Hang gliding 1974 part 3
This page continues from Hang gliding 1974 part 2.
Many of the images on this page are my artistic derivations of contemporary photos. See Copyright of early hang gliding photos.
Roger Platt of Poole in Dorset, England, bought this glider from somebody in Brighton, Sussex, via an advert in the weekly periodical Exchange & Mart. We suspect that it is an early Skyhook with a replacement control frame and a stand-up webbing harness, like that made by Wasp in Surrey, rather than a Skyhook seat harness. Notice the absence of top rigging and the flapping of the distorted sail.
Roger previously manufactured surf boards. In keeping with the ‘surfing model’ of early southern California hang gliding, wittingly or otherwise, together with Pete Jordan, he started manufacturing hang gliders and harnesses under the name Kestrel Kites in Poole.
Technical: Roger is clearly experiencing difficulty in getting the glider nose-down enough to gain adequate airspeed. The large amount of billow undoubtedly caused a forward center of lift, which would account for that. All these gliders seemed prone to lurching to one side or the other as a result of turbulence. That might be because of the pointed wing tips: Some years later, Rollin Klingberg discovered that the ‘stickiness’ of air molecules (so-called Reynolds number) causes airfoils of short chord — such as those at the tip of a standard Rogallo — (at the short spans and low airspeeds of hang gliders) to stall at a comparatively low angle of attack. It seems to me that could affect standard Rogallos even with their huge washout (wing twist). When batten-supported tip roach was introduced the following year, gliders so equipped seemed to me much better behaved (as well as being more efficient).
I saw John Jenkins’ glider flying subsequently and I was struck by the way its thin rip-stop nylon sail rippled audibly–a kind of muted rustling–yet it seemed to perform at least as well as other hang gliders of the time.
These pages generally refrain from depicting the many variations of structure and wing shape that were tried at this time, but this serves as an example of a reasonable adaptation that fell to the scythe of natural selection. It is one of two standard Rogallos of different manufacture at the same event where the control frame is shaped to better accommodate the pilot in a prone harness. As it turned out (reasoning retrospectively) the advantage, if any, was outweighed by the need to use stronger tubing (the down-tubes are under compression, so are ideally straight) as well as incurring higher manufacturing cost and more difficulty in folding it neatly alongside the main tubes in the glider’s de-rigged state (for transporting and storage).
For more images and links to film and photos taken at this event, see Elberta Dune, Michigan, July 1974.
Many pilots in these early days only gradually became aware that hang gliding was not like off-road bike riding where, if you came off, your chances of being seriously hurt were slight. (I had already been hospitalised before even getting off the ground. Have you ever seen the workings of a knee joint — your own — between the exposed thick skin and muscle of a horizontal gash? I do not recommend it.)
To illustrate the point, here is an excerpt from Larry Fleming’s delightful little account of the early days of hang gliding in the USA:
Sometimes pilots attempt a three sixty in front and below the cliff and end up misjudging the distance. They would plow into the sheer wall with a twenty-five mile an hour wind pushing their thirty mile an hour glider at fifty-five miles an hour ground speed. It was like a fly hitting a windshield on the freeway. The pilot’s body took most of the impact, the wing tore and slid down the cliff side in a twisted mess of broken tubing and flapping sail with not even a scream coming from the pilot above the noise of the pounding surf because his brain had been smashed.
— Larry Fleming, Downwind, a True Hang Gliding Story, 1992
The beach landing area at Point Fermin was not much larger than the bit of beach visible here. See the external video link under Landing on the beach at Point Fermin later on this page for Jack Schroder doing just that in a Quicksilver.
Jack Schroder was as expert at flying flex-wings as he was at flying the Quicksilver. This I think might be an Eipper Cumulus mark 1 designed by Dave Cronk and Mike Huetter. (1) It resembled the Seagull IV.
Notice the ‘wire man’ on the cliff edge just visible at right.
This photo, by accident, kind of illustrates the geographic ‘hot house’ of early 1970s hang gliding in southern California. Cliffs along the southern face of Palos Verdes peninsula, which included a flying site near two radar domes (San Pedro Hill radar station) are visible in the distance. See the Domes, Palos Verdes related topics menu.
The other side of Palos Verdes peninsula lies Torrance Beach, where much early hang gliding development took place including flight testing Dave Cronk’s Cronkite and Bob Lovejoy’s Quicksilver. See Torrance Beach.
