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HandWiki. Powered Hang Glider. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 24 June 2024).
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Powered Hang Glider

A foot-launched powered hang glider (FLPHG), also called powered harness, nanolight, or hangmotor, is a powered hang glider harness with a motor and propeller in pusher configuration. An ordinary hang glider is used for its wing and control frame, and the pilot can foot-launch from a hill or from flat ground, needing a length of about a football field to get airborne, or much less if there is an oncoming breeze and no obstacles.

nanolight flphg hangmotor

1. History

1.1. Adding Propulsion

While powered microlights (ultralights) developed from hang gliding in the late 1970s, they were also a return to the type of low-speed aircraft that were common in the earlier years of aviation, but which were superseded as both civil and military aircraft pursued more speed.[1] For a second time in aviation history, during the 1970s, motorization of simple gliders, especially those portable and foot-launched, became the goal of many inventors and gradually, small wing-mounted power packs were adapted. These early experiments went largely unrecorded, even in log books, let alone the press, because the pioneers were uncomfortably aware that the addition of an engine made the craft liable to registration, airworthiness legislation, and the pilot liable to expensive licensing and probably, insurance. Inventors from Australia , France and England produced several successful microlight motor gliders in the early 1970s [2] and very few were portable wings.

Don Mitchell

Surprisingly, what really launched the powered ultralight aviation movement in the United States was not the Rogallo flexible wing but a whole series of rigid-wing motorized hang gliders.[3] The Icarus V flying wing appeared with its tip rudders and swept-back style wing was used as a base for some powered experiments. Differently, a rigid biplane designed also by teenager Taras Kiceniuk Jr., the Icarus II was a foundation for a modification in Larry Mauro's UFM Easy Riser biplane[4] that started to sell in large numbers; Larry Mauro would power his tail-less biplane; one version was solar powered, called the Solar Riser. Hang gliding record holder Don Mitchell[5] fitted his Mitchell Wing B-10 with a motor,[6] though the pilot still had to use their legs as undercarriage, an arrangement which persisted until he designed the B-10 Mitchell Wing.[7]

Barry Palmer

In 1963 and during his free time, aeronautical engineer Barry Palmer built and experimented with a foot-launched powered hang glider at Bloomfield, Connecticut. It was powered by a 7 hp (5 kW) West Bend engine and mounted on top of a Rogallo-type flexible wing hang glider; the propeller was 3 feet (1 m) in diameter and was made of balsa wood, covered with fiberglass and mounted in pusher configuration. However, the engine was quite underpowered and the craft could not achieve flight.[8] It is now estimated that a modern flexible Rogallo wing hang glider requires at least 6 hp (4 kW) at the prop shaft and about 45 lbf (200 N) of thrust just to maintain level flight. During 1967 Barry Palmer built what is likely the first weight-shift powered trike aircraft.[9]

John Moody

John Moody's powered Icarus II in Southeastern Wisconsin Aviation Museum [10].

On March 15, 1975 John Moody successfully added a 12.5 hp (9 kW) West Bend engine with a 71 cm (28 in) propeller to an UFM Easy Riser biplane hang glider designed by Larry Mauro. Moody opened the throttle and ran until he lifted from the frozen surface of a lake west of Racine, Wisconsin, and he flew for 30 minutes. Then on July 27, 1976 John Moody demonstrated[11] ultralight aviation at the annual EAA fly-in convention in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, with a foot launched McCulloch 101 powered Icarus II [12] in front of thousands of spectators, starting the modern ultralight aviation revolution in the United States. Later he added wheels to the aircraft and by the end of 1979, there were almost 100 competing companies selling powered ultralights (microlights) but very few were foot-launchable.

Soarmaster standard FLPHG power unit.

Jerzy Kolecki

In 1979, a powered backpack called the Motolotnia - White Eagle, designed by Jerzy Kolecki, became available for sale.[13][14][15] It consisted of a 90 cc McCulloch chainsaw engine with a direct drive 61 cm (24") wooden prop, producing a quoted 77 lbf (340 N) of thrust; the rate of climb was about 150 ft/min (0.76 m/s) and flight duration was limited by the small fuel tank and engine overheating after several minutes.

Other powered harnesses to reach the market in the 1980s were The Ranger[16] and the Relax 220.[17]


The JetBug, UK, 2003.

By 2008, there were a few harness designs similar to the Swedish Aerosport Mosquito, each sporting unique strengths, and produced by other FLPHG manufacturers.[18] The latest generation of powered harnesses bear names such as Wasp,[19] Flylight Doodle Bug,[20] Raven,[21] X1,[22] Zenon,[23] Airtime Explorer,[24] Fillo,[25] and Flyped.[26]

2. World Records

La Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) is the international standard-setting and record-keeping body for aeronautics and astronautics, so it also oversees the official records by foot-launched powered hang gliders, currently under the RWF1 category.[27]

2.1. Unofficial Records

Unofficial FLPHG World Records - Confirmed but not validated by the FAI.

  • On 5 August 1978 French pioneer Bernard Danis mated a Soarmaster unit to this 168 square feet (15.6 m2) SK 2SS wing and climbed to 1,825 metres (5,988 ft) above sea level at the Southern Alps.[28]
  • May 9. 1978, David Cook becomes the first pilot to cross the English Channel while flying on a foot-launched powered hang glider; he used a VJ 23F glider.[2]
Gerry Breen - London to Paris in FLPHG (August 25, 1979).
  • On 7 May 1979 British pilot Gerry Breen set a new distance record for FLPHG of 325 kilometres (202 mi) from Wales to Norwich, a non-stop world distance record that still stands today; using a Soarmaster, the flight took about 4 hours with a tailwind of about 25 knots (29 mph) and reportedly consumed 25 litres (5.5 imp gal) of fuel.[29] Three months later, on August 25 through 28, inspired by the film "Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines" and sponsored by British Airways, Breen flew his powered hang glider from London to Paris: Wishing to use a British made aircraft, Gerry Breen and Steve Hunt set about building with their version of the powered Soarmaster, but had no clutch. The unit, including glider, was considerably heavier than the Soarmaster and Olympus glider combination but the wing was much more robust. The hang glider was a Hiway Super Scorpion with a 10 hp (7 kW) McCulloch 125 cc engine mounted on the keel just forward of the hang strap.[30] The journey was plagued with mechanical failures but Breen overcame them and completed the trip.[31]
  • In July 2002, Italian hang gliding champion and conservationist, Angelo d'Arrigo, guided a flock of 10 endangered western Siberian cranes, bred in captivity, with an Icaro hang glider equipped with an NRG powered harness 5,300 kilometres (3,300 mi) from the Arctic circle in Siberia, across Kazakhstan to the shores of the Caspian Sea in Iran, avoiding Afghanistan and Pakistan where they fall victim to the abundant guns. For the most part, he relied on the sun and wind for propulsion in order to teach the young cranes to soar long distances. This $250,000 USD experiment lasted for six months and finished in winter 2002.[32][33]
Patrick Laverty - altitude world record: 5,348 metres (17,546 ft), U.K., May 24, 2009.
  • On May 24, 2009, Irish pilot Patrick Laverty broke the foot-launched powered hang glider altitude world record. He used an Aeros Discus 15 hang glider coupled to a supine custom-made harness equipped with a 29 hp ROS 125 engine with the Supa-Tuna tuning lights system on a WB32 carburettor. Takeoff was at sea level and he flew to an altitude of 5,348 metres (17,546 ft) ASL over Talybont, Ceredigion, Wales, UK.[34] He carried oxygen and 10 litres of fuel, per U.K. regulations; his variometer indicated 30 to 50fpm climb rate at the time fuel ran out.

3. Systems

Currently, there are two harness configurations: prone (face down) and sitting. Both configurations allow the pilot to takeoff and land on their feet. Foot-launched powered hang glider (FLPHG) harnesses are built around a light metal frame with the engine and propeller mounted on the rear in a pusher configuration. Current powered harnesses weigh 22–32 kg (50-70 lb) not including the safety parachute and fuel, and fold neatly into a 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) long harness bag with a handle. Most powered harnesses in production are equipped with the Radne Raket 120 two stroke engine which is based on Husqvarna XP3120 chainsaw parts. It has a displacement of 118 cubic centimetres (7.2 cu in) and produces about 15 hp (11 kW) at 8900 RPM if equipped with a tuned exhaust; when coupled to a 1:3.5 belt-driven reduction drive and a 52" x 22" propeller, it produces about 100 lbf (440 N) of static thrust. For heavy pilots or pilots operating from higher than 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) MSL fields, a powered harness equipped with an 18 hp (13 kW) engine is recommended.[35]

4. Electric Motors

  • Richard Kruger-Sprengel (Helix Propeller) and German designer Werner Eck, have produced at least two electric powered paraglider (EPPG) prototypes,[36]

4.1. Timeline for Electric-Powered Foot-Launched Gliders

  • 1979 April 29: at Flabob Airport, California, Larry Mauro flew the Solar Riser with an electric motor powered by storage batteries charged from the sun. The Solar Riser was a modified Easy Riser hang glider.[37]
  • 2001 Richard Kruger Sprengel electric drive for paraglider.[38]
  • 2006, June 6: in Canada, Casaba Lemak takes off using an electric paraglider.[39][40]
  • 2006, December 19: Prototype electric paramotor from Helix-Carbon GmbH shows electric motor during the Coupe Icare in Saint Hilaire, France.[41]
  • 2007 at the German Free Flight Trade Fair in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Werner Eck and Jochen Geiger displayed electric drives for hang gliders and paragliders.[42]
  • 2007 Razeebus Aircraft[43]
  • The E-Lift hang glider system by Toni Roth, Fronreute, Germany [44]
  • 2009 E-flight Expo displayed some electric paragliders.[45]

5. Patents

  • US Patent 4262863 Filed: January 16, 1978. Powered hang glider with reduction drive by Charles J. Slusarczyk.
  • US Patent 4417707 Filed: January 26, 1982. Human powered hang glider by Ken Leong. This type of powered hang glider is powered by the muscle exertion of the hang glider pilot. This patent references earlier teachings affecting powered hang glider design.
  • US Patent 5170965 Filed: April 30, 1991. Hang glider which can fly by human strength by Hiroaki Yasuda.


