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 I think).
Additional screenshots are from film taken by John Elwell at the same site in 1973 and 1974. I am inclined to think that, where the gliders land on a hugely stepped beach, it is 1973 and the wider beach with a lesser step and a round target carved in the sand is 1974. Some of the film was taken from off shore, presumably in a boat, and seems to correspond with the hugely stepped beach.
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 flying in this area in the 19th century. See Lilienthal, Pilcher, and Chanute in Earliest hang gliders.
Sixteen year-old 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 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.
— Kirsty McClellan comment in the part 4 video. She notes that she does not appear in the film though.
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 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.
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.
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 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, including links to film of Tom flying this wing.
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. (Is it Jeaneen?)
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’ was made by Solo Flight Systems Inc, in Orange, California. Its control frame was of an unusual shape, doubtless an attempt to better accommodate the prone flying position.
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.
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)
The four links following are to well preserved 16 millimetre film by Robert E. Lorey digitized and uploaded to YouTube by polaarbear:
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 part 4 of the documentary by Robert E. Lorey, linked earlier.)
Soaring and Gliding Festivals 1973-1974 a digitized ‘Super 8’ (8 millimetre) film on YouTube by John Elwell. Not as clear as the Robert E. Lorey film, and (as its owner states) it suffered from a ‘framing’ problem, but it contains some unique film.
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