Hang gliding 1974 part 1


Home (contents) Chronology Hang gliding 1974 part 1

Hang gliding 1974 part 1

This page continues from Hang gliding 1973 part 2.

The images here are artistic derivations of contemporary photos. See Copyright of early hang gliding photos.

Standard Rogallo landing in a street
Ted Salisbury flying the Dover cliffs, England, in a Wasp 229-B3

See also the related topics menu Waspair of Surrey, England.


Art based on a photo from Hang Gliding magazine archives of a Velderrain standard Rogallo flown prone
Velderrain standard Rogallo flown prone

Russ Velderrain manufactured Rogallo hang gliders in Lomita, California. His daughter Carol ran the USHGA office.

Chuck Nyland ground skimming a Pacific Gull HA-19 at Escape Country

Technical:

Art based on a photo of the Pacific Gull sail clearance tower and deflexor strut
Pacific Gull sail clearance tower and deflexor strut

Pacific Gull of San Clemente, California, was an early adopter of ‘sail clearance towers’ on the ends of the crosstubes, to which the top side wires were attached. They prevented the wires from digging a furrow in the sail. (Alternatives were an enormously tall king post or extending the cross-tubes out beyond the leading edges.) Nowadays the preferred method is to pass the cable through a hole in the sail to a connection slightly inboard of the leading edge tube.

On the subject of hardware, the following photo illustrates typical mid-1970s nut-and-bolt type fittings with Nicopress (or Talurit) swaged cables and a pin through a hole in the end of each bolt to prevent the nut coming off.

Art based on a photo of the keel aft cable attachment used by Sailbird
Keel aft cable attachment used by Sailbird

Incidentally, Sailbird should not be confused with contemporary manufacturers Sunbird or Sun Sail… There were so many hang glider manufacturers that it was hard to think up a unique name, although Pliable Moose (Wichita, Kansas) surely succeeded in that respect. (See Hang glider names.) Sailbird was based in Colorado Springs, Sunbird in Canoga Park, California, and Sun Sail in Denver, Colorado.


Northrop Institute of Technology Ultralight Flight Seminar in January 1974. Photo by Clara Allen.
Northrop Institute of Technology Ultralight Flight Seminar in January 1974. Photo by Clara Allen.

Speakers at the Northrop Institute of Technology Ultralight Flight Seminar in January 1974, from the left:

  • Irv Culver (co-designed the VJ-23 and -24 with Volmer Jensen)
  • Jack Lambie (Hang Loose)
  • Lloyd Licher (president of USHGA)
  • Eddie Paul (Whitney Enterprises Porta-Wing)
  • Bill Allen (pilot, photographer, journalist)
  • Taras Kiceniuk Jr. (Icarus 2 and 5)
  • Mike Riggs (Seagull Aircraft)
Proceedings of the 1974 Ultralight Flight Seminar on Hang Gliding at the Northrop Institute
Proceedings of the 1974 Ultralight Flight Seminar on Hang Gliding at the Northrop Institute. This is in Ken de Russy’s collection.
W.A. 'Bill' Allen in 1974
W.A. Allen in 1974. See also the Photographers of early hang gliding related topics menu.

Jack Lambie at the Northrop Institute on January 12th, 1974
Jack Lambie at the Northrop Institute Ultralight Flight Seminar on January 12th, 1974. Photographer not recorded.

Designer of the popular Hang Loose biplane rigid hang glider Jack Lambie was also a well known sailplane pilot.

Seagull 5 and other Rogallos

Mike Riggs in a Seagull V

The Seagull V flex-wing Rogallo used a rudder connected by ropes and pulleys to the pilot’s harness, a technique used also in the Quicksilver ‘semi rigid’ monoplane style hang glider. Together with its excessive dihedral, the rudder combined with weight shift provided turn control.

Art based on a Leroy Grannis photo of a Seagull 5 flown prone
Seagull 5 flown prone. Leroy Grannis photo.
Bob Keeler of Seagull Aircraft at Telluride on July 13th, 1974, by Leroy Grannis
Bob Keeler of Seagull Aircraft at Telluride on July 13th, 1974, by Leroy Grannis

See the related topics menu Seagull Aircraft of Santa Monica, California.


At the Sylmar 1974 U.S. nationals by Leroy Grannis
Pilots, gliders, and vehicles at the Sylmar 1974 U.S. nationals by Leroy Grannis
Art based on a photo by Russ Velderrain of an early 1970s hang glider launch
Early 1970s hang glider launch. Photo by Russ Velderrain.

Art based on the Sky Sports advert in Ground Skimmer
Sky Sports advert in Ground Skimmer

See also Flying squad, a brief history of Sky Sports.

UP is where it’s at

Ultralight Products advert in Ground Skimmer, October 1974

Ultralight Products, headed by automotive racing designer Pete Brock, set the standard for high quality hardware in hang glider manufacture.

Art based on a photo by Pete Brock of a Brock short-keel standard Rogallo in flight
Brock short-keel standard Rogallo in flight. Photo by Pete Brock.
Page from the 1974 Brock hang glider parts catalog
Page from the 1974 Brock catalog. Photo from the Ken de Russy archive.

