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Frequently Asked Questions:

Hang gliding FAQ's

  1. Basic Performance Questions:
  2. Flying Conditions:
  3. Pilot Requirements:


  1. Basic Paraglider Questions:

Advanced Topics:

  1. Towing:
  2. Aerotowing:
  3. Supine:

Credits & Version information

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1. Basic Performance Questions:
Fred Vachss <>, USHGA Advanced Instructor / Examiner, Ventura County, CA, 1992
1.A. How do you steer? Hanggliders 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.
1.B. How high/far can a hanglider 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.
1.C. 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.
1.D. 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 hanglider. 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 ultralight aircraft allows gliders to get into the air.
Where a hanglider 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.
1.E. How safe are hanggliders?
Like any form of sport aviation, hangliding can be dangerous if pursued carelessly. That said, however, hangliding 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 placarded limits are a thing of the past. In addition, reserve parachutes are used on all high altitude hanglider flights now and provide a measure of safety in the rare instances of severe glider damage or complete loss of control. Also, hangliding 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 maneuvers 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 hangliding 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.

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2. Flying Conditions:

Fred Vachss <>,
USHGA Advanced Instructor / Examiner, Ventura County, CA, 1992

2.A. Is lots of wind necessary to launch/fly/land?
Hanggliders 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.
2.B. 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 an 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.
2.C. What range of temperatures are encountered in flight?
Hanggliders 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 hanglider 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. 
3. Pilot Requirements:

Fred Vachss, <>,
USHGA Advanced Instructor / Examiner, Ventura County, CA, 1992

3.A. Is hangliding physically demanding?
Almost anyone can fly a hanglider. 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. 
3.B. Do pilots need to be of a certain age, gender, weight or size range?
Hanglider 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 hanglider 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 hanglider 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. 
3.C. Do pilots need to be licensed to fly hang gliders?
NOTE: this answer is specific to the USA. In other countries different organizations and different legal requirements apply. 
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.
3.D. How does a student go about learning to fly?
In the USA, the USHGA certifies hangliding instructors and schools. One of the major reasons hangliding is safer now than 20 years is this certification program and all students should thus learn from a certified instructor. Lists of certified schools can be obtained from the USHGA at (719) 632-8300; a copy of this list is also available at School list 
You may also get information by posting a request to the hang gliding mailing list at:
or by posting a query to the hangliding newsgroup rec.aviation.hang-gliding 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. 
3.E. How much does all this cost?
If a student goes to a certified school in a large urban area and buys all new equipment at retail prices, learning to fly can cost $5000+. If one purchases used equipment, however, this price can easily drop to around $1000. Whenever used equipment is purchased, however, it is IMPERATIVE that an experienced pilot familiar with the equipment inspect it thoroughly.  Costs vary a lot, but as of 1992 figure on:  Training through the Novice level: $400 - $1000 
Training glider: $400 - $1500 (used) $2000 - $3500 (new)
Harness $50 - $300 (used) $150 - $600 (new)
Parachute $200 - $300 (used) $350 - $400 (new)
Helmet $80 - $300 (new)
Fortunately, this can be purchased in stages. Usually instructors will provide training equipment as part of their package through the Beginner rating, but will expect students to obtain their own equipment beyond this point. Parachutes aren't really useful for altitudes below about 300 ft AGL and thus usually needn't be purchased until reaching the Novice level.
3.F. How to get more information: (Jean Orloff, 4/95)

There is an active mailing list dedicated to hangliding, paragliding and related issues. Pilots and oth
er interested parties worldwide participate and can offer a wealth of information on these topics. Any mail you (or anyone else) sends to will get to all subscribers on the list. To subscribe to a mailing list, simply send a message with the word subscribe in the Subject: field to [mails will then be sent in digests of about 32kB], or to if you are prepared to cope with >30 messages a day (Please notice the "-request" in both cases!!!). The -request address also supports the following subject lines: unsubscribe (to cancel subscription) help archive help FAQ (sends out something like this message) Back issues of articles (and other goodies) are available from the hangliding archive server automated e-mail response system. Send e-mail to with help in the message body. Usenet: The newsgroup rec.aviation.hang-gliding is dedicated to hang-gliding, paragliding and all related subjects. Gopher: Mail sent to is archived in gopherspace via gopher:// Information/Recreation/hang-gliding The "hang gliding archives" can be searched via the search engine available in gopher. WWW Back issues of digests, photos, a pilot directory and other HG/PG information are available on the WWW from the Hang Gliding WWW Server ( HGMPSHomePage.html) at SLAC. Previous digest volumes may also be searched for keywords. New (4/95) servers started collecting flying sites informations over USA and elsewhere even available through a sensitive map There also is a server dedicated to Free Flying in Europe Paragliders specifics can be found on the Big Air server paragliding.html

