Pioneers of Flight: The Anglo Saxon Connection
Men of god, soaring with the angels... more or less...   (c) Paul Gazis, 2009

Monk Launching a Hang Glider from Bromley Tower

Legend has it that hang gliding can trace its origin to an 11th-century monk and a 60-foot-high tower in England. This brings to mind a curious manuscript that was recently recovered from the records of Malmesbury Abbey near the town of Wiltshire. Scholars have been at a loss to interpret this document, but recent advances in foot-launched aviation may shed new light on this subject. The text of the manuscript is reproduced below.

Flight Report on the new 'Angel of the Annunciation 155'
by Brother Eilmer of Malmesbury

he Angel of the Annunciation 155 is the new advanced competition glider from Lambs of the Air. I recently had a chance to test-fly one from the tower of our abbey, and was impressed at the way this experienced manufacturer was able to combine brilliant design, solid construction, ease of setup and ease of handling with exceptional performance. Here is my report.

Design and Construction

The design and construction of the Angel of the Annunciation 155 are excellent, just as you would expect from Lambs of the Air. The airframe is made from solid oak, and the sail is stitched together with dried goat intestines from the finest cured cowhides. Unlike most manufacturers, who use 16-ounce cowhides, Lambs of the Air uses 32-ounce cowhides to control twist at high speeds. This may add another 160 lbs or so to the weight of the glider, but in my opinion, the performance gain is worth it.

One clever touch is the construction of the control frame. Like most manufacturers, Lambs of the Air makes their control frame from horse thighbones. But Lambs of the Air scrapes the marrow from the bones before they lash them together. This reduces the weight of the assembled wing by several ounces, and is the kind of attention to detail that we expect from such an experienced manufacturer.

Ease of setup

With only 2,563 battens (1,752 top ribs, 284 half-ribs, 526 undersurface battens, and one nose rib) the Angel of the Annunciation 155 is a snap to assemble and I was able to set up mine in less than a month. But it gives performance comparable to the latest gliders from the Orthodox Church and the Moslems. I was particularly impressed by the tensioning setup. With most modern gliders, you have to wrestle for weeks and whip several peasants to death to get your wing tensioned, but the Angel of the Annunciation 155 uses something called a 'block and tackle'. With this innovation, I was able to tension the wing with only the help of 15 acolytes, 3 choirboys, and Hans, the village blacksmith.

Static balance, launching, and landing

Static balance of the Angel of the Annunciation 155 is pretty good. The wing is a bit nose-heavy, but it's not as bad as some modern competition gliders, and I was able to balance the wing quite easily with the help of three choirboys and Hans, the village blacksmith. With such good static balance, launching was a snap, and I was able to plummet from the tower of Malmesbury Abbey without any difficulty. Landing was a bit tricky, but I'll get to that later in my report.

Performance and Handling

We weren't able to make any accurate measurements of glide, but I flew right next to several Trumpets of Gabriel, Spirits of the Lord, and Words of Allah, and the Angel of the Annunciation 155 could easily keep up with the best of them. High speed glide was particularly impressive. Stuff those horse thighbones to your knees and the glider still gets a glide ratio of at least 1:1. As far as sink rate goes, there is no doubt. This glider was always at the top of the stack.

Handling is a harder thing to measure, but the Angel of the Annunciation 155 was quite good in this regard. Modern advanced gliders may have a reputation for being a bit stiff, but I found the Angel of the Annunciation 155 to be quite responsive. I was actually able to change my bank angle, and with effort, I even managed to complete a turn. Pitch pressures were a bit heavy, but with the help of Hans, the village blacksmith, who dropped a large boulder on my tail as I dove past the tower, I was able to keep the nose up for most of my flight.

The Boulder

What about the boulder, you ask? This new innovation by Lambs of the Air consists of a 350 lb block of granite that someone straps to your keel. It is designed to give the pilot control of pitch trim. By dragging the boulder forward and backward along the keel with a special cord called a VG (Variable Granite), the pilot can adjust his pitch trim almost enough to make the glider controllable. I predict that within a century, every manufacturer will be equipping their gliders with boulders.

The Landing

Modern gliders can be hard to land, and the Angel of the Annunciation 155 is no exception. This is the price we pay for advances in performance, and any monk who is not willing to pay this price should renounce his holy vows, become a man-at-arms for his feudal overlord, and go on campaign each summer to loot towns, plunder villages, and carry off women and small farm animals in the Name of the Lord.

After my launch from 60' tall tower of Malmesbury Abbey, I dropped like a stone, plummeted to the ground, and broke both legs. This compares quite favorably with gliders like the Word of Allah, whose pilots generally break every bone in their bodies, or the Spirit of the Lord, which is famous for ripping your limbs off if you flare a little bit too late.

Monk on his landing approach


The Angel of the Annunciation 155 from Lambs of the Air offers great performance and handling, equal to or better than anything else on the market. I would look forward to flying mine again after I recover, but Lord Wiltshire has promised me first pick of the small farm animals if I help him out on his next summer campaign,

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Last modified: 25 September 2009