Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 3
This page follows Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 2.
The first five images on this page are artistic derivations of contemporary photos. See Copyright of early hang gliding photos.
Some weeks before this photo was taken at Palomar, Rich Grigsby had pitched over in another Phoenix Mariah at Azusa Canyon in the mountains near Los Angeles. The glider broke and Grigsby deployed his emergency parachute, which had time only to open partially before pilot and glider hit sloping ground. Grigsby was uninjured. Then, during practice for the Palomar competition, John Brant flying another Mariah had the same thing happen. Both pilots were provided with identical Mendij-painted Mariahs for the competition, which used a one-on-one fly-off format. John Brant is visible launching from the second ramp in the photo.
The broadsheet format Glider Rider magazine lent itself to larger and more detailed adverts. Bill Bennett’s Delta Wing Kites and Gliders was one of the few companies that took advantage of that. Other manufacturers just used the same adverts that they used in Hang Gliding magazine.
The Phoenix Mariah was possibly the most complex flex-wing hang glider ever manufactured. (It came in three sizes too!) It was found to be unstable in pitch when they changed the materials used for constructing the battens. Eventually, the design was retrofitted with a tailplane to restore pitch stability.
In the late 1970s, Ed Cesar of Hawaii invited former British champion Brian Wood of south London to the Nordic Cup, a competition in Norway. For a slalom flight at a coastal site they flew out through ridge lift — contrary to instinct — and crossed markers laid out on the ground as many times as possible before spot landing on a beach below a raised highway. (2)
Cesar became a test pilot for Eipper Formance, notably on the Antares development, and later he starred in the short hang gliding documentary movie Up (1985) which won an Academy Award (Oscar).
Ed, like Brian, was in the airliner interiors business, running a company with his wife Barbara, who he met in 1977 at Kitty Hawk Kites, where Ed taught her to fly hang gliders. Ed Cesar died on May 24, 2002 and Barbara died in 2007.
See under External links later on this page for more about Ed and Barbara Cesar.
A full hang check in a flex-wing requires the wire assist to haul downwards to raise the pilot from the ground. In this case, I suspect that the amount of clutter attached to the right down-tube contributes to that endeavor!
See the related topics menu Seagull Aircraft of Santa Monica, California.
A monochrome photo of Liz Sharp wearing her 1970s comms helmet appears on the preceding page.
The Glider Rider cover photo is of Dave Ledford after his wing tumbled seven times following a failed wingover attempt (at Chattanooga, Tennessee). He was unhurt and his glider, a Moyes Mega II (with cross-tube fairings, by the look of it) was largely undamaged. See Dangers of hang gliding for more about hang glider emergency parachutes including a link to a video of Dave Ledford’s chute deployment. Ballistically deployed versions of the emergency parachute were developed subsequently and that technology was applied to the emerging phenomenon of powered ultralight aircraft (microlights in UK terminology) and, later, to more conventional light aircraft.
While the Gryphon 2 of 1977 used wing warping to assist with steering, the Gryphon 3 of 1978 relied on pilot weight shift alone. Eventually, Waspair took over production of the Gryphon 3.
Bob Dear, flying the Waspair Gryphon 3 in the photo, says that you had to actively fly the it all the time—you could not relax. It was, however, immensely precise and controllable as well as having unbeatable performance (in its time). Note the bowsprit and cables instead of crosstubes bracing the leading edges. Unfortunately, all those cables created about as much aerodynamic drag as crosstubes, if not more.
Production of the Miles Wings Gryphon was taken over by Waspair in 1978, its designer and first manufacturer Miles Handley being unable to keep up with demand. See the related topics menu Miles Wings Gulp and Gryphon.
Sadly, hang gliding is not exempt from the problem of innovators being unable to fund their developments and falling victim the ‘business acumen’ of manufacturing partners. Some do not even get that far. Here is the experience of an early 1970s pilot (a contributor to this history) who wanted an established manufacturer (another contributor to this history) to help him develop and manufacture an advanced ‘three-axis’ hang glider:
He didn’t want to look at my plans let alone answer any of my questions. I shouldn’t have been so surprised but I had my hopes pinned on this man. If he wouldn’t help me I knew of no one else to ask. In one afternoon my hopes dimmed to nothing and I left that warehouse a picture of dejection. After this my enthusiasm for flying quickly waned.
This image illustrates a classic hang glider design of the time, with drag-inducing, costly, time-consuming, and fault-prone deflexor systems on the leading edges. A minor design revolution (a back to the future scenario, arguably) at this time did away with them.
In Britain, the Hiway Superscorpion (said to be based on the Australian Moyes Maxi) was the most popular of the late 1970s deflexorless wings.
Here, Gary Dear flies a Hiway Superscorpion at Monk’s Down in 2018, 40 years after the design was intitially manufactured. However, this example is a Superscorpion 2 made in about 1981.
See the related topics menu Hiway of Sussex, England, and Abergavenny, Wales.
