Q. What is Paragliding?
A. Paragliding is a form of unpowered flying and uses the same principles as gliders (sailplanes) and hanggliders. The engine here is the gravity, which makes all of them descend (less than 1.5 m/s) through the air but also flying ahead (with more than 60 km/h). In still air a 1000 meter descent/gliding with a paraglider results in 9 km flight.
Q. So far so good but where is the Miracle?
A. The miracle is the SUN. Because of the energy it contributes to the earth’s surface and because of the wind’s energy (which is also result of the Sun’s activity). In the real atmosphere, during our gliding (and descending) flight, we meet surprisingly often and surprisingly many areas of lifting air. When this air is rising faster than the glider’s descending rate we can gain height of hundreds and even thousands of meters, this can extend the duration of our flight (6-7 hours and more) and aids cross-country flights of several hundred kilometers. Just like birds -without a drop of fuel and engine noise – only because of the free Sun energy!
Q. What is a Paraglider?
A. A Paraglider is actually the wing that gives us the freedom of unpowered flying. It consists of ram-air, aerofoil canopy and manylines (strong thin ropes/cords) and risers on which the pilot is suspended in his comfortable harness. The first paragliders were developed from parachutes and looked like a modern, steerable, skydiving canopy. Thus came the name paraglider (a gliding parachute), paragliding (gliding/flying with parachute). The shape, profile and characteristics of modern paragliders change and develop but will always use the same aerodynamics’ principles as the wing of any airplane.
Q. What are the main components of a Paraglider and how does it fly?
A. The canopy consists of two surfaces, connected with ribs, which divide it into 40-70 cells. There are openings at the leading edge, while the trailing edge of the canopy is closed. During the flight, part of the passing air fills and maintains a pressure in the cells (thus maintaining the wing-like shape of the canopy), while most of the air passes around both surfaces creating lift force. Because of this lift force we descend gently -not fall like a stone.
Q. How does a Paraglider launch?
A. Unlike the parachutes where you jump from an airplane or high object (rock, bridge, building – BASE jumping), you inflate and launch a paraglider whilst on your feet -after few steps running against the wind and down a hill (mountain) or towed by a winch or vehicle in flatlands.
Q. How do you control and land a paraglider?
A. Two “brake” lines/cords are controlling each half of the trailing edge of the wing. Pulling one of them deforms the same half of the trailing edge, creates drag and makes the wing turn the same direction. When landing we pull both brakes which reduces the speed of the paraglider, this converts most of its kinetic energy into potential (slower descent) and we land as soft as standing up from a chair.
Q. What is the difference between a Hangglider and a Paraglider?
A. A Hangglider has a rigid frame maintaining the shape of the wing, with the pilot usually flying in a prone position. The Paraglider canopy shape is maintained only by air pressure and the pilot is suspended in a sitting or supine position. Paragliders folds down fast (5 minutes) into a package the size of a large rucksack and can be carried easily (10-15 kg). Conversely, a Hangglider is bigger(3-6 meters), heavier (30-50 kg) and 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 (20-30 minutes). Despite some advantages of hanggliders (faster air speed, better turbulence resistance, higher gliding ratio), it’s also somewhat easier to launch, land and learn to fly a Paraglider.
Q. Is Paragliding Safe?
A. With proper training and equipment, paragliding is one of the safest forms of personal flying. But like any other adventure sport, paragliding has its associated risks. In order to practice it safely everyone must strive at all times to minimize those risks. The most important pre-requisites to learning to fly safely are: pilot attitude, competent instruction, and safe equipment. If these conditions are met, the slow speeds and inherent stability of paragliders can provide a safe and easy way to fly.
Q. Can I teach myself Paragliding?
A. Paragliders are the most simple of aircraft. Most people can learn to launch, turn, and land in about an hour and a half of instruction. This is partly possible because we control the situation, assess the conditions and make safety decisions for our students. What cannot be taught in this period of time, however, are all the things necessary to make flight decisions on your own. In order to do this safely, it is necessary to have a comprehensive knowledge of aerodynamics, weather, equipment and safety procedures and most importantly anti-collision rules and air law. The pilot training program encompasses these things and is the fastest and safest possible way to learn Paragliding, while initial self teaching needs much more time and is the main reason for most accidents.
Q. How much does a Paraglider cost?
A. This varies between manufacturers, models, and mainly the countries it is sold. New paraglider cost from 1500 to 3000 €. Don’t forget that you also need a harness (4-600 €), a reserve parachute (4-600 €) and a helmet (100 €). Gloves, flying suit, good boots, sunglasses, variometer, GPS, radio, etc. are not obligatory but make flying more comfortable. The second hand equipment is much cheaper but an experienced pilot should choose it.
Q. How long does a Paraglider last?
A. General wear and tear (especially the latter) and deterioration from exposure to ultra-violet light, usually limits the useful lifetime of a canopy to somewhere in the region of 4-6 years. This obviously depends strongly on how much use and the exposure to UV light.