Flying Hang Gliders in My Eighties

I'm flying Point of the Mountain, Utah at age 83 - August 23, 2018
Matt Colver flying his dad's Skysail about 1972

In 1971, when modern sport hang gliding got its big start, I designed and built a flying wing hang glider I called the Colver Skysail and taught myself to fly.

After I retired that glider I flew several commercially built hang gliders made by Eipperformance and Wills Wing.

Hangstat balloon -Frank Colver reading inflight magazine.

I flew hang gliders all through the 1970’s but later only a few small hill low flights during the years after that.

Then in 1979 I switched to hot air ballooning with a foot launched balloon I designed which I named the Hangstat.

Then in 2015 I started flying again at Dockweiler Beach, CA from the 15 feet high sand ridge.

In the early years of modern sport hang gliding basic swing seats were used for most of the flying. But as the sport advanced, the use of prone position harnesses became the standard method for pilot position in hang gliding. I always liked the seated position better and flew that way all through the 1970’s. Now I’m working on a return to that original method with some modern designs for the seat itself and a set of aluminum bars to adapt the glider’s control bar to the seated position in gliders already rigged for prone flying. 

I’ve developed, in conjunction with High Energy Sports, a new style hang glider swing seat harness. After the first testing I made some changes and this video shows some flights with the new harness at Dockweiler Beach, CA.

Now three years later I’m at Point of the Mountain, Utah, to make my first flight higher than 25 feet in those 39 years since 1979.

I was there for four days but the weather wasn’t right for me until the last morning. However, the wind was blowing at 18 mph so I did need to do a wind launch. I had long time renowned instructor and aerobatic pilot John Heiney assisting me on launch. He wisely had me practicing ground handling well back from the edge. If I had not been able to control the glider in that wind I’m sure he would have told me to not launch. So you will see a couple of minutes of ground handling before i approach the edge of the hill and launch.

My first high flight in a hang glider in 39 years - wing camera view.
Wing camera view of my first high flight in 39 years.

As I stood there John could see I was ready to go and he said: “Are you going? I answered “yes”. He dropped both hands to show he was not holding on to any part of the glider and I launched.

I had preplanned the flight to fly out beyond the lift band and make a bottom landing even though the ridge had good lift at that wind speed and was top landable for the others flying that morning.

The flight was great but a little more turbulent than i expected but not too bad. I rocked the glider from side to side a little to test its roll response because I had not turned a hang glider more than a few degrees in 39 years! 

As I approached the time to set up for landing I spotted the field’s spot landing marker and decided to head for a landing there. I made my final turn and then another adjustment to align with the spot marker and then it was time to put my feet in landing position. However, i misjudged the ground contact point and tripped to end up landing on my wheels instead of my feet.

Frank Colver (83 years old)
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