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  Hang Gliding in the 80's...

So it was, the humble ski tow kites dissolved into hang gliding in the 80's.. and then it would be just a few steps off a hill into wind, and you would be flying... aahh!!... it was in the days of peace, love and hang gliding - No ski boat, no crew, no tow ropes.1976 Chris Brandon launching a hang glider at Boolaroo.

Fly like an eagle on the invisible currents of air, hang gliding was so easy and we flew higher and further, than ever before...!

The origins of hang gliding began in many places at a similar time, somewhere around 1976.... early poineer hang glider pilots began jumping off hills in Hawaii, America, England, Australia and other places, soaring cliffs on coastal sites or launching from sand dunes to theGlennies Creek hang Gliding Site highest mountains peaks.

It's difficult to suggest who actually flew a hang glider for the first time...! Maybe you know who was the first person to run down a hill with a delta kite strapped to their back looking to taste the freedom of flight...? If you do we would love to hear your story..!

Chris Brandon hang gliding in 1980Many names come to mind..

In Australia, Chris MacDonald of Newcastle flew a kite made of bamboo & black garbage bags which is possibly the first attempt at hang gliding in Australia. Dare devil - Bill Moyes was performing aerial tow kite displays in the Aussie show grounds towed by a beach buggy, and later ventured to leap into the abyss of the awesome Grand Canyon. USA.

Over the decades, Moyes Gliders - Sydney, have designed & developed the most advanced gliders with recognition as the number one hang glider manufacturer in the world. Bill's adventures sparked the flying achievements of son, Steve Moyes who continues the tradition.

Shane, Rick & Russell Duncan and Chris Brandon started launching off coastal cliffs around Newcastle with the strong coastal sea breezes generating the rising air currents to remain aloft...! Kevin Duncan & Eric Brandon (fathers) guided their sons with a simple phylosophy, 'you can do it'.

There were plenty of delta kite pilots doing the hang gliding thing.... Steve Cohen was an inspirational designer of hang gliders, so to was Bill Bennett of the United States... the rest of the story is in the history books.

 Eungella Hang Gliding Competition - 1988  Chris Brandon & his dog Zac hang gliding  Tandem Hang Gliding - Pilot Chris Brandon & Passenger


  Hang gliding takes off

As the sport of hang gliding grew rapidly, so did the design of these basic delta flexwing kites, and flying competitions.

Chris Brandon - Launches off Scenic Lookout. NewcastleThe simple delta kite concept started to become an efficient flexwing, the wing spans increased, aspect ratio's altered, glide angles improved and safety became more evident in the design characteristics of hang gliders.

The simple dacron fabric delta structure changed with trilam, scrim, mylar, and many other fabric mods to improve performance. The introduction of streamlined harnesses, aero-dynamic helmets, pitch stability systems and flight instruments.. all contributed to the evolution of the hang gliding movement in Australia and countries across the globe.

The sport of daredevils in the 80's.... go hang gliding...!

 Aero-Towing - Pilot Richard Sneddon

It was also the beginning of the powered hang glider, trike - microlights.

Simply bolt a basic three wheeled tricycle power unit under the wing, get in the seat & push the throttle - you no longer required a hill to get the feeling..!

In Australia - the early trikes were simple, slow and ideal for aero-towing hang gliders into the rising thermals or onto inaccessible ridges & mountains. Airborne Buzzard Osprey Tug - Ayers Rock

These primitive flying machines became known as - trikes, and you would see pilots flying their trikes along the coast, and aero-towing was a blast for hang glider pilots.

One of the most difficult problems with aero-towing was the release mechanism for the tug - the tow rope had to pass through the centre of thrust! The Rotax engines had more power with an integrated gearbox reduction, but it was an engineering feat to see how the towbars retro fitted safely to the early trikes - without getting tangled in the spinning prop. 

Chris Brandon & Shane Duncan were keen tug pilots, aero-towing the many hang glider pilots at Kevin 'Magin's Place', East Gresford - if you were there you will remember the fun at Magin's..! 1982 - Original aero-towing in Australia

It required extreme ability to tow the hang gliders aloft in the heat of the day, straight into an active rising thermal... especially with the trike wings being 210 sq.ft and very heavy in response! Driving the tugs in the 80's, was bit like towing a caravan up a hill - you release the van and the load is gone...!!

Swoosh... immediate change in trike performance...! If you have ever driven tug trike.. you will understand the rush at release..!

In 1988 - the World Hang Gliding Championships was one of the first attempts at filming hang glider pilots thermalling up from the magnificent Mount Buffalo in Victoria. So much safer than filming from a helicopter for the hang glider pilots, but also very dangerous in a trike. Flying in the down flowing air of a thermal at full power and loaded with camera equipment was an exciting experience in the early machines.

Airborne Buzzard 532 Arrow I - Aero-towing TugIn the beginning, trikes were simple, rules & regulations were few, and the trike industry in Australia was about to boom... it was similar in England, South Africa and France!

A powered hang glider was the way you could get in the air for a very small amount of money.

Originally here in Oz.. you didn't need a licence, you could't fly above 500 feet or over built up areas, and as you will see in the images, no aircraft registration!Not too many imported trikes here! sure was cheap flying!

A few farmers in Australia showed interest in these early trikes for property inspection, which proved useful as a farm implement to check fences, water troughs and mustering stock.


There are heaps of memorable days of hang gliding, aero-towing and flying these early powered hang gliders.. evolving into microlights!

Strap in for a ride in the 80's... Kites Trikes Yikes 1972-1989  (click here)

A time of development, growth and fun in the magical world of sport aviation.

If we had a crystal ball back then.. we would have seen the future of trikes as sleek, fast and very sophisticated light sport aircraft - Let the future begin....