John Dickenson

Inventor of the Modern Hang Glider



Photo courtesy of Rod Fuller 1966  

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In 1963 John Dickenson, then living in Grafton, N.S.W, Australia, invented the aircraft type that revolutionised the sport of hang gliding.

The invention inspired ‘Ultralight Aviation’ globally leading to the development of a global industry worth many millions of dollars, even hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

A carefully study of the evidence also shows that it plays a major role in the commencement of the sport of Paragliding.

Provisional Patent Application

4th October 1963

To enlarge click onto photo repeat to shrink

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This website is the result of a great deal of research, while it will tell the story, as it is understood by those who have examined the evidence, the website’s primary function is to provide a research tool for anyone interested in Global, and/or Australian history.

Of course the material presented here will also be of great interest to anyone interested in Aviation History.

John Dickenson’s invention is a milestone on the road of human evolution. John Dickenson did not invent hang gliding, nor did he build the first hang glider and when he set out on the project he did not even intend to build a hang glider.

The thing is that John Dickenson built the best hang glider ever witnessed until that time. John had the complete package. The Dickenson Wing did not boast the highest performance but it had the following characteristics.

Handling superiority:
The wing flew well with exquisite handling characteristics, it was safe, and it was easy to fly. The Dickenson Pendulum Weight-Shift System provides exquisite feedback so that flying quickly becomes instinctual. This gives the pilot the opportunity to relax and enjoy the experience.

User Friendly:
It was easy to pack up and even easier to set up.

It was light; easy to move when set up, and even easier to move when packed up.

Environmentally friendly:
It was easily car top-able and it could be stored in a hallway or bedroom. Many lived under houses and in car sheds.

Strong and durable:
It was robust, how many aircraft could handle stalled take-offs and nose-ins, plus botched landings, and then still be flyable with at most a control bar upright needing replacement.

Easy to fly:
It was that simple to fly that people were able to teach themselves to fly. Not all were successful, but many thousands were. Eventually people who figured it out started schools and the rest is history.

Easy to build:
This was something of a problem because although the design was simple to build, there were the rules of physics to be obeyed at all times. Many efforts to home build, and even at times some commercially built designs were dangerous.

By the time Aerostructures stop manufacturing the Skiwings, the glider was a complete aircraft. Aerostructures is another part of this story. Both Bill Bennett and Bill Moyes purchased off the shelf Skiwings from Aerostructures. Many early builders copied these two wings, thinking that the idea came from Bennett and/or Moyes.


At roughly the time that Neil Armstrong walked upon the moon, representing humankind, back on Earth mankind was still striving to conquer the mystery of bird like flight. In Grafton, New South Wales, Australian John Dickenson was solving that problem, with wings that were lighter than the pilot, and able to be picked up by the pilot, alone, and that were capable of being foot-launched and landed.

Finally mankind could fly with birds, in formation with them as we soared the coastal cliffs or circled with them far above the mountains and the plains. In hang gliding finally it was no longer about “Low and Slow”. The old rule that you “Don’t fly higher than you are prepared to fall” fell away like the earth as mankind soared and swooped. Today it is about higher, further, faster, but there is still a place for those people who just want to fly, for fun.

John Dickenson discovered the secret formula that would have allowed Leonardo da Vinci to build and fly a hang glider. Humanity long had the materials capable of building a flying machine; they just lacked the right plan.

© Copyright Graeme Henderson
April 2009

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