Hang gliding 1996 to 1999
Two thousand zero zero party over, oops out of time
So tonight I’m gonna party like it’s nineteen ninety-nine
Hang gliders: Ultralight Products TRX 160 and Airwave 166 Magic 4
Harness: Solar Wings Edge 2
In-flight camera: Ricoh FF-9 compact 35mm film
This page continues from Hang gliding 1994 and 1995.
Equipped with a second-hand Ultralight Products TRX 160 hang glider and a new Solar Wings Edge II harness, I flew in Lanzarote, Canary Islands, in December 1995. I carried on flying and taking photographs, which I had always looked forward to taking in to the nursing home to show my old mum, but she died in early December. Maybe she can see them here somehow.
At Malvern in 1996, my glider exhibited a constant left turn, the result of incorrectly assembling it after I packed it short for a flying expedition overseas.
The first step in analyzing such an event is to fill out a BHPA (or USHPA) incident report form. Completing its different parts helps the pilot (or witness) record the pertinent facts without jumping to unwarranted conclusions. Safety officers at national level analyse these reports and results are published in hang gliding/paragliding magazines. Also, incident reports can result in equipment design changes and sometimes they give rise to new or altered pilot training schemes such as the club coaching system (in Britain) and the pilot mentoring system (USA).
This was at a BHPA ‘fly-in’. Launch was by ground-based winch; an exciting ride! (This photo was digitized by using my digital camera to photograph a print.)
Kitty Hawk Kites, based in North Carolina near where the Wrights first flew their powered aircraft, is almost certainly the world’s longest established hang gliding school.
The accompanying image of Bob Rouse of Texas flight testing his Dimorph pteron is based on one he sent me as a print. There are more in his book Selected Works 1982 to 1998.
One day in 1997, I found myself lying face-down on the ground under a friend’s Airwave K-5 in the old bottom landing field (with the single power line that runs parallel to final approach). I was under the power line, or, at least one half of the wing was under the line. The owner of the wing I had crashed had just landed my UP TRX farther along the field and he unclipped and made his way towards me.
In those days I flew with a large spherical compass clipped to the centre of the control frame base tube. (Not so much for navigation, but as a crude artificial horizon if you are unfortunate enough to be whited out in cloud suck.) It was not broken, as such, but it was in pieces and needed to be reassembled. Alas, the K-5 had a broken keel tube and other damage.
After unclipping, I had no memory of the crash and could not provide an answer to his question “What happened?” To do something useful, I figured I would start by collecting up the bits of my compass. I turned round to start off towards the crashed glider, but I stopped, amazed. The compass was whole and attached to the base tube. I turned back to my friend and said that I could have sworn it was in pieces.
“It was,” he replied. “You just spent the past five minutes putting it back together.” He then asked me where we were.
A good question. The hill resembled the Devil’s Dyke, a popular site on the South Downs that I used to fly in the early 1980s. However, the Dyke has buildings on the top, but this hill did not. A very good question! (It was in fact Bell Hill, the site I most frequently flew then, as now.)
I resolved never to fly another K-5 or K-2 because they feel so unstable to me. (Especially the K-2ic, which terrified me when I flew another friend’s example.)
Pete’s Airwave K-5 is held level by a nose-to-ground tether while Harriet’s Moyes XS is parked safely tail-down across wind — and slightly tail into wind.
I have flown occasionally in the company of this lady paraglider pilot, together with her paragliding husband, for more than 20 years (as I write this in 2019).
My camera is attached under the right wing of my Ultralight Products TRX 160. The fin is from my 1979 experimental hang glider. I found that it reduced the adverse yawing tendency of the TRX.
On this day at Bell Hill in August 1998, the turbulence was severe, the lift was punchy, and I did not want to land in the vicinity of the hill. As well as a compass, I had an air chart in a streamlined fairing on the control bar.
I climbed in a thermal until I entered the cold and damp concave area beneath a cumulus cloud and I headed down wind, away from the hill.
After landing, I de-rigged the glider and left it at the side of the field, hitch-hiked back to the hill, and drove back to the landing field to retrieve the glider. Cross-country flights by hang glider involve an excessive amount of travelling, in my view.
At the other extreme, I find flying in simple ridge lift, such as that at Rhossili on the Gower peninsula in south Wales, too boring!
Having flown in this part of England since 1974, you might think I would be familiar with all the hang gliding sites. However, I have no idea where this is. (Maybe I crashed and knocked myself unconscious there as well!)
I had just launched and was not yet fully ‘proned out’, hence the slightly odd position. I added the fin to stop it yawing around.
The stiff carbon fiber airframe of the Ultralight Products TRX made it the premier glider for aerobatics in its time, but its handling was too stiff for my liking and I disliked its adverse yawing tendencies. It was designed by top US competition pilot Terry Reynolds, who received a medal for evading a MiG-21 while flying a C-130 (Hercules) in the Vietnam War.
In this photo, three Germans, two of whom are visible here, a Russian, and two Englishmen are driven up the mountain at Ager, northern Spain, by an Irish hang gliding instructor in 1999.
At a cafe in Lerida, I think it was, with these pilots, I mentioned that psychologist V.S. Ramachandran, who studies the structure of jokes (which often consist of a statement followed by a contradiction) said that humour is common to all societies in the world and all languages and nationalities, “…with the single exception of the Germans.”
The big guy on the right in the photo, with a concerned expression, said “I assume he was joking.”
As I hurriedly explained that Ramachandran was using it as an example of the structure he had just described, the others (the big guy’s girl friend, another German pilot and his Russian girl friend, and Englishman Jon M) rocked with laughter…
The big guy had the last laugh, however. He flew an all-orange Airwave 177 Magic 4 and on one flying afternoon he disappeared, causing us concern. Flying conditions were not great, at least the rest of us did not think so, but just when we were considering initiating search and rescue, he landed next to the camp site, having specked out and flown for two hours all over the Ager valley. Although relatively inexperienced, he took full advantage of the aerodynamic efficiency of being a heavy pilot in a large glider.
I bought the big tent in Bournemouth while out shopping with my mother in her wheelchair in 1995, which was her last year of life.
I prefer the handling and easy rigging of the Magic 4 to those of the TRX, so I reverted to flying the former wing in late 1999.