Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 1


Home (contents) Hang gliding Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 1

Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 1


I moved my hang gliding history pages to a new web site: History of hang gliding. This page will be deleted eventually.


This page follows Hang gliding 1977.

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

State of the art

Bill Armstrong of Edward's Canyon, 1978

Bill Armstrong of Edward’s Canyon

While southern England was brought to a standstill by record snowfalls in early 1978, in southern California, Bill Armstrong flew a hang glider for 11 hours at Elsinore. Armstrong, 29, gave up a job with the San Diego Police Department, sold up, and set about promoting hang gliding full time. On March 16th, 1978, he launched above Edward’s Canyon at 06:00 in a wing borrowed from the Ultralight Products factory and soared the ridge in company of up to 30 other hang gliders, landing at 17:02.


Photo of a late 1970s hang glider

Ultralight Products Condor. Reprinted courtesy of Light Sport and Ultralight Flying magazine.

The Ultralight Products Condor was popular in the USA. For more of UP, see my related topics page Ultralight Products of California and Utah.


Chuck Logan of Moran, Wyoming, at John Ballantyne’s hang glider store in El Segundo, California, in 1978. Photo by Don Apodaca.

Art based on a photo by Leroy Grannis at Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina

Sub-optimal final approach at Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina. Photo by Leroy Grannis.

Bird’s eye view

Art based on a photo by  LeeAnn Hawkins of three hang gliders flying above one another

Three hang gliders flying above one another. Photo by LeeAnn Hawkins

The lowest of the three hang gliders here is flown by Lauran Emerson, who wrote a two-year column in Hang Gliding magazine titled Bird’s Eye View, which presented a female insider’s perspective. (*)

The middle glider is a Bennett Phoenix Mariah with a retrofitted tailplane.

Technical: The cross-tubes of the Bennett Phoenix Mariah were enclosed between upper and lower surfaces of the sail to eliminate their aerodynamic drag. When the Mariah’s battens were changed to a material with different flexing properties, the glider became pitch divergent. The tailplane cured that fault.

Lauran Emerson in about 1978

Lauran Emerson in about 1978

We launched and spent the afternoon flying thousands of feet above the ridges, river and ranches near Lincoln, Montana. By the time we landed, all that mattered was that flight.

— Lauran Emerson, Bird’s Eye View in Hang Gliding, January 1981

Art based on a photo by Hugh Morton of a Moyes Maxi launching at Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina

A Moyes Maxi launching at Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina. Photo by Hugh Morton.


Art based on a photo be Daniel Brown of Don Potter at Carson Hill, California in 1979

Don Potter at Carson Hill, California in 1979. Photo by Daniel Brown.

In the preceding image, Don Potter, a forester by trade, rigs his Olympus on Carson Hill where, during the first half of the 1800s, a 195 pound gold nugget was found.

Seahawk 2 with Soarmaster power unit. Photo by Robert Turner.

Jim Johns flying a Seahawk 2 with Soarmaster power unit. Photo by Robert Turner. Reprinted courtesy Light Sport and Ultralight Flying magazine.

The Seagull Seahawk mark 2 had more battens than its predecessor. The artwork on the sail of this example was carried out by Donna Lifsey. See also the related topics menus Hang glider sail painting and Seagull Aircraft of Santa Monica, California.

Technical: The Soarmaster power unit was attached to the keel tube of the wing and the thrust line of the propeller was significantly above the center of mass of the whole rig. If you stalled the wing when flying slowly in powered flight, the consequent immediate reduction in lift and — more importantly in this scenario — the reduced ‘induced’ drag (that results from the creation of lift) no longer fully opposed the thrust. (Drag and thrust are in equilibrium in straight and level flight.) Because of the high thrust line, that unopposed force caused a nose-down pitch rotation. That added to the nose-down pitch rotation of the wing automatically recovering from the stall because of its built-in pitch stability. The result was too often a pitch-over (the glider going inverted) followed by the airframe breaking. For an example, see under Power in Skyhook Sailwings. (A member of my club was one of several pilots who modified their Soarmasters so that the propeller was set lower; in line with the center of mass of combined glider, engine, and pilot.)

Jim Johns at Jockey's Ridge by J Foster Scott

Jim Johns at Jockey’s Ridge. Photo by J Foster Scott reprinted courtesy Light Sport and Ultralight Flying magazine.

Jim Johns did not need an engine, however. On 18 April 1980, he flew from 134 foot-high Jockey’s Ridge, North Carolina, 4.5 miles down wind to land near the Wright memorial.

