ST. PAUL, MINN. — I very rarely refer to something already Published in Hang Gliding MagazineHG mag, but this time I feel driven to make an exception. The subject is accidents, a topic eruditely addressed (as always) by Mike Meier in the September issue. ••• Before getting to his essay, I first read what I viewed to be a disturbing set of statistics: 10.1% of respondees to USHGA’s survey (of 1,169 members) reported an injury accident. Two thirds of these among hang glider pilots and more than half the time medical or professional treatment was needed; one sixth required overnight hospitalization. Good heavens! Odds of one in twenty needing a doctor in the next year are not encouraging. Over half appear to be at launch or landing. ••• Combine those sobering facts with Meier’s compelling message about pilot decision making as the primary determinant of safety. We’ll need to work hard if we are to alter the scenario. And, paragliding may be worse! ••• In the July 1998 issue of their combined magazine, Skywings, the British HG/PG association (BHPA) published their own accident investigation. Their overall figures were much less at 2.2% of members injured, however, that broke down further to only 1.6% for their 2,188 Hang members. Balancing the scale was a significant 4.5% of their 4,276 Para members. As disturbing as the American figures was a high degree of moderate or major injury resulting for 69% of Hang pilot injuries and 58% of Para injuries. ••• Look, very few people like to read this type of information, but when the stats are this glaring, they need consideration… PLEASE fly safely! ••• Turning to cheerier news but drawing from the same USHGA survey, you could read for yourself the mix of glider brand market share enjoyed by various manufacturers. The numbers are self-explanatory, but I think I might add a little perspective that mere recitation of the facts won’t bring. Market leader Wills Wing has been on an upward track, gradually but steadily taking an ever-increasing share of the American market. The new survey showed them at a 1990s high of about 47%, no surprise to anyone, right? Maybe… but I say it’s got to be higher, maybe a lot higher. Pacific Airwave is long gone, yet they claimed 25%!? That can’t last and next year or the year beyond, WW will be branded on 60% or more of all gliders sold in America, I’d guess. • Another sleeper is the consistent growth of Moyes, now up to over 12% of the U.S. market. Certainly, new Moyes America director Ken Brown deserves some of the credit for this, but the pattern has been long forming. They’ve grown steadily since I started following closely in the early 90s when they had a modest 3% of the market. • Seedwings remained small but steady at 3% of the U.S. output. Exxtacy, Millennium, or other rigid wings didn’t show up on the radar at all, nor did Predator, Laminar, Extreme, or Topless, further showing how these statistics lag behind current events. ••• In fact, rigid wing expert Dave Sharp (who claims he’s really a mild mannered family man, not a "hot shot") compiled a few stats of his own. He states, "With the exception of the Nationals, the [D-cell rigid wing] Hybrids have won every major meet this summer." He lists the ACC and Millennium, Sandia and Exxtacy, the U.S. Nats title and an Exxtacy, Region 2 Regionals and a Millennium, the Chelan XC meet and an Exxtacy, plus the Wild West and a Millennium. I don’t know the validity of the survey and I’d say it doesn’t matter much. This new wave of wings is more pervasive than anything in years. Even topless flex wings don’t look quite as new in their shadow. • Since Dave also referred to the wave of rigid wings as "Stiffys," I guess it shows we still don’t know what we want to call these aircraft. "Rigid wings" doesn’t sound as accurate as we once thought. Oh well, such heavy issues are better decided over beers or sodas in the LZ. ••• But all this is hang gliding. The other world we inhabit is paragliding. And that carries us to yet another survey. The "combined issue" of Hang Gliding in July had a survey form in the centerfold. As of late August, nearly 700 had arrived with a reported 8-10 more included in every day’s mail. • Did you like it? The early answer: 15 said they were NOT satisfied, but 406 (64%) stated they were "highly or medium highly satisfied." The bigger question is, "Do you think it is time to combine our flying activities into one magazine?" Out of 655 responses, 17 didn’t answer, 454 "voted" to combine, 183 "voted" not to combine. That breaks down to 71% FOR and 29% AGAINST the idea (discounting "No Answer" replies). Voters included 62% Hang pilots, 26% Para pilots, and 12% Both pilots. • Executive Director Phil Bachman, in okaying the early release of figures said, "Be sure to point out that this input is only one of the several factors that must be brought into the equation before the Board of Directors can make a decision to combine or not combine." He cited examples of cost analysis, advertiser’s schedule and related cost effects, subscription revenues, and other details. • Obviously, it’s too early to tell much, but the topic is less contentious than I thought it might be. Cheers to tolerance! ••• Stories ahead include more towparks, a book review, Mexican wintertime flying, and the East Coast "Turbulent Talent Triangle." ••• So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Vmail or fax to (new area code!) 651-450-0930 or eMail to CumulusMan@aol.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine