Hang gliding mid 1980s
This page follows Hang gliding early 1980s part 2.
Most of the images on this page are artistic derivations of contemporary photos. Some are largely un-editd photos by Hugh Morton. See Copyright of early hang gliding photos.
Hugh Morton, the photographer here, was a prominent figure in North Carolina.
Thousands gather on Grandfather Mountain in June for Singing on the Mountain, which its aristocratic sponsor, Hugh Morton, calls a “king-size preachin’, Sunday school picnic, family reunion, and gospel singin’, rolled into one.”
— Neil Morgan, Home to North Carolina, National Geographic, March 1980
See under External links later on this page for digitized film of the Masters competitions held at Grandfather Mountain in 1983, 1984, and 1985. Also a link to a documentary film aired one evening at the 1983 competition, about the ‘Moyes boys’ adventure in Africa.
Australian (and half Chinese) Steve Moyes of the hang glider manufacturing family finished in joint third place at the 1983 Masters, but he won the 1983 world championships, held in Germany.
See also the Moyes Delta Gliders related topics menu.
Almost to the lake I encountered lift that soon became a steady 200 FPM up. At 2400 feet over take-off, I got on my CB radio.
“Wind dummy to launch.”
“Go ahead, dummy,” came Joe Foster.
“The lift is everywhere; I would recommend some kind of cross country task.”
— Masters of Hang Gliding by Doug Rice, Whole Air, December 1983
A wind dummy is a pilot at a competition who volunteers to fly before the competitors to report on conditions. That info assists the organizers in deciding on what task to set and on when, if at all, to start that day’s competition. A CB radio operates in the citizens’ band wavelengths, normally associated with truckers at the time.
Here, British champion John Pendry has Hugh Morton’s camera attached to his hang glider at the Masters of Hang Gliding 1985 competition. I assume that is a counter weight attached to the back of the keel tube. Pilots of John Pendry’s caliber are not averse to accepting help when they need it.
This remarkable aerial view by Mike Helms was taken during the 1986 annual race at Marina Beach, California; the home site of long time hang glider sailmaker John LaTorre.
Because Marina Beach is largely sand dunes, it is never the same from year to year. One year, the park rangers gave a lecture to the local hang gliding club on how they were doing native plant reclamation there. They wanted to let the pilots know what areas were going to be off limits. They had a contour map of the three-mile target area. One of the pilots pointed out that the map was five years old and others joined in, pointing out where the dunes had changed shape since the map was created. (3) That is just one instance of many in which hang glider pilots have greater expertise than the supposed experts.
I was either wire-launching the pilots at the ramp or being a “ridge monitor,” flying over the course and checking to see that the pilots were all okay. If a glider landed and didn’t move, I radioed the race officials, who would send out an ATV to investigate. In my many years at that post, I can remember only one pilot who was injured during the race.
Wills Wing at last released their first enclosed cross-tube design, the Duck. Notice how, in the photo of the Duck at full speed level flight, the trailing edge of the sail is held in a reflex curve by lines to the top of the king post (reflex bridles) and tip struts not attached to the sail, but firmly attached to the leading edge tubes.
At Ager in northern Spain in 1999 I (the original author of this web site) met a German pilot still flying a Duck. It had appropriately vintage colours: Brown and yellow sailcloth. I asked why he flew such an old glider. He explained that he had tried newer wings, but he liked his Duck better. Wills Wing manufactured 1438 Ducks. See Wills Wing glider production history. See also the related topics menu Sport Kites/Wills Wing of California.
Mark Anderson in an Ultralight Products Comet is at the left edge about two-thirds up the photo, just below the light bare rock, while Pat Denevan flies the orange and yellow Flight Designs/Hiway Demon. The photo was taken by Greg Shaw in a third hang glider over Cathedral Spires, Yosemite national park. They launched from Sentinel Dome, which was closed to hang gliders shortly afterward. A unique view. (1)
Delta Dawn, what’s that flower you have on?
Could it be a faded rose from days gone by?
