A paraglider is a foot-launched, ram-air, airfoil canopy, designed to be flown and landed with no other energy requirements than the wind, gravity and the pilot's musclepower. 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.
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.
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.( United Hang Gliding Association) IT HAS PROVEN TO BE VERY DANGEROUS TO TEACH YOURSELF!
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.A. are members of the United States Hang Gliding 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.
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.
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.
A canopy (the actual "wing" or "glider"), 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.
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.
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.
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.
This varies between makers, models, and countries, but a middle of the range canopy and harness will normally cost somewhere in the region of $1,600 to $3,300.
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 and the exposure to UV.
A. The instructor should be certified. For example: In the U.S.A., 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.A., class I lessons running from $350 to $1150. 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?
If this is a new glider: make sure you purchase the right class of glider. Beginner class or Novice glider (DHV 1 or AFNOR Standard Class) is very stable but also slow and high in sink rate. Performance class or Intermediate glider (DHV 1-2 / 2 or AFNOR Standard/Performance Class) is faster but also stable. High Performance or Competition glider is definitely NOT your choice for first glider. It is very fast and requires the pilot's precision input. If this is a used glider: make sure the glider has been manufacture inspected. Ask about the porosity test, if it available. Ask about where the used glider has been flying? A 100 hours coastal flying glider at late afternoon is much better than a 40 hours glider on the training hill during daylight hours. Make sure you are in the weight range for the glider.