>>> Hang glider LANCER 4
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| Hang glider card : Lancer 4|
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The Lancer IV was one of the great fun gliders of the 70s. Originally produced in New Zealand (one of the principals was Graeme Bird, a wonderful pilot and I believe designer or co-designer of the Lancer - last I heard he'd given up the sport and was living in Santa Barbara).
The Lancer was brought to the U.S. by my late, great friend Marty Alameda. Marty started Flight Designs in Salinas, California and began producing the Lancer under license in 1979 as I recall.
Marty had previously worked for Seagull Aviation until Mike Riggs sold the company. It was briefly run in Carpinteria, CA by the new owner, but sadly before long suffered a business spiral dive and was run into the ground by unrealistic expectations of sales and lack of a competitive design to answer the wave of Comet-like double-surface gliders that exploded onto the scene at the end of the '70s.
I worked briefly for Marty at Flight Designs in 1981. In 1979 I was a film and tv actor hired to play a lecherous hang glider pilot (is there any other kind?) for a movie shot in Invermere, Canada, on the west side of the Canadian Rockies.
John Duthie and Dean Kupchanko, both at one time Canadian National Hang Gliding Champions and a couple of hustling office building promoters among other things, had suggested me to the director because I was the only HG'ing actor they knew. I got the job. They also needed gliders. I called Marty at Flight Designs.
"Hey, we need 3 Lancers for a movie, big ones, for a flying scene, can you get them to us pronto?"
"No problem," he said, "I'll have them test flown right away and get them up to you."
Now Marty was a great guy. A wonderful flyer. We'd had many life-memorable flights in the years we'd known each other. He was my best friend and best hang gliding buddy, and I miss him deeply to this day.
Marty was a great business man too. But he had one glaring character flaw that I remember now with fondness, but which caused me to leave his employ after just a few months at Flight Designs: he had difficulty telling the truth to customers if the truth wasn't what he thought they wanted to hear.
In this case, that meant the following: Truth: "We'll just barely have time to get the gliders to you in time for your movie."
Marty: "No problem, we'll get them to you in plenty of time."
Of course, as we found out once I went on location and found the gliders hadn't arrived, they hadn't been shipped out...nor test flown...nor built.
Anyway, not to speak ill of the dead (Marty was killed not to long after test flying the ultralight he had designed and built in a joint venture with Pioneer Aviation, the Flight Star), he did come through in the end...barely.
In fact, the gliders arrived the night before in Calgary. Dean Kupchanko drove over the Rockies to get them and brought them back. We assembled them as I recall, then they were helicoptered to the top of Mt. Swansea, 5665 feet tall and a honking mountain. No test flight. No trim adjustments. No nuttin'. First flights, top of the mountain. Not good.
We were waiting there with the movie crew, because the scene, with Timothy Bottoms, Linda Purl and me and the pilots, was due to be shot as soon as we could get the gliders together and fly for the cameras.
The height above landing for Swansea is around 3,000 feet. Far below I remember a golf course, and I could see just about all of it. It looked tiny. The sand traps looked like gnats eggs.
It was a steep, beautiful, pine tree-and-rock-covered mountain, with lakes Invermere and Windermere like beautiful azure jewels cool and inviting in the narrow valley below.
Anyway, as you've guessed, Marty had sent the gliders just in the nick of time, which meant our first flights, on gliders none of us had ever flown, would be on top of Mt. Swansea. Dean and John had not even flown the Lancer model in any size anywhere. I'd gotten some time on the giant 220 square foot version at Fort Funston, CA once, which was hardly a suitable comparison. That glider was a monster floater but you wouldn't want to use it for anything else but ridget soaring in smooth air, it was jimongous.
It was blowing 25 to 30 mph straight into Swansea that day. "This happens maybe four or five times a year," I remember John Duthie saying. "It'll be great."
"Yeah," I said, "As long as the gliders aren't pitch divergent, are trimmed properly, or have a turn in them that we won't be able to control."
"It'll be alright. We've got our 'chutes anyway," said John, who had a lot of flying experience and was a pretty casual dude. I'd met him and Dean at the Grouse Mt. World Invitational in 1977 and we'd competed together in '78 and '79. I'd finished in the top 20 both those years so they knew I was a decent pilot, which is how I'd gotten the job in the first place.
