Hang gliding 1976 part 2
This page follows Hang gliding 1976 part 1.
The images on this page are my artistic derivations of contemporary photos. See Copyright of early hang gliding photos.
Pliable Moose of Wichita, Kansas, was founded by Gary Osoba, who still flies (in 2019).
See also Semi cylindrical Rogallo in Rogallo wing definitions and diagrams.
Former stage actress Bettina Gray was one of the most prolific photographers of early hang gliding. Twenty years before, she was a bridesmaid at Grace Kelly’s wedding to Prince Rainier III of Monaco. (1)
See also the related topics menu Photographers of early hang gliding. And for a ‘virtual handshake’ connection with hang glider designer Larry Newman, of which I assume she might not have been aware, see the related topics menu Electra Flyer of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The ASG-21, in this picture being flown by Bettina Gray’s son Bill Liscomb, was an advanced hang glider — by the standards of 1976.
See also the related topics menu Telluride, Colorado.
See Tom Price’s flying machines for more.
This SST was Bob Wills original prototype which he had thoroughly “wrung out” in Hawaii. The production SSTs were a little different. I loved mine and flew it until I thought it was getting too beat up to be safe anymore. The guy I traded it to cut it in half and made a land sailer mast and sail out of it. I sure wish I had kept that historic Bob Wills personal glider. 😦
— Frank Colver (via e-mail, March 2020)
The prototype Wills Wing Super Swallowtail had only two battens each side. Production gliders had three battens each side.
The production SST’s additional batten each side compared to the prototype is clear in this photo of Brian Wood (in green ski suit) with his SST 90 at the Beltinge cliff near Herne Bay, England, in December 1977.
When Brian landed on the cliff-top car park, he was astonished to be greeted by Roland Lewis-Evans, sail-maker for Birdman of Wiltshire. (Roly is in the black coat next to his brother at far left in an orange-tan jacket.) Roly was visiting his grandparents, when he saw this familiar hang glider flying past the window, which overlooks those sea cliffs. The other notable memory that Brian recounts from that day is the cold December wind from the North Sea. (3)
Malcolm Hawksworth, UK agent for Wills Wing, recruited Brian as an instructor and gave him the SST to fly. Hawksworth’s partnership with Wills Wing ended eventually in a dispute about differences between UK- and U.S.-manufactured SSTs.
See under External links for more photos Brian flying this all-white production SST 90.
The first Wills Wing Super Swallowtails had 90 degree nose angles. The Wills Wing team subsequently created a version with a wider nose angle: The SST 100. It looks similar to the Bennett Phoenix VI — see the photo under More developments in Hang gliding 1975 part 2.
Here is an update on former New York schoolteacher Mike Meier in April 1976, who was last mentioned in these pages on his motorcycle at Palos Verdes, California, in 1973…
Bob Wills had his next creation on the market, the Super Swallowtail, or SST. It was being billed as “the high performance kite you already know how to fly,” and that appealed to me. I went down to Sport Kites to order one, and Chris Wills mentioned that they were gearing up to increase production. I suggested he hire me, and two weeks later I had given up a $1000 a month job in the motorcycle business to go to work for $700 a month at Wills Wing.
— Mike Meier (2)
See the related topics menu Testing for stability and structural strength.
The pilot here is instructor Ken de Russy. See the Santa Barbara Hang Gliding Emporium page for more.
Here is a snippet from instructor, author, and humorist Erik Fair’s 1983 interview of Mike Meier:
Mike: “I was the production manager and purchasing agent, but the job only lasted three months. Chris Wills left for medical school, and hired John Lake to replace him as general manager. John Lake and I worked together for two days before he decided it couldn’t go on and he fired me.”
Erik: “Far out! What did you do next?”
— Erik Fair, Hang Gliding, December 1983
In the early years of hang gliding, John Lake invented the sailfeather device for preventing luffing dives. (See Luff in the time of cholera.) After John also left Wills Wing, Mike returned and he stayed when tragedy struck Wills Wing the following year.
See the related topics menu Sport Kites/Wills Wing of California.
The Sky Sports Merlin featured chord-wise battens and a large amount of double surface. However, the cross-tubes were still outside and exposed to the air flow, creating drag. For a short history of the east coast U.S. hang glider manufacturer Sky Sports, see Flying squad.
The Phoenix 6B was designed by Dick Boone.
Like the Phoenix 6B, the Cirrus II and Cirrus III embodied the improvement of roached wing-tips supported by radial battens. The Cirrus III was a successful and popular hang glider.
It was manufactured by Scotkites under licence from Electra Flyer of Albuquerque, New Mexico, founded by Learjet captain Larry Newman. The Cirrus series originated with the Windlord development of the standard Rogallo by Rich Finley in 1974. His short keel, low billow, spiky looking Windlord 4 was manufactured by Electra Flyer as the Cirrus. It soon acquired a full set of chord-wise battens, taking on the basic appearance that culminated in the popular Cirrus 3.
We no longer launch from the cliff top at Ringstead. Instead, we take off from a hill a little way inland and fly out to the cliff. I am told that this part of the slope crumbled away at some point.
For more about the Cirrus series, see the related topics menu Electra Flyer of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The Mark 2 version of the Ultralight Products Dragonfly also incorporated chord-wise battens, but this type of fixed wing-tip design was becoming less popular.
Incidentally, there is an external link to background information about one of the UP Volkswagen vans in the related topics menu Ultralight Products of California and Utah.
The photo on which this artistic derivation is based was taken by Mike Jones aboard a balloon during certification testing of the Phoenix 8 Jr above the Mojave desert, with Trip Mellinger flying. The Mylar windows in the sail are possibly an idea that we should re-visit.
There is film of a Seagull VII under External links later on this page. It shows the sail shape and how the washout (twist) is limited by its curved leading edges.
This topic continues in Hang gliding 1977.
Greg Mitchell in a Seagull VII in 1976: Hang Ten Hang Gliding World Meet, Part 2 video on YouTube starting at 43 seconds
Hang Ten Hang Gliding World Meet, Part 1 1976 World Open Hang Gliding Championships at Escape Country, CA — video on YouTube
Phoenix 6B: Photo by Roger Middleton of Brian Milton in Alvin Russell’s Phoenix 6B
Phoenix 8: Photo by Roger Middleton of John Fack in a Bennett Phoenix 8 at Pandy, Wales, in February 1977. Many consider this one of the finest hang glider photos ever. His twin brother Jeremy was flying an ASG-21 (see under External links in Tom Price’s flying machines).
SST: Photo by Roger Middleton of Brian Wood, the first British champion, flying an all-white Wills Wing Super Swallowtail. Compare it with the photo earlier on this page of the prototype flown by Frank Colver.
SST: Photo by Roger Middleton of Brian Wood on final approach in an all-white Wills Wing Super Swallowtail
SST: Hang Glide Special by David Vincent on YouTube starting at 6 minutes 21 seconds (followed by film of Bob Wills two or three years earlier)
1: Wedding of Prince Rainier III of Monaco and Grace Kelly on Unofficial Royalty
2: Mike Meier, Wills Wing–The Early Years in Sky Adventures, Legends and stories About the Early Days of Hang Gliding and Paragliding edited by Jim (Sky Dog) Palmieri and Maggie Palmieri, 1998
3. Conversations in person and over phone with Brian Wood and Roly Lewis-Evans, including on April 20th, 2020