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Para-Gliding FAQ:

This is the first draft of a simple FAQ on Paragliding. Please direct all corrections and additions to John Little <>. Last updated 20 Sep 1994.
4.A. What is a "Paraglider"?
A paraglider 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 musclepower. 
4.B What are the main component parts of a Paraglider?
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. 
4.C. Is a Paraglider the same thing as a parachute?
No. A Paraglider is similar to a modern, steerable skydiving canopy, but different in several important ways. The Paraglider 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 Paraglider usually has more cells and thinner risers than a parachute. 
4.D.What is the difference between a Hanglider and a Paraglider?
A Hanglider 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. The Hanglider has a "cleaner" aerodynamic profile and generally is capable of flying at much higher speeds than a Paraglider.
4.E. Why would anyone want to fly a Paraglider when they could fly a Hanglider?
A Paraglider folds down into a package the size of a largish knapsack and can be carried easily. Conversely, a Hanglider 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 Paraglider.
4.F.How much does a Paraglider cost?
This varies between makers, models, countries and phases of the moon, but a middle of the range canopy and harness will normally cost somewhere in the region of $3000 to $4000.
4.G. How long does a Paraglider 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.
4.H.What are Big-Ears (Rossette, A-Line Stall, Collapses)?
You don't wanna' know... yet!

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Advanced Topics FAQ:

