Hang Gliding History really is the story of modern hang gliding for the
entire world because it certainly started in Australia. Modern Hang
Gliding in fact started when John Dickenson invented his “Improved
Gliding Apparatus” in 1963 at Grafton, NSW, Australia.
Modern hang gliding has its roots firmly set in the Water Ski Kite
sport that was started in the United States of America, in 1951 by Paul
Updike and Vern Crary. John Dickenson came up with his aircraft because
he was not able to make a flat kite that worked, it was to a large
degree an accidental invention, but that makes it no less significant.
Hang gliding itself started with German inventor Otto Lilienthal.
Lilienthal flew the first successful heavier than air aircraft and as
such he is regarded as the father of not only hang gliding, but all
heavier that air aviation.
Following Lilienthal there were many other hang glider inventors and
pilots, but none of these hang gliders had the required characteristics
to become popular in the way the Dickenson Wing did.
John Dickenson's Improved Gliding Apparatus, which he marketed as
the “Ski Wing” changed all of that. By 1965 others were copying John
Dickenson's invention without his knowledge, and without
bothering to give him the credit he deserved. To read read more about John Dickenson.
Bill Bennett took Dickenson's glider to the USA in 1969, and he was
soon followed by Bill Moyes. The exploits of these two men are
legendary, but many other people were also involved in the sport and
the evolution of the hang glider.
On the British Hang Gliding History
website you can see how John Dickenson's invention arrived in the UK.
This Australian Hang Gliding History website is intended to be the
Australian equivalent of our British Hang Gliding History website, and
to achieve that end we request the help of any and everyone involved in
the sport in Australia.
These hang gliding history sites are aimed at presenting the stories of
all who were involved in the sport, they are not aimed only at the
famous pilots, we aim to record and present the history of the amazing
explosion in hang gliding and ultralight aviation that resulted from
the success of the Ski Wing's design.
Here you can learn about the amazing Duo Revelle. John Revelle was the
first person to copy the Ski Wing, he built the first all aluminium
air-framed Ski Wing. He was the first to replace the swing seat with a
converted parachute harness and he is the original designer and builder
of the first prone harness.
Dick Rangott, another exponent of flying the Flat Water-Ski Kites
became the first journalist to cover the Delta Wings. Dick was an
integral part of the story in the early years and his articles in the
water ski magazines are a wonderful record of the early years. Dick was
also closely involved with Bill Moyes, it was Dick Rangott who held the
rope when Bill first soared the Ski Wing, unfortunately he reports that
when he tried to emulate Bill's feat after Bill landed he crashed the
Wing. Dick was in the stadiums for many of Bill's publicity flight and
his account is an important part of Australian Hang Gliding History.
Ron Nickel, the quiet and unassuming gentleman from the Northern Rivers
in NSW who flew the first hang glider that John Dickenson ever sold.
The Duncan brothers, well known for their flying exploits in hang
gliders and their company Airbourne followed on from their father who
was a Ski Wing pilot in the early years.
Chris Brandon, a bare foot water skier and Ski Wing pilot is still
involved in the sport with his Weight Shift Microlight Business based
in Alice Springs.
Steve Cohen, recognised as the most prolific designer of Ultralight
Aircraft in Australia started with designing and building Hang Gliders,
his company Ultralight Flight Systems was once the largest Hang Glider
Manufacturing company in Australia, and his wing was flown by the first
ever World Champion, Terry Delore of New Zealand.
This is just a short summary of the beginning of Australian Hang
Gliding History, there are many more names that deserve to be
mentioned, there is, or will be, a place on the site for everyone, it
is a big task but one that can be completed with your help. Can you
provide us with leads, articles or photographs? Our Water ski Magazine
collection is not complete, can you help with that?
The term “Modern Hang Glider” is used to separate the “Dickenson Wing”
and its descendants and spin-offs, from the earlier hang gliders that
followed on from Lilienthal. The hang gliders of today can trace their
evolutionary roots back to John Dickenson's Ski Wing. John used the Lee
and Darrah type airfoil on his wing, the same airfoil that NASA was
experimenting with in the 1960's, and while the airfoil has changed,
one can still see the influence of the Dickenson Ultralight Minimum
Structure Airframe and his Pendulum Weight Shift Control System in the
gliders being manufactured now, in 2009.
This project and website is run by volunteers, it has no affiliations to any commercial interests. Maybe you can help in its growth. We welcome any information on the early development of the hang glider in Australia.
© Copyright Graeme Henderson 2009 all Rights Reserved.
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Much of this material may only be reproduced with the written permission of the copyright holder