In December 1973 I was watching “Magpie” a children’s television program (yes I’m a kid at heart) that featured Ken Messenger from Birdman Sports showing the presenters of the show how to fly a hang glider. I might add that he ended up hurting himself, the interviewer that is. Eager to learn more I wrote to the Television Company asking for more details, and was highly surprised and delighted when the program responded and wrote back giving Ken’s address in Marlbough Wiltshire. This was around the time when both Ken and Dave Raymond had undertaken the stunt flying for the film “Tommy” staring Roger Daltrey and was produced by Ken Russell. I eventually took delivery of an ‘Albatross 180’, and with the help of David Cook and Chris Tansley I learnt to fly on the east sand dunes of Suffolk.
Over the years I stayed with Birdman and flew most of their gliders, the ‘Moonraker 77’ which at one time was described as 'certainly not a Coastal floater', but did not put me off and I had no trouble flying the sand dunes of Suffolk and proved that saying wrong. However, it turned out to be a good name for the local Club when it was eventually formed a few years later.
I even had many enjoyable hours flying a ‘Moonraker 78’, although the medium version copped a lot of bad press, after a few accidents. I have to add that the large version I flew, as far as I was aware had no problems. However, when it came to trying to sell it, that was another problem, and in the too hard basket. I couldn’t even give it away. To prove a point my best friend Alan (Snowy) Snowlin ended up using one of the leading edges as a linen line prop in his back garden.
The ‘Cherokee’ was a design that many had waited for, easy to fly and very forgiving. I even attached mine to a trike that Ray Watering, Mick Starling and I built during the early part of 1979, and later sold to Pete Bowden.
However, it was the Storm (built by Solar Wings) and attached to a Nick Wriggerly Buggy that certainly caught most flyers imagination especially mine, and I might add other designers and manufactures. From then on the world of Trikes just took off as many companies took up the challenge, to build bigger, better and faster units.
I moved on and flew one of Graham Slaters first Trikes, with a mono pole designed by Frank Taryani and coupled with a Solar Wings Glider, flying has not been the same since.
As a foot note Frank has told me that while he worked for Hiway and was building their first Trike unit. He wanted to use a mono pole design, but it was rejected by the owners. The rest is history as they say.