Man has long since wanted to reach the skies. With records dating back to around 400 BC, humans have been trying to fly like birds. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 19th and 20th centuries when all these efforts were realized.
Nowadays, people find fun, sometimes scary, but mostly exciting ways to appeal to their inner adrenaline junkie. That’s where a high-flyer sport like hang gliding comes into play.
What is HANG GLIDING?
Developed in the early 1960s, hang gliding is an air sport where the pilot flies a non-motorized, lightweight aircraft called a hang glider through the open air. The pioneers of practical flight developed hang gliders are basically huge, flexible wings made of light, tough fabric over a simple yet strong frame.
Modern-day hang gliders are triangle-shaped aerofoils called delta wings, made of carbon fiber or aircraft aluminum, stainless steel cable, covered with Dacron (the same material sailboat sails are made of). It weighs between 45 lbs. and 90 lbs.
How Does It Work?
The pilot, harnessed to the glider’s flexible wing, hangs under it with the aid of straps, hence the term “hang gliding.” The pilot controls the glider by shifting the body weight in opposition to a control frame. Since the aircraft is unpowered, it is generally launched when the pilot runs quickly with his or her craft before taking off from somewhere high like a hilltop or peak.
The main force on a hang-glider is gravity – the weight of the wing and the pilot. The weight provides the thrust that keeps the delta wing moving through the air. The wings’ aerofoil shape stops the hang-glider from dropping like a stone and produces lift. The aerofoil stretches as it forces the air flowing over the top of the wing to travel faster to build a low-pressure area. Simultaneously, the forward and downward motion of the wing compresses the air flowing under it. The aerofoil is consequently drawn up into the area of low pressure, producing lift.
While powered aircraft use their own motor and propeller or jet turbine, their power source to stay aloft, hang-gliders require air movement to stay up. The wing will slowly descend if the air is still. A hang-glider descends at a rate of about 1 meter per second, equivalent to a walking pace of about 3.6 km/h. For it not to lose height, a hang-glider must find air going up quickly as the glider is descending.
Some pilots attach small motors and propellers to their hang-gliders, turning them into microlights. This means they can take off and climb from the flat ground just like a typical aircraft.
Hang gliding is not a cheap sport and is even viewed as a complex hobby to get into. Nevertheless, the short-term costs and lessons will undoubtedly prove their worth over time. Here are some necessary equipment to get you started:
Hang glider — Buying a hang glider could literally be a case of life or death, so be thorough and practice due diligence on your purchase. Gliders tend to be made from aluminum, carbon fiber, and flexible sail fabrics, but their quality can surpass your expectations. Top-range models are very costly when newly bought, but the investment should pay for itself after a few memorable trips out in the open air.
Helmet and harness — Make sure you have a tough, flexible harness to properly hold you in a prone position while allowing you to move freely. A good quality safety helmet is also a must to protect your head before setting off on any of your adventures.
Flying suits and Boots— Flying suits are generally worn over normal clothing. They conceal the whole of the pilot’s body and provide insulation and comfort, easily accessible zips, and baggy designs. Your boots should be lightweight and flexible, so they don’t load you down. The latter should also need to have a decent grip, ensuring you don’t slip and slide before and after a flight. Invest in these two to ensure your comfort without sacrificing safety before soaring to the skies.
Reserve Parachute – Having a reserve parachute won’t hurt as it offers you protection if anything goes wrong. The parachute should be lightweight, low volume, and fast-to-open to provide you with a stable descent. This is an excellent way to reduce risk when hang-gliding.
In a basic flight, instruments to check the temperature, speed, and altitude are also essential. Here are some tools you need to have on your kit.
Anemometer – measures wind speed and direction. This tool is helpful, especially for beginners who have trouble tracking wind direction. Nowadays, you can even have portable handheld meters for measuring wind speed, temperature, pressure, altitude in one tool.
Altimeter – this instrument is used to track the glider’s altitude. Knowing the altitude will help the pilot see if they’re going too high or too low and make necessary adjustments. This will also help the glider check if he or she needs to ascend or descend.
Variometer – this tool measures air pressure to let the pilot know which direction they are going. This instrument eliminates the pilot’s difficulty in determining the ascent or descent up in the air. A variometer works by recording the air pressure, waiting for a short time, and then repetitively recording it.
Thanks to the modern marvel that is hang-gliding, people can now enjoy flying like birds across the skies. Aside from that, people also get to relish and unleash their competitiveness in the sport, flying effortlessly at more than 100km/hr.
Moreover, pilots can glide cross-country, covering long distances over several hours, or perform acrobatic maneuvers in the sky. Hang-gliding is certainly a fun activity to consider when you’re trying to take your mind off things.