The Prone Harness

The prone harness first appeared in the UK during the early part of 1974.

Frank Tarjanyi recalls that in early 1974 Terry Haynes from Waspair was the first to use a prone harness. Which he flew while connected to a Wasp 229. Terry is reported to have made the harness after seeing a photo on the front cover of a US hang gliding magazine.  It’s also worth mentioning that on the front cover of 1974 May issue of ‘Flypaper’ there is a photo of someone flying prone with his legs on the rear wires. That's how the steering was achieved during those early days, as the ‘A’ frames were too narrow and pilot movement was very limited.  After seeing Terry Haynes flying, Frank, who at the time was working for the Duracel Batteries company in Crawley, also informs me that he altered a safety harness, and converted to flying prone. If you look at photos of his wasp at the time, you will see that he also increased the size of the ‘A’ frame for the reason mentioned above.

By the end of 1974 along came the knee hanger harnesses and gliders with larger ‘A’ frames. The Hiway Company also came up with the idea of a plastic seat to provide rigid support of the upper thighs, and a stirrup. At first it looked a little weird but was very functional idea. It’s believed that Hiway also made the first stirrup harness which was a great success and lasted many years till the Cocoon harness’s came along.

Brian Harrison remembers that prone harnesses were being used, mainly by the Americans, Aussies and NZ flyers at Kossen in 1974. He also says that UP and other USA manufacturers were also using a knee-hanger system. At that time Brian was running Scot Kites, and designed the Proneweb, a knee-hanger harness with a semi-solid body 'web'. This was followed by Proneweb 2 which was a stirrup harness with two parallel alloy bars at the body sides to hold the shape. Both were manufactured for Scot Kites to a very high standard of quality by 'Troll', a mountaineering equipment company, and they went on to sell several hundred of each model, especially the ''2'', too other hang glider manufacturers in the UK, USA, and Europe.

Mark Woodhams believes quote “John James of Wasp used to fly prone lying down on a seated harness, but I think the first commercial prone harness was introduced by Hiway, which I did the original add for. A quick stroll through the early ‘Wings’ magazines should prove the case. We had all seen guys flying prone in the Groundskimmer magazines, so all the early designs were based on the knee-hanger type. Un-quote

Roly Lewis-Evans remembers Quote way back when I started at Birdman Ken Messenger supplied me with a brand new knee hanger harness supplied by Brian Harrison of Scot Kites. He was the guy that imported the Cirrus 5.  He then took me out one evening to the local hill and chucked me off, the good thing with the knee hanger was the pulley system that rotated you straight into the prone position after takeoff.  Soon had to get the hang of it (excuse the pun). Hiways harness although looking a bit soft were very comfortable with that plastic seat across your thighs. Un-quote.

The following is a selection of photos supplied by Don Liddard showing some of the different harness that started to appear during late1974 and 1975.

To enlarge click on photo, repeat operation to shrink photo back to normal

1974 Program May 1974 Flypaper
Firle beacon sussex hiway 240 Hiway knee hanger Mill Hill brighton Dave Lewis on DonLliddards Wasp cb 240 Hiway knee hanger Woldingham Kent Chargus Midas E guy converting to prone Isle of Sheppey Kent Dave Lewis on his Wasp 221 Hiway knee hanger
Mill Hill Brighton right to left Don Liddard, Peter ?, , Hiway stirrrup
Mill Hill Brighton Don Liddard on prototype {yellow Peril} Hiway knee hanger   Dunstable Downs Chargus Midas E pilot unknown   Isle of Sheppey, Nick Beach Chargus  Vega hiway stirrrup   Devils Dyke Brian Wood and Lester Cruise
  Mere Wiltshire Wasp Falcon 4, pilot ?
Dave Lewis Isle of Sheppey Wasp 229 with Wasp 221 sail - not sorted
  Devils Dyke Tony Beresford Wasp Gryphon {keel  pocket}
  Mill Hill Brighton Dave Lewis on Don Liddards Wasp cb 240 Hiway knee hanger
  Beacy Head Sussex Hiway Spectrum / Super Scorpion Hiway stirrrup   Perran Sands Cornwall Don Liddards Chargus Midus Super E Hiway stirrrup
Moyes !!!  

Dunstable Downs Tony Bresford on a Moyes with Wasp stirrup harness {black}


Devils Dyke Charlie Martin Wasp knee hanger harness {green}


Ashley Doubtfire not sure what harness


Rhossili 1982

Photos and information from Don Liddard

Andrew Hill flying a Breen Butterfly and Breen Supine harness at Wittenham Clumps (Oxfordshire) in 74 Andrew Hill first prone flight with a UP (Ultralite Products) knee hanger on a Mk 1 Firebird in 75 at Milk Hill. Andrew using the classic Hiway stirrup (ugly but brilliant and comfortable beyond any reason!), the glider is my Bennett Lazor

Photos and information from Andrew Hill


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