— From the lyrics of Delta Dawn, an early 1970s hit for both Tanya Tucker and Helen Reddy
The 1984 Dawn rekindled the concept of using struts instead of side flying wires (lower rigging) to allow the omission of a king post and upper rigging. As far as is known to this author, the ASG-23 of 1979 or 1980 was its predecessor in that regard. (See ASG-23 in Tom Price’s flying machines.)
The Dawn is the first design in years to break through the surface tension of industry design conformity.
— Paul Burns (6)
Paul Burns flew one at Torrey Pines, San Diego, in company of state-of-the-art wings including a Wills Wing Duck, Ultralight Products Comet, Wills Wing HP, and Seedwings Sensor 510VG.
The Dawn appeared to keep pace with the Ducks and Comets, but seemed to be at a disadvantage against the new HP or Sensor 510VG.
— Paul Burns (6)
In this author’s opinion, the further a design departs from the norm in its structural appearance, the better it needs to be — in its combination of performance and handling — to overcome pilots’ caution when deciding what glider to buy. That is surely at least partly the cause of what Paul Burns refers to as the surface tension of industry design conformity.
Unlike the ASG-23, which did away with cross-tubes, the Dawn moved the cross-tubes aft and attached the struts to them inboard of their junctions with the leading edges. The Dawn’s structure was characterized by some as that of a rigid wing, but it flew just like a flex-wing, being controlled entirely by pilot weight-shift.
The Dawn has a two-position frame setting on the base tube. The outside setting has additional dihedral, resulting in more roll stable flight characteristics. The inside position provides a slightly spirally unstable machine; in this setting, turn initiation is a bit quicker, but some “high siding” may be required to keep the bank angle constant.
— Paul Burns (6)
That strikes this author as something we still need, even where (or especially where) ‘variable geometry’ is provided, which has a side effect of adjusting the glider’s spiral instability.
Progressive Aircraft is included here under the Bennett sub-heading because ProAir’s designer Dick Boone was previously Bennett’s designer of long standing. (See the Dick Boone, hang glider designer related topics menu.) The following year (1985) ProAir merged with Bill Bennett’s Delta Wing Kites and Gliders. (7)
The Bennett Delta Wing Kites and Gliders Streak, created by British designer Bob England was Bennett’s last marketable design. It remained popular and in production until 1989, when economic realities hit the hang glider industry hard and Bill Bennett’s Delta Wing Kites and Gliders went out of business. See Bob England, hang glider designer and the Bill Bennett’s Delta Wing Kites and Gliders related topics menu.
Having cleaned up the aerodynamics of the flex-wing by, firstly, omitting the draggy leading edge external deflexor bracing of the mid 1970s (starting with the Sunbird Nova and the Electra Flyer Floater) then — after valiant but none too successful attempts by several designers — having enclosed the cross-tubes inside the double surface sail in 1980 (the UP Comet) the next step was to delete the stand-up keel pocket.
The HP was the most innovative, commercially successful and copied glider in the world after 1984. There were at least 6 copies at the Kossen World meet alone.
— Wills Wing designer Steve Pearson (8)
Wills Wing manufactured more than 1,200 HP 170s, that design having entered production in 1984, and more than 2,000 HP ATs starting in 1989. See Wills Wing glider production history.
Austrian-American (via Australia) Hans Heydrich won the 1987 Arizona cross country contest in a Wills Wing HP2 with a flight of more than 200 miles. Heydrich’s grandfather flew zeppelins in World War 1 and his father flew Messerschmitt 109s among other aircraft in World War 2. (5) See also the World War 2 related topics menu.
Technical: The first popular double surface gliders, including the Sky Sports Sirocco and the look-alike Highster, also featured flat keel pockets. (See Sirocco in Flying squad.) That was simply because they pre-dated the widespread adoption of the stand-up keel pocket. Two later gliders with flat keel pockets were the Southdown Sailwings Lightning and the Shark from New Zealand, both of 1980. (See under Lightnings, Comet clones and pod people in Hang gliding early 1980s part 1 and Shark in Graeme Bird’s hang gliders.) However, it seems likely to this author that the bulky triangular fins that connected the aft-raked king posts with the upper surface of the real keel pockets in both those wings negated any drag reduction from the omission of a stand-up keel pocket. The Wills Wing HP of 1984 might, in this respect, be considered the first modern flex-wing hang glider.
