A brief history of the foot-launched powered hang glider

By Willie Bodenstein


The foot-launched powered hang glider (FLPHG), essentially is a hang glider harness with a motor and propeller in pusher configuration added to an ordinary hang glider control frame.

The pilot can, as in a conventional unpowered hang glider, foot-launch from a hill or from flat ground, needing a length of about a football field to get airborne, or much less if there is an oncoming breeze and no obstacles.

FLPHG's, a return to the type of low-speed aircraft that were common in the early years of aviation, were developed from hang gliders in the late 1970s. during the 1970s, motorization of simple gliders, especially those portable and foot-launched, became the goal of many inventors and gradually, small wing-mounted power packs were adapted.

These early experiments went largely unrecorded, even in log books, let alone the press, because the pioneers were uncomfortably aware that the addition of an engine made the craft liable to registration, airworthiness legislation, and the pilot liable to expensive licensing and probably, insurance.

Inventors from Australia, France and England produced several successful microlight motor gliders in the early 1970s

Currently, there are two harness configurations: prone (face down) and sitting. Both configurations allow the pilot to take off and land on their feet.

Foot-launched powered hang glider (FLPHG) harnesses are built around a light metal frame with the engine and propeller mounted on the rear in a pusher configuration. Powered harnesses weigh 22-32 kg (50-70 lb) not including the safety parachute and fuel, and fold neatly into a 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) long harness bag with a handle.

Most powered harnesses in production are equipped with the Radne Raket 120 two stroke engine which is based on Husqvarna XP3120 chainsaw parts. It has a displacement of 118 cubic centimetres (7.2 cu in) and produces about 15 hp (11 kW) at 8900 RPM if equipped with a tuned exhaust; when coupled to a 1:3.5 belt-driven reduction drive and a 52" x 22" propeller, it produces about 100 lbf (440 N) of static thrust.

For heavy pilots or pilots operating from higher than 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) MSL fields, a powered harness equipped with an 18 hp (13 kW) engine is recommended.[37]

Unofficial FLPHG World Records

Confirmed but not validated by the FAI

On 5 August 1978, French pioneer Bernard Danis mated a Soarmaster unit to this 168 square feet (15.6 m2) SK 2SS wing and climbed to 1,825 metres (5,988 ft) above sea level at the Southern Alps.

On 9 May 1978 David Cook becomes the first pilot to cross the English Channel while flying on a foot-launched powered hang glider; he used a VJ 23F glider.

On 7 May 1979, British pilot Gerry Breen set a new distance record for FLPHG of 325 kilometres (202 mi) from Wales to Norwich, a non-stop world distance record that still stands today; using a Soarmaster, the flight took about 4 hours with a tailwind of about 25 knots (29 mph) and reportedly consumed 25 litres (5.5 imp gal) of fuel.

In July 2002, Italian hang-gliding champion and conservationist, Angelo d'Arrigo, guided a flock of 10 endangered western Siberian cranes, bred in captivity, with an Icaro hang glider equipped with an NRG powered harness 5,300 kilometres (3,300 mi) from the Arctic circle in Siberia, across Kazakhstan to the shores of the Caspian Sea in Iran, avoiding Afghanistan and Pakistan where they fall victim to the abundant guns.

For the most part, he relied on the sun and wind for propulsion in order to teach the young cranes to soar long distances. This $250,000 USD experiment lasted for six months and finished in winter 2002.

On 24 May 2009, Irish pilot Patrick Laverty broke the foot-launched powered hang glider altitude world record. He used an Aeros Discus 15 hang glider coupled to a supine custom-made harness equipped with a 29 hp ROS 125 engine with the Supa-Tuna tuning lights system on a WB32 carburettor.

Takeoff was at sea level and he flew to an altitude of 5,348 metres (17,546 ft) ASL over Talybont, Ceredigion, Wales, UK.He carried oxygen and 10 litres of fuel, per U.K. regulations; his variometer indicated 30 to 50fpm climb rate at the time fuel ran out.

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