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Simon Murphy's Flying Circus!

I am fortunate in having one of the largest private collections of vintage hang gliders in the UK. The collection started when I felt the need to track down an early Rogallo wing, and wrote reports of the events that led up to a successful flight. Those reports appeared in the Free Flyer magazines that were edited by Harriet Pottinger in the 1990's.

As a result of all that activity, people started offering me their old wings as and when they needed space, and so my collection grew and grew. Eventually I also ran into problems of space, so a few of the gliders have now moved on to a better place. NOT the scrap yard! My policy is to do whatever I can to ensure that each glider is in the hands of somebody who will derive HUGE pleasure from owning it and will preserve it for posterity.

This collection marks my deep respect for those pioneers who designed and flew the earliest hang gliders, in the days when everything was done By Guess and By God. Before computer design techniques and test rigs came into play a much greater emphasis was, necessarily, put on trial and error. Of course, error was sometimes very costly, and we should salute those who risked all to develop our sport.

This is the full list of gliders I have had in the collection. They are shown in approximate order of their date of manufacture, but the stated dates are often nothing more than educated guesses. If you know better, please tell me!

I am planning to attend the first British Vintage Hang Glider Rally in Keswick in September. See you there?

Eipper-formance Flexi-Flyer

1973. Well used. The original owner was Dennis Irving, who bought the wing when studying at University in the States, and imported it when he came home. Sadly, he later died in an accident when converting to a rigid wing in 1976. The glider was donated by his friend Rupert Brown, who had stored the wing in his barn for 25 years. It was, very briefly, "flown" by Simon from a small site in Devon. Simon is a chicken, of course, but he reported that there was no feedback in pitch to let him know what was going on, and declined the suggestion that he should carry it to the top of the hill to get some altitude.

Wasp Harness

John Wadsworth has kindly donated his very early Wasp harness, which does indicate just how far we have come in this sport. I'm planning to pluck up all my 21st century courage...... and hang in it in my harness rig.

McBroom Arion

1975. Quite well used, but in reasonable condition. This glider has a much more substantial airframe than the Flexi-flyer, and as such is likely to get flown at some point in the future. It does have a bent A-frame, but in those days all used gliders had bent A-frames! This Arion was donated during a Balloon Flight with Rob Schwab's Westcountry Ballooning. Hang Gliding was mentioned during the day, and Rob's customer asked if he knew anyone who would like an old glider. Thanks Rob!

McBroom Arion Plans

My thanks to Richard Bottomley, who has donated an original set of plans and flying instructions for a McBroom Arion. I'm almost tempted to build one.....

Those were the days!

McBroom Cobra

My mate Mike Glanvill started off on a Cobra, back in 1977. It was a good-looking machine at a time when designers were trying to go beyond the standard rogallo. Multiple battens and increased area at the tips made the Cobra stand out from the crowd. This one is complete and original, but isn't really in flyable condition, having been soted under a roof for thirty years. Photo will follow soon!

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 we managed to buy it! It is the second most expensive glider in the collection - second only to the magic Kiss which cost me hundreds of pounds due to a court case!

This Hiway is in superb condition, and I flew it 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. However, I was disconcerted by the fact that the sail would sometimes stop flapping and would emit a single loud "Crack". I 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 I didn't take off again.

Hiway Cloudbase

Now that's what you call a glider! Battens and deflexor wires! If you were around in the late seventies this may bring back a few memories - multiple stripes and a massive wing area. Before I started flying I wanted a Hiway wing 'cos they used tidy fittings and looked really cool. That all changed when I found Brian Wright and his Eclipse designs, but even now I can see the attraction.....

Hiway Super Scorpion Mk 10G

This glider was probably built in 1982, and is in remarkably good condition - as you might expect of something that used to belong to the Royal Engineers. It sports the Union Jack keel which Hiway introduced for British Team Pilots at the America's Cup events. We have only rigged it and taken a couple of pictures, and although it looks a bit on the large side, it is certainly a candidate for a test flight when the weather is right.

Wasp Falcon 3


Wasp Gryphon

1979? This glider is incomplete, and has suffered from corrosion to steel components. Could probably be made airworthy again.

Wasp Gryphon (2)

This gorgeous Gryphon is now in the safe keeping of Steve Pionk, who will treasure it even more than I did.

Chargus Vega 2

This Chargus Vega 2 is in superb condition, and dates from about 1976 - it was a current model when I started flying. It was designed as a first glider, stablemate to the higher-performing and rather radical Midas. This glider came to me from Rachel Lavender, whose dad Mike used to fly it back in the day.

This harness came in with the second of my Vega 2 gliders.

Chargus Midas E

1978, almost as new condition - Superb! I owned an all-white Midas E in 1977. It wasn't really strong enough to put up with my poor landings.... This lovely example has now moved tomIreland to live with John, who will pamper, cherish and probably fly it.

