The Hang Gliding Historical Committee is tasked with preserving and celebrating the rich history of hang gliding.

Doug Carmichael Recalls May 23 1971

Postby Neil Larson » Sat Mar 24, 2012 9:10 am

OTTO LILIENTHAL 123rd BIRTHDAY
by Doug Carmichael
*images - Doug Carmichael Archive Collection -used by permission

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San Clemente Sun-Post Newspaper photo shows me launching my jib-sailed Rogallo hang glider. It was given to me by Richard Miller when he completed his third hang glider the Conduit Condor. Dave Actor is running the right wing tip. My father Bruce Carmichael on the keel is stabilizing pitch. Lisa Asato is watching.

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Not pictured, but on the effort end of the tow rope is Philip Jenkins. John Hancock and Dave Actor also flew my glider that day. It was in the February 1972 issue of National Geographic. Being unsure of who was flying in the Geographic photo, some issues had my name and some had Dave Actor's.

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We had been planning for a few months to have the party at Harbor Hills Golf Coarse Capistrano Beach. Moving the location to a shallower sloping hill inland from Corona del Mar and Newport Beach was for safety reasons. Our group's senior members made safety the #1 priority and gave our sport the best possible start in my opinion.



May 23 1971 was a fun exciting day, the beginning of modern hang gliding. What impressed me most that day was Taras Kiceniuk’s high school age gang.

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They were able to shift their weight much further than the rest of us by performing like gymnasts on parallel bars. The rest of us were controlling our gliders by swinging our feet and hoping for the best.

A little background

1954 I’m 5 years. My father takes a job with Northrop as test flight engineer at Edwards Air Force Base and we move from Mississippi to California. He buys a Schweizer 1-26sailplane kit and has it delivered to the airport at Elsinore, where we meet Jack Lambie. Jack is always having adventures. They border on the reckless, sometimes they involve my father, and usually featured unusual flying. Jack's adventures are prolific, wild, crazy and always very interesting.

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Our living room was often the meeting place for NASA scientists, aeronautical engineers, sailplane pilots, designers, and builders. The discussions shifts from flight efficiency, meteorology and aircraft construction to crazy adventures; but they usually return to bird flight for humans, flying open air without a motor.

1967 - Richard Miller moves to San Clemente. He edited Soaring Magazine which my father had been writing technical articles for since 1952. Richard was extremely clever and cheerful with a very wide range of interests. I remember him playing Bach chamber music with his friend Marium and my sister Barb, exchanging puns with my mom, bodysurfing at T street in San Clemente, building successful flying machines with next to no budget. Richard had no problem with the math or the physics of flight. Complicated graphs, charts, equations and structural requirements were second nature to him. When faced with something he didn’t know, however, he would simply pull a pendulum out of his pocket and ask it. Twirling clockwise was yes, counterclockwise was no. This caused much exasperation to the professional engineers and scientist in the group. Richard's pendulums, pyramids, lemon water fasts, and unusual mystic beliefs were the source of much friendly banter. This banter was received and countered with humor and sharp wit. Richard designed and built the Conduit Condor in 1971.Twenty years later the best recreational hang gliders had wings with a very similar shape and size! Out of all those brilliant people the future was created by the flaky one. Maybe the rest of us were the flakes.

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1971 I’m 22 years old attending mechanical engineering school in San Luis Obispo. Summers are spent in Capistrano Beach. Hang gliding is being done in many locations around the world, but most of the public is unaware of it. The odd group of aviators in our living room seems to be growing. They begin talking about a birthday party for Otto Lilienthal. A person like thousands of millions before him and since, who dreamed of flying like a bird. He was the first one to succeed. It must of been partly luck, the right place the right time, lots of help. It had to of been mostly skill, building skills, athletic ability, a mind that could imagine a solution and pursue it with a focused determination.

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Happy Birthday Otto

Doug Carmichael

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** written by Doug Carmichael March 2012 /
for the upcoming 41st Anniversary of the original, First Annual Universal Hang Glider Championships Celebrating the 123rd Birthday of Otto Lilienthal of May 23 , 1971 at Newport Beach California - presented through editor and organizer of the May 23 1971 Event...Joe Faust -
all images taken on the day of the event * from the Doug Carmichael's Archive Collection ,
* used by permission.
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Re: Doug Carmichael Recalls May 23 1971

Postby Merlin » Sun Apr 01, 2012 5:39 pm

Thanks so much - this really is an amazing post. Particularly the Richard Miller details.

I can't imagine what might have happened on a steeper slope... I keep visualizing the Hang Looses a hundred feet up before beginning their inevitable death spiral back into the hill. Carnage.

Of course it looks like the shallow slope forced the Rogallo pilots to actually people-tow into the air. Did any of the "standard" Rogallo pilots actually foot launch on that day? I know Miller on his Conduit Condor didn't seem to a problem...
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Re: Doug Carmichael Recalls May 23 1971

Postby Neil Larson » Mon Apr 02, 2012 7:31 pm

Merlin -
Thanks for your comments - I would be in favor of more of these low & slow training events of historic Hang Glider types, and in some instances to do away with restrictions of the controling USHPA- with the pilots all pre -screened and fully aware of the risks- But just as the antique autos have their own specialized races - a group of vintage Hang Gliders could be allowed to fly for a historic event reproducing earlier history- such Vintage Fly -Ins could help educate the unknowing public on early HG developments which have gone unnoticed by the vast majority of people-
So Merlin - I would only give you some minor corrections on your comments ----

