The age-old dream mankind holds dear in its genes, a desire to soar in the sky like a bird, is what caused the invention of the airplane. However, with the complicated machinery, it’s harder to materialize that dream. Decades before the Wright brothers gave us the concept of the airplane, people were experimenting with aviation, learning to use air currents to rise like birds without flapping their wings.
With more and more ideas coming, many more people started to study aviation and aerodynamics to make a piece of perfect equipment for lifting a human body in the sky with wind pressure. In time, the practice became a sport from a scientist’s experiment, called hang gliding.
In 1853, George Cayley laid down the foundations of a modern-day hang glider. Scientists didn’t have that much understanding of aerodynamics back then, so they could not maneuver the glider properly. They tried to mimic a bird’s flight without understanding the basic principles of flight. Later on, aircraft were built which could be controlled by shifting weight.
In 1910, the triangle-shaped glider became widely popular with biplane-tailed gliders. The modern-day adherent of the Rogallo wing was made in 1958 by a NASA engineer. Most Rogallo wings are controlled by shifting their center of gravity; its specialty was the flexible wing. Now, most modern hang gliders are made from aluminum alloy and special cloth in a triangular shape that gives them flight.
Extreme Hang Gliding as a Sport
Hang gliding is defined as a sport of flying in lightweight unpowered aircraft controlled by the pilot. Internationally, hang gliding is regulated by Federation Aeronatique Internationale (FAL). The first championship was held in Kossen, Austria. Also, hang gliding is one of the categories in the World Air Games held by FAI.
Many sportsmen of this extreme sport perform stunts like a loop in which they take a circular path vertically. A spin is when the glider rotates on the left or right side, or a climb over in which the glider is made to move vertically.
The competitions started with who can stay in the air longest, which is easy to guess, but the new contents of hang gliding competitions are cross-country soaring and downhill racing. There are also several classes in competitions decided by FAI, depending on the type of glider the sportsman uses.
World Records in Hang Gliding
The world record for longest distance is 764 km, and for the highest altitude on a hang glider, the record is 11.8 km. The interesting thing to note is that these records were made in 2012 and 1994, respectively. Johnny Durand smashed every record by gliding at an average speed of 72kph.
Who Can Glide?
Gliding seems an easy task; you grab a glider, jump off a cliff, and after some time of holding the glider, you magically land like an airplane in an airport. But it is much more complicated than that. First, you need an active body that can flexibly move hundreds of meters in the air. Not warming up or practicing for this sport can have dire consequences.
Flying a kite is similar to flying a glider, except you are the kite in the latter case. Taking gliding classes is a good idea for beginners as the experts can guide you with the essentials and save you from the potential risks of lacking experience. They will glide with you and give you simulations to hone your maneuvering skills.
Hang gliding requires very few things. First of all, you need a flexible glider; a new glider for beginners is recommended, or you can get a used one from the gliding school. Then you need a harness that comes in various shapes like a cocoon harness or pod harness; you can get one that custom fits your body. For safety, you will need a parachute that comes in various sizes, a helmet of your choice, and a design.
Best Locations for Extreme Hang Gliding
Wondering where to hang glide. Here are some of the best places you can consider:
- Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
- Interlaken district, Switzerland
- Kahului, Hawaii
- La Jolla, California, USA
- Fethiye, Turkey
These places offer the best windy weather and beautiful sceneries where you can enjoy flying solo.
It is normal to be worried about your life when you are a thousand feet up in the air; seemingly, that’s what makes it an extreme sport. The fear of harm gives life to hang gliding. And there is a lot of unregulated flights each year, so reports estimate up to 10 deaths per year due to hang gliding.
To prevent yourself from being a victim of this extreme sport, you must stay cautious, have the proper equipment and take safety measures, including the parachute. Get adequate lessons required for gliding by experts and build your muscles so your stamina doesn’t run out in mid-air.
Should One Suggest Hang Gliding To Others?
Hang gliding involves multiple layers of risks from taking off to landing. When you have a coworker or a friend who is suddenly enthusiastic about this activity, you should look after them to see what they’re capable of and make sure you don’t let your close ones get harmed. Suggest them to glide in areas with stable wind and less risk and forbid them from taking big risks without adequate experience.
When youngsters watch the TV, they see the happiness of the glider and forget the risk, which makes them naïve and courageous. As a parent, you must know the pros and cons of extreme sports and how they affect your parenting. A parent cannot bear the emotional stress of sending their flesh and blood to a cliff and let them jump off with some metal and fiber in their arms.
Provided the risk of this sport stopping someone from achieving their dreams is not a good idea whether you are a friend or a parent. It is also best to trust their capacity to enjoy their life and make their decisions, but when you are sure they are not strong enough for the task, you must step in and protest for their safety.
A Sport for the Truly Extreme
Flying thousands of feet in the air with just some metal rods and cloth may have seemed like a fool’s dream long ago, but now it can be done by almost everyone. You use gliders to drift in the air by wind pressure and thermal currents; it’s an exciting feeling that lets you see and breathe like a bird for hours.
It may be an extreme and risky sport, but we only live once, so it’s worth trying. The statistics show that it is not as dangerous as people think it to be. If you are thinking of spending your next vacation doing something fun, hang gliding should be on the top of your list.