Hang gliding 1975 part 2
This page continues from Hang gliding 1975 part 1.
Most of the images on this page are my artistic derivations of contemporary photos. See Copyright of early hang gliding photos.
For more about the luffing dive, illustrated in the accompanying screenshot, see Luff in the time of cholera. (Sorry!)
The highest scoring pilot at the 1975 British Championships was American Bob Wills flying an all-black Sport Kites Inc. Wills Wing Swallowtail. Examining the glider from under its expanse of sailcloth I noticed that the sun highlighted brownish streaks criss-crossing the fabric. Wills explained that the sails of these gliders were originally white (or multicolored in some cases) and they were painted black for an upcoming movie which they had just filmed in Greece. The film was Sky Riders, starring James Coburn, Susannah York, Robert Culp, and Charles Aznavour. It was in cinemas/movie theaters the following year. See Paint it black–my review of that film. For my involvement in the British championship competition, see under Riders in the sky in Simple versus complex (my flying 1975 part 2).
While most hang glider pilots flew standard Rogallos in 1975, in the USA several people attempted to improve on the basic idea. One was the Wills Wing Swallowtail with its reduced billow, cut-out trailing edge, and (in later versions) tip roach supported by radial battens. Other engineers tried different approaches to achieving improved performance.
See also the related topics menu Sport Kites/Wills Wing of California.
The Cirrus was actually the Windlord 4 created by Rich Finley. Like most Rogallos, it had no sail battens. Manta, of Oakland, California, manufactured an earlier incarnation of Finley’s Windlord and they continued to develop it.
Chord-wise battens took extra time to rig and de-rig, but they reduced aerodynamic drag caused by sail flutter. This is the production Electra Flyer Cirrus.
For more about the Cirrus series, see the related topics menu Electra Flyer of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
See my page Flying squad for a short history of the east coast U.S. hang glider manufacturer Sky Sports.
Nineteen year-old Roy Haggard designed, built, and flew the Dragonfly. When Pete Brock of Ultralight Products saw it perform at the 1974 U.S. nationals, he agreed to manufacture it. At about this time, UP moved from the workshop in El Segundo to Rancho, California.
Roy designed the ubiquitous Dragonfly, test-flying it for the first time on October 27, 1974. He surprised everyone (maybe “shocked” is a better word for it) when he appeared out of the obscurity of Visalia, Calif., as a relative unknown to come in a strong 7th at the 1974 U.S. Nationals… and with such a weird-looking design.
— Rich Grigsby (I assume) writing in Ground Skimmer, June 1976
As I understand it, Charlie Baughman obtained Roy Haggard’s prototype, so it is likely that he is flying it (the lower one, white and red, relatively scruffy) in the photo and Roy Haggard is flying the upper example (with an aerodynamically cleaner orange sail) made by Ultralight Products. See also Pushing the outside of the envelope in Hang gliding 1974 part 3 for a bit about the geography of Palos Verdes, Point Fermin, and Torrance Beach.
The handling of the Dragonfly embodied a yaw characteristic that imparted a uniquely graceful motion in the air. Apparently always under perfect control, yet always curving to the right or left…
After the truncated wing tips, there still was 20 feet of leading edge, while the keel was only 11 feet long. And yet, his and the other two designs all responded amazingly well to weight shift control.
— W.A. Allen describing Roy Haggard’s Dragonfly at the 1974 US nationals in Wings Unlimited, February-March 1975
One of the other two designs that Bill Allen refers to is Rich Finley’s short-keel, low billow, and spiky-looking Windlord IV, subsequently manufactured by Electra Flyer as the Cirrus.
The lanky leading edge tubes of the new higher-performing wings needed extra support. Deflexor wires, one each side mounted on a short folding strut, seemed a logical solution. Nowadays we do not use such bolt-through-tube engineering, which necessitates adding metal to the tube to restore its strength where the hole is drilled.
British hang glider manufacturer Birdman, of Marlborough in Wiltshire, brought two (I think) Dragonflies and a Red Tail (Ultralight Products’ easier to fly wing) from the 1975 world championships at Kössen, Austria, back to Britain. I saw the Dragonflies flying at Mere in Wiltshire in the summer of 1975. I assume that Birdman intended to build the Dragonfly under licence, but my information is that they did not do so. However, they took on board UP’s purpose-made hardware and the entire Birdman range was soon unequaled in quality of finish and slickness of fittings.
I am told that the late Pat Fry, who I had flown with on occasion, obtained one of those imported Dragonflies, but his one flight in it scared him so badly he never flew it again.
In the Hawaii image, notice other hang gliders specking out behind the Dragonfly.
See the related topics menu Ultralight Products of California and Utah.
The 1975 Wasp Nova was another attempt at attaining more performance without too much extra complexity. It featured an S-curved keel tube and tip fins braced by tubes, brackets, fasteners, and cables. I saw the prototype before it flew when it was on display at the inaugural meeting of the BHGA on December 8th, 1974, at the Matrix Hall in Coventry. (It had two unfinished top rigging wires with ends dangling, yet to be cut to length and swaged.)
There are photos of the Nova linked from the related topics menu Waspair of Surrey, England.
The prone harness imparted a dramatic increase in performance and pitch control. That combined advantage greatly improved our ability to soar.
Because your angle of bank in a coordinated turn is limited by the positive (nose-up) pitch rate you can achieve, and the seated flying position conferred very little pitch range, we could only fly shallow turns without the turn degenerating into an inefficient spiral descent. The prone flying position enables the pilot to ‘push out’ and thereby coordinate a steeper banked and tighter turn. That was important for flying in thermals, which we began to do (unwittingly at first) in the long dry summer of 1976 in southern England.
As far as I know, Hiway Hang Gliders of Brighton in Sussex were the first in Britain to manufacture prone harnesses. The glider in the preceding photo by Dave L is a Hiway standard Rogallo. (See the related topics menu Hiway of Sussex, England, and Abergavenny, Wales.)
She has always been a low-key pilot, never interested in the limelight or notoriety, but knowing that she was one of the very first hang glider pilots in the world…
— David Jebb (5)
Donnita Holland was the first female to pilot a hang glider, one of the first humans to foot-launch a hang glider, and one of the pioneers who showed the rest of the world how to follow their dreams. She worked as a secretary at Hewlett Packard, where she met Dave Kilbourne, who was one of the first to fly a Rogallo hang glider, initially launching on water skis while towed behind a power boat. (1)
Donnita built a Rogallo wing of her own design in 1976. It had 17-foot long leading edges and a 13-foot keel. The sail was built by Albatross (led by sailmaker and aeronautical engineer Tom Price) of Southern California. (2) In the picture, you might be able to make out the truncated tips, more aerodynamic than those of the Dragonfly, and side flying struts instead of wires. They obviated the need for top rigging with its attendant drag, cost, weight, and set-up time.
Many of the very early Rogallos were strut braced (with bamboo poles) but even before the advent of top rigging, cable bracing became the norm. Nonetheless, following Donnita’s lead, Seagull Aircraft’s 10 Meter, designed by Tom Peghiny and Bob Keeler, the following year was initially strut-braced. (3, 4)
Donnita’s aeronautical engineering talents were well in advance of most others at the time, yet she was content to let her partner Dave Kilbourne receive the lion’s share of the publicity, mainly for his daring flying achievements. I guess the media understood heights and distances better than they understood the technology.
I am who I am today because of the sport of hang gliding. The sport changes your personality. I know my capabilities; hang gliding has given me a strong core of confidence.
— Donnita Holland (Donnita Hall) quoted by David Jebb (5)
For more about Donnita, see under External links later on this page.
…the late, great low-speed aerodynamicist, Dr. Paul MacCready, once told me that he felt the hang gliding design evolution had progressed further through a semi-educated trial-and-error process than what would have been achieved in the same time span by classically educated aerodynamicists.
— Lt. Col. Mark Stucky USMC (call sign Forger) in Hang Gliding & Paragliding, January 2008
While the Rogallo offered the advantage of simplicity, its one-piece airfoil (two, if you regard both halves as separate) that combined the functions of generating lift and providing control and stability, compromised those individual needs heavily. Conventional aircraft, including gliders (sailplanes) employ separate wing and tail surfaces to provide those separate functions. That results in greater efficiency, but at the cost of complexity. Several designers created hang gliders with separate wing and tail surfaces. Some were entirely rigid, with conventional control surfaces, while others used sailcloth with a some airframe flexibility in an attempt to retain the simplicity of pilot weight shift as the control method. Foremost among practitioners of the latter, in Britain at least, was Miles Handley. His first glider, which owed almost nothing to any predecessor, was the Gulp.
I seem to recall that this photo of the Gulp, which its designer and constructor Miles Handley (who had no formal education in aerodynamics) sent me as a print, was of the second flight of the prototype.
The original Miles Wings Gulp had no battens, but — extraordinarily — the thick sailcloth maintained an airfoil section, as if by magic, even when the wing was rigged flat on the ground. It had just enough dihedral (and the sail was cut precisely) that span-wise tension together with the curved join of the two semi-spans at the root ensured its 3-D form. In the photo of a Gulp rigged at Mere, Wiltshire, in 1976 (linked farther on) notice how the sail holds its shape with no battens and no wind. Nevertheless, the Gulp was reputed to be hard to turn, a problem likely magnified by that dihedral.
