The First Ten Years


January. The NHGA published their #3 edition of the 'Flypaper' newsletter. Including an article with advice on making and retro-fitting a king post. The article starts off by saying that any handy man can do it.

January. Ken Messenger flew for over one and a half hours.

January. An article by Mark Saville and Adrian Barnes was published in the second edition of the 'Sailwing' newsletter which announced that for the time being, all hang glider pilots were forbidden to use one of the best hills on the Marlborough Downs.

January. The NHGA #3 'Flypaper' newsletter also published a letter that described a recent problem Len Gabriels had with the wires on his glider. Another reason why the Hang Gliding Manufacturers Association (HGMF) commissioned Miles Handley to draw up a Safety Codes Standard.

January. Reports of two fatalities also appeared in the #3 'Flypaper' newsletter, Tim Proctor of London and Sam Best of Beaminster. Subsequent reports stated that Tim was flying a 'Flexi-Flyer' and crashed while attempting to land back on top of the hill after his first eight minute soaring flight at Truleigh Hill, Sussex. While Sam aged 46 from Beaminster in Dorset, was an inexperienced pilot and recent new member of the NHGA. Sam took off flying a Wasp '229B' in a light easterly wind from the south west bowl of South Eggardon Hill, Dorset (800 feet), subsequently developing a stall and crash landed in a nearby field.

25th January. Gerry Breen being sponsored by the Royal Air Force (RAF) set a new type of record by being the first to deliver the Royal Mail by a hang glider. Later along with a friend he made the first dual flight from the summit of Mt Snowdon. This lead to Gerry leaving the RAF and to setting up his own hang gliding company called Custom Kites. Going on to also start up the Welsh Hang Gliding Center’s at Crickhowell and Ruthin.

February. The NHGA published its #4 edition of their 'Flypaper' newsletter.

17th February. Gerry Breen along with Squadron Leader Dave Willis became the first pilots to hang glide from the summit of Ben Nevis (4,406 feet) in Scotland. They took off at 1.10 pm and set a new altitude record for the UK. An article about the event was published in the second edition of the BKSA 'Sailwing' newsletter.

February. Andrew Hill at only 11 years of age took up the sport and become the youngest pilot to date. Along with his Father (Roy Hill) they acquired a 'Arion' set of plans from Geoff McBroom and built a half scale model with no king post.  It had a 10 foot leading edge and a very small A-Frame. By May that same year Andrew was claiming a 47 second of flight.

Andrew: "I first became interested in hang gliding after seeing the famous 'Whicker's World' television episode from California. Gerry Breen with his polythene glider at Uffington and Ken Messenger on the Thames Television children's show 'Magpie'.  After seeing Gerry I rushed home from Uffington, cut up my brother's tent and made a bamboo glider to jump off the garage roof.  We built the small 'Arion' glider (mentioned above) soon after which I would fly from the school playground after hours.  I also joined the League age 16. Andrew is the son of Roy Hill, who went on to become president of the BHGA for a few years".

During the very early years of hang gliding in the UK two clubs sprung up and almost divided the country. The National Hang Gliding Association served the Eastern side of Southern England and was run by John James (aka John Haynes). While the British Kite Soaring Association served the Western side of Southern England and was run by Dick Bickel. At times when flyers got together it was an East versus West competition.

Anybody have a badge ??? for here
N.H.G.A. B.K.S.A.

The National Hang Gliding Associations membership application form belonging to Greg Stokes

John James Secretary of NHGA crashed due to a flying wire failure breaking a leg.

Tommy Beckett flying a McBroom 'Arion' became the first person in Northern Ireland to fly a hang glider.

March. The NHGA published their #5 'Flypaper' newsletter.

During the early part of 1974 it was reported that Terry Haynes became the first person in the UK to fly using a prone harness. Photos and article.

March. The BKSA published its second edition of 'Sailwing'. The editor remarked that he had not heard from many members claiming to have soared for 5 minutes or more.

March. Brian Harrison flew a Cutty Sark sponsored 'Hawk' glider (Birdman Sports) at the World Championships at Kossen in Austria. Ken Messenger also flew in the Championships.