But I was in no way at their level of skill or experience. I was pretty much a mostly out-of-work actor who went flying to keep from getting depressed at how lousy my career was going (I'd been in a stage actor for years, then did a tv series, SWAT, in the mid 70s, after which it was all downhill acting-wise.)
So here I am, fresh off the airplane from Los Angeles, at the top of Mt. Swansea, a mountain I'd never flown, setting up a glider I'd never flown, flying for a movie company who had no idea what they were about to see, with three cameras set up and ready to "roll 'em!", wondering if I'm out of my mind, or rather, how far I'm out of my mind. And hoping that Marty had told me the truth at least about test flying the gliders at Marina Beach near Monterey, CA the morning of the day they were then broken down and shipped up to us.
"They're all perfect," he'd said, after I'd grilled him with no small amount of anxiety the night before on the phone. "No sweat, they fly great. I flew them myself."
Marty was a great pilot. The Flying Flea, we called him, because he weighed all of 135 lbs., but had the courage of an 800 pound gorilla. These were Lancer 190s as I recall. Lancers, even the smaller size, were well known for their wonderful ability to float like a butterfly in the lightest breeze, while still retaining control and having, for the day, decent top end speed without falling out of the sky.
But with that wind honking straight into launch on the rocky summit of Mt. Swansea, we could have soared in a 16' standard with no trouble. Hell, we could have soared holding on to a couple of tablespoons in our outstretched hands. It was freaky, frankly frighteningly vertical and I was scared.
Oh, one other thing: The movie director decided I should be the first one to launch. And I agreed! How's that for topping off the pyramid of good judgements?
I remember my heart pounding like the beat from a Paul Oakenfold mix as I had three wiremen walk my glider out to the launch, which was a steep rocky outcropping clear of trees, and get it in position for the cameras.
"Don't let go of those wires whatever you do!" I told the three film crewmen, who had never seen a hang glider before. John and Dean were busy ensuring their own survival under their own gliders behind me. The wind was whipping the sails fiercely.
I briefed my wiremen carefully about the signals I would be giving them, about what to do ("Keep the nose down and wings level") and what not to do ("Don't let go until I tell you! Don't let the nose get too high! Don't let one wing get too high, or I'll die!")
They understood from my words and the panicked look on my face, I'm sure, that I wasn't being overdramatic, as actors can often be. This was real life, which the wind-shuddering glider reinforced for them.
I walked under the glider to hook in. Maybe 30 people, actors and crew, stood around watching. Nothing like an audience with all these new things to contend with, I remember thinking. I pushed them out of my mind. I only had one question running through my head: "Get out and away from the hill, whatever it takes. Jesus, I hope Marty was right about them being in trim."
A sound man came running over with a big, boxy walkie talkie and duct-taped it to my left down tube. He gave me a quick lesson in how to operate the thing, which I could barely hear because the wind and ripping sound of sail flutter was so loud.
He ran off to set up the other two pilots. The director, Harvey Hart, stuck his head under the sail. "You all ready to go?"
"I think so!"
"Yeah, I'm sure. Are your guys ready? We only get one crack at this."
"We're all set, no strain. Okay, listen for me to yell 'action', that's when we roll. But don't take off unless you feel it's right, don't you worry about us."
You probably can't imagine how much I appreciated that comment. Actors often feel a lot of performance anxiety from the pressure to do well in front of the cameras. Copious amounts of money flow down the drain every minute of every day of a production. No actor wants to be the one that costs the company thousands of dollars because he blows a take.
That submerged and constant anxiety on the set triples the moment a director yells "Action!" So I appreciated Harvey's admonition to put safety first.
There were three cameras set up to film our flight: a 35mm Arriflex on a tripod just to my right, another down the slope in the trees and a third one behind that would shoot out toward the valley.
"Forget about the damn cameras," I told myself over and over as I made sure the glider was held fast by my wire angels. "Make a clean launch, that's all you have to do and the rest will take care of itself."
I clipped in and yelled instructions to the wire guys. "Slowly, slowly now! Bring up the nose. Keep the wings level!" The nose guy had both hands on the wires and his eyes were as big as saucers. "You're doing fine, that's it, just keep the nose coming up!."
Gusty eddies swirled around my feet as the nose came up. "That's it, keep 'er coming...up a bit more...wing guys are doing fine...up a bit more...hold it right there!"
Everybody was watching me. I was watching the faces of the wiremen, particularly the nose guy. I pointed to my eyes and to his. He nodded and pinned me straight on with that "How did I get in this situation?" look. I knew I had his attention.
"Hold the nose and don't let go! I'm going to do a hang check. He nodded as I clipped in, checked the lines, proned out. Everything looked good.
I got back on my feet and barked, "Now let's stand up. Everybody let the glider come straight up! Nose man, keep the nose at the same angle, so the sail just starts to fill with air!"
To his credit, he did it perfectly. The glider came up until it pulled against my hang straps. The wind was really howling. Just get off straight, just get off straight, was all I could think. I kept my eyes on that nose man because he was holding my life in his hands.
"When I say 'Go!' everybody release. You must all release at the same time!"
I heard them all shout acknowledgement.
This was it. If ever I needed a glider to be trimmed and balanced, here and now was that time.
In perfect unison they released me as I tried to run forward. The noseman dropped to the side and down to the rocks, sure he was about to be run over, but I didn't even get one step against the ground before I shot up into the sky like a rocket. On the film (The High Country) you can see the bottom of my legs dangling through the top of the frame. The camera had totally misjudged what my line of flight would be.
I sucked in the bar to track away from the hill, kicked into the cocoon, and within two seconds realized with a huge sigh of relief that indeed my dear friend Marty had not let us down: the glider was perfectly trimmed, and I was immediately comfortable in it.
It turned out to be one of those amazing flying days. Dean and John launched and we eventually got sorted out and flew formation in the incredible lift band, which extended about a quarter mile out from the mountain and up...well, I'll get to how high that lift band was in a minute.
Over the walkie talkie we would get instructions from the director over where to fly, and we'd do our best to comply. The problem was it was almost impossible to comply because we couldn't keep those big, floaty Lancers down close to the top of the mountain.
Once I followed the two of them as John said, "Follow me!" on the radio. They headed up the lower shoulder, toward the back of the peak. I was terrified that we'd get rotored into the backside of the mountain but didn't even have time to say so on the radio, for the peak was coming up fast.
John and Dean knew the mountain well, so I decided to trust them. Hell, everything else had gone surprisingly well already, considering all the stupid decisions we'd been forced into.
The gaggle of three gliders, bobbing up and down in the gusts like a Conga line, soared up the side, bars stuffed in as far as we could just to keep our altitude within 50 feet of the top. John, then Dean, then I flew right over the cameras on the mountain top, me thinking every second a big hand was going to grab me and smash me to the rocks. But I was surprised at how very smooth it was as we crossed over the top and once again flew into that tremendous rush of uplifting air.
At times, just to be low enough for the cameras to film us, we had to fly straight away from the face of the peak with bars stuffed, dropping about a thousand feet below the top in the process. When we were about a quarter mile away, we'd then turn and fly straight back toward the mountain with the bar stuffed at full speed. It took us awhile to time it right because even then we'd get to the peak with a couple hundred feet, too high for the cameras.
That's how much energy there was in that lift!
In all, we flew for three hours before landing, swooping, crossing, diving, turning. Everything they could think of on the ground, we did in the air. I was told later that they'd shot 10,000 feet of film that day. The gliders were beautiful, and they were transfixed and couldn't help themselves.
The final footage as it made it into the movie was a kind of dream sequence, as the big blue eyes of the slightly retarded runaway girl, played beautifully by Linda Purl, watch the aerial ballet over her head. That scene ran about 45 seconds and was very pretty, and and of course summons memories of a flight I will never forget.
When it was all done, I heard the radio message from the assistant director over the walkie-talkie. "Okay guys, good job, that's a wrap. Go down and land and we'll pick you up in the chopper."
Now I got to find out just how big this lift band was. I crossed over the peak, bar stuffed as it had been most of the day, and flew straight away from the mountain. I let the bar out and just hung on as the nose smoothly pointed toward heaven and we climbed like an F-15 on afterburners. All I did was keep the wings level: no turns, no nothing. Five hundred feet. A thousand. Two thousand, all the while creeping slowly forward from the mountain.
The vario finally stopped beeping about 2500 feet above the top of Mt. Swansea. I pulled the bar in and floated out over the glacial valley, over lakes Windermere and Invermere, enjoying the giddy view from 6,000 feet above ground.
We all landed on the big golf course about 20 minutes later. That's how long it took to get down.
Now for the information you were waiting for, if you've made it this far: what was the Lancer like to fly?
I still remember that glider as one of the most enjoyable "kites" I ever owned. It was stable, responsive (I bought it a year later, then moved and flew it in Colorado.) I even had a ten mile XC flight in the Lancer, playing tag with a growing thunderstorm, before the storm said, "You're it, sucker!" and started to really scared me. It had already been a bit of a white-knuckler: humongous turbulence, 1200 feet per minute lift followed by the same sink...I'd take that lift as high as I dared under the growing crown of clouds, then fly away from the cloud a couple miles, and return to the lift when I got low.
Finally I stuffed the bar away from that monster and landed. I'd gotten a little overconfident that day but was lucky. It started raining, then hailing, as I broke the glider down.
The 200 square foot version, called the Super Lancer, was a floating monster. It was intended to be used as a trainer, for which it was ideal. At Fort Funston, CA, where I flew it one day with Marty, it was always the highest glider on the ridge in ocean breeze lift. It was crazy! Like pole-sitting...you'd just lumber off the hill in that beast and levitate to the top of the line in no time: one pass, two, and you were looking down on everybody, even in the lightest of lift. Sometimes it was the only glider that could stay up.
And with the Flying Flea on it, nothing could even get close no matter what the conditions. What a loveable dinosaur!
That was a time when gliders were valued for their ability to stay up in very light conditions, and handling wasn't as crucial, especially to slope soarers. They just wanted to be top dog, even if it meant they were mostly hovering in one spot.
The Lancer was a dream to fly: it had both float and responsiveness. It wasn't too fast...most of the gliders in those days wouldn't compare to the gliders of today in speed and glide because a 35% double surface such as I think the Comet introduced was a big, radical new innovation near the end of the '70s. We were still exploring the sport and it's wonders, so the Lancer was a real step forward in that it was a terrific all-around glider.
It was solid, responsive, thermalled beautifully without any nasty tricks, yet could float really well with gliders that were ten or 20 square feet larger. In that regard, for a time, I thought of it as the perfect all around ship.
I remember bar pressure in pitch that was solid but not stiff. Roll pressures ditto. It came around in a turn with solid feedback but without working your arms to death. There wasn't any of the yaw you associate today with bigger, higher-aspect gliders. But you could stall the inside tip and spin around for real tight climbing turns, and the planform of the glider would give you a climb rate that would take you up through the middle of thermal stacks like you were on an elevator.
I loved the glider and had many great flights with it in California and Colorado. I flew it in Silverton, CO and had trouble getting it down from 4,000 AGL at the end of the day, when everything went off from the valley floor.
It was a breeze to land: very predictable, again with wonderful feedback from the bar. Flare timing wasn't an issue in most gliders of those days...you just waited for the right wind noise, the glider started to settle, you shoved the bar out and she dropped you smoothly onto the ground, even in no wind.
Graeme Bird and his pals from Kiwi Land, and Marty and Flight Designs, did a real service to the sport and advanced the enjoyment of recreational and advanced pilots of the time, with the Lancer and Super Lancer.
[Translation of the original French comment]My 2nd glider. Really great at the time. It shouldn't be compared with modern gliders as far as performance is concerned. However, 2 minutes rigging/derigging time, very safe and confortable in flight, great in thermals... Well, everything that was required 25 years ago!
Extrait du magasine Finesse 10 de l'époque :
"Avec ses 120° d'angle de nez, son allongement de 6,2, ses déflexeurs et ses lattes souples, le LANCER IV fait penser à une machine vieillotte, pas du tout à la mode et destinée aux pilotes que l'on appelle avec dédain «intermédiaires».
