Hang gliding 1994 and 1995



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Hang gliding 1994 and 1995

This continues from Hang gliding 1990 to 1993.

Art based on a photo by Jay Blackwood of Larry Tudor, Kari Castle, and Chris Arai after landing at Santa Fe in the 1994 Sandia Classic

Art based on a photo by Jay Blackwood of Larry Tudor, Kari Castle, and Chris Arai after landing at Santa Fe in the 1994 Sandia Classic

The Sandia Cassic was based at Sandia, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and flying was cleared to 23000 feet; well above the normal limit in the USA of 18000 feet. Supplemental oxygen is necessary at such altitudes, which is one of several extra items of clutter needed in this kind of competition. Larry Tudor kept breaking the distance world record by flying hundreds of miles, while Chris Arai introduced Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation to hang glider competition and cross country flying. (Maybe that accounts for his apparently being accompanied by his own private gravity field at an angle to the rest of us…) Kari Castle won the 1993 Sandia Classic, demonstrating that being female is no barrier to flying competition success.

Technical: At upper right of the preceding image, the air intake on the under-surface of a 1994 Wills Wing RamAir is visible. The following year, Solar Wings (UK) tried a series of small round holes in the outer layer of the leading edge of their new wing, the Scandal. (I will obtain a photo when I have the opportunity.) Neither development lasted long, although other aspects of these designs, such as vertical fabric ‘ribs’ inside the sail connecting the upper and lower surfaces became the norm to this day (2019).

Art based on a photo by Jay Blackwood at the Sandia Classic, held from 4 to 11 June 1995

Art based on a photo by Jay Blackwood at the Sandia Classic, held from 4 to 11 June 1995


Art based on a photo by Larry Witherspoon of Mitch McAleer flight testing the Apex at Crestline, California

Art based on a photo by Larry Witherspoon of Mitch McAleer flight testing the Apex at Crestline, California

The Apex, unlike contemporary high performance rigid hang gliders such as the Brightstar Swift, had the pilot attached using a conventional harness and holding a conventional — or at least conventional looking — triangular control frame. Designed by McDonnell Douglas and Boeing engineer Danny Howell in the early 1990s and pushed further by Larry Witherspoon, the Apex featured D-spar leading edges to which trussed ribs attached. (The project also involved hang glider pioneer Floyd Fronius, innovative designer Mike Sandlin, cartoonist Harry Martin, and test pilot of the Klingberg wing Monte Bell.) Turn control was by twist-grips on the control bar actuating tip-mounted rudders.

As far as I know, the Apex never went into production, but rigid hang gliders built from about the turn of the century, also with triangular control frames but using roll control actuated by sideways movement of the control frame (thus mimicking weight-shift control in flex-wings) rule the sky. See Hang gliding 2015 onward for a modern rigid hang glider, the ATOS.

Art based on a photo by Per Lindstrand of Judy Leden after a Balloon Drop

Art based on a photo by Per Lindstrand of Judy Leden after her record-setting Balloon Drop from the edge of space

On the subject of supplemental oxygen, British hang gliding instructor Judy Leden was hauled to more than 40000 feet altitude under a balloon piloted by Per Lindstrand over the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan. Her hang glider was released from the balloon into air thinner and colder than a hang glider had ever flown in before. The documentary film of the adventure, titled Stratosfear, is available on YouTube (link father down this page).

Art based on a photo by Geoff Mumford of Alan Goldsworthy at Carlo Sand Blow

Art based on a photo by Geoff Mumford of Alan Goldsworthy at Carlo Sand Blow, Australia

Meanwhile, hang glider photography at lower altitudes continued to improve, using both ground-based and glider-mounted film cameras.

Art based on a photo by Gerry Charlebois at Tellurude, Colorado, in 1994

Art based on a photo by Gerry Charlebois at Tellurude, Colorado, in 1994

Art based on the Moyes Xtralite advert in Hang Gliding, July 1995

Art based on the advert by the U.S. Moyes importer in Hang Gliding, July 1995

The Moyes (Australia) Xtralite, developed by world Champion Thomas Suchanek (Czechoslovakia) was reputed to have light handling. However, it was not light in weight, some pilots calling it the Xtraheavy.


Other competitions are less formal than the Sandia Classic and based on a whole year’s flying. One such is the Region IX championship. (Region 9 is a USHPA chapter covering part of the east coast.) Pilots submit their three longest flights to the organiser, which for several years was aviation author, competition hang glider pilot, and humorist Pete Lehmann, to determine the winner. Hang gliding is of course weather dependent. In 1994-5, distances in the Region 9 comp were significantly longer than ever before.

What accounted for the difference? Larry Huffman, my staff meteorologist, says that it is not so much that conditions were so much better (it was indeed a somewhat drier spring), but that the good northwest days occurred on weekends.

— Pete Lehmann writing in Hang Gliding, August 1995

The club I normally fly with in southern England runs a similar competition and our best hill for cross-country flights (to the coast; not far) also faces north-west. As a mostly weekend pilot, I also noticed the improvement in my amount of flying during years when good weather conditions happened on weekends.

Art based on a photo by Dr. David Shapona taken at Fort Funston, California

Art based on a photo by Dr. David Shapona taken at Fort Funston, California

Art based on a photo of the remarkable Sting 154 advanced intermediate glider in the Airborne (Australia) Advert

Art based on a photo of the remarkable Sting 154 advanced intermediate glider in the Airborne (Australia) Advert

The world championships of 1995 were held at Ager in northern Spain. The US military satellite-based Global Positioning System (GPS) was then making inroads into hang gliding.

The first day of the meet, Chris [Arai] flew with two Tangents on his basetube, one with the new software, one with the old, as a precaution against bugs. By the middle of the competition the software was deemed safe, and Chris spent most of his free time on launch popping chips out of other pilots’ varios and swapping in new ones.

— Nelson Howe writing in Hang Gliding, November 1995

Lightening the load

John Midgely launching in a hang glider in Spain in September 1995

I took this photo in Spain using slide (transparency) film in September 1995.

The glider here is an Aerial Arts Clubman, designed by Ian Grayland and his team, who previously made the Southdown Sailwings Sigma and Vulturelite Emu. The Clubman was for years in Britain a popular beginner hang glider, its advantages being its light weight, quick rigging, and easy handling. Its disadvantage was its poor performance by 1990s standards. Manufacture of the Clubman was taken over by Avian Hang Gliders (Steve Elkins) and he developed it into the Elan beginner glider, which was more modern and achieved higher performance. See my threads page Southdown Sailwaings, Vulturelite, and Aerial Arts of Sussex, England.

Meanwhile, in 1995 Bill Paine created the Offpiste Discovery, which was light in weight and almost as quick to rig as a paraglider. The Discovery led the move towards greater ease of use in hang gliding. For photos of Bill Paine’s Pelican and Ian Grayland’s Emu, see South downs in Hang gliding early 1980s part 1, which includes commentary added by Bill at the bottom of the page.

Offpiste Discovery flying in 2004. Photo by Roger Edwards.

Offpiste Discovery flying in 2004. Photo by Roger Edwards.

Internal links

This topic continues in Hang gliding 1996 to 2014.

My flying 1994 and 1995

External links

Stratosfear, Judy Leden balloon drop over the desert in Jordan, on YouTube:

  1. Airways Airsports – Stratosphere part 1
  2. Airways Airsports – Stratosphere part 2

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