The practice of hang gliding dates back as far as 800 AD. However, hang gliding designs at this time were not designed with safety in mind. It is thought that the lack of concern for safety was due to the fact that the designer of the glider did not fully understand how the wing of a bird worked. In the late 1800’s advancements were made that worked towards creating a safer design for the glider.
Since its beginning, hang gliding people have felt that it is an unsafe sport. This is why it is considered one of the extreme sports. Over time, gliders have been remodelled in order to make its use safer for the flyer. They have been designed to be more lightweight and they now have a built in stall mechanism that can be used in times of danger.
There are several ways to launch a hang glider. The most commonly used form of launch is by foot. The pilot is attached to the glider by a harness and then runs towards the edge of the hill or a cliff. The goal is to obtain enough speed so that when he/she launches off the side of a cliff they will be able to fly through the air with aid from the wind. In areas where there is not enough space to obtain enough speed before soaring through the air people have used motorized hydraulic mechanisms to help them obtain the proper speed.
When hang gliding, the pilot soars through the air. In some cases the pilot uses the clouds to help do this, which is called a thermal lift.
Other lifts used include:
- Ridge lift – the warm air that occurs when the air meets a mountain
- Mountain waves – the lee waves that occur near mountains
- Convergence – meeting of sea breezes
- Cross-county flying – plotting a course to fly from one thermal to another
There are three movements that the pilot can perform in order to get the hang glider to turn or move in various ways. They are called roll, yaw and pitch. These are similar to those that you find in a plane or a bird. However, a hang glider pilot cannot rely on buttons and mechanics to help them fly the glider. Therefore the wings of the glider must be built in such as way so that the pilot can control all the movements easily and naturally.
Today’s hang gliders do have some instruments on them. These include a variometer, which helps the pilot gain a better sense of the wind. They are also equipped with radios so that the pilot can be in communication with another hang glider or the ground. A GPS will help them have a sense of direction and plot a course so that they know exactly where they are going.