Year of the Gryphon

Home (contents) Hang gliding Painted history of hang glider design part 2 Year of the Gryphon

Year of the Gryphon

Painting of Miles Wings Gryphon mark 1 hang glider of 1976

Year of the Gryphon

The Miles Wings Gryphon mark 1, in the long hot summer of 1976 in England, was a landmark in hang glider design. This depiction in acrylic on canvas, 24 x 18 inches (61 x 46 cm) is my seventh painting of the century. (I painted only plastic models between 1985 and 2020.) I have not succeeded in obtaining the depth and richness of the colors of this painting in a photo of the painting.

Incidentally, to obtain an idea of how futuristic was the Gryphon, note some apparent anachronisms that were merely standard prectice at the time. They include round control frame and king post tubes. (Modern ones are streamlined.) Notice also the absence of a variometer, such devices not yet being commonplace on hang gliders at that time. (Most of us had only theoretical knowledge of thermals, not realizing that the patches of strong lift we sometimes encountered were in fact thermals.) More about the skimpy harness and another absent item farther on…


Art based on a photo by Ann Welch of Graham Leason landing an early Gryphon at Kossen, Austria

Art based on a photo by Ann Welch of Graham Leason landing an early Gryphon at Kossen, Austria

The main photo of the real thing I used is this one taken by BHGA president Ann Welch. It is of Graham Leason struggling to land a Gryphon at Kössen, Austria, in June 1976. (See under External links for digitized film of it flying there.) For an opinion about why he is in difficulty and possibly why extra handles have been added to the down-tubes, see Hang Gliding History under External links later on this page.

Most hang gliders, unlike many conventional airplanes, are horizontally symmetrical, which allows flipping the source photo left-to-right without incurring extra work.

Painting of Miles Wings Gryphon mark 1 work in progress

Work in progress

In addition, I rotated Ann Welch’s photo 23 degrees to obtain the bank angle.

For the splashes of sunlight on the rear wires, which are indistinct in the photo, I held my 1/24th scale standard Rogallo in sunshine (see UP is where it’s at). I rotated it so the angle of the king post shadow on the sail was about right and I then noted what is sunlit and what is in shadow (bearing in mind the different sail shape). If I did not have such a model, a wire frame and paper mock-up would serve.

Photographs taken by hang glider pilots Don Liddard and Roger Middleton — and those photos being available online — were invaluable in determining both the structure of the Gryphon and details of the backdrop. That backdrop is the Devil’s Dyke, Sussex, England, as it looked in the mid 1970s.

Painting of Miles Wings Gryphon mark 1 work in progress

More progress

The pilot is ‘hand painted’ in the sense that I found no photo of a pilot in the required position.

The harness, which is a knee hanger type made by Hiway Hang Gliders of Brighton, Sussex, is well illustrated in the Gryphon advert in the August 1976 edition of the BHGA magazine. Its colours are from my memory of examining such a harness in December 1974: Orange webbing lined with sheepskin where it contacted the pilot. The continuous knee hanger and shoulder cords were white and they routed through pulleys in the main risers.

Artist and painting of Miles Wings Gryphon mark 1 hang glider of 1976

Artist and painting (before I improved the mansion at bottom left and altered a couple other items)

The harness clipped to the hang strap with a hook, which featured a spring gate that could fail to close if it was clogged with dust. At that time the emergency parachute was largely unknown in hang gliding…

External links

1976 Kössen 1 de 3 15 min digitized film on YouTube by Roman Camps taken at the second world championship, Kössen, Austria, in 1976, starting at 10 minutes 43 seconds, where a Gryphon (almost certainly flown by Graham Leason as photographed by Ann Welch) launches and flies out. This one has the shorter rudders.

ATA girl Ann Welch in Hang Gliding History

Backdrop photo by Don Liddard on flickr: 1976.12.20 hang gliding Devils Dyke Sussex

Clear color photo by Roger Middleton on Google Photos: Johnny Carr and Miles Handley

Gryphon in flight by Don Liddard on flickr: jonny carr miles wing gryphon 1 hang glider 1977.02 devils Dyke Sussex

Gryphon tip rudder photo by Don Liddard on flickr: MW miles wing gryphon hang glider tip draggers devils dyke 1977.11.19

Johnny Carr on Miles Wings Gryphon 1 in-flight color photo by Roger Middleton on Google Photos

Miles Wings Gryphon in Hang gliding 1976 part 1 on Hang Gliding History

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