I figure I'd take a crack at some sort of Top 10 list for a Hang Gliding Year-in-Review...maybe a mix of a retrospective on 2022 and what to look forward to in 2023!
WillsWing seems to be the talk of the industry this year. Everyone is waiting with baited-breath to see them get back into the groove down in Mexico. Their production times seem to be really reasonable and they are making some really nice looking gliders. WillsWing has historically focused on the entry level gliders and worked to develop on up to the higher performing gliders - and that seems to be the case again as they are reloading down in Valle de Bravo. They seem to be producing a fair amount of Falcons and Sport3s. I hear a new Alpha model is on its way and we have hopes of a 'next generation' king-posted glider somewhere in the future. I sure hope we see T3s from them again when their carbon production can get going as the industry can't stand to lose even more model choices out there! I have been bugging them for years for a short-pack (2m) king posted glider so I can travel easier on planes leaving Canada....and I hear that is getting a lot closer.
Valle de Bravo Trip one regret I had was never getting to the WillsWing factory in California (aka the Chocolate Factory). I am not going to let that happen again so I am heading down to the Mexico factory in February to see it for my own eyes. That will be my return to Valle de Bravo after last being there in 2000 for the Millenium Cup. This trip will get me thru the Canadian winter blahs! It will also be my first foot-launch competition in about a decade!
Airborne - it is sad to see ANOTHER hang glider manufacturer close it's doors. I owned a couple of Airborne Funs years ago and enjoyed them. Their website says they are moving off-continent but just for their trike manufacturing. I hear they are looking for a buyer for their hang gliding production (Fun2s and Stings). I sure hope someone continues on with them
WoodyValley - I've always been a big fan of WoodyValleys hang gliding harnesses. Their Italian craftmanship has always been top notch and they have always had the most comprehensive line of harnesses on the markets - from trainers & double-decker tandem harness (Cabrio), entry level pods (Libero & Flex) and higher end harnesses (Cosmic & Tenax). It was sad to get their year-end report to dealers saying that they have discontinued the Cosmics and the Tenax4s. Their costs have escalated, they are short on labour and their PG harness business is just too busy - so they had to shave off some models...and unfortunately the high end harnesses are in the least demand. So we are down to just Moyes and Rotor for making high-end racing harnesses!
Red Rock Competition Back to a plus for 2023...there is a NEW hang gliding comp coming. The Red Rocks comp in Utah - June 2023. And it's a foot-launch comp and they are boasting expected climbs to 20,000'! I am really hoping to get there as I am up for exploring some new terrain. I have fond memories of going to the first comps in Arizona and hope to make the trek to Utah. I wish I had a short-pack glider to get on a plane...
Aeros I find it so heart-breaking to follow what is happening in the Ukraine - what a tragedy. It is so great to see their resilience and determination and it even shows in Aeros efforts to keep producing hang gliders and trikes. I was amazed to see the pictures of them trucking gliders out of the factory during the early bombing in Kiev to get them test flown in Europe and shipped out from there. Now I want to buy a Discus just to support them!
Ontario Canada Hang Gliding still growing! More on the good-news side. Despite hearing that hang gliding is on a global decline, it is still growing here in Ontario Canada. I always respected WillsWing for supporting their dealer network and focusing on helping out the hang gliding schools. It was always their mantra that having a healthy school makes the community grow. Of course we think that since we run one of Canada's largest hang gliding schools (I think there are only 5 left!). We focused this year on working closely with our local hang gliding club (SOGA) to ensure students past and present, and from other schools got into aerotowing. They saw a significant rise in membership this year because of it.
I am so looking forward to spring 2023 here as I have FOUR new gliders in production (2 Geckos & a Falcon & a Sport3) and have some eager customers awaiting their new wings! Spring can't come fast enough. Moyes must be busier than ever as their production times are about 4 months. I am sure they picked up a lot of business while WillsWing has been in their transition.
New Gliders & Gear Other tidbits on new gear...Icaro....man their gliders are things of beauty! I'd love to get my hands on their Piuma as I hear great things about them. I think it is a nice step-up from a Falcon/Malibu before pilots get to a double surface Gecko/Sport3. Icaro also is coming out with new Carbon helmets and bringing back their 4fight line of helmets. But you also should check out the new manufacture Predator - they make a beautiful new carbon helmet with visor. I just got a couple in and am keeping one for myself....they are THAT cool!!
XContest I love XContest! It is such a great way to share your flights and learn from other pilots. I have been administering the Canadian XContest for over a decade now and started using their integrated airspace tools to 'help' event/fly-in orgainzers keep their pilots honest on where they fly and helping to educate pilots on flying more responsibly. It's been tough at times policing it this year but it is a necessary evil to keep us flying responsibly, safe and legal!
Vortex Development What a year it has been on this front. This has been my big focus for 2022. We have developed the first all electric, tension-controlled stationary winch called the Vortex. It has taken 2 years to get it done but we are finally crating up our first serially produced Vortexes and sending them out to Western Canada, Colorado and to the US Midwest. It has been very exciting seeing it come to fruition. That was my other focus this year getting in over 400 tows with existing students and pilots. It's been quite the process refining the design and dealing with global supply chain issues & skyrocketing shipping rates.
Just wait to see where we take this...self-towing is coming....I promise! Hopefully before 2024!