Early hang glider designs did not reliably achieve safe flight, their
builders lacking a comprehensive understanding of the underlying principles of
flight. The first recorded controlled flights were by German engineer Otto Lilienthal,
whose research, published in 1889, strongly influenced later designers. The type of
aircraft employed by Lilienthal is now referred to as a hang glider. Further
hang glider research was undertaken during the 1920s in Europe, Australia and the U.S.A, where designers tested
several wing concepts and the ‘pendulum weight-shift control system’.
In 1957 the American space agency NASA began testing various formats of a new wing
called the Rogallo
wing with the intent of possibly implementing the design as a recovery
system for the Gemini space capsules. The wing’s simplicity of
design and ease of construction, in combination with its slow flight
characteristics, did not go unnoticed by hang glider enthusiasts; Rogallo’s
flexible wing airfoil was soon adapted to the purpose of recreational flight,
launching a hang glider Renaissance.
The sleek high performance jets, sailplanes and hang gliders of today have a
heritage that dates back to man’s first attempts at
According to historian Ahmed Mohammed al-Maqqari
(1591–1632), several contemporary accounts report that the polymath Abbas Ibn Firnas
(810–887) attempted an early glider flight near Cordoba, Spain which ended in heavy back
injuries. It is considered the first attempt at heavier-than-air
flight in aviation history. In either 1003 or 1008, Jauhari attempted flight by some
apparatus from the roof of a mosque in Nishapur, Khorasan, Iran, and fell to his death as
The monk Eilmer of Malmesbury is reported by
of Malmesbury (c. 1080–1143), a fellow monk and historian, to have flown off
the roof of his Abbey in Malmesbury, England, sometime
between 1000 and 1010, gliding about 200 metres (220 yd) before crashing and
breaking his legs. Going by the sketchy reports, both Ibn Firnas
and Eilmer used a set of (feathery) wings, and both blamed their crash on the
lack of a tail. There is one record of a Turk named Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi who
reportedly flew across the Bosphorus straight in the 17th century.
Starting in the 1880s advancements were made in aerodynamics and construction that led to the
first truly practical gliders; this information was often shared
and published by early aviators and inventors, building a long series of
incremental achievements. Through the 1880s several aviation pioneers emerged in
different countries around the world all perusing glider designs with varying
degrees of success. Chief among these were Otto Lilienthal in Berlin, Germany,
Lawrence Hargrave in Sydney, Australia, Percy Pilcher in the United Kingdom, John
Joseph Montgomery at Otay Mesa near San Diego, California (1880s) as well as
at Santa Clara, California (1905) Octave Chanute and his team in Gary,
Indiana in the U.S.A., just to name a few.
Otto Lilienthal, first documented controlled flights.
Otto Lilienthal duplicated some of his contemporaries’ work and greatly
expanded on it from 1874, publishing all of his research in 1889. He also
produced a series of gliders, and in 1891 was able to make flights of 25 metres
(82 ft) or more routinely, as well as some soaring flights. He rigorously
documented his work, influencing later designers; for this reason he is one of
the best known and most influential of the early aviation pioneers. His type of
aircraft is now known as a hang glider. By 1896 he had made about 2000
flights of 250 metres (820 ft) with a number of his designs when he crashed from
a height of probably 15 metres (49 ft) fracturing his spine. Percy Pilcher took a
growing interest in aviation and built a glider called The Bat which he
flew for the first time in 1895. Later that year Pilcher met and consulted with
Otto Lilienthal, who was the leading expert in gliding; these discussions led to
Pilcher building two more hang gliders, The Beetle and The
Gull. Based on the work of his mentor Otto
Lilienthal, in 1897 Pilcher built a third hang glider called The Hawk
with which he broke the world distance record when he flew 250 metres
The hang glider lost some importance through the introduction of wing warping
in 1902 by the Wright brothers and subsequently of aileron control by the French. When
World War I ended in 1918, the Treaty of Versailles practically
ended engine driven flights in Germany, thus, in the 1920s and 1930s, while
aviators and aircraft makers in the rest of the world were working to improve
the performance of powered aircraft, the Germans were designing, developing and
flying ever more efficient gliders and discovering ways of using the natural
forces in the atmosphere to make them fly farther and faster. These activities
on Wasserkuppe promoted a
renaissance of gliding aviation. Many of these gliders flown in 1920 were hang
gliders in that they were controlled by the pilot’s weight shift alone. The first
Wasserkuppe glider competition was held in 1920 and from 1924 they were
organised by Rhön-Rossitten
Gesellschaft. Over the next decade, the contest grew in popularity. As many
as 70 glider clubs from Europe sent their best gliders and pilots to compete for
duration, altitude and distance prizes, the most coveted prize was that donated
by President Paul von Hindenburg. As many as 60,000
spectators dotted the mountain slopes to watch these events. Virtually every European
aeronautical engineer of the time tested and modified their aircraft there and
reports were generated. Some competing hang glider designers were
Alfried Gymnich, Gottlob Espenlaub, Alexander
Lippisch, Heinz Schneider, Francis Chardon, Willi
Pelzner, and Hans Richter while engineer Henri Mignet was busy in
and Czesław Tański was busy in Poland.
Invention of the
NASA’s Paresev glider in flight with tow
In 1904 Jan
Lavezzari demonstrated a stiffened flexible-wing hang glider in flight at
Berck-sur-Mer, France. In 1908, a glider with a triangular control frame and the
pilot tethered behind it, was demonstrated in the territory of Breslau. In 1948,
aeronautical engineer Francis Rogallo invented a self-inflating
wing which he patented on March 20, 1951 as the Flexible Wing, also known
as the flexwing and Rogallo wing. Francis Rogallo had first
proposed his flexible wing concept to the Langley Research Center in the
late 1940s as a simple, inexpensive approach to recreational flying, but the
idea was not accepted as a project.
It was on October 4, 1957 when the Russian satellite Sputnik became a concern to the United States and
marked the beginning of the ‘space race’ and the creation of NASA. Rogallo was in position to seize the
opportunity and with his help at the wind tunnels, NASA began a series of
experiments testing Rogallo’s flexible wing, which got renamed Parawing,
in order to evaluate it as a recovery system for the project Gemini space capsules. Rogallo
designed his flexible wing to allow the astronauts to deploy it like a parachute
at subsonic speeds during reentry, then glide their capsule to a specified
touchdown point. F. Rogallo’s team collaborated with at least
two American aircraft companies, Ryan Aeronautical Company and North
American Aviation, as there was potential for gliders, dirigible parachutes,
and other new types of manned aircraft; this mainly involved stabilizing the
leading edges with compressed air beams or rigid structures like aluminium
tubes. By 1961 NASA had already made test flights of an experimental STOL
“aerial utility aircraft” – the Ryan XV-8 (also known as the “Flying Jeep” or
“Fleep”) and by March 1962, of a weight-shift glider
Round parachutes were
selected over the Rogallo wing to be used on the Gemini spacecraft and on 1965,
funding on flexible wings stopped.
Flexible wing hang
Aeronautical engineer Barry Hill Palmer. First hang glider
based on Rogallo’s flexible wing. USA, 1961. (Video:).
‘Standard Rogallo’ hang glider. 1975.
The simplicity of the Rogallo wing, ease of construction, capability of slow
flight and its gentle landing characteristics did not go unnoticed by some hang
glider and ultralight glider enthusiasts. The
publicity on the Fleep and the Paresev tests sparked
interest in independent builders like Barry Palmer and John
Dickenson, who separately explored distinct airframes and control systems to be adapted to a
Rogallo wing and be
flown as a hang glider.
On August 1961, American engineer Barry Palmer developed and flew the
first foot-launched Rogallo wing hang glider. This took place near
Latrobe, east of Sacramento, California. Palmer used
aluminium tubing and no wires for construction, fearing kinking during assembly.
Most flights were performed with just a set of inclined parallel bars that split
his weight between his underarms and hands.
