Celebrating 50 years of hang gliding in style
FIFTY years ago, three mechanically minded, gutsy blokes with a determination to fly took to the Clarence River.
They launched a hang glider behind a ski boat, with the pilot and the kite ending up 140 feet up in the air and headed toward the Grafton Bridge.
It was the first time a hang glider had been successfully flown anywhere in the world.
The three local men; John Dickenson, Rod Fuller and Pat Crowe; have been attributed to the beginning of hang gliding across the world.
Mr Dickenson was approached by the Grafton Water Ski Club in 1963.
They asked him to build a flight kite for the Jacaranda Festival that year, but he found them to be unstable and difficult to fly.
He set out to build a better kite, and the end result was the world's first hang glider.
On Saturday, pilots, boat drivers and enthusiasts met at the old Water Ski Club site at the end of Duke St, Grafton, to commemorate the occasion.
Organiser Graeme Henderson said Mr Dickenson's invention gave birth to the sport of modern hang gliding.
"We have no reason to believe if John Dickenson had not invented this glider, that anybody else would have."
"If Rod Fuller had not managed to get the glider to fly, we have no reason to believe that anyone else ever would have," Mr Henderson said.
Mr Henderson said Rod's insistence for the right boat driver definitely contributed to their success.
"Rod refused to give it a go unless Pat Crowe was driving the boat."
Mr Henderson said others had attempted to make hang gliders before this, but none were successful.
"We wanted to mark the 50th anniversary of the invention of the hang glider," Mr Henderson said.
A small gathering of hang gliding enthusiasts celebrated the event with two flight kites taking to the air over the Clarence River on Saturday.
"As a devoted hang glider pilot myself, I regard Rod Fuller as the first of us," Mr Henderson said.
"To honour him was a great privilege."