Hang gliding 1975 part 1


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Hang gliding 1975 part 1

This page continues from Hang gliding 1974 part 2.

Everard Cunion with hang glider on bike in garden in 1975

“Hurry up and take the photo, mum. I’ve got some flying to do.”

From some time in early 1975, instead of carrying the de-rigged glider on my shoulders from home the whole way to the slope (about a half hour) I added some padding to my bike and wheeled it there.

Hang glider launching St. Catherine's Hill, Christchurch, Dorset, UK, in 1975

Another to-to-bottom at my local hill in February 1975

My local flying site was a public walking, biking, and radio control glider flying area. Crowds accumulated on warm spring flying days. Despite the simplicity of the standard Rogallo, I used a written check list when rigging it. One gent with a walking stick insisted that, “If you were in the army, you would have to remember all that.” Another chimed in, “If you join the RAF, you can do this for free.” (One difference between then and now is that I bought the kit-form Skyhook with money left over from my student grant.) Still another earnest fellow: “Why don’t you join the navy?”

One navy helicopter pilot, not much older than I was and full of enthusiastic questions, helped me carry the wing back up the waist-high heather covered slope one hot day while his less enthusiastic wife trudged along behind. The wind was rarely strong enough to soar, so extended top-to-bottom flights were the norm. After I landed, I found the easiest way to carry it back up was to undo the bolts that connected the leading edges to the cross-tube ends, fold the leading edges to meet the keel tube, and tie them together along with the sail. I then carried it with the cross-tube, control frame, king post and cables still rigged, like a giant aluminium cross.

Immediately after my first awakening as to the reality of flight, I called up the chief pilot of my company and told him I quit. That was the last time I flew a jet for a living.

— Larry Newman of New Mexico hang glider manufacturer Electra Flyer writing in Ground Skimmer, June 1976

Roly's brother clipped in to Roly's glider for its first flights near Winfrith in Dorset, 1975

Roly’s brother clipped in to Roly’s glider for its first flights near Winfrith in Dorset, 1975

Meanwhile, on a low hill near the atomic research establishment at Winfrith in the heathlands of Dorset, a 17-year old sailmaker took to the air in a Skyhook IIIA that he made from plans. John Jenkins, who is pictured flying on an earlier page in his all-green self-made standard Rogallo, supervised.

Roly's first flight near Winfrith in Dorset, 1975

Roly’s first flight near Winfrith in Dorset, 1975

Art based on a photo by W.A. Allen of Chris Price and Dave Muehl on a snow trak (no larger size available)

I did not have a car (or a snow trak) but I met two men at my local hill taking it in turns to fly a hang glider made by Kestrel Kites of Poole, of whom I had never heard. They introduced me to the local hang gliding club and they gave me lifts to new flying sites. I no longer always flew alone.

Hang Gliding revised edition by Dan Poynter, 1975

Hang Gliding revised edition by Dan Poynter, 1975

For an anecdote about flying there in the company of others and usage of language, both there and, ten years later in the USA, see Little parrots.

Flying the Skyhook IIIA standard Rogallo hang glider in early 1975

Although no scenery is in view, this was taken at Monk’s Down in 1975, which I still fly 40 years later (2015).

The counter-culture rejected ties with traditional society, and felt that suburban living in tract houses was the epitome of everything it despised. This was, of course, because most of the pilots had grown up in the suburbs.

— Quoted from an article by Richard Seymour in Hang Gliding & Paragliding, July, 2004, about the Sylmar/Kagel Mountain flying site in California

Art based on a photo by Hugh Morton at Grandfather Mountain, Georgia

Art based on a photo by Hugh Morton at Grandfather Mountain, Georgia

Hugh Morton, through his photography and sponsorship of hang gliding, helped advance the cause.

Another photographer of early hang gliding was Leroy Grannis, a major in the U.S. Air Force reserve. He was famous as a photographer of the 1960s surfing scene. He then turned his camera to the new phenomenon of hang gliding and the results have, arguably, never been equalled.

Art based on a photo of surfing and hang gliding photographer Leroy Grannis

Art based on a photo of surfing and hang gliding photographer Leroy Grannis


Art based on a photo of Kitty Hawk Kites' premises in its early days

Art based on a photo of Kitty Hawk Kites’ premises in its early days

Kitty Hawk Kites, founded by John Harris, is situated on the Outer Banks, North Carolina. It is still (in 2019) the world’s largest hang gliding school.

Art based on a photo of the Wasp CB240 semi-cylindrical Rogallo hang glider of 1974

Art based on a photo of the Wasp CB240 semi-cylindrical Rogallo hang glider of 1974-5

The Wasp CB240 was almost certainly copied from the Seagull 3, with leading edge tubes permanently formed into parabolic curves. Top British pilot Brian Wood flew a Wasp CB240 in the World Championship competition at Kössen, Austria, in 1975…

…in those days the sails weren’t fixed as securely as now and the sail on my [Wasp CB240] had become detached from the end of the leading edge after being knocked about on the chair lift. I didn’t think it would have any effect but while I was flying a tight 360 the sail rode up the boom. Suddenly I found myself flying on one half of the kite. The kite went into a spiral dive Fortunately the kites were built like tanks in those days — the CB had two inch leading edges — and it survived the pounding of the G forces. I was then lucky enough to ditch it in a bank of snow.

— Brian Wood quoted in an interview in Wings (BHGA magazine) August 1977

The interviewer, David Worth of the Southern Hang Gliding Club, added “That flight can be seen on a hang gliding film which is currently touring the cinemas.”

Brian continues:

Competitions are for me a must, because I can’t afford to buy hang gliders especially at the price they are today. If you do well in competitions there is always someone willing to sponsor you.

Art based on a photo by Malcolm Hawksworth of Colin Joby flying Puff the Magic Dragon

Art based on a photo by Malcolm Hawksworth of Colin Joby flying Puff the Magic Dragon

Puff the Magic Dragon was made by Hiway Hang Gliders of Brighton, Sussex, England, headed by John Ievers and Australian Steve Hunt. Its nose angle appears to be the usual 80 degrees of the early standard Rogallos.


Art based on a photo of a Hiway standard Rogallo

Art based on a photo of a Hiway standard Rogallo

This one is more advanced in that its nose angle is 90 degrees.


Photo of a hang glider in 1975

Training flight at Monk’s Down in north Dorset. Photo by Dave Lewis.

Roger Platt of Kestrel Kites flying at Monks Down in 1975

Roger Platt of Kestrel Kites flying at Monks Down in 1975

Kestrel Kites was based in Poole, on Dorset’s coast, in a building subsequently demolished during construction of, ironically, a highway flyover.

Photo of an early 1970s hang glider launching

A Birdman Grasshopper launches at Monk’s Down. Photo by Dave Lewis.


Photo of a man carrying a fully rigged hang glider up a hill

Having landed in the field at the bottom of the hill, you then carried it back to the top. Photo by Dave Lewis.

Which was more dangerous; flying it or carrying it back up like this?

Internal links

Duck à l’orange — my Airfix 1/76th (OO) scale DUKW with scratch built hang gliders

Hang gliding 1975 part 2

Skyhook Sailwings, a short history of the early hang glider and powered ultralight manufacturer based in the north of England