ST PAUL, MINN — According to several newspapers across the USA, Eric Raymond has finally flown his solar-powered ultralight motorglider from San Diego to Kitty Hawk… well, almost. He reportedly called it quits nine miles short. I find this a fascinating project but can’t figure why Eric didn’t talk about it to the aviation press, in whose rags nary a word has been seen. Raymond once told me the project was “secret.” Even the San Diego HGA’s newsletter, the Flier, had to adapt the news from the LA Times ||| The bird looks sleek, with a shape surprisingly similar to Advanced Aviation’s Sierra (see earlier “Product Lines”), and has Sanyo sponsorship, using their new solar cells with a power-to-weight ratio ten times higher than conventional cells. The 57 foot span machine weighs 198 pounds and can cruise about 40 mph. Eric, you talkin’ yet? ||| Mr. Test Rig, Mark West, has a newer yet version to use in dynamically testing hang gliders. Up and running in May, West’s ARV (Aerodynamic Research Vehicle) has three component test ability: pitch, lift, and drag. All this feeds directly into an IBM AT-class computer. West has motorized the connection to the glider so that from inside the cab, he can adjust angles. One of his earliest projects with the ARV was for Moyes on their XS model. ||| Les King has a slick new helmet, MAX, purpose designed for hang gliding. It’s a high tech, high price, superlight job made of carbon fiber and spectra cloth. If you’ve got $150, they don’t get any lighter. Call King at 805/822-9244. ||| Wills’ latest news states their new Spectrum (begin/inter.) glider is a flying sweetheart, deliveries of which have just begun. ||| But the biggest news from the Santa Ana bunch (in my opinion, of course) is their formal entry to the paragliding market. Of course, a new product line could increase their business. Plus the entry by the USA’s biggest diver builder could add a new thrust to the growth of paragliding in America. Maybe this quote says it all: “Our experience [time spent in Europe last summer] has convinced us that paragliding offers probably the most easy access to aviation that presently exists, and that because of this the sport of paragliding will see significant growth in the United States during the next five years…” Wow! In 1995, I’ll look back on that comment and we’ll see if the WW’ers guessed right. Many are skeptical. The APA has a mere 500 members. On the other hand, Japan allegedly forecasts 100,000 paragliding pilots in five years — more than all hang glider pilots in the world today!! With nearly half of their hang glider production leaving the USA, maybe Wills is betting they can at least sell enough paragliders internationally to risk a dilution of their talent by entering this newest form of flight. Only time will tell. ||| Bill Moyes in Australia seems to be orienting himself in another direction but one which still suggests all manufacturers may be bumping along the top of the hang glider’s performance envelope. It is my observation that if new performance gains are hard to realize, then sales may decline (since last year’s diver might keep up with tomorrow’s superwing). If so, new business must be generated to sustain our largest glider manufacturers. Bill Moyes is clearly focused on aerotugs (see prior editions of this column), but he chose a 3-axis design over using a trike. He wrote a long explanation of this decision and has allowed me to excerpt portions. In summary, he feels “Builders are expecting too much from these [rogallo-based] wings.” By that he mainly refers to powering hang gliders via trikes, even though this has been done successfully all over Europe. As our “butterfly wings” have evolved, Moyes feels we have reached a point where “further development of this wing [construction] for powered use [is restricted] by airframe limitations.” In related references he also suggests that crossbar loads have reached a rather finite point as well. Don’t misunderstand. Moyes still loves and will continue developing tailless wings. But for towing he believes the 3-axis wing with tail is superior. Unlike the Wills paragliding diversification, Moyes appears to be searching for new ways to grow hang gliding participation and good tow capability is fundamental. ||| If hang gliders, ultralights, and paragliders are the “New Aviation” (my term), each of these disciplines may argue that they are the most likely way that new people will enter aviation. The introduction of the ultralight sailplane (Sierra) and ultralight motorglider (Cloud Dancer) further blur the lines between the three “New Aviation” segments. ||| What’s your feeling? Let me know! ||| Outta room. Next time, news from Seedwings, PacAir, and more! Got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118, or call 612/457-7491 (days). FAX: 612/457-8651. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine