Hang gliding 1974 part 2


Home (contents) Hang gliding Hang gliding 1974 part 2

Hang gliding 1974 part 2

This page continues from Hang gliding 1974 part 1.

Roger Platt's first hang glider

Roger Platt’s first hang glider at Monk’s Down, north Dorset

Roger Platt of Poole in Dorset, England, bought this glider from somebody in Brighton, Sussex, via an advert in the weekly periodical Exchange & Mart. We suspect that it is an early Skyhook with a replacement control frame and a stand-up webbing harness, like that made by Wasp in Surrey, rather than a Skyhook seat harness. Notice the absence of top rigging and the flapping of the distorted sail.

Roger Platt, who previously manufactured surf boards, and Pete Jordan subsequently started manufacturing hang gliders and harnesses under the name Kestrel Kites, in Poole.

Roger Platt's first hang glider

Roger Platt’s first hang glider

Technical: Roger is clearly experiencing difficulty in getting the glider nose-down enough to gain adequate airspeed. The large amount of billow undoubtedly caused a forward center of lift, which would account for that. All these gliders seemed prone to lurching to one side or the other as a result of turbulence. That might be because of the pointed wing tips: Some years later, Rollin Klingberg discovered that the ‘stickiness’ of air molecules (so-called Reynolds number) causes airfoils of short chord — such as those at the tip of a standard Rogallo — (at the short spans and low airspeeds of hang gliders) to stall at a comparatively low angle of attack. It seems to me that could affect standard Rogallos even with their huge washout (wing twist). When batten-supported tip roach was introduced the following year, gliders so equipped seemed to me much better behaved (as well as being more efficient).


John Jenkins in his home-built wing

John Jenkins in his home-built wing

I saw John Jenkins’ glider flying subsequently and I was struck by the way its thin rip-stop nylon sail rippled audibly–a kind of muted rustling–yet it seemed to perform at least as well as other hang gliders of the time.


I became aware that hang gliding was not like off-road bike riding where, if you came off, your chances of being seriously hurt were slight. I had already been hospitalised before even getting off the ground. Have you ever seen the workings of a knee joint — your own — between the exposed thick skin and muscle of a horizontal gash? I do not recommend it.

Downwind by Larry Fleming. (The wing in the photo is a late 1970s design.)

To illustrate the point, here is an excerpt from Larry Fleming’s delightful little account of the early days of hang gliding in the USA:

Sometimes pilots attempt a three sixty in front and below the cliff and end up misjudging the distance. They would plow into the sheer wall with a twenty-five mile an hour wind pushing their thirty mile an hour glider at fifty-five miles an hour ground speed. It was like a fly hitting a windshield on the freeway. The pilot’s body took most of the impact, the wing tore and slid down the cliff side in a twisted mess of broken tubing and flapping sail with not even a scream coming from the pilot above the noise of the pounding surf because his brain had been smashed.

— from Downwind, a True Hang Gliding Story by Larry Fleming, 1992


School for perfection

The Icarus II was an early rigid biplane wing hang glider designed by Taras Kiceniuk, who went on to develop the Icarus V monoplane. In Canada, Val Lapsa and some friends built and flew an Icarus II.

Val Lapsa and the Icarus II

Val Lapsa and the Icarus II


Resting on his shoulders was a great frail set of snow-linen wings, thirty feet from tip to tip and casting a transparent shadow on the grass. He took a breath in readiness, reached forward, and gripped the adhesive-taped bar of the main wing beam. Then all at once he ran forward, tilted the wings upward, and lifted free of the hillside.

— quoted from School for perfection by Richard Bach, 1968


Launching the Icarus II

Launching the Icarus II

Val Lapsa and friends with the Icarus II

Val Lapsa and friends with the Icarus II


Val’s glider eventually crashed and was unrepairable, which was one of the drawbacks of these higher performing but more complex wings.

The Icarus II was further developed by Ultralight Flying Machines and renamed Easy Riser, in which guise it became popular as a powered ultralight. See Easy riser, my review of the 1995 movie Fly Away Home for more of the Icarus II, both as a glider and as a powered ultralight. Also see the Hang Ten Hang Gliding World Meet, Part 1 link farther down this page for film of an Icarus II or its close relative, the Easy Riser.

Appliance of science

Art based on a photo by Joe Alendifer of an Icarus V in flight

Art based on a photo by Joe Alendifer of an Icarus V in flight

Art based on a photo by Alan Nelson of Bob Thornburg flying an Icarus V in Hawaii

Art based on a photo by Alan Nelson of Bob Thornburg flying an Icarus V in Hawaii


The Icarus V, designed by Taras Kiceniuk, was a monoplane equivalent of the Icarus II biplane. Like its predecessor, it was cumbersome to transport, not being foldable like a Rogallo.


Art based on a photo of Mike Markowski flying the Eagle III

Art based on a photo of Mike Markowski flying the Eagle III

Mike Markowski’s Eagle III was an attempt at achieving the performance of the Icarus combined with the portability of a Rogallo.

Art based on a photo of Mike Markowski launching his Eagle III


Cover of Scientific American, December 1974

Cover of Scientific American, December 1974, painting by Ted Lodigensky

After a bleak day’s flying at Melbury hill, near Shaftsbury in Dorset, in February 1975 I sat in a car with other hang glider pilots. Darkness fell while we waited for others to finish de-rigging, and the December 1974 edition of Scientific American was passed around. On the cover was a Ted Lodigensky painting of Mike Markowski’s Eagle III, the ‘Princeton sailwing’. Inside, pages of aerodynamic explanation, photos, and diagrams were to be read and ‘inwardly digested’ by all young men not wanting to be left behind.

Art based on a photo of Mike Markowski carrying the Eagle III

Art based on a photo of Mike Markowski carrying the Eagle III

Art based on a photo of Mike Markowski flying the Eagle III

Art based on a photo of Mike Markowski flying the Eagle III

Mike talks about his life on the Harrisburg living legacy web site (link farther down).


Art based on a photo of Dave Cronk flying a Quicksilver over Torrance beach, Valifornia

Art based on a photo of Dave Cronk flying a Quicksilver over Torrance beach, California

Wills Wing 4G load test about 1974 from Big Blue Sky by Bill Liscomb

Wills Wing 4G load test. Screenshot from Big Blue Sky by Bill Liscomb. No larger image available.

Internal links

This topic continues in Hang gliding 1975 part 1.

My flying 1974

External links

Big Blue SkyThe history of modern hang gliding – the first extreme sport! by Bill Liscomb on YouTube

Hang Ten Hang Gliding World Meet, Part 1 starting at 6 minutes 59 seconds, where Steve Patmont in an Icarus II or its derivative, the UFM Easy Riser, carries out steep diving turns in 1976

Hang Ten Hang Gliding World Meet, Part 2 starting at 5 minutes 40 seconds, for Brian Porter’s speed task in a UFM Easy Riser in 1976

Michael A. Markowski page of video interviews on the Harrisburg living legacy web site

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.