Hang gliding mid 1980s


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Hang gliding mid 1980s

This page follows Hang gliding early 1980s. I was grounded during this period principally because of unemployment and consequent lack of funds to run a car. (Mountain biking and BMX racing were my activities during this period.)

Meanwhile, hang glider design was progressing.

Art based on a photo by Connie Lee Bowen of Quentin Flerant in a Wills Wing Duck

Art based on a photo by Connie Lee Bowen of Quentin Flerant in a Wills Wing Duck (no larger image available)


Wills Wing at last released their first enclosed cross-tube design, the Duck. Notice how, in the photo of the Duck at full speed level flight, the trailing edge of the sail is held in a reflex curve by lines to the top of the king post (reflex bridles) and tip struts not attached to the sail, but firmly attached to the leading edge tubes.

At Ager in northern Spain in 1999 I met a German pilot still flying a Duck. It had appropriately vintage colours: Brown and yellow sailcloth. I asked why he flew such an old glider. He explained that he had tried newer wings, but he liked his Duck better.

Art based on a photo by John Zurlinden of John Ryan in a Bennet Streak (designed by Bob England) at Torrey pines, San Diego

Art based on a photo by John Zurlinden of John Ryan in a Bennett Streak (designed by Bob England) at Torrey pines, San Diego


Art based on a photo by Seedwings designer Bob Trampenau of Jerry Sturmer flying a Seedwings Sensor in 1986

Art based on a photo by Seedwings designer Bob Trampenau of Jerry Sturmer flying a Seedwings Sensor in 1986

Here, the exceptionally clean lines of the Seedwings Sensor are evident.

Seedwings of Santa Barbara, California, is a separate entity from the manufacturer of the same name in Europe.

Art based on a photo by Bob Trampenau of Erik Lothe flying another Sensor in 1986

Art based on a photo by Bob Trampenau of Erik Lothe flying another Sensor in 1986

Art based on another photo by by Bob Trampenau. This is John Coyne flaring a Seedwings Sensor.

Art based on another photo by by Bob Trampenau. This is John Coyne flaring a Seedwings Sensor.

One of the greatest hang glider designers, Bob Trampenau, turned out to be a great photographer too.


Hang glider in flight viewed from below

Justin P took this photo of me flying my 166 Magic IV in 2002

The Comet of 1980, created by Ultralight Products’ chief designer Roy Haggard, was the first really successful enclosed cross-tube flex-wing hang glider. It was manufactured under licence in England by Airwave on the Isle of Wight (which I can see distantly across the water from a hill a short walk from my home). As often seems to happen with such arrangements, Airwave made some changes of which Ultralight Products disapproved and the two manufacturers parted company. Airwave named their derived version of the Comet the Magic. Its definitive version was, arguably, the Magic IV, released in the spring of 1985.

The Magic IV (and inevitable American-made copies!) remained competitive among the next generation of flex-wings with superior performance, including the Wills Wing HP, Ultralight Products Glidezilla, Seedwings Sensor, and Moyes GTR. Those wings did not match the Magic 4’s combination of easy rigging and benign handling qualities combined with good performance. (I flew one from 1993, with a gap when I flew the UP TRX for about five years, until 2003. Before that change, other pilots sometimes asked when I was going to buy a new wing. I replied “As soon as they make one as good as the Magic 4!”)

Art based on a photo by David Klutho of Gerard Thevenot flying a Mouette Hermes in the USA in 1986

Art based on a photo by David Klutho of Gerard Thevenot flying a Mouette Hermes in the USA in 1986

According to hang gliding industry expert Dan Johnson writing in Hang Gliding July 1988, the largest manufacturer then was Gerard Thevenot’s La Mouette, which made 1,800 gliders in 1987. Next largest was Polaris (Italy), followed by Airwave (UK and USA), Wills Wing (USA), and Moyes (Australia). For a bit more of French hang gliding legend Gerard Thevenot, see Easy riser–my review of Fly Away Home, Columbia Pictures, 1995.

Art based on a photo by Hugh Morton of the 'mile high swinging bridge' at Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina

Art based on a photo by Hugh Morton of the ‘mile high swinging bridge’ at Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina


Art based on a photo by Skip Brown of Joe Sherman flying a Comet over Massanutten Ridge, Virginia

Art based on a photo by Skip Brown of Joe Sherman flying a Comet over Massanutten Ridge, Virginia


Personal note: The Massanutten Ridge photo by Skip Brown was the centre-spread in the May 1987 edition of Hang Gliding. I showed it to my mother at her usual place standing at the kitchen sink in June or early July of that year. (We received the USHGA magazine late in Britain.) It was the last such photo she saw before suffering a semi-paralysing stroke either in July or August, shortly after I moved to London to take up an offer of a job after a long period of unemployment.

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Hang gliding late 1980s

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