Friday, September 19, 2008

Australian inventor of hang glider on French TV

A short video portrait of John Dickenson, who invented the concept of hang gliding in Grafton in 1963, is being aired every evening on regional TV news for the south of France.

As I said in yesterday's article on this subject [display], in Dickenson's home country, Australia, certain revisionists have been trying absurdly to deny his role in history. In France, there is no such bickering. On the contrary, two Frenchmen—St├ęphane Malbos and Jean-Paul Budillon—were the first aeronautical historians to discover the importance of John Dickenson's pioneering work. Well before nasty disputes on this question were ignited in Australia, no doubt through jealousy and vested interests, the website of the French Federation of Free Flight (with headquarters at Nice on the French Riviera) made it clear that John Dickenson was the inventor of the delta-wing hang glider. Towards the end of 2002, I relayed this information in my personal website concerning my childhood township of South Grafton.

7 comments:

  1. As far as I can tell, almost everyone agrees that John Dickensons particular design was the one that, in the hands of some showmen, got hang gliding booming in the 70's.

    That he was the "inventor of the delta wing hang glider" is definitely up for debate though, as there were others hang gliding with delta wing gliders prior to 1963. That much is indisputable also.

    What it really comes down to is semantics and wording.

    Everyone already knows what John designed and what it led to once it was showed to the world. That much can not be taken away from Dickenson no matter how the wording is weazeled with.

    The credit for *establishing hang gliding as a popular pastime*, however, probably lies with those who took the design and ran with it.

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  2. Mr. Anonymous said;

    "That he was the "inventor of the delta wing hang glider" is definitely up for debate though, as there were others hang gliding with delta wing gliders prior to 1963. That much is indisputable also.

    What it really comes down to is semantics and wording."

    The image of a Dickenson Wing is what the vast majority think of when imagining a hang glider. Is there anyone who pictures a Barry Palmer Wing? No.

    The Dickenson Wing is plainly what is meant when one speaks of the delta wing hang glider. John Dickenson is recognizable by almost no one. His design is iconic.

    Dickenson did indeed create the device the world recognizes as the delta wing hang glider.

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  3. You are correct that:
    "Dickenson did indeed create the device the world recognizes as the delta wing hang glider."

    and

    "The image of a Dickenson Wing is what the vast majority think of when imagining a hang glider."

    (my italics).

    But similarly, the vast majority of Americans think that the Mayflower Pilgrims were the first European people to settle in North America.

    Quite separate from popularist simplicity, in both cases, the real history books tell a different story.

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  4. I am tempted to say "Thank you! I rest my case!"

    But I remain curious. What glider appears in YOUR mind when you think of a delta wing hang glider?

    Of a Palmer Wing, a Fleep, a Flexwing, a NASA Paresev, and a Dickenson Wing, which delta wing has been seen in hang gliding flight by millions at hundreds of flying sites around the world? (Did I leave out any pre-1963 delta wings?)

    The delta wing hang glider IS the device that enabled the explosive growth of the sport of hang gliding. It WAS NOT the Palmer Wing or the Fleep or the Flexwing or the Paresev. It was the Dickenson Wing.

    So what delta wing hang glider did you have your first real airtime on? It was a Dickenson Wing.

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  5. "So what delta wing hang glider did you have your first real airtime on? It was a Dickenson Wing."

    Errr... well, by your definition, yes. It had lots of non-Dickenson contributions though.

    The performance, handling and safety of the so called "standard" delta wings of the early 70's was, by all reports, abysmal, and I'm glad I never flew one. I didn't get real air time until the (roughly speaking) third generation of wing (not delta shaped at all).

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  6. "The performance, handling and safety of the so called "standard" delta wings of the early 70's was, by all reports, abysmal, and I'm glad I never flew one."

    I have often heard that. It is nonsense of course. There is abundant evidence that these wings were so stable that nearly anyone that tried could fly them. Rarely did accidents occur that were caused by anything other than failure to follow good sense and/or the well known standards of the day.

    A web site dedicated to a collection of vintage gliders in UK at http://www.turfhouse.com/acatalog/Vintage_gliders.html has this description below a photo of a "Hiway Rogallo";

    1975. Excellent condition. This was the glider that started our collection. Brian Johnson saw it advertised in a local paper in Jersey, and following a year of delicate negotiations he and Simon managed to buy it! It remains the most expensive glider in the collection, being the only one that wasn't willingly donated. It is in superb condition, and was flown by Simon from the 800 foot hill at Bossington, soaring effortlessly for about 20 minutes. The event was reported in Free Flyer at the time, and generated much interest. Simon, chicken as usual, was disconcerted by the fact that the sail would sometimes stop flapping and would emit a single loud "Crack". So he landed to check the sail attachment at the tips (the leading edges are only retained by pinching a webbing strip between the tube and a push-fit plastic bung!). Everything was fine, but he didn't take off again."

    This is just one small and easily found anecdote that illustrates the excellent flyability of the so-called Standard.

    And one should have no difficulty to see the obvious structural resemblances to the Dickenson wing even when compared with the so-called flex wings made today.

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  7. I checked with a few of the old timers around here. They all agreed that it was great fun getting in at the start of the sport.

    However, the other thing they all agreed on was that their actual airtime increased by an amazing amount once the Standard was abandoned.

    Several of them commented about friends and acquaintances they lost thanks to luffing dives in the Standard.

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