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ParaGliding: Basic Questions

Paragliding is sport flying in a special type of parachute which can be launched by running down a hill.
Hang Gliding: Paragliding is very similar to hang gliding, in fact they are essentially the same activity done with slightly different equipment. The hang glider has some form of semi-rigid framework which supports the shape of the wing. The paraglider is a completely flexible wing; it’s shape in flight is supported by ram air pressure which enters the cells of the canopy at the front, and causes the canopy to inflate into its desired shape.

Skydiving: Modern skydiving canopies look very similar to paragliders, and in fact the design of paraglider evolved from ram air skydiving parachute canopies. The sports themselves are quite different; however. In skydiving, the main idea is free-fall; that part of the jump before the parachute is opened during which the skydiver experiences a form of flying which is largely unencumbered by any additional equipment. During free fall, skydivers can control their horizontal movement, and do various maneuvers and relative work. The main function of the canopy is to arrest their rapid rate of descent and allow a safe landing at a chosen spot. In paragliding, the main idea is gliding and soaring using the canopy as your aircraft.

Parasailing: Parasailing, unlike hang gliding, paragliding, or skydiving, is an activity more akin to an amusement park ride, requiring no particular skill or participation on the part of the person doing it. In parasailing, one is towed behind a boat while suspended from a circular parachute. The parachute follows the boat, and always remains attached to the towline, and there is no need, nor any opportunity for the person attached to it to control the parasail. Paragliding, by contrast, is piloted flight.

