Hang gliding 1974 part 1


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Hang gliding 1974 part 1

This page continues from Hang gliding 1973 and before.

To set the context of world events in late 1974, at least from a western ‘first world’ perspective, the last of the moon landings had taken place two years before and, while the Americans had largely withdrawn from Vietnam, Saigon was yet to fall to the Communists. Britain was beset by energy crises and the ‘population problem,’ the definition of which was vague.

Art based on a photo of a standard Rogallo landing in a street

Ted Salisbury flying the Dover cliffs, England, in a Wasp 229-B3

See my threads page Waspair of Surrey, England.

Art based on a photo from Hang Gliding magazine archives of a standard Rogallo flown prone

Art based on a photo from Hang Gliding magazine archives of a standard Rogallo flown prone

Art based on a photo from Hang Gliding magazine archives of a Brock standard Rogallo at Torrance Beach, California

Art based on a photo from Hang Gliding magazine archives of a Brock standard Rogallo at Torrance Beach, California

Art based on a photo of hang gliders soaring in 1974

The glider above all the others in the preceding two images is a VJ-23 Swingwing rigid hang glider with conventional airplane controls. It was designed and built, largely of plywood, by Volmer Jensen.

Art based on a photo of Volmer Jensen flying his VJ-24 Sunfun

The VJ-24 Sunfun, like its predecessor the VJ-23 Swingwing, was a rigid hang glider with conventional airplane controls. Unlike the VJ-23, the VJ-24 was built using aluminium alloy tube and hang glider fabric. Volmer Jensen, its designer, reckoned it took half as long to build as its predecessor.

Art based on a photo of Chuck Nyland ground skimming a Pacific Gull hang glider at Sylmar

Technical: Pacific Gull was an early adopter of ‘sail clearance towers’ on the ends of the crosstubes, to which the top side wires were attached. They prevented the wires from digging a furrow in the sail. (Alternatives were an enormously tall king post or extending the cross-tubes out beyond the leading edges.) Nowadays the preferred method is to pass the cable through a hole in the sail to a connection slightly inboard of the leading edge tube.

Art based on a photo of Mike Riggs in a Seagull V

The Seagull V flex-wing Rogallo used a rudder connected by ropes and pulleys to the pilot’s harness, an idea copied from the Quicksilver ‘semi rigid’ monoplane style hang glider. Together with its excessive dihedral, the rudder combined with weight shift provided turn control.

Art based on a Leroy Grannis photo of a Seagull 5 flown prone

Art based on a Leroy Grannis photo of a Seagull 5 flown prone

At the Sylmar 1974 U.S. nationals by Leroy Grannis

At the Sylmar 1974 U.S. nationals by Leroy Grannis


Art based on the Ultralight Products advert in Ground Skimmer, October 1974

Ultralight Products, headed by automotive racing designer Pete Brock, set the standard for high quality hardware in hang glider manufacture. His son, Hall, who started flying aged nine, was the youngest hang gliding fatality at 12 years old.

Art based on a photo by Pete Brock of a Brock short-keel standard Rogallo in flight

Art based on a photo by Pete Brock of a Brock short-keel standard Rogallo in flight

Art based on a photo of a Brock 82 standard Rogallo in flight

For more of Brock, see my threads page Ultralight Products of California and Utah.

Art based on a photo of the Bennett Delta Wing factory at Van Nuys, California

Art based on a photo of the Bennett Delta Wing factory at Van Nuys, California

Kitty Hawk Kites, North Carolina, in about 1974

Kitty Hawk Kites, North Carolina, in about 1974. Note the guy with crutches and a leg in a cast!

See my threads page Kitty Hawk Kites of the Outer Banks, North Carolina.


Art based on a photo of the Australian Tweetie

Art based on a photo of the Australian Tweetie

The Tweetie, designed and built by Australian Ron Wheeler, was a weight-shift controlled hang glider built of modified sailboat technology. British hang gliding pioneer Miles Handley rigged one at the inaugural meeting of the BHGA, held in December 1974. Handley then started work on a design of similarly ‘aeroplane’ layout, but of radically different geometry and construction.

See a photo by Roger Middleton of Mike Collis launching in a Tweetie at the British championships in August 1975.