5. Towing

by Dave Broyles <>

5.A. How do you tow a hanglider?
there are a number of ways, but they include using a static line, a payout winch, a stationary winch or aero tow.
5.B.What is a static line?
A static line is a fixed length of rope usually with some sort of quick-release on each end which is attached to a moving vehicle at one end and the hanglider at the other. Often a tension gauge is inserted in the towline to insure that the hanglider is not towed too hard.
5.C. What is a payout winch?
Have you ever flown a kite where you run along paying out string from a ball as you ran while the kite climbs? Similarly, a payout winch is a winch which is mounted in the back of a truck or on a trailer, and pays out line as the hanglider gets higher. The line tension is maintained by the use of a disk brake from a motorcycle or car which is mounted on the side of the winch drum. The amount of drag the disk brake exerts is controlled by the winch operator but if set generally remains constant for all payout speeds.
5.D. What is a stationary winch?
It is a powered winch that stays in one spot and which pulls line in under tension. All of the line on the winch is pulled out, then the far end of the rope is attached to the glider. On a signal, the winch pulls the line back in to make the glider climb. When the glider arrives over the winch, the pilot releases the towline. The tow tension is a function of the throttle setting of the engine powering it.
5.E. What is aero tow?
The tow vehicle is an ultralight aircraft designed to fly at the very slow speeds needed to safely tow a hanglider. The towline is attached at one end to a release on the ultralight and on the other end to the hanglider. The ultralight flys up to altitude with the hang glider flying under tow behind, then the hanglider releases.
5.F. How is the towline attached to the hanglider?
It's attached to a release which has lines which pass around the pilot and attach to the glider at the same point the pilot attaches. The release is positioned in front of the pilot so he can easily operate it. There is a weaklink between the release and towline to protect the glider from overloads. 
5.G.How does a hanglider take off when it's being towed?
The pilot may foot launch, platform launch or dolly launch the glider, or even launch the glider from floats on the water.
5.H.What is Platform launch?
The glider and pilot are mounted on a moveable platform such as the bed of a pickup or of a trailer in flying position. A payout winch is also on the platform, and the line from it is attached to the glider. The platform is driven or towed into the wind, and when the
glider is at flying speed it is released from the platform already flying. The launch is very much like an assisted windy cliff launch.
5.I. What is a dolly launch?
The glider and pilot are mounted on a 3 wheel dolly in flying position and the glider is towed to flying speed and flown from the dolly.
5.J. How is a glider foot-launched for tow?
The tow rope is attached to the glider and pilot so that the pilot can keep the nose of the glider low on launch. The tow starts and the pilot runs the glider off of the ground very much like a foot launch from a slope.
5.K. How long are the towlines used for tow?
A static line tow generally uses a line from 1000 to 2000 ft long. A payout winch may have up to 6000 ft of rope on it but more generally will have about 3000 ft. on it. A stationary winch will have anywhere from 2000 ft. to 5000 ft. or more of rope on it.
5.L. What material are the towlines made of?
Popular materials have been dacron, spectra, kevlar and polyproplene. The stronger the line material, the stronger the line. Towlines generally have line strengths of 600 to 1200 lbs.
5.M. What is a weaklink?
A weaklink is a slender piece of line or rarely a mechanical device which will break or release the towline if excessive towline tension is experienced.
5.N. What tension will cause a weaklink to break?
Weaklinks come in different sizes but generally are selected to fail at about 1 gee or at a force equivalent to the gross load of the glider. Weak links used with payout winches are generally a little stronger so they won't break at launch.
5.O. What is scooter tow?
A small motorscooter or vehicle with a centrifugal clutch and variable speed belt drive is used as a stationary winch usually with the rear wheel replaced by a small winch drum. 
5.P. Does it take any training to learn to fly a hanglider under tow?
A hanglider is somewhat more difficult to fly under tow, and the pilot must also be aware of the various things that can go wrong in order to react appropriately. The USHGA has tow administrators who can rate people for tow. Most of those are also instructors and can train people to tow safely.
5.Q. How about flying a paraglider under tow?
Paragliders are relatively easy to fly under tow with several exceptions. However, learning to fly a paraglider under tow should be done under the supervision of a qualified instructor.
5.R. What are the exceptions?
A paraglider may lockout if not flown directly behind the towline. Under tow the pilot will be less aware of canopy alignment and must be sure to keep it straight. The pilot should hold little or no brakes except for directional control unless tow tension is very light. Pilot must be able to manage a surge properly if releasing while tow tension is still being applied.
5.S. So, what is a lockout?
For a hanglider or a paraglider, a lockout is a situation where the glider is turned away from the direction of the towline and the pilot can't turn the glider back.
5.T. How does a pilot recover from a lockout?
The best way is to avoid entering one, but secondarily, the pilot may release from tow, or the tow operator may reduce tension to allow the pilot to take corrective action. (hanglider and paraglider)
5.U. What if the pilot is in a lockout or other trouble situation and the release fails?
A pilot should fly with a hook knife. The winch operator or observer, if there is one, should also have a hook knife to cut the towline in an emergency.
5.V. What is a hook knife?
A hook knife is a knife designed to cut line and straps but nothing thicker. 
5.W. What is an observer?
It is a person who faces the pilot under tow and who's sole responsibility during the tow is to facilitate the tow and deal with emergencies usually by reducing tow tension or cutting the towline. 
5.X. Does everyone use a winch operator or observer?
Many tow operations dispense with an observer preferring to let the driver perform some of the observer functions. In some cases such as aero tow, there is no possible way to have a separate observer. In platform launch, a second person may ride on the platform to try to deal with emergencies by slacking pressure on the winch or cutting the rope. In static line tow, the observer may face rearward to operate the release at the vehicle end of the towline in an emergency. In a stationary winch tow, the operator faces the pilot and operates the winch and there is no driver needed. 
5.Y. When is an observer imperative?
In training situations or very demanding conditions or whenever the pilot requests one, a separate observer should be provided.
5.Z. Is towing hanggliders or paragliders more dangerous than foot launch?
Probably not, but it's hard to say as we don't actually know the proportion of towing activity to foot launch. As towing is more complicated than foot launch and more equipment intensive, there is more room for error and equipment failure. However in some areas of the US, towing is the primary method of launch and many pilots seldom launch any other way.

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6. Aerotowing - High Tech Hangliding on a Leash

Article by Brad Kushner, Raven Sky Sports,
Whitewater Wisconsin (414)473-2003

(This article originally appeared in the magazine HANG GLIDING Special New Pilot Edition III. It has been copied with the author's permission. Unfortunately, the excellent photos could not be included too.)

6.A. Introduction
There are quite a few ways to fly a hanglider. One of them is aerotowing, and it offers a unique, fun and rewarding way to begin a flight. A foot-launch free flyer is as free as a bird from the moment he clears launch. That's why most of us pursue hangliding - the swooping, the soaring, the controlled carving of turns through unseen powder-snow air molecules that give us the same giddy euphoria as our childhood dreams of flight did. 
Aerotowing, on the other hand, starts out a lot more like taking a dog for a walk on a leash - wandering in different directions, the master and obedient pooch who learns, sooner or later, that to "heel" or "follow" is in Rover's best interest after all. But, that leash thing! It's definitely something that takes getting used to. Fortunately, it's well worth it. The leash is a small price to pay for a trip to the park, especially since we know we can slip off the leash once we get there.
Aerotowing has opened up new hangliding opportunities that never existed before, in parts of the country and in weather conditions that are now much more rewarding to sport fliers than they ever were. Experienced hanglider pilots get familiar with aerotowing after brief training and earn an "AT" special skill sign off on their rating cards. Many get spoiled by the convenience of the launch and landing zones being one and the same. 
Most hanglider pilots view aerotowing as just an alternative way to get "up there" and, once up, use the same strategies they have always used for soaring in available lifting air. Thermaling and ridge soaring are easily accomplished if the tow aloft brings the pilot to a thermal source or a soarable ridge. Aerotowing has an advantage over automotive towing in that the hanglider can be taken to expected sources of lift that are away from the launch aera or runway. Part of the fun of aerotowing is planning the tow portion of the flight: going upwind or across the wind to known thermal sources and staying on tow until a thermal is encountered. Releasing in a thermal is a wonderful feeling!
Novice pilots who are learning to aerotow benefit greatly from tandem instruction. During a lesson plan of three to five hours of dual airtime, a newcomer can learn how to be a good Rover on the way up and how to pilot a free-flying hanglider on the way down. During 10 or more half-hour flights with an instructor, the student learns to coordinate with the aerotug through the launch sequence, then follows on course behind the tug through air currents which inevitably have their ups and downs. The student learns quickly about proper control input and corrections in both speed and direction while on tow. After the tow up and release, typical lesson plans include coordinated turns, stalls and recovery, and landing approaches, all of which are just like any other free-flight hangliding curriculum. Usually the landing is at the same spot as the launch, and repeat lessons and flights on the same day are very convenient and productive. First solo flights are usually performed in near calm conditions, with the additional support of the instructor's reassuring voice on a two-way radio.
6.B. Aerotowing
To set up for a typical aerotow hangliding flight, the tow rope is stretched out on the ground between the aerotug and the hanglider, and all are lined up into the wind. Any available headwind will make the takeoff roll very short. The tug accelerates up the runway and the hanglider follows. Most aerotow launches are made from a dolly or launch cart, which makes for easy, no-running launches either for solo or tandem lessons. The tug and the hanglider achieve takeoff speed at roughly the same time. Once they leave the ground and throughout the rest of the tow, the pilots must cooperate and coordinate their altitude and airspeed. Rover has to stay just behind his Master and try to keep a light but steady tension on the leash if this is going .to be a fun outing. 
Usually the tug is the faster of the two, and the hanglider has to speed up a bit to match speed. If he doesn't, he'll likely fly too slowly and loft above the aerotug. A well-coordinate aerotow flight usually involves the hanglider pilot pulling in and diving a bit at various times during the flight in order to keep a horizontal relationship with the tug. The tug pilot adjusts airspeed and altitude too, while watching the rear-view mirror to keep the hanglider on the horizon (see photo). If it's done right, the hanglider pilot will see the aerotug right on the horizon in front of him, plus or minus 30 feet of altitude (see photos). 
The glider pilot also has to keep his glider aligned with the tow. If Rover makes a spontaneous turn right or left, within moments the two aircraft will want to pull apart and break free. That isn't as hazardous as it might sound, but near the ground it can be cause for alarm. A hanglider pilot should have confident control of speed and direction in order to aerotow. Typically, we stay on tow about five minutes to 2,000 to 3,000 feet above the ground. The hang glider pilot then triggers a release and flies free, and the tug brings the rope home.
6.C. The Equipment
The Moyes-Bailey Dragonfly is the most popular of the aerotugs. It was designed for the sole purpose of safe aerotowing, and has a tow mast and release mechanism built into the airframe. The horizontal stabilizer is built low so the tug pilot has a good view in the rear-view mirror. The special wings and ailerons afford very low speed capabilities, even though the frame is sturdy and the engine is powerful. Several other types of tow planes are also in use today. The trike wing type of motorized hanglider is well suited to aerotow, and motorized paragliders, or paramotors, have been used experimentally to tow paragliders air-to-air at extra low airspeeds, which the other aerotugs cannot do. All aerotowing in the United States is performed under the USHGA aerotowing exemption granted by the FAA. 
The launch dolly permits the hanglider pilot to take off from level ground without any running, allowing him to concentrate on flight control while the tug does all the work getting both up to airspeed. During the rolling launch, the glider is cradled and supported both by the basetube and the tail. The pilot is suspended about a foot off the ground, prone in his harness. A signal is given to the tug that the hanglider is ready, and the tug accelerates down the runway. Castering wheels on the dolly allow it to track smoothly in the direction of the tow. The dolly is left on the ground when the hanglider lifts off, and usually rolls only 50 yards or so before takeoff. Since most traditional hanglider launches are accomplished while running upright, the prone launch off of the dolly is noticeably different for an experienced pilot. New pilots training on aerotow will wish to supplement their learning with bunny hill lessons for running takeoffs. 
The leash or tow rope used in aerotowing is 200 to 300 feet of brightly colored lightweight rope. Polypropylene is what most aerotowers use. We've found a neat little manual reeler at the hardware shop. It's meant for extension cords and stores our 300 feet just right. We keep two tow ropes available at all times, for those occasions when one is accidentally dropped in a hard to find place like Wisconsin. We also discovered (the hard way) that bright yellow polypro becomes invisible in corn or hay fields, so we found some neon-orange rope and hardly ever lose one anymore. It takes only minutes to unspool a tow rope and attach it to the plane and glider. 
The tow rope is symmetrical, that is, it is finished with a metal ring at each end so that there's no front or back. The bridle (or V-line, for its shape in flight) on the Dragonfly tow plane's tail functions exactly like the bridle or V-line on the hanglider pilot's harness front. They both have a release mechanism and a safety weak link, and any way you detach, the result is a trailing orange rope and ring. We plan on keeping the rope attached to the Dragonfly but it doesn't always work out that way. So Rover has to be prepared to be unexpectedly turned loose, maybe even with the leash trailing from his collar. A hanglider pilot can wrap that rope around some anchor down there, with hazardous results. We've lassoed cornstalks and dragged them down the runway with the aerotug. A hanglider probably wouldn't win that tug o' war. One should be prepared to get custody of the rope unexpectedly, and if low, release it before it catches on something. (If high, of course, one should bring it back and drop it where it can be found.) 
The safety weak link is a very important part of the system. Its purpose is to disconnect the hanglider from the tug at any time the tow forces rise above a certain level. There's one at the hang glider end of the rope, and another slightly stronger one at the other end, on the tug. A pilot experiencing a challenging flight, as a result of inexperience or turbulence, will likely break a weak link before the tow is complete. This "accidental" release often prevents a rough ride from developing into a dangerous one, and the glider returns to the launch area and lands.
6.D. Extraordinary People
Physically challenged student pilots, some in wheelchairs, are also discovering the joys of aerotow hangliding. The rolling dolly launch method is ideal for the hangliding enthusiast who cannot alternatively do running launches off a hill. Regular safety training wheels are sufficient for most intentional roll-in landings, and larger custom wheels are used for both launch and landing by some mobility impaired hanglider pilots at a variety of U.S. flying sites. 
Heavyweight pilot trainees are finding that their weight isn't as much of a concern when rolling launches are made off the dolly. Even in no wind, the large pilot can achieve takeoff speed effortlessly, even with a tandem instructor aboard! Students weighing more than 250 pounds have flown tandem on aerotow and gone on to solo flights. Since hanggliders come in many different sizes, small people and large people can use the best available equipment to meet their needs. 
A call or letter to the friendly office staff at the USHGA can get you a current list of aerotow operators around the country. See you at cloudbase!

