ST. PAUL, MINN. — As we look to a new season of hang gliding, I have one last gift item that deserves mention. ••• Even up here in snow country, one video might actually get your heart pumping! Most HG videos tend to be mellow productions, featuring delicate and colorful gliders moving gracefully and silently against sweeping panoramas. In sharp contrast, Tom Sanders’ "Over the Edge" is a splash of cold water in your face. Imagine a wake up call that involves sky diving off a city building, with only, as screen text clearly states, 5 Seconds to Impact. Opposite of my common reaction to flying videos, I found "O-T-E" fun and easy to watch to the end. Slickly produced, it boasts a wide variety of beautiful settings for fast-paced action scenes. The tape has only a short section on hang gliding, being mostly a sky diving effort. Any action-sport lover will enjoy the tape from Aerial Focus. FMI: 805/962-9911, or write 8 Camino Verde, Santa Barbara CA 93103. ••• This time, "PL" offers SPECIAL COVERAGE with a product-focused highlight of USHGA survey statistics recently divined from 1,725 forms. ••• The important brand market share shows remarkable stability. Wills continues to lead with 42.0%. This has been consistent for three years (1992 was 40.9%; 1991 was 43.1%). PacAir edged up ever so slightly while holding onto Second with 27.6% of the market. PW had 26.9% and 25.3% in ’92 and ’91. UP has also had an even performance with 10.7% this year versus 10.5% and 10.6% in past years. Finally, Moyes appears solid in Fourth for the second year at 6.3%, the same as last year and 25% higher than in 1991. Below Fourth, the positions are less certain due to lower responses. Seedwings had 3.7% in ’93, Delta Wing held 3.5% and "Other" climbed to 6.2% from 5.4% last year. Nationally, 600 pilots fly "Other" brands, indicating a need to collect more detailed information to see what new brands may be up and coming. ••• Neither does the mix of gliders brings any big surprises. Flex wings rule, though not as convincingly as some might think, with 77% of the survey. Paragliders (Class III) have 27% in a show of strength among USHGA’s membership. Rigid wings continue to skim low at less than 5% of the survey. Nonetheless, this still reverse calculates to over 400 rigid wing pilots nationally, a figure large enough to motivate several small manufacturers. ••• The survey also documented paraglider market share. Edel leads with 21%, followed by Pro Design at 19%, "Other" at 17%, and in Fourth, Wills with 11%. The only other U.S. entrant, UP, came in Eighth with 5% of the market. UP says they’re stronger overseas, and of course, most pilots are aware Wills sells lots of hang gliders in Europe. Both companies give Team America a significant export presence. ••• I calculate that, based on this survey, American pilots will buy about 2,000 new hang gliders in 1994 worth nearly $10 million in retail dollars! This should add slightly to the 1.7 gliders every USHGA member already owns because only half as many used glider sales are forecast (though student purchases are a variable we cannot count accurately). ••• Ballistic parachute ownership has stabilized at about a quarter of the population. Hand deployment has just over 70%, but what’s surprising these days is the survey info showing nearly 600 American pilots who fly without a ‘chute of any kind. ••• Fortunately, the stats also show that at least 60% of you repacked your chute in ’93 (it should be 100%) and that a sixth of you serviced your rocket (about right since the newest units only require service every six years). ••• Finally, towing. Aero-based towing continues to proliferate though not as fast as some predicted. The method accounts for 18% of all launches. Auto-based platform style still dominates, but at 60% it could be overtaken as other technologies advance. Boat towing still launches about 15% and equipment like stationary winches get some 5% of tow pilots aloft. Overwhelmingly, the auto winches are the pay-out type with over 80% of the systems. ••• To close the survey review, three non-product points of interest: Average age is 38.6. Yipes! Almost fortysomething. Average income is mid-to-high $40,000s. And — whaddyaknow? — of the survey respondents, 9.9% are female. That suggests nearly a thousand American hang diving women, up strongly from only half that a few years back. ••• Next time… news on UP Int’l and on a new gizmo from Chris Arai (who is presently competing in Japan for WW). So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Fax or V-mail: 612/450-0930. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine