Hang gliding 1975 part 2


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Hang gliding 1975 part 2

This page continues from Hang gliding 1975 part 1.

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

Still from 'Sky Riders,' 1976
Chris Wills demonstrates the Wills Wing Swallowtail’s resistance to the luffing dive

For more about the luffing dive, illustrated in the accompanying screenshot, see Luff in the time of cholera. (Sorry!)

The highest scoring pilot at the 1975 British Championships was American Bob Wills flying an all-black Sport Kites Inc. Wills Wing Swallowtail. Examining the glider from under its expanse of sailcloth I noticed that the sun highlighted brownish streaks criss-crossing the fabric. Wills explained that the sails of these gliders were originally white (or multicolored in some cases) and they were painted black for an upcoming movie which they had just filmed in Greece. The film was Sky Riders, starring James Coburn, Susannah York, Robert Culp, and Charles Aznavour. It was in cinemas/movie theaters the following year. See Paint it black–this site’s review of that film.

Hang gliding in 'Sky Riders,' 1976
Paint it black

While most hang glider pilots flew standard Rogallos in 1975, in the USA several people attempted to improve on the basic idea. One was the Wills Wing Swallowtail with its reduced billow, cut-out trailing edge, and (in later versions) tip roach supported by radial battens. Other engineers tried different approaches to achieving improved performance.

See also the related topics menu Sport Kites/Wills Wing of California.

Cirrus

Art based on a photo by Russ Stolling of Larry Newman in the Electra Flyer Cirrus at Telluride, Colorado
Larry Newman in the Electra Flyer Cirrus at Telluride, Colorado. Photo by Russ Stolling.

The Cirrus was actually the Windlord 4 created by Rich Finley. Like most Rogallos, it had no sail battens. Manta, of Oakland, California, manufactured an earlier incarnation of Finley’s Windlord and they continued to develop it.

Telluride in 1975. Photo by Russ Stolling.
Telluride photo by Russ Stolling

See also the Telluride, Colorado, related topics menu,

Art based on a photo of the Electra Flyer Cirrus with battens added
Electra Flyer Cirrus with battens added

Chord-wise battens took extra time to rig and de-rig, but they reduced aerodynamic drag caused by sail flutter. This is the production Electra Flyer Cirrus.

For more about the Cirrus series, see the related topics menu Electra Flyer of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Kestrel

Art based on the Sky Sports Kestrel advert in Ground Skimmer, December 1975
Sky Sports Kestrel advert in Ground Skimmer, December 1975

See Flying squad for a short history of the east coast U.S. hang glider manufacturer Sky Sports.

Art based on a photo by Bettina Gray taken at the US Nationals at Grandfather Mountain in September 1975
At the US Nationals at Grandfather Mountain in September 1975. Photo by Bettina Gray.

Dragonfly

From the UP Dragonfly advert in Hang Glider, Spring 1975
From the UP Dragonfly advert in Hang Glider, Spring 1975
Bruce Morton in an Ultralight Products Dragonfly hang glider in 1974. Photo by Pete Brock.
Bruce Morton of Hawaii in a Dragonfly. Photo by Pete Brock.

Nineteen year-old Roy Haggard designed, built, and flew the Dragonfly. When Pete Brock of Ultralight Products saw it perform at the 1974 U.S. nationals, he agreed to manufacture it. At about this time, UP moved from the workshop in El Segundo to Rancho, California.


Roy designed the ubiquitous Dragonfly, test-flying it for the first time on October 27, 1974. He surprised everyone (maybe “shocked” is a better word for it) when he appeared out of the obscurity of Visalia, Calif., as a relative unknown to come in a strong 7th at the 1974 U.S. Nationals… and with such a weird-looking design.

— Rich Grigsby (I assume) writing in Ground Skimmer, June 1976

Charles Baughman and Roy Haggard over ‘the domes’ site at Palos Verdes, California. Photo by Leroy Grannis.

As I understand it, Charlie Baughman obtained Roy Haggard’s prototype, so it is likely that he is flying it (the lower one, white and red, relatively scruffy) in the photo and Roy Haggard is flying the upper example (with an aerodynamically cleaner orange sail) made by Ultralight Products. According to a Leroy Grannis interview by John Heiney, this photo was taken within a couple of months after February 1974.(6) That conflicts with the October dating of its first flight test mentioned previously. (If you can resolve this conflicting info, please get in touch.) See also the Domes, Palos Verdes related topics menu.

