ST. PAUL, MINN. — Based on the flow of information, the last year in the current millennium could be interesting. I have news about Altair, Wills, Brightstar, US Aeros, and the Exxtacy. As the first snow finally flies in a weirdly warm winter in Minnesota, all this flurry of news seems positive for an exciting 1999. Let’s run through each briefly, but first a last minute gift mention or two for those of you who got cash for Christmas. ••• Lisa Tate has started Soaring Dreams, and offered a color catalog of tasteful gifts you might want to consider. Fortunately it isn’t all Christmas oriented although some attractive ornaments are part of the inventory. Tate also has some very distinctive trophies to use for competitions, plus mugs and mobiles, wood and glass picture frames and more. Art takes form in several mediums and although we’ve seen gift offerings before, Lisa achieves a singular niche. Call for her catalog at 208-376-7914 or e-mail Zoolisa@aol.com. ••• Those of you who strike out on cross country flights will be thrilled to hear that another ground wind direction indicator is commercially available. Bob Ortiz has an ultra simple tubing "canister" packed with a colorful flag distinctively tipped to show the wind. He claims it also correctly identifies the velocity. You drop it as you overfly your target landing area. Lacking the pizzazz of the Dust Devil’s CO2 cartridge-deployed system, at least Ortiz gets points for simplicity. If you’d rather buy than create yourself, call 510-223-6239. ••• Utah-based Altair announced their new small Saturn late last fall, and according to boss John Heiney, the company is hoping for certification by the time you read this. The 147 joins the Saturn 167, a design by Heiney with help from longtimer David Beardslee, and "master sailmaker" Dick Cheney. Their target was a sink rate performer, a goal they feel they reached conclusively. Some school operators are also enthusiastic, Altair reports. The single surfaced glider uses all the hardware developed for the Predator and comes standard with faired kingpost, downtubes, nosecone, extra strength speed bar, plus mylar leading edge stiffeners, and Profil cloth, "to insure good glide performance and penetration." A unique feature on both types of Altair gliders is their haulback system which lifts the kingpost and draws aft the crossbar with one effort. It certainly sounds like a lot of glider. For further details, call 801-523-9544 or e-mail email@example.com. ••• Market leader Wills Wing continues to work with two new projects: the drogue ‘chute and a special rigid wing. About the first WW writes, " It is truly amazing how effective the Drogue chute is at cutting the glide while on approach." They add, "We’re very enthusiastic about the prospects for this product to increase landing safety." Wills isn’t sure when units will be for sale. • In advice to their dealers the company said they are "continuing the developmental work on the (Brightstar) Millennium fitted with a control bar." The project is a cooperation between the two American companies with exciting potential to get the USA into the rigid wing glider sweepstakes**. Wills writes to their dealers, "The glider is a lot of fun to fly, surprisingly easy from a pilot skill standpoint, and performs extremely well. We still don’t know when, or even if, it will reach production, but we have great enthusiasm for the project." (**Actually one other all-American rigid wing is in development. This is Matt Kollman’s Raptor on which I will have more later. I’ve seen it, it’s real, and it looks competitive if it can be produced efficiently, a point under analysis at Wills, too, according to reports.) For more WW info, check their website at www.willswing.com. ••• Wills and most other producers have been challenged by the excellent prices of Ukrainian gliders during 1998. • GW Meadows has promised to accelerate his glider importing and marketing operation now that he has been freed of duties for the USHGA (although we can expect he’ll remain a Director and steady contributor to Yoo-shga). Like La Mouette man Don Reinhard picked up Gibbo to help him, U.S. Aeros announced signing Jersey Rossignol to their competition team. The San Diego pilot has lots of contest experience and according to Meadows, "has started to progressively place higher and higher." Jersey says he is "incredibly impressed by the Stealth… I’m really looking forward to competing on the new Stealth 2 in ’99." • As rigids continue to spark interest (see below, too), Aeros is working overtime to complete their new… well, they hadn’t named it as of late December. But the Aeros Rigid Wing (for now) is coming by early April and will no doubt be seen at one of GW’s meets in Florida that month. He reports it has the following specs: 143 squares, 39 foot span, 10.7 AR and weighs a mere 77 pounds. It will use discreet ailerons that have differential deflection (like most three-axis aircraft) to reduce adverse yaw, rather than the spoilerons of the Exxtacy. The control bar will also be fixed in position so the "sloppiness" of the Exxtacy bar won’t be felt in the air or on the ground. Projected price — naturally subject to final cost analysis — is expected to be under $8,000, reports Meadows. • Get more info at www.justfly.com (where you can also sign up on-line for Great Worldclass Meets, BTW). ••• Speaking of new rigids, according to web writer Davis Straub, Exxtacy designer Felix Ruehle has left Flight Designs and is showing a successor to the Exxtacy called the ATOS. Shown at the end of 1998 in Germany, the ATOS comes in two sizes, a 125 and a 145 with the latter involved in test flying at present. We’ll cover this more as it emerges but a couple stats might warm you up. • It’s a high aspect ratio glider (over 12, versus 9.4 for the Exxtacy) and has a significantly lower weight (reportedly 73 pounds versus 95 for the Exxtacy). Span is up to 42 feet and area is 145 square feet. Ruehle claimed a glide that could approach 19:1 and sink rate as low as 140 fpm. Handling has also been improved and setup time has been reduced. Wow! So much good stuff and I haven’t hit all the highpoints that Straub related. • Fascinatingly, the ATOS will NOT be produced by Flight Designs (who makes the Exxtacy). A new builder has been enlisted and one distributor will apparently be Icaro, who according to Davis reporting from Felix, "has stopped the Lumina [rigid wing] project." All this definitely screams for more follow up and you can read it here in the months ahead. If you’d like Davis’ news directly, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. ••• Well, outta room with news overflowing my file jacket. So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. V-mail or fax to 651-450-0930 or e-mail to CumulusMan@aol.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine