Hang gliding 1976 part 2


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Hang gliding 1976 part 2

This page follows Hang gliding 1976 part 1.

Developments Stateside

Art based on a photo of the Pliable Moose Diffusion Tip hang glider of 1974

Art based on a photo of the Pliable Moose Diffusion Tip hang glider of 1976

Pliable Moose, of Kansas, was founded by Gary Osoba, who still flies (in 2019).


Pioneering hang glider photographer Bettina Gray

Pioneering hang glider photographer Bettina Gray

Former movie actress Bettina Gray was one of the most prolific photographers of early hang gliding.


Art based on a photo by Bettina Gray of her son Bill Liscomb flying an ASG-21 at Telluride, Colorado, in August 1976

The ASG-21, designed by sailmaker and aeronautical engineer Tom Price, and in this picture being flown by Bettina Gray’s son Bill Liscomb, was an advanced hang glider — by the standards of 1976.

The annual hang gliding festival at Telluride, Colorado, attracted pilots from all over the USA and some from other parts of the world.

On the way to Town Park, the pilots’ meeting place, we walk along Main Street, past Victorian houses and quaint saloons, reminding us of the Wild West.

— Ulrich Grill writing in Hang Gliding, June 1994 (translated by Heidi Attenberger)


Art based on a photo by Roger Schoener of Chris Wills flying a Wills Wing Superswallowtail

Art based on a photo by Roger Schoener of Chris Wills flying a Wills Wing Superswallowtail

Here is former New York schoolteacher Mike Meier in April 1976, who we last encountered on these pages on his motorcycle at Palos Verdes, California, in 1973…

Bob Wills had his next creation on the market, the Super Swallowtail, or SST. It was being billed as “the high performance kite you already know how to fly,” and that appealed to me. I went down to Sport Kites to order one, and Chris Wills mentioned that they were gearing up to increase production. I suggested he hire me, and two weeks later I had given up a $1000 a month job in the motorcycle business to go to work for $700 a month at Wills Wing.

— Mike Meier *

Art based on photo by Stephen McCarroll of Jim Debauch flying a Wills Wing Superswallowtail at Telluride, Colorado, in August 1976

Here is a snippet from instructor, author, and humorist Erik Fair’s 1983 interview of Mike Meier:

Mike: “I was the production manager and purchasing agent, but the job only lasted three months. Chris Wills left for medical school, and hired John Lake to replace him as general manager. John Lake and I worked together for two days before he decided it couldn’t go on and he fired me.”

Erik: “Far out! What did you do next?”

— Erik Fair, Hang Gliding, December 1983

In the early years of hang gliding, John Lake invented the sailfeather device for preventing luffing dives. (See my page Luff in the time of cholera.) After John also left Wills Wing, Mike returned and he stayed when tragedy struck Wills Wing the following year.

See my page Sport Kites/Wills Wing of California.


Art based on a photo by Stephen McCarroll of Paul Courtney past vertical in a Sky Sports Merlin

Art based on a photo by Stephen McCarroll of Paul Courtney past vertical in a Sky Sports Merlin

The Sky Sports Merlin featured chord-wise battens and a large amount of double surface. However, the cross-tubes were still outside and exposed to the air flow, creating drag. For a short history of the east coast U.S. hang glider manufacturer Sky Sports, see my page Flying squad.


Art based on a photo by W.A. Allen  of two Electra Flyer Cirrus IIIs

Art based on a photo by W.A. Allen of two Electra Flyer Cirrus IIIs

The Cirrus II and Cirrus III had the improvement of roached wing-tips supported by radial battens. The Cirrus III was a hugely successful and popular hang glider.

It was manufactured by Scotkites under licence from Electra Flyer of Albuquerque, New Mexico, founded by Learjet captain Larry Newman. The Cirrus series originated with the Windlord development of the standard Rogallo by Rich Finley in 1974. His short keel, low billow, spiky looking Windlord 4 was manufactured by Electra Flyer as the Cirrus. It soon acquired a full set of chord-wise battens, taking on the basic appearance that culminated in the popular Cirrus 3.


'Dorset Countryside' cover photo of a hang glider launching at Ringstead

Electra Flyer Cirrus 3 launching at Ringstead

We no longer launch from the cliff top at Ringstead. Instead, we take off from a hill a little way inland and fly out to the cliff. I am told that this part of the slope crumbled away at some point.

For more about the Cirrus series, see my threads page Electra Flyer of Albuquerque, New Mexico.


Ultralight Products Dragonfly Mark 2 ScreenshotBigBlueSkyByBillLiscomb

Ultralight Products Dragonfly Mark 2

The Mark 2 version of the Ultralight Products Dragonfly also incorporated chord-wise battens, but this type of fixed wing-tip design was becoming less popular. This is a screenshot from Big Blue Sky by Bill Liscomb, available on YouTube.

Art based on a photo by Bettina Gray of Dave Cronk and Bill Liscomb

Art based on a photo by Bettina Gray of hang glider designer Dave Cronk and pioneering pilot Bill Liscomb

Art based on a photo by Mike Jones of a Bennett Phoenix 8 with Mylar windows in the sail

Art based on a photo by Mike Jones of a Bennett Phoenix 8 with Mylar windows in the sail

The photo on which this artistic derivation is based was taken by Mike Jones aboard a balloon during certification testing of the Phoenix 8 Jr above the Mojave desert, with Trip Mellinger flying. The Mylar windows in the sail are possibly an idea that we should re-visit.

More developments in Britain

While Australia and the USA generally led development of hang glider technology, British designer Miles Handley, creator of the Gulp monoplane flex-wing hang glider in 1975, created the Gryphon in ’76. Like the Gulp, it used a bowsprit and hefty cables instead of cross-tubes to hold the wings spread. However, while the Gulp had a three-piece tail, the Gryphon had no tail.

Art based on a photo by Ann Welch of Graham Leason landing an early Gryphon at Kossen, Austria

Art based on a photo by Ann Welch of Graham Leason landing an early Gryphon at Kossen, Austria

The first Gryphons had considerable double surface and rudders on the wing tips. The design evolved and became simpler. Eventually, Waspair took over production of later variants. See my page Miles Wings Gulp and Gryphon.

Ann Welch OBE, president of the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, in 1975

Ann Welch OBE, president of the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, in 1975 (no larger image available)

The photographer here, incidentally, was Ann Welch, president of the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association. See ATA girl Ann Welch.


This topic continues in Hang gliding 1977.

External links

Big Blue Sky 2008 hang gliding documentary by Bill Liscomb on YouTube

Hang Ten Hang Gliding World Meet, Part 1 1976 World Open Hang Gliding Championships at Escape Country, CA — video on YouTube

Hang Ten Hang Gliding World Meet, Part 2

Hang Ten Hang Gliding World Meet, Part 3

Photo by Roger Middleton of a Bennett Phoenix 8 in flight at Pandy, Wales, in February 1977

Reference

Mike Meier, Wills Wing–The Early Years in Sky Adventures, Legends and stories About the Early Days of Hang Gliding and Paragliding edited by Jim (Sky Dog) Palmieri and Maggie Palmieri, 1998