The last of Palmer’s foot-launched hang gliders flew in the summer of 1962
and it had a ski-lift type of seat mounted to the keel with a universal joint
for pendulum weight-shift control; a single control stick was projected down
from the wing. During the period from 1961 to 1963 Barry Palmer made tens of
flights using this concept. His longest flight ranged in length up to 180 metres
(590 ft), at altitudes up to 24 metres (79 ft), and had an overall glide ratio of 4.5 to
Palmer’s wing was heavy by today’s standards and was not particularly
portable. Palmer relates that he had a good aerospace job and was flying for
fun. He did not attempt to modernize or market the flexible wing hang glider and
shared all details with anybody interested.
In April 1963 Mike Burns first flew the Skiplane, a flexible wing
glider on pontoons. In September 1963, Australian John Dickenson
set out to build a water
ski wing that could be released at altitude and glide to a safe landing.
After seeing a Rogallo airfoil in a magazine, Dickenson designed the ski kite he
called the Ski Wing. Dickenson fashioned an airframe that incorporated a triangle control
frame and utilized wire bracing to distribute the load to the Rogallo airfoil;
the pilot sat on a swinging seat. Dickenson’s Ski Wing was stable and
controllable, unlike the flat manned kites used at water ski shows at the time.
The Ski Wing was first flown in public at the Grafton Jacaranda Festival,
Australia, in September 1963 by Rod Fuller while towed behind a motorboat. The Ski Wing was
light and portable so Dickenson decided to file for a patent; however, lacking
resources, Dickenson procured a provisional patent – which would later
By 1972, Australian builders Bill Bennett and Bill Moyes developed the Dickenson
format of water ski kite into a foot-launched hang glider.
Rigid wing hang
Flight Design Exxtacy rigid wing
glider, showing flaps and spoilerons, flares for a smooth landing;
There have been several rigid wing hang gliders flown since Otto Lilienthal
took his first flights in the 1890s. The first two high performing modern hang
gliders however were the Mitchell Wing and the Icarus.
In 1908, a gliding club in Breslau had the pilot hung behind a cable-stayed
triangle control frame for weight-shift control. Hang gliders with similar
control were also buit by Percy Pilcher, Augustus Herring, John J. Montgomery,
Gottlob Espenlaub, Charles Richards, Barry Hill Palmer, George Spratt, Mike
Burns, and John Dickenson.
Jack Lambie from California designed in 1971 the popular Hang Loose
Chanute hang glider, Jack Lambie was a schoolteacher. He helped
build the first Human powered Aircraft, the Gossmer Condor, and many of his
innovative design concepts have made their way into modern everyday life. He
designed the first cab over Diesel Semi Truck fairing (the Fuel Saver) that is
now used “stock” on practically all 18 wheelers. His teardrop/Dart Vader Bicycle
helmet (the Lambie Lid) was first used by U.S.A. 84’ Olympic Bike team to win
Gold. Jack was singularly responsible for organizing the first modern era hang
glider meet, the original Otto Meet, on the hills of Balboa in Sept., 1972.
Lambie organized the Otto Lilienthal Universal Hang Glider Championships held
on a hilltop in Corona del Mar, California on May 23, 1971.
In the early 1940s Don Mitchell, an aeronautical engineer, first became
involved with flying wing glider design and construction. WWII interrupted his
research until 1974, with the advent of hang glider mania; adventurers were
experimenting with design and exploring records worldwide. It was then that
Mitchell’s flying wing resurfaced. Dr. Howard Long took an interest and asked
Don Mitchell to make him a refined ‘flying wing’ hang glider. The result was the
foot-launched Mitchell Wing. When the foot-launched Mitchell Wing B-10
flew in the 1977 U.S.A. Nationals, the hang gliding world was completely
astounded. The Mitchell Wing then went on to set and hold every world record in
its class. In 1980, George Worthington soared to 17,000 feet (5,200 m) high and
glided 105 miles (169 km), setting two new rigid wing records. The Mitchell Wing
had a single “D” spar with aircraft birch plywood torsion proof leading edge and
3-axes control. Foam ribs placed every 4.5 inches (110 mm)
hold the D shape. The built-up truss ribs aft of the spar are covered with
fabric. This structural design is simple, extremely strong and light (under 80
In the 1950s Volmer Jensen designed the VJ-11, and VJ-23 biplane rigid wing
On 1971 and 1972 the Icarus I and Icarus II were
built, respectively. These were rigid biplane flying wing designs
Kiceniuk, Jr. The Icarus V was
essentially a monoplane version of the previous Icarus designs. All of the hang
gliders in the Icarus series had hand-controlled rudders and the pilot flew in a
reclining position (rather than a prone position as with other hang gliders).