Pete Brock flying a Brock 82S 19-18 hang glider in 1975
Pete Brock flying a Brock 82S 19-18 (no larger image available)

Not sure what the S designation indicated, but the 19-18 indicates the leading edge and root chord lengths of 19 and 18 feet, respectively.


Brock standard Rogallo launching
Brock standard Rogallo launching

The colors (well, shades) of the sail, the pose of the pilot and his shape collectively indicate to me that this is 11-year-old Hall Brock, son of Pete, in 1974. Unlike Hall’s 1973 glider made by Eipper (with a dark blue or purple sail and white trailing edge panels) his 1974 lime yellow glider with blue trailing edge panels had the distinctive UP tight radius curved control frame corners.

For more of Pete and Hall Brock, see the related topics menu Ultralight Products of California and Utah.

Bridge too far

Standard Rogallo above ocean cliff by Dave Meyers
Standard Rogallo above ocean cliff by Dave Meyers

Britain was somewhat behind the USA in cliff flying, despite the ocean cliffs of Beachy Head on the south coast being adjacent a hill used as a flying site. They only flew the hill because they thought rotor from the cliff would demolish a hang glider. Ted Salisbury’s earlier marathon at Dover, along the coast aways, seemed to be flown in front of and below the cliff top, which possibly engendered no confidence in the behavior of the air above a cliff.

Author’s reminiscence: At the inaugural meeting of the British Hang Gliding Association in late 1974 Steve Hunt of Hiway Hang Gliders, Brighton, Sussex, mentioned ‘cubic miles of air’ they could not fly in. He was likely referring to the cliffs of Beachy Head. However, that advice was about to change.


If you were going to stay on the cutting edge, if you were going to be competitive, if you were going to venture into those unflown spaces, you took those risks. A lot of good pilots and nice people paid for that with their lives.

— W.A. Roecker speaking in the documentary Big Blue Sky. See the Torrey Pines page for more of Roecker, including a link to the interview (on YouTube) from which those words are taken.

Brian Wood, the first British champion (1974) was soaring the hill at Beachy Head and he approached the cliff with trepidation, found rising air and immediately turned away back toward the hill. (We had no emergency parachutes at this time, so in-flight structural failure would likely be fatal.) Then he flew to the cliff again into the rising air and stayed a bit longer. Eventually, he soared high above the cliff and others joined him. (1)

Rotor (curl-over) from the cliff is a real danger, but it is behind the cliff. The air in front and above a cliff is not normally turbulent.

See also the Brian Wood related topics menu.


Art based on a photo by Dennis Jenks of instructor Doug Weeks at a covered bridge in Vermont
Instructor Doug Weeks negotiating a covered bridge in Vermont. Photo by Dennis Jenks.

Hang gliders transported in this manner attracted attention, which might go some way to explaining why they were transported in this manner. (See also Cruising for a bruising under External links later on this page.)


Kitty Hawk Kites, North Carolina, in about 1974
Kitty Hawk Kites, North Carolina, in about 1974

In the photo, notice the guy with crutches and a leg in a cast! See Kitty Hawk Kites for more of this long-established hang gliding school.


John Harris readying for the first ever hang glider flight from Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina, on July 13th, 1974
John Harris in the Hugh Morton Photographs and Films #P0081, copyright © 1974, North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library

John Harris of Kitty Hawk Kites made the first ever hang glider flight from Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina, on July 13th, 1974. That began photographer Hugh Morton’s long association with hang gliding. See the Hugh Morton’s photos related topics menu.


Of course, hang gliders owed much to sailboat design and technology. The art of sail making and time-tested hardware allowed designs to advance quickly.

— U.S. east coast veteran pilot Chris Gonzales (via e-mail)

Art based on a photo of the Australian Tweetie
Tweetie

The Tweetie, designed and built by Australian Ron Wheeler, was a weight-shift controlled hang glider built of modified sailboat technology. British hang gliding pioneer Miles Handley rigged one at the inaugural meeting of the BHGA, held in December 1974. Handley then started work on a design of similarly ‘aeroplane’ layout, but of radically different geometry and construction.

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

Standards

Stewart Hodgson and Skyhook
Stewart Hodgson and Skyhook in 1974 by Northern Echo, Darlington

Despite the efforts of designers to improve on the standard Rogallo, that is what most pilots flew in 1974. Alan Kitching was the wire man here.

Stewart Hodgson flying a hang glider in Motorcycle News, 1974
Stewart Hodgson in Motorcycle News

A photo in the British weekly Motorcycle News (originally by the Northern Echo, Darlington) of bike racer Stewart Hodgson flying a hang glider caught my (and others’) attention. The shape of the control frame base tube identifies it as a Skyhook. See also Skyhook Sailwings.


