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This open source project was run on another hang gliding forum and is now in its final stages of preparing to build a full scale prototype. I thought it was time to present it on this forum for an additional audience.

Thousands of hang glider pilots taught themselves to fly on what has become known as the “standard Rogallo”. They just ran down a hill and flew. The glider was easy to ground handle, and the control was pretty much intuitive. It was light weight (about 30 lbs) so carrying back up the hill was not very difficult.

However, this glider design had some shortcomings. In launching there was a narrow window of angle of attack to successfully launch and when in turns it tended to lose a lot of altitude. The glide angle was poor ( about 3:1 or 4:1) so a steep training hill was required just to get airborne. If flown at higher altitudes it could be put into a non-recoverable dive, when the sail went into full luff condition. But, all things considered, this simple glider was responsible for many people entering this new sport even with the lack of flight schools at that time.

Beginning hang glider students at present are taught on general purpose hang gliders capable of long distance flights. These gliders are designed for performance rather than ease of use for someone who has never flown one before. The only hang glider, that I know of, that was designed specifically for beginning instruction, is the Wills Wing Condor 330, which is no longer in production. It was still based on the common plan form of the single surface gliders flying today but had a very large area (330 sq ft) and a high lift, soft stalling, high camber airfoil. This was a good trainer but was still a long span, hard to ground handle, glider. The structural tubing was reduced and the sail thickness was reduced in order to reduce the weight of this monster hang glider but it still weighs in at 55 lbs. The glider is not certified for anything and WW says not to fly it in any heavy conditions (or higher than you care to fall). Unless short packed, it would be a problem to car top on many vehicles. However, a lot of pilots began their learning on this glider and I love flying mine at the beach.

To design a basic trainer hang glider specifically for that use, disregarding any other performance goals. A glider that is under 40 lbs, has a high lift (high camber) airfoil, has a large sail area, is slow flying with a gentle stall, has a glide angle much better than the Rogallo, easy to launch and land, and easy to ground handle. A glider that avoids the aerodynamic problems of the “standard Rogallo”.

After a student gets confident with the launching, flying, and landing of this trainer they then “graduate” to a utility glider which they ultimately will fly from higher launches and in rougher conditions. THIS GLIDER IS THE “TRAINING WHEELS” EQUIVALENT OF LEARNING TO RIDE A BICYCLE. Most people riding a bicycle today are riding something that is much different than what they learned on. Such will be the case of the Basic Trainer hang glider in relation to what they will fly beyond the beginning training.

As I said, this project was started as an open source project last May (2018) on another forum. There were inputs from other people along the way, as I also developed my own design ideas. It culminated in the building and test flying of a free flight model scaled at 1/5 of the full scale design. The model’s battens are scaled from Condor 330 battens.

The model, without any external control, flew in stable flight above the low bluff at Dockweiler beach CA. The wind that day was a little gusty, especially for a beach site. Pitch recovery was good with the CG at 30.5% of MAC (mean aerodynamic chord). Directional stability was good and the model climbed in slope lift and one time it even soared the low bluff for a distance of several hundred feet on its own. When the model would turn off the wind it didn’t have any tendency to tighten the turn but made fairly flat stable turns. Because of the encouraging test results on the scale model, I’ve decided to go ahead with the full scale glider construction.

I present this design as “open source” and I have no commercial interest or claim on any products built from these ideas. All I ask is that I be given credit for any of these design ideas if utilized by other persons.

The design is a low aspect ratio, short span, high lift (high camber), large area glider. There is tip twist for pitch
stability reflexing and to stall the tips last and a "swallow tail" center that is also reflexed. It should be slow flying, with soft stall, stable but very responsive to weight shift control of pitch and roll. Some people have expressed concern about tip weight slowing roll response, because of the 6 feet long truncated tips. I point out that the 13.5 feet moment is shorter than other gliders of similar area, which will help. The complete glider weight goal is to be under 40 lbs.

The final design comes out at 27 feet span and approximately 280 sq ft. The weight will have to wait to be seen. I’ll use the lighter sail cloth also used on the Condor 330 and tubing sizes will be less than what would be used on a general purpose glider. The airfoil is the Condor 330 airfoil, and I will be using some of the actual 330 curved battens.

One area this glider might find its use beyond basic training is in soaring low beach front dunes “dune grooming”. Its short span, large area could make for good close in ridge soaring, keeping more of the glider in the better lift zone and the turns would be tighter.

All of my drawings are in AutoCAD, so I can’t attach them but I have attached a jpeg image of one drawing. I’ve also attached a photo of the model glider rising in slope lift above a hand launch.

I’m also looking for a wrecked salvage glider, preferably a WW Falcon or Alpha that I could cannibalize for fittings. Since I will not be selling this prototype glider I don’t need new fittings. I’ll be using all new tubing so I don’t care what condition the tubes are in or the sail. Please let me know if you know of one that’s available.

Frank Colver
Basic Trainer, sail & battens design.jpg
Basic Trainer, sail & battens design.jpg (324.29 KiB) Viewed 2235 times
Soaring the bluff.jpg
1/5 scale model rising in slope lift.
Soaring the bluff.jpg (248.34 KiB) Viewed 2235 times

Should we make hang glider training fool proof? Should we dumb it down so that anyone can fly? Isn't that why paragliding was invented? Face it: we may be part of what is, and what SHOULD BE, an exclusive group. Having tried my hand at instructing, I've observed that the arduous hang gliding training process may weed out those who really shouldn't be in the air to begin with.
Finally! I finally agree with Mike.
There are infinitely more complications to flying than merely launching off a training hill and flying a few seconds. The beginning gliders we have now are excellent handling craft. Especially the WW Alpha and Falcon gliders. There are likely other very good examples from competing manufactures. What we need is for all the smart phones and IPads and laptops to all stop working for a few long years, including air-conditioners.... that just might free up all the precious free-time that everyone wastes on those idiot-boxes (me included!) and comfortable indoor environs.

Also, what instructors should be demanding is for the student to study as much as possible long before taking lessons. Of course, that will never be enforced. Too many starving instructors.

The sailplane and GA areas of aviation are seeing lower numbers of younger people as well. It's not an aircraft problem. It's a brain-dead problem. It's far too easy to get one's jollies from a small electronic box without risking any skin, and our socialist education system has programmed everyone to be risk-averse. Heck, kids can't even duke it out after school without being thrown in jail.... how lame, how feminized?!? How'd we get here from when I was in school?

A simpler glider would only complicate the learning process. The gliders we have right now have been well perfected. They operate in very similar fashions to more advanced gliders. Why would a Hg school, or merely a small group of instructors want to invest in yet another piece of equipment that will only be used for a few flights per student? And if the handling is supposedly easier, how will skills learned on it translate to the present style of easily-learned training gliders?

The most expedient method of learning is study -- in-depth reading, followed by reflection and visualization. After much study, then finally physical instruction should take place. Without study, instruction will require much more time and effort for the student to learn to fly. Most people are not cut out for flight, even if they believe it would be a fun hobby for them. They have to study and absorb and be able to implement what they read. If they are not willing or able to do this, it is likely they do not have what it takes to be safe pilots. If they can't find their way around a simple-to-fly alpha or falcon or similar, then they probably shouldn't be trying HG at all.
Guys! Come on....

We are talking about "learning" to fly, NOT how it will be for the rest of a pilots career- unless one stays on the bunny hill which is FINE BY ME!

Make the introduction SUPER easy and FUN! What a concept eh!? Then move the ones that can and want to advance to the next rung on the harness.

Thanks blindroadie. I'm appalled at these replies that want to keep learning to hang glide more difficult than it needs to be. If it's not the first experience that counts a lot, - then you guys tell that to all the HG pilots who learned to fly on a standard Rogallo and were later, or still are, flying high performance hang gliders.

No wonder hang gliding is dying! It should not be relegated to being an exclusive club. Jump through all the hoops and clear all the hurdles we put in your way and then we may accept you? Bullshit!!

Give me an F***in break! Who or what are you trying to protect?


BTW - Red, in a PM to me, suggested I name the trainer "puffin" which I think is a great name, it kinda looks like one and puffins actually fly pretty well.
Alpha 230? Just another adaptation of today's gliders like the Condor 330. Please go back and reread my sections: "History" and "The goal". You must have missed those. A student learning on the Puffins will soon enough transition to one of today's utility gliders. But just maybe they got enthusiastic enough from their first flights on the basic trainer to want to continue on to higher performance gliders, and further instruction, instead of going back to their electronic devices.

A long time HG and PG friend put it pretty well when he said: "the first 10 years of hang gliding the gliders were deigned for people with 0 to 10 years experience, the second 10 years they were for people with 10 to 20 years experience, the third 10 years they were designed for people with 20 to 30 years experience, fourth 10 years...well you get the idea.

As much as I dislike this term: it's time to think outside the box on beginner training glider design rather than just making today's gliders bigger.

This isn't rocket science folks. Think of all the hang glider pilots who started by getting a Rogallo and running off a hill without an instructor in sight. Some of those Rogallos were made with bamboo and painter's tarps. Sure they may have gotten a few bruises, I sure did, but it was not the beginners who were getting killed in the early days of HG it was the experienced pilots who were still flying the standard rogallo with its aerodynamic problems. I'm hoping to have a design as easy to fly as the Rogallo, as easy to ground handle as the Rogallo, as easy to carry back up the hill as the Rogallo, but easier to launch (most of the bruises came from blown launches with the Rogallo) and with much better and safer flight characteristics than the Rogallo.

However, I do understand why some PG instructors would be unhappy with this concept of making HG learning easier.

Frank Colver
I completely agree with Frank. The glider needs to be stupidly simple to fly, lightweight and hopefully quick to set up and easy to transport. THAT is what makes paragliders so appealing! In the right conditions, a PG will fly just fine with a sack of potatoes in the harness. For an absolute beginner it's much easier to learn, and those early successes translate to ongoing interest.

From my own early learning days....

I started out training with Tom Sapienza back in '94 or so. We were at the training hill just north of Rice Hill, a rounded grassy knoll owned by Susan Applegate. (Direct descendant of Jesse Applegate, of Applegate Trail pioneer fame.) I was hooked up with an old trainer, probably a bit on the small side, and some of those explode-on-impact plastic wheels. I spent the whole damn day running down that slope, trying to get into the air, and pounding in time after time. Tom's approach was "keep at it and you'll get it eventually". And this wasn't for lack of trying, or failing to understand AoA and airspeed. The slope was too shallow and the glider too small. And it was a lot of work to lug it all back up the slope again.

I eventually switched instructors, and Ron Enck put me on the right sized glider and got me flying at Cape Kiwanda. It took quite a while, between both of our work schedules and the weather, but by '96 I was nominally flying. And then I went to Wallaby Ranch, got stinkin' amounts of airtime in a couple of weeks, earned my H2, learned to aerotow, learned to thermal a bit, worked on landings until they were decent, and generally made huge progress in my skills. Went back to Wallaby a year later and got my H3, and I've been back several times since then for more flying fun.

Onward a couple of years. At the suggestion of Kari Castle, I contacted Larry Pindar about PG lessons. We met up at....you guessed it....the same hill where I started lessons with Tom. Larry gave me some basic instruction on inflation and had me ground handle for an hour or so in the breeze, and then I headed up the hill. The AT Sports Image that I was flying looked a whole lot like an air mattress, and wasn't particularly great on glide ratio, but it was easy to fly and pretty much bomb-proof. Pulled it up, took a few steps and I was in the air. Easy! Wad it up at the bottom, stuff it in the sack, hike it back to the top and do it again. I probably got a dozen flights in that afternoon. Not long ones, but I had a great sense of accomplishment and progress. It was a HUGE difference from my HG experience at that same hill.

If we're going to get more people flying hang gliders, then it needs to be EASY to start with. Comparing HG and PG as a first-day student, the PG is much less of a stretch to achieve initial success. We need a trainer HG that's super-easy to fly, even if its performance absolutely sucks, because it gets that student over the initial hump and lets them experience some measure of success.

I saw a video some time back; a HG launched into strong winds and stormy skies (strike one), and caught a wingtip, breaking the leading edge cleanly at the crossbar junction (strike two). The glider then looked like half HG/half Puffin. Anyway, much too low for a parachute, the pilot flew along the ridgeline in good control, came back to launch, and top-landed safely at the launch site. I mean gosh, I thought we needed the wingtips, for something or other. :lol: This broken-winged glider seemed to fly just fine, even with only one good wing.

I think the long low "ridge" was actually a sea-wall or dike, in Europe and maybe the Netherlands. Anybody here know where to find this video?

That video makes me think that Frank is really on to something good here, with the design we are calling Puffin. Obviously, our conventional wingtips are optional (sorda).
I believe Steve At Blue Sky in VA still builds such a training glider and KHK still uses them for first day beginner lessons. My buddy Tall Paul from Lookout mountain taught a blind person to fly on a Eaglet. :mosh:

Oh and The Eaglet has breakaway down tubes and leading edges for easy and fast repairs that can be made right on the training hill. :goodidea:

Very good! That's the general idea. Thanks for the support guys. BTW - I have a Blue Sky training harness which was great for flying Dockweiler until I developed my seated harness with High Energy Sports.

One thing I didn't mention is that I intend to have the diagonal brace tubes for the truncated tip tubes adjustable in length. This will allow the sail tension at the tip area to be fine tuned rather than at the cross spar haul back line. A beginner student can start out with the tips slacker for quicker roll control and more docile pitch. Then as the student progresses the tips can be tightened for a better glide ratio giving more airtime but less responsive to roll weight shift. The "fly in this ointment" may be in the need to change CG too much, because of the tip twist, when the tip tension is changed .

Or, how about a more advanced student being taught how to deal with a glider with a tendency to turn. The instructor tightens one tip more than the other. The advanced student now has to correct for a built in turn while successfully flying to a good landing. There are lots of possibilities.