I heard also that it suffered from a minor pitch control problem (a phugoid) because the changed airflow at different pitch angles (so-called angle of attack) caused the high point of the airfoil curve to move forward and back, countering the pilot’s control inputs. To resolve that problem (which struck my own later experimental glider more seriously) the next version of the Gulp featured chord-wise airfoil shaped fixed battens spaced evenly across its entire span.
On with the flying…
Brian Wood, the first British hang gliding champion, did not do as well as expected in the 1975 competition, but he demonstrated the Miles Wings Gulp 130 monoplane flex-wing one calm evening. Having launched from the ridge top, instead of gliding down to land at the bottom like every other hang glider, he flew straight out, losing barely any height until he touched down in a field far out from launch.
Meanwhile, both Bob Wills in California and Miles Handley in Britain were working on new developments, one an extension of previous design improvements and the other so radical it took a few years to come to fruition.
See the related topics menu Miles Wings Gulp and Gryphon.
See also the Hang glider sail painting related topics menu.
For more about the manufacturer Eipper-Formance, see High-performance in Hang gliding 1974 part 3.
The Fledgling was a rigid hang glider, in that it used drag rudders rather than pilot weight shift for turn control, but it was constructed from standard hang glider materials; sailcloth, aluminium alloy tube, and steel cable. It was created by Klaus Hill and Larry Hall in Utah, and manufactured by Manta of San Francisco. It was further developed in the late 1970s (see American revolution in Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 3).
The Sun IV, made by Sun Sail of Denver, Colorado, was one of several similar designs that adopted the large trailing edge scallop that characterized the Wills Wing Swallowtail, but combined with ‘truncated’ wing tips like those of the UP Dragonfly.
Similar wings included the California Glider (of San Diego) Wind Gypsy and the Eipper-Formance (of Torrance) Cumulus 5. However, the tip tubes of the Sun 4 were each supported by an inboard diagonal strut (not evident in the image) rather than short outboard cables to an extension of a tube sticking out into the airflow.
Nevertheless, by early 1976 Sun Sail abandoned truncated tips in their next wing, the Swift, and instead opted for ‘roach cut’ outboard trailing edges, like those of the Bennett Phoenix 6 (see the advert earlier on this page) supported by three chord-wise battens each side.
The Sun IV also featured a permanently cambered keel tube. It did not provide much sail camber by modern standards, but root reflex — the opposite to camber — was known to be an important contributor to dive recovery, so a conservative approach to adding root camber is perhaps understandable, even when fixed tips contribute to dive recovery. In addition, putting the keel tube through a pocket running the length of the root was the only way we knew of attaching the sail to the keel tube. You can only put so much curve in a light-weight and critical aluminium alloy tube without trashing it.
The first flex-wing hang gliders I know of with permanent camber curves in their keel tubes were the Seagull 4 of 1974 and the Wasp Nova of 1975 — both of which also had a large amount of compensating reflex. (Camber at the front, reflex aft, resulting in an S-shaped keel tube.) In 1976, a British advanced glider, the Chargus Midas, featured a short keel with a small amount of camber permanently formed. Like the Sun IV, it relied on ‘truncated’ (fixed) tips for dive recovery. See The man with the golden gun in Three-sixty degree appraisal (my flying 1976) for more about the Midas.
This topic continues in Hang gliding 1976 part 1.
Donnita: From Toys to Wings… by C.J. Sturtevant in Hang Gliding & Paragliding Vol48-Iss1 Jan-Feb 2018
“First Lady” of Hang Gliding, Donnita Hall in Big Blue Sky by Bill Liscomb on YouTube starting at 31 minutes 45 seconds
Icarus V: Photo by Don Liddard of Rob S. flying a red Icarus 5 at the Devil’s Dyke, a few miles inland from Brighton on the Sussex coast, England
Mere Wiltshire BHGA photos by Don Liddard on flickr, including some taken at the 1975 British championship competition
Photo by Roger Middleton of gliders in line for launch at the British championships, held at Mere in Wiltshire in August 1975
World Hang Gliding Championships 1975:
This competition was held at at Escape Country in Trabuco Canyon, El Toro, California, on April 12th, 1975. Videos on YouTube:
- World Hang Gliding Championships (1975) on Burke Ewing’s YouTube channel
- Hang Gliding Worlds 1975 Escape Country California on cdnskydog’s YouTube channel
1: An Evening with Dave Kilbourne and Donnita Holland by W.A. Allen in Ground Skimmer, September 1973
2: Hang Gliding and Paragliding October 2007
3: Bill Allen, Hang Gliding, July 1977
4: Dennis Pagen, Hang Gliding, February 1994
5: David Jebb, The Excitement That Never Ends, Donnita Hall: 1969 to Present in Hang Gliding & Paragliding, October 2007