Dave Raymond as Tommy in the 1975 movie (no larger size available)

The Ken Russell movie Tommy, filmed in 1974, featured Roger Daltry of rock band The Who apparently launching from a castle tower near Portsmouth, England, in an all-white Birdman standard Rogallo. He flew shirtless and helmet-less while singing a long-forgotten song, thus causing dozens of mods and rockers on the streets below, some wearing World War 2 German steel helmets, to stop fighting and instead break out into spontaneous gyrations while they looked up at him in awe.

The point is that, with the advent of hang gliding, you no longer needed to use a multi-million dollar airplane to drop napalm on iron-age villagers in support of a corrupt capitalist regime half a world away (fighting a brutal communist regime) to be a flying hero.

See the TOMMY (1975) Sensation [1080 HD] video clip on YouTube. Birdman’s Dave Raymond did the flying, but the cuts to close-ups of Roger Daltry of The Who hanging in the glider suspended from a rig were seamlessly edited.

See also my threads page Birdman of Wiltshire, England.

Stewart Hodgson flying a hang glider in Motorcycle News, 1974

Stewart Hodgson in Motorcycle News

A photo in Motorcycle News of bike racer Stewart Hodgson flying a hang glider caught my (and others’) attention.

Cover of the Illustrated Monthly Flypaper, September, 1974

Cover of the Illustrated Monthly Flypaper, September, 1974

The ‘official organ’ of the (UK) National Hang Gliding Association was the Illustrated Monthly Flypaper. The September 1974 edition, which I received while I was waiting for delivery of my hang glider, contained a report and photos of an early British hang gliding competition held at Cam Long. (Cam Long had not yet fallen to the Vietnamese Communists. It still hasn’t. Cam Long is in Shropshire…)

Art based on a photo by Leroy Grannis of a hang glider launching at Torrance Beach

The pilot in the preceding image was known as ‘Spoon’ and the guy watching from in front of his glider is Dave Meyers. There is some info about Dave Meyers in Hang gliding 1973 and before.

Even those who did not fly wanted to be part of this social revolution. This is from a description of a meeting of the Southern California Hang Gliding Association, soon to metamorphose into the USHGA:

The first speaker was a youth in glasses who must have been from Cal Tech because he drew formulas and equations on a blackboard, mumbling abstractly and mostly inaudibly until everyone began stirring.

— from Higher than Eagles, the Tragedy and Triumph of an American Family by Maralys Wills and Chris Wills, 1992 (see my review)

This topic continues in Hang gliding 1974 part 2.

External link

Mark Woodhams writes about the early days of Hang Gliding

8 Responses to Hang gliding 1974 part 1

  1. This is fascinating–are you still hang gliding? It’s a sport I have always wanted to try. The only true flying that we humans can do, it would seem. I love its simplicity, its cleanliness. I can imagine a push-off, then lift, then…the surrounding. Being enveloped in whole new medium of yaw and pitch and roll, but without those words.

    Would I wind up killing myself if I just up and bought a glider?

    • “Would I wind up killing myself if I just up and bought a glider?” — Yes! You need to get trained at a hang gliding school. You can find a list on BHPA.co.uk. Paragliding is easier to learn and is more popular than hang gliding, but I stopped paragliding a couple of years ago to concentrate on hang gliding, which is where I started really.

    • Al Courtines says:

      I taught myself to fly back in those years. I learned on sand dunes at the beach. I believe it is the ONLY place to learn! My present craft is a Solairus ATF.

  2. Richard says:

    Wow, memories. I flew a Ridge Rider on the south downs, was at the Minto championships, and later had a Chargus Vega. Happy days.

  3. Russell says:

    Brilliant pics and history. Russell

  4. Chris Gonzales says:

    In regard to pitch problems in 70‘s gliders, in my experience the most common one was that there was simply too much, leaving two usable speeds for a prone pilot: trim and elbows locked.

    In my early days on a Sky Sports Lark (a “standard”: Low Aspect Ratio Kite) preflight did include sighting down the keel for a certain amount of reflex, and if lacking, a twist of turnbuckle could bring it up to spec.

    My one occasion flirting with pitch divergence was when I sent my Sirocco II off for an upgrade ostensibly to improve handling. Standing keel pockets were in vogue and Sky Sports had come up with a retrofit that bent down the keel, added a small post where a keel pocket would be, and put two pulleys on the out and down deflexor wires at the nose. The bent keel required shorter flying wires to the keel. Well an error was made on my glider where they used the length of the smaller size Sirocco. End result was a glider that flew with negative bar pressure and was quite terrifying. My instructor was skeptical – that is until he flew it!

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