Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 3

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Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 3

This page follows Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 2.

The first five images on this page are my artistic derivations of contemporary photos. See Copyright of early hang gliding photos.

Rich Grigsby launces his Mendij-painted Phoenix Mariah at Palomar, California. Photo by Bettina Gray.

Rich Grigsby launches his Mendij-painted Phoenix Mariah at Palomar, California. Photo by Bettina Gray.

It might be this glider in which Rich Grigsby pitched over at Azusa Canyon in the mountains near Los Angeles. The glider broke and Grigsby deployed his emergency parachute, which had time only to open partially before pilot and glider hit sloping ground. Grigsby was uninjured. (Source: Hang Gliding October 1978.)

The Phoenix Mariah was found to be unstable in pitch when the manufacturer changed the materials used for constructing the battens. The design was retrofitted with a tailplane to restore pitch stability.

See also the Hang glider sail painting related topics menu.

Ed Cesar and Rick Lesh at Point Fermin, California. Photo by Leroy Grannis.

Ed Cesar and Rick Lesh at Point Fermin, California. Photo by Leroy Grannis.

Hang check in the Electra Flyer advert

Hang check in the Electra Flyer advert

A full hang check in a flex-wing requires the wire assist to haul downwards to raise the pilot from the ground. In this case, I suspect that the amount of clutter attached to the right down-tube contributes to that endeavor!

John Brant launches in his Seagull 10 Meter at Moab, Utah

John Brant launches in his Seagull 10 Meter at Moab, Utah. Photo by Leroy Grannis.

Liz Sharp flying her UP Condor in 1979. Photo by John Coyne.

Liz Sharp flying her UP Condor in 1979. Photo by John Coyne. (No larger image available.)

A monochrome photo of Liz Sharp wearing her 1970s comms helmet appears on the preceding page.

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 Chattanooga, Tennessee). He was unhurt and his glider, a Moyes Mega II (with cross-tube fairings, by the look of it) was largely undamaged. See Dangers of hang gliding for more about hang glider emergency parachutes including a link to a video of Dave Ledford’s chute deployment. 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.

Gryphon 3

Photo of a 1970s hang glider in flight

Bob D flies the Gryphon 3

Bob D, flying the Miles Wings Gryphon 3 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 created about as much aerodynamic drag as crosstubes.

See the related topics menu Miles Wings Gulp and Gryphon. For a bit about Bob D, see Gryphon 3 in My flying late 1970s and early 1980s.


Art based on a hang gliding photo by Leroy Grannis

Art based on a hang gliding photo by Leroy Grannis

This image illustrates a classic hang glider design of the time, with drag-inducing, costly, time-consuming, and fault-prone deflexor systems on the leading edges. A minor design revolution (a back to the future scenario, arguably) at this time did away with them.

In Britain, the Hiway Superscorpion (said to be based on the Australian Moyes Maxi) was the most popular of the late 1970s deflexorless wings.

Hang glider flying towards the sun

Heading into the sun

Here, Gary D flies a Hiway Superscorpion at Monk’s Down in 2018, 40 years after the design was intitially manufactured. However, this example is a Superscorpion 2 made in about 1981.

Hang glider in flight

Eking out the lift

See the related topics menu Hiway of Sussex, England, and Abergavenny, Wales.

Birdman and Solar Wings

Hang glider launching from a hill

Roly launching from Monk’s Down in a Birdman Cherokee

While all manufacturers went defelexorless, Birdman took a different approach with their Cherokee in that it retained a single deflexor wire in line with the airflow. The aerodynamic drag of that cable was reckoned to be minimal and it facilitated tuning the wing as a whole (tensioning or de-tensioning both sides together using turnbuckles) and you could tune out a turn if one developed by tensioning or de-tensioning just one side.

