The First Ten Years  


January. The #25 Edition of 'Wings' was published.

3rd January. Malcolm Hawksworth sent a letter to Terry Aspinall informing him of a few details concerning the Wills Wing 'Super Swallowtail'.

23rd January. During a BHGA council meeting, a motion was passed to invite Francis Rogallo to become an honorary member of the BHGA. It was left to Chris Corston to make contact with Francis and to make the offer via a letter.

January. The 'Southern Hang Gliding Club' magazine 'Windsock' published an article about the British Hang Gliding Championships that were held at Mere during August the previous year (1976).

February. The #26 Edition of 'Wings' was published.

13th February. Chris Corston had a serious accident while hang gliding that left him paralysed from the chest down.

William Corbit died from injuries received from an accident..

The BHGA introduced an 'FAI Sporting Licence' for all competition flyers. This was followed up with a new 'Pilot Rating System'. Licence would need to be produced when flying on club controlled sites. They also made available a 'Pilot Log Book'.

March. The #27 Edition of 'Wings' was published.

The High School of Hang Gliding run by the Fack Brothers in the Bristol area offered a prone harness.

1977 saw the birth of the British hang glider league under the control of its founder Brian Milton. That first year Johnny Carr came second.

Geoff McBroom brought out the 'Lynx 1'8 and claimed that it was a delightfully pleasant glider to fly, with an incredibly low sink rate, with an L/D of 7:1 and priced at £405.00 including VAT.

The Chargus Gliding Company Ltd bought out the 'Midas E' and the 'Vega ll'. The 'Midas E' had an unusual short chord at the keel. The leading edge was 19 feet 11 inches, the keel is 8 ft.3 in, with a sail area of 188 sq-ft and nose angle of 110º . It had a billow of 1.6º, and an aspect ratio of 5.7, with an L/D of 8.5 to 1. The 'Vega ll' was offered in two sizes the A 195 sq-ft and the B 220 sq-ft. While a Vega 11B had a leading edge of 19 ft 8 in, a keel of 15 feet 7 inches, and a sail area of 220 sq-ft, with a nose angle of 100º. The billow was 2.25º, and the aspect ratio was 4.09. It had a root chord of 15 feet 3 inches, and a promising L/D of 7 to 1.

Birdman Sports Ltd brought out the 'Firebird S' and the 'Moonraker 77'. The 'Firebird S' was for new EPC holders to intermediate pilots. Two sizes were available, the 190 sq-ft and 215 sq-ft. This glider replaced the existing 'Firebird'. Having an L/D of 6.5:1, with a minimum sink rate of 280 fpm. The leading edge was 19 feet, and nose angle 96º, with an aspect ratio of 4.12, and span of 28 feet. Priced at £363.00 ex VAT.

The 'Moonraker 77' was a high performance glider suitable for more experienced pilots. Very light to control with a wide speed range. Winner of several speed and speed range tests while flying in the 1977 British League meetings. It had a very clean sail even at maximum speed. Its approximate performance had an L/D of 8:1, with a minimum sink rate of 200 fpm. It had a leading edge of 20 feet, a nose angle  of 108º, with a span of 32 feet and a sail area 190 sq-ft, the aspect ratio was 5.38, and billow 0.5º.  The root chord was 10 feet, and was priced at £440.00 ex VAT.

Flexi-Form Skysails added to their production range the 'Vector'. It was specifically intended for the pilot who had ridge soaring experience and was looking for a glider that could extend his flying pleasure and offered the potential for cross country flying. Flexi-Form considered that the glider was both lighter and faster to fly compared with its competitors. The sail was tightly stretched across the entire span and was cambered to provide an airfoil section. The 'Vector' was available in kit form, the B and C models were priced at £430.00. While a ready to fly version was priced at £500.00 and included VAT and bag. The 'Vector C' had a sail area of 180 sq-ft, a span of 36 feet 5 inches, with a keel of 7 feet 6 inches, and a nose angle 114º. Its aspect ratio was 7.4.

5th March. Waspair brought out the 'Falcon lV' for intermediate and advanced flyers. This glider had a very low stall speed, with a glide angle of 8:1 at 20 mph and a sink rate of 3 feet 6 inches per second at 14 mph. Its leading edge was 21 feet, with a nose angle of 100º. The root chord was 14 feet 6 inches, while the keel was 16 feet, and having a billow of 2.25º. The sail area was 200 sq-ft, with a span of 32 feet 6 inches and aspect ratio was 5.18.

Avon Kites brought out the 'Hustler' with a leading edge of 19 feet 4 inches, a keel of 10 feet 2.5 inches, and a sail area of 172 sq-ft. It had a nose angle of 107º, a billow of 0.3º, and aspect ratio of 5.65, with a price tag of £450.00 including VAT and bag.

17th March. Birdman Sports Ltd published their latest cost increases for their gliders and equipment.

April. The #28 Edition of 'Wings' was published

Hiway Hang Gliders brought out the 'Scorpion' which had a very low sink rate. As a result cross country thermaling flights on 'Scorpions' were of common occurrence. The low stall speed made take offs and landings a delight and top landings could be made in lighter winds. The A and B 'Scorpions' had one and three quarter inch cross spars, and the C and D had a 1 7/8 inch spar. The 'Scorpion' had a totally folding A-Frame with a removable bottom bar. The cross spar was split to facilitate storage and carriage. The 'Scorpion' C’s leading edge was 20 feet 11 inches, the keel was 10 feet 9 inches, the sail area was 220 sq-ft, and it had an aspect ratio of 5.3. It weighed 56 lbs and was for a pilot weight range of 11-14 stone, priced at £464.00.

Hiway was also selling their latest version of the prone harness.

Len Gabriels Skyhooks Sailwing Company brought out the 'Sunspot', which featured a fully battened and cambered sail. The airfoil section was maintained at the rear by a shaped keel pocket. The control frame could be split and folded without removing parts, giving maximum strength and eliminating the risk of failure. Quick detachable cross tube ends allowed the wings to be folded in without tools or unfastening screws or wing nuts. There was also a detachable nose pin for bottom wires and an over centre tensioner for top rigging wires. The 'Sunspot' was offered in two sizes for optimum pilot weights of 145 lbs and 180 lbs. The large model had a leading edge of 21 feet 9 inches, and a span 34 feet 10 inches. Its root chord was10 feet 9 inches, the keel was13 feet 10 inches, and sail area was 215 sq-ft. It’s possible to distinguish between the early 'Sunspots' and later examples by the shape of a reinforcing patch at the centre of the trailing edge. Early 'Sunspots' had a rectangular reinforcing strip whilst later models had a triangular one.

The Eclipse Company brought out two gliders the 'Eagle' and the 'Eagle 210' which was developed from the 'SK 90' series. The 'Eagle 210’ had a leading edge was 19 feet 8 inches, with a preformed keel of 15 feet 6 inches. The sail area was 221.5 sq-ft, with a nose angle of 99º, and a billow of 1.75º. The aspect ratio was 4.395 with a span of 31 feet 2 inches.

The 'Eagle 2' was intended for the more experienced pilot, but was still very easy to fly with no nasty characteristics. The glider had three deflexers, a folding A-Frame,a reversible rigging for seated or prone flight. The medium 'Eagle 2' had a Leading edge of 20 feet 6 inches, and a keel of 10 feet. The sail area was199.3 sq-ft, with a nose angle of 109.2º, and its billow was 0.4º. The aspect ratio was 5.664 and span was 33 feet 6 inches.

16th-17 April. The Long Mynd Invitational Competition took place.

April. Birdman Sports released their latest cost increases for their gliders and equipment.

18th April. Mark Southall flews 10.6 miles from Hay Bluff and landed just out side of Abergavenny in Wales. It being the longest flight of the year so far. An article of the event was published in the 30th April edition of 'Flight International' magazine. It was also reported that Anne Welch took delivery of the new Presidents trophy from its designer and constructor Allan Franklin. The trophy was to be awarded to the UK pilot who flew the longest distance each year.

24th April. Gerry Breen flew 13 miles from Tredegar to Newport. An article called Tredegar to Newport by Bob Wishart was later published in the June edition of the 'Wings' magazine.

26th April. Greg Stokes applied to join the Welsh Hang Gliding Club.

Gerry Breen established a proprietary hang gliding club based at the Welsh Hang Gliding Centre in Crickhowell.

May. The #29 Edition of 'Wings' was published.

May. The Norfolk Hang Gliding Club published the latest edition of their newsletter.

May. Waspair released its 2nd Edition of their 'Falcon lll & lV' Pilot Handling Notes.

Stephen Doel died from injuries received from an accident.

The Fack Brothers released their latest American imported glider, the 'Phonenix 8', from Delta Wing Kites and Gliders Inc. (USA)

Paddy Neil Monro (NZ) arrived in Brighton during 1977 with a self designed glider the 'Elfron' and started helping out at Hiway Hang Gliders. (Video of Paddy flying in NZ).

Spring 1977 was the time when hang gliding changed forever in the UK, as many pilots discovered that they could attempt and succeed in cross country flying using thermal lift. Almost every weekend saw personal, local and national records tumble as more and more pilots became house hold names as information of their exploits became available in the BHGA wings magazine.

With the release of the Gryphon hang glider designs started to change.

