Paragliding


Home (main menu) Hang gliding Paragliding

Photo of a paraglider about to launch

Here I am visually checking the wing before commencing launch at Monk's Down in about 2001. The red streamer on the harness indicates that I had fewer than ten hours paragliding experience after I qualified in 2000. Photo by Justin Parsons.

As world record breaking hang glider pilot Larry Tudor stated, the paraglider is in many ways what the hang glider tried to be, but did quite make it: A minimal cost, portable and lightweight, quick rigging, safe and easy to fly high performance glider.


Aerial photo of the green at Barton-on-Sea

Balled up paragliders and their pilots cast evening shadows on the cliff top at Barton-on-Sea in Dorset, England. Photo by Steve Auld.

It fits in a big rucksack. To get ready to fly, you carry it up a hill facing the wind (in a car—no need for roof bars and other supports, on a bike, or even on horseback—it has been done) spread it out, strap in, and launch. OK, you carry out some preliminary safety checks along the way—and ground handling the things is a bit of an art—but that is about how simple it is.


Photo of a two-place paraglider flying above a hillside

Gary Puhl flies with a passenger or second pilot at Bell Hill in north Dorset, England, in August 2009

You can try paragliding by going up with a suitably qualified pilot in a dual rated wing with a dual harness.


Aerial photo of paragliders flying the Bournemouth cliffs

Coastal soaring photo by Steve Auld.

Some sites, such as this, are so public that strict rules control the flying and require certain minimum pilot skills and experience.


Photo of paragliders flying above snowscape

Martin Hayward and Nicole Barnard at Monk's Down. Photo by Dave Daniels.

In the mid 1970s (the early days of hang gliding) we used to fly standard Rogallos when the hill was covered in snow like this. (I even flew when it snowed; the low sun lighting the flakes coming at me was a memorable experience.)


Photo of two paragliders preparing to launch from snowy ground

Martin Hayward and Nicole Barnard prepare to launch at Monk's Down. Photo by Dave Daniels.

However, the paraglider is much quicker to get ready for flight than even the simple early hang gliders, so preparation is less of a trial in cold weather. Having said that, the seated flying position exposes the pilot to the cold more than does the prone position of the hang glider pilot in his enclosed harness, so you get colder flying a paraglider than a hang glider, despite the lower airspeed of the paraglider.


Photo of a paraglider flying near a large house atop a coastal cliff

Martin Hayward above the cliffs at Ringstead in Dorset, England. Photo by Dave Daniels.

If I was this low in a hang glider I would be considering heading for the emergency landing field. However, the slow-flying paraglider has many more safe landing options including the beach.


Photo of a paraglider in flight over rugged terrain

Martin Hayward again in another Dave Daniels photo.

Because paragliders fly and land much more slowly than hang gliders—and, unlike hang gliders, they remain eminently steerable at low airspeeds—you can fly them into places that would be dangerous for a hang glider to fly.


Photo of the X-38 touching down

The X-38 just before touchdown on a lakebed near the Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards California, at the end of a March 2000 test flight. Photo by Tom Tschida.

The X-38 was built to help develop technology for an emergency crew return vehicle from the international space station. The X-38 is manufactured by Scaled Composites, Inc., Mojave, California.


Photo of a paraglider pilot preparing to launch

A paraglider pilot prepares to launch at Bell Hill in August 2007

While paragliding equipment is very different from that of hang gliding, the basic flying skills the pilot develops are the same.


Photo of a paraglider in flight

Paraglider struggling for height at Bell Hill near Blandford, Dorset, in about 2001

Related

YouTube video by Jeremy Calderwood of paragliding and hang gliding at Barton-on-Sea in June 2010

NASA photo archive

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