ST. PAUL, MINN., — The season is on and the flow of pilots is southward as I write this in very early April. In just days, right as the Sun ‘n Fun airshow concludes, competition activity will explode at Wallaby Ranch one week and Quest Air the next. And maybe it’s just a fresh season, but some old timers are showing up. ••• Joe Bostik is back! Former national champion and longtime successful competition pilot, Joe has been busy in his life as an airline jet jockey and family man. However, he’ll attend the Florida meets and will again be flying for Wills Wing as he did in his "former life." Joe, his wife, and two children live only a hundred miles south of Wallaby making the dual contest event an easy reentry point. Good luck, Joe! ••• Among other HG contest personalities, Icaro’s unbeatable, Manfred Ruhmer responded to talk he was becoming interested in highly faired rigid wings. He said, "This year I will, for sure, continue flying flex wings and even maybe next year." However, he admitted he is working with Felix Ruhle on a cage-faired version of the ATOS. Ruhmer indicated he did not expect to invest much time in the project in 2000. ••• That’s fine, perhaps, as the lead time for the popular rigid wing from the German A.I.R. company is now reportedly 10 weeks backlogged despite recent efforts to pick up production with more molds working to make the exotic leading edge D-cells. Rigid interest is continuing in the new millennia with Flight Designs also happy with production that is reaching higher levels propelled by strong demand for their GhostBuster. ••• Another old friend, Joe Greblo wrote to say his shop Windsports is "doing great with the timely reopening of the old Playa Del Rey training hill." Joe says they only missed six days all winter. "It’s truly the most efficient beginner training hill I’ve ever heard of," he says. It doesn’t hurt that this site is near a popular beach, next to a busy highway, and adjacent to an active bicycle/skating path. • Joe’s been busy elsewhere, too, helping another large shop owner, Bay Area denizen Pat Deneven, erect a "horizontal cable-assisted training system," complete with stationary winch to control level flight. Greblo says it is his variation of my cable simulator that ran for years at Crystal Air Sports in Chattanooga. ••• Speaking of winches… a most interesting contraption was brought to my attention by Kevin Cosley. He is the owner of a unique winching system, built by my fellow USHGA Board member, Ed Pittman. Called a "bidirectional step towing" winch, the system is composed of a stationary drum winch on a trailer (slick enough by itself) and a pulley pole which you attach to your SUV or other heavier vehicle. Then using dual drums and basically towing from each end of a field, you can be power-step-towed back and forth to thermal height. Earlier step towing systems require the pilot to fly downwind and tow the line with him, losing altitude all the way. Then you turn back and are progressively towed higher with each "power stroke." In the Cosley system that Ed built, you are towed under power both directions. Kevin says that in their 2,300 foot field, they tow to 1,500-2,000 feet using this system. The whole shebang is well documented on Kevin’s web site at www.geocities.com/kpcos/index.htm. Endure the Geocities ads that keep popping up and I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you see, certainly if you’re into towing as a launch system. Windows users (only, unfortunately) can also see videos on the site. ••• Another entry in the "powered hang glider" field is the North Wing ATF soaring trike. ATF stands for "Air Time Fix," and that’s what these machines do for some pilots. Those who attended the Air Sports Expo in Albuquerque last March could examine one closely. A stout yet light trike, the ATF indeed appears to be built by a hang glider pilot for a hang glider pilot… yeah, even if it does have an engine and prop. Boss Kamron Blevins has shown an eye for these things and I hope to fly one at Sun ‘n Fun in a few days. Meanwhile, info: 509-886-460 or at NorthWing.com. (By the way, North Wing’s local dealer in Albuquerque raved about the customer service he receives from Kamron.) ••• Airwave Gliders, now headquartered in Austria, reports concluding six months of hard work moving all the old UK factory gear from an interim facility to their permanent one in Stubaital in Tirol (where the Stubai Cup is held). They have a new 6,500 square foot factory right in the middle of four good flying sites. Now that GW Meadows has added this brand to his list of interesting imports, American sales are sure to follow. Info: Airwave-Gliders.com or call 252-480-3552. ••• Got some entries in the Oops! Department. First, GW Meadows new business is not called Thermal Riding Machines, but rather Thermal Riding Vehicles. • And in another case, the Flytec varios boss, Steve Kroop set me straight on so-called Y2K problems. No problem exists on the 4000 series (my mention in the 3/00 "PL" had to do with operator reset error not Y2K, it turns out), however, the 3000 series does have a minor bug. The software doesn’t provide for century rollover, numerically. At the end of 1999, the 3000 units reverted to 1900. To correct the century error, "You merely reset the time and you won’t see the problem for another 100 years," Kroop said. • Steve also mentioned the Flytec challenge: for any official world record flight, he’ll return the cost of a Flytec used on the flight. That’s worth a few hundred in sponsorship dollars. Info: 800-662-2449. • Third, I failed to mention that Greg Black’s Mountain Wings is the importer of Woody Valley harnesses like the Tenax I wrote about in 3/00. ••• Outta room! 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. • All "Product Lines" columns will be available later this year at www.ByDanJohnson.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine