Natalie Akoorie

Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Old wing hang glider excites club members

Hang gliding enthusiasts Hugh Ross, left, with his son Clark Ross. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Hang gliding enthusiasts Hugh Ross, left, with his son Clark Ross. Photo / Jason Oxenham

When Hugh Ross bought a hang glider in 1977 it was "all the rage".

The Karaka farmer strapped his then 10-year-old son Clark in a seat he'd made out of car seatbelts in the Seagull 3 glider and together they got it airborne for a few brief minutes.

"I don't know why he didn't want to fly it but he strapped me into it," recalls Clark Ross.

"He was holding it while I ran and then all of sudden I got a bit of lift as they call it, and I don't know how far I travelled down a hill but all I remember is there was a willow tree in the middle of the paddock and I was heading for it. I crashed and flipped it."

Fortunately Clark Ross was not seriously injured.

Hugh Ross, a private pilot, said it was either himself or his son who would fly the hang glider first.

"I said 'If I fly it and I'm hurt you'll have to milk the cows' and he wasn't very old and he didn't want to milk the cows.

"I think once he got up a bit he got a bit high and decided to get back to earth and dived it rather quickly."

After that Clark Ross was not keen for another go.

"We wrapped it up then," Hugh Ross said, and the hang glider has been in storage ever since.

So when Auckland Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club member Paddy Monro heard about the old Rogallo wing hang glider, the first model to ever be manufactured, he couldn't resist the chance to see if it would still fly.

Mr Monro, a former hang glider test pilot and pioneer club member, said he had been "on the hunt" for the 6 metre winged contraption for a while.

It was a chance meeting on the beach at Waiuku recently when Clark Ross recounted the story of his first flight at the age of 10 on the Seagull 3.

"I was gobsmacked," Mr Monro said. "I thought he was lucky to be alive to be telling me the story."

He went to Hugh Ross' barn in Karaka and found the hang glider, still in good condition, and reassembled it at his home in Glendowie.

In a lead up to the club's 40th reunion Mr Monro flew the Seagull 3 at Karioitahi Beach, Waiuku On Saturday - it's first time in the air in 37 years.

"I stripped it to make sure it was all ok."

Hugh and Ross Clark reckoned Mr Monro was a "brave" man but the hang gliding teacher said he trialled the old glider along the beach first, on a tether which allowed him to get 15 metres in the air.

"Then we took it up the top which is about 300 feet (90m). It was spectacular. It was great, absolutely fabulous."

To find out more about the 40th reunion of the club on November 1 visit cloudbase.org.nz.

- NZ Herald

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