After the truncated wing tips, there still was 20 feet of leading edge, while the keel was only 11 feet long. And yet, his and the other two designs all responded amazingly well to weight shift control.

— W.A. Allen describing Roy Haggard’s Dragonfly at the 1974 US nationals in Wings Unlimited, February-March 1975

One of the other two designs that Bill Allen refers to is Rich Finley’s short-keel, low billow, and spiky-looking Windlord IV, subsequently manufactured by Electra Flyer as the Cirrus.

Art based on a photo by Pete Brock of the UP deflexor blade
UP deflexor blade. Photo by Pete Brock.

The lanky leading edge tubes of the new higher-performing wings needed extra support. Deflexor wires, one each side mounted on a short folding strut, seemed a logical solution. Nowadays we do not use such bolt-through-tube engineering, which necessitates adding metal to the tube to restore its strength where the hole is drilled.

British hang glider manufacturer Birdman, of Marlborough in Wiltshire, brought two (I think) Dragonflies and a Red Tail (Ultralight Products’ easier to fly wing) from the 1975 world championships at Kössen, Austria, back to Britain. They took on board UP’s purpose-made hardware and the entire Birdman range was soon unequaled in quality of finish and slickness of fittings. See also Birdman and Solar Wings of Wiltshire, England.

Art based on a photo by Ultralight Products of an early Dragonfly launching at Waimanalo, Hawaii
An early Dragonfly launching at Waimanalo, Hawaii. Photo by Ultralight Products.

In the Hawaii image, notice other hang gliders specking out behind the Dragonfly.


Art based on the UP advert in Ground Skimmer
UP advert in Ground Skimmer

See the related topics menu Ultralight Products of California and Utah.


California Glider hang glider advert
California Glider advert

Hiway Boomerang by Adrian Turner
Hiway Boomerang. The original photo was by Adrian Turner.

For Adrian Turner’s contemporary photographic work, see under External links later on this page.

I (the original author of this web site) asked Steve Hunt of Hiway Hang Gliders, Brighton, Sussex, England, about the Boomerang’s production status. He replied that is was unlikely to go into production because its handling was too ‘twitchy.’ (I had no idea in those days that most hang glider development in Britain was carried out by copying American and Australian designs.) See the related topics menu Hiway of Sussex, England, and Abergavenny, Wales.

Nova

Painting of an early hang glider
The Wasp Nova of 1975 (painting)

The 1975 Wasp Nova was another attempt at attaining more performance without too much extra complexity. It featured an S-curved keel tube and tip fins braced by tubes, brackets, fasteners, and cables. I saw the prototype before it flew when it was on display at the inaugural meeting of the BHGA on December 8th, 1974, at the Matrix Hall in Coventry. (It had two unfinished top rigging wires with ends dangling, yet to be cut to length and swaged.)

Wasp Nova hang glider of 1975 by Adrian Turner
Wasp Nova. The original photo was taken by Adrian Turner.

For Adrian Turner’s contemporary photographic work, see under External links later on this page.

There are photos of the Nova linked from the related topics menu Waspair of Surrey, England.

Prone

The prone harness imparted a dramatic increase in performance and pitch control. That combined advantage greatly improved our ability to soar.

Sunbird hang glider 'knee hanger' prone harness of 1975
Sunbird ‘knee hanger’ harness of 1975

Because your angle of bank in a coordinated turn is limited by the positive (nose-up) pitch rate you can achieve, and the seated flying position conferred very little pitch range, we could only fly shallow turns without the turn degenerating into an inefficient spiral descent. The prone flying position enables the pilot to ‘push out’ and thereby coordinate a steeper banked and tighter turn. That was important for flying in thermals, which we began to do (unwittingly at first) in the long dry summer of 1976 in southern England.

Standard Rogallo hang glider by Adrian Turner
Standard Rogallo with pilot in prone harness. The original photo was by Adrian Turner.
High Flying Birds by Peter Cave book cover
High Flying Birds by Peter Cave book cover

As far as I know, Hiway Hang Gliders of Brighton in Sussex were the first in Britain to manufacture prone harnesses.

The photo used on the cover of this not-too-serious novel looks like the same glider and pilot as in the preceding photo, so likely this one was also taken by Adrian Turner. For Adrian Turner’s contemporary photographic work, see under External links later on this page. For a more serious novel, which — in fictional form — documents the emergence of hang glider manufacturer Wills Wing, see Appendix: Soar and surrender in Eagles among men.

Donnita

She has always been a low-key pilot, never interested in the limelight or notoriety, but knowing that she was one of the very first hang glider pilots in the world…

— David Jebb (5)

Art based on a photo of Donnita Holland (Donnita Hall) in 1975
Donnita Holland (Donnita Hall) in 1972. Photo by W.A. Allen.

Donnita Holland was the first female to pilot a hang glider, one of the first humans to foot-launch a hang glider, and one of the pioneers who showed the rest of the world how to follow their dreams. She worked as a secretary at Hewlett Packard, where she met Dave Kilbourne, who was one of the first to fly a Rogallo hang glider, initially launching on water skis while towed behind a power boat. (1)


Donnita in about 2007. Screenshot from Big Blue Sky by Bill Liscomb.
Donnita in about 2007. Screenshot from Big Blue Sky by Bill Liscomb.

Donnita built a Rogallo wing of her own design in 1976. It had 17-foot long leading edges and a 13-foot keel. The sail was built by Albatross (led by sailmaker and aeronautical engineer Tom Price) of Southern California. (2) (See Tom Price’s flying machines.) In the picture, you might be able to make out the truncated tips, more aerodynamic than those of the Dragonfly, and side flying struts instead of wires. They obviated the need for top rigging with its attendant drag, cost, weight, and set-up time.

Art based on a photo of Donnita Holland flying her own design standard Rogallo
Donnita flying her own design Rogallo wing (no larger image available)

Many of the very early Rogallos were strut braced (with bamboo poles) but even before the advent of top rigging, cable bracing became the norm. Nonetheless, following Donnita’s lead, Seagull Aircraft’s 10 Meter, designed by Tom Peghiny and Bob Keeler, the following year was initially strut-braced. (3, 4)

Donnita’s aeronautical engineering talents were well in advance of most others at the time, yet she was content to let her partner Dave Kilbourne receive the lion’s share of the publicity, mainly for his daring flying achievements. I guess the media understood heights and distances better than they understood the technology.

For more about Donnita, see under External links later on this page.

Gulp

…the late, great low-speed aerodynamicist, Dr. Paul MacCready, once told me that he felt the hang gliding design evolution had progressed further through a semi-educated trial-and-error process than what would have been achieved in the same time span by classically educated aerodynamicists.

— Lt. Col. Mark Stucky USMC (call sign Forger) in Hang Gliding & Paragliding, January 2008

While the Rogallo offered the advantage of simplicity, its one-piece airfoil (two, if you regard both halves as separate) that combined the functions of generating lift and providing control and stability, compromised those individual needs heavily. Conventional aircraft, including gliders (sailplanes) employ separate wing and tail surfaces to provide those separate functions. That results in greater efficiency, but at the cost of complexity. Several designers created hang gliders with separate wing and tail surfaces. Some were entirely rigid, with conventional control surfaces, while others used sailcloth with a some airframe flexibility in an attempt to retain the simplicity of pilot weight shift as the control method. Foremost among practitioners of the latter, in Britain at least, was Miles Handley. His first glider, which owed almost nothing to any predecessor, was the Gulp.

Miles Wings Gulp flight test in 1975
Miles Wings Gulp flight test in 1975

I seem to recall that this photo of the Gulp, which its designer and constructor Miles Handley (who had no formal education in aerodynamics) sent me as a print, was of the second flight of the prototype.


Technical:

The original Miles Wings Gulp had no battens, but — extraordinarily — the thick sailcloth maintained an airfoil section, as if by magic, even when the wing was rigged flat on the ground. It had just enough dihedral (and the sail was cut precisely) that span-wise tension together with the curved join of the two semi-spans at the root ensured its 3-D form. In the photo of a Gulp rigged at Mere, Wiltshire, in 1976 (linked farther on) notice how the sail holds its shape with no battens and no wind. Nevertheless, the Gulp was reputed to be hard to turn, a problem likely magnified by that dihedral.

I heard also that it suffered from a minor pitch control problem (a phugoid) because the changed airflow at different pitch angles (so-called angle of attack) caused the high point of the airfoil curve to move forward and back, countering the pilot’s control inputs. To resolve that problem, the next version of the Gulp featured chord-wise airfoil shaped fixed battens spaced evenly across its entire span.

See also the Flex-wings with tails related topics menu.


On with the flying…

Brian Wood flying a Miles Wings Gulp 130
Brian Wood flying a Miles Wings Gulp 130

Brian Wood, the first British hang gliding champion, did not do as well as expected in the 1975 competition, but he demonstrated the Miles Wings Gulp 130 monoplane flex-wing one calm evening. Having launched from the ridge top, instead of gliding down to land at the bottom like every other hang glider, he flew straight out, losing barely any height until he touched down in a field far out from launch.

Meanwhile, both Bob Wills in California and Miles Handley in Britain were working on new developments, one an extension of previous design improvements and the other so radical it took a few years to come to fruition.

See the related topics menu Miles Wings Gulp and Gryphon.

More developments

Art based on the Bennett Phoenix VI advert in Ground Skimmer, November 1975
Bennett Phoenix VI advert in Ground Skimmer, October 1975
Art based on a photo of a Wills Wing SST in The Book of Airsports by Ann Welch
Art based on a photo from ‘The Book of Airsports’ by Ann Welch of the next development by Wills Wing

Dave Muehl, 1975 U.S. national hang gliding champion, in an Eipper Flexi 2. Photo by Dave Cronk.
Dave Muehl, 1975 U.S. national champion, in an Eipper Flexi 2. Photo by Dave Cronk.

The Flexi 2 was presumably Eipper’s answer to the Wills Wing Swallowtail.

Art based on a photo by Bettina Gray of Dave Cronk landing an Eipper Cumulus with sail painted by Mendij in 1975
Dave Cronk landing an Eipper Cumulus with sail painted by Mendij in 1975. Photo by Bettina Gray.

See also the Hang glider sail art related topics menu.

Art based on a photo by Bettina Gray of an Eipper Cumulus VII
Eipper Cumulus VII. Photo by Bettina Gray.

For more about the manufacturer Eipper-Formance, see High-performance in Hang gliding 1974 part 3.


Art based on the Manta Fledgling advert in Ground Skimmer
Manta Fledgling advert in Ground Skimmer

In 1974 in Utah, Klaus Hill, sail-maker Dick Cheney, Larry Hall, and test pilot Tom Vayda created the Fledgling, a foldable rigid wing using standard hang glider materials: Sailcloth, aluminium tube, and steel cable. Being a rigid wing, it used drag rudders rather than pilot weight shift for turn control. It had greater performance than the standard Rogallo and was easier to transport than existing rigid hang gliders such as Taras Kiceniuk’s Icarus 2 and Icarus 5, and Volmer Jensen’s VJ-23. The first Manta-built Fledgling flew in September 1975.

See the Manta Products of California related topics menu.


Art based on a photo by Bettina Gray of Bill Liscomb partly eclipsing the moon with his Sun
Bill Liscomb partly eclipsing the moon with his Sun. Photo by Bettina Gray.

The Sun IV, made by Sun Sail of Denver, Colorado, was one of several similar designs that adopted the large trailing edge scallop that characterized the Wills Wing Swallowtail, but combined with ‘truncated’ wing tips like those of the UP Dragonfly. (For a color painting based on this photo, see under External links later on this page.)

Similar wings included the California Glider (of San Diego) Wind Gypsy and the Eipper-Formance (of Torrance) Cumulus 5. However, the tip tubes of the Sun 4 were each supported by an inboard diagonal strut (not evident in the image) rather than short outboard cables to an extension of a tube sticking out into the airflow.

Nevertheless, by early 1976 Sun Sail abandoned truncated tips in their next wing, the Swift, and instead opted for ‘roach cut’ outboard trailing edges, like those of the Bennett Phoenix 6 (see the advert earlier on this page) supported by three chord-wise battens each side.


Technical:

The Sun IV also featured a permanently cambered keel tube. It did not provide much sail camber by modern standards, but root reflex — the opposite to camber — was known to be an important contributor to dive recovery, so a conservative approach to adding root camber is perhaps understandable, even when fixed tips contribute to dive recovery. In addition, putting the keel tube through a pocket running the length of the root was the only way we knew of attaching the sail to the keel tube. You can only put so much curve in a light-weight and critical aluminium alloy tube without trashing it.

The first flex-wing hang gliders I know of with permanent camber curves in their keel tubes were the Seagull 4 of 1974 and the Wasp Nova of 1975 — both of which also had a large amount of compensating reflex. (Camber at the front, reflex aft, resulting in an S-shaped keel tube.) In 1976, a British advanced glider, the Chargus Midas, featured a short keel with a small amount of camber permanently formed. Like the Sun IV, it relied on ‘truncated’ (fixed) tips for dive recovery.


Gerry Breen's Breenwave rigid hang glider of 1975
Gerry Breen’s excruciatingly named Breenwave. The original photo is owned by BP and Photocall.

In 1975, even in Britain, hang gliding competitions drew crowds of spectators and photographers.

While these technical developments were underway, individual pilots often struggled with worn out pre-owned gliders of dubious airworthiness. One such was former television producer in New Zealand John Veysey, who was also without a harness…

I bought some seatbelt webbing and two seatbelt clasps from a car-wrecker. I found a piece of wood to sit on and, after Rick [Fogel] had inspected the kite and said it was ready to fly, I sewed up my harness bent over a sewing machine, breaking needles and getting my measurements wrong until, finally, I could seat myself squarely suspended from the front door frame.

— John Veysey via e-mail on August 11th, 2020

Related

This topic continues in Hang gliding 1976 part 1.

Tom Price’s flying machines

External links

Adrian Turner, photographer

Donnita: From Toys to Wings… by C.J. Sturtevant in Hang Gliding & Paragliding Vol48-Iss1 Jan-Feb 2018

“First Lady” of Hang Gliding, Donnita Hall in Big Blue Sky by Bill Liscomb on YouTube starting at 31 minutes 45 seconds

HANG GLIDING CHAMPS – COLOUR British championships at Mere, Wiltshire, in August 1975 by British Movietone on YouTube. Includes Bob Wills (“Bob Willis”).

Hawaiian Hang Gliding 1975: David Vincent flying his Swallowtail at Waimanalo and flying from a city-side 200 ft hill where the effect of turbulence is evident

Hawaiian Hang Gliding 1975 part 2

Hawaiian Hang Gliding 1975 part 3

Icarus V: Photo by Don Liddard of Rob S. flying a red Icarus 5 at the Devil’s Dyke, a few miles inland from Brighton on the Sussex coast, England

Mere Wiltshire BHGA photos by Don Liddard on flickr, including some taken at the 1975 British championship competition

Metamorphosis in Painted history of hang glider design on Brave guys and beautiful dolls for a color rendition of Bettina Gray’s Sun IV photo

Photo by Roger Middleton of gliders in line for launch at the British championships, held at Mere in Wiltshire in August 1975

Sail On by the Commodores featuring Bob Wills in a Swallowtail

World Hang Gliding Championships 1975:

This competition was held at at Escape Country in Trabuco Canyon, El Toro, California, on April 12th, 1975. (Although claiming to be the world championship, as far as I know it was not sanctioned by the FAI, unlike the competition in March 1975 at Kössen, Austria.) Videos on YouTube:

World Hang Gliding Championships (1975) on Burke Ewing’s YouTube channel

Hang Gliding Worlds 1975 Escape Country California on cdnskydog’s YouTube channel

References

1: An Evening with Dave Kilbourne and Donnita Holland by W.A. Allen in Ground Skimmer, September 1973

2: Hang Gliding and Paragliding October 2007

3: Bill Allen, Hang Gliding, July 1977

4: Dennis Pagen, Hang Gliding, February 1994

5: David Jebb, The Excitement That Never Ends, Donnita Hall: 1969 to Present in Hang Gliding & Paragliding, October 2007

6. Interview with Hang Gliding Photography Legend LeRoy Grannis by John Heiney on Upshots, John’s web site