Although many Icarus II and Icarus V gliders were built from plans sold by
Kiceniuk, they were never commercially produced.
Since the 1980s, there has also been research into hang gliders with joined
The Flight Design Exxtacy designed by
Felix Ruehle In the early 1990s, followed by the IXBO, became the first
two rigid wing hang gliders on the market with a leading edge of carbon fiber. Ruehle
then produced the ATOS in 1999. The nose angle and wing span of modern
rigid wings are a little larger than flexible wings and the sail is rather
In 2004, Seagull Aerosports developed the “Escape pod”, which shields the
pilot from wind and precipitation.
The research by NASA as well as government reports and photographs of the
flexible wing, were published and became available to the general public and
soon, the Rogallo wing was turned into an easily constructed, inexpensive,
foot-launchable glider. Barry Palmer corresponded with Richard Miller, who in
1964 developed the Bamboo Butterfly, followed by Tara
Kiceniuk’s Batso. Dave Kilbourne published his plan for a Rogallo wing
Kilbo Kite hang glider in the early 1970s. Jim Foreman produced the
Bat-Glider plans for a Rogallo wing hang glider and sold copies for $5
USD throughout the world; later, Taras Kiceniuk, Tom Dickinson and two other
team members made a similar hang glider called Batso and sold copies of
its plans. The plans of these hang gliders circulated in some magazines in the
Eventually, word of John Dickenson’s success got out and more portable
flexible wing gliders were built; the sudden commercial availability of his
improved water ski hang gliders in 1969 by manufacturers like Bill Bennett (Delta
Wing) and Bill Moyes (Moyes Gliders) added significantly
to the flexible wing’s popularity, which began to rise worldwide as a
High performance hang glider launch, 2006.
The extreme nature of foot-launched hang gliding appealed to the freewheeling
culture of the early 1970s across America more as an expression of freedom than
an air sport. Popularity was further fueled by the
distribution of specialized international publications such as the Low &
Slow magazine founded in 1971, Hang Glider Weekly and Ground Skimmer
in 1972 and Glider Rider in 1975. Hang
gliding was simultaneously promoted by major international publications such as
Mechanics, Popular Science and the Life magazine, all three
magazines distributed worldwide in 1971; the Sky Raiders hang gliding
movie was released in 1976 with a powerful effect. The British
SkyWings magazine has been published monthly since 1975 and
Cross Country, the first truly international hang gliding magazine began
publication in 1988.
Free hang gliding took longer to catch on in Australia, where hang gliding
was a water skiing sport and part of the New South Wales Water Skiing
Association. In fact, Dickenson’s Ski Wing was competing in the NSWWSA
kite-flying section against the polygonal Japanese style flat kites. The first
recorded foot-launched flight in Australia occurred in 1972 and the
Australian Self Soaring Association was formed by foot-launched pilots in
1974. The first foot-launched Australian Championships were held in 1976.
First flights in the early 1970s from Mt. Kilimanjaro by Moyes, and Caril Ridley’s
flights in India met with headlines.
