To experience springtime is to risk living through the winter. To be present is to risk one day being absent.
— Antoine de Saint Exupéry, reconnaissance pilot and author of The Little Prince, 1943
Elberta Dune, Michigan, July 1974
This page contains screenshots from a well preserved 16 millimetre film documentary by Robert E. Lorey at a hang gliding competition held on June 29th to July 6th, 1974. The film was digitized and placed on YouTube in four parts by his son Eric.
Additional screenshots are from film taken by John Elwell at the same site in 1973 and 1974. Some of the film was taken from off shore, doubtless in a boat.
See under External links later on this page for the YouTube videos.
The Elberta dune is the other side of Betsie Lake from the ‘growing resort city’ of Frankfort. Octave Chanute carried out much of his flight testing in this area in the 19th century. See Lilienthal, Pilcher, and Chanute in Earliest hang gliders.
Danny Uchytl, younger brother of Gerry (see later) was without his glider, so he was drafted as launch director…
“I’m 16 and I’m telling all these guys to keep moving and get their butts off launch so the next guys could go.”
— Danny Uchytl quoted by C.J. Sturtevant (1)
At times, a stiff wind blew along the beach, but the soundless film in places creates an illusion of these gliders floating down vertically like balloons. In reality, they are (on occasion) flying at 20 knots into a 20 knot head-wind. The wind switched direction and changed in strength throughout the competition.
I was a kid of 12 or so, running around being a kid, hanging out with Hall Brock, son of race car driver Pete Brock.
— Kristy McClellan comment in the part 4 video. She notes that she does not appear in the film though. Others of the McClellan clan do appear. See comments in the YouTube video 1974 Hang Gliding Frankfort Michigan Part 2 of 4, under External links later on this page.
Hall Brock tied with Irv Alward for tenth place. For more about Pete and Hall Brock, see the Ultralight Products of California and Utah related topics menu.
The participants included many of the best pilots in the country at the time. Danny [Uchytil] reels off a list of names: ‘Dennis Pagen, Tom Peghiny, the Eipper guys, Jack Schroeder, a guy from Colorado for the Sun gliders — everybody was represented.’
The colors of Slusarczyk’s wing, with its asymmetric variation of the Brock standard sail pattern, matched those of his vehicle. I am sure the color match was better than it appears in these images, which are from old film and not first generation.
See also the Flex-wings with tails related topics menu.
See Chuck’s Glider Supplies of Ohio for more about this former NASA engineer.
The organizers built a path of used automobile tires up the side of the dune.
Construction was energy-intensive for the constructors, but for the pilots, their conserved energy converted to another flight or two on each competition day.
— C.J. Sturtevant (1)
Who needs a helmet? Chris Gonzales spotted this action in part four of the Robert E. Lorey YouTube upload. It’s funny how a single event can blow up to tarnish the reputation of an entire state…
California entrants in the National Soaring Festival in Frankfort, Michigan, 1974, set a bad example by throwing off their helmets in mid-air.
— Don Dedera (3)
See under External links later on this page for the movie clip.
This image is from Hang Glider, Fall 1974 edition. Tom Peghiny won the competition in this Sky Sports Bobcat(2). See Flying squad for a bit about that manufacturer and see the Tom Peghiny related topics menu.
Tom Peghiny captured his second consecutive championship in a week when he won the Midwest Open Hang Gliding Competition, which was part of the 2nd Annual National Soaring and Hang Gliding Festival at Frankfort, Michigan. Peghiny scored three straight bull’s-eyes. Gerry Uchytil of Superior, Wisconsin, had the longest flight from the 300-foot “Class A” hill: 1½ minutes. Class B competed from a 100-foot hill. One-hundred and ninety-eight pilots came from 13 states and Canada.
— Carol Boenish-Price writing in Ground Skimmer, April-June 1974
This red glider was made by Manta Products of Oakland, California. See the Manta Products of California related topics menu.
