09 August, 2005

Do you know what paragliding is ?

For the last month or so I was/am busy with my paraglider licence.As of today I've logged 11 jumps.I still need another 40+ or so to qualify for the license.
For the ones who don't know what I am talking about,a paraglider is a glorified parachute, adapted to fly as a glider.Now a parachute is ment for coming down and not going up,therefore a paraglider is probably the worst thing one will use for flying.You will be asking yourself,why on earth will someone want to fly a parachute ?Well, first of all is easy to learn and is inherently safe (relatively speaking).After all if any flying instrument is failing the pilot will save itself with a . . . parachute.Another good point is portability.The whole thing is packed in a backpack,weighing no more then 20Kg !Before every jump/flight one has to check that all the lines are properly extended and the whole 'wing' inflated above your head.Then you run downhill into the wind for a few steps and hope to be picked up by the up draught.Fly control is done with the help of two toggles (back lines connected to the trailing edge left and right) Because the wing load is small,wing collaps is a possibility but it does not occure often and when it does the glider will reinflate all by itself (depending on the glider rating and if it has enough altitude.) Another peculiarity of the very low wing load is the high sensitivity to the air currents.You will feel even the smallest turbulence and in the begin at least, scare you somewhat.
Landing is done by pulling both toggles/brakes right down.This move curls the outer trailing edge downwards and slows down the whole thing until it stalls.The forward speed is almost zero and because of the 'flare' effect the downwards speed is also close to null.This move must be done at the right height (about 2m) above ground and into the wind,otherwise you will either crash (glider stall too early) or have a 'hard landing' (glider stall too late) In both instances your ankles are in danger of getting hurt ! (Even more so if you are a bit overweight and don't wear the right shoes)
I have flown gliders and small planes for a while now and I must say paragliding looks deceively easy and simple but is not.If not used properly it can hurt you badly and even kill you.On the other hand if you know and stick to your limits (and the gliders) it can bring you lots of flying enjoyment which you can't get/experience with any other flying device.
Greetings from Jeffreysbay,South Africa.

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