By 1977 a
pattern was emerging, with the movement polarised into two camps. While
Europeans were playing around with powered Rogallos, power flyers in Australia
were adopting the same stance as the Americans, who had spurned the creation of
their native son in favour of aircraft with control surfaces, some like
Jensen's creations derived from fixed-wing hang-gliders, others like the 'Whing
Ding' designed from the outset for power. In the US they became known as
ultralights, in Britain they were microlights (since in the UK there already
existed a category of very light aircraft known as ultralights), whilst in
France they were known as motorised ultralights or ULM for short.
PHOTO 1: An Aircraft Specialities Co. Whing Ding
II, this example built in France by M Chavenet in 1975.
were still doggedly pursuing ways of motorising Rogallos, and four men were
making the running. Len Gabriels mounted two of the biggest model aircraft
engines he could find on a Skyhook 'Sunspot' and on 15 July '77 took off from
'a pimple of a hill' in conditions of almost nil-lift. Encouraged, he fitted a
McCulloch and tried again on 11 August, taking off at the bottom of a 300 ft
(90 m) hill and landing at the top, feeling on top of the world in more senses
He decided to
demonstrate the machine at the big hang-gliding meeting at Mere the following
month, but was crestfallen when he arrived to find that the motor wouldn't
start. To make matters worse, Murray Rose and Simon Wootton from rival
hang-glider manufacturer Chargus had produced a similar tool based on a 'Midas
E', and were merrily giving demonstrations! The fourth pioneer, Steve Hunt, was
at the time working for a third Rogallo manufacturer, Hiway, and tried a different
approach. Early that year he had coupled a McCulloch to a ducted fan and
mounted the ensemble on a 'Scorpion D' wing. It was less than successful, but
he had made his entry into the microlight world and Britain would hear a great
deal from this tireless Australian from then on.
Not to be
outdone, across in France Camille Lefevre and Phillippe Peauger built a
twin-engined two-seater by mounting one 10 hp McCulloch on the front of a
'Delta Manta' and another on the rear. And it flew well, confounding the
sceptics at that year's homebuilders gathering in Brienne-le Chateau.
developments, it was the US which was making the running now. Following Volmer
Jensen's lead, a whole series of fixedwing hang-gliders were being successfully
motorised. The 'Icarus V' flying wing appeared, with its tip rudders and
swept-back style wing, while Larry Mauro's 'Easy Riser' biplane started to sell
in large numbers, using McCulloch 12 hp or Chrysler 8 hp two-strokes. Hang
gliding record holder Don Mitchell fitted his 'BF-10' with a motor, though he
still used the pilot's legs as undercarriage, an arrangement which persisted
until his 'B-10 Mitchell Wing' ultralight proper appeared.
PHOTO 2: An early version of the B-10 Mitchell
Then there was
the 'Manta Fledge IIB', copied by many but immortalised by Jack McCormack, who
derived from it the famous Pterodactyl series of machines and produced a great
deal of favourable publicity for the movement by making a long-distance proving
flight in each new model.
And last but by
no means least was the famous 'Quicksilver', created in 1972 by Bob Lovejoy.
Unlike many of its contemporaries, it was designed from the outset to have a
tail, and so was a natural for conversion into a relatively conventional looking
ultralight. Its success in this guise was staggering, and far outstripped
anything it had achieved as a hang-glider. In the years to come thousands of
'Quicks' would be produced, plus many more machines of the same genre from
other manufacturers. The Quicksilver's single-surface tube and Dacron
construction, tubular empennage with fully flying rudder, and straightforward
undercarriage were copied all over the world, not just because they worked, but
also because diligent development and effective marketing gave the product a
reputation which imitators were only too ready to trade on.
PHOTO 3: While a little later than 1977, this dual
Quicksilver was one of many used in training throughout the world.
three-axis ultralights became more and more numerous, outnumbering their
forerunners. In Australia, there was the Kimberley 'Sky Rider', designed to the
legislation which the 'Scout' had prompted, while in America the MGI 'Teratorn'
and Bill Adaska's Rotec 'Rally' made their appearance. Bill, exBell and ex-Aerospatiale
employee who had specialised until then in helicopters, went on to sell over
2000 Rallys in the next four years! The pre-history of ultralight aviation
ended that year, at the first meeting of American pioneers at Brook Fields
Aerodrome near Marshall, halfway between Chicago and Detroit. At that event,
held from 1 to 3 July, John Moody, who had involuntarily looped three times the
year before at Oshkosh, climbed to 4250 ft (1300 m) with his 'Easy Rider' and a
12 hp engine. Now we were really flying!