In 1973 the ZDF German Television produced a 30 min documentary on Mike Harker’s
world record hang glider flight from Mt. Zugspitze in Germany. This TV documentary helped
promote the development of hang gliding in Europe. Harker also produced other
hang gliding documentaries in the mid-1970s which were presented in TV by 16
Although by the early 1970s many rigid wings were developed, none sold
terribly well, while dozens of flexible wing hang glider companies were
springing up all over the world. The mid 1970s underwent significant
improvements in hang glider design as manufacturers were bringing out new and
improved models at a fast rate. From the simple structures of the early 1970s,
the aspect ratio of the gliders increased dramatically, sails became tighter,
battens became the rule, and the gliders became safer. In the late 1970s
preformed aluminium battens became common and in 1980, the Comet took the
industry by storm and popularized the free-floating internalized crossbar and
double-surface sail construction that has since become the standard.
As usual, essentially parallel developments can be difficult to sort out and
serialize, but in fact, the flexible wing hang glider popularity started with
the publicized Paresev and Fleep concept, followed by John
Dickenson’s adaptation and the aggressive entrepreneurial energies of Bill
Bennett, Bill Moyes, Joe Faust, Dick Eipper, Mike Riggs, the Wills brothers and the
massive enthusiasm of thousands of people wanting to glide, and began what is
now an estimated $50 million USD annual industry. Ironically, Dickenson
never made any money and Francis Rogallo never claimed the rights
to the patent he held, thus allowing his flexible wing airfoil to be used royalty free.
It is certain that many people from many countries made contributions to the
development of the flexible wing hang glider. In the aviation context of ‘first
flights’ and recreational vs. commercial developments new and old inventions
often complement in synergy; it
is in this evolutionary and social context that the crucial developments put
together by Sir George Cayley, Percy Pilcher, Otto Lilienthal, Octave Chanute,
William Beeson, Francis Rogallo, Richard Miller, Barry Palmer, Volmer Jensen,
Igor Bensen, Mike Burns, John Dickenson, Bill Bennett, Bill Moyes, Joe Faust,
Irv Culver, Dave Kilbourne, Roy Haggard, and others were the ones that were most
successful and influential in the evolution of hang gliding.
William Beeson, inventor Flying-Machine, 1887 published
Otto Lilienthal. First documented
controlled flights. Germany, 1891.
■1804 AD. Sir George Cayley built several gliders, distinguished between lift
and drag and formulated the concepts of vertical tail surfaces, steering rudders
and rear elevators.
■1883 John Joseph Montgomery
independently built several gliders in the United States and used wind and water
tables to formulate thoughts on lifting surfaces.
■1887 William Beeson instructs framed flexible-wing glider with trapezed
pilot pendulumed: US Patent 376937, filed in 1887, William Beeson of Montana,
evolved from his US Patents 243834, 245768, 361855 to his summary fertile 1887
■1891 First controlled flights, Otto Lilienthal of Germany. His gliders have
many features in common with modern hang gliders; they were foot-launched and
controlled by displacing the center of gravity, referred to as ‘weight-shift’.
■1891–1896. First soaring flights. Germany, near Berlin at Gross
Lichterfelde. Otto Lilienthal.
■1904, February 15. Jan Lavezzari flew a double lateen sail hang
glider off Berck beach, France.
■1905 LIFE magazine shows a photograph of an early glider.
■1905 Aeronaut Daniel Maloney pilots a balloon-launched tandem Montgomery
glider from thousands of feet above the ground to a landing at a predescribed
■1908 in the territory of Breslau, the triangle control frame with hang
glider pilot hung behind the triangle was flown.
Willi Pelzner ready to launch. Wasserkupee, Germany,
1920. Soaring becomes an organized sport at Wasserkuppe,
Germany as the World War I Versailles treaty outlaws flying powered aircraft in
■1921. Dr. Wolfgang Klemperer breaks the Wright Brothers 1911 soaring record
with a 13-minute flight in Germany. Both flights used ridge lift.
■1921. Gottlob Espenlaub demonstrates triangle control frame for his hang
glider at Rhon, Germany.
■1923. Platz Glider. Not foot-launchable by the pilot alone. Controlled by
the pilot directly deforming the front canard wings. It was not a weight-shift
hang glider but it was simple enough to be folded into a single length to be
carried by Platz while riding a bicycle.
■1928. Austrian Robert Kronfeld proved that thermal lift could be used by a sailplane to gain
Dr. George A. Spratt towed his hang glider on floats using a
motorboat. U.S.A., 1929.
1929. Aero towing becomes
popular, the three forms of lift are becoming well known.
■1929. George A. Spratt demonstrated the use of the triangular control frame
for hang glider pendulum weight-shift control, mechanically similar to that used
in 1908 in a hang glider in Breslau.. Later in the 1930s he invented the
Control Wing aircraft.
■1933. Wave lift
was discovered by Wolf Hirth and one of his students in Germany.
■1948. Francis Rogallo invents the flexible wing (Rogallo wing).
■1954 Igor Bensen continued emphatically the use of hung-pilot-behind
triangle control frame for control method of kite gliders.
■1956. Aeronautical engineer Paul MacCready invents the MacCready Speed
Ring, used by glider pilots the world over to select optimum flight speed.
■1957, October. Francis Rogallo released the flexible wing patent to the U.S.A.
government and NASA, producing the
Parawing, to be used as a deployable space capsule parachute/glider.
■1960. Paresev (Paraglider
Research Vehicle) – This experimental spacecraft re-entry kite/glider made use
of the Rogallo wing; flight tests made in early 1962 inspired manufacture of
flexible wing hang gliders by hobbyists.
■1960 The 13-year-old Tony Prentice built a framed hang glider with tether
■1961. Fleep. Powered
flexible wing aircraft design & manufacture begins.
■1961–1962. First documented foot-launch with a Rogallo flex wing hang
glider: Barry Hill Palmer, California, U.S.A. Hang glider inspired from a photo
of NASA’s Fleep.
■1961. Celebrity Jim Hobson (of Lawrence Welk Show fame) began experimenting
with the Rogallo wing in model form, leading to the construction of a full size
glider which he flew it at Dockweiler Beach on January 2, 1962. The glider frame
was fabricated from aluminum and aircraft bolts supported by aircraft cable
attached to hardware store eye bolts and turnbuckles. A second larger hang
glider was taken to Dockweiler Beach; it featured a 4 mil polyester film
reinforced with fiberglass tape. Movies of August, 1962 flights were made.
■1961. Engineer Thomas Purcell builds a 4.9 metres (16 ft) wide Rogallo
airfoil glider with an aluminium frame, wheels, a seat and basic control
■1962. Ryan Aeronautical Company
publicizes images of the Fleep flexible wing aircraft.
■1962. Mike Burns and Dick Swinbourne from Aerostructures, Sydney,
Australia, design the Skiplane kite-glider based on the Rogallo wing. It
used pendulum weight-shift control and floats.
■1963. John Dickenson, Australia. Making of the Ski Wing, the most
influential hang glider model, encompassing a control frame and weight-shift
■1963, September. First flight of the Ski Wing, towed behind a motor boat.
The kite/glider was piloted by Rod Fuller and then John Dickenson. Grafton, NSW,
■1963. First release and land of a Ski Wing. Grafton, Australia. Pilot: John
■1960s England. Tony Prentice designed and flew several non-Rogallo hang
■1966. Mike Burns and Dick Swinbourne (Aerostructures) begin
commercial production of Dickenson’s Mark V model.
■1966. Early flex wing hang glider, Vista Del Mar. California,
U.S.A. by Richard Miller. His gliders, based on Barry Palmer’s hang glider, were named
Batso and Bamboo Butterfly. Their photos and plans were published
in a few magazines during the 1960s. (See the Popularity section.)
■1966. Irvin Industries start marketing a commercial version of the
Rogallo Wing to sport parachuting enthusiasts.
■1967, March. Bill Moyes and Bill Bennett taught to fly the Mark V hang
glider by Mike Burns and John Dickenson.
■1967. First Australian ski-launch of a flexible wing hang glider without
auxiliary power (no towing). Launched from a snowed mountain with snow skis.-
Bill Moyes. Mt. Crackenback, Australia. The hang glider was a Mark V purchased
■1969. Initial tether into headwind then released onto ridge to soar (32
minutes). Bill Moyes. NSW, Australia.
■1969. Tony Prentice. First flex wing hang glider foot-launch in the United
■1971. Dave Kilbourne foot-launches and soars on ridge and thermal lift (1
hour) at Mission Peak, California, U.S.A. This seems to be the
first foot-launch of a flexible wing not using skis.
■1971. Alfio Caronti, first flexible wing launched in Italy.
■1972. Rick Poynter and Murray Sargeson introduce hang gliding to New Zealand
at the ‘Fly a Kite Day’ in Auckland. The New Zealand Hang Gliding Association is
formed as a result of this.
■1973. Rock Poynter starts Pacific Sails in Auckland, New Zealand,
manufacturing U.S. and Australian Hang Glider designs under license (Seagull
III, Stinger), and developing competitive indigenous designs (Falcon, Lancer I,
■1974. Caril Ridley conducted high altitude flights soaring from a Maharaja’s
lookout tower near Sonar Hot Springs, India. The event got worldwide coverage.
■1975. Weltmeisterschaft im alpinen Drachenflug in Koessen/Austria
■1976. Official FAI World Championships in Hang gliding in Koessen/Austria.
Terry DeLore from New Zealand is crowned first World Hang Gliding Champion. Hang
gliding is now on a FAI sanctioned air sport.
■1976. Rudy Kishazy performs the first loop and series of loops at Grands
■1977. Jerry Katz first to soar a distance of over 161 kilometres (100 mi),
launching from Cerro Gordo Peak, in California’s Owens Valley.
Germany bans hang gliding entirely, the only country to do so – ostensibly
to prevent accidents, but in reality to prevent citizens using gliders to escape to the
■1983. Gérard Thévenot, the manufacturer of the Cosmos trike,
introduced aerotowing, the use of weak links, parachute retrieval system of tow
line and centre of thrust towing.
■1983. Larry Tudor breaks 200 mile barrier on flex-wing.
■1990. Larry Tudor breaks 300 mile barrier on flex-wing.
■1992. The Exxtacy rigid wing hang glider, designed by Felix Ruehle.
■1999. The ATOS rigid wing hang glider, designed by Felix Ruehle.
■2001. Manfred Ruhmer breaks 400 mile barrier on flex-wing.
The following generations follow the classification from the British Hang
Gliding Museum’s Hang Gliding History: Development in Britain of the Flexwing
■1971–1975. First Generation – Interest in the sport grew worldwide;
development of hang gliders on a commercial scale.
■1974–1976. Second Generation – Increased nose angle, deflexors.
■1977–1979. Third Generation – Multiple deflexors.
■1978–1980. Fourth Generation- Enclosed keel and tip rods.
■1978. The Atlas (La Mouette) entered the market. The pilot flew in a
prone position. The Atlas had all of the safety elements that can still
be found today.
A basic flexible-wing glider flying over the Alps,
■1980–1997. Fifth Generation – Preformed battens. Floating cross bar. Cross
bar enclosed in double surface. Hang glider performance then increased rapidly.
The first truly successful “double surface” hang gliders were Tom Peghiny’s
Kestrel and later the UP “Comet” designed by Roy Haggard (1980). Virtually all
hang gliders over the next decade were refinements of the Comet. The first
fifth-generation hang gliders to dispense with a raised keel pocket were the
Wills Wing “HP” in the U.S.A. and Enterprise Wings “Foil” in Australia (1984).
Bob Trampenau of Seedwings introduced the VG (variable geometry), which
was copied on most other hang gliders.
High-performance flexible-wing hang glider.
■1997 – present. Sixth Generation – Topless (without kingpost). While topless
gliders had been experimented with in the past using struts or cantilever nose
plates, in the late 1990s the use of strong carbon fiber crossbars allowed the
kingpost on top of the wing to be more conveniently removed to further increase
performance by reducing drag.