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

This page follows Hang gliding 1977.

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.

Art based on a photo by Aerial Techniques of Dennis Pagen on landing approach

Art based on a photo by Aerial Techniques of Dennis Pagen on landing approach

Dennis Pagen, a prolific author of hang gliding technical articles and books, was U.S. champion in 1978 flying a Sky Sports Sirocco II, which he partly designed. For more about this east coast manufacturer, see my page Flying squad.


Photo of a late 1970s hang glider

Ultralight Products Condor. Reprinted courtesy of Ultralight Flying! magazine.

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


Photo of astronaut Wally Schirra with hang glider pilots at Torrey Pines

Astronaut Wally Schirra (in tie) with hang glider pilots at Torrey Pines. Reprinted courtesy of 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.

Art based omn a photo by Don Apodaca of Chuck Logan of Moran, Wyoming, at John Ballantyne’s hang glider store in El Segundo, California, in 1978

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

Art based on a photo by Leroy Grannis of a sub-optimal final approach at Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina

Bird’s eye view

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

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

The lowest of the three hang gliders here is flown by Lauren 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 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.

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

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

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

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

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.


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

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

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

British Columbia Snow Kites, February, 1978 by Leroy Grannis

British Columbia Snow Kites, February, 1978 by Leroy Grannis. Reprinted courtesy Ultralight Flying! magazine. No larger version available.


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

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

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

Art based on a photo by Bettina Gray of hang glider designer Dick Boone rigging at Torrey Pines, San Diego, in 1979

Art based on a photo by Bettina Gray of hang glider designer Dick Boone rigging at Torrey Pines, San Diego, in 1979

Art based on a photo by Bettina Gray of Cmdr Levy flying an Eipper Antares at Torrey Pines, San Diego, in 1979

Art based on a photo by Bettina Gray of Cmdr Levy flying an Eipper Antares at Torrey Pines, San Diego, in 1979


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

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

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 threads 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

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

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

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

Art based on a photo by Bettina Gray of retired U.S. Navy pilot George Worthington landing at Torrey Pines, San Diego, in 1979

Art based on a photo by Bettina Gray of retired U.S. Navy pilot George Worthington landing at Torrey Pines, San Diego, in 1979

Art based on a photo by Gene Emory from Stockton, California, of ground to air refuelling at Salt Creek, California

Art based on a photo by Gene Emory from Stockton, California, of ground to air refuelling at Salt Creek, California

Wrangler advert in Glider Rider

Wrangler advert in Glider Rider


Pionerr hang glider pilot Liz Sharp at the American Cup competition in 1979

Comms helmet 1970s style. Art based on a photo of pioneer hang glider pilot Liz Sharp at the American Cup competition in 1979.

A colour photo of Liz flying her Condor appears on the next page and there is an external link to an article about her farther down this page.

Developments 1978-9

Photo of a 1970s hang glider pilot wearing 'flap chaps'

Reprinted courtesy of Ultralight Flying! magazine.

‘Flap chaps’ (see the translucent triangle of fabric stretched between the pilot’s legs) helped you obtain a steeper glide on your final approach to landing. However, they did nothing to correct the cowboy image of hang gliding in the 1970s. Reprinted courtesy of Ultralight Flying! magazine.

Tom Peghiny's Eagle photographed at Torrey Pines by Bettina Gray

Tom Peghiny’s Eagle of 1979 photographed at Torrey Pines by Bettina Gray


Art based on a photo by Michael Pringle of  Ken DeRussy launching an Ultralight Products Mosquito at Wilcox Beach, Santa Barbara

Art based on a photo by Michael Pringle of Ken De Russy launching an Ultralight Products Mosquito at Wilcox Beach, Santa Barbara

In 2012, long time instructor Ken De Russy sent me several American hang gliding magazines and books pre-dating my own collection. They provided much information I drew on for these pages.

The UP Mosquito was unique in its combination of forward-canted king post, triangular tip fins, and heavily bowed leading edges. A British pilot reported that the leading edge tubes were straight, but when launching in light wind, they took up their curved alignment part way through the launch run with an alarming clunk!

For a link to Richard Cobb’s comprehensive UP Mosquito page, see my threads page Ultralight Products of California and Utah.


Art based on a photo by Randy Bergum of Chuck Rhodes flying a Mitchell Wing at Marshall Peak, San Bernardino, California

Art based on a photo by Randy Bergum of Chuck Rhodes flying a Mitchell Wing at Marshall Peak, San Bernardino, California

The Mitchell Wing was, like the earlier Icarus 2 and 5 by Taras Kiceniuk Jr. and Volmer Jensen’s VJ-23 and VJ-24, a rigid hang glider that required a trailer to transport it. Like the Icarus 5, it was a tail-less monoplane in which aerodynamic stability is built into the wing, as is the case with most flex-wing (Rogallo) hang gliders. Roll and yaw control was provided by tip rudders (much as with the Icarus rigids and the ‘semi rigid’ Fledgling) while pitch control was by pilot weight shift.

George Worthington, a former US Navy pilot, became a world distance record-holding hang glider pilot in his fifties and sixties flying a Mitchell Wing as well as flying flex-wing hang gliders in the Owens valley.

Vehicle-based testing

While sandbag testing of single surface gliders suspended upside-down is effective (refer to the threads menu Testing for stability and structural strength) there is a particular problem with sandbag testing of double surface sails: You cannot reach the underside of the upper surface to put sandbags on it. Even if you could — and even if there was enough room — how many sandbags should you place on the lower surface to add an ‘upward’ (downward in the Hiway upside-down test) force on the cross-tubes?

That was one impetus behind hang gliding associations in several countries creating structural and pitch stability test rigs. They included the Hang Glider Manufacturers Association in the USA, the DHV in Germany, and the British Hang Gliding Association.

Art based on a photo by Tom Price of hang glider structural testing in 1979

Art based on a photo by Tom Price of hang glider structural testing in 1979


Art based on a photo via Michael Schonherr of the Gutesiegel structural test rig of 1980

Art based on a photo via Michael Schonherr of the Gutesiegel structural test rig of 1980

I don’t know of anyone, inside or outside of the hang gliding industry, who is capable of doing an accurate structural analysis of a flex wing hang glider; the loading situations are far too complex and varied.

— Mike Meier of Wills Wing writing in Hang Gliding, June 1983, to explain why rigorous testing is required

De-cluttering

A manufacturer in the USA discovered by accident that their novice level glider without deflexor wires bracing the leading edges outperformed their more advanced wings. (I am not sure whether Electra Flyer of New Mexico or Wills Wing of California was first with that discovery.) Realizing that deflexors caused too much drag, hang glider manufacturers then changed to stronger leading edge tubes instead. Wills Wing, just one of the several hang glider manufacturers based in California, replaced their three production hang glider types, the Omega, Omni, and Alpha, by a single defelexorless design; the Raven.

Art based on a photo by instructor Greg DeWolf of fellow instructor Erik Fair flaring a Wills Wing Raven

Art based on a photo by instructor Greg DeWolf of fellow instructor Erik Fair flaring a Wills Wing Raven

Erik Fair, shown here demonstrating correct landing flare technique in a Wills Wing Raven, wrote an entertaining and instructive book titled Right Stuff for Hang Glider Pilots.

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

3 Decades of Liz by Liz Sharp as told to C.J. Sturtevant in Hang Gliding & Paragliding, May 2008

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

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.