Hang gliding early 1980s part 2
This page follows Hang gliding early 1980s part 1.
World War 2 fighter ace Chuck Yeager was first to break the sound barrier. He did so in the Bell X-1 rocket plane in 1947. In 1980 he flew dual in a hang glider with Jack Carey from Gold Hill, Telluride.
Ian Huss was soon to become a member of a team that completed an extraordinary hang gliding adventure that gained positive publicity and resulted in a some historic and/or spectacular photographs.
As well as taking photos from the ground, Leroy Grannis took to the air with his camera on occasion.
Torrey Pines is a hang gliding site inside San Diego city limits. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography pier is visible in the image.
The Solar Wings Typhoon was a popular British ‘Comet clone’ from the early- to mid-1980s.
Yeah, we’re gonna get high
We’re gonna touch the sky
— from the lyrics of Living on an Island by Status Quo, 1979
In 1980, racing yacht designer Rory Carter, who lived and worked on the Isle of Wight, off the central south coast of England, together with New Zealand sailmaker Graham Deegan, manufactured the UP Comet under licence. (Carter and Deegan were both also hang glider pilots and designers.)
…production began in a local council ‘nursery’ factory unit. The metalwork was done five miles down the road in Newport and the office work in Rory’s bedroom.
— from There’s Magic in the Air by Stan Abbott, Wings magazine, June 1982
The manufacturing licence was never signed and, as is often the case with such things, Ultralight Products and Airwave parted company, the latter renaming their glider the Magic. In the 1970s, Ulralight Products wings were renowned for their purpose-made high-quality fittings while other manufacturers used functional but cruder ‘nuts and bolts’ hardware. (Birddman of Wiltshire, England, briefly partnered with UP, thereby gaining a lead in hardware that was clearly visible in the polished and clean look of their hang gliders.) However, by 1980, all American hang gliders had fallen behind the Brits in the design of fittings, particularly those that enable the pilot to rig his wing quickly and easily. The Airwave Magic was superior to the UP Comet in that respect, and its performance and handling were at least as good.
The Magic and then the K-series hang gliders were considered the best in the world and were the gliders chosen by top pilots. (In addition, I flew them…)
From my desk diary, Tuesday, March 30th, 1982:
R.N. Air Medical School.
The event was a disorientation and decompression course organized by BHGA medical officer and former navy pilot Dunston Hadley, and run by the Royal Navy School of Aviation Medicine at a mansion requisitioned during World War 2.
Driving down to Hampshire from my weekday accommodation in Surrey, a large and very old multi arch bridge signified entering the Portsmouth area, but I was so disoriented navigating and driving, that I arrived late. As a result, I missed the disorientation exercise, at which (I heard later) top pilot Judy L excelled.
My most clear memory of the place is of beautiful Wrens in uniform (with high heels) standing and walking around the veranda carrying clipboards. (Wrens — WRNS — Women’s Royal Naval Service.) I could scarcely imagine that, ten years later, the nearest thing I ever had to a proper girl friend was a Wren. (She might even have been one of those there that day! It did not occur to me to ask.) I digress…
In the decompression chamber, one guy had to be let out through the air lock because of ear pain. A common problem where the ear is blocked with wax (as far as I recall). With the trainees in pairs sat next to each other, at an air pressure equivalent to (I think) 20000 ft, one of each pair removed his (or her) oxygen mask and carried out a simple repetitive exercise, while his buddy watched for signs of distress in case putting the other’s oxygen mask on for him was called for.
With my oxygen mask off, my task was to write out my name over and over. My signature definitely became scrawly near the bottom of the page. An older pilot, whose task was patting his knees and clapping hands alternately, started missing in the latter. It was like something in a film. One guy had to fit plastic shapes inside a hollow plastic sphere with matching shaped holes, which he did until he started struggling to fit a rectangular block through the circular hole.
The exercises over, we watched a US Air Force film about disorientation, featuring F-100s flown by pilots in silver flying suits. It is a serious danger in hang gliding in the event of being ‘whited out’ by cloud suck. Unlike F-100s and most other conventional aircraft, hang gliders are not equipped with ‘blind flying’ instruments.
Johnny C mentioned the recent television series Fighter Pilots, about selection and training of RAF aircrew. (Rhod S, best man at the wedding of two of my hang gliding friends, was thrown off the course in about the second episode, although he passed subsequently.) Johnny asked the instructor how us hangies might fare in such a process. I think his words were “If there was another war, god forbid, and we were called up…” The navy flight surgeon and his comrades all agreed emphatically that we could not possibly be any worse than those guys! (Did Johnny know something the rest of us did not?)
Then a British film, narrated by a well-known television news reader, about how easy it was to convert from conventional aircraft to the vertical take off Harrier. (Most Harrier pilots impart the opposite impression!)
Three days later, Argentine forces invaded UK-owned islands in the south Atlantic and Britain was at war.
I was given a quick brief on deck operations and pointed at XZ 450, the Sea Eagle missile trials aircraft that had been hurriedly retrieved from British Aerospace at Dunsfold. It had no radar warning receiver and had been fitted with the Sea Eagle launch panel… Along the coast from Lee [on Solent] was Seafield Park, a minor country house on the beach appropriated by the navy during the war, which still housed the School of Naval Aviation Medicine.
— from Hostile Skies by David Morgan, who flew by Seafield Park on his way to the Falklands War just a few days afterwards. That lack of a radar warning receiver was at least partly responsible for it being shot down early on in the war. See South Atlantic Star, my review of Hostile Skies.
I based one of my hang glider paintings on this photo. Reprinted courtesy of Ultralight Flying! magazine.
I had sold the Cherokee to finance my experimental canard hang glider, but I bought a Moonraker 78, an earlier design, to fly in the meantime. (I modified it.) In 1983, I was still short of money, so I continued to fly the modified Moonraker 78, in which I had sustained a crushed vertebra a few years before.
I took the photo of Adam Jefferson flying at Monk’s Down in April 1983. He was killed at Ringstead later in the year.
In an extraordinary contribution to the hang gliding world, Bob Rouse combined sculpture with serious research into low-speed flight. The accompanying images are based on some in his book Selected Works 1982 to 1998.
The photo on which this image is based was the December 1983 hang gliding calendar photo. Hang gliding’s principal technical author Dennis Pagen devoted one of his series titled Hang Gliding Design considerations to bob Rouse’s Aquila. Aquila is Latin for eagle, apparently.
“Selected Works of Bob Rouse,1982-1997.” Not sure what I had in my hands at first, I became more and more amazed at the scope of what I was viewing. This 90-page book is literally a work of 15 years that starts with Bob’s early store-bought gliders, a Leaf Talon and a Phoenix Mariah. That’s when he began his own tinkering, joining parts of a Seagull IV with the Talon and the Phoenix to make an original glider.
— Dan Johnson, November 1998 (see link farther down)
While these are not even remotely intended to be marketable aircraft, Bob does actually build AND FLY! these gliders. Though I’m no designer and have no ambitions of replicating any of Rouse’s work, I nonetheless found his new volume to be of intense interest… although this is quite clearly art, and not everyone agrees that a given type of art is appealing.
— Dan Johnson, February 2000 (see link farther down)
Product Lines – November 1998 by Dan Johnson, including an overview of “Selected Works of Bob Rouse, 1982-1997
Product Lines – February 00 by Dan Johnson, including an overview of Bob’s 119-page, 8.5 x 11 book (with many fold-out pages of larger dimension)