British Hang Gliding History

Ivan Pennall
by Ivan Pennall

Although I waited until the 1980's when I was in the RAF to become legit, my and my brother's involvement with Hang Gliding goes back to watching "A Boy With Wings", the documentary featuring Bill Moyes, whilst I was home from school (I must have been ill to be allowed off). I shouted, and mum came through and watched it with me. Being a model maker at the time, and Black bin liners being brand new, I made an approximate model version from the sketch I had made while watching the film.

This was duly taken to the flying field near my house, trimmed, and generally sorted out. It flew very well and had 3ft leading edges with 90 deg nose angle. It was great and quite stable. We even ended up with a planform almost the same as a WW SST by the logic of that bit's flapping, so we cut it off.

I was all for making a big one, but being 12 or 13 at the time, flying was confined to ATC Gliding, and Dad taking us up in either the Tri Pacer or Cherokee.

As part of the R/C Model club in Blackburn, both John Bridge and Bob Calvert were frequent flyers, and Plesington was a useful space for trimming, and a future Microlight launch point for Bob Calvert.

By the way, Bob Calvert's Mother and my mother were childhood friends, so we were aware of Bob's exploits, but after what happened to his mother we didn't see him or his Father. We also bumped into Len Gabriels at Pendle several times in the early 70's. The purchase of Plans were discussed by him and my dad. I don't know if he ever bought any but they were keen.

I digress, sorry.

The next contact with Hang gliding was when My brother Lance arrived home with Roger Middleton. They were at Cranwell together, and were two of the 3 prize winners on their course. I have not been able to find out yet, but it is very possible that Lance took that picture of Roger in the Gnat. Titled My Day Job or something similar.

Many happy visits to the Lakes followed, with occasional training flights and dual flights, until Roger had his accident with the boot snagging the wire. That put an end to things and the school, plus I was heading off to the RAF myself. I went to Dunstable a few times whilst at Halton in 1978, and Met Howard and Sandra Edwards (and I think Murray Rose), but the weather was never even close to co-operating.

Finally I ended up at Brawdy, and found my way to Airsports at Aberystwyth with Pat Laverty Rod Lees and Tim Williams. Once I was an official P1, I worked weekends as a UT instructor for Tim and helped out with various things when he took over wings from Stan Abbott.

I carried on flying whenever I could. I had the entire coast to myself and access to the Preselli mountains in Pembrokshire, progressing through various gliders all around the country. The Gliders as I remember them were.

Sunspot, Moonraker 77, Super Scorpion, Sigma (Horrid), Cherokee, Solar Storm, Cutlass, Sabre, Gyr, Magic 1.

Marriage signalled the end of flying all the time, though I did have a few years towing with the Suffolk club trying to keep them safe. But my heart really went out of it when Ed Bowman was killed. He lived almost opposite my flat and was a really sweet guy. He and Anne had only recently married. Mark Dale (and I think Bob Harrison plus one other guy) stayed with me when they came to start the investigation and collect the wreckage. It was an awful time.

I could go on but I won't.
I still have my Keller pod in the loft with parachute, but I long ago gave the gliders away to the JSHGC.
I did a bit of very early paragliding with Ian Currer too, but by then it was a 400 mile round trip from Suffolk to see him .


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