Early powered ultralights part 2


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Early powered ultralights part 2

This page continues from Early powered ultralights part 1.

Most of the images on this page are artistic derivations of contemporary photos. See Copyright of early hang gliding photos.

Powered ultralights enabled greater access to the skies than was previously possible.

Pterodactyl at a filling station. Photo by Charles O'Rear, 1983, reprinted courtesy Ultralight Flying! magazine.
Pterodactyl at a filling station. Photo by Charles O’Rear, 1983 reprinted courtesy Light Sport and Ultralight Flying magazine.
Assembling a powered ultralight in a living room. Photo by Charles O'Rear, 1983, reprinted courtesy Ultralight Flying! magazine.
Assembly shop. Photo by Charles O’Rear, 1983, reprinted courtesy Light Sport and Ultralight Flying magazine.

Mike Loehie with his 'Aeroplane' at Sun 'n Fun '82. Photo by Tracy Knauss.
Mike Loehie with his ‘Aeroplane’ at Sun ‘n Fun ’82. Photo by Tracy Knauss reprinted courtesy Light Sport and Ultralight Flying magazine.

The sturdy yet voluminous nature of the biplane found a modern resurgence in powered ultralights. Most if not all biplane ultralights were derived from Taras Kicenuik’s Icarus 2 (see School for perfection in Hang gliding 1973 part 2.).


Eipper won the Experimental Aircraft Association Outstanding Craftsmanship award at the Tullahoma fly-in of 1980.

Tina Trefethen and Lyle Byrum of Eipper in 1980
Tina Trefethen and Lyle Byrum of Eipper in 1980. Photo reprinted courtesy Light Sport and Ultralight Flying magazine.

See Curved leading edges and Kössen 1975 in Hang gliding 1975 part 1 for Tina Trefethen’s run-in (doubtless friendly) with hang gliding pioneer Bill Moyes.

Ordained church minister and former light airplane dealer Lyle Byrum (he was also a construction engineer, building launch facilities at White Sands missile range) bought out Eipper-Formance in 1980. He viewd Eipper’s production figures of hang gliders (500 Eippers sold per year) and powered ultralights (3,000 Eippers sold per year)…

Quicksilver advert in Glider Rider, May 1981
Eipper Quicksilver advert in Glider Rider, May 1981 reprinted courtesy Light Sport and Ultralight Flying magazine

We immediately discontinued the production of hang gliders. As a large manufacturer, I saw no future in it, no return on investment. In terms of public popularity, hang gliding does not have near the potential of powered ultralights.

— Lyle Byrum (*)

Tom Price with Eipper Quicksilver MX in early 1983
Tom Price with Eipper Quicksilver MX in early 1983

In early 1983 Tom Price re-joined Eipper Aircraft, for whom he had worked in its days as one of the first three hang glider manufacturers in the world. See Tom Price’s flying machines for more.

Eipper Quicksilver MX advert in Glider Rider, 1981
From the Eipper Quicksilver MX advert in Glider Rider, 1981. Reprinted courtesy Light Sport and Ultralight Flying magazine.

The Quicksilver was an early hang glider which became the basis of a popular line of powered ultralights. This is a multi-axis control variant incorporating spoilerons for roll control. The original Quicksilver had only a rudder and lots of dihedral. The rudder put the craft into a skid and the dihedral then caused it to roll. Kind of weird, but it seemed to work.

The Quicksilver was manufactured by Eipper Formance Inc. See the Eipper-Formance of Torrance, California, related topics menu.

Rotec Rally 2B advert of 1982
Rotec Rally 2B advert of 1982
Ted Rhudy in a Quicksilver receives a briefing from Virgil Reiners in 1981
Ted Rhudy in a Quicksilver receives a briefing from Virgil Reiners in 1981. Reprinted courtesy Light Sport and Ultralight Flying magazine.

Ted Rhudy was partly paralyzed in a car crash, but that did not prevent him from learning to fly. See also Ability in Hang gliding 1990 to 1993.

Eipper Quicksilver advert, 1982
From the Eipper Quicksilver advert, 1982. Reprinted courtesy Light Sport and Ultralight Flying magazine.
The Ultralite Soaring Inc. Wizard of 1981 looked a lot like a Quicksilver.
The Ultralite Soaring Inc. Wizard of 1981 looked a lot like a Quicksilver. Reprinted courtesy Light Sport and Ultralight Flying magazine.