Ice man

Art based on a photo by Jim Steil of hang gliding near Moscow in 1979

Hang gliding near Moscow in 1979. Photo by Jim Steil.

From the Krilatskoya hills one can look back into Moscow on a clear day and see some of the buildings not far from the Kremlin.

— Jim Steil writing in Hang Gliding, September 1979

See also Iron curtain in Hang gliding early 1980s part 1.

British Columbia Snow Kites, February, 1978 by Leroy Grannis

British Columbia Snow Kites, February, 1978 by Leroy Grannis. Reprinted courtesy Light Sport and Ultralight Flying magazine.


Art based on a photo by Seedwings of one of their Sensor series of refined flex wing hang gliders

One of the Seedwings Sensor series of refined flex wing hang gliders. Photo by Seedwings.

Bob Trampenau founded Seedwings of Santa Barbara, California, in the 1970s. It is a separate entity from the manufacturer of the same name in Europe.

Torrey Pines

Nearly all the photos from which the artworks in this section are derived were taken by Bettina Gray at Torrey Pines, San Diego, California, in 1979. A possible exception is the photo of Wally Schirra, which is from Glider Rider, but the photographer is not credited.

Hang glider designer Dick Boone and top British pilot Graham Hobson rigging at Torrey Pines, San Diego, in 1979. Photo by Bettina Gray.

Hang glider designer Dick Boone and top British pilot Graham Hobson


Cmdr Levy lands his Eipper Antares

Cmdr Levy lands his Eipper Antares

The Eipper Antares resembled the British Gryphon superficially in that it was bowsprit-rigged. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography pier is visible in this image.


Art based on a photo by Bettina Gray of Jon Lindberg flying an Electra Flyer Olympus at Torrey Pines, San Diego, in 1979

Jon Lindberg flying an Electra Flyer Olympus

The rectangular object secured to Jon’s left downtube is a radio/cassette player so he could listen to music. He was doing the same (with updated equipment) 40 years later: See the external video Dreaming Awake at The Point farther down this page.

See also my related topics page Electra Flyer of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Art based on a photo by Bettina Gray of hang glider pilots at Torrey Pines, San Diego, in 1979

Hang glider pilots at rest

If you were going to stay on the cutting edge, if you were going to be competitive, if you were going to venture into those unflown spaces, you took those risks. A lot of good pilots and nice people paid for that with their lives. And that is probably the greatest sorrow that I carry.

— W.A. Roeker speaking in the documentary Big Blue Sky (see the external video link farther down this page)

Art based on a photo by Bettina Gray of hang glider pilot, poet, teacher of English, and author W.A. Roecker at Torrey Pines, San Diego, in 1979

Hang glider pilot, poet, teacher of English, and author W.A. Roecker

W.A. Roeker flying at Torrey Pines in 1979 by Bettina Gray

W.A. Roeker flying

Burke Ewing plans a formation flight

Burke Ewing plans a formation flight


Astronaut Wally Schirra (in tie) with hang glider pilots at Torrey Pines.  Photo by Bettina Gray.

Astronaut Wally Schirra (in tie) with hang glider pilots at Torrey Pines. Photo by Bettina Gray reprinted courtesy Light Sport and Ultralight Flying magazine.

Here, Burke Ewing, Wally Schirra, and W.A. ‘Pork’ Roecker are photographed at Torrey Pines, San Diego, in the late 1970s. Ewing was an early hang gliding film maker. (He was still flying hang gliders in 2018.) Schirra was an astronaut in projects Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. Roecker taught creative writing and English at the universities of Oregon and Arizona and was a regular pilot at southern California hang gliding sites.

See also Torrey Pines 1976 in Hang gliding 1976 part 1.

Internal links

This topic continues in Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 2.

Mid-day lightning in Vermont, my review of the Francis Freedland documentary film 1978 Pico Peak International Hang Gliding Meet

External links

Big Blue Sky, 2008, by Bill Liscomb on YouTube starting at 59 minutes 47 seconds, one of several places where W.A. Roeker speaks

Dreaming Awake at The Point by David Aldrich on YouTube, including Jon Lindberg still flying with a radio/cassette player so he can listen to music 40 years later

Note about Bird’s Eye View

Lauran Emerson’s Bird’s Eye View column in Hang Gliding magazine, referred to earlier, contrasts with Dave Meyers’ similarly titled series of cartoons of seagulls voicing their opinions about the new intruders of their airspace in early Ground Skimmers.

2 Responses to Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 1

  1. Thanks for this well organized collection of hang gliding history.

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.