ST. PAUL, MINN., — You know, it seems like quite some time since I wrote about a new flexwing hang glider but in this month’s "Product Lines," I’m pleased to tell you about a new topless entry. It’s AirBorne’s new Climax 154. First some specs: area is 154 squares, span is 34.1 foot, AR is 7.6, nose angle is 127-133 degrees, and it has 90% double surface with 32 battens, a weight of 77 pounds, and recommended pilot weight of 155-275. AirBorne says it takes only 10 minutes to assemble and packs down to 17.4 feet (short pack to 12.8 feet). Well, the specs don’t differ much from any other topless, so let’s look a little further. • The company has already found success with their entry-level Fun, intermediate Sting II, and recreational Shark. As principal Ricky Duncan said, "The only product missing from our range was a truly high performance glider." Besides the obvious removal of upper rigging, they reversed prior AirBorne patterns and went with the more widely accepted elliptical tip and changed their older Shark cam-VG system to allow a tighter VG full-on setting. They claim "much lower operating pressures, which also minimizes the amount of rope flopping around in the breeze." Their cam-VG system does not require the crossbar to be pulled aft which AirBorne feels better preserves the shape of the airfoil to hold down trim speeds and maintain more conventional pitch forces. The Aussies believe trim speeds rise on many topless designs while pitch forces decrease and they consider both of these to be "design problems." In addition, Duncan feels the sprogs and tip dive devices work better with their cam-VG system. • AirBorne’s Climax sail uses an "improved Mylar pocket arrangement" that smooths airflow around the leading edge to the lower surface. This works in conjunction with new double nose ribs because, "Tests have shown us that leading edge deformation starts at the nose during higher speeds." Early flight testing was "exciting" and they should be nearing certification as you read this with production commencing next month. They won’t sell the glider until certification is complete and expect to set a price in November. Info: fly@AirBorne.com.au or see their website. ••• AirBorne’s entry may be tardy but necessary, at least according to a review of contest results among flexwings. Betihno Schmitz reports that average contest speeds before topless gliders (that is, before about 1998) were around 25 mph. Whereas, in meets he’s examined since, the average speeds rose to 30-32 mph, an increase of better than 20%. He believes this increase is a result of pilots seeking to reduce their drag while increasing their effective wing loading. Schmitz doesn’t see that such reduction in drag is worthwhile on gliders with upper rigging, normally shaped downtubes, and wires routed to the conventional control bar corners. Some contest pilots employ small changes like attaching the wires halfway down the downtubes and Schmitz thinks these tiny drag reductions can actually help when paired with a cleaner topless wing. ••• We run from the very latest to the oldest… Some called it the "Geezer Fly-in," but whatever the name, the assembly produced, as Mike Riggs put it, "not a dry eye in the area." Many of the Who’s Who of hang gliding history gathered at Joe Greblo’s "Reunion Fly-in" at Dockweiler Beach. This’ll surely make a story in our favorite rag, but it certainly sounded like an amazing gathering that I wished I could’ve attended. Over 300 luminaries or ex-luminaries did go and the one day event was heralded as a huge success. The list of old timers was lengthy and impressive. ••• Mentioning Mike Riggs (Seagull Aircraft boss from the 1970s), I want to add that the fly-in gave him additional feedback on his new soaring trike, inspired by my writing — or whining — back a few issues ago. The amount of mail and messages I’ve received on this idea suggests it could be a big market success and Mike got more positive strokes for his work at Dockweiler. He’ll call it the "Pod Racer," a nifty play on the latest Star Wars flick and the company name will be… ha!, you guessed, Seagull. While out west, Riggs was encouraged to make the Pod Racer into a family of designs to include a simple Sport Pod model with less streamlining, fixed gear, more openness, and maybe less weight. Joe Greblo, who’s been interested in Mike’s work for months, asked for a two seat trainer version. But the first one will be the full-on Pod Racer with retractable gear, full windscreen (with openings for arm movement to allow full control bar range), an integral BRS parachute, faired trike/wing attachments, and a welded steel internal structure plus a plastic body that should resist dings and dents. "It should have front-plate drag not much more than a clean prone pilot," contends Riggs. I know I’m pumped by his work. If you are too, you might dash off an e-mail to Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org. ••• One of the responses I got was from Kamron Blevins, proprietor of North Wing Design. Many of you should know his name but for those who don’t, Kamron has been building hang glider wings for nearly two decades. I’ve flown several of his wings (on trikes) and I’ve been tickled pink with the handling. He’s now branched into powered trikes which I’ve also flown and liked. One of these, he says, could do duty as a soaring trike if built without an engine. It may not be the highly faired Pod Racer that Riggs is building but he certainly ought to be a player and he’s already got a well established production facility. Info: 509-886-4605 or email@example.com. ••• A "former skydiving champ turned movie stuntman turned movie writer turned movie director," Guy Manos is a name that may endear itself to the hang gliding community. He says, "I wrote the Wesly Snipes movie ‘Dropzone’ and just finished directing my first feature… another skydiving based action flick called ‘Cutaway’ staring Stephen Baldwing, Tom Berenger and Dennis Rodman." He made money for the studio on these so he adds, "Hollywood is anxious for me to do another movie." He says they never want you to stray too far from what you know so he’s trying to prepare a script to re-make ‘Skyriders,’ the hang gliding movie from the 70s starring Wills Wing gliders and James Coburn. I wish Guy success as this was a neat movie back when and, professionally done in modern style, might provide quite a publicity boost for our sport. Info: firstname.lastname@example.org. ••• After being USHGA’s Executive Director for over six years, Phil Bachman resigned. He cited personal reasons and family for his departure and will help the association through a transition period, but he bid farewell only a month before the fall board of directors meeting. Over the years I’ve enjoyed my contact with Phil and certainly wish him well in the future. The fall board meeting will update directors on plans to replace Bachman. ••• Well, more news is waiting but room is gone once again. • 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