The BALL GRAPHICS COMP A "Do Everything" Instrument With a "Bank Account Friendly" Price

by Bob Thompson


Ball Varios, long a leader in aviation instruments, is in the process of evolving the ultimate "DO EVERYTHING" instrument. Their current model is a compromise for the needs of both soaring and hang gliding competition, and performs an amazing number of functions. Realizing the potential market for very specifically tailored instrumentation, Ball is working to come up with two separate instruments, each providing exactly what each sport wants in an "ULTIMATE INSTRUMENT". Ball is working with several world class hang glider pilots to optimize an instrument for hang gliding, and they are working with me and others in designing the optimum instrument for soaring.


A little background info on myself is appropriate at this point. I have been active in sport flying since 1971 when I earned my Single Engine Power private flying rating. In 1973 I also took up hang gliding, and soon began selling hang gliders and equipment, including Ball Varios. Thus, my interactions with Ball have a long history. I did well in hang gliding, including setting the FAI World Distance Record of 140 miles in 1982, won 5 Arizona State X-C championships, share the Arizona distance record of 218 miles with Hans Heydrich, and share with Hans the honor of being the only hang gliding pilots in the world to ever fly across the Grand Canyon (twice in the same flight, which originated from Mt. Elden in Flagstaff). On all my flights my Ball 651 vario / altimeter with its 1 foot digital altimeter was a MAJOR factor in my hang gliding success. I also earned my Master Pilot rating, Advanced Instructor rating, Tandem Pilot rating, and Gold badge with both diamonds. During my hang gliding carrier I flew in sailplanes off and on, and finally completely switched to soaring about a year and a half ago. Last summer I purchased my first glider, Ventus B 39JL, which was equipped with the complete Cambridge vario / GPS / flight computer / flight recorder system. The glider and instrument both treated me very well, but something was missing. I really missed sharing soaring flight with others. So.... I sold 39JL, and am currently eagerly awaiting the arrival of a new DouDiscus 2 place 45:1 glider which several of us are partnering in.


Enough of my background, now let's get on with talking about the new instrument I'm so excited about: the BALL GRAPHICS COMP. As I said above, Ball already has a pretty great unit, which I can provide immediately, and I will be describing in this report. BUT, several of us are also working with Ball in re-doing the unit a bit to be very soaring specific, and any input from you folks in what you would like to see in a total instrument will be very welcome. Mike Hostage has been very successfully using an early model of the Graphics Comp in his Pioneer glider 5MH, and Russ McAnerny recently added a current edition of a Graphics Comp to his PW5.


OK, what does the present Ball Graphics Comp have to offer? First of all, the unit measures 4 1/2' X 6" and has a 3" X 4" face. When connected to a GPS (I use a Garmen 12XL) it can do all sorts of things. You can switch between 3 screens: Thermal screen, speed to fly screen, and navigation screen. On these screens are all sorts of information: analog and digital vario, average climb rate, total energy vario, netto vario, speed to fly vario with visual and audio prompt, digital airspeed, groundspeed from GPS, digital 1 foot accurate altimeter, L/D readout (choice of groundspeed vs. sink rate or airspeed vs. sink rate), real time clock, flight time clock, temperature, current tracking from GPS, recording barograph, moving map display with up to 99 turnpoints and 8 routes, final glide calculator


The Graphics Comp can hold up to 8 polars, which can be created by the Comp, computer downloaded to the Comp, or modified / edited in the Comp. In final glide operation the computer can take over and tell you EVERYTHING (based on parameters you have input into it): If you are using the Thermal or Navigation screen when you reach final glide altitude, a message will flash across the vario: "Go on final." The screen can then be switched to the Speed to Fly screen once you go on glide to goal (this will be automatic if automatic switching is activated). If you hit lift while on final glide the Graphics Comp calculates if it is worth your while to stop and work the lift. The closer you are to goal, the stronger this lift must be to result in a faster flight. If the instrument decides the lift is worthwhile, the Thermal screen appears and you should climb until you get another message: "Go on final."


Using this unit is really quite a trip! It seems to do just about everything but tell you where the thermals are ahead. Coasting along and watching the L/D readout is REALLY fascinating for me. The unit I have is portable and can either used with a separate pitot / static or plugged into a "T" spliced into existing tubing in any glider. The future Comp designed specifically for gliders will fit into a 3 1/2 hole and have the same 4 1/2 X 6" face. All units can be upgraded whenever changes come along for a nominal fee.


I am in Colorado for the summer, but will be back in Arizona on August 15 and will be able to share this nifty instrument with you then. During this time I will continue to work with Ball on coming up with a package designed to do everything the soaring pilot might want. For any of you interested in giving input as to what functions you might like to see included in this instrument, please send your comments and input to me at 2094 C.R. 500 Bayfield, CO 81122. I'll be more than happy to consider your input.


Oh, yes, the "Bank Account Friendly" cost of this gizmo: $1195, not including GPS and connector. A complete unit, including Garmin GPS12XL and cable would cost $1445...... a SMOKIN DEAL compared to what the competition has to offer!! I am the Arizona rep for Ball Varios, and would love to put a bunch of these things in the Arizona sky. Give me a call (970) 884-9302 or write me a letter or catch me when I get back to town. And maybe check with Russ McAnerny to see one. I'll have mine out at Turf on the weekend I get back to Arizona (August 16 & 17).



