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Pat Crowe with his recognition of involvement as the driver of the first flight boat. Images: Renae Barnes

Celebration of first flight

Lynne Mowbray |

The 55th anniversary of the first flight of the modern hang glider was held in Grafton on Saturday.

The event took place at the Crown Hotel, with Mr Patrick (Pat) Crowe being presented with the 2018 Fédération Aéronautique Internationale Hang Gliding Diploma, by the President of the Hang Gliding Federation of Australia, Mr Paul Green.

Special guest at the event was Fédération Aéronautique Internationale: 2012 Gold Air Medal and Royal Federation of Aero Clubs of Australia: 2013 Ostwald Watt Gold Medal recipient, Mr John Dickenson A.M.

After a morning tea to honour Mr Crowe’s award, there was a public exhibition of the 1964 Mark 3a Dickenson Wing hang glider. This is the oldest modern hang glider in existence, in the world.

This aircraft has been taken out of its bag just once, in 2009 for the purposes of verification, since its last flight at Stradbroke Island in 1972.

This was the aircrafts only exhibition in Grafton, or indeed anywhere, outside of a suitable museum.

Graeme Henderson Unwrapped the Mark 3 of the original.
Graeme Henderson Passionately addresses the gathering crowd
Graeme Henderson and John Dickinson test out the mark 3

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In the history of modern hang gliding, three men who held the fate of the hang gliding future in their hands: John Dickenson, inventor of the modern hang glider, Rod Fuller, first man to fly it successfully, and Pat Crowe, driver of the boat that towed it. As a team they succeeded; had any of them failed they all would have failed.
Pat Crowe was not only the Grafton Water Ski Club’s best boat driver: his time in the Air Cadets gave him a good understanding of aerodynamics.

In boat towing, both with the flat kites and with the deltas, the boat driver had far more control of the situation than the pilot.

Rod’s first flight was not eventless: the strong wind gradient had to be mastered, the Grafton Bridge got in the way and the boat had to U-turn. During this time, Rod was merely the passenger who was enjoying the flight and following Pat. He had to follow Pat, who had total control at all times. Because of what was learned from the success of this flight, John Dickenson was able to fly later in the day, when he experienced the great little aircraft he had built.

Many flights followed. The tow rope was dropped and the glider free flew. Modern hang gliding was born. The team kept working together until John moved back to Sydney.

The Hang Gliding and Paragliding Diploma was awarded to John in 2007 and to Rod in 2012.
On Saturday, Pat Crowe joined his team mates, when he too received his diploma.

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Kristina and Michael with their children Alex and Kate were thrilled to meet the founders of the modern hang gliders
Graeme Henderson was stoked to have pulled off this event after planning this for 18 months.
John Dickinsons Wife Trish Pat Crowes wife Pat and rod fullers wife Anne The wives of the men that made history
Michael Henderson was in awe and inspired by these creations.
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