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Hang Gliding History : Notable Pilots from the past : In the beginning

In the beginning

The first British hang glider is generally accepted to have been made by Geoff McBroom and a group of fellow enthusiasts and one of these, Les Hockings, was the first to actually fly the machine. Following some publicity a wave of wild enthusiasm swept the country and soon there was a growing band of Early Birds eager to experience the thrill of hang gliding. Some of these soon came to make their own kites and to supply drawings, kits or gliders to others. Geoff McBroom marketed his designs and continued to do so for some years. Ken Messenger was soon to form the Birdman company. Its gliders spanned the years until 1979 when some of the employees formed Solar wings. Both Messenger and Gerry Breen were astute publicists and carried out many newsworthy stunts such as first flights from Snowdon and Ben Nevis and balloon drops. Most flights on the early machines were extremely brief. A flight from a modest hill lasting but a few seconds. The real experts however were learning fast and used dynamic hill lift to extend their flights. Gerry Breen flew a home built glider with plastic sheet sail for a fifteen minute flight. Len Gabriels posted a twenty three minute flight and after that there was a scramble to set a new endurance record. Ken Messenger was the first to keep aloft for more than an hour in December 1973. The rapid development of glider design however soon made the endurance record a nonsense as only pilot fatigue was the limiting factor.

In the beginning
Johnny Carr
Graham Hobson
Ken Messenger
Hang Gliding History : Notable Pilots from the past : In the beginning