Notice the short horizontal tube near the top of the control frame on Mick Hurst’s glider. Many early production standard Rogallos had their hang points too far aft, requiring the pilot to pull in constantly to maintain airspeed. What went unnoticed on short top-to-bottom flights became annoying and tiring when hang gliders began to soar in stronger winds on larger hills. The addition of this ‘soaring bar’ with the harness risers passing in front of it mitigated the problem.

Mick Hurst in a Skyhook IIIA hang glider at a competition at Cam Long in Shropshire, England, in August 1974
Mick Hurst in a Skyhook IIIA at a competition at Cam Long in Shropshire, England, in August 1974

Despite the obvious crudity of this retrofitted correction, the harness risers slid over it from side to side easily, so it did not interfere with roll control. It did not adversely affect pitch control either, at least in this author’s experience.

On the wind-swept grassy slopes of the Sussex Downs in southern England, inventor Miles Handley flew a Skyhook standard Rogallo that he built in a large size to take his weight. See Photo Gallery/Miles Handley under External links later on this page for photos.

While talking to the other pilots, Miles realised hardly anyone [who] was manufacturing at that time was an engineer. The sport was getting a bad press and we realised something had to be done so Miles and I drew up a safety standard. This covered such things as quality of the aluminium and cloth, integrity of stitching on the sails, quality of bolts and wires. We managed to get together the 7 or 8 people then going into production and managed to persuade them to use their experience to add to our draft and subsequently adopt it as an official Safety Standard.

— Miles and Jillian Handley (2)

Miles Handley soon contributed to the art of hang glider design in a more radical way. See the Miles Wings Gulp and Gryphon related topics menu.


This topic continues in Hang gliding 1974 part 2.

External links

Beginning of hanggliding in Norway by Reidar Berntsen, digitized film on YouTube

Cruising for a bruising in Hang gliding 1975 on Brave Guys and Beautiful Dolls

First International Woodpecker Hang Gliding ChampionshipCam Long Down 1974-08-26 digitized film on Vimeo

HANG GLIDING – COLOUR digitized film by British Movietone on YouTube; the British championship at Steyning, Sussex, in 1974

KITEMEN digitized film by British Movietone on YouTube; Tweeties and standard Rogallos on a beach dune near Sydney, Australia

Photo by Roger Middleton of Mike Collis launching in a Tweetie at the British championships in August 1975

Photo Gallery/Miles Handley on British Hang Gliding History

Southern Hang Gliding Club early days: Film taken firstly at Mill Hill, Shoreham, Sussex England, secondly at the Devil’s Dyke, six miles north of Brighton, and thirdly at Rhossili, south Wales, on Martin Brady’s YouTube channel. The orange (or tan) and blue wing with white tips and curved leading edges is a Wasp CB240 flown by Johnny Carr.

Wings (CBC 1975) digitized film on YouTube of Blair Trenholme flying a Seagull 3 in Brtish Columbia, with some bits of ‘instructing’ of new pilots thrown in

Sources/References

1. Beachy Head: Conversation with Brian Wood at the home of sail-maker Roly Lewis-Evans on October 20th, 2018

2. Miles and Jillian Handley letter to Terry Aspinall, August 1st, 2008, on British Hang Gliding History

8 thoughts on “Hang gliding 1974 part 1

  1. This is fascinating–are you still hang gliding? It’s a sport I have always wanted to try. The only true flying that we humans can do, it would seem. I love its simplicity, its cleanliness. I can imagine a push-off, then lift, then…the surrounding. Being enveloped in whole new medium of yaw and pitch and roll, but without those words.

    Would I wind up killing myself if I just up and bought a glider?

    Like

    1. “Would I wind up killing myself if I just up and bought a glider?” — Yes! You need to get trained at a hang gliding school. You can find a list on BHPA.co.uk. Paragliding is easier to learn and is more popular than hang gliding, but I stopped paragliding a couple of years ago to concentrate on hang gliding, which is where I started really.

      Like

    2. I taught myself to fly back in those years. I learned on sand dunes at the beach. I believe it is the ONLY place to learn! My present craft is a Solairus ATF.

      Like

  2. Wow, memories. I flew a Ridge Rider on the south downs, was at the Minto championships, and later had a Chargus Vega. Happy days.

    Like

  3. In regard to pitch problems in 70‘s gliders, in my experience the most common one was that there was simply too much, leaving two usable speeds for a prone pilot: trim and elbows locked.

    In my early days on a Sky Sports Lark (a “standard”: Low Aspect Ratio Kite) preflight did include sighting down the keel for a certain amount of reflex, and if lacking, a twist of turnbuckle could bring it up to spec.

    My one occasion flirting with pitch divergence was when I sent my Sirocco II off for an upgrade ostensibly to improve handling. Standing keel pockets were in vogue and Sky Sports had come up with a retrofit that bent down the keel, added a small post where a keel pocket would be, and put two pulleys on the out and down deflexor wires at the nose. The bent keel required shorter flying wires to the keel. Well an error was made on my glider where they used the length of the smaller size Sirocco. End result was a glider that flew with negative bar pressure and was quite terrifying. My instructor was skeptical – that is until he flew it!

    Like

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s