To prove a point, the following is an extract taken from an article by Mark Woodhams
Mark Woodhams: “Hang Gliding changed forever in just a couple of months in the spring of 1977. Distance became the new goal in Club flying. I was fortunate enough to be the Editor of the SHGC’s 'Windsock' throughout this period. The March issue covered Miles Handley’s Ditchling to Offham out and return on his new 'Gryphon 2'. By the May issue Mike (the Golly) Robertson had followed a cloud street out from the Dyke on a Hiway 'Scorpion' up to 2000 ft and along to Ditchling. Only 4.5 miles but no one had left the Dyke by the front door before. On Easter Monday Roger Sylvester climbed to 4000 ft above the Dyke to 360 forty consecutive times back to earth on his Wasp 'Falcon 4'. It was reported that Mark Southall had flown 12 miles to Abergavenny and Gerry Breen’s Tredegar record breaking flight was reported as 20 miles. Bob Wisely flew from Beachy Head to Cuckmere Haven trying to repeat the out and return flight recently completed there by Johnny Carr, Miles Handley, Paddy Monroe and Steve Goad. Then to cap it all, Ray Sigrist and Graham Slater completed the Newhaven to Brighton cliffs out and return for the first time. On the 1st June Johnny Carr on a 'Gryphon 2', Geoff Lowery on 'SST' and Paddy Monroe on 'Scorpion' flew from Ditchling Beacon to Shoreham Airport, Worthing and Steyning respectively, overflying the Dyke en route. On 26th June Dave Roberts flew the 11.5 miles from the Dyke to Peacehaven topping out at 4650 ft. It was the most exciting time in free-flying that I can ever remember. And it was happening all over the country at the same time in most of the other Clubs. Flying would never be the same again”.

15th May. Nigel Milnes flew 22 miles and made a height gain of 6,000 ft from Swinyard Hill in the Malverns to Castle Farm, Madley. Taken from Nigel Milnes - 22 miles and 6,000 feet by Bob Wishart published in the Wings magazine June edition 1977.

15th May. A group of pilots assembled at the Pandy site, in an effort to be the first to make a cross country to Hay Bluff. They were Ken Messenger, Dave Weeden, Mark Southall, Roy Hill, Brian Milton, Bob Wishart, Andrew Hill, Dave Raymond, and Ashley Doubtfire all flying Birdman 'Moonrakers' while John Hunt was on a home built 'Phoenix 4B'. The wind was 25 to 30 mph with some thermal lift. Dave Raymond and Ashley Doubtfire were successful and completed the ten mile run on their own. The great obstacle in the Pandy to Hay Bluff run, was a one mile gap in the ridge, and up until then it had not been jumped.

June. The #30 Edition of 'Wings' was published

June. Ann Welch and Gerry Breen brought out a paperback book called 'Hang Glider Pilot' and was Published by John Murray for £2.75.

4th - 7th June. The Scottish Glen Grant Open Hang Gliding Championships took place at Minto. Class 2 results were as follows. 1st Bob Bailey Wills 'Super Swallow Tail', 2nd Keith Reynolds Wasp 'Falcon 4', 3rd Jan Ketelaar Wasp 'Falcon 4'.

7th June. A Letter from Bill Moyes (Australia) to Terry Aspinall about his 'Sting' range of hang gliders.

Photos of Andy Rowe flying a Wasp '229B3' at Beachy Head Sussex taken by Don Liddard.

Photos of Jo Binns taken by Don Liddard.

Photos of Tony Beresford taken by Don Liddard.

June. A letter accompanied the June edition of the 'Wings' magazine from Brian Milton explaining how pilots were chosen to represent the BHGA at the upcoming 1977 World Championships being held in Kossen Austria.

21st June. Ken Messenger became the first person to cross the English Channel in a hang glider flying from England to France. Sadly his accompanying friend Brian Milton fell a little short and landed in the sea. Both Brian and his wife Fiona had organised the whole event, and had made all the arrangements including the sponsorship. The whole event was covered by most of the national newspapers. The Gliders were manufactured at the Birdman factory and Brian’s was sponsored by JB Whisky, while Kens was sponsored by Olympic Holidays. Both gliders were dropped from hot air balloons over the Kent coast. Having taken off from a field near Canterbury. Brian released early at 14000 feet while Ken released later at 18000 feet, as he was directly over Dover Harbour. The flight over the Channel was uneventful other than the severe cold he felt in his hands.  He crossed the coast on target with 7,000 feet to spare and was able to fly down the coast to Calais and back to the planned landing spot near Sangatte where Bleriot had taken off from when he first flew to England in 1912. One of those silly things happened when he came in to land. Naturally it is essential to land into wind which he did. The only problem was all the Photographers were looking in the opposite direction out to sea. They had missed him as he passed over them earlier and was too high to be seen. However, Brian had a quite different tale to tell. It turned out that he had encountered severe sink in the middle of the English Channel and had made a forced wet landing. In true typical Brian Milton style he was picked up by a passing Russian trawler whose crew had great difficulty in understanding what this mad Englishman was doing swimming around in the middle of the English Channel fully clothed. (Source: Kens Messengers Web Site).

