Q. What is a "Paraglider"?
A. 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 muscle power. We descend at about 3 minutes per 1000' of altitude. However, if the air is rising faster than we are descending (as often happens), flights of 1-3 hours are not uncommon. Paragliders are designed for soaring flight. Parachutes are designed to descend. As of 1994, paragliders have stayed aloft over 11 hours and are close to achieving 200 mile distance records.
Q. Is Paragliding Safe?
A. Paragliding, like any other adventure sport, has its associated risks. To operate safely in any kind of aviation environment one must strive at all times to minimize those risks. The most important pre-requisites to learning to fly safely are: pilot attitude, competent instruction, and safe equipment. If these conditions are met the slow speeds and inherent stability of paragliders can provide a safe and easy way to experience the realization of one of humankind's oldest and greatest dreams: personal flight.
Q. Is a Paraglider the same thing as a parachute?
A. 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.
Q. What is the difference between a Hang-glider and a Paraglider?
A. A Hang-glider 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 Hang-glider has a "cleaner" aerodynamic profile and generally is capable of flying at much higher speeds than a Paraglider.
Q. Why would anyone want to fly a Paraglider when they could fly a Hang-glider?
A. A Paraglider folds down into a package the size of a largish knapsack and can be carried easily. Conversely, a Hang-glider 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.
Q. Do you jump off a cliff?
A. To begin with, we don't jump off anything. Paragliders are usually launched by running off of moderate slopes with the glider inflated until you are lifted off your feet.
Q. How high do you fly?
A. In training you will start out just skimming the ground. As you progress and become more skilled and confident you will probably want to go higher. Paragliders have reached over 18,000' above sea level.
Q. Can I teach myself Paragliding?
A. It is true that paragliders are the most simple of aircraft. Most people can learn to launch, turn, and land in about an hour and a half of instruction. This is partly possible because we control the situation, assess the conditions and make safety decisions for our students. What cannot be taught in this period of time, however, are all the things necessary to make flight decisions on your own. In order to do this safely, it is necessary to have a comprehensive knowledge of weather, equipment and safety procedures. The pilot certification program encompasses these things. Self teaching has been shown to be a key factor in the accident data compiled by the U.S.H.G.A. IT HAS PROVEN TO BE VERY DANGEROUS TO TEACH YOURSELF!
Q. Do I need a license to fly in the US?
A. Paragliders are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration under Part 103 and are classified as ultralights. An F.A.A. private pilot's license is not required. However, the vast majority of paragliding pilots and instructors in the U.S. are members of the United States Hangliding Association. U.S.H.G.A membership provides rating cards, a national magazine, and a liability insurance policy for its members. You'll need a certification to purchase equipment from a reputable dealer and some regulated flying sites will require you to have a rating issued by a certified U.S.H.G.A. instructor.
Q. What should you ask your instructor when you sign up for a lesson?
A. The instructor should be certified. For example: In the U.S., the instructor must be certified as a Paragliding Instructor with the USHGA. Things to look for when sign up a lesson with an instructor: How big is his class? How close is the training hill? Does he offer lessons by Tandem flying? In the U.S, class I lessons run anywhere from $350 to $1150US. Most of the instructors will try to sell you the glider when you sign up for your lesson, so make sure you let your instructor know your flying intention: where you will be flying most of the time? how often will you be flying? are you going to aim for competion in the long run?
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