Group Flys 350 sm Triangle

by Tony Smolder


Two weeks ago (6/8) several of us flew a 350 mile FAI triangle out of Turf. Ken Olson, Cliff Hilty, and myself made the trip via Kingman, Brenda Jct, and return. Both Ken and I flew ballasted, while Cliff flew dry.


It was not really a great day, with cloudbase at 10.5K, but the clouds were streeting on the first leg to Kingman and the last leg to Turf, which is what made this flight possible in below average conditions for June.


Take-off was around 12:30 pm into a beautiful cu filled sky. Climb out off tow was quick and easy. Very good time was made to Bagdad (57 minutes) but weak conditions around Wikieup slowed us all down. I made the first turn in 1hr, 53 minutes for the 140 miles. The second leg was the slowest with lots of blue and only a few scattered cu's. Some fairly rugged and inhospitable country lies between Kingman and Brenda Jct. It would have been nice to have had a couple more thousand feet above the 10K we were getting to, but there are a few landing strips and some agriculture fields. The second leg was 109 miles and took me about 1:35 to complete. Once turning Brenda Jct it was a very fast run to Wickenburg where I decided to turn and head back out to Harquahala Peak and meet up with 6K who was turning Salome instead of Brenda (late start). The clouds were working great and the run from Wickenburg to Harquahala Peak only required one turn and 15 or so minutes. Fast run back to Turf with 6K.


Distances for the day were:

TS1 - 420 miles in 5:38

KO - 358 miles

CH - 356 miles

6K - 320 miles



June Board Minutes

by Jeff Turner


The meeting was held at Barro’s pizza (7th St. and Coral Gables) on June 20, 1997. The meeting began at 5:30 PM.



Ken Olson (President)

Hans Heydrich (Treasurer)

Jeff Turner (Secretary)

Jim Burch (Board Member)

John Goodman (Board Member)

Tony Smolder (Board Member)

Kirk Stant (Aircraft Manager)


Minutes of the April meeting were read by the Secretary, and adopted with out any changes.


The Treasurer gave a report of the current finances of the organization, which is summarized as follows:


Checking Account Activity

  • + $175 Membership Fees Received

    - $442 Expenses

  • $734 Current Balance


    Savings Account Activity

  • + $8.03 Interest Income
  • $2141.89 Current Balance


    Contest Series Account Activity

  • + $212 Income

    -$695 Laptop PC w/integral printer

    -$475 Willcox Tow Expenses (Neil McCloud)

    - $532Willcox Tow Expenses (TuSC)

  • $844.47 Current Balance


    Combined Aircraft Account

    $2300 Approx Balance


    The Treasurer’s report was accepted unanimously.




    The first additional payment to Bob Blakemore for the purchase of the Grob 102 has come due. The aircraft account does not have enough to cover this payment and the upcoming insurance premium. The club will pay Bob from the savings account. Revenues from the use of the aircraft will be used at a later date to repay this loan.


    The board is concerned that revenues from the Grob were not nearly enough to cover it’s additional purchase payment. Records regarding revenues and expenses were not available at this time due to Kirk Stant taking over the job of aircraft manager only days earlier. Kirk offered to have up to date records available next week and e-mail them to board members. Kirk is also preparing an article for the next newsletter to discuss it’s little secrets and the fact that it is tied out at Turf under it’s new set of covers, available for use. The board will meet in three weeks to further discuss this issue.


    After the check for the Grob is written the savings account will be closed and the excess amount (~ $142) will be transferred to the checking account. This change was planned earlier an attempt to consolidate accounts.


    Ken was contacted by an individual from Reno regarding a possible trade of a 2-place Lark for our 1-34. This opportunity will be pursued, possibly with Ken making a visit to Reno when his schedule allows.


    The clubs oxygen system is once again up and operating. Cliff Hilty will be reimbursed from the contest account $80 for fittings and $66 for having all three bottles filled. The club will also purchase an additional bottle (~ $200) so that a high and a low bottle will be available while the other cylinders are out being filled in the future. Due to the clubs need for revenue, members will be charged $5 each fill up, non-members will be charged $10. This is still an excellent price for our members, yet allows the setup to be maintained. Charges will be issued retroactive to the date when the system was returned to service earlier this year. Collection of charges will be on the honor system. A box will be affixed to the oxygen trailer for housing a log book for oxygen system use.




    There will be a party at Turf on July 19 to coincide with a contest date. Jim Burch will organize a mailer and a newsletter notice. It is intended to be a "bring your own" event where members will bring a meat to cook on the grill and a side dish to pass. Roy will provide a hot grill, soft drinks and beer.


    Ken will contact Roy at Turf to see if he will waive the club aircraft tiedown fees due to the revenue they provide for Turf.


    The contest fund purchased a laptop computer with integral printer for $695. It will now be possible to have scores available the same day.


    ASA contest series status: 11 days flown thus far, no days canceled. The contest day scheduled for October 5th at El Tiro will most likely be dropped from the schedule due to the length of this years series. 35 pilots have paid for the full contest series.


    Kirk Stant is the new aircraft manager, he will provide a report to the board on aircraft use and finances at the next meeting.


    The next board meeting will be held on July 11th at Barro’s pizza (7th St. and Coral Gables) at 6:00 PM.


    The meeting adjourned at 8:00 PM.







    SATURDAY, JULY 19, 6:00 PM












    JIM BURCH 942-2734



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