- Basic Paraglider
& Version information
Basic Performance Questions:
Fred Vachss <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
USHGA Advanced Instructor / Examiner, Ventura County, CA, 1992
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.
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
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 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
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.
2. Flying Conditions:
Fred Vachss <email@example.com>,
USHGA Advanced Instructor / Examiner, Ventura County, CA, 1992
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
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 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, <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
USHGA Advanced Instructor / Examiner, Ventura County, CA, 1992
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.
Do pilots need to be of a certain age, gender, weight or size
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.
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.
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
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 other
interested parties worldwide participate and can offer a wealth of information on
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if you are prepared to cope with >30 messages a day (Please
notice the "-request" in both cases!!!). The -request address
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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Usenet: The newsgroup rec.aviation.hang-gliding is dedicated to hang-gliding, paragliding and all related
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is archived in gopherspace via gopher://gopher.utah.edu:70/11/Off%20Campus%20
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
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 http://www.poweropen.org/hang/
There also is a server dedicated to Free Flying in Europe http://www.thphys.uni-heidelberg.de/~orloff/FF/
Paragliders specifics can be found on the Big Air server http://www.housing.calpoly.edu/html/
This is the first draft of a simple FAQ on Paragliding. Please
direct all corrections and additions to John Little <gaijin@Japan.sbi.COM>.
Last updated 20 Sep 1994.
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.
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.
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
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.
Why would anyone want to fly a Paraglider when they could fly a
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.
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.
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.
are Big-Ears (Rossette, A-Line Stall, Collapses)?
You don't wanna' know... yet!
by Dave Broyles < firstname.lastname@example.org>
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
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
5.C. What is a
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
glider is at flying speed it is released from the platform
already flying. The launch is very much like an assisted windy cliff
5.I. What is a
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
A hook knife is a knife designed to cut line and straps but nothing thicker.
5.W. What is an
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
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.
is an observer imperative?
In training situations or very demanding conditions or whenever the pilot requests one, a separate observer should be provided.
Is towing hanggliders or paragliders more dangerous than foot
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
by Deane G. Williams <email@example.com>,
USHGA Hang V.
Last update: March 16, 1995
7.A. What does
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
(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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
FAQ Version and Credits
Version 2.13.1, Last modified: Mon Dec 10 13:24:37 1995
Hang Gliding FAQ:
Fred Vachss <firstname.lastname@example.org>
USHGA Advanced Instructor / Examiner, Ventura County, CA
Para Gliding FAQ:
John Little <gaijin@Japan.sbi.COM>
Dave Broyles <email@example.com>
Brad Kushner, Raven Sky Sports,
Whitewater Wisconsin (414)473-2003
Deane G. Williams <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
(203-677-3095), USHGA Hang V.
Collected by Bob Mackey <email@example.com>
conversion to HTML by Jean Orloff <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Minor editing Joco Geada <email@example.com>
Name : Joao M C Geada Phone: (508) 262 6225
Fax: (508) 262 6636
Post : Cadence Design Systems, 270 Billerica Rd, Chelmsford MA
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