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.
See also the related topics menu Waspair of Surrey, England.
Russ Velderrain manufactured Rogallo hang gliders in Lomita, California. His daughter Carol ran the USHGA office.
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.
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.
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)
Designer of the popular Hang Loose biplane rigid hang glider Jack Lambie was also a well known sailplane pilot.
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.
See the related topics menu Seagull Aircraft of Santa Monica, California.
See also Flying squad, a brief history of Sky Sports.
Ultralight Products, headed by automotive racing designer Pete Brock, set the standard for high quality hardware in hang glider manufacture.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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 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)
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. For some spectacular film of one, see under External links later on this page.
See also the Flex-wings with tails related topics menu.
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.
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.
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.
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 Championship – Cam 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
Mark Woodhams writes about the early days of Hang Gliding on the Southern Hang Gliding Club web site
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.
Tweetie: Exceptionally clear film of Kevin Cowie flying a Tweetie at Long Reef in Outlook: Icarus by Film Australia on YouTube starting at 2 minutes 50 seconds
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
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