Hang gliding 1975

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Hang gliding 1975

This page continues from Hang gliding 1974.

Hang glider launching St. Catherine's Hill, Christchurch, Dorset, UK, in 1975

Another to-to-bottom at my local hill in February 1975

My local flying site was a public walking, biking, and radio control glider flying area. Crowds accumulated on warm spring flying days.

Despite the simplicity of standard Rogallos, they were not as well engineered as modern hang gliders, and I used a written check list when rigging it. One gent with a walking stick insisted that, “If you were in the army, you would have to remember all that.” Another chimed in, “If you join the RAF, you can do this for free.” (One difference between then and now is that I bought the kit-form Skyhook with money left over from my student grant.) Still another earnest fellow: “Why don’t you join the navy?”

One navy helicopter pilot, not much older than I was and full of enthusiastic questions, helped me carry the wing back up the waist-high heather covered slope one hot day while his less enthusiastic wife trudged along behind. The wind was rarely strong enough to soar in high summer, so extended top-to-bottom flights were the norm. After I landed, I found the easiest way to carry it back up was to undo the bolts that connected the leading edges to the cross-tube ends, fold the leading edges to meet the keel tube, and tie them together along with the sail. I then carried it with the cross-tube, control frame, king post and cables still rigged, like a giant aluminium cross.

Immediately after my first awakening as to the reality of flight, I called up the chief pilot of my company and told him I quit. That was the last time I flew a jet for a living.

— Larry Newman of New Mexico hang glider manufacturer Electra Flyer writing in Ground Skimmer, June 1976

For another anecdote about flying there in the company of others and usage of language, both there and, ten years later in the USA, see Little parrots.

Cruising for a bruising

Not owning a car, I simply carried the whole rig on my shoulders for 20 minutes or so to my local hill. One late afternoon in the early summer of 1975, some radio control glider fliers who I knew persuaded me to accept a lift back home in their car. One problem was that it had no roof bars. It did not even have a roof. It took us as long to figure out how to arrange the glider on the vehicle as it would have taken me to carry it home.

Everard flying a Skyhook IIIA standard Rogallo hang glider in early 1975

Flying the Skyhook IIIA in early 1975

I perched high on a seat back in the open-top car, holding on to the control frame sticking into the air, the furled glider posing at a rakish upward angle supported between the windshield’s top edge and the car’s back end. At the first roundabout, the driver turned towards home instinctively, which was the wrong way for me.

One of the others said, “Well, now we’re headed this way, it’d be quicker to drop our things off before taking Everard home.”

Their destination was the other side of town. We drove slowly up the High Street. (Surely the by-pass would have been quicker?) Shoppers’ heads turned to watch. The sail’s exposed white and red sailcloth, its shiny aluminium cross-tube and clear PVC-coated rigging cables all glinted in the sunshine. A yellow double-deck open-top bus passed in the opposite direction, teenage girls momentarily dumb-struck as they looked down at us. I sat up straighter as I held on to the rig.

1/24th scale figures loading a hang glider onto a pre-World War 2 Mercedes-Benz

These 1/24th scale guys are loading a hang glider onto a pre-World War 2 Mercedes-Benz. See UP is where it’s at for more.

We arrived and unloaded the radio control gliders while somebody put a new LP on their record player. It was hotter at sea level than it had been in the breeze on the hill-top. My comrades changed out of their parkas and into multicoloured short-sleeve shirts and sunglasses while the Stylistics sang about owning the first house on the moon and, thereby, avoiding ‘the popu-lation boom.’ We all got back in the car and started out for my place. We agreed, over the rushing air around the car windshield and the glider’s control frame and rigging, that there would be too much traffic on the bypass at that time of day. We drove up the High Street again…

Everard Cunion with hang glider on bike in garden in 1975

“Hurry up and take the photo, mum. I’ve got some flying to do.”

From about mid-summer 1975, instead of carrying the de-rigged glider on my shoulders from home the whole way to the slope (about a half hour) I added some padding to my bike and wheeled it there.

Roly's brother clipped in to Roly's glider for its first flights near Winfrith in Dorset, 1975

Roly’s brother clipped in to Roly’s glider for its first flights near Winfrith in Dorset, 1975

Meanwhile, on a low hill near the atomic research establishment at Winfrith in the heathlands of Dorset, a 17-year old sailmaker took to the air in a Skyhook IIIA that he made from plans. John J, who is pictured flying on an earlier page in his all-green self-made standard Rogallo, supervised.

Roly's first flight near Winfrith in Dorset, 1975

Roly’s first flight near Winfrith in Dorset, 1975

Roly flying his home-constructed Skyhook IIIA standard Rogallo at Kimmeridge in 1975

Roly flying his home-constructed Skyhook IIIA standard Rogallo at Kimmeridge in 1975

I did not have a car, but I met two men at my local hill taking it in turns to fly a hang glider made by Kestrel Kites of Poole on the Dorset coast, of whom I had never heard. They introduced me to the local hang gliding club and they gave me lifts to new flying sites. I no longer always flew alone.

Roger P. flying a hang glider at Monks Down in 1975

Roger P. of Kestrel Kites flying at Monks Down in 1975

Kestrel Kites’ manufacturing facility was housed in a building subsequently demolished during construction of, ironically, a highway flyover.


This topic continues in Simple versus complex (hang gliding 1975 part 2).

Duck à l’orange — my Airfix 1/76th (OO) scale DUKW with scratch built hang gliders

Skyhook Sailwings