Hang gliding late 1980s


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Hang gliding late 1980s

This page follows Hang gliding mid 1980s.

I was grounded during this period principally because I was self-employed under the government-funded Enterprise Allowance Scheme (for the long term unemployed) in the Bournemouth area, then I obtained regular employment in London. At weekends and holidays I visited my mother in hospitals and nursing homes after she suffered a semi-paralysing stroke. I had no spare money to run a car or spare time for hang gliding.

Photo opportunity

By the late 1980s, hang glider development proceeded at a slower pace than during its early days in the 1970s. Meanwhile, photography and, in particular, quality of printing improved markedly during this period.

Art based on the Grouse Mountain and Kodak advert in Hang Gliding, July 1987

Art based on the Grouse Mountain and Kodak advert in Hang Gliding, July 1987

Art based on a photo by Larry Witherspoon of a billboard on Sepulveda Boulevard, Los Angeles International Airport

Art based on a photo by Larry Witherspoon of a billboard on Sepulveda Boulevard, Los Angeles International Airport

Larry Witherspoon used a disc camera — in which the film negatives were arranged in a circle rather than a linear strip — to take this snap. During the last half mile walk on my daily journey from my weekday accommodation to work in the centre of London, I passed a similarly large billboard. Its picture was a scenic view with, in the distance against the sky, a hang glider flying. The caption was You can spot a [Whatever] pensioner a mile away.

Art based on the Moyes Mission advert

Art based on the Moyes Mission advert

Art based on a photo by Michael Long of Larry Haney flying Haney's Point, Atkins, Arkansas

Art based on a photo by Michael Long of Larry Haney flying Haney’s Point, Atkins, Arkansas

Art based on a photo of Doug Rice and Doug Hileman at Sauratown Mountain, North Carolina

Art based on a photo of Doug Rice and Doug Hileman at Sauratown Mountain, North Carolina

Art based on a photo of Bob Hanes in a 180 Wills Wing Duck and Bill Travers over Millerton Lake on the San Joaquin River

Art based on a photo of Bob Hanes in a 180 Wills Wing Duck and Bill Travers over Millerton Lake on the San Joaquin River

Art based on a photo by Lydia Slatton of USHGA director Rick Jacob Interviewed by local television

Art based on a photo by Lydia Slatton of USHGA director Rick Jacob Interviewed by local television

It’s brains you want

Art based on a photo by Rob Kells of a Wills Wing Sport undergoing testing

Art based on a photo by Rob Kells of a Wills Wing Sport undergoing testing

The Wills Wing Sport, introduced in August 1986, was the first hang glider (in the USA at least) to be made with an airframe of the stronger 7075 aluminium alloy, which enabled Wills Wing to build it a few pounds lighter. Other manufacturers raised questions concerning that material’s fatigue life and susceptibility to corrosion, but (as far as I know) no such problems were encountered.


Art based on a photo of Larry Tudor and Geoff Loyns in the Enterprise Wings advert

Art based on a photo of Larry Tudor and Geoff Loyns in the Enterprise Wings advert

Larry Tudor was at this time a distance world record holding pilot. On June 26th 1988, Tudor and Geoff Loyns flew together (each in their own glider) on an out-and-return journey of nearly 200 miles in the Owens Valley, California. (Loyns flew a glider built by the new Australian manufacturer Enterprise Wings.)

Geoff Loyns, from Cardiff, Wales, wears a T-shirt advertising Brains beer. Wales is known for, among other things, its people’s advocacy of education. When I was a student in south Wales in the late 1970s, a large sign at Cardiff railway station proclaimed It’s Brains you want

Art based on a photo of Geoff Loyns with his broken wing after deploying his emergency parachute in the Owns Valley

Art based on a photo of Geoff Loyns with his broken wing after deploying his emergency parachute in the Owns Valley

In July 1989, Loyns used a rocket-deployed emergency parachute when his glider tucked in the Owens Valley. Geoff Loyns talks about his Hang Glider tumble and ballistic reserve deployment in Owens Valley, USA on YouTube.

Art based on a photo of Kevin Christopherson

Art based on a photo of Kevin Christopherson

In the summer of 1989, the centre of gravity of long distance hang gliding moved from the Owens Valley of California-Nevada to Wyoming.

Kevin Christopherson flew a series of flights culminating in a series of cross-country distance world records. His mother drove chase in the family car.

Art based on a photo of Kevin Christopherson at Shirley Rim

Art based on a photo of Kevin Christopherson at Shirley Rim, near Whiskey Peak, Wyoming


On his 287 mile record from Whiskey Peak, Wyoming, to Kyle, South Dakota, he had to change his variometer battery, which involved fiddling with small parts while gliding between thermals. After losing height over the Pine Ridge Indian reservation, with no roads below, he caught sight of a golden eagle circling in a thermal…

At this point I was farther along than any man had ever flown in a hang glider, going up in a strong thermal and sharing it with what could only be the spirit of an ancient Indian warrior.

