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Bill Bennett  

Obituary for Bill

Sadly Bill Bennett died on the 7th October 2004 in an accident at the airport at Lake Havasu City Arizona, when the motorised hang glider he was piloting lost power and crashed.

The following was published in The Telegraph on the 18th November 2004


Bill Bennett, who has died aged 73, helped develop the modern hang glider and promoted the sport through publicity stunts.

Bennett, nicknamed "The Birdman", became the first hang glider to fly higher than a mile, the first to travel 200 miles under tow, the first to pilot a motorised hang glider and the first to build and fly a hang glider tricycle.

In 1969 he circumnavigated the Statue of Liberty, landing at its base, and set a world record when he launched a glider at 10,000 feet from a hot air balloon. In 1972 he made the world's highest and longest unassisted free flight after taking off from a ridge in Death Valley, California, and traveling 6.2 miles to the valley floor, 5,757 feet below. Bennett was also Roger Moore's double for the hang gliding sequence in Live and Let Die.

The hang glider developed from a "flexible kite" designed for Nasa, which caught the attention of John Dickenson, an Australian electronics technician, who designed the first hang glider in 1963, incorporating a weight-shift control system that made it maneuverable. Bennett, a friend of Dickenson, took up the sport, experimenting with gliders attached to speed boats by tow rope.

William Edward Norman Bennett was born at Korumburra, Victoria, Australia, on September 26 1931 and served in the Royal Australian Navy as a mechanic and boat builder. In the 1960s he was the world's eighth best barefoot water-skier.

He started exhibiting hang gliders in Australia, moving to California in 1968. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Bennett's company, Delta Wing Kites and Gliders, added a better system for bracing the wings and improvements such as emergency parachutes and Mylar-coated sail cloth. The company folded in 1989 after its products were overtaken by more advanced designs.

Bennett died on October 7 in an accident during take-off at the airport at Lake Havasu City, Arizona, when the motorised hang glider he was piloting lost power and crashed.

He is survived by two sons and two daughters.

The Telegraph

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