Who Started to Hang Glide First? A Brief History.
Late 1800s to early 1900's
- Otto Lillienthal
- Wright Brothers
- The Hortens
Hang gliding actually began with the pioneers such as Otto Lillienthal, who devised a flying machine in which he hung by his armpits and steered the craft by swinging his weight forward and aft; side to side. A replica of this aircraft is in the Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. Later the Wright Brothers moved their pioneering efforts from Ohio to Kill Devil Hills in NC, developing a bi-wing type glider before attaching an engine. In similar fashion as done today they ran down the dunes and learned to fly.
Who Started the Modern Age of Hang Gliding?
- Francis Rogallo: developed the Rogallo Wing for NASA
- Bill Bennett: stunt kite water skier from Australia; began use of Rogallo wing
- BillMoyes: worked with Bill Bennett to further develop Rogallo wingdesign
- Volmer Jensen:designed, built and flew conventional aircraft-looking foot launch wings here in USA. Heavy and complicated, they were not as popular as Rogallo wings.
- Dave Kilbourne: first person to foot launch and soar Rogallo wing design.
These early pioneers, who had originally been towed aloft in what were referred to as flat kites, took the NASA designed Rogallo Wing to heart because of superior performance and handling with a simple design. When Dave Kilbourne became the first person to foot launch and soar a Rogallo Wing from a mountain, modern hang gliding was born.
When Did Hang Gliding Come to Maryland?
Hang gliding first came to Maryland around 1972 with gliders appearing atop Oregon Ridge, an old abandoned ski slope now part of Baltimore County Recreation and Parks. Standard Rogallo wings dotted the hillside, and created quite a fervor. Several schools sprang up to teach the throngs of people interested in learning to fly. About the same time the Maryland Hang Gliding Association was created to unite and promote safe flying in the area. The United States Hang Gliding Association was formed to unite the explosive growth of the sport nationwide. Internal organization was needed to prevent FAA intervention and over-regulation. It was immediately successful.
Pilot skills, safer designs, and professional instruction enabled pilots to not only fly from just the hillsides, but from mountain tops located in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. One such place (High Rock) located in Western Maryland, is a Mecca for pilots seeking duration soaring. Flights of over 7 hours and 7,000 feet have taken place there.
Important Innovations Making the Sport Safer
- Hang Gliding Manufacturer's Association: developed industry standards for safety, strength, etc.
- Development of Pitch Stability Devices: luff lines and defined tips, better aeronautical engineering.
- VehicleTesting of Designs Prior to Release: focus on pitching curves, load capacity.
- Defined rigid airfoils replaced soft-flex airfoil designs. Minimum standards placed on speed, handling.
- Reserve parachutes and full face helmets universally accepted and worn by pilots.
- Overall pilot understanding of equipment limitations, meteorology and micrometeorology vastly improved.