Roly launching from Kimmeridge in a Birdman Cherokee in 1979

Roly launching from Kimmeridge in a Birdman Cherokee in 1979

In the photo of Roly launching from Kimmeridge, the view angle shows the deflexor post in line with the angle at which the sail meets the leading edge tube. Therefore, the cable was in the largely ‘dead air’ pushed along by the leading edges. (In this photo, the deflexor post obscures the forward leading edge.)

Incidentally, although it might look as though he used the flat-rigged hang glider as a launch trampoline, I am sure that is an optical illusion!

In the summer of 1979, Dave Raymond, Mark Southall, and Cliff Ingram left Birdman to set up Solar Wings, also in Wiltshire. Their first hang glider was the Storm; a deflexorless (naturally) wing with a slightly wider nose angle than the Cherokee, but otherwise it was a conventional single surface flexwing.

That left Ken Messenger, John Penry Evans, and Rita in the sail loft at Birdman. They came up with the Comanche. Like the Solar Wings Storm, the Birdman Comanche featured a wider nose angle (125°) with a flatter sail than the Cherokee. After some refinement of the flexible outer tips in the first two they made (the elliptical tip design of the example here was abandoned) the Comanche was found to have better performance than the Cherokee and the Storm. Main battens were pre-cambered aluminum at the front and flexible glass fiber at the back. Likely copying the example set by the Mouette Atlas, designed by Gerard Thevenot in France, the maximum camber point was farther forward than had been usual up to that time.

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. I photographed this one at the BHGA annual general meeting held at Warwick University in about March of 1979. Some months later Ken Messenger called it a day and closed down Birdman Sports.

For more about Birdman, including links to two photos of another Comanche prototype, see the related topics menu Birdman of Wiltshire, England.

For more of Solar Wings, see the related topics menu Solar Wings of Wiltshire, England.

American revolution

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 American ‘semi rigid’; a rigid hang glider made of the same materials as flexwings: Sailcloth, aluminium alloy tubing, and steel cable. (See under More developments in Hang gliding 1975 part 2 for the single surface Manta Fledgling.) This design spawned a variety of powered ultralights, including the popular Pterodactyl. See Early powered ultralights in Powered flight for examples.

The next nearest wing in the photo is a Waspair Gryphon, designed by British genius Miles Handley. 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 I recall — with the aid of a tensioning cable under the front part of the keel tube.)

Art based on a photo by Leroy Grannis of a Fledge 2 at Telluraide, Colorado

Art based on a photo by Leroy Grannis of a Fledge 2 at Telluraide, Colorado

The rigid wing Fledge 2, with its lightweight tube, cable, and fabric structure (similar to that of Rogallos) was so superior to flex-wings that it was moved into a separate category in competitions.

However, on April 1st 1979, Ultralight Products tested a new flex-wing hang glider with a double-surface sail (not unusual by then) and a carbon fiber airframe. The latter was eventually discarded in favour of conventional aluminium alloy tube, yet the combination of performance, handling, and — importantly — safety of this glider was to make it equal to the Fledge 2. For more about UP, see the related topics menu Ultralight Products of California and Utah.

Hang glider painting detail

Detail of one of my paintings

The Owens valley, a desert created by siphoning off water for Los Angeles, is a corridor walled by barren mountains stretching from California to Nevada. By 1979, hang glider pilots from many countries went there to compete and to set records.

Butch [Peachy] had landed five miles north of the Peak where there are no roads, no trees, no lakes and no people.
Butch had a CB [citizen’s band] radio… Otherwise all-night searches and dawn helicopter rescues would have been necessary… The winds persisted and Butch spent the night on the the mountain top. Matches, and the skill to build a fire out of poor fire materials, saved him from the risk of freezing. He had brought food and water with him on his glider. At 7:00 a.m. the following morning, Butch had a beautiful serene flight to the valley.

— George Worthington writing in Hang Gliding, September 1979

This topic continues in Hang gliding early 1980s part 1.

External link

Quadruplane Hang Glider, digitized film on YouTube of Larry Hall’s quadruplane of about 1978, flying at Point of the Mountain, Utah

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