Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 2


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Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 2

This page follows Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 1.

The images on this page are mostly my artistic derivations of contemporary photos. See Copyright of early hang gliding photos.

Art based on a photo by Gene Emory from Stockton, California, of ground to air refuelling at Salt Creek, California

Ground to air refuelling at Salt Creek, California. Photo by Gene Emory from Stockton, California.

Wrangler advert in Glider Rider

Wrangler advert in Glider Rider


Pionerr hang glider pilot Liz Sharp at the American Cup competition in 1979

Comms helmet 1970s style. Pioneer hang glider pilot Liz Sharp at the American Cup competition in 1979.

A colour photo of Liz flying her Condor appears on the next page and there is an external link to an article about her farther down this page.

Developments 1978-9

Photo of a 1970s hang glider pilot wearing 'flap chaps'

Reprinted courtesy of Ultralight Flying! magazine.

‘Flap chaps’ (see the translucent triangle of fabric stretched between the pilot’s legs) helped you obtain a steeper glide on your final approach to landing. However, they did nothing to correct the cowboy image of hang gliding in the 1970s. Reprinted courtesy of Ultralight Flying! magazine.

Tom Peghiny's Eagle photographed at Torrey Pines by Bettina Gray

Tom Peghiny’s Eagle of 1979 photographed at Torrey Pines by Bettina Gray


Art based on a photo by Michael Pringle of  Ken DeRussy launching an Ultralight Products Mosquito at Wilcox Beach, Santa Barbara

Ken De Russy launching an Ultralight Products Mosquito at Wilcox Beach, Santa Barbara. Photo by Michael Pringle.

In 2012, long time instructor Ken De Russy sent me several American hang gliding magazines and books pre-dating my own collection. They provided much information I drew on for these pages.

The UP Mosquito was unique in its combination of forward-canted king post, triangular tip fins, and heavily bowed leading edges. A British pilot reported that the leading edge tubes were straight, but when launching in light wind, they took up their curved alignment part way through the launch run with an alarming clunk!

For a link to Richard Cobb’s comprehensive UP Mosquito page, see the related topics menu Ultralight Products of California and Utah.


Art based on a photo by Randy Bergum of Chuck Rhodes flying a Mitchell Wing at Marshall Peak, San Bernardino, California

Chuck Rhodes flying a Mitchell Wing at Marshall Peak, San Bernardino, California. Photo by Randy Bergum.

The Mitchell Wing was, like the earlier Icarus 2 and 5 by Taras Kiceniuk Jr. and Volmer Jensen’s VJ-23 and VJ-24, a rigid hang glider that required a trailer to transport it. Like the Icarus 5, it was a tail-less monoplane in which aerodynamic stability is built into the wing, as is the case with most flex-wing (Rogallo) hang gliders. Unlike the Icarus 5, the Mitchell Wing was ‘cantilevered’; its structural strength was built inside the wing rather than relying on external struts and cables. Roll and yaw control were provided by tip rudders, much as with the Icarus rigids and the ‘semi rigid’ Fledgling, while pitch control was by pilot weight shift.

George Worthington, a former US Navy pilot, became a world distance record-holding hang glider pilot in his fifties and sixties flying a Mitchell Wing as well as flying flex-wing hang gliders in the Owens valley.

Vehicle-based testing

While sandbag testing of single surface gliders suspended upside-down is effective (refer to the related topics menu Testing for stability and structural strength) there is a particular problem with sandbag testing of double surface sails: You cannot reach the underside of the upper surface to put sandbags on it. Even if you could — and even if there was enough room — how many sandbags should you place on the lower surface to add an ‘upward’ (downward in the Hiway upside-down test) force on the cross-tubes?

That was one impetus behind hang gliding associations in several countries creating structural and pitch stability test rigs. They included the Hang Glider Manufacturers Association in the USA, the DHV in Germany, and the British Hang Gliding Association.

Art based on a photo by Tom Price of hang glider structural testing in 1979

Hang glider structural testing in 1979. Photo by Tom Price.


Art based on a photo via Michael Schonherr of the Gutesiegel structural test rig of 1980

The Gutesiegel structural test rig of 1980. Photo via Michael Schonherr.

I don’t know of anyone, inside or outside of the hang gliding industry, who is capable of doing an accurate structural analysis of a flex wing hang glider; the loading situations are far too complex and varied.

— Mike Meier of Wills Wing writing in Hang Gliding, June 1983, to explain why rigorous testing is required

Pitching curves by Gary Valle in Glider Rider magazine

Pitching curves by Gary Valle in Glider Rider. Reprinted courtesy Ultralight Flying! magazine.

Sail painting

Albia Miller and a painted sail in Glider Rider, February 1979. Reprinted courtesy Ultralight Flying! magazine.

Albia Miller with a painted Phoenix 12 Jr. sail in Glider Rider, February 1979. Reprinted courtesy Ultralight Flying! magazine.

See also the Hang glider sail painting related topics menu.


Ultralight Products chair advert. Reprinted courtesy Ultralight Flying! magazine.

Ultralight Products chair advert. Reprinted courtesy Ultralight Flying! magazine.

Owens Valley pilot by Regina Risolio

Owens Valley pilot by Regina Risolio

George Worthington, Tom Peghiny, and Dennis Pagen at Chattanooga in October 1978 by Bettina Gray

George Worthington, Tom Peghiny, and Dennis Pagen at Chattanooga in October 1978 by Bettina Gray

George Worthington was a retired navy pilot who held world distance records in both rigid and flex-wing hang gliders. Tom Peghiny started designing and building his own hang gliders while still at school. Dennis Pagen writes the most authoritative texts about every aspect of hang gliding.

Art based on a photo by Aerial Techniques of Dennis Pagen on landing approach

Dennis Pagen on landing approach. Photo by Aerial Techniques.

Jeff Burnett at Grandfather Mountain in the Sirocco magazine advert. Photo by Jim Morton.

Jeff Burnett at Grandfather Mountain in the Sirocco II magazine advert. Photo by Jim Morton.

Dennis Pagen, a prolific author of hang gliding technical articles and books, was U.S. champion in 1978 flying a Sky Sports Sirocco II, which he partly designed. For more about this east coast manufacturer, see my page Flying squad.

The Raven

Fly straight with perfection
Find me a new direction

— From the lyrics of The Raven by the Stranglers, 1979

A manufacturer in the USA discovered by accident that their novice level glider without deflexor wires bracing the leading edges outperformed their more advanced wings. (I am not sure whether Electra Flyer of New Mexico or Wills Wing of California was first with that discovery.) Realizing that deflexors caused too much drag, hang glider manufacturers then changed to stronger leading edge tubes instead. Wills Wing, just one of the several hang glider manufacturers based in California, replaced their three production hang glider types, the Omega, Omni, and Alpha, by a single defelexorless design; the Raven. (See the related topics menu Sport Kites/Wills Wing of California.)

Art based on a photo by instructor Greg DeWolf of fellow instructor Erik Fair flaring a Wills Wing Raven

Instructor Erik Fair flaring a Wills Wing Raven. Photo by fellow instructor Greg DeWolf.

Notice the absence of deflexors along the leading edges, with their cables, adjusters, supporting struts, and attachment fittings. All gone! Even the outer ends of the crosstubes and their attachments to the leading edges are tucked away into the slower moving air close to the underside of the sail.

Erik Fair, shown here demonstrating correct landing flare technique in a Wills Wing Raven, wrote an entertaining and instructive book titled Right Stuff for Hang Glider Pilots.

In this image the creases in the left (underside) leading edge pocket, caused by differential span-wise tension between the leading and trailing edges, create an incorrect impression of the camber of the sail, incidentally. The orientation of the batten pockets provides an accurate indication.


This topic continues in Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 3.

External link

3 Decades of Liz by Liz Sharp as told to C.J. Sturtevant in Hang Gliding & Paragliding, May 2008

2 Responses to Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 2

  1. Chris Gonzales says:

    Oh WOW…I had never seen a photo of Peghiny’s “Eagle” before. Amazing.

    • I have seen several photos of what appears to be the same glider, but it had a different name each time. The caption of that particular Bettina Gray photo called it the Eagle. Whatever it was called, it sure looked spectacular!

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