The Peninsula Hang Glider Club, created in December 1971, eventually became the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association. (2)
For an airborne view of this dramatic site (Point Fermin) see Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 3 and see under External links later on this page for digitized film of Mike Harker’s crash there, in which he was lucky to be uninjured.
We are happy to hear that Jack Schroder, who had a serious accident at Point Fermin in early August, may escape permanent spinal cord damage. He had a hard rump landing on a rock while trying to make the shoreline in poor lift.
— USHGA Accident Review Board Chairman Robert V. Wills writing in Ground Skimmer, August 1975
See the related topics menu Testing for stability and structural strength.
Mike Markowski’s Eagle III was an attempt at achieving the performance of the Icarus combined with the portability of a Rogallo.
After a bleak day’s flying at Melbury hill, near Shaftsbury in Dorset, England, in February 1975 I sat in a car with other hang glider pilots. Darkness fell while we waited for others to finish de-rigging, and the December 1974 edition of Scientific American was passed around. On the cover was a Ted Lodigensky painting of Mike Markowski’s Eagle III, the ‘Princeton sailwing’. Inside, pages of aerodynamic explanation, photos, and diagrams were to be read and ‘inwardly digested’ by all young men not wanting to be left behind.
Markowski, trading as Man-Flight Systems of Worcester, Massachusetts, manufactured Rogallo wing hang gliders as well as the Eagle. He talks about his life on the Harrisburg living legacy web site (link farther down).
The annual hang gliding festival at Telluride, Colorado, attracted pilots from all over the USA and some from other parts of the world. Colorado train conductors used to announce, “To hell you ride.”
On the way to Town Park, the pilots’ meeting place, we walk along Main Street, past Victorian houses and quaint saloons, reminding us of the Wild West.
— Ulrich Grill, translated by Heidi Attenberger, in Hang Gliding, June 1994
See also the related topics menu Telluride, Colorado.
At Joe Faust’s urging in 1971, Dick Eipper sold plans for his standard Rogallo hang glider for $5 each…
“…by 1973, Eipper-Formance, a corporation I formed with three friends, grossed close to one million dollars and had 52 employees on the payroll.”
— Jennifer Drews quoting Eipper in her article ‘USHPA Member 00001‘ in Hang Gliding & Paragliding, June 2008 (link farther on)
Film of the glider in the image or an identical one appears in the Wings of the Wind video, linked farther down this page, labelled Flexi Flier at Point Fermin.
In 1975 I tried out an Eipper Flexi Flier owned by our club chairman. I was immediately impressed by its responsiveness and quietness in flight in comparison with other Rogallos I had flown (principally my Skyhook IIIA). Standard Rogallos mostly looked alike apart from colours and states of repair, but differing sailcloth, sail cut, amount of billow, varying flexibility and weight of tubing all resulted in noticeable differences in handling and performance.
Eipper-Formance of Torrance, California, also manufactured the Quiksilver semi rigid monoplane hang glider.
See the Eipper-Formance of Torrance, California related topics menu.
In October 1975 Bill Liscomb filmed the flying at Torrey Pines with a hand-held movie camera aboard his Quicksilver C. See the link to YouTube under External links.
This topic continues in Hang gliding 1975 part 1.
1976 Kössen 1 de 3 15 min digitized film on YouTube by Roman Camps taken at the second world championship, Kössen, Austria, in 1976, starting at 13 minutes 31 seconds, where a Quicksilver launches
Michael A. Markowski page of video interviews on the Harrisburg living legacy web site
Point Fermin crash: Mike Harker – Courage Countdown – OLN -TV.wmv digitized film on YouTube by mikeharker1 starting at 1 minute 7 seconds, where Mike launches, loses control (looks like a stall), and hits the cliff…
Quicksilver landing on the beach at Point Fermin: Wings of the Wind on YouTube starting at 24 minutes 57 seconds
Torrey Pines aerial film shot by Bill Liscomb aboard a Quicksilver C on October 23rd 1975: Big Blue Sky on YouTube starting at 1 hour, 44 minutes and 52 seconds for the end credits
Torrey Pines aerial film shot by Bill Liscomb aboard a Quicksilver C on October 23rd 1975 (more, briefer): Big Blue Sky on YouTube starting at 1 hour, 11 minutes and 6 seconds. Narration is by Lloyd Licher, but it is not connected with this sequence.
1. Eipper Cumulus mark 1: Ground Skimmer December 1975 page 17
2. Peninsula Hang Glider Club: Vic Powell, Hang Gliding, September 1991 page 19