The Golden Years
1971 to 1981
How and when the Hang Glider arrived in the United Kingdom
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
is estimated that by 1976 there were over 3000 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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Article appeared in the April edition of 'Skywings' magazine 2010
British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association's official magazine