13th-14th April (Easter). Chris Corston flying a Wasp '229BS' made his very first flight from Mill Hill.

13th-14th April (Easter). The BKSA held its first official meeting in Wales. The Saturday was blown out with 50 mph winds. However, during the Sunday the winds dropped and several flights of over two hours were recorded. With Gerry Breen flying one of his 'Custom' hang gliders staying aloft for an incredible 2 hours 27 minutes.

13th-14th April (Easter). Rob Haynes, Gerry Breen and Tony Beresford all log record-breaking flights of over two hours on a trip to Hay Bluff in Wales. The weekend was reported in 'Flight International' April 24th's edition and later in the May issue of 'Flypaper'. Here is Tonys Beresford's account of how he saw the day unfold. Also in this issue was a report that the NHGA had arranged for its members the first hang gliding accident insurance policy with the help of Reggie Spooner’s company, covering its paid up members to the tune of £100,000.

April. The NHGA Published their #6 'Flypaper' newsletter.

April. Brian Gaskin designed the new front cover of the #6 April edition of the 'Flypaper' newsletter. That included an article from John James that at that time they had 1600 members in the NHGA Expecting the membership to reach 2000 by July. It also included an article from Miles Handley about the safety aspect of building a glider and to the using of the correct tubing. Mile's revealed that he had checked out a glider that was known as the Dragonfly which was constructed using plastic tubing in order to keep its weight down. Miles remarked that it was about 19 times more flexible, but had only one third the strength he felt was required. He went on to tell any pilot who had purchased one, to return it immediately and to also demand a full refund on the grounds that it was not a safe glider to fly.

April. An announcement was made of the Stella Artois hang glider event to be held at Steyning Bowl, Sussex  from the 13th to the 14th July.

April. Mark Woodhams made his first flight, flying a Wasp '229B3' he bought directly from the Haynes brothers.

Gerry Breen became the first pilot in the UK to streak while flying.

Bertie Kennedy became the second person in Northern Ireland to fly, using Tommy Becketts McBroom 'Arion' glider.

Douglas Richards from Fillingsworth Newcastle injured himself while learning to fly. After an official inquiry it was found that he was learning on and unforgiving site with gusty winds and that he was only a novice pilot and could not cope with the conditions at the time.

Critchley Hughes became the English dealer for the American 'Seagull 3'.

May. The NHGA published the #7 edition of their 'Flypaper' newsletter.

May. John Stephenson from Tee-Side reported a flight from the top of Ben Nevis (3000 feet), accompanied by a ground support team that included five members of the SAS.

Tony Prentice and his brother Derek built and flew their latest glider that was sponsored by Derek's employer Truman's Brewery. Video

8th May. Britain's first fueled Balloon launch (84,000 cu-ft), was by Ken Messenger flying a Birdman Sports 'Albatross', releasing at 2,500 feet that produced a ten mile flight.

9th May. An article by Philip Jarrett and David Kent was published in the 'Flight International' magazine, describing the very early history of hang gliding, and of how it caught on in the UK during the early 1970's.

June. The NHGA published their #8 edition of the 'Flypaper' newsletter.

June. The NHGA #8 magazine 'Flypaper' published an article from Miles Handley about his safety concerns with all hang gliders being built by both manufactures and home builders. It also mentioned that 3 new clubs had been established around the county. The 'Captain Birds Eye Flying Circus' run by V.R. Sweet. 'The Warickshire Sailwing Club' run by D Squires and from 'Anglesey North Wales' the W.Y.L.F.A. The 'Kite Gliding Club' run by J.K. Carr. While Colin Hawkes gained permission from the Duke of Devonshire to fly from Beamsley Beacon in Yorkshire.

John Ievers flying at Mill Hill.

6th June. Don Liddard flew his Wasp '229BC' at Holly Hill Kent. (Photos from Don)

June. The BKSA introduced an accident report form for all its members.

June. McBroom Sailwings released a set of revised plans for the 'Arion'.

A selection of photos taken by Don Liddard during 1974.

