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world’ perspective, the last of the moon landings had taken place two years before and, while the Americans had largely withdrawn from Vietnam, Saigon was yet to fall to the Communists.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.
The glider above all the others in these 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, then in his sixties.
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.
The Seagull V used a rudder connected by ropes and pulleys to the pilot’s harness. Together with its excessive dihedral, the rudder combined with weight shift provided turn control.
Ultralight Products, headed by automotive racing designer/stylist 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.
Ground Skimmer was the magazine of the Southern California Hang Gliding Association, which became the United States Hang Gliding Association.
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 Birdman and Solar Wings in Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 2.
A photo in Motorcycle News of motorcycle racer Stewart Hodgson flying a hang glider caught my (and others’) attention.
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…)
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)