Development in Britain of the Flexwing hang glider since 1971.
Hang glider production worldwide has been marked by innumerable innovations. From time to time one or other of these innovations has provided a significant step forward in handling and performance. Manufacturers, as ever under pressure from their customers, seized upon such advances and as a result a 'new generation' of gliders was created. The following account of the historical development of hang glider design will be divided into these generations.
It should be stressed however that the placing of gliders into generations is not always clear cut. Most gliders exhibit features drawn from the previous generation, and some equally have features foreshadowing developments of the next. Mark Woodhams is the leading authority in this matter and has been kind enough to advise on the criteria for separating the various generations and the following work reflects his opinions except in the case of a sixth generation. In his work 'The Generation Game', published in Skywings, he poses the question as to whether the 'topless' (i.e. gliders without top rigging) flexwing gliders can be called the sixth generation. The Museum has accepted that this type of glider is sufficiently advanced and different in structural design and performance to properly be described as such. This is a purely arbitrary decision and may not follow the general trend.
The Museum web site has separated off the rigid and semi-rigid wings in order to more clearly highlight their historical and technical development as contrasted with that of the Rogallo derived flexwing. It is felt that the rigid hang glider has its origins in the work of the Wright brothers et al, rather than in the flexible membrane concept as espoused by Rogallo, Dickenson and Moyes.
Whilst the Museum acknowledges the abundant improvements to hang gliding technology made in particular by American and Australian experimenters, it is only those innovations applied to British hang gliders that are to be noted.