Encore une fois, il ne faut pas se fier aux apparences car si le LANCER IV est une aile dont la conception date, c'est vrai, elle fait malgré tout la pige à bien des ailes actuelles beaucoup plus sophistiquées. Elle convient aussi bien aux pilotes intermédiaires qu'aux pilotes de haut niveau, grâce à sa facilité de pilotage, à sa maniabilité agréable et à ses très bonnes performances.
C'est André Chayrou, Pacific Wings, qui se charge de la construction en France du Lancer IV. Les voiles sont fabriquées en Nouvelle-Zélande, pays d'origine de la machine. André Chayrou est donc passé il y a peu de temps du métier de revendeur à celui de constructeur et le résultat est positif. Les LANCER IV made in France sont propres et bien finis. Un système original permet au parapluie de se verrouiller automatiquement, ce qui évite l'oubli toujours possible du fameux push-pin.
Le LANCER IV reste aujourd'hui une machine attirante, autant par ses qualités de vol que par son prix qui la rend extrêmement compétitive."
continuation of response on Lancer IV.
Not sure how I lost the first part of this message, but I was just about to reminisce on a great competition at Grouse Mt in Vancouver, where I encountered John Duthie. If you're ever talking to him, please give him my best wishes.
The Lancer 4S, (175 ft2), was the glider I learnt to fly on. I logged about 40 hours on one from '84 to '87 when I bought a Moyes GT 170. It was quick to rig having 7 flexible plastic battens per side. Takeoffs I found to be easy, but they did require a good committed hard run in light conditions.It was a great glider for ridge soaring but didn't have great penetration into a strong wind. It went down quickly with the bar pulled right in without a great deal of forward motion. Though this was handy for landing in tight fields as you could quickly get onto the ground and the energy retention wasn't great so you quickly washed off the speed ending in an easy flare and one or two step landing. Some fellow pilots learning at the same time as me experienced their Lancers tip stalling and developing a full spin, one all the way to the deck from 1500 feet. I never experienced this myself having being warned by the old hands to keep some speed on when going into turns. As far as I know the handling was pretty good and it was a reasonably forgiving glider that didn't demand too much of the pilot.
Le Lancer IV, mon 1er delta en 1980 après avoir appris sous manta, electra et 1er grand vol sous la mouette. Le Lancer IV était une aile fabuleuse pour sa maniabilité,pratiquement impossible de rater son posé. J'ai aimé voler avec cette aile, environ 50 vols. Je m'en suis séparé pour un x-ray l'année suivante. Je n'ai jamais vu de mauvaise critique sur cette aile accessible à tous et surtout faite pour les débutants.
Ca ressemble beaucoup au spirale de tecma ! je vole sur cette aile , et vu vos descriptions , ce sont aussi apparement les memes performances ! manaible , facile a poser.. etc , j'adore cette aile ! elle date mais la ou j'habite je ne peux utiliser que ce genre d'aile due a un manque d'espace a l'attero.
si on devait choisir une aile pour représenter le deltaplane se serait celle-là
Ma copie faite par Rithner en Suisse était une aile dangereuse. J'ai fait en thermique des glissades sur la tranche, dévalant une fois plus de 100 m avec un angle de 85 degrés sur l'aile droite. Le dernier virage à l'atterrissage induisait un lacet et je devait poser l'aile en travers avec un angle d'environ 30 degrés. A mon avis j'avais un dièdre trop faible. Beaucoup de pilote suisses avaient la même. Je suis incapable de dire si je suis tombé sur un mauvais numéro ou non. Les performances étaient au rendez-vous.
Just found this site. After learning to fly from Mt Swansea, taught be John Duthie and Dean Kupchanko,I travelled to NZ in late 1975- Canada through Central America to Panama and caught a Russian cruise ship to Auckland. I got a job with Pacific Kites and Graeme Bird first constructing kites and then travelling around the north island selling them. The first one was the original Lancer. Left NZ in fall '76 and returned to the States where I flew is for a couple of years, mainly around Missoula, MT. Then graduated to an Oly 160 that I flew until I left for CA to do to law school. Does anyone know if Graeme Bird is still in Santa Barbara?
Unfortunately John Duthie was killed in a plane crash many years ago- not sure exactly when.