— Kevin Christopherson writing in Hang Gliding, October 1989

Christopherson flew a British hang glider, the Airwave K-1, as did Welshman Geoff Loyns. (I refuse to call it by its official name Magic Kiss, instead extrapolating backwards from Airwave’s next gliders, the K-2, K-3, K-4, and K-5!)

Trivia/funny story: When I was in Spain in September 1989, the local Airwave dealer had a new demonstration K-1, which some pilots were rigging in a concrete revetment in the village. I stopped by and asked about it. A chap explained a quirk concerning its rigging procedure, the details of which I have long ago forgotten. Much later in the day, after I had been up the mountain (I do not recall whether I flew that day) the same people were still there, but they were de-rigging the glider. However, they were stuck. (Bear in mind that they were likely hot and dehydrated from carrying out a fairly physical task in that sun-baked concrete square for several hours.) I spotted the problem. They had explained it to me that morning, so I merely explained it back to them. They were then able to continue de-rigging. They thanked me; the expert on the finer details of Airwave’s new hang glider!

Across the U.S.A. by hang glider

Distance world records are for single flights. In the summer of 1988, a small team set about a different kind of distance attempt…

Art based on a photo by Skip Brown of  Greg DeWolf of Fly America near Hawk Springs, Wyoming

Art based on a photo by Skip Brown of
Greg DeWolf of Fly America near Hawk Springs, Wyoming

Greg DeWolf, looking for Cindy Drozda after she landed out of radio contact, encountered a female police officer:

She told me that search and rescue consisted of a man on horseback and she had never seen a helicopter except on TV…

— Greg DeWolf writing in Hang Gliding, May 1989

Eventually, the three pilots of Fly America and their ground crew were reunited after one of many adventures on this transcontinental journey in the second half of 1988 and early 1989.

…the last vestige of a fiery sunset gave way to the golden light of a full moon, and the anxiety of the day faded into the serenity of the night.

Art based on a photo by Kelvin Jones of Ian Huss of Fly America launching from a desert road via truck tow in 1988

Art based on a photo by Kelvin Jones of Ian Huss launching from a desert road via truck tow

The Fly America team was supported by people along the route, not all of them hang glider people, who gave their time, money, and goods to the cause.

We then retired to the prettiest, tidiest bed and breakfast establishment this side of Europe and stayed for a few great nights’ sleep and grand breakfasts every morning. The woman who owned the accommodation had a collection of windmill pictures, and boy did we have just the addition for her collection.

— Greg DeWolf writing in Hang Gliding, September 1989

Art based on a photo by Kelvin Jones of Ian Huss, Cindy Drozda, and Greg DeWolf, the pilots of Fly America

Art based on a photo by Kelvin Jones of Ian Huss, Cindy Drozda, and Greg DeWolf, the pilots of Fly America

Alicia Hansen, promotion coordinator for Fly America, arranged television, radio, and newspaper coverage at several places across the U.S.A.

We had 30 TV stations arrive on site to tape broadcasts; 40 newspapers obtained interviews and 30 radio stations came out for interviews.

— Greg DeWolf writing in Hang Gliding, September 1989

Ian Huss learned some dos and don’ts from that experience…

If you must promote the daredevil image, demand top dollar, so at least you’ll be paid for selling out the rest of us.

— Ian Huss writing in Hang Gliding, July 1989

On the penultimate leg, DeWolf aimed to land at First Flight Airport on the Outer Banks, North Carolina, near where the Wright brothers flew and from where in 1979 astronaut Neil Armstrong set altitude and climb records in a Learjet. DeWolf had only enough height for a straight-in approach and he would be lucky to clear the trees, then a light aircraft turned onto the runway…

I held my course and was relieved at the quickness of the craft’s acceleration. I relaxed watching the plane cross my path a half mile in front of me. I relaxed, that is, until I saw the second plane start rolling down the runway! Couldn’t anything on this trip be easy?

— Greg DeWolf writing in Hang Gliding, July 1989

Art based on a photo  by Skip Brown of Greg DeWolf flying over Francis Rogallo at the Wright memorial

Art based on a photo by Skip Brown of Greg DeWolf flying over Francis Rogallo at the Wright memorial

Internal links

About the author

Hang gliding 1989

External link

Remembering Greg DeWolf on the U.S. Hawks web site

1 Response to Hang gliding late 1980s

  1. Thanks for the history about Greg, and thanks for the link to the U.S. Hawks.

    Best wishes,

    Bob Kuczewski

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