Hang gliding turns 40 – party in USA

1971: The Happening: Otto Lilienthal Hang Glider Meet, May 23, 1971. Video: Ldighera

The 40th anniversary of the ‘birth’ of hang gliding is to be celebrated in California. The event will happen on 23 May 2011 and will mark the original hang gliding ‘Happening’, which took place on 23 May 1971.

Back then several ‘birdmen’ gathered in Newport Beach, California, to fly and compare notes on the nascent sport of hang gliding. It was the first organised competition and the event was photographed and featured on the front page of that Monday’s LA Times.

Photographs also later appeared in National Geographic, inspiring a generation of pilots to tie bed sheets to bamboo and leap off the garden shed.

Neil Larson, a longtime pilot and United States Hang and Paragliding Association historian, said: “The birth of the worldwide sport hang gliding will be celebrated at noon.

“The now historic 1971 ‘Happening’ has become the pivotal event marking the beginning of a persistent growth in the individual human flight sport known as hang gliding.

“Now some 40 years on [we will celebrate] the 40th anniversary at noon, Monday, May 23, 2011.”

The original Happening was timed to coincide with Otto Lilienthal’s 123rd birthday.

The 2011 Gathering will mark the 163rd birthday of the German ‘glider king’, the first person to repeatedly demonstrate gliding flight.

The 40th anniversary will also see an engraved granite marker stone presented to the Newport Beach community commemorating the 1971 event.

Neil said, “Over the 40 years hang gliding has proven to become a very significant recreational sport. The people of Newport Beach should be proud of such auspicious heritage.”

Unfortunately, pilots who turn up with gliders will be disappointed. Since 1971 the original site has been developed.

Neil said, “There is no permission obtained for opening or showing of hang gliders in respect of the residential neighborhood that has been established.”

Today: Site of the original hang gliding Happening in Newport Beach, California

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