July. Geoff McBroom recommended that king posts should be fitted to all hang gliders. Therefore, it's possible that the 'Argus' was perhaps the first British production glider to be sold with a king post. Geoff sent a letter and drawing to all his customers containing drawing and details of how to fit a king post to all gliders purchased from him, without one. An article also appeared in the fourth edition of 'Sailwings' notifying pilots of the changes.

Other information about adding a King Post to your glider.

Andy Billingham joined Geoff Mcbrooms team as their official test pilot, a job he under took for 5 year. To read an extract from his latest book of what it was like, Please Click Here.

July Don Liddards National Hang Gliding Association Licence and Insurance cover.

July. The NHGA published the #9 edition of their 'Flypaper' newsletter.

July. Johnny Carr took delivery of his first hang glider, a curved boom Wasp 'CB' with a 240 sq-ft sail. A month later he entered his first competition at Cam Long Down near Stroud, Gloucester. To his surprise he won the big glider class and was placed 3rd overall. He had only entered the competition so he could meet other pilots who were enjoying this exciting new sport, and became hooked on competition flying as well.

McBroom Sailwings brought out the 'Argus', which was a new design, based on two years of experience with the 'Arion'. It incorporated many changes in particular to the sail, which had a revised profile. The 'Argus' was made in two sizes, the 230 sq-ft model being suitable for pilots of 10 stone. The 'Argus' had a sail area of 235 sq-ft, with a leading edge of 18 feet, plus it was top rigged, its price in kit form was £140.00 plus VAT (Value Added Tax). However, a kit with drilled tubes was £155.00 plus VAT. It was also supplied ready to fly.

Birdman Sports updated their 'Grasshopper' by adding a king post and renamed it the 'Hawk'. Dave Raymond who doubled for Roger Daltry in Ken Russell’s rock opera film 'Tommy' flew an all white sailed 'Hawk'. It had a leading edge measuring 17 feet 2 inches, a keel of 17 feet 5 inches, with a span of 23 feet and a nose angle of 90º. The boom length was 17 feet 6 inches with a sail area of 208 sq-ft and its sail was made from top quality Terylene with a double zig zag stitch. It sold for £225 + VAT. There was also a smaller version with a boom length of 13 feet 6 inches and a nominal sail area of 118 sq-ft.

Brian Harrison from Paisley in Scotland took delivery of a Birdman Sports 'Grasshopper' and sold several in Scotland for what he described as 'Downhill Plummeting', while in England it was still known as 'Ground Skimming'. Although Len Gabriels reports that in the Pennines area they were also commonly known as 'Rag Wings'.

Birdman Sports Ltd brought out the 'Albatross' it being the second production glider from the Birdman Company. The Boom length was 19 feet 6 inches with a nominal sail area of 240 sq-ft made of top quality Terylene with a zig zag stitch. Costing £250 +VAT, which at that time was 25% being classed as a luxury goods item. As well as the 'Albatross' and the 'Hawk' the company was also selling the 'Merlin' with a boom length of 17 feet 6 inches and a sail area of 208 sq-ft. It was also sold with a king post as standard, while its sail was of heavy duty nylon with a zig zag stitch. It sold for £150 + VAT in kit form.

Birdman Sports Ltd sales leaflet advertising the gliders they had for sale at the time.

The Hiway Hang Glider factory brought out a standard glider in four different sizes, the '200'-'220'-'240' and '260' each of these was either rigged for seated or prone flight. The small size had a sail area 200 sq-ft.

Waspair brought out three new gliders, the 'C4', 'C5' and the 'CB240'. The 'C4' had a Terylene sail and the design incorporated separate leading edge pockets. It also had an anodised control bar with a high class finish that was suitable for seated or prone flying position. The 'C4' was produced in 3 sizes, 241, 221 and 201. The medium 'C4' had a Sail area of 221 sq-ft, with a leading edge measuring 18 feet 4 inches, and a nose angle of 80º, the root chord/keel was18 feet 4 inches, and the span was 24 feet 5 inches, with a 4º billow. The 'C5' had a cylindrical leading edge and a deep scallop sail and a 3.7º billow. This glider was the first Waspair model fitted with deflexers. The 'CB240’s leading edges were carefully designed to incorporate the high-efficiency cylindrical concept. The cones produced by this configuration had their center lines running through the leading edges rather than the nose of the aircraft, this increase the effective lifting area of the wing surface, reduces optimum flying speed and minimising movement of the center of pressure. Additionally the design incorporated a significant degree of washout at the wing tips, which greatly enhances roll and pitch control. This slow flying and stable hang glider had an excellent L/D ratio, without the control difficulties associated with either cylindrical or high aspect ratio conical gliders. Sustained soaring flights could be achieved with this glider in the kind of light winds that conventional gliders are unable to exploit. Six 'CB 240's were hand built for the 1975 World Championships held in Kossen, Austria. A few copies were also produced during 1975, although these first generation gliders were by then obsolete. It had a 19 foot leading edge and a nose angle of 108%. The sail area was 240 sq-ft with a wingspan of 30 feet. Its chord and keel was 18 feet 11 inches and it weighed in at 47 lbs.

Waspair released it's latest price list.

Kestrel Kites a Dorset manufacturer brought out their first glider and called it the 'Windhover 2' using a ripstop nylon chevron design. It had a leading edge of 17 feet 5 inches, and a span of 24 feet. The keel was 16 feet 3 inches and it had a nose angle of 80º.

Sussex Delta Sailwings Ltd designed a light weight hang glider calling it the 'Ridge Rider'. It utilised the Rogallo Sailwing principle, and had been developed from three earlier models of varying size and geometry, and was judged to give the best compromise between the slower sinking speed of the large sailwings and the good maneuverability obtained with a small machine. Its leading edge was 20 feet 4 inches, and keel was 19 feet 8 inches. The span was 28 feet 8 inches, with a nose angle of 90º. The price of the 'Ridge Rider' complete with flying harness and carrying bag was £225.00 plus £18.00 VAT.

13th July. Volume 2 #12 of Hang Glider Weekly an American magazine by Joe Faust mentioned a few things that had happened in the UK.

12th - 13th - 14th July. The Stella Artois event was held at Steyning Bowl, one of the first of its kind and was organised by the National Hang Gliding Association (run by the Haynes brothers). Andrew Hill (age 11) flew during this event, but not as a competitor. At the time he was flying one of Gerry Breens 'Butterfly's' Its also noted that the event was not open to BKSA members to enter. Official Program from Mark Woodhams.

Video of Frank Kemmery test flying a Wasp hang glider at the Stella Artois event.

Steyning Bowl results were as follows
Class 1 (up to 17 ft LOA) Mike Brown from Tee Side flying  a McBroom 'Arion'
Class 2 (17 ft to 19 ft LOA) Brian Wood of Bromley flying a Wasp '229CB'
Class 3 (over 19 ft & curved boom machines) Robin Haynes of London flying a Wasp '240CB'

Brian Woods was crowned the over all British Hang Gliding Champion of 1974

On the Sunday after the competition at Steyning Bowl had finished, Brian Gaskin gave a demonstration flying a parachute he had designed himself that could be towed up in to the air by a car, and amazed a few people who witnessed the event. Brian must be one of the first to play around with what we now call a parawing.

Tommy Beckett the first person in Northern Ireland to fly and close friend Bertie Kennedy along with families, tents and gliders on the roof of their cars drove from Northern Ireland to take part in the Steyning Bowl event.

Can you name this pilot?

The 'Dale’s Hang Gliding Club' was formed.

The 'Sky Surfing Hang Gliding Club' was formed.

The 'Southern Hang Glider Club' was formed.

21st July The Fourth Selsey Birdman completion sponsored by the Royal Air Force Association took place, its included here because a few of the very early hang gliding pioneers were competitor. Names like Gerry Breen, David Cook, Tony Prentice and Nick Regan.

July. Tim Proctor died from injuries received from an accident.

July. Sam Best died from injuries received from an accident.

August. The NHGA published their #10 'Flypaper' newsletter.

24th-25th-26th August. The First International Woodpecker Hang Gliding Championship took place at Cam Long Down, sponsored by the Woodpecker Cider company. Cup winner were: Class I: Tony Hockney 'Arion', Class II: Brian Woods (Wasp), Class III: Johnny Carr (Wasp). Tasks had been a mixture of spot landings, distance and a slaloms, using an optical device based on an idea by Dave Tait to ensure that the turn points were cleared by competing pilots. The official Program and a video of the last day of the comp.

The 'Peak Hang Gliding Club' was formed, the announcement being made by David Smith. 

Bob Mackay became the new Editor of the 'Flypaper' newsletter and was responsible for the November edition. His editorial refers to the backstage moves under way to set up a proper democratic organising body for the rapidly-growing sport. 

August. The first hints of a controversy between the NHGA and BKSA became public with the publication in 'Flypaper' newsletter of a long letter from Ken Messenger and an acerbic response from John James.

Ken Messenger released Birdman Sports new coloured hang gliding brochure, displaying all the Birdman Sports gliders, and was Published by Brian Harrison from Scotland.

September. The NHGA release their #11 'Flypaper' newsletter.

September. The world endurance record was set by American Harvey Melcher off the cliffs at Waimanalo, in Hawaii, with a time of 10 hours 47 minutes.

September. A long article from Anne Welch urging the development of a proper pilot training system for hang gliding appeared.

Upon his return to Northern Ireland Bertie Kennedy Purchases a Waspair '229B3' and set up an agency for Waspair.

September. Brian Woods of the SHGC flew for over three hours at Beachy Head, flying a Wasp '229'.

October. The NHGA published their #12 'Flypaper' newsletter.

October. The newly formed 'Southern Hang Gliding Club' launched it's first club newsletter calling it 'Windsock'.

October. The British Hang Glider Manufacturers Federation (BHGMA) released the very first 'Provisional Safety Standard' booklet, that was produced by Miles Handley The booklet was available to all manufactures and home builders.

With the release of the Manufacturers Provisional Safety Standard above. A Quote from Tony Prentice fits in here, and I hope its appreciated, as safety became a big issue after we lost several good friends during those early years.

Tony Prentice: "When building my first aluminium glider I did not have a swagging tool. Working on communications we used "U" links which I adapted as cable eyes. Then wire was wrapped around the cable ends and passed between the cables at intervals which locked it preventing any slip. The whole thing was then soldered making it secure. When Miles inspected it at a meeting ( possibly Steyning ) he nearly had a fit and refused to allow me to enter the competition. I still believe the termination was perfectly ok but there were people using U clamps which did slip which may have happened to John James ( if memory serves?). After that I bought a Nicropress tool which was quicker than my wired soldered terminations. On subsequent testing the cable broke before the terminations gave way. I think the Safety Standard booklet was then sent to me by Miles to show what was required to enter any further competitions".

October. Saw the compulsory introduction of fitting king posts to all hang gliders manufactured in the United Kingdom.

Andrew Hill (still aged 11) flying Breen 'Butterfly' with 14 foot leading edge and a king post. Made his first soaring flight at Rhossili of 1 hour and 20 minutes. He reports that he spent most of the time trying to get down during a 30 mph gale. He also notched up his first 360's on this glider.

5th October. Brian Woods set a new British record of 8 hours 26 minutes at Rhossili on the Gower Peninsula in Wales, flying a Wasp '229'. This was also the day Tony Beresford helped create a legend, when he airlifted food and drink in a basket to Brian while flying above him and lowering the basket on a line. He then swung the basket until it went under the nose of Brian’s glider so he could grab the basket. It’s also folk law that the can of coke in the basket had been well shaken before being placed in the basket. Also flying at the time was Robin Haynes with a badly torn sail patched up with gaff tape. It was also reported that during the day a gale blew, but it did not stop the flyers. Brian also gave his account of what happened that day in an article that was published in the October #12 edition of the NHGA's 'Flypaper'. While a smaller article recording the event also appeared in the 'Flight International' magazine on the 24th October. A newspaper article on the same event.

Brian Gaskin was also at Rossilli that day and also has a story of his own to tell via a letter he sent me.

On the same day at this site three other flyers had potentially serious incidents prompting a stern letter from the Rhossili Coastguard and a frosty response from the National Trust, whose land had been used. After a lot of work by interested parties, notably Chris Corston, Brian Gaskin and Bob Mckay, the situation was smoothed over and flying was allowed to continue.

Brian Milton attributes Brian Woods record breaking flight on the 5th October as to him becoming involved in hang gliding,

Brian Milton: "It was Brian Woods record flight at Rhossili on October 5, 1974 that brought me into hang gliding. I was a BBC Radio reporter working for Radio London, and constantly looking for stories about London, and Brian lived in Bromley, which counted. I asked Brian to be interviewed about that record, he came into the studio, and I told him afterwards that if he taught me to fly I would do a half hour radio programme about hang gliding. He agreed, told Robin Haynes, and I went down to the Devil's Dyke within a couple of weeks. There I recorded the material for a half hour radio programme, the culmination of which I was thrown twice off the Devil's Dyke, and expected to learn how to fly in the minute before I hit the ground. I bought a hang glider, a B3-229, within the next couple of days, broadcast my programme on BBC Radio London, and a long feature for BBC Radio 4 on the same Saturday I went down to Rhossili with Brian Woods and Eric Short. Johnny Carr was also there. I made eight flights over three days, the last one soaring the hill and the cliff, and was hooked. Oddly, my first child was born 9 months later. My former wife says there's no connection, but I have my doubts".

November. The Ciba-Geigy (UK) Ltd company released technical notes in their company magazine connected with their Aerolite glues, and the building of a replica of George Caley's glider.

November. NHGA published their #13 'Flypaper' newsletter.

The Hang Gliding clubs mentioned in the November issue of 'Flypaper' were:

'North Yorks Sailwing Club': membership 45. Treasurer: W.McGregor
'Condor Hang Gliding Club': Membership 16, no further details
'North East Sky Surfers': starting up. Treasurer Peter Winship.
'Scottish Sailwing Society': Membership 12, no further details.
'Southern Hang Gliding Club': Membership 99. Secretary Jill Handley.
'Avon Rogallo Club': Membership 25, Secretary Brenda Wells.
'Dunstable Hang Gliding Club': Membership 30, Secretary D.F. Yule.

Kestrel Kites based in Poole (who had previously made surfboards) started building hang gliders and also founded the 'Wessex Hang Gliding Club'.

December. The 'Mercian Hang Gliding Club' release its December 'Newsletter'.

8th December. 164 flyers from all over the United Kingdom attended a meeting chaired by Ann Welch, a well respected aviation personality that was held in Coventry to discuss and form what was to become known as The British Hang Glider Association. This meeting also saw the winding up of the NHGA and the BKSA [National Hang Gliding Association and the British Kite Skiing Association). Their respective magazines, which were called the Flypaper, and the Sailwing, were merged into one magazine called “Wings”. A committee was then voted in and ended up being a who’s who of the most well known of the early hang glider pilots and pioneers in the UK. Namely Martin Hunt (Chairman), Chris Corston (Secretary), Mick Hayes (Treasurer), Miles Handley (Technical safety officer), Jeremy Fack (Flying training officer) and Nick Regan (Editor) and Dave Tait as co-editor. The area representatives were Jim Haig (Scotland), David Weeks (North), David Miller (Midlands and Pennines), Chris Maidment (Southwest including Hants and Berks), Bob Mackay (Wales including Monmouth and Hereford), John Amor (South Midlands and East Anglia) and Mark Woodhams (London and the Southeast). Later at a subsequent meeting the Scottish pilots broke away from the BHGA because they thought they could obtain favorable grants from the Scottish Sports Council by going it alone.

Ann Welch had been associated with the aviation world for most of her life and was respected by everybody. She was also a founding member of the London Gliding Club based at Dunstable.

BHGA released its Newsletter No1 about the Coventry event.

12th December. The BHGA was already being inundated with membership applications forms, even though the ink was still wet from the signing of the historic agreement and formation of the BHGA in Coventry just a few days earlier (8th December).

Brian Gaskin was signed up as the very 1st official member of the BHGA.

Mark Woodhams was issued with membership #54.


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