landing, the reports said. It was positive coverage; I’m glad to see it. ••• So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Fax or V-mail to 612/450-0930. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine