I am a 20-something geologist, pilot, and outdoor enthusiast. I started paragliding in 2008, but really got more involved in 2012. Flying has become my love and obsession. I think about it nearly every minute of every day. When I'm on the ground I want to be in the air. When I'm in the air, I want to be higher above the ground.  I have no comprehension as to why others do not want to fly. This blog mainly serves as an outlet for me vent all the thoughts I have about flying while sparing others from the my one track mind.

What is a "Paraglider"?
A paraglider is a soft inflatable wing that can be foot launched off a hill side or mountain to achieve flight. The general public tends to have a hard time recognizing paragliders. There is a lot of confusion between hang gliders (Figure A), which are more common in media, and paragliders. Many think of parasailing (Figure B), which involves being towed by a boat. Again, not paragliding. Others think of a skydiving parachute (Figure C). Nope.

 (A) Not a Paraglider

(B) Not a Paraglider

(C) Still not a Paraglider
(D) A Paraglider! 
Although a paraglider (Figure D) is a lot like a parachute, there are many differences. A paraglider is much larger than a skydiving canopy. The larger canopy of a paraglider causes the pilot to not lose altitude as nearly as quickly as a parachute. A paraglider's canopy shape is also very different. A skydiving canopy is designed to block air, decreasing the sink rate of the pilot. A paragliding canopy is shaped like an airfoil - a wing. Air travels more quickly across the top surface of the glider than the bottom surface. For this reason, the paraglider canopy is referred to as a "wing" by paragliding pilots.

To be fair, most paragliding pilots had not heard of a paraglider until days, probably, before they started flying them. And, yes, you are right, sometimes people do strap small motors to the backs of these gliders, but you do not need to to fly. Many do not. I never have and have no immediate plans to do so, though I know many a fine folk who do and they have a blast on them. To each their own. Some day, for me, maybe. The difference, I take, is a lot like the difference between a sailboat and a motorboat. Different types of fun. Both fun.

So... Paragliders Fly?
A paraglider, once inflated, performs as a wing that produces lift if enough airflow passes over the wing.
A thermal is a rising column of air
Air is forced up and over a ridge
YES!!! Many flights are only in the realm of minutes, but many flights also last for over several hours. Even though the paraglider does not gain altitude on its own, gliders can stay airborne a long time. To do this, the pilot steers the glider into air that is rising at a faster velocity than the glider is sinking in that air mass. The net difference is a positive change in altitude. There are many mechanisms that produce "lift." One is thermals. Thermals are columns of warm rising air created by the sun heating the ground and warming the surrounding air. This warm air, now less dense than the overlying cooler air, starts to rise. By finding and using thermals, pilots can fly until sun down and travel hundreds of miles. Another lift producing mechanism is called ridge lift. Ridge lift is a product of wind hitting a ridge. The wind having no where to go, is forced up and over the ridge. There are other forms of lift, but these are the two predominant types.

No comments:

Post a Comment