  1. In 1898 Augustus Moore Herring adapted a compressed air engine to a weight-shift biplane. Images: [1]
  2. French aviation historians on FLPHG'histoire.htm
  3. British Microlight Aircraft Association, History of Microlighting
  4. Hang glider : EASY RISER (Larry Mauro)
  5. In April 1946 Mitchell completed construction of his 'Flying Wing' (not the Mitchell Wing hang glider which was developed in 1975). The American FAA issued an Experimental Airworthiness number for it. The wing was flown as a glider by Mitchell, Bolwus and Paul Tuntland. Then Mitchell mounted a Nelson 2-cycle engine on it and flew it as a powered glider with wheels for landing gear.[2]
  6. In the early 1940s Don Mitchell first became involved with flying wing glider design and construction. But World War II interrupted his research and experiments. Then in 1974, with the advent of hang glider mania, the Mitchell Wing resurfaced. It was at that time Dr. Howard Long took an interest in the half-forgotten project and asked Mitchell to make him a flying wing hang glider. The result was the foot-launched Mitchell Wing, controllable by a 'joystick'. The Mitchell Wing astounded the world of hang gliding. George Worthington, holder of eight world records in hang gliding and author of the book In Search of World Records, wrote in the book..."I predict that the Mitchell Wing will be the highest performance foot-launched hang glider we'll see for a long time." He was right, and it was from this preliminary design that Mitchell developed his later powered models: The Mitchell Wing B-10 and Mitchell U-2 Superwing.
  7. Don Mitchell - U.S. Pacific [3], B-10 Photos: [4]
  8. Interview with Gerard Farell on Jan. 23-24, 2007. "Foot launched powered Para-wing around 1963, 7 hp (5 kW) West Bend driving a 3-foot (1 m) dia. glass over balsa propeller. Main structure is 6061-T6 aluminum tubing, 4 mil polyethylene. The craft was not particularly portable, the wind was always coming down the slight slope in Bloomfield, CT, and the project was terminated as I was re-engineering it with a bigger engine and as I got a job offer to move to Miami and design, build and fly the wheeled wings (trikes)."
  9. Recorded by the FAA as: Palmer Parawing D-6, serial 1A, N7144, was registered on 4/24/1967. No limitations were noted.
  10. The Southeastern Wisconsin Aviation Museum
  11. Article in PDF format: Powered hang glider, you can launch it any where [5]
  12. Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. Icarus hang glider development
  13. Power Up Company, United States Patent # 4546938
  14. Powered backpack Motolotnia 80 White Eagle photo of advert in Flight Line magazine, march-June 1982 [6]
  15. Jerzy Kolecki, founder of Kolecki New Aviation Engineering, Sweden
  16. The Ranger, designed by Bruce Hudson, UK. Powered by the Solo 210 cc engine: [7]
  17. Relax 220, designed by Yves Rousseau.
  18. FLPHG manufacturers
  19. Wasp designers: Ed Cleasby and Chris Taylor - Wasp Flight Systems and Sperwill.
  20. DoodleBug designer: Ben Ashman - Flylight Airsports Ltd.
  21. Raven designer: Randy Haney - Powerplanes
  22. X1 designers: Kenneth M. O'Sage II and Dave Little - Hidden Mountain Flight.
  23. Zenon designer: Sotos Christoforou - Sky Gear.
  24. Explorer designer: Bob Bauer - Airtime Products. Created in 1997; discontinued in 2004 and released again in 2007 as the 'Explorer LD',
  25. Fillo manufacturer: Milan Vita.
  26. Flyped Manufacturer: Paul Kiraly
  27. FAI microlight world records, RWF1 (Weight-shift control, foot-launched and flown solo) [8]
  28. Bernard Danis
  29. Interview with Gerard Farell on November 2006.
  30. This powered hang glider, registered G-BGNL, is now held by the British Hang Gliding Museum.
  31. Despite this achievement, Breen and Hunt recognized the deficiencies of the keel mounted engine and when Breen saw a picture of Roland Magallon's trike in the French hang gliding magazine Vol Libre, he mentioned that the days of the Soarmaster 'were numbered.'
  32. Interview with Angelo d'Arrigo
  33. Siberian Crane Flyway coordination
  34. The altitude was recorded by a digital altimeter, a GPS and the flight was filmed as well; Video:[9]
  35. 18 hp Harnesses such as the 'X1' or 'Wasp Venom' equipped with the Vittorazi EVO 100 cc for about 130 lbf (580 N) thrust at 7,000 ft (2,100 m) MSL
  36. Werner Eck, designer of an Electric PGG
  37. History of Solar Flight
  38. Werner Eck, Electric Paramotor Efforts
  39. Electric PPG Description
  40. Electric Paramotor Flies and Electric Powered Paraglider inventor - Csaba Lemak
  41. Helix Propeller
  42. E-drive developments
  43. Razeebus
  44. Back to the Future
  45. E-Flight Expo at AERO Friedrichshafen 2009
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