Here, the exceptionally clean lines of the Seedwings Sensor are evident.
Seedwings of Santa Barbara, California, is a separate entity from the manufacturer of the same name in Europe.
One of the greatest hang glider designers, Bob Trampenau, turned out to be a great photographer too.
According to industry expert Dan Johnson writing in Hang Gliding, July 1988, the largest manufacturer then was Gerard Thevenot’s La Mouette, which made 1,800 gliders in 1987. Here is the contemporary production hierarchy of manufacturers according to Johnson’s research:
- La Mouette (France)
- Polaris (Italy)
- Airwave (UK and USA)
- Wills Wing (USA)
- Moyes Gliders (Australia)
The image of French hang glider manufacturer Gerard Thevenot and Canadian sculptor, pilot, and inventor Bill Lishman (not to be confused with pioneer pilot and historian Bill Liscomb) is a screenshot from the documentary Operation Migration – Birds of a Feather shipped with the DVD containing the movie Fly Away Home, Columbia Pictures, 1995. (See under External links later on this page for a review.)
The Wills Wing Attack Duck logo on the stand-up keel pocket was an inverted version of the normal Duck logo. At least some, including this one, had missiles added under the wings. (See Sport Kites/Wills Wing of California.)
See Grouse Mountain invitational 1984 for photographs by Jan Kulhavy taken at Grouse Mountain on the outskirts of the city of Vancouver, British Columbia. They include rare images taken just after a mid-air collision.
Hang waiting is the art of waiting for conditions to improve. The impatient pilot often finds himself (or herself) in the bottom landing field. On the other hand, if you wait for perfect conditions, you will miss the best lift of the day and, again, find yourself de-rigging in the bottom landing field.
Jan Kulhavy took the Vedder Mountain photos likely during the competition held there on May 19th to 21st 1984. (1)
For some early hang gliding in Canada, see School for perfection in Hang gliding 1973 part 2.
The Explorer was a semi-rigid wing. Its complexity is often mentioned by those who remember it as being its principal drawback. Nevertheless, when Hiway ceased trading in March 1983, leading British hang gliding engineer and campaigner David Bedding continued to develop it. He was killed in a mid-air collision in 1990, which also took the life of Derek Austen, another well-known British pilot, and that ended the Explorer project.
See also the Hiway of Sussex, England and Abergavenny, Wales related topics menu.
This topic continues in Hang gliding late 1980s.
1983 Compressed 27 – 30mph Frontside Masters of Hang Gliding Championships on David Thompson’s YouTube channel. The video is annotated to identify several individuals present.
1984 Masters of Hang Gliding Championships – Backside / Frontside on David Thompson’s YouTube channel. Some pilots, launch assistants, and notable spectators are identified in embedded text.
1985 Masters of Hang Gliding Championships Sponsored by Piedmont Airlines @ Grandfather Mountain also on David Thompson’s YouTube channel
Big Blue Sky — The history of modern hang gliding – the first extreme sport! by Bill Liscomb on YouTube
Birdmen of Kilimanjaro on Moyes YouTube channel
Easy riser, a review of the movie Fly Away Home, Columbia Pictures, 1995, on Brave Guys and Beautiful Dolls
Ewoks Hang Glider on YouTube. In 1984 Jeff Mott in a modified Delta Wing Light Dream (struts added and top rigging removed, among other mods) put hang gliding in front of 65 million viewers in the LucasFilm television movie Ewok Adventure. (2)
1. Whole Air No. 35 May 1984
2. Dan Johnson, Product Lines, Whole Air, January 1985
3. John LaTorre e-mail communication with the author in March 2021
4. John LaTorre feedback/comment originally on the John LaTorre related topics menu (which includes the same photo) but incorporated into this page
5. Hans Heydrich: Pilot profile by Bob Thompson in Hang Gliding, January 1988
6. ProAir Dawn evaluation: Paul Burns, Whole Air No. 39, January 1985
7. In 1985 ProAir merged with Bill Bennett’s Delta Wing Kites and Gliders: Dan Johnson, Industry News in Whole Air, July 1985
8. Steve Pearson e-mail exchange with the author in August 2021