The First Ten Years


1st January saw the newly formed British Microlight Aircraft Association (BMAA) publish their official magazine known as 'Flight Line' #1.

January. The #60 Edition of 'Wings' was published.

19th January. Alfred Williamson died from injuries received from an accident.

January. The Avon Hang Gliding Club published it latest edition of its newsletter Volplane.

Hiway Hang Gliders brought out the 'Demon'. The 'Demon' was the first double surface wing produced by the Hiway Company. Produced in three sizes, the 150, 175 and 195 manufactured between 1980 and 1983. The 'Demon' was regarded as an excellent performer which had mellow handling. Its distinguishing feature was the use of a foam insert in the leading edge as opposed to Mylar sheet used by competitors. The  medium version had a leading edge of 19 feet, a root chord of 8 feet 5 inches, a span 33 feet 6 inches, and a nose angle 130º. Its approximate weight was 72 lbs. While the large Demon’s weight was 68 lbs.

Birdman Sports brought out the 'Comanche'. The 'Comanche' was a new concept into higher performance wings. This was achieved by creating a much larger double surface area, also the wing was shaped by using pre-formed battens. Unfortunately this was to be the last model produced by Birdman Sports, there was speculation that only four 'Comanche' were ever produced. Its leading edge was 18 feet 9 inches, its span was 32 feet 6 inches, and the root chord was 7 feet 10 inches. The nose angle was 120º and it used 14 pre-formed battens.

February. The #61 Edition of 'Wings' was published.

10th February. John King died from injuries received from an accident.

Flexi-Form Skysails brought out the 'Hi Lander' which was basically a copy of the French La Mouete 'Atlas'. The glider used preformed battens and had approximately 30% double surface. Unlike the 'Atlas', the 'Hilander' had plug-in cross boom ends rather than a sliding centre box system. Its performance was very similar to that of the 'Atlas' although it did not have quite such an impressive sink rate.

Airway Gliders joined the manufactures market and came out with the 'Comet'. The 'Comet' was a high quality machine built entirely in Britain to the best engineering and sail making standards under license to Ultralight Products Incorporated of America by a new company, Airwave Gliders. The 'Comet' had a perfected floating cross boom system totally enclosed in a highly developed 60% double surface airfoil section and Mylar leading edge. The unbeatable combination of sweet, sensitive handling and outstanding performance made the 'Comet' a winner amongst pilots, as proven in the world's toughest competitions. The 'Comet' was produced in three sizes, 135, 165 and 185. The 'Comet' 165’s weight was 69 lbs, while the 'Comet' 185 weighed in at 83 lbs.

March. The BMAA published 'Flight Line' #2.

March. The #62 Edition of 'Wings' was published.

The BHGA published its 1980's latest Club List.

Skyhooks Sailwings brought out the 'Sabre', being their first double surface glider. A notable flight had been achieved on the 'Sabre' by Jim Brown. On the 10th April 1981 he flew from Semerwater in the Yorkshire Dales to a landing in Scotland for a distance of 78.1 miles. The large 'Sabre' weight in at 77 lbs and was priced at £943.00.

Southdown Sails joined the growing number of manufacturers list by bring out the 'Sigma'. The 'Sigma' was the first offering from Southdown Sailwings that followed the basic concept of the Chargus Cyclone by appealing to the more experienced pilot for use in competition and cross country flying. The 'Sigma' was a cross tube-less bowsprit design. The machine had a high aspect ratio with a tight sail and drooped tips which lock up at the minimum desired angle of attack to aid pitch stability. The airframe was very simple with little weighty hardware and no non-functional parts. Rigging was straight forward and quick, the longest operation being fitting the flexible battens. The 'Sigma' came in two sizes, the 11 sq-m and the 12 sq-m. The 'Sigma' 12 sq-m had a  span of 38 feet, a sail area of 188 sq-ft, while its aspect ratio was 7.5, and nose angle was 140º.

April. The #63 Edition of 'Wings' was published.

Southdown Sails brought out the 'Lightning'. The 'Lightning' was a revolutionary new double surface glider, with superior sink rate, glide and penetration, plus high stability and superb handling. It could be distinguished from other clones of the 'Comet' by its shark fin which stretched from the king post to the trailing edge. The 'Lightning' came in two sizes, the M 170 and L 195 to cover pilot weight ranges from 9 to 15 stone. The recommended change over weight was 11 stone. The 'Lightning 195' had a sail area 195 sq-ft, a nose angle 130º, a span of 32feet, and an aspect ratio of 6.3, while it’s all up weight was 60 lbs.

