ST. PAUL, MINN., — Bits and pieces are floating around in the aftermath of a new millennium and celebrations of grand style around the globe. It’s a good time of year to catch up on details before a new contest and soaring season begins. ••• Why did Aeros name their new rigid wing, "Stalker?" Aeros is the maker of the Stealth topless hang glider, which has achieved amazing U.S. market penetration. To explain the choice of names for their new rigid glider — which conjures a negative image for many Americans — Aeros identified "Roadside Picnic" as a popular novel with a mystical theme. In the book "Stalker" is the main character, idealized as "Neither hunter nor militarist, he’s just trying to survive, to understand, to learn… fearless and courageous, a pathfinder, an explorer, looking for happiness." OK, very positive and perhaps very appropriate for a new high-perf glider, but the name is still odd for American consumption. ••• More so than I’ve observed with other recent introductions, Moyes’ new Lightspeed appears to be enlivening Moyes’ participation in competition gliders. "They aren’t for everyone and while the Litespeed does have some vices and handling quirks the overall package is pretty good. It has significantly better glide performance than the CSX," in one pilot’s opinion. Though reportedly not possessing the CSX’s very light handling the Lightspeed is said to improve on the popular Xtralite. Given Litespeed’s sweep of the Brazilian Nats and good performance in the Down-Under Nats, some observers felt "Moyes has erased Icaro’s lead with the Laminar." ••• Speaking of the Laminar, the Italian producer has new models for 2000 and Yankee distributor, AV8, placed orders for six of the MR versions the last week of December 1999, I’m told. Several of the new wings will apparently be at the Wallaby Open in April. Icaro also said they have improved their parts and service department and according to one insider, customer response "has been encouraging." ••• Otherwise though, the depths of winter seem quiet with glider development news (excepting Moyes, for whom it is summer). Not much horn blowing can be heard. After generating so much interest in the last few months, even rigid wing builders appear intent on producing their gliders rather than bragging about them. So as the new millennium gets underway product news is more focused on accessories. ••• Brazilian Nene Rotor has reportedly found an American representative. Wallaby Ranch tug pilot, Carlos Bessa, referred to the Ranch e-mail address for pilots to contact him about this well-regarded harness. Info: firstname.lastname@example.org. ••• According to web writer, Davis Straub (www.davisstraub.com/OZ/), Rohan Holtklamp has a new harness design where the parachute is placed inside the harness behind the neck. Without knowing the means of extraction, this sounds like an unusual place to locate a product that is only needed after the feces hits the fan. (Not to say we haven’t seen even weirder ideas.) ••• Straub’s Oz Report also spent days on the subject of dented leading edges on the new series of rigid wings — when carried on racks with insufficient padding in the right places. Solutions were offered by many experts and even a new product resulted. High Energy Sports, run by veteran Betty Pfeiffer, now makes a special cross-country cover bag that used a closed-cell foam to help reduce denting these precious wings. Info: Bettp@aol.com or see ad. ••• With a "new & improved" version of his "Selected Works," hang gliding artist Bob Rouse has made presentation of his fascinating designs more professional. The new 119-page, 8.5 x 11 book (with many fold-out pages of larger dimension) includes color photos of his unusual — "bizarre?" — designs. While these are not even remotely intended to be marketable aircraft, Bob does actually build AND FLY! these gliders. Though I’m no designer and have no ambitions of replicating any of Rouse’s work, I nonetheless found his new volume to be of intense interest… although this is quite clearly art, and not everyone agrees that a given type of art is appealing. Though Bob isn’t trying to become a publisher, he’d like to sell a few of his books if for no other reason than then he might "go part-time at my day job" (he’s a sailmaker for sailboats) and dedicate himself even more to his art goals. Other artists have created excellent portrayals of hang gliding in various mediums, but Bob is the only one I know of in the entire world to make hang gliders themselves the art. I may be the only one who likes his stuff, but I admit to being fascinated by the sheer volume of effort and creativity he shows with these glider designs. That he is brave enough to go fly them gives them legitimacy that others speak about but rarely actualize. Go, Bob! For those who want more info on his book or his work, Rouse now has e-mail at: Bob.Rouse@beginners.net. He adds: "I have created a website about my design-work that covers some of the projects within the book ‘Selected Works’." He says the site has "a lot of color images — many that are not within the book — and will provide you with a few moments of entertainment." The URL is: http://users.ev1.net/~flexwing ••• While crowing about artistic expression, I want to say a little about the website I’m advertising in this magazine. Since 1976 I have been flying and writing reviews of aircraft plus penning some columns like this one. Now that the digital age is fully upon us — and thanks to my good friend and internet impresario, Cliff Whitney — I have decided to place every article I’ve ever written on the Internet. Found under the site name www.ByDanJohnson.com, it is our ambition to create a light aviation portal where lots of newbies can find out about hang gliding, ultralights, and other light aircraft. More of my stuff revolves around powered aircraft, but we expect to have plenty of material of interest to HG pilots. With my own work, we’ll have nearly 1,000 articles or columns and literally hundreds of pilot reports, plus we hope to interest other HG writers to join the effort. The site is still under construction — this is a pretty big undertaking — but you can go to the home page and leave your e-mail address. After the site opens (hopefully later this spring), we’ll notify all who left their names that the site is up and running. It will have liberal free areas and great depth available to those who want to become site members. ••• So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Messages or fax to 651-450-0930, or e-mail to CumulusMan@aol.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine