Little known, Rod Fuller was neverheless the first man to succesfully fly the Dickenson Wing, template for all hang gliders to come.
Seventy-five year-old Australian Rod Fuller was the first person to fly the flexible wing hang glider designed and created by John Dickenson in September 1963. The photograph of Rod flying along the Clarence River, towed by a water ski boat, in the Grafton "Daily Examiner" signalled the initial spread of hang gliding around the world.
What is not generally known is that the flying partnership of Rod and John Dickenson perfected the principle of flight control of the revolutionary new wing. In the early days the pilot swinging from a single hang point for control was a completely untested technique. The length of the hang straps, the relationship of the hang point to the centre of pressure, the position for and aft of the A frame and the height of the A frame itself, were all variables whose interplay had to be tested to determine effective flight control.
Rod and John between them established the principles by which control authority could be maintained safely in a flexible wing vehicle.
Rod was well and truly bitten by the flying bug and went on to become well known and respected in the Australian Gliding fraternity. He became a Gliding Instructor and qualified as a Repairer and Glider Inspector.
In 2011, CIVL awarded Rod its Hang Gliding Diploma, the words above being those of the Diploma citation.
Of the first flight, John Dickenson told...
"Me and a few friends went to the water ski area and had four attempts to get my first full size glider off the water:
We had three centre-of-gravity adjustments in the form of three ring bolts attached to the keel. I made the first attempt and it was too far forward so the kite just kept its nose down and flapped the fabric. After skiing a mile or so not being able to get it in the air, I returned to the beach and had another one of the club members try it because I was exhausted. He did just the same thing. Then another one attached the harness on the rear ring, did a jump start and went straight in the air to about 80ft, pulled the A-frame to his chest, and went straight down into the water. He was badly shaken but not hurt otherwise. So we hooked on to the middle ring and had another of our most confident skiers, Rod Fuller, do a jump start and get it out of the water. He flew it, exactly how I had suggested to him that he should, for over a mile, which was about the record for ski-kites in those days.
That was one Saturday afternoon in September 1963, in the back country of northern New South Wales, and that’s one of the reasons why there was never much publicity about it. When the glider was finally developed, nobody heard about it.”
Rod Fuller getting ready for take-off in October 1963, one month after his first flight.