Hang gliding 1974 part 2
This page continues from Hang gliding 1974 part 1.
The images here are artistic derivations of contemporary photos. See Copyright of early hang gliding photos.
I am convinced that if there is a truly inspired race upon the face of the earth, it must be the hang glider pilots.
— Carol Boenish-Price, USHGA magazine Ground Skimmer, May 1975
Even those who did not fly wanted to be part of this social revolution. This is from a description of a meeting of the Southern California Hang Glider Association, soon to metamorphose into the USHGA:
The first speaker was a youth in glasses who must have been from Cal Tech because he drew formulas and equations on a blackboard, mumbling abstractly and mostly inaudibly until everyone began stirring.
— Maralys Wills and Chris Wills, Higher than Eagles, the Tragedy and Triumph of an American Family, 1992 (see this site’s review of the book)
In Britain during the winter of 1973-4, weekend motocross racer Brian Wood went to a local bookstore (WH Smith) to look at aviation books to discover something about hang gliding. One book gave the address of the National Hang Gliding Association, which happened to be only ten minutes drive from Brian. Moreover, the Wasp hang glider factory was only 20 minutes away.
On Brian’s third weekend flying, during Easter 1974 at Truleigh Hill (at the end of the Devil’s Dyke ridge on the Sussex Downs) he saw Wasp test pilot John James Haynes encounter lift in an experimental wing (likely a CB 240) when a side flying wire pulled out. The cross-tube broke and Haynes fell about 500 ft onto a slope, sustaining multiple leg fractures. (1)
The cable had been clamped over the plastic coating. A week before the accident, pioneer pilot Nick Regan had tested the clamp, which was designed to be used on plastic coated cable, to failure at 260 lb.
…we both decided that the loads imposed on a Rogallo wing’s flying wires would not approach this figure. We were both WRONG.
— Nick Regan (2)
Despite witnessing that accident, Brian Wood continued flying. At the first British championships, held at Steyning bowl on the Sussex Downs in July 1974, Brian was the only individual who the organizer knew who he could trust to take the car park money, but “I’ll call you when it’s your slot to fly.” From the car park Brian was unable to see his fellow competitors’ flights.
This went on the whole weekend: car park attendant … flyer … car park attendant … flyer.
— Brian Wood, SkyWings (BHPA magazine) June 2021
After the flying was over, the organizers calculated the scores and final positions, while Brian and his wife put his glider and gear back on their Volkswagen camper van.
I thought they were joking and it was just a wind-up, but no! I walked over to the marshalls’ tent to see the scores myself, and yes, I had scored the most points. Unbelievable!
Brian the car park attendant became the first British hang gliding champion.
Hawaiian Ed Cesar and Londoner Brian Wood were flying friends and competed in far-away places such as Norway.
Ed Cesar became a test pilot for Los Angeles-based Eipper-Formance. Outside the hang gliding world, Ed subsequently ran a business creating aircraft interiors and his clients included the actor and jet pilot John Travolta. Coincidentally, Brian also worked in airliner refurbishment.
That looks to me like the Scripps Institution of Oceanography pier, which is at the south end of the Torrey Pines ridge, San Diego.
Kent Trimble, Lee Wilson, and Alan Dimen founded Manta Products of Oakland, San Francisco, in November 1972. As far as this author has determined, only three other Rogallo flex-wing hang glider manufacturers existed at the time, two in California; Bill Bennett’s Delta Wing and Dick Eipper’s Eipper-Formance, both in the Los Angeles area; and Moyes Delta Gliders in Australia. Manta claims to be first to introduce the foldable control frame and no-tools set-up. (Source: Whole Air January-February 1983)
See the Manta Products of California related topics menu.
Rich Grigsby was a founding partner of Sunbird Ultralight Gliders, based in Canoga Park, California. He took over from Carol Price as editor of Ground Skimmer.
Despite the performance advantages of the rigid wing hang gliders, the simplicity, portability, and ruggedness of the Rogallo ensured its popularity.
Could its performance be improved without sacrificing its advantages? The Wills brothers and Chris Price took the 90-degree nose angle standard Rogallo with reduced billow and cut a ‘helical’ curve into the trailing edge. They called the resulting design the Swallowtail.
The leading edges of Chris Price’s prototype were each four feet longer than the keel, restoring the sail area, but resulting in a lanky look reminiscent of the Windlord 4, Cirrus, and other contemporary short-keel Rogallos. However, early production Swallowtails were made in several variants, some with equal length leading edges and keel, and some with longer leading edges.
They subsequently added a small amount of ‘roach’ at the wing tips, each supported by a short radial batten. (By radial, I mean each batten was aligned towards the nose. It was therefore straight and it rolled up with the sail for transporting.)
The Swallowtail was the first glider I owned that flew really well. It was the first properly balanced and well-tuned wing that I ever flew that enabled me to experience anything approximating trim. It was a revelation and showed me what real control was like.
— Ken de Russy (e-mail correspondence, February 2020). For more of Ken de Russy, see the Santa Barbara Hang Glider Emporium page.
There are some color photos that include Swallowtails later on this page. See also the Sport Kites/Wills Wing of California related topics menu.
Following the Northrop Institute of Technology Ultralight Flight Seminar in January 1974 (see Hang gliding 1974 part 1) the AIAA/SSA/MIT International Symposium on the Technology of Low Speed and Motorless Flight was held in September. There, a presentation explained how the Icarus V wing shape was determined by computer.
See also the Computing in hang gliding related topics menu.
A politician in San Diego is campaigning on the promise to eliminate us.
— Photographer Leroy Grannis writing in Hang Glider, Fall 1974
The Ken Russell movie Tommy, filmed in 1974, featured Roger Daltry of rock band The Who apparently launching from a castle tower near Portsmouth, England, in an all-white Birdman standard Rogallo. He flew shirtless and helmet-less while singing a long-forgotten song, thus causing dozens of mods and rockers on the streets below, some wearing World War 2 German steel helmets, to stop fighting and instead break out into spontaneous gyrations while they looked up at him in awe.
The point is that, with the advent of hang gliding, you no longer needed to use a multi-million dollar airplane to drop napalm on iron-age villagers in support of a corrupt capitalist regime half a world away (fighting a brutal communist regime) to be a flying hero.
See also Birdman and Solar Wings of Wiltshire, England.
The pilot in the preceding image was known as ‘Spoon’ (almost certainly Larry Witherspoon) and the guy watching from in front of his glider is Dave Meyers. For more of Larry Witherspoon see Hang gliding late 1980s and Hang gliding 1994 and 1995.
See the Eipper-Formance of Torrance, California related topics menu.
The parabolic-curved leading edge Seagull III was first produced when most Rogallo wings were of 80 degree nose angle. Ninety degree nose angle wings were thought of as for experts only, perhaps because a right-angle was feared to be a physical limit in a self-inflating fabric wing. Yet the Seagull had a wide nose angle of 102 degrees.
Rick Poynter’s Pacific Kites in New Zealand manufactured copies of the Seagull III. Sail-maker (and future Olympic sailor) Graham Deegan bought one and he modified the sail with shaped seams and superior sailcloth. The performance difference between his wing and production gliders was marked(3). For more about Rick Poynter and Pacific Kites, see Lancer in Graeme Bird’s hang gliders and for Graham Deegan’s later contributions to hang glider development, see Airwave in Hang gliding early 1980s part 2.
This photo of Nick Regan, an early editor of the British hang gliding and powered ultralight magazines, shows that the Seagull 3 did not fold into as neat a bundle as a wing with straight leading edges. The same applied to the Wasp CB240, which likely used Nick’s Seagull as its prototype. The site here appears to be Steyning on the Sussex Downs, southern England.
Author’s reminiscence: I believe that Nick built this Seagull 3 himself. According to other pilots who I spoke to, the Wasp was an improvement on the Seagull.
Nick Regan also flew a Quicksilver, incidentally. For more about Nick, see South Downs in Hang gliding early 1980s part 1.
Another British manufacturer, Pegasus, also made a similar wing with permanently curved leading edges.
They were great gliders but I had little enthusiasm for any Seagull mainly because they were a pain to transport compared to straight leading edge gliders.
— Ken de Russy, chief instructor at the Santa Barbara Hang Glider Emporium
Seagull attempted to combine the advantages of the Quicksilver with the advantages of the Rogallo in their Seagull 5. A closer-up image of the fin and rudder appears later on this page.
See also the Seagull Aircraft of Santa Monica, California related topics menu.
The ‘official organ’ of the (UK) National Hang Gliding Association was the Illustrated Monthly Flypaper. The September 1974 edition contained a report and photos of an early British hang gliding competition held at Cam Long in Shropshire.
The 1974 US nationals were held at Escape Country, California, in late December 1974 and early January 1975. In the flex-wing (Rogallo) class, Bob Wills won first place, Chris Wills second, and Chris Price third, all flying Swallowtails.
For a painting based on the sunset photo, see under External links later on this page.
Prizes for professional contests are climbing into the thousands of dollars.
— Don Dedera(4)
See Dave Cronk, Bob Lovejoy, and the Quicksilver in Cronk works.
See the related topics menu Ultralight Products of California and Utah.
While Hang Glider magazine featured the color photos of Leroy Grannis, Wings Unlimited, based in Topeka, Kansas, showed mainly color photos by W.A. Allen. The cover photo here is of the prototype Dragonfly, likely with its designer Roy Haggard aboard.
As a boy, Jim sometimes hiked to the top of Saddleback Mountain. “It’s a funny thing about that,” he muses, “When I got to the top, I used to wish there was some way I could fly back down. Who would have thought people would some day be doing it?”
— Maralys Wills (mother of the manufacturer Wills Wing) quoting Escape Country entrepreneur and hang glider pilot Jim Robinson in Ground Skimmer, August 1973
The ‘surfing model’ of hang gliding in southern California, when top-to-bottom flights were the norm, naturally lent itself to the concept of the flight park, much like the motocross park. Indeed, the winner of the 1974 U.S. nationals, Bob Wills, was a motocross racer as was 1974 British champion Brian Wood, along with some other notable hang gliding Brits including Ken Messenger and Len Hull.
Escape Country featured a motocross track, as did nearby Saddleback Park, both of which were also hang gliding competition venues. Note MX racing Sundays under Bicycling. This was an early manifestation of BMX racing.
However, the ‘surfing model’ of hang gliding was becoming an outdated concept. Hang gliders were already starting to fly cross country, thus escaping the confines of venues like Escape Country.
This topic continues in Hang gliding 1974 part 3.
Chelan – The Early Years unusually high quality film taken at the Washington State site, on Jack Olson’s YouTube channel
Mark Woodhams writes about the early days of Hang Gliding (in Britain) on the Southern hang gliding club web site
Revisiting Escape Country launch zones 2016 on the US Hawks forum
Swallowtail in Painted history of hang glider design on Brave guys and beautiful dolls for a painting based on the Leroy Grannis sunset photo at Escape Country
1. Conversations with Brian Wood in person and over telephone, including on Sunday 10 May 2020
2. Report by Nick Regan in NHGA magazine The Illustrated Monthly Flypaper, November 1974
3. Graham Deegan’s Seagull III copy: Gib Eggen writing in Whole Air, April 1986
4: Hang Gliding: The Flyingest Flying by Don Dedera and Stephen McCarroll, 1975