While all manufacturers went defelexorless, Birdman took a different approach with their Cherokee in that it retained a single deflexor wire in line with the airflow. The aerodynamic drag of that cable was reckoned to be minimal and it facilitated tuning the wing as a whole (tensioning or de-tensioning both sides together using turnbuckles) and you could tune out a turn if one developed by tensioning or de-tensioning just one side.
In the photo of Roly (Roland Lewis-Evans) launching from Kimmeridge, the view angle shows the deflexor post in line with the angle at which the sail meets the leading edge tube. Therefore, the cable was in the largely ‘dead air’ pushed along by the leading edges. (In this photo, the deflexor post obscures the forward leading edge.)
Incidentally, although it might look as though he used the flat-rigged hang glider as a launch trampoline, I am sure that is an optical illusion!
In the summer of 1979, Dave Raymond, Mark Southall, and Cliff Ingram left Birdman to set up Solar Wings, also in Wiltshire. Their first hang glider was the Storm; a deflexorless (naturally) wing with a slightly wider nose angle than the Cherokee, but otherwise it was a conventional single surface flexwing.
That left Ken Messenger, John Penry Evans, and Rita in the sail loft at Birdman. They came up with the Comanche. Like the Solar Wings Storm, the Birdman Comanche featured a wider nose angle (125°) with a flatter sail than the Cherokee. After some refinement of the flexible outer tips in the first two they made (the elliptical tip design of the example here was abandoned) the Comanche was found to have better performance than the Cherokee and the Storm. Main battens were pre-cambered aluminum at the front and flexible glass fiber at the back. Likely copying the example set by the Mouette Atlas, designed by Gerard Thevenot in France, the maximum camber point was farther forward than had been usual up to that time.
The Comanche was, as far as I know, the last Birdman hang glider. I photographed this one at the BHGA annual general meeting held at Warwick University in about March of 1979. Some months later Ken Messenger closed down Birdman Sports.
For more about Birdman, including links to two photos of another Comanche prototype, see the related topics menu Birdman of Wiltshire, England.
For more of Solar Wings, see the related topics menu Solar Wings of Wiltshire, England.
In the winter of 1977, Manta developed the double-surface Fledge 2 ‘semi rigid’, seen here at the 1979 BHGA AGM. It had superior low-speed handling and greater performance compared to its single-surface predecessor. Fledges came first, second, third, and fourth in the 1979 U.S. national championships and also won the world championships that year. (Source: Whole Air January-February 1983)
See the Manta Products of California related topics menu.
The next nearest wing in the photo is a Waspair Gryphon, designed by British genius Miles Handley. The wing behind that (not the one almost entirely hidden) looks to me like a Waspair Falcon IV, a development of the Wills Wing Superswallowtail, but with a hefty camber permanently formed into the keel tube. (The SST and its clones had a slight camber produced — as I recall — with the aid of a tensioning cable under the front part of the keel tube.)
The rigid wing Fledge 2, with its lightweight tube, cable, and fabric structure (similar to that of Rogallos) was so superior to flex-wings that it was moved into a separate category in competitions.
However, on April 1st 1979, Ultralight Products tested a new flex-wing hang glider with a double-surface sail (not unusual by then) and a carbon fiber airframe. The latter was eventually discarded in favour of conventional aluminium alloy tube, yet the combination of performance, handling, and — importantly — safety of this glider was to make it equal to the Fledge 2. For more about UP, see the related topics menu Ultralight Products of California and Utah.
The Owens valley, a desert created by siphoning off water for Los Angeles, is a corridor walled by barren mountains stretching from California to Nevada. By 1979, hang glider pilots from many countries went there to compete and to set records.
Butch [Peachy] had landed five miles north of the Peak where there are no roads, no trees, no lakes and no people.
Butch had a CB [citizen’s band] radio… Otherwise all-night searches and dawn helicopter rescues would have been necessary… The winds persisted and Butch spent the night on the the mountain top. Matches, and the skill to build a fire out of poor fire materials, saved him from the risk of freezing. He had brought food and water with him on his glider. At 7:00 a.m. the following morning, Butch had a beautiful serene flight to the valley.
— George Worthington writing in Hang Gliding, September 1979
This topic continues in Hang gliding early 1980s part 1.
Airport Journals: Van Nuys, Hollywood Mourn Aviation Champion Barbara Cesar
Ed Cesar on IMDB (Internet Movie DataBase)
Firm Ordered to Leave Van Nuys Airport, Los Angeles Times, March 30, 1997, about Barbara and Ed Cesar’s troubles
Quadruplane Hang Glider, digitized film on YouTube of Larry Hall’s quadruplane of about 1978, flying at Point of the Mountain, Utah
1. Eipper Antares by Ed Cesar, Hang Gliding August 1978
2. Brian Wood interviewed by the original author of this web site at the home of hang glider sail-maker Roland Lewis-Evans on 20 October 2018