John LaTorre


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John LaTorre

John LaTorre at Pacific Windcraft in 1982
Wingsmith and wordsmith John LaTorre at Pacific Windcraft in 1982. The original photo was likely by Dan Johnson.

This related topics menu links to contributions by John LaTorre in the main hang gliding pages. Sources are his web page My Life as a Hang Glider Maker (see under External link later on this page) and e-mail correspondence with the author of this web site.

While much has been written (and continues to be written) about the well-known ‘movers and shakers’ in hang gliding, John LaTorre provides a perspective from the trenches, to use a World War 1 analogy. His experience as a builder and repairer of airframes, as a sailmaker and manager of the production process, and — perhaps uniquely — as an observer and narrator of progress in hang gliding, places him at the forefront of those who tell the story of this branch of aviation.

Where most pilots can see the beauty of the colors of their wings, and in their variegated shapes, I can perhaps appreciate a deeper beauty, because I sense the many hours and many hands that brought these colors and shapes into being, from rolls of sailcloth and spools of thread.

Your Sail – More Than Color and Shape by John LaTorre in Hang Gliding, October 1980

The links here are in chronological order.

  • Flex-wings in Earliest hang gliders (a sub page of Hang gliding before 1973) in which John notes the importance of John Dickenson’s place in the creation of modern hang gliding
  • Hang gliding 1974 part 3: John LaTorre’s introduction to hang gliding
  • Emporia in Hang gliding 1975 part 1: Starting sail-making
  • Kitty Hawk Kites: Including John’s analysis of why the Kitty Hawk Kites operation was so successful when nearly all other schools failed commercially
  • Developments Stateside in Hang gliding 1976 part 2: Ceasing manufacture of hang gliders and instead becoming a distributor for other manufacturers
  • Windows 76 also in Hang gliding 1976 part 2: Transparent panels in the sail (soaring windows)
  • Dove also in Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 2 for a change of scene to New Mexico
  • Antares, Floater, Ten Meter, and others in Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 3 for John flying Electra Flyer Cirrus 5B and Spirit each with his own custom inlay sail work
  • Bob England, hang glider designer, which includes several anecdotes from John’s time at Flight Designs including flight testing at Marina Beach, Monterey, California
  • Hang gliding early 1980s part 1 for John’s comparison of the hang glider manufacturing cultures of New Mexico and California, and those manufacturers’ attitudes towards intellectual property
  • From our house to bunkhaus (peripheral technology in hang gliding) in Hang gliding early 1980s part 2: Scroll down a ways for a picture in words of hang glider convoys travelling through the countrysides of Maryland, eastern Pennsylvania, and northern Virginia
  • Hang gliding mid 1980s: Marina Beach, California: An instance of hang glider pilots having greater expertise than the supposed experts

Other related

Jean-Michel Bernasconi and Pacific Windcraft, drawing on much info from John LaTorre

John comments on the Flight Designs Demon, a licence-built version of the Hiway Demon, in Skyhook Sailwings (in the comments/thoughts section)

Marty Alameda and Flight Designs for whom John worked

On a powered ultralight web site, John commented on Larry Newman’s personality. I copied a bit of it to the Electra Flyer of Albuquerque, New Mexico related topics menu.

Roly Lewis-Evans, sail maker. Roly is a British long time hang glider sail-maker who also provided much info to the author of this web site.

Ultralight Products of California and Utah for John’s encounter with Pete Brock in 1988

External link

My Life as a Hang Glider Maker on John’s blog No truth to the rumor

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