Hang gliding 1977 to 1979


Home (main menu) Hang gliding Hang gliding 1977 to 1979

Photo of a 1970s hang glider pilot wearing 'flap chaps'

Reprinted courtesy of Ultralight Flying! magazine.

‘Flap chaps’ (see the translucent triangle of fabric stretched between the pilot’s legs) helped you obtain a steeper glide on your final approach to landing. However, they did nothing to correct the cowboy image of hang gliding in the 1970s. Reprinted courtesy of Ultralight Flying! magazine.


Photo of a broken hang glider descending uder parachute

A broken hang glider descends under parachute. Reprinted courtesy of Ultralight Flying! magazine.

The cover photo by Glider Rider picture editor H. Krause (not to be confused with publisher Tracy H. Knauss) is of Dave Ledford after his wing tumbled seven times following a failed wingover attempt (at Lookout Mountain I think). He was unhurt and his glider, a Moyes Mega II (with crosstube fairings, by the look of it) was largely undamaged. Reprinted courtesy of Ultralight Flying! magazine.

 

The parachute is stored in a container either on the chest of the harness or, more commonly nowadays, on one side. When you deploy it (should you suffer a misfortune dire enough to need to) the whole rig including the hang glider descends under parachute. You do not ‘jump out’.

 

Ballistically deployed versions of the emergency parachute were developed subsequently and that technology was applied to the emerging phenomenon of powered ultralight aircraft (microlights in UK terminology) and, later, to more conventional light aircraft.


Skyhook Sunspot

Me about to launch in a Skyhook Sunspot

In this photo by Gary Phillips, I am about to launch a Skyhook Sunspot from the Merthyr ridge in February 1979. The glider belonged to the students’ union at the Polytechnic of Wales, where I was studying computing at that time.

Because computers were to be used in creating all things, I reasoned that programming was a skill that did not tie one too rigidly to any specific branch of science. After all, exactly that strategy paid off for astronaut David Bowman (who was a generalist, but not programming, as far as I recall) in Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001, a Space Odyssey (1968). So much for the career advice embedded in science fiction…

Skyhook Sunspot hang glider at Merthyr Common in 1979

Flying a Skyhook Sunspot at Merthyr Common, Wales.


Photo of a 1970s hang glider in flight

An Electra Flyer Olympus in 1978. Photo by Mike Adkins.

A popular hang glider first produced in 1977 was the Electra Flyer Olympus.

 

You might be able to discern the short struts projecting from the leading edges. They supported cables, above, in front of, and below the wing, to keep those lanky leading edge tubes in shape. Together with the exposed crosstubes (and the exposed pilot) they created a large amount of drag, which the next steps in hang glider evolution set out to reduce.

 

Mike Adkins took this photo in July 1978 at Plaskett Creek, Los Padres National Forest, on the Pacific Highway south of San Francisco. Mike later took up paragliding and was active both as a pilot and site administrator right up to his death after a short illness in November 2009.


Photo of a late 1970s hang glider

Ultralight Products Condor. Reprinted courtesy of Ultralight Flying! magazine.

The Ultralight Products Condor. Reprinted courtesy of Ultralight Flying! magazine.


Photo of astronaut Wally Schirra with hang glider pilots at Torrey Pines

Astronaut Wally Schirra (in tie) with hang glider pilots at Torrey Pines. Reprinted courtesy of Ultralight Flying! magazine.

Project Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo astronaut Wally Schirra with hang glider pilots Burke Ewing (left) and W.A. ‘Pork’ Roecker at Torrey Pines, San Diego, in the late 1970s. Reprinted courtesy of Ultralight Flying! magazine.


Photo of a 1970s hang glider in flight

Bob Dear flies the Gryphon

Bob Dear, flying the Miles Wings Gryphon in the photo, says that you had to actively fly the it all the time—you could not relax. It was, however, immensely precise and controllable as well as having unbeatable performance (in its time). Production of the Gryphon was taken over by Waspair in 1978, inventor Miles Handley being unable to keep up with demand.

 

Note the bowsprit and cables instead of crosstubes bracing the leading edges. Unfortunately, all those cables still created a great deal of aerodynamic drag.

Bob Dear

Bob Dear

Bob Dear, winner of the Gray Prize for Journalism (named for hang gliding photographer Bettina Gray) led the documentation of hang gliding in this region of Britain for many years.


Birdman Comanche at the 1979 BHGA AGM

Birdman Comanche at the 1979 BHGA AGM

The Comanche was, as far as I know, the last Birdman hang glider. Solar Wings had by then started in direct competition with Birdman. I photographed this one at the BHGA annual general meeting held at Warwick University in about March of 1979.

Manta Fledge 2 at BHGA AGM Warwick Uni about March 1979

Manta Fledge 2

The Manta Fledge 2, here at the 1979 BHGA AGM, was an update of an early 1970s ‘semi rigid’; a rigid hang glider made of the same materials as flexwings: Sailcloth, alloy tubing, and steel cable.

The next nearest wing in the photo is a Waspair Gryphon. The wing behind that (not the one almost entirely hidden) looks to me like a Waspair Falcon IV, a development of the Wills Wing Superswallowtail, but with a hefty camber permanently formed into the keel tube. (The SST and its clones had a slight camber produced — as far as I know — with the aid of a tensioning cable under the front part of the keel tube.)

Related (internal links)

Mid-day lightning in Vermont, my review of the documentary film 1978 Pico Peak International Hang Gliding Meet by Francis Freedland

Flying squad, a short history of the east coast U.S. hang glider manufacturer Sky Sports

Responses to a different page

The following responses are to Hang gliding 1980s (which was originally part of this page) but I cannot figure out how to move them:

6 Responses to Hang gliding 1977 to 1979

  1. Bill Pain says:

    Hi Everard. Stumbled accross your web site. Thoroughly enjoyed. Could not help noticing the pic of me flying the Pelican. I have nothing from that era and would love a copy. It was a lovely glider to fly incidently.
    I am still working on hang glider designs as well as flying sail planes. Living in Australia now. All the best Bill

    • Hi Bill,

      The Pelican sure was a good-looking wing. Glad to hear that you are still designing the things.

      I will send you a bigger copy of the photo (without my copyright mark on it).

      Cheers,
      Everard

  2. Jan Johnson says:

    Does anyone have a copy of the driver article in the hang gliding magazine, it has a picture of a person in a jeep with a small article. Think it was in the 80’s am not for sure. It is about their drivers that go and pick them up. I would love for someone to email me a copy of it. Thanks a lot

  3. Susan Delora says:

    I’m looking for an old friend named Don Murray that was the editor of hang gliding magazine back in 1970s and was also the editor for Skateboard Magazine. Thank you

    • I do not recall a Don Murray, but I have not searched my Hang Gliding collection in detail for the early editors. Gil Dodgen took over from Rich Grigsby as editor from the January 1978 edition. It might be worth putting a request for info on the hang gliding forum HangGliding.org.

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