Practicing with the canopy

What is a Wing?

A wing is a foot-launched, ram-air, aerofoil canopy, designed to be flown and landed with no other energy requirements than the wind, gravity and the pilot’s muscle power.

What are the main component parts of a Wing?

A canopy (the actual “wing”), risers (the cords by which the pilot is suspended below the canopy) and a harness. In addition, the brake cords provide speed and directional control and carabiners are used to connect the risers and the harness together.

Is a Wing the same thing as a parachute?

No. A Wing is similar to a modern, steerable skydiving canopy, but different in several important ways. The Wing is a foot-launched device, so there is no “drouge” ‘chute or “slider”, and the construction is generally much lighter, as it doesn’t have to withstand
the sudden shock of opening at high velocities. The Wing usually has more cells and thinner risers than a parachute.


Last take off of the day

What is the difference between a Hang glider and a Wing?

A Hang glider has a rigid frame maintaining the shape of the wing, with the pilot usually flying in a prone position. The Wing canopy shape is maintained only by air pressure and the pilot is suspended in a sitting or supine position. The Hang glider has a “cleaner” aerodynamic profile and generally is capable of flying at much higher speeds than a Wing.

Why would anyone want to fly a Wing when they could fly a Hang glider?

A Wing folds down into a package the size of a largish knapsack and can be carried easily. Conversely, a Hang glider needs a vehicle with a roof-rack for transportation to and from the flying site, as well as appreciable time to set-up and strip-down. It’s also somewhat easier to learn to fly a Wing.

┬┐How long does a Wing last?
General wear and tear (especially the latter) and deterioration from exposure to ultra-violet usually limit the useful lifetime of a canopy to somewhere in the region of four years. This obviously depends strongly on use.


Basic Performance Questions

How do you steer?

Hang gliders are controlled by shifting the pilot’s weight with respect to the glider. Pilots are suspended from a strap connected to the glider’s frame (hence the name “hang” glider). By moving forward and backward and side to side at the end of this strap, the pilot alters the center of gravity of the glider. This then causes the glider to pitch or roll in the direction of the pilot’s motion and thus allows both speed control and turning.

How high/far can a hang glider go?

This depends a lot on the conditions in which it is flown, but flights in excess of 300 miles in length and altitudes of well over 20,000 ft. MSL have been recorded. (These last have all been with FAA permission for the rules lawyers reading this). More typically, pilots in the summer in the western US will frequently achieve altitudes of 5,000 to 10,000 ft AGL and fly for over 100 miles.

How long do flights last?

Again this depends on conditions, but a high altitude flight is frequently several hours in duration. On good days, pilots don’t have to land until the sun goes down.

Where can gliders launch and land?

Pretty much any slope that is relatively free from obstructions is steeper than about 6 to 1 and faces into the wind can be used to foot launch a hang glider. The pilot just runs down the slope and takes off when the air speed reaches 15 to 20 mph. Alternatively, when no hills are available, towing by trucks, stationary winches and ultra light aircraft allows gliders to get into the air .
Where a hang glider can be landed depends somewhat on the skill of the pilot. An experienced pilot should be able to put a glider safely into any flat spot bigger than about 50 by 200 ft and clear of obstructions. This area requirement can vary somewhat, though, depending on wind conditions and the surrounding terrain.

How safe are hang gliders?

Like any form of sport aviation, hang gliding can be dangerous if pursued carelessly. That said, however, han ggliding can be a very safe sport. Gliders in the US are now certified for airworthiness by the Hang Glider Manufacturers Assn. (HGMA) so structural failures on recent equipment flown within its placard limits are a thing of the past. In addition, reserve parachutes are used on all high altitude hang glider flights now and provide a measure of safety in the rare instances of severe glider damage or complete loss of control.
Also, hang gliding instruction has been standardized and most students learn from certified instructors using a thorough, gradual training program. So the days of untrained pilots trying unsafe manoeuvres at dangerous sites are also largely gone.
Despite these advances, people still make judgement errors and aviation is not very forgiving of such. The bottom line is that out of about 10,000 active pilots in the US, 5 to 10 will have a fatal hang gliding accident in a given year and perhaps 10 times that many will have an injury requiring treatment. The majority of pilots fly their entire careers without sustaining a serious injury.

Flying Conditions

Is lots of wind necessary to launch/fly/land?

Hang gliders can be launched, flown and landed in winds from zero to about 30 mph safely. When winds get above about 40 mph, the associated turbulence makes all aspects of flight substantially less comfortable. Generally, ideal winds for launching and landing are from 5 to 20 mph depending on the flying site. Wind speed is less important in flight since the pilot controls the air speed of the glider whatever the wind speed may be.

How do gliders gain altitude?

In addition to the horizontal wind we’re accustomed to on the ground, air moves vertically as well. If a glider encounters a rising chunk of air, it will go up along with it. The whole trick of soaring a hang glider (or any other glider for that matter) is to figure out where the air is going up and then to get there. While there are many sources of rising air or “lift”, the most commonly used by hang gliders are ridge lift and thermal lift. Ridge lift occurs when horizontal wind hits an obstruction (like a ridge, for instance) and is deflected upward. Thermal lift occurs when terrain is heated by the sun and transfers this heat to the surrounding air – which then rises.
Typically ridge lift exists in a “lift band” on the windward side of a ridge and pilots get up by flying back and forth through this band. Thermal lift on the other hand usually starts at some local “trigger point” on the ground and then rises as a column or bubble of air. To get up in a thermal, pilots typically circle in this region of rising air.

What ranges of temperatures are encountered in flight?

Hang gliders are flown in sub-zero conditions in the winter and in the hottest deserts in the summer. Since the air temperature typically falls by about 4 degrees (F) for every 1000 ft gain in elevation, however, high altitude hang glider flights are frequently cold. Pilots expecting to fly over about 12 – 14,000 ft in the summer will generally wear warm clothing to protect against exposure.

Pilot requirements

Is hang gliding physically demanding?

Almost anyone can fly a hang glider. If someone can jog while balancing a 50 – 70 lb. weight on their shoulders they can learn to fly. While flying does not require great strength (since the straps not the pilot’s arms – hold the pilot up) long duration flights in turbulent conditions require a moderate degree of upper body endurance. This typically develops as the pilot progresses through training to these longer flights.

Do pilots need to be of a certain age, gender, weight or size range?

Hang glider pilots range in age from teens to octogenarians. The limits are more mental than physical. If someone is sufficiently mature to make decisions significantly affecting their safety and has sufficiently good reflexes to make such decisions promptly, then they probably are of a reasonable age for flying.
Since flying depends more on balance and endurance than on brute strength, woman and men make equally good pilots. While the fraction varies regionally, about 10 – 15 % of the hang glider pilots in the US are women.
While pilots of virtually any size can fly, the limits here are mostly dictated by available equipment. Heavier and lighter pilots require commensurately bigger and smaller gliders. Since most hang glider pilots weigh between 90 and 250 lbs, however, it may be difficult to find equipment appropriate for pilots beyond this range. Specially designed tandem gliders are available, however, and may be used for extra heavy pilots. While height per se does not determine who can fly, again, equipment tends to be most available for those between about 5 and 6.5 feet tall. Harness and glider modifications may be necessary for individuals outside this range.

Do pilots need to be licensed to fly hang gliders?

Not really, but a program analogous to FAA licensing exists and is administered by the USHGA (US Hang Gliding Association). This program consists of a specific set of flying skills corresponding to a series of pilot proficiency ratings (Beginner through Master) each of which carries a set of recommended operating limitations. Beginner rated pilots, for instance, should only fly from hills under 100 ft in height in mild winds and under the guidance of an instructor. While these ratings don’t carry the force of law in quite the same way as FAA pilot’s licenses do, the majority of flying sites in the US require that pilots hold some specific USHGA rating to be allowed to fly.
NOTE: this answer is specific to the USA. In other countries different organizations and different legal requirements apply.

How does a student go about learning to fly?

In the USA, the USHGA certifies hang gliding instructors and schools. One of the major reasons hang gliding is safer now than 20 years is this certification program and all students should thus learn from a certified instructor.
The time required for training varies considerably with the student’s innate skills and with the type of training conditions. Typically, though, a student will spend 5 – 10 lessons to obtain each of the first two USHGA pilot ratings (Beginner and Novice) – a process which generally takes from 3 to 6 months. At the end of this primary training process, the student is usually flying from moderate altitudes (several hundred to a few thousand ft) in relative mild conditions. Progression to more difficult flying conditions continues from then on under the supervision of more experienced pilots or Observers/Advanced Instructors.


What is a Paramotor?

It consists of two components really, a paragliding canopy, and a small engine (usually two stroke) fitted to a harness and worn on your back.

How fast does it fly?

It flies at the same speed as the wing wing, normally up to around 40 kph. More power increases the climb rate but not the speed. The wind speed is added or subtracted to give speed over the ground.

How high can it fly?

Most can probably reach or exceed 10,000 feet above sea level. This is far higher than most people want to go, mainly because it gets very cold at that altitude and the scenery is very small and goes past very slowly.

What training is required?

See the section of courses.

What weather conditions can it be flown in?

They are fair weather machines and can only be flown in wind speeds of up to about 15 mph.

How is it steered?

There are two control lines, pulling on the left handle turns to the left, the right line turns to the right. Pulling both handles slows the wing down for landing.

How far can you fly?

Most fuel tanks hold about eight to ten liters of fuel and this lasts for about two to three hours depending on the engine.

What happens when the engine stops?

The normal procedure for landing is to stop the engine at least 50 to 100 feet above the ground and then glide the rest of the way. If the engine stops unexpectedly then you must have a suitable landing field. You should only fly over areas where you can land safely.

How can I get more information?

Contact us. Or find other webs; there are a number of sites on the web where more information can be found.

How safe is it?

It is as safe as you make it. If you have the correct attitude and knowledge then it should be very safe. A well known saying is “The piece of equipment most likely to let you down is the piece between your ears “.

How fit do I need to be?

meters with it on your back. Although when taking off the wing lifts the weight of the motor after a few steps. The training period is probably the most strenuous part as you can do a lot of running without getting off the ground.

What is a powered parachute?

The canopy of a powered parachute is different, it is a square design which is more stable but with worse gliding characteristics. The engine is attached to a trike and is not foot launched.

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