by Carla Page 

Was that an ultralight flying over Harris Hill in late July? It sure was! The Carbon Dragon prototype flew here as a highlight of the 1996 Eastern Sailplane Homebuilders Association Workshop and the opening of the NSM's 1996 Designer/Builder Series exhibit featuring Irv Culver and the late Jim Maupin.

Brought from Kansas by owner Gary Osoba, the Carbon Dragon was designed by Maupin and Culver. Maupin's daughter, Janice, attended the workshop and said she was in high school when her dad designed the ship. He added a big room off his garage in which to work and contacted a famous designer - Culver - to help with his creation. "It was really his obsession," Janice said. Today she helps her mother run the business, James Maupin, Ltd.

Osoba heard that the Maupin/Culver exhibit was being unveiled at the NSM and was quickly persuaded to trek east with Maupin's prototype for a live demonstration. He told the SHA group that there are limitations on the Carbon Dragon. "You should weigh 150 or less to build one." He said Maupin's original concept of the ship was a 100-lb empty weight flyer. Osoba recommends a limit on the speed to 40 knots. "If you want to go faster, don't build a Carbon Dragon."

The ship has endurance, however. At the "Cowbell Classic" in Kansas, participants can go in any direction with the one going the furthest named the winner. Osoba won in the Carbon Dragon - at a 2 to 1 rate over the other sailplanes. His average flight in it is a little under five hours.

NSM Trustee Paul A. Schweizer said Osoba demonstrated some short flights on July 26, a couple three-hour flights on July 27 and a four-hour trip into the evening on July 28. "It clearly demonstrated the possibilities of the Carbon Dragon and this type of low-sink soaring." The Carbon Dragon was auto-towed off Harris Hill by Steve Adkins, Osoba's right hand man. Osoba reached out of the cockpit to raise the wing by pressing down on the ground until the tow car accelerated.

Osoba was thrilled to perform for the SHA workshop. He referred to the United States as "the place where all the innovations in soaring are taking place. SHA is the organization that is fostering this," he said. Since conditions for flying are basically very mediocre, he said we need to maximize our soaring time, so the ultralights make a lot of sense.

He described to the group the techniques of 'microlift' - a word coined a couple of years ago referring to a realm of flight which takes place much closer to earth than high performance glider pilots are used to working.

Dave Hudnut, SHA member, said Osoba's understanding of microlift probably stems from his long experience in the 1970's as a hang glider pilot and manufacturer. Osoba incorporated the first company to build hang gliders and produced 5,000-6,000 of them over a seven year span. Osoba said he designed and test flew 32 different models, eventually producing 14 of them. The company maintained a subassembly plant in Europe. He was a founding director of the U.S. Hanggliding Association. Osoba's interest soon veered to hot air balloons and then fixed wings and now on to sailplanes.

He was a contributing designer of the foot-launchable Canard 2FL in Switzerland which was 98 pounds - lighter than the Carbon Dragon. Osoba contributed design ideas to Culver and Maupin and kept after them about the Carbon Dragon prototype.

Osoba has logged 400 hours of flight time and set several world records including the first foot-launched glider or ultralight to ever win a scheduled cross country contest, in June 1994. His longest duration totals eight hours, with his distance exceeding 300 miles.

He has flown the Carbon Dragon about 100 hours each year. "It climbs better than any glider in the world," he says. When he started exploring microlift he "could outclimb any bird. This glider is capable of it."

Osoba is currently associated with Danny How-ell and Bruce Carmichael in designing and building the CIBA Hawk, an extremely light 15-meter sailplane which he says "will be the most efficient craft per pound of weight produced to meet structural and international safety standards."

At just 43 years old, Osoba has come a long way from his 12-year-old adventures of jumping off a two story house armed only with cardboard inflatable wings. He is now one of three founding directors of the U.S. Ultralight Soaring Association. It was a treat for SHA members to have him at their workshop