The dream of personal powered flight from a field near your home became reality with the invention of powered ultralights. However, because of low flying rules in most countries, flying from a field as close as this to your home is, for most people, not a realistic aim.


Tony Prentice in a trike-powered Southdown Sailwings Sigma in 1981
Tony Prentice in a trike-powered Southdown Sailwings Sigma in 1981

While some lines of powered ultralight development became more like lightweight conventional airplanes, the power ‘trike’ brought back the barnstorming days of the beginnings of aviation, but with the increased safety and efficiency of hang glider technology.

View from a powered ultralight in 1981
View from Tony Prentice’s Sigma powered ultralight

Tony Prentice designed and built flex-wing hang gliders in the 1960s. (See Earliest hang gliders.) Here, he takes advantage of the high performance of the Sigma bowsprit-rigged hang glider under power, flying with the Wealden Microlight Club in Kent.

Tony Prentice flying a trike-powered Southdown Sailwings Sigma in 1981
In flight (photographer not known)
Southdown Sailwings Sigma with powered hang glider
Tony Prentice’s Sigma with power trike

The red cylinder mounted on the keel at the back is a Skymaster emergency parachute. (See also the Southdown Sailwings, Vulturelite, and Aerial Arts of Sussex, England related topics menu.)


Tony Prentice in a Waspair Falcon 4 with a 90cc back pack engine in 1982
Tony Prentice in a Waspair Falcon 4 with a 90cc back pack engine in 1982

For this experiment, conducted on the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England, Tony reverted to a 1970s hang glider of Super Swallowtail type design owned by Pete Scott and Derek George of the Britten Norman Skysurfers Club. (Britten Norman made the Islander series of light transport aircraft.) They made Tony Prentice an honorary member of the club.


Demon with Jetwing trike power unit
Demon with Jetwing trike power unit. Reprinted courtesy Light Sport and Ultralight Flying magazine.

The Demon, made by Flight Designs of Salinas, California, was derived from the British Hiway Demon. See Marty Alameda and Flight Designs.


Southdown Sailwings Puma trike power unit with Lightning II hang glider in 1981
Southdown Sailwings Puma trike power unit with Lightning II hang glider in 1981. Photo reprinted courtesy Light Sport and Ultralight Flying magazine.

Southdown Sailwings, based on the south coast of England, was a leading hang glider manufacturer. See the Southdown Sailwings, Vulturelite, and Aerial Arts of Sussex, England related topics menu.


Roly flying a Southdown Sailwings Lightning with a trike power unit
Roly Lewis-Evans flying a Southdown Sailwings Lightning with a trike power unit

In the following air-to-air photo, a flex-wing powered ultralight (middle left) shoots the space shuttle runway at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was taken by hang glider sail-maker Roly Lewis-Evans in about 1999. He writes, “…you could call up NASA radio and get permission to run along it and return, not below 500′.”

A flex-wing powered ultralight (middle left) shoots the space shuttle runway in Florida in about 1999
Over the space shuttle landing zone

According to the wiki, it is one of the longest runways in the world, at 4,572 metres (15,000 ft), and is 91.4 meters (300 ft) wide.

Why the 500 foot height rule? Who knows? However, that stretch of water reminds me of these words:

About a week before the launch of Apollo 14, Cernan was flying a helicopter over the Banana River, enjoying the clear air and the smooth, mirrorlike water — so smooth, in fact, that he misjudged his altitude and crashed into the river. The chopper exploded in flames, and Cernan had to dive into the water to escape being burned to death.

— Andrew Chaikin, A Man on the Moon, the Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts, 1994

NASA Vehicle Assembly Building, Florida
Vehicle Assembly Building photographed by Roly aboard a powered ultralight

At the time of writing, the Vehicle Assembly Building, which contained the Saturn V moon rockets and space shuttles while they were assembled, is the largest single-story building in the world.

Related

Space flight and hang gliding

External links

The following video is on Dan Johnson’s YouTube channel Light Sport and Ultralight Flyer:

Reference

Tracy Knauss interview of Lyle Byrum, Glider Rider, February 1982

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