From the Newsroom

Rod Fuller demonstrating John Dickenson’s ski wing on the Clarence River at the 1963 Jacaranda Festival. Image: CVC

Hang glider inventor honoured

Rodney Stevens


The man credited with inventing the modern hang glider, John Dickenson, was honoured by Clarence Valley Council Mayor Ian Tiley at the August council meeting after he passed away aged 89.

In the early 1960s Mr Dickenson and a group of water-skiing enthusiasts were working on a ‘kite’ as a stunt to promote the Grafton Water Ski Club’s Jacaranda Festival carnival.

The ‘kite’ designed by Mr Dickenson closely resembled the design of a modern hang glider with the A-frame swinging off the wing credited as the breakthrough that enabled pilots to control and fly the craft.

When the kite, piloted by Rod Fuller was towed behind a boat driven by Pat Crowe on the Clarence River on September 8, 1963, it soared 140 feet into the air and took around 15 minutes to return to land.

This, Cr Tiley said, saw Mr Dickenson credited with paving the way for the modern hang glider.

“In 1963, Mr Dickenson built a water-skiing kite (now called ski wing) that could be released at altitude,” Cr Tiley said.

“It was the first flown in public in the world at the 1963 Grafton Jacaranda Festival by a fit young athlete and superb water skier and daredevil, Mr Rod Fuller, while towed behind a motorboat.

“Grafton deserves its place in history as the birthplace of modern hang gliding, ultralight aviation and paragliding, along with the huge increase in knowledge of low-speed flight that led to the success in human powered aviation.”

As a result of his amazing achievement, Mr Dickenson was inducted into the Space Technology Hall of Fame in 1995, he received an Order of Australia in 1996, and was awarded the Federation Aeronautique Internationale Gold Air Medal in 2012.  

Mr Dickenson passed away on July 5 in Sydney, aged 89.