Hang gliding 1994 and 1995
This continues from Hang gliding 1990 to 1993.
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).
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.
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).
Meanwhile, hang glider photography at lower altitudes continued to improve, using both ground-based and glider-mounted film cameras.
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.
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
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.
This topic continues in Hang gliding 1996 to 2014.
Stratosfear, Judy Leden balloon drop over the desert in Jordan, on YouTube: