Ultralight Products of California and Utah

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Ultralight Products of California and Utah

Remember we are talking about the whole Hippie culture, Hollywood empire, Underground Surfer Counter-culture & the US Space Race Military Complex all rolled into one dot on the globe of earth…

— Neil Larson (1)

This related topics menu links to material in the main hang gliding pages. The links here are in chronological order.

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.)

1970-72 in Hang gliding before 1973 for a photo of Roy Haggard in 1971

Brock in Hang gliding 1973

Flying with seagulls in Torrance Beach for Hall Brock about to launch in 1973

UP is where it’s at in Hang gliding 1974 part 1

Elberta Dune, Michigan, July 1974 (but see under External links later on this page for clips of the films from which the images concerned are derived)

Winter escape: The 1974 U.S. nationals in Hang gliding 1974 part 3 for Roy Haggard and the prototype Dragonfly

Stirrup prone harnesses in Harnesses for a close-up of the UP stirrup harness

Grandfather Mountain 1975 part 1 for color photos by Hugh Morton of a blue Brock standard and a ‘warbird’ Dragonfly

Dragonfly in Hang gliding 1975 part 2

Windows 76 in Hang gliding 1976 part 2 for the Dragonfly mark 2

Super-E and Spyder in Hang gliding 1977

State of the art in Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 1 for the Condor

Developments 1978-9 in Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 2 for the UP Mosquito

American revolution in Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 3 for a new development

Arrow in Hang gliding early 1980s part 1: The UP Arrow ‘three-axis’ glider

Lightnings, Comet clones and pod people in Hang gliding early 1980s part 1

Grouse Mountain invitational 1984 for Comets and its clones

Hang gliding late 1980s for a dramatic close-up of the Comet 3 in flight

Reynolds’ number in Hang gliding 1990 to 1993 for the UP TRX

Assortment in Hang gliding 1990 to 1993 including more UP gliders

Art based on a photo by Bettina Gray of Comet designer Roy Haggard and Ultralight Products boss Pete Brock in the Owens Valley
Art based on a photo by Bettina Gray of Comet designer Roy Haggard and Ultralight Products boss Pete Brock in the Owens Valley

The UP factory moved from El Segundo to Temecula before February 1978. (4)

The last HGMA certified Ultralight Products glider was the GZ (Glidezilla) 155 in May 1985. The Axis 15 of February 1988 was the first made by UP International, as distinct from Ultralight Products. (7)

I only met Pete Brock once. It was a rather bitter-sweet encounter, since he was selling off all the old sail loft equipment from his disbanded factory in southern California (Temecula). I met him at a diner, we went to a storage shed he had, and I came away with three sewing machines and all the fittings and tools he still had. This was in the summer of 1988, and I was starting my own sail loft, called Dragonwing… He wished me good luck, we shook hands, and I drove away with a VW bus full of stuff. I really had the feeling that he was not only selling stuff but washing his hands of the whole industry and that whole chunk of his life.

— John LaTorre (3). See also the John LaTorre related topics menu.

The Ultralight Products name resurfaced in 1991. Based near Salt Lake City, Utah, the factory was ideally placed to use that city’s expertise in carbon fiber R&D, which UP had experimented with in a carbon-frame Spyder in the late 1970s. Tony Barton won the 1991 US national championship in the UP TRX, a flex-wing with a carbon fiber frame designed by Terry Reynolds. (See Reynolds’ number in Hang gliding 1990 to 1993.) (6)

The last Ultralight Products HGMA certified glider was an upgraded TRX 140 in February 1993. However, under John Heiney’s leadership, the TRX was developed further into the Predator and manufactured under the banner Blue Sky Aircraft Company, which was soon renamed Altair to avoid confusion with the Blue Sky hang gliding school. Altair also manufactured an intermediate level glider, the Saturn. (7)

The name Altair was subsequently dropped in favor of UP Gliders, which continues to make the Predator and Saturn for a small and dedicated number of discerning pilots. Thus, the Ultralight Products name and its canted upward arrow logo continue to this day (as of 2021). (8)

SBD5s at the Douglas factory in El Segundo
SBD5s at the Douglas factory in El Segundo

Ultralight Products was not the first aircraft manufacturer in El Segundo, an industrial area bordering Los Angeles International Airport. More than thirty years before, Douglas SBDs were built there and, in 1942, inflicted what military historian John Keegan described as “the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare.” (See also the World War 2 related topics menu.)

Coincidentally, in late 1968, newly graduated aerospace engineer Michael A. Markowski worked at Douglas in California — presumably at El Segundo — for a few months. By 1974 he had moved back home to Massachusetts, taken up hang gliding, and designed and built his own wings. See Scientific American hang glider.

Other related

Airwave of the Isle of Wight, UK, who manufactured the UP Comet under licence

Birdman and Solar Wings of Wiltshire, England

Chuck’s Glider Supplies of Ohio

Jean-Michel Bernasconi and Pacific Windcraft: In 1986, UP sold its inventories and parts distribution to Pacific Windcraft. Calls to UP at Temecula were forwarded to PacWind. (2)

External links

Structural safety advisory

UP/Altair Glider Advisory by John Heiney, USHPA Pilot Vol50-Iss6 Nov/Dec 2020

General external links

My Other Ride Is a Spaceship on Air&Space, featuring the 1959 Corvette Stingray designed by Pete Brock, including a photo of Alan Shepard, America’s first man in space, sitting in one. The glider (sailplane) with a small crowd in front of the two tallest trees in the background is thought to be a homebuilt Cherokee II that was landed there by one of two glider pilots who worked at the Tech Center. (Source: Air & Space, August 2019)

Photo by Don Liddard of several gliders in the the landing field at the British championship competition at Mere, Wiltshire, in August 1975, in which you can compare the shape of the Wasp Nova with that of the UP Dragonfly

Photo by Paul Dees of John Dickenson, Pete Brock, Barry Palmer, and Ken de Russy at Ken’s hang gliding museum in 2011, in Holding on to Hang Gliding History by C.J. Sturtevant in Hang Gliding & Paragliding, Jan-Feb 2016

Photo by Roger Middleton of Ken Messenger of Birdman flying an Ultralight Products Dragonfly at Mere, Wiltshire, England, in August 1975

UP is where it’s at, 1/24th scale scratch built standard Rogallo hang gliders, including a Brock 82, in Brave Guys and Beautiful Dolls

Wind Drifter, Richard Cobb’s web site. For his comprehensive Ultralight Products Mosquito page, click the Mosquito link in the second paragraph under About Wind Drifter.

Big Blue Sky video

Theses are links to Big Blue Sky — The history of modern hang gliding – the first extreme sport! 2008 documentary by Bill Liscomb on YouTube:

Pete Brock describes how he started: Big Blue Sky starting at 25 minutes 10 seconds

Pete Brock continued: Big Blue Sky starting at 40 minutes 17 seconds (followed by film of the Colver rigid wing at the beach and the Tom Peghiny interview)

Pete Brock continued 2: Big Blue Sky starting at 45 minutes 44 seconds (followed by the Leroy Grannis interview)

Pete Brock continued 3: Big Blue Sky starting at 47 minutes 54 seconds

Roy Haggard: Big Blue Sky starting at 43 minutes 13 seconds, narrated by Bill Liscomb, Pete Brock, and Tom Price

Kössen, Austria, 1976 video

These links are to digitized film on YouTube by Roman Camps taken at the second world championship, Kössen, Austria, in 1976. The film, uploaded in three parts, has deteriorated over the years, unfortunately.

Dragonfly mark 2 launching: 1976 Kössen 1 de 3 15 min starting at 6 minutes 27 seconds (slow motion)

Several UP gliders, including at least one Spyder I think, launching: 1976 Kössen 1 de 3 15 min starting at 12 minutes 19 seconds

UP glider, another Spyder I think, overhead, subsequently joined by one with a lady-face painted sail: 1976 Kössen 1 de 3 15 min starting at 13 minutes 59 seconds

Lady-face painted sail (continuation on second video segment) final approach, followed by another UP wing (red and black with a white disc outboard each side) launching and overhead the LZ, then what looks to me like a Dragonfly mark 3 (blue and yellow with windows and pre-WW2 U.S. stars): 1976 Kössen 2 de 3 15 min starting at the beginning

Robert E. Lorey video

1974 Hang Gliding Frankfort Michigan, a well preserved 16 millimetre film by Robert E. Lorey at a hang gliding competition held at the Elberta dunes on June 29th to July 6th, 1974. Digitized and available in four parts on YouTube:

Hall Brock harness adjustments in part 1 starting at 7 minutes 59 seconds

Pete and Hall Brock at the plateau (I assume it is Pete Brock judging by the helmet hung at the top of the control frame) in part 2 starting at 1 minute 26 seconds

Hall Brock carrying his glider and setting it down before the big climb to the top in part 2 starting at 1 minute 47 seconds

Hall Brock launching in part 2 starting at 9 minutes 1 second

Hall landing on the beach in part 3 starting at 4 minutes 57 seconds

The Bob Lorey film shows Hall’s 1974 lime yellow glider with blue trailing edge panels and the distinctive UP tight radius curved control frame corners.

John Elwell video

Pete Brock, of race car design and driving fame, made many excellent flights and his son Hall, age ten, showed the same enthusiasm with his small Rogallo. His plane showed some of the problems of getting enough lift with a small area wing. In the light winds he often had a hard time running up enough speed to glide cleanly and made more than one trip from less than the bottom of the hill.

— Jack Lambie, Ground Skimmer, June 1973

Soaring and Gliding Festivals 1973-1974, a digitized ‘Super 8’ (8 millimetre) film on YouTube by John Elwell. Like the Bob Lorey documentary, it was filmed at the Elberta dunes, Michigan:

Hall Brock gets it wrong in what looks like a nil-wind launch, then gets it right (just) starting at 32 minutes 39 seconds. His glider there is blue or purple with white trailing edge panels, red control frame tubing, and plumbing supplies control frame corner brackets as used by Eipper (before Brock’s purpose-made fittings). Hall is wearing different gear from his appearance the next sequence, so I assume it was in July 1973 when he was 10 years old. A photo of Hall launching two days earlier in Ground Skimmer, July 1973, appears to be of the same glider. See also Flying with seagulls in the Torrance Beach page of this site for a screenshot of Hall Brock readying to launch in this glider in 1973. That is followed (in the John Elwell film) by Pete and Hall Brock manhandling Hall’s yellow/green and blue glider up the dune and Hall flying it down to land on the target. The latter is the June-July 1974 Elberta Dune competition.

Hall Brock with the blue (or purple) and white glider on the beach, starting at 10 minutes 25 seconds, in real time likely following the first scene in the preceding link (July 1973)

Other video

Hall Brock, age 12, at Escape Country, California, April 12th, 1975
Hall Brock, age 12, at Escape Country, California, April 12th, 1975 (screenshot, no larger image available)

Hall Brock: World Hang Gliding Championships (1975) at Escape Country, California, April 12, 1975 — video on YouTube starting at 1 minute 8 seconds. A very short clip of the 12-year-old Hall launching.

Hall Brock (more): Hang Gliding Worlds 1975 Escape Country California video on cdnskydog’s YouTube channel starting at 2 minutes 49 seconds for Hall launching, flying, and landing. Although the on-screen text states that he was nine years old, my understanding is that was when he started hang gliding. At this time he was 12 years old. This film by Bob Grant shows Hall’s 1975 wing with a black sail and UP tight-radius curved control frame corners.

Mike Johnson Risks His Life: Video uploaded to YouTube in 2010 of a modern hang glider pilot getting to grips with a 1973 Brock standard Rogallo. It starts with still frames. Skip to 55 seconds for the action. (In my opinion, this illustrates the problems of the standard Rogallo.)

Pete Brock teaches Francis Rogallo to fly the invention that bears his name at Torrance beach in the early 1970s: Playground in the Sky, 1977, by Carl Boenish on YouTube (low resolution) starting at 40 minutes 29 seconds

Peter Brock’s Hang Glider Transporter VW Bus – Jay Leno’s Garage video on YouTube

Roy Haggard lands his Dragonfly for third place at the first official world championship, at Kössen, Austria, in 1976 (brief clip): RR7513B AUSTRIA WORLD HANG-GLIDING CHAMPIONSHIP digitized film by AP Archive onYouTube starting at 15 minutes 13 seconds


1. Neil Larson in U.S. Hawks

2. Industry News, Whole Air No. 48, May 1986

3. John LaTorre e-mail dialog with the author in March 2021

5. UP advert in Glider Rider, February 1978, has the Temecula address

6. Dick Cheney, from Oak to Carbon Fiber by John Heiney, Hang Gliding, October 1993

7. Hang Glider Manufacturers Association certified gliders lookup

8. UP Gliders, where you can still buy a new Predator or Saturn

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