Flight of the Phoenix
This painting, started and finished in November 2020, is acrylic on canvas. It measures 24 x 18 inches (61 x 46 cm).
Innovations at the time unique to the 1975 Phoenix VI are described on Hang Gliding History. (See under External link later on this page.)
I am not a fan of the ‘fold over’ method of forming the leading edge pockets as used by many manufacturers of the time, not just Bennett. The so-called ‘applied’ leading edge pocket, which is made of a separate piece of fabric (possibly two joined lengthwise — that is along the leading edge) looks better to me. In addition, although sail makers disagree among themselves about this, it strikes me as aerodynamically cleaner too. However, light shining through folded-over layers of translucent fabric crossing at angles does create an interesting visual effect — and a challenge for the artist.
I used a can of sky blue spray paint for the background. (Backsky?) It is acrylic paint, but unlike the brush paints (water soluble) I used for the rest of it, the spraying needs to be done outdoors. The spray and the drying paint give off strong fumes.
I first ‘blocked’ the sail in white and let it dry for a day before drawing the panel lines and adding colored paint. I used plastic modeler’s masking tape to obtain the straight edges and indeed the curved leading edges.
Many details can be picked out from the main photo of the real thing if you know what you are looking for. In addition, the Smithsonian institution web site includes some useful photos of their Phoenix VI and also a VIB, which uses an almost identical structure. (However, the Phoenix VI in the Smithsonian Institution is a later model with double deflexors. It also has a different control frame and floats for towing into the air by boat.)
Here, I had yet to add shadows of the king post and upper rigging, among other modifications and corrections.
I omitted the decorative widgets even though they are distinctive on the real thing. They detract from the synchronicity of form and function in that they could be mistaken for spoilers or other control surfaces — at least by the uninitiated. Furthermore, every addition to a painting brings with it the risk of mucking it up by accidental paint spillage or mis-measurement, or whatever. Sometimes less is more. Update: It turns out they were not merely decorative. See the comment by Chris Gonzales and my reply.
The Phoenix VI was similar to the better known Sport Kites (of Santa Ana) Wills Wing Super Swallowtail 100. Both had 100 degree nose angles and, initially, two chord-wise battens each side, although the Wills Wing used three per side in production gliders.
More developments in Hang gliding 1975 part 2 on Hang Gliding History for more about the Phoenix VI