A look at Paragliding

by Kent Price

A few years ago, from the sports of Skydiving and Hang Gliding, a new technology emerged and PARAGLIDING became a sport. A paraglider looks something like a parachute and can be folded into a very small package weighing about 20 pounds. But in flight, the paraglider acts more like a wing than a parachute and thus, like a hang glider, it can soar on thermals and updrafts for long periods of time. A paraglider pilot normally launches from a slope or top of a mountain but can also be towed into the air with a line attached to a vehicle or a winch (much like Parasailing which you may have seen at beach resorts). Once airborne from a tow, the pilot disconnects the tow rope and can then soar or glide back to the ground.


This is a picture of Kent soaring above Utah's "Point of the Mountain" last August. This particular flight lasted about an hour and a half and, using the updrafts, Kent was able to land on the same mountain top from which he had taken off.

The Point of the Mountain is one of the premier soaring sites in the country for both Hang Gliding and Paragliding.

And then came Powered Paragliding

Well, it wasn't too long before someone decided that, instead of being towed with a vehicle or a winch or having to go up a mountain, it would be possible to put a motor and a propeller behind you so that you could take off on your own. Now you can take off by running forward with the power pack strapped to your back or, for the lazier among us, you can mount the power unit on wheels and take off by rolling forward. In either case you only need about 10 to 50 feet to get airborne (depending on wind conditions) and even less to land.

Kent has done both but finds the wheel takeoffs much less strenuous.

Kent decided foot launching all the time was a lot of effort, so he installed a wheel kit. Now he can just sit in the unit during take off instead of running with the 85 lb. unit strapped on his back.

With the wheel kit, the powered paraglider is sort of a hybrid between a Powered Paraglider (PPG) and a Powered Parachute or "PPC."  A Powered Parachute normally has a larger chassis and a more rectangular wing.

In this picture, the glider is laid out behind the unit with the lines attached to the bars over Kent's shoulder. We are ready for takeoff!

Kent is now starting his takeoff roll. As he moves forward, the air catches the glider and raises it off the ground. Once the glider gets overhead, it acts like a wing and it's "Up, Up, and Away!"

This takeoff is being made right in front of our house which you can just see on the left side of the picture.

With our "GO DAWGS" logo on the wing (Grandville's athletic teams are the Bulldogs), Kent is now ready to fly over Grandville High School's football stadium for the beginning of the Homecoming football game.
As the team cleared the field from the pregame warm ups, Kent flew overhead, dropped the game ball with a parachute to the referee waiting below, and then turned around and landed in the middle of the field to wish the Bulldogs a successful game. (Alas, they lost anyway - well maybe next year...)





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