Skysailor > September 2006
The HGFA General Manager's Report


By Chris Fogg

History – Grafton, Jacaranda Festival and John Dickenson

In 1963 a man by the name of John Dicken­son living in Grafton, NSW, designed and built the first stable, controllable manned kite.
The kite was designed and built specifically for inclusion in the annual Jacaranda Festival upon request from the local water ski club, as part of their con­tri­bution to the festi­val. A mate of Dicken­son, knowing of John’s interest in aviation, showed John a photo that had recently been published in a maga­zine, illustrating a Rogallo parawing. The parawing, and variations of it, had been undergoing clas­si­fied NASA develop­ment at Langley, USA, for the Gemini Space Program under the direction of its designer, Dr Francis Rogallo, as a means of returning space­craft to Earth. This one photo was all that Dicken­son need­ed to complete his own design of a manned kite – a design that was to become the turn­ing point for all who fly hang gliders today.
Dickenson had been a long time avia­tion enthusiast, modelling various types of light weight aircraft since he was a young boy. He had already successfully devel­oped a gyroplane with his own blade/rotor design. For several years prior to seeing the Rogallo photo­graph, Dickenson had been experi­ment­ing with fabric wing designs based on the skeletal and membrane struc­ture of a bat wing. Seeing the Rogallo photo illustrated to Dickenson that his own wing support structure could be made a lot simpler. After a few mathematical calculations, a few modifica­tions and some weight testing, Dickenson came up with an airframe design that was distinctly different from that which he had seen in the photo and, among other things, incorporated the essential ‘A’-frame ‘weight­shift control system’.
The first Dickenson glider, constructed with simple materials comprising a frame made of wooden spars and a sail made of blue plastic banana wrap held together with electrical tape, was ready for flight at the total cost of $24. The glider was first flown by Rod Fuller (chosen as test pilot because of his expertise as a water skier) for promo­tional photos to the Jacaranda Festival in September 1963 and then flown several times during the festival by Fuller and by Dickenson himself. The achievement of these flights are historical moments in aviation and compa­ra­ble to any other of man’s significant achieve­ments. The Dickenson design finally solved the aviation problem which had eluded so many before him and achieved the age-old dream to allow man to fly like a bird.
This year the Jacaranda Festival runs from 27 October through to 5 November, dur­ing which the city of Grafton will recognise John’s achievement and contribution to avia­tion, with the Mayor of Clarence Valley Council unveiling a special plaque in John’s honour. A replica of the original kite is also being built with as similar materials as can be found today and will be on display as part of the festival. The men who helped define the historical moment will also be present at the festival, including John Dickenson (aviation inventor), Rod Fuller (the first man to fly the original kite), Pat Crowe (the boat driver for all early flights of the kite) and many of the original members of the water ski club who put forward the challenge to have John build the kite. The HGFA will also be represented, with plans to provide some activities to demon­strate the modern use of John’s wing design. It would be great to see a turn out of our membership to meet and speak with the designer of our aircraft, especially on the week­end (28 and 29 October) when a fly-in is planned by the local aero, gliding and home-built aircraft clubs.
Details of the Festival can be found at www.jacarandafestival.org.au/ .
For some reading on the history of how John’s design changed the world of free flight aviation have a read of the following web pages: http://grafton.nsw.free.fr/ski_wing/ , www.bchpa.org/newsletter/may04/hghistory.htm .

Call for Funding of our National Teams
As many of you are aware the Paragliding World Championships will be held in Manilla, NSW, 24 February to 9 March 2007 and the Hang Gliding World Championships will be held in Big Springs, Texas, 8 to 18 August 2007. Australian teams will stand good chances for podium places in both events.
What some of you may not be aware of is the limited funding that our National teams receive. The HGFA, deriving its income from membership fees and working to keep those fees to a minimum, does not have the capa­city to solely fund these athletes to the extent they need for training, travel, accommodation and entry to the various comps where they represent our country.
Our membership is a unique single multi-faceted resource which can assist or provide sole support from within our own organisation, either through joint contribu­tion or single sponsorship by those who have such a capa­city. If you would like to support our National teams in getting to these events, please contact the HGFA office or myself to pledge a donation or discuss the potential to sponsor a team through the entire World Championship challenge.

CASR 103, 149 Progress
The new air laws creep ever closer to finalisation. Part 103 Draft NPRM has been reviewed and is now in the hands of legal draft­ing before publication to the general public.
Part 149 has now gone through its initial risk review, designed to ensure that the rules are safety oriented and neces­sary. The guiding principle for all sport aviation regula­tions is ‘simple rules for simple aircraft’. The objective of Part 103 is to consolidate all existing rules applicable to sport and recrea­tion aviation, includ­ing training activities, into a single stand-alone rule set as opposed to the current situation of having a series of exemptions from the general rules. These Part 103 rules aim to set the general guide­lines for the sport and recreation aviation sector and provide for the more detailed requirements of operations for the particular air­craft within the sector to be placed into the Procedures Manuals of the administering organisations approved under the CASR Part 149.
The process to develop these changes in Australian air law has not exactly been speedy, having started back in 1998. Changing any law is never a speedy pro­cess. The main concession to the time it has taken, however, is the fact that the sporting sector
has been intimately involved in the drafting of the regulations for Parts 103 and 149. This means we are creating our own rules. We are defin­ing our own boundaries of operations and are doing so with agreement that these operations are fair to undertake and bear no higher risk to existing and develop­ing large commercial operations.
The legal change process is now near­ing its completion. The Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) is expected to be released within the next one to two months, with the final implementation of the rules being estimated as some time towards the end of the first quarter of 2007.

Magazine Articles
It has been said many times before that this organisation (like any other) relies on its membership for input and direction. Among our membership are many talented and knowledgeable pilots. There are also a great many up-and-coming pilots hungry for the knowledge and lessons from the more expe­rienced. The magazine is an ideal medium where experienced pilots can pass on their wisdom through articles relating to the vari­ous forms of flying, including technical articles to help give a better understanding of the environment in which we fly, the forces of nature, the construction of our wings and the skills needed to pilot them. For those of you who have the knowledge, I encourage you to write such articles and share what you know. In turn, you will make the magazine a better read and of greater worth to the membership that reads it.

Wind Farms continued…
The discussion regarding wind farms and their effect on aviation in general, con­tin­ues with a recent notification from CASA indicating that a special project will be developed for further education and potential regulation regarding these farms. The CASA project is only just getting started but you may monitor its progress at http://rrp.casa.gov.au/project/as0607.asp .

Accidents
The month of July has been very quiet regarding accidents within Australia, with nothing to report. Anyone receiving Google notifications, however, will know of several major tragic accidents involving paragliders in the USA and England. The following report comes from Japan, where a concerned member of the public has written to many sporting aviation groups to high­light the dangers of non-regulated powered operations – the following email is produced in entirety with approval from the author:

Dear HGFA
Although the following incident does not relate directly to any Australians, and took place in Japan, we’d like to bring it to your attention with the hope of informing your members and hopefully preventing any future re-occurrences.
We are not personally involved with the sport of Powered Paragliding in any way, but were enjoying a day out at Utsumi Beach in Aichi Prefecture, Japan, when a PPG pilot failed on take off and came down on a young woman, sunbathing and enjoying a beach BBQ next to us. The machine had a wooden propeller, and astonishingly, there was no protection or cage behind the propeller assembly, which made it potentially lethal.
Being next to her on the beach, we saw the woman go down, and rushed to the spot. With incredible luck, we had a doctor among our own party, who managed to save the girl’s life until a helicopter arrived. The blade cut into her face, causing a deep 15cm cut along one side. The injury was severe and a major facial artery was cut, causing substantial blood loss. It was only thanks to the doctor on the scene that this was staunched; other­wise, she would not be with us any longer.
Although we did not know her pre­vi­ously, we have been shocked by this accident; how it happened and how it can be prevented. We visited her in hospital, and she now faces a few months in high care, and upwards of a year of plastic surgery. Her cheek bone was destroyed by the propeller and her right eye was lost. She lost most of the teeth on the left hand side of her face and the peripheral facial nerve may have been severed, causing possible future paralysis. At present, her jaw is wired shut and she cannot eat nor speak. She is breathing via a tube in her throat. Tomorrow, she is having bone taken from her leg in an attempt to rebuild part of her cheek via a transplant. At this stage, it is unclear what her future will be and what other problems may surface, but after 10 days, her vital condition has at least stabilised.
Looking at the machine after the event, especially the damage her face did to the unguarded wooden propeller, we are astonished that a machine such as this could be flown on a crowded beach. This in itself suggests a lack of awareness of the potential danger. Checking homepages for PPGs, we note that they are often sold as ‘toys’ and it is unclear what, if any, licence is required to purchase or fly them.
We are amazed to see that there is no guard at the back – no doubt this has already caused a number of accidents; and a fatal one is coming for sure.
While I’m aware that this incident happened outside the geographical area of your organisation, I write in the hope that it will raise awareness among your members of its possibility, and make pilots think very carefully about possible dangers. I would also urge members to investigate whether the lack of a guard is a serious design and safety flaw that needs to be addressed before a fatality forces the issue. Locally, this incident has caused a major backlash against para-sports, and has done great damage to the image of the sport. I am sure this is not in anyone’s interest.
Incidentally, the pilot was a 57 year old company worker with 10 years’ experience of PPG. This was his fourth attempt at flying that day. Apparently he is being investigated by the manslaughter division of the Japanese police.

In response to the author’s email I have indicated that Australia does in fact impose a requirement to achieve a certificate of pilot proficiency in order to legally operate a motorised paraglider. The simple regulations that Australia maintains regarding motorised operations are designed to ensure that circumstances such as the one noted above do not occur within Australia.
 

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