Chargus Vortex

1980, good nick. Now moved to a better place - John in Ireland

Chargus Cyclone 165 Mk 1

1979. Just look at the aspect ratio of the Cyclone! This particular glider was built for Simon when he was a dealer for Chargus. He flew it as his own for a few months, before selling it on to Graham Rock. Graham used it to good effect for several years, even taking a Canadian tourist up dual on one occasion! This may seem a strange thing to do with a Cyclone, but all is explained by the fact that she was rather attractive. Graham bought other gliders, and despite many offers from Simon to buy the Cyclone back, he eventually preferred to loan it to him on the condition that it would be looked after. We thus regard this lovely glider as still belonging to Graham. It is in very good condition, and not so long ago Simon flew it on a very soarable day at Selworthy. He found he could get up with most of the modern gliders that were flying that day, and the handling felt quite similar to his Moyes CSX. He couldn't penetrate very well, however, and the inefficiency in turns was rather noticeable. Even so, it was a very pleasant flight!

Fledge 2

19.2.11: Just in, it came as part of a glider sale to Andy Noctor. He would only buy my used Amour if I took the Fledge off his hands! Wow! I've always wanted one of these.

I'm delighted to have it, but have to admit that I haven't yet managed to rig it completely. I almost got there last winter, but it got dark...... Anyone brave enough to fly it?

Photo to follow....

Goldmarque Gyr

1981. Almost brand new - probably never flown. This was the earlier version of the glider which was without tip struts and lufflines. It has been passed on to Chris Pidler, because he adores them, and will look after it better than I can. In fact, he will fly it!

Goldmarque Javelin

Steve Hunt donated this glider, but it may be a while before I get it photographed. The Javelin was rather heavy, and seemed to me to owe something to the old Chargus Cyclone design. High aspect ratio, and rather interesting...

Solar Storm

1981, Large size. Almost complete and quite tidy. We intend to make up the missing parts and fly this glider, not least because Martyn has always wanted one!

Skyhook Gipsy

Circa 1981 - was very nice, but it has gone to a better home.

Airwave UP Comet 165

16.6.07. Thanks to the generosity of Justin and David Parsons we have just taken delivery of David's old UP Comet. This is a particularly significant glider for Simon, because his switch from Chargus to Airwave resulted in the hang glider business becoming a viable alternative to a "proper" job. Simon Murphy's Flying Circus sold many hundreds of Airwave gliders, and it was the UP Comet, built under licence by Airwave on the Isle of Wight, which started the ball rolling. This glider really brings back some memories!

Airwave Magic4 166 Full Race

I'm a sucker for a sob story, and when Andy Farrow said his tidy Full Race was either coming to me or to the tip, I had to give it a home! The 166FR was a big, heavy glider, too stiff for wimps like me (but the 155FR was a sweetie!). John Pendry won everything with his but, geniuses apart, you needed a bit of wieght and strength to enjoy them.

Airwave Calypso

This superb Airwave Calypso came to me last year, donated by Rachel in memory of her dad, Mike Lavender, who used to fly it around the midlands. She just wanted to make sure it didn't have to go to the tip, and I was very happy to oblige.

In fact, it is so good that it is likely to bring another old pilot back into the sport - Rachel has approved the idea of selling it to a deserving pilot - and I know just the bloke!

Airwave Kiss 154

One of the most successful hang gliders of all time, the Kiss was developed when the Airwave team was at its strongest, with Rory Carter and Graham Deegan at the helm and John Pendry, Bruce Goldsmith and Robbie Whittal all involved in R&D.

A few years ago I flew it at Beer Head. Just over an hour cruising down to Ladram Bay and back (past the 2-piece Napoli) reminding me of the many virtues of the Kiss. It was announced just before the '88 European Championships. The name was laughed at, but the glider took something like six of the first seven places, and the laughing stopped.

Airwave Magic 6

Another glider donated by Steve Hunt, the Magic 6 wasn't Airwave's finest design. It was an attempt to build a glider for the club pilot, based on the Kiss (which some people considered was too advanced). But the M6 was actually harder to fly in some respects, and the gliders varied somewhat. Some were very nice.....Photos will follow in due course.

WW Harness

Steve Hunt donated this rather pointed WW harness, which must date from the 1980s. It has certain similarities to a British harness that was around at that time the Cruise. The Cruise had a very different tail, though.

With Grateful Thanks to.....

Brian Johnson
Harriet Pottinger
Rob Schwab
Paul Farley
Joint Services Hang Gliding
Jason Board (British Hang Gliding Museum)
Graham Rock
Steve Pionk
Justin and David Parsons
James Atkinson
Chris Pidler
John Wadsworth
Barrie Slipper
Andy Farrow
Steve Hunt
Richard Bottomley

if you have a glider, or any other item of kit which you feel we might appreciate, please don't hesitate to contact Simon.