24th June. Bob Wills was killed in the USA while filming a TV commercial. The helicopter filming Bob while he was flying moved from a pre-arranged spot and the down wash from its rotor blades flipped Bobs glider over.

Len Gabriels designed a small engine that looked like a ducted fan, that he hoped to fix to a hang glider to assist with take offs from the flatlands.

A collection of photos taken around this time by Don Liddard.

Don Liddard took photos of the Chargus 'Midas E'.

The Dunstable Hang Gliding School run by Howard Edwards, Dave Simpson and Chris Ryan.

Angus Pinkerton's idea of a hang glider was captured through this early reading on the subject, and in 1977/78 he under took a mathematical project while at Glasgow University on the 'Thermalling Potential of Hang Gliders'.  (he concluded that they would have very good cross Country potential, since they were able to use much smaller thermals than sailplanes, as long as small thermals were more common than large ones, even with the performance that hang gliders had then.

July. The #31 Edition of 'Wings' was published.

1st July. The 'Norfolk Hang Gliding Club' was forced to close its flying sites to BHGA rated pilots only, asking that the pilots produce their licence upon request. Apparently beginners had been turning up and flouting the rules that had been agreed by the Norfolk club and local land owners and authorities.

July. The 'Southern Hang Gliding Club' published its latest edition of 'Windsock' with an article about Johnny Carr.

July. Hiway Hang Gliders released its 1977 price list.

22nd July. The Daily Mail newspaper published an article on Ken Messengers record breaking balloon drop to be the first to cross the English Channel flying a hang glider.

August. The #32 Edition of 'Wings' was published.

Friday 5th August. The Daily Mail newspaper published two articles on hang gliding.

27th August the Daily Mail newspaper published an article called 'Adventure On Saturday in Wales'

6th September. A Newspaper article was published about a hang glider crash involving Frank Kemmery, although his name was miss spelt as Kennedy.

September. The #33 Edition of 'Wings' was published.

September. The Norfolk Hang Gliding Club published the latest edition of their newsletter.

The Mere event held in early September was sponsored by Hieneken brewers, and they displayed their very large hot air balloon that held 22 people (2 tier basket).

The winners of the event were as follows

Class 1 1st Mike Pickman. Mike was the only pilot to hit the spot.

Class 2 1st Phil Matthewson (Aus Moyes). 2nd Steve Moyes (Aus Moyes). 3rd John Ogden (Moyes).

Class 3 1st David Cook ('VJ23'). 2nd P.Stenzsvaa ( 'Fledge'). 3rd Mike Collis ('Tweetie').

By 1977 Class 1 was for Standard gliders only. Class 2 was for open class weight shift and Class 3 was for Rigid wings.

The 1977 Mere competition was also a time when UK flyers first saw a 'Keel Pocket' that was being used by Bill Moyes on his latest gliders. Article and photos.

Mere was also the meeting that introduced UK flyers to the 'Floating Tip'. Article and photos

October. Photos of Miles Handleys 'Gryphon 2' a glider that was way ahead of its time and opposition.

October. The #34 Edition of 'Wings' was published.

October. The Norfolk Hang Gliding Club published the latest edition of their newsletter.

November. The #35 Edition of 'Wings' was published.

1st November. The BHGA released a list of Registered Schools.

November. The BHGA sent Steve Pionk a letter along with his Pilots Licence.

Bob Bailey flew 24 miles from Carlton Bank to near Swinton. An article called 'Carlton Bank to near Swinton' by Bob Bailey was published in the November edition of 'Wings' magazine .

December. The #36 Edition of 'Wings' was published.

The December edition of 'Wings' included a BHGA Logo Sticker.

10th December. The 'Flight International' published an article called 'Hang-Gliding Review' by Anne Welch.

Brian Woods became the first winner of the Alvin Russell award.

During the year the Skyhooks Sailwing Company had been experimenting with a 'Canard Wing, and it made its first maiden flight on 25th December (Christmas day).

Len Gabriels: "I built three of different sizes. The smallest was incredibly agile and totally safe whatever the conditions, although they never went on sale. Fliers were only interested in performance. Whilst they were incredibly stable in pitch which was my concern, the forewing spoiled the performance compared to flying it with the foresail removed, which we did in several experiments. Like that it was a very good wing, but basically I never liked the idea of not having a cross boom and having a nose extension carrying the loads, a view that was shown to be right when two died as the overloaded front boom bent and collapsed on a trike at 800 feet. (Not one of our wings)."


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