The boomerang world has sadly lost one of the old time legends this month.
Rusty Harding, was widely regarded as one of the pioneers of boomerang design. Sadly our throwers in the UK did not have a chance to meet this interesting man, however below are a couple of summaries that give an idea of the man behind the name.
I spoke with Rusty briefly last night, as did Gary, and was able to let him know what an honor it has been to know him all these years and to thank him on behalf of all the boomerang throwers worldwide for all the contributions he has made to the sport.
Rusty came on the scene around 1979, same time I did as far as the US boomerang scene. I first met him at Ben Ruhe's in DC but not before talking to him on the phone. I called Ben's and Rusty answered. He said, "This is Rusty Harding" and I said, "Who are you and where's Ben?" lol. Rusty replied either "I make the best boomerangs in the world" or "I am going to make the best boomerangs in the
world"....I forget as I was so shocked at such a brash reply! But few would argue that, indeed, that is exactly what he did. More so, he taught all of US how to make better boomerangs than ever before.
At that time he lived in Vero Beach, FL and was making the "concept" series of booms out of hardwood overlap, with doweled and glued overlaps as strong or stronger than the wood itself. He liked to use exotic woods like Bubinga andRosewood as well as more traditional maple and cherry.His Hurricane Hook, Mindbender, E-rang, and Tomahawk rangs became instant worldwide classics, with incredible flights, those perfect white circles flashing against the blue of the hurricane hook.
He wrote countless articles on aerodynamics for the Many happy Returns Newsletters and he was a prolific letter writer, sending out replies to inquiries about the the how and why booms did this or that . I literally sat at his feet every year at Ben's place throughout the 80's with pen and paper in hand and just peppered him with questions re: aerodynamics,airfoils, and how to make a better boomerang!
He wrote articles for my Leading Edge Newsletter and for every boom journal in the world as far as I know. He began work on and continued work on "TheBoomerang Bible" containing everything he knew and learned about boomerang flight and design. To this day, I do not know if a finished form was ever published. Someone knows.
Rusty Harding was one of those enigmatic boomerang personaes, kindred in spirit and in their immense "critical mass" in the sport with the likes of the late Bunny Read, Max Hoeben, Carl Naylor, Jackie Byham, Brother Thomas, Arthur and Les Janetzki and more. Contemporaries still among us include fellow legendary makers, throwers and pioneers such as Ben Ruhe, Rich Harrison, Eric Darnell,
There are many legendary competitors, some gone on, many still chucking, but these guys, these incredible genius, these guys that contributed so much to so many in the development of the sport...they are on another plane. Rusty Harding will live forever for his contributions to our sport, to our lives, and to the betterment of a society all too often consumed by manic distress and strife,hatred and war.
Rusty, we will gather soon, my friend, all across the world, and simultaneously launch our Rusty Rangs as you requested and we will wait with bated breath to see which one you snatch from the air from us as you promised to do! How phenomenally cool would that be to be the one that throws a boom which never returns, but merely disappears into thin air and back into the hands of it's maker!!
Rest in peace, Rusty!
Chet Snouffer November 2010
It is a very sad day in the boomerang world today. Rusty Harding, one of the most influential people in the history of boomerangs passed away at the age of 82.
I want to take this time to give a tribute to the most influential person in the American boomerang movement and so much more. His birth name was Richard Harding Englert, but was known as Rusty for his red hair and used Harding as his last name, like a pen name.
Rusty was born in Nashville, Tennessee on October 22, 1928. He was the middle of 3 biological siblings and a cousin who was raised by his parents. He attended Castle Heights Military Academy in Lebanon, Tennessee for high school. He joined the Marine Corps in September after graduating in June, where he was trained in aircraft mechanics. He attended Northrup Aeronautical School in Southern California after spending three years in the military.
His first job out of college was at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville Alabama where he helped form the guided missile school and worked with Van Braun and the V1 rockets. He then worked at Chance Vaught where he worked on the F7U3 aircraft and additional fighter aircraft. He worked at Edwards Airforce Base where he met an astronaut named John Glenn. Rusty was instrumental in designing the aircraft that set the new speed record at 1015 mph. He worked on the design of space flight simulators before NASA had simulators. Rusty met all 7 of the first American astronauts. He then assisted with the design of an aircraft that had search capabilities and could also act as a fighter plane, the FAU3 which flew higher, faster and could stay aloft longer. He worked on many further classified projects in the late 50’s and early 60’s, including an aircraft that could launch a satellite into space. After 11 years at Chance Vaught, he took a position with McDonald Douglas in St. Louis where he was the senior engineer over 32 staff in charge of all the hydraulic systems. After two years there, he worked at Westen Hydraulics of Board Warner until 1974 where he specialized in designing flight hydraulics, including submarines. Within this time, he utilized gyroscopic devices and tests on ion engines. He discovered a way to measure the propulsion to an ion engine. He also worked on the guidance system for missiles and the Walleye smart bomb project around 1967-68. He designed the spoiler system on the 747, which destroys the lift on the wing and shifts the load onto the landing gear. He designed the automatic braking system, ABS, on the DC10. He designed the navigational systems to the L10-11. In early 1974, the company laid off all the aircraft designers, at which time he retired.
In 1975, he responded to an ad from Richard Harrison, and ordered several left handed boomerangs. He then began experimenting with making his own boomerangs. In 1977, he attended the Smithsonian Institute Boomerang competition in Washington DC where he met Al Gerhards, Ben Ruhe, Peter and Larry Ruhf, Eric Darnell, Richard Harrison, and Barnaby Ruhe, to name a few. He then focused his time over the next year in perfecting boomerang designs, specifically the overlap boomerang. Rusty was quoted as saying, “I’ve really enjoyed the boomerang experience. I met people who I would never have met before. When we get out on that field, it doesn’t matter whether you are a ditch digger or a PhD. It doesn’t matter whether you are black, white, green, blue or purple. It doesn’t matter whether you speak a language that I can’t speak, everybody knows Boomerangs. Let’s go throw! It is a commonality that is wonderful. You establish friendships all over the world. One of my greatest regrets is not being able to invite everyone that I’ve met to come down and throw with me. There is just not enough time.”
In 1995, Rusty threw at a tournament only 15 days after open heart surgery at Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach where he came in 10th place overall. In 1997, Rusty estimated that he had made between 60,000 – 100,000 wooden boomerangs, and tested each one.
Another great quote of Rusty’s: “Get lots of spin on the boomerang. Anything else will be forgiven. Without spin it won’t fly.”
In Australia in 1981, the standard was that only two bladers were acceptable, no three bladers were allowed in competition. Rusty designed a two blader that flew like a three blader, the famous Mind Bender. Rusty made one for each person on the U.S. team. Of course, we all know what happened in 1981.
Rusty’s goal was to show up each year with a new and unique design. One design that is now in the Smithsonian is the Red Baron – a three winged boomerang.
He believed that his greatest contribution in life was pushing the sport of boomerangs and increasing the knowledge of boomerangs and additionally, his contribution to the design of the 747 and all aircraft flown. All passengers get home safely, in part, due to his designs.
Gary Broadbent November 2010
Page last updated Sunday, 21st November 2010