Remember, this design is just the beginning and I'm sure (I hope) people will find ways to improve it. That's why it is an open source project. In designing and building the prototype I'm not going to concentrate on fold & transport ability. That is something that can be worked into the design later, after the initial concept is proven. So mine may be a bit clunky when it is folded but that should just inspire someone else to do better.

Frank Colver
"You must have missed those."

I didn't miss a thing. Probably the only thing that I agree with you is, that definitely a training glider needs to be significantly lighter. There was a movement like this in GA too, where people wanted to make training planes simpler, and easier, and guess what? No one uses or buys them for training because it leaves people unprepared for what they will REALLY be flying in the end. I forsee the same issues here.

What's my number 1 problem as a teacher on the hill?

The fact that people get tired hiking the gear back up the hill. Things like two-pulley training and lighter gliders will definitely be more of an improvement in retention and experience than a radical new design. I'd argue even if we could get a training glider down to 30 pounds that'd be even better than any aerodynamic improvement.

We had a saying in the military: "ounces equals pounds, and pounds equals pain"

That being said, I'm in Northern California, and am also actively involved in producing new pilots, if you want to try something out on me I'm game.
It's the site, instructor, and equipment
I was at Andy Jackson one day when Zac Majors was teaching a couple of young enthusiastic new pilots. Using the launch training hills, lower launches, the ATV (takes two set up gliders ) and one or two trips to the Marshall launch followed by more launches and landing at the low launches they probably had more training and flights then some new pilots get in a summer. I've watch pilots at Ed Levin carrying up gliders for flights on hot days sure it weeds out those not committed but such slow progress. Methods of teaching and good sites are needed I think the gliders are fine.
OK I get the idea of some who have posted, don't even think of anything new. Just go with the status quo and all will be cozy and fine.

I'm sure glad that attitude didn't take hold before the gliders i'm flying were designed. "Hey the standard Rogallo is all we need" may still be heard to eco somewhere in the ethers.

Einstein said don't let your ideas out to soon. "Ideas are easy to kill when they are still babies".

This project can only add to the choices, it takes nothing away from anybody.

I'll let you now how the full scale trainer works out. If it's a dud, well then the naysayers win and I'm out a bunch of dough and even more precious, my time at age 83.

As far as some students not liking to move "up" to a higher performance hang glider after their learning experience on the Puffin? Well what if they actually enjoyed the flights they get with the trainer and don't want to "move up"? Is that a crime? Build a heaver, stronger, Puffin certified for for utility use and let them enjoy the kind of flying that they choose. I have always enjoyed "small ridge" soaring, this glider design just might be the ticket for that. At this point nobody knows. It definitely is not for the cross country pilots, so be it.

Thanks Takeo77. As the 1/5 scale model (5.4 ft span) flew I was pleased beyond my best expectations. However, it was cleaner than the full scale would be because it didn't have the wires and control bar or king post on the model.

I wasn't as surprised at the roll and pitch stability as I was at the glide ratio. It was much flatter than I expected. The wing loading on the model was fairly high because of its aluminum tubing construction, heavy covering and a lot of weights in the nose to balance it at 30.5% of MAC. I guess i was expecting something just a little better than a Rogallo and it was much better.

I have two Condors, a 225 and a 330. I very much enjoy those and it was the 225 that I flew at Point of the Mountain in August (see videos elsewhere). And the 330 is great at Dockweiler Beach. It will be interesting to see how the puffin stacks up against that stable. It's quite possible that in addition to being an easy trainer it may also become a "nitch" glider.

BTW - I consulted Mike Meier, at WW, before flying the Condor 225 at POM. It is actually a Falcon 225 with lighter construction. He gave his OK for early morning flights. i can envision something similar for the puffin. When john Heiney was flying it at POM I yelled up: "no aerobatics john, remember it's a Condor" :)

I wonder since, it's a training hill glider only glider, some thought has been given to synthetic fiber flying wires to save weight? Like I said hauling the glider up the hill is really a limiting factor for how many flights can be done.
miraclepieco wrote:
Wed Dec 05, 2018 5:29 pm
Should we make hang glider training fool proof? Should we dumb it down so that anyone can fly? Isn't that why paragliding was invented? Face it: we may be part of what is, and what SHOULD BE, an exclusive group. Having tried my hand at instructing, I've observed that the arduous hang gliding training process may weed out those who really shouldn't be in the air to begin with.

What is it about hang gliding that brings out the snobby, elitist, bullshit attitude like this??? I've never seen any paraglider pilots spouting crap like that. I don't and won't fly paragliders, but I have never met paraglider pilots at any flying site that aren't welcoming and friendly.
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