Hang gliding 1974 part 2


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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

Art based on a photo by Mike Piper of a ground-skimming hang glider
Ground-skimming hang glider. Photo by Mike Piper.
Art based on a photo by Ken Rogers of cycle transport of a hang glider
Cycle transport. Photo by Ken Rogers of Beverley Hills.

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)


Hawaiian Ed Cesar and Londoner Brian Wood were flying friends and competed in far-away places such as Norway.

Art based on a photo by Ed Cesar of a standard Rogallo soaring in Hawaii
Standard Rogallo soaring in Hawaii. Photo by Ed Cesar.

In 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, in 1974, at Truleigh Hill (at the end of the Devil’s Dyke ridge on the Sussex Downs) he saw a Wasp test pilot encounter lift in an experimental wing (likely a CB 240) when a side flying wire pulled out. The cross-tube broke and the pilot fell about 500 ft onto a slope, sustaining multiple leg fractures. (1) The cable had been clamped over the plastic coating, which they had tested to I think 400 lb without failure, and they felt that flight loads would never reach that. (2)

Brian Wood flying a prototype for Hiway Hang Gliders of Brighton, Sussex, England, in 1975
Brian flying a prototype for Hiway Hang Gliders of Brighton, Sussex, England, the following year

Despite witnessing that accident, Brian Wood continued flying and became Britain’s first national hang gliding champion.

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.

For a spectacular photo of Ed Cesar, rather than a photo by him, see under Antares, Floater, Ten Meter, Condor, and Mega in Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 3. And for Brian’s adventures in Austria in 1975, see Spiraling out of control.


Art based on the Manta advert in Ground Skimmer
From the Manta advert in Ground Skimmer

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. Only two other Rogallo flex-wing hang glider manufacturers existed at the time, at least in California and possibly in the world; Bill Bennett’s Delta Wing and Dick Eipper’s Eipper-Formance, both in the Los Angeles area. 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.


Art based on a photo by Carl Boenish of Rich Grigsby thermaling behind Trip Mellinger over Sylmar
Rich Grigsby thermaling a Sunbird Rogallo wing behind Trip Mellinger over Sylmar. Photo set up by Carl Boenish.
Art based on the Sunbird Gliders advert in Ground Skimmer
Sunbird Gliders advert in Ground Skimmer

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.

Swallowtail

Despite the performance advantages of the rigid wing hang gliders, the simplicity, portability, and ruggedness of the Rogallo ensured its popularity.

Chris Price prototype 24x20 Swallowtail (photographer not known)
Chris Price prototype 24×20 Swallowtail (photographer not known)

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.

Art based on a photo by Chris Price of Bob Wills flying Price's prototype Swallowtail at Point Fermin
Bob Wills flying Chris Price’s prototype Swallowtail at Point Fermin. Photo by Chris Price.

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.)

Art based on a photo by Stephen McCarroll of Bob Wills at the 1974 U.S. nationals at Escape Country, California, in December
Bob Wills at the 1974 U.S. nationals at Escape Country, California, in December (no larger image available). Photo by Stephen McCarroll.

Instructor Ken de Russy in a Swallowtail at the Mesa training hill, Santa Barbara
Instructor Ken de Russy in a Swallowtail at the Mesa training hill, Santa Barbara

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.

From a Wills Wing Swallowtail advert (dual at Point Fermin)
From a Wills Wing Swallowtail advert (dual at Point Fermin)

There are some color photos that include Swallowtails later on this page. See also the Sport Kites/Wills Wing of California related topics menu.

Art based on a photo by Paul MacCready at the hang gliding portion of a symposium of low speed gliding in September 1974
Standing room only at the hang gliding portion of a symposium of low speed gliding in September 1974. Photo by Paul MacCready.

Tommy

A politician in San Diego is campaigning on the promise to eliminate us.

— Photographer Leroy Grannis writing in Hang Glider, Fall 1974

Dave Raymond as Tommy in the 1975 movie (no larger size available)

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.

Rogallo versus Quicksilver in colour

Hang glider launching at Torrance Beach. Photo by Leroy Grannis.

The pilot in the preceding image (possibly Laverne DeJan?) was known as ‘Spoon’ and the guy watching from in front of his glider is Dave Meyers.


Art based on a photo by Leroy Grannis of Jack Schroder flying a Quicksilver
Jack Schroder flying an Eipper-Formance Quicksilver. Photo by Leroy Grannis.

See the Eipper-Formance of Torrance, California related topics menu.

Art based on a photo by Ted Schmiedeke of a Sun Sail Rogallo
Sun Sail Rogallo. Photo by Ted Schmiedeke.

Art based on the Seagull advert in Hang Glider magazine
Seagull advert in Hang Glider magazine

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.

Nick Regan with a Seagull 3 hang glider in 1974
Nick Regan (left) with a Seagull 3. Photo by Andrew Morland.

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. According to pilots I (the original author of this web site) I spoke to, the Wasp was an improvement. Another British manufacturer, Pegasus, also made a similar wing. The site here appears to be Steyning on the Sussex Downs, southern England.

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

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


Cover of the Illustrated Monthly Flypaper, September, 1974
Cover of the Illustrated Monthly Flypaper, September, 1974

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.

Winter escape: The 1974 U.S. nationals

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.

Bob Wills in a Swallowtail at the US nationals, Escape Country, CA, in December 1974 by Leroy Grannis
Bob Wills in a Swallowtail by Leroy Grannis (no larger image available)

(For a painting based on this photo, see under External links later on this page.)

Art based on a photo  by Leroy Grannis of Dave Cronk heading for the bullseye after avoiding a Rogallo in the target area
Dave Cronk heading for the bull’s eye after avoiding a Rogallo in the target area. Photo by Leroy Grannis.
Fred Tiemens of Minnesota flying a Swallowtail turns away from Jack Schroder (Quicksilver) at the US nationals, Escape Country, CA, in December 1974 by Leroy Grannis
Fred Tiemens of Minnesota, in a Swallowtail, turning away from Jack Schroder (Quicksilver). Photo by Leroy Grannis.
Art based on a photo by Leroy Grannis of Dave Arrambide at the 1974 U.S. Nationals
Dave Arrambide at the 1974 U.S. Nationals. Photo by Leroy Grannis.

Dave Cronk lands his Quicksilver C. Photo by W.A. Allen.
Dave Cronk lands his Quicksilver C. Photo by W.A. Allen.

See Dave Cronk, Bob Lovejoy, and the Quicksilver in Cronk works.


Roy Haggard flares the prototype Dragonfly. Photo by W.A. Allen.
Roy Haggard flares the prototype Dragonfly. Photo by W.A. Allen. (No larger image available.)

See the related topics menu Ultralight Products of California and Utah.


Wings Unlimited first edition
Wings Unlimited first edition

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

Escape Country 500 foot hang glider launch in view
Escape Country 500 foot launch in view. Photo taken in 1975 by Frank Colver.

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 advert, 1974
Escape Country advert, 1974

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.

External links

British Hang Gliding History

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

Sources and references

1. Conversations with Brian Wood in person and over telephone, including on Sunday 10 May 2020

2. Author’s recollection of report in NHGA magazine The Illustrated Monthly Flypaper, about September 1974

3. Graham Deegan’s Seagull III copy: Gib Eggen writing in Whole Air, April 1986

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