#1) Hang Loose types had been flown efficiently prior to that day without "Carnage" as you seem to imagine in your brain... every flight of a Hang Loose did not end in a stall -
The Hang Loose needs a modicum of aggressive forward wind to fly , the day was very calm over all-
-
#2) there were no "standard rogallos" in existence on May 23 1971 - your abrupt observations seem to be out of context for the era when this event happened- However Yes the BATSO - bamboo delta wings- or "kites" modeled after designs from NASA & F.M. Rogallo - most all had to be pulled along with launch ropes...
-
the entire reason for this event was to observe a cross section of varieties & have fun, there was actually no real competition to speak of... the results of observing the flights allowed spectators & pilots & builders to acquire immense knowledge and gain a great deal of wisdom in personal flight & homespun networking...
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Re: Doug Carmichael Recalls May 23 1971

Postby Merlin » Mon Apr 02, 2012 8:56 pm

My comments regarding the Hang Loose came from seeing plenty of footage, but never any display of any directional control in the slightest. Also, Bill Liscomb mentions in "Big Blue Sky" that they were fun to watch because pilots seemed to have "little or no control of the craft" . Stalls would be less of problem with the abundant wing area, and they did seem to have some pitch control. My only point was that on a steeper slope, these gliders could get high and easily get turned downwind back into the hill... and that could be carnage. The salient point is if the Hang Loose was not very controllable you made a wise choice on a shallow hill.

Now in the early seventies Terry Sweeney in New England was flying tailed biplanes and claimed that handled satisfactorily well. What images I've seen of those show a much smaller wing. The Hang Loose looked pretty huge.

As far as the standard Rogallos go, I put the term in quotes to indicate the special circumstances. Just to separate them out from the other bizarre variations on the hill that day. Incidentally, I bought Batso plans in the 70's and would have built one if I could have found bamboo in my area. Failing at that I took my first lessons on bonfide standard Rogallo. So I think I know a hawk from a handsaw...at least when the wind is southerly.

Sorry if you took my comments as "abrupt". No abruptness intended...
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Re: Doug Carmichael Recalls May 23 1971

Postby Bob Kuczewski » Tue Apr 03, 2012 1:28 pm

Hi Merlin!!!

Welcome to the US Hawks!    :thumbup: :clap: :wave: ;) :clap: :wave:

I think I agree that those hang loose models would have been a handful to steer with any kind of asymmetrical vertical wind components. As noted in "Big Blue Sky" (one of my favorite films by the way), the pilot had very little steering control, so I think any high flights with differential lifting might have been disastrous!!
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Re: Doug Carmichael Recalls May 23 1971

Postby Neil Larson » Wed Apr 04, 2012 2:51 pm

Merlin-
I guess I gave you a Knee Jerk reaction so to speak...
I have some minor defensiveness regarding hyperbole, that is when someone makes
an obtuse observation like Superman could beat Bruce Lee...
When I read your comment
I can't imagine what might have happened on a steeper slope... I keep visualizing the Hang Looses a hundred feet up before beginning their inevitable death spiral back into the hill. Carnage.

Yes what if... etc... with this presumption anyone may say anything...What If...
I have been racking my brain for the past 4 years attempting to gain some HG community awareness & past due "Respect" for what happened on May 23 1971. Because so much spawned from that event-
Yes we can make hypothetical observations about steeper hills or different airfoils...but now-a-days if anyone attempts to recreate the flights of one of these antique ships, that person violates many ordinances within the USHPA. My focus has been to make some detailed comprehensive documentation of the Otto Meet ...for the sake of historic preservation. We now have a City landmark on the site of the event, or very near to it- a very big thank you goes out to Newport Beach City for this distinction to observe the importance to aviation history. Other steps which could focus on these rare aircraft systems used on May 23 1971 could be...recreating the vintage replicas of these hang gliders to do some actual real flights and thereby gain real data which could be used to determine control ability. The Cable TV program Myth Busters , does this and it would be nice to do something like that with regard to these original hang gliders....
-
So when abrupt comments are tossed out about "Carnage" - which could give a very negative perspective on future efforts... Yes you are correct if the hill was steeper , and likewise , Bruce Lee could beat Superman ...but regarding the events that really happened that day / the actual true real event...it went very well & we did not suffer any carnage at all.
-
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Re: Doug Carmichael Recalls May 23 1971

Postby Merlin » Wed Apr 04, 2012 3:54 pm

recreating the vintage replicas of these hang gliders to do some actual real flights and thereby gain real data which could be used to determine control ability.


When they started doing pitch testing on trucks...I wonder if anyone bothered to test any standard Rogallos (or John Lakes "Sailfeather"). Standards were pretty much phased out by then, but it might of resolved a few lingering questions.
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Re: Doug Carmichael Recalls May 23 1971

Postby Neil Larson » Thu Apr 05, 2012 1:41 pm

yes and also I suppose there should be an effort to re build a replica Lilienthal and strap it atop a truck and drive down an abandoned runway to see just exactly when it folds up- knowing the fragile nature of these vintage craft , one would be satisfied to simply foot launch down a gentle slope in a 9 mile per hour breeze and do some low & slow... a digital camera could record flights & gain abundant data without sacrificing a complete work of art...
so happy that you also understand the nature of our efforts is to preserve as much history as possible , without destroying what little is left...
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Re: Doug Carmichael Recalls May 23 1971

Postby SamKellner » Thu Apr 05, 2012 6:32 pm

FromDayOne wrote:the nature of our efforts is to preserve as much history as possible , without destroying what little is left...


Admirable and how true :thumbup: :clap: :thumbup: :clap:

Thank You,
Sam
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Re: Doug Carmichael Recalls May 23 1971

Postby Neil Larson » Thu Apr 05, 2012 9:19 pm

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