Hang gliding 1989
Hang gliders: Mouette Atlas and Pacific Windcraft/Hiway Vision 1
Harness: Modified and strengthened 1970s stirrup harness
In-flight camera: 35mm compact with motor drive film advance
This page follows Hang gliding late 1980s.
In January 1989, after five years off, I resumed flying by joining an expedition to Lanzarote, one of the Spanish Canary Islands, 60 miles off the west coast of Africa.
These guys have seat harnesses and the one on the right is wearing a skydiving parachute. His hang glider harness has a quick release…
The glider they used for this event is a Moyes GTR. On this occasion, at Mirador, they failed to gain adequate height for the drop, but I heard they succeeded the following day.
The accompanying photo is of me about to launch at Mala. The glider is an Atlas, a single surface wing made in France. It was comparable with my old Birdman Cherokee and it belonged to the hang gliding school (Lejair) that organised the expedition.
This was the first time I had been overseas and my first time in a passenger jet.
The Pyrenees, a 270-mile chain of snowcapped peaks straddling the French border, fall quickly into folds of rose and amber foothills; the runoff feeds fingers of crystalline trout water along the way. Northern Catalonia may be one of the world’s best kept non-secrets: Picasso painted it, Hemingway praised it, Caesar, it is said, retired his officers there. Yet the pristine beauty of the place remains almost entirely intact.
— Peter Lardner, driver for the US world team, writing in Hang Gliding, October 1994
In September 1989, I went to mainland Spain for two weeks’ flying.
I worked in central London and a colleague, an American, happened to have a hang glider for sale. As luck would have it, it was exactly what I wanted; an intermediate performance double surface wing. (The sail includes an under-surface that encloses the cross-tubes.)
My first flight in it was from the top of a ridge 3 000 feet (1 000 metres) high!
We had one day of dust devils in the rigging and launch area, in which pilots from Britain, Spain, Germany, and France readied for flight. Those mini tornadoes were invisible because it was just rock and scrub there, but they picked up gliders, bags, harnesses, and anything not held down. The day after after that, for amusement, I threw my glider bag into the air and yelled. Everyone rushed to their wings to hold them down. Then, seeing my glider bag collapse onto the ground with me grinning beside it, they just glared at me…
I tried my camera attached to the king post and this is one result. The landing field next to the town of Ager is at lower right. Hang gliders are laid flat next to the short row of trees in the middle of the field. A few years later, the left half of the field became a camp site. I am told that the remainder of the field has been built on since I was last there in 1999.
In both these photos my left hand is squeezing the rubber air bulb connected by a flexible tube to the shutter release of the camera.
The field over which I am coming down over in this photo is now a camp site and the field beyond the trees and parked vehicles has also been built on.
This was my lift back to town after I landed out at Ager, northern Spain (Catalonia) in September 1989. The girl is carrying my harness and plastic bag containing a borrowed variometer. (Mine conked out early on in the expedition.)
I photographed this rigid hang glider, a Reich & Neumann ULF-1, landing at Ager in September 1989.
Canoeing and swimming are options on the rare occasions that the weather is unflyable.
I have a fear of cloud, partly from hearing (initially from a colleague in our central London office who cycled round the world) about the more than half a dozen hang glider pilots who were killed in Italy the previous year when they were caught by a thunderstorm.
One day on this trip in Spain, while de-rigging in the town landing field I looked up in trepidation at a mass of cloud building behind the ridge. On cue, a rumble of thunder turned trepidation to fear on behalf of those aboard the little specks still flying. Some of the specks then disappeared. Later in the day one female senior instructor who had been in the air at the time described being ‘whited-out’ by cloud forming around her unexpectedly. She did not hear the thunder and neither did any of the others among those flying at the time who I spoke to.
That’s Simon O. driving and Rona W. navigating.
On a subsequent day with dust-devils overturning gliders rigged on the flat mountain top and even one glider being flipped upside-down along with its pilot while on the narrow concrete launch ramp, I flew twice. On my evening flight, with thunderclouds ominously ‘in the vicinity’ (according to my log book) I launched into apparently mild conditions. Two others of our group launched immediately after me and we flew out away from the cliff together. However, I felt rain, although there was no cloud nearby. There was no lift on the mountain, but we encountered some over the valley, accompanied by more light rain, followed by severe turbulence and strong lift. That lift felt strange to me. I described it at the time (doubtless influenced by the thunderstorm some days earlier) as ‘electric.’ The others also felt Saint-Exupéry’s traces of gunpowder in the air and we all flew down and landed. Sitting in the Bar Torres later, we saw lightning, heard thunder, and then came a downpour.
Very soon came a slight tremor. As every pilot knows, there are secret little quiverings that foretell your real storm. No rolling, no pitching. No swing to speak of. The flight continues horizontal and rectilinear. But you have felt a warning drum on the wings of your aeroplane, little intermittent rappings scarcely audible and infinitely brief, little cracklings from time to time as if there were traces of gunpowder in the air.
— from Wind, sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1939
Art based on photos by others in 1989
This truck tow system was developed by Airtime of Lubbock (ATOL) Texas. The Fly America team used it to cross the U.S.A. by hang glider in a trip lasting several months.
The major manufacturers were at this time creating hang gliders of ever higher performance, such as the Wills Wing HP-AT, Ultralight Products Axis, and Airwave
Magic Kiss K-1. However, there was a need for gliders with easier handling, of lighter weight, and with easier rigging processes, yet incorporating the latest design features and technology. Gliders such as the Wills Wing Sport, the Ultralight Products Comet 3, and Pacific Airwave Vision IV (the British-made version was renamed Calypso) filled that need.