May. The #64 Edition of 'Wings' was published.

May. The BHGA released figures showing that during eight years the sport had suffered 30 deaths. 28 of these were in the UK and two abroad. Details were published in the May edition of 'Wings'.

June. The #65 Edition of 'Wings' was published.

A collection of photos was taken by Don Liddard during 1980.

Everard Cunion was flying a 'Cherokee' with a fabric crosstube fairing.

22nd June. Ernest Warne died from injuries received from an accident.

Another new manufacturer Solar Wings Ltd appeared on the scene who brought out the 'Storm'. The 'Storm' was the first offering of Solar Wings, a new company based at Marlborough, Wiltshire. The directors of the company were Mark Southall, Dave Raymond, Cliff Ingram, and Roland Lewis-Evans. The 'Storm' was similar to the 'Super Scorpion' in that it had a deflexerless fully-battened and cambered sail, together with a simple but strong airframe. The set-up method used aplug-in type cross-booms with no loose attachment bolts, the bottom bar being secured by pip pins. Handling was pleasant, although the glider noticeably yawed a little prior to turning. Its performance was on a par with other fourth generation gliders of that time, giving a good slow sink rate and a slightly faster top speed than the looser sailed 'Super Scorpion'. The 'Storm' came in three sizes to suit various pilot weights, although the large one was only recommended for the pilots of over 14 stone. The medium 'Storm weighed in at 56 lbs and the large was 65 lbs.

Later Solar Wings Ltd also brought out the 'Typhoon' it being the first double surface 'Comet' clone in two sizes. The 'Typhoon' followed the formula fairly closely with preformed battens and four under surface battens. Reflex was being retained by a harness of lines attached to the trailing edge from the king post. Although the glider handled nicely it was rather heavy. The medium version’s weight was 73 lbs, and claimed an L/D 11:1, with approximate 55% double surface.  It was later leant Solar Wings produced and sold 334 'Typhoons'.

Dave Simpson and Clive Smith set up the London Ultralight Flight Centre to help convert pilots into towing.

July. The #66 Edition of 'Wings' was published.

Mainair Sports released their 1980 Stocklist Catalogue.

June. Rumours circulate that some of the staff at Ken Messengers Birdman Company had been given a months notice. This was after some of the the original members of staff resigned and left to form their own company that became known as Solar Wings.

The British Hang Gliding Manufacturers Federation published a leaflet.

19th July. The 'Flight International' magazine published and article by Ian Parker about the growth of hang gliding in the UK.

24th July. Philip Penford died from injuries received from an accident.

July. The BMAA published 'Flight Line' #4.

August. The #67 Edition of 'Wings' was published.

16th August. John Lamb died from injuries received from an accident.

25th August. Robert (Bob) Calvert flew a distance of 127.61 Kms, and claimed a National and Local record.

Mainair Sports released a leaflet with information on its latest back up parachute called the 'Life-Pak'.

Mainair Sports released information on their 'Tri-Flyer' trike unit and to what gliders it could be coupled up to.

September. The #68 Edition of 'Wings' was published.

September. The BMAA published 'Flight Line' #5.

September. While flying at the annual hang gliding championships held at Mere Terry Aspinall had an accidental parachute deployment when it fell out of its deployment bag just after take off, while he was flying against Judy Leaden during one of the competitions. He was not injured, however it demonstrated to a large audience that parachutes really did work even at only 800 feet, it having been a debatable subject for quite some time. There was a noticeable amount of flyers who invested in a parachute after this incident.

October. The #69 Edition of 'Wings' was published.

November. The #70 Edition of 'Wings' was published.

The November edition of 'Wings' published figures that showed there were fewer than 2000 members in the BHGA.

November. Joe Binns had his British National Distance record of 164.85 km which took place on the 25th July 1980 ratified. At the time Joe was flying a 'Cyclone Mk2' at Cerro Gordo California USA.

November saw the BMAA published 'Flight Line' #6.

December. The #71 Edition of 'Wings' was published.

December. The Wings magazine published an article by Brian Milton about hang gliding's 10th Birthday.

Bob Calvert won the 1980 Alvin Russell award.

21st December. David Jones died from injuries received from an accident.

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