Thursday, April 17, 2014

Hanging Loose 42 years ago....

Recently and old friend from high school days came out west for a job, and we managed to get together to reminisce..especially about one of the most fun things I have ever done.

Carleton and Me 42 years later

In 1972 a guy named Jack Lambie wrote an article for Soaring magazine (my Dad subscribed) and published a set of plans on "how to build your own Chanute-style hang glider"..he called his design "Hang Loose" (hey it was the 70's ;)

When I saw that article, I knew instantly I had to build one. I can remember sketching ideas for such craft since I was in 5th grade. (some like the bicycle powered one in a Merlin Jones Disney movie I really liked)

So I ordered the plans (see pic of cover below) Carleton and I built one. On one of the days of testing we happened to get photographed and interviewed by the local newspaper. (I think the reporter was just happening by at the time)

I have kept a clipping of that photo (as a png of course) ever since. (See below)

Unbeknownst to me Carleton had the original copy of the plans! So I have scanned them in too and it is fun to remember building the thing.

We had to make some changes to the design: for one thing we could not get bamboo to make the ribs. Instead I cut them out of 1/8"  plywood, about 1" thick top to bottom and mounted the ends between two pine blocks. Heavier than the bamboo but a better fit to the shape for sure.

We also could not get the yellow pine that was suggested and used spruce I think ..but it had some very small knots in it that did cause a problem at one point. (Spar failure in flight! )

At the time, I already had a sailplane pilot's license (you can solo at 14 and it was cheaper than flying power planes) and of course I had flown a lot of model airplanes, 
so I was elected the test pilot. You can see me in that photo with my leg out  to move the CG (center of gravity ) forward a bit.

The angle of the tail was not set properly so I could not get the angle of attack enough and basically just fell down with the thing. After fixing that back at Carleton's house (right across from the field in the picture) it worked great. We both flew it many times down a little 20' grassy drop-off. 

The feeling of the glider lifting you up as it gained speed was AWESOME. Probably the most fun airplane I have ever been in 8)

You could not really turn the thing at all...too much stability in roll. We talked about adding some tip-dragger rudders or ailerons but the flight times were short enough you didn't really need any left - right steering.

We had a few snafus but by never flying higher than it was safe to fall we didn't get hurt. Spectators would offer to hook us up to their cars with a rope and and tow us ...but we were too smart for that ;)


  1. How long did it take to build?

    1. I couple of's pretty simple. The framing was assembled in my garage, then we took it to Carleton's for the final assembly since he had the flying field nearby. Both my dad and his dad had pretty good tools around.

  2. That's fantastic! It's great to have a dream and follow it through. And to do it while you were so young shows a lot of maturity and determination.

  3. Emailed this post to Steve in CO. Loves planes. MIT aero/astro grad and cycling fanatic. Resting foot;( So glad you're running Chicago!!!

  4. I built one also with advice from my Dad and brothers when I was 17. I laminated the ribs out of 1/16"x1" strips, 4 strips per rib. I did not have enough dihedrial in the wings, I think. I and my brothers flew it on a hill that is now covered with houses. It got wrecked in a gust of wind. Weight shifting is not very effective! The wings were stored in my parents garage for years. Fun introduction to flight. Next time, movable control surfaces! Thank you, Mr. Lambie.

  5. I built one in early 1971 with a flight instructor friend. We were getting our A&P FAA mechanic license at the time.
    It cost more than the $35 said in the plans...more like $50.
    Anyway we followed the plans to the letter. I've always really respected bamboo after that.
    We were near Douglas, Arizona. I got the first flight and instead of soaring 15 ft like the plans suggested, I went to about 150 ft. (Jumped off a small mountain with too much wind.)
    Anyway it was great...a feeling I'll never experience again.
    My partner flew it next and he shifted his weight left and right while "S" turning down the mountain. Trouble is it took about 7 to 9 seconds for anything to happen. He got to the bottom while in a bank and could not level it. He cartwheeled and destroyed everything except the bamboo. None of the bamboo broke.
    Super time.

  6. The fall of 1978 when I was 18 a friend gave the plans. I built according to plans. Had a hard time finding a good hill in Detroit Mich. It flew best with my little brother Kieth. Lots of fun

    1. Of course little brothers make the best test pilots 8)
      I wonder how many of these things were made?

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