Paragliders are controlled by a pair of steering lines or “brake” lines. Pulling on the left brake makes you turn left. Pulling on both brakes makes you slow down.
There are two phases to launching. First the canopy is inflated in the wind and flown up over the pilot’s head. Then, the pilot runs down the slope of a hill until the paraglider has enough speed to fly at which point it lifts the pilot away from the ground. In the absence of a hill, paragliders can also be towed aloft, either by a truck or car, by a boat, or by a winch.
Flight in a glider does not depend on the wind, and paragliders can be flown when there is no wind at all. Flight in any winged aircraft does depend on what we call “relative wind” which is the movement of the air over the wings, or, from another perspective, the movement of the wings through the air. It is this “relative wind” or air movement over the wings which creates the “lift” that supports an aircraft against the pull of gravity. In a paraglider, the ram air pressure from this relative wind entering the openings in the front of the canopy is responsible for creating and maintaining the shape of the wing. If there is no wind, launching a paraglider on a slope requires the pilot to run to create a relative wind (like running to launch a string kite when the wind is weak near the ground). While running, the pilot is pulling on the paraglider attachment lines in order to lift the front of the canopy into the relative wind and thereby inflate the paraglider. After inflating, the paraglider flies up over the pilot’s head and is then in position for launch. In this case, the launch process proceeds directly from inflation into the launch run. If there is some wind, the canopy can be inflated at a standstill, and the launch run can be performed afterwards.
It depends on your skill and on the weather conditions on that day. On a good day, a reasonably skilled pilot can stay up for as long as he or she wants to. On some days, even the best pilots will only manage a flight of a few minutes duration.
In the United States, the answers are no and maybe. Paragliders come within the Federal Aviation Administration definition of “unpowered ultralight vehicles.” The federal aviation regulation which governs operation of these vehicles specifically states that you do not need a license to operate one. However, the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association does administer a pilot rating program, under which pilots achieve ratings for skill and experience which are similar to pilot licenses given by the FAA to airplane and sailplane pilots. At many paragliding sites, it is required by the administrators of the flying site that you hold an appropriate USHPA pilot rating to fly there. In other countries, other regulations apply.
Under the guidance of a competent instructor, just like you would learn to fly an airplane. Many paragliding instructors offer “dual” instruction, where the instructor is with you in a specially designed two place paraglider. Before flying solo, you will learn the skills for inflating and controlling the canopy on the ground. Your first solo flights are normally made from a small, shallow slope, where you will get just a few feet off the ground for just a few seconds on each flight. As you learn and practice proper techniques for take-off, landing, and speed control and steering control you will move up to higher and higher launch points for longer and longer flights. For a list of instructors offering paragliding lessons in your area, click on the ‘dealers’ link in the menu bar at the top of this page.
The learning of the basic physical skills is relatively easy; substantially easier than learning the basic skills of hang gliding. Paragliding is almost certainly the easiest form of flying to get started in. There are advanced skills required to fly safely at anything beyond the basic beginner level, and these skills are somewhat more challenging to learn. In addition, a pilot needs to learn at least some basics about weather, and the aerodynamic principles of flight.
No. Some degree of coordination and a fair amount of practice is required, but the physical requirements are very minimal.
Brand new paragliders range in price from $2000 to about $4000. Other required equipment would include a harness, which costs $250 to $800, and a helmet, which costs $50 to $300. Equipment designed for beginning pilots will usually fall at the lower end of these price ranges. Good used equipment is readily available for half the cost of new equipment. When new pilots start making flights at altitudes of more than about 200 feet above the ground, they will normally also purchase a backup emergency parachute, which will cost between $400 and $700. Intermediate level pilots who are beginning to learn extended duration flight – called soaring – will usually add some simple instruments for measuring altitude and rate of climb, which will cost between $100 and $1000.
Statistically, in the United States, paragliding has historically had a somewhat higher fatality rate than hang gliding, probably because it is a newer and less mature sport at this time. (See the more detailed explanation of fatality rates in hang gliding in the hang gliding portion of the frequently asked questions.)
For more information on paragliding, check out PARAGLIDING, A PILOT’S TRAINING MANUAL, available retail direct from Wills Wing. Wills Wing released a brand new edition of its very popular book in mid-2004, which includes a Bonus DVD with 80 minutes of narrated video footage covering topics ranging from canopy layout, inflation and launch techniques to soaring, advanced canopy control maneuvers and landing approach theory and practice.
When the ‘life’ of a paraglider is discussed, it is in terms of total hours of UV exposure, whether while being flown or while laid out on the ground before and after flight. Ultraviolet light breaks down the paraglider material and the resins impregnated into the fabric. The breakdown of the fabric is important, because the fabric of the wing is also what provides the structure of the wing. Very old paragliders can be torn like tissue paper. The breakdown of the resins in the cloth leads to increased porosity, i.e. airflow through the fabric instead of across the surface. Paragliders lose glide efficiency as porosity increases, and ultimately can become quite dangerous since they are falling more than flying – the wings depend on a certain internal air pressure from the ram-air construction of the wing or they won’t respond properly, especially in turbulence. Annual prosity tests are highly recommended. After about 400 hours of UV exposure a paraglider is really only suitable for training hill work. Even the most diligent pilots, who don’t lay out their wings until shortly before launch and fold or cover it immediately upon landing, can easily get UV exposure roughly equal to 1.5 times their airtime. Students and Novices get a lot more than that.
The Silex is a wing designed for paramotoring by Swing and sold exclusively to Fresh Breeze.

The ‘Silex risers’ can be retrofitted to the M, L, or XL Arcus for paramotoring. The Silex risers are 5 inches shorter than the Arcus risers,to allow a more comfortable hand position, and have a trim system to compensate for P factor, or for accelerating trim speed for fast cruising. They also have a speed system for cruising at higher than trim speed in turbulent conditions when immediate release of fast trim settings is desirable. The Silex riser has no ‘split-A’. Swing says that the behavior of the Arcus under power is more mellow in all maneuvers than in free flight due to the thrust and higher AOA.

The Silex riser is certified on the M and L Arcus. It will work on the XL Arcus for really big guys, but is not certified and probably never will be. The Arcus L is certified up to 363 pounds gross weight for paramotoring. The Silex risers are only available as an add on option to be installed by the dealer.

Note: The Arcus XL is also certified as a Twin. Swing has a tandem riser set available that is shorter and has trimmers to trim the glider slower for light-weight tandem. These risers are not the same as Silex risers.

The part number & description is:

Part # Description Retail
80D-1010 SILEX RISERS ARCUS M, L, XL – PAIR $105.00
You can order these through any WW PG dealer.