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Amazing Guide to All Things Hang Gliding

For anyone who has ever had the desire to spread their wings (or arms) and fly like a bird, hang gliding can fulfill the dream. You can run down a slope or hill and glide away. You do not need to jump off a cliff. Many people who fear heights have found they could hang glide as there no feeling of falling as in parachuting. In addition hang gliders have control of their take off, direction in flight, and landing.

The equipment is affordable, easily transported, and no engine or fuel is required, and a hang glider usually weighs less than 120 pounds. There is usually no license required. It does not get any simpler than that! In fact a hang glider is one of the easiest ways any one can fly under their own power with some help from the wind. Hang gliders are launched by foot power.

You strap in and are suspended in the harness from an aluminum frame that supports a nylon or mylar canopy which is the wing or glider, and control flight path by shifting body weight. By shifting back and forth or side to side you alter the center of gravity of the glider. You can make the glider pitch or roll in the desired direction and control speed. All other gear is for safety and communication.

You can catch an updraft and soar to your heart’s content. Many recreational hang gliders have used thermal and ridge lift to soar for 4 hours or more. They can reach heights of 26,600 feet and the distance record is for the longest flight is 704 kilometers achieved by Michael Barber on June 19, 2002 in Zapata Texas.

Safety is emphasized even though the sport is relatively low risk. Preparation of equipment and correct information including proper training is imperative. Having communication equipment and knowing how to use it as well as checking local weather conditions and forecasts the day of flight are required.

The average flight lasts about 20-30 minutes, because conditions can vary widely and there is no guarantee of finding the lifting air. Most beginner flights usually span just a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on the flying site.

Hang gliding is different than parasailing. Parasailing is when you are buoyed to a boat and pulled through the air a beach in a modified parachute. There is no control of the parasail by the participant. Hang gliding is not parachuting. Parachutes are for free-falling from heights or airplanes.

Hang gliders are designed to go up instead of down. Hang gliding is also not the same as paragliding. A paraglider is a canopy that suspends the pilot and is kept up by air pressure. A hang glider has an aerodynamic shape.

A hang glider launches by running along the ground and while balancing a 50 - 70 lb. weight on the shoulders. You do not need tremendous strength to hang glide but balance and endurance are desirable. In addition to being physically fit you must stay mentally alert.

Because the wing can bend and flex the aerodynamics create a shock absorber for a much smoother flight than rigid-winged aircraft.

A hang glider has a flexible wing to respond to pilot movement. By shifting weight to the right, the right wing trailing edge will flex up enabling the right wing to drop and slow down.

The yaw or axis is controlled by advancing one wing ahead of the other. This causes more area to the wind for more drag on that side. The wing is balanced when the hang glider is moving straight.

The hang glider pitch control response is excellent. Flying faster is possible by moving weight forward and flying slower by shifting weight aft.

Purchasing Equipment
New hang gliders generally cost between $4,000 and $6,000 and will last about three to five years depending on use, proper care, and exposure to UV light. Regularly testing the sailcloth is recommended to determine need of replacement. A two-way radio and variometer are also recommended and can be bought for under $700. A variometer informs you if you are going up or down and how fast. A GPS is optional but can come in handy.

Because of rapid technological advances the latest new equipment is best, though there is often used hang gliding equipment available at bargain prices.

Most instructors advise learning to fly before buying equipment. This is because hang gliders have unique features for varying skills levels. Instructors build their business through referrals and will often help you decide what equipment to buy.

Getting Started
You can get a tandem introductory flight to make sure hang gliding is for you. Then training begins with learning about the equipment and safety procedures. Training should be done by a certified professional in a controlled learning environment. Because hang gliding is an outdoor sport, weather is an important factor.

Most learners begin with skimming the ground and progress to flying. The three basic performances of hang gliding are launching, turning, and landing. Many people fly solo within two days. Then you will fly solo under radio supervision. If you are then convinced you want participate in this sport you can enroll in a Novice Certification Course to learn more launch and flying techniques and so on. Most students obtain their USHGA pilot ratings of Beginner and Novice with three to six months which allows them to fly at altitudes up to a few thousand feet. Advancing to higher altitudes and more difficult conditions is usually done with the supervision of Observers/Advanced Instructors.

While a license is not required to be a hang glider pilot, in the US they are regulated by the Federal Aviation Regulations under the support of the United States Hang Gliding Association (USHGA). The USHGA program lays out guidelines for flying skills with pilot proficiency ratings of Beginner through Master. The ratings all have operating limitations and can require certain USHGA certified ratings for specific locations.

Choose a hang gliding school in the US with United States Hang Gliding Association (USHGA) certified instructors. Ask for the instructor’s USHGA ratings and the student teacher ratio. Make sure the flights are radio supervised. Check the safety record of the school and how many students get certified annually there.

Hang Gliding Associations

List of Hang Gliding Associations

US Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association
Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association that promotes the growth of sport.

Sylmar Hang Gliding Association
Sylmar, CA association that promotes hang gliding with interesting articles and more resources.

British Hang Gliding
British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association supervises pilot and instructor training standards. They also provide technical support and coaching courses for pilots and support a country-wide network of recreational clubs and registered schools.

British Hang Gliding Association

New Zealand Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association

Gliding New Zealand
There are 25 gliding clubs and two commercial schools in New Zealand, with a total of about 900 pilots and 360 gliders.

Hang Gliding Association of Western Australia

Victorian Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association

Fédération Aéronautique Internationale

World Hang Gliding Association

US Hang Gliding Schools

About Hang Gliding
Forums, blogs, wiki, photos, and videos
Loads of hang gliding information and pics.

Adventure Productions Video

The Oz Report
A collection of hang gliding videos and news.

Hang Gliding Forum

US Hang Gliding Records

Hang Gliding and Weather

Hang Gliding Equipment

Hang Glider Bible
This site is working to collect and list all hang gliders and their specifications.

Hang Gliding Equipment

All About Hang Gliding

Cowboy Up Hang Gliding

Hang Gliding Manufacturers



Avian Hang Gliders




La Moutte



Seedwings INC.

Swift - Aeriane

Up Hang Gliders

Wills Wing

Hang Gliding Sites

Delta - Cool hang gliding links from all over the world

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