Flight of the Phoenix


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Flight of the Phoenix

Bennett Delta Wing Kites and Gliders Phoenix VI hang glider

Bennett Delta Wing Kites and Gliders Phoenix VI of 1975

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.)

Art based on the Bennett Phoenix VI advert in Ground Skimmer, November 1975

Image derived from the Bennett Phoenix VI advert in Ground Skimmer, November 1975

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.

Process

Sky backdrop for a hang glider painting

Sky type S

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.

Technical accuracy

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.)

Hang glider painting in progress

Work in progress

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.

Phoenix VI versus Super Swallowtail

Art based on a photo by Roger Schoener of Chris Wills flying a Wills Wing Superswallowtail

Art based on a photo by Roger Schoener of Chris Wills flying a Wills Wing Super Swallowtail

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.

External link

More developments in Hang gliding 1975 part 2 on Hang Gliding History for more about the Phoenix VI

4 Responses to Flight of the Phoenix

  1. Brian Wood says:

    Another brilliant painting Everard.
    And some interesting info about the glider history… !

    • Thanks Brian. I just moved some of the technical info to which you refer to my HG history web site and I added a link to it. (No sense in having too much of the same info in two places.)

  2. Chris Gonzales says:

    Yes, that’s nice. I agree with your choice to drop the do-dads (soaring windows, etc). I would love to go back to ’75, especially given current events. These gliders, in the right hands, could do some amazing things.

    • Soaring windows? Ah! Now I see! The discs at the centers of the main widgets are transparent circular panels. That explains why they appear lighter than the main sail panels in the photo I copied, yet in another photo they appear darker. That had me baffled. Bennett gliders often had ‘soaring windows’ in their sails, so I should have figured it out.

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