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7. Supine
by Deane G. Williams <>, (203-677-3095),
Last update: March 16, 1995

7.A. What does SUPINE mean?
Flying in a seated position with the legs extended forward (to reduce drag) below the basetube. Control is by the normal method with hands on the basetube. Legs are supported by a line and foot stirrup from the carabiner. 
7.B. What does SUPRONE mean?
(from SUpine and PRONE) Flying in a seated position within the confines of the control bar. Feet may rest on a stirrup or on the base tube. Control is by hands on the uprights. This position is far less common than supine and requires placing ones feet up and over the base tube after launch and back behind the base tube before landing. Perhaps the best advantage to this method is that more speed may be achieved and that the glider's control bar does not have to be re-rigged from the prone position. This is the position used by the Wills Wing Sky-Floater system utilizing modified paraglider harnesses.
7.C. What are the advantages to flying supine?
Increased visibility (due to the head up position) helps in searching for active clouds and other pilots, increased comfort, less neck strain and better ability to perform windy cliff launches due to the ease with which the nose may be pointed into the lift vector.
7.D. What are the disadvantages?
Re-rigging of glider required, some adjustment to launch technique (due to loose support straps on a running launch), modification of the landing flare by using the rear wires. These technique changes will be easy for most pilots. The primary performance disadvantage will be the limiting of the gliders top speed to about 40 to 45 mph (64 to 72 km/hr). This speed range has been sufficient for all normal flying but will probably not do for all out competition racing.
7.E. Is there a glide ratio disadvantage?
Supine is usually perceived as being a higher drag position than prone but actual tests performed over long glide paths side by side fail to show any significant difference at best glide speeds. high speeds there may be a slight disadvantage.
7.F. Can a supine pilot be a good XC pilot?
Yes. Bob Thompson of Phoenix, Arizona, USA held his state's XC record for many years at over 210 miles (over 320 km.). He consistently outflew many prone pilots during this period. In New England there are several dedicated supine XC pilots with site records which still stand.
7.G. How is a glider altered to fly it supine?
The control bar front and back cables must be altered or replaced to so that the base tube is swung back 12-16 inches (30-40 cm.) from the prone position. On gliders with loose side wires the side cables need not be altered. On other gliders the side cables may be altered (usually slightly longer) or a longer base tube may be used.
7.H. Can I get factory-made cables for supine flying?
Yes. Many manufacturers know the correct lengths and will make up a set for you. Check with your manufacturer.
7.I. If I decide to modify the cables myself what is the best way?
Set the glider up and place on saw-horses at a normal flying angle of attack. The base tube should be just off the floor. Mark the location of the base tube on the floor with chalk. Lengthen the front wires the required amount listed above. Use the shorter measurement for
long-armed pilots and the longer one for short-armed pilots. The cables may be easily lengthened by adding cable segments (with thimbles) to the existing cables. Use a known good Nico-Press tool to swedge the Nico sleeves. Now shorten the rear wires enough to tension the lower wires to the same extent they were before modification. This may be done by carefully slicing open the Nico sleeves with a Dremel tool with an abrasive cut-off wheel and then spreading them open. Now install new Nicos, pull cable through the thimbles until tight and crimp the Nicos. Use Dremel to cut off excess cable. 
7.J. Where can I get a supine harness?
Ask around. Some pilots have old, unused supine harness they will sell for a small amount. Sky Sports and Sunbird made very strong and comfortable harnesses. Also several major harness manufacturers will custom make one for you. Paraglider harnesses may be modified by a harness maker to create a quality supine harness.
7.K. Any other equipment recomended while flying supine?
A speed bar will increase top speed over a straight bar. Gloves should be worn during all flights to provide a safe grip on the rear wires during the landing flare.
7.L. Can a supine pilot be platform towed or aerotowed?
Yes. Both have been done. The lines normally attached to the prone pilot's shoulders should be connected above the hips and run below the base tube
7.M. Where can I get more information?
For lessons contact Desert Hang Gliders in Arizona at
602-938-9550. For information on the Sky-Floater system contact Wills Wing. For harness manufacturers contact High Energy Sports or Ultralight Soaring Software.

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Hang/Para-Gliding FAQ Version and Credits

Version 2.13.1, Last modified: Mon Dec 10 13:24:37 1995

Hang Gliding FAQ:

Fred Vachss <>
USHGA Advanced Instructor / Examiner, Ventura County, CA
Para Gliding FAQ:
John Little <>
Towing FAQ:
Dave Broyles <>
Aerotowing FAQ:
Brad Kushner, Raven Sky Sports,
Whitewater Wisconsin (414)473-2003
Supine FAQ:
Deane G. Williams <>,
(203-677-3095), USHGA Hang V.

Collected by Bob Mackey <>
conversion to HTML by Jean Orloff <>
Minor editing Joco Geada <>

Name : Joao M C Geada Phone: (508) 262 6225
Email: Fax: (508) 262 6636
Post : Cadence Design Systems, 270 Billerica Rd, Chelmsford MA 01824-4140

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