If you know who this lady is, please get in touch with me. See under External links later on this page for the sound-less interview and for film of her flying and de-rigging.
Sun Sail, the manufacturer of this glider, was based in Denver, Colorado.
It was not appreciated at the time how dangerous it is to land a hang glider in surf. It can be difficult for the pilot to escape drowning.
The ‘Arrow wing’ (a standard Rogallo with a distinctive sail pattern) was made by Solo Flight Systems Inc, in Orange, California. The control frame of this example was of an unusual shape, doubtless an attempt to better accommodate the prone flying position. See under Film by Robert E. Lorey in External links later on this page to see this glider flying.
The level of the lake and, consequently, the width of the beach, varies from year to year; see the photos under External links later on this page, likely taken the previous year or the following year, judging by the gliders there.
This Leroy Grannis photo shows the layout with hill-top launch, middle launch (closest to camera) and the beach LZ. Beyond that is the extensive camping and parking area just inland from the beach. Pilots carry their furled wings in a snaking line on the stairway of car tires from the beach to the top.
Day at the beach on Brave Guys and Beautiful Dolls: Three paintings, acrylic on canvas, portraying this event
Hang Gliding / Hang Gliders album of high-resolution color photos at the same place and about the same time (even though the photographer states late 1970s)
Six, The Glory Years Revisited, 1961-2006, chapter 6 of Soaring and Gliding, The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Area by Jeffery P. Sandman and Peter R. Sandman on Google Books. Pete Sandman appears in the documentary by Robert E. Lorey. See the link farther on.
Film by John Elwell
This digitized ‘Super 8’ (8 millimetre) film on YouTube by John Elwell is not as clear as the Robert E. Lorey film and, as its owner states, it suffered from a ‘framing’ problem. Nonetheless, it contains some unique imagery…
Almost soarable conditions on the spur in a strong crossing wind: Soaring and Gliding Festivals 1973-1974 starting at 30 minutes 55 seconds
Lady pilot flying on a windy day and nearly being ground looped on the beach: Soaring and Gliding Festivals 1973-1974 starting at 35 minutes 43 seconds
Panning the area from a view point off shore, from the shipping terminal to the hang gliders floating down to the beach: Soaring and Gliding Festivals 1973-1974 starting at 18 minutes 41 seconds
Soaring and Gliding Festivals 1973-1974 (entire video)
Film by Robert E. Lorey
This is a well preserved 16 millimetre film by Robert E. Lorey digitized and uploaded to YouTube by polaarbear…
1974 Hang Gliding Frankfort Michigan Part 1 of 4
1974 Hang Gliding Frankfort Michigan Part 2 of 4
1974 Hang Gliding Frankfort Michigan Part 3 of 4
1974 Hang Gliding Frankfort Michigan Part 4 of 4
Lady pilot interview (no recorded speech though): 1974 Hang Gliding Frankfort Michigan Part 2 of 4 starting at 2 minutes 13 seconds
Lady pilot de-rigging on the beach: 1974 Hang Gliding Frankfort Michigan Part 4 of 4 starting at 5 minutes 4 seconds
Organizer of the event and soaring historian Pete Sandman (identified by Kristy McClellan in the YouTube comments): 1974 Hang Gliding Frankfort Michigan Part 4 of 4 starting at 1 minute 39 seconds
Pilot in flight removes helmet and tosses it aside: 1974 Hang Gliding Frankfort Michigan Part 4 of 4 starting at 2 minutes 27 seconds
Solo Arrow wing from top launch, into lift and turbulence, to beach landing: 1974 Hang Gliding Frankfort Michigan Part 3 of 4 starting at 6 minutes 54 seconds
1. The ‘Bad Old Days’ of Hang Gliding, A Coming-of-age Story by C.J. Sturtevant in Hang Gliding & Paragliding, January 2015
2. Leroy Grannis, Hang Glider, Fall 1974
3. Hang Gliding: The Flyingest Flying, Don Dedera and Stephen McCarroll, 1975