How and when the Hang Glider arrived in the United Kingdom
The Golden Years 1971 to 1981
Hang gliding started in the 1890’s, in Germany. Over the following decades many hang gliders were designed, built and flown with varying degrees of success. It was not until the 1970’s that you could go to a hang glider manufacturer and buy a hang glider, off the shelf. This opened the pursuit of free flight to the many thousands of people who wanted to fly like a bird, but were not able to because designing and building an aircraft was beyond their capabilities.
This new industry resulted from the success of one particular aircraft, the hang glider first built by John Dickenson in Grafton, Australia and first flown by Mr Rod Fuller, at Grafton, on the 8th of September 1963.
The simplicity of the design made it very easy to copy, easy to build, and easy to fly. While at the very beginning most hang gliders were home built, hang glider manufacturing had started in 1966 in Sydney Australia, and by 1973 there were five manufacturers in United Kingdom.
While other types of hang gliders were, and have always been built, it was the success of John Dickenson’s wing that produced the explosion of hang gliding popularity right around the world, that lead to the establishment of hang gliding manufacturing businesses all over the world, which then made possible the modern sport of hang gliding.
It took eight years for the first Dickenson Type hang glider to appear in the United Kingdom. This was towards the end of 1971. However, its first flight did not take place until early March 1972. It is believed that there were as many as ten independent groups around the country all trying to get their hang gliders into the air, while not knowing of the existence of the others.
Geoff McBroom was the first person in the United Kingdom to fly a hang glider during early March 1972, although he had finished its construction during late December 1971. Bad weather conditions in December and a long Christmas holiday during January, delayed its first test flight for a few weeks. During 1972 eleven other people around the country also flew their own home built gliders.
It is estimated that by 1976 there were over 3,000 pilots in the United Kingdom. Many changes have been made to the Dickenson type glider in the decades since it first flew. Many people contributed to its further development, but the original design can still be observed in the majority of hang gliders built and flown today.
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