not exactly hang gliding

I finally did it, almost. I drove up to the Point of the Mountain and flew off the cliff, suspended in the air by a paraglider and wind. I had originally planned to do a tandem hang glider flight but due to a miscommunication they didn’t have any tandem hang glider pilots there. I decided that since I was already there I might as well see what it was like to fly in a paraglider.

The takeoff was quite smooth, unlike the pair right before us who had to have a third guy hanging off of them to stay on the ground. When their assistant finally let go, they hung in the air about 10 off the ground and finally landed again. Luckily, it was much easier for my instructor and I. After getting the canopy above our heads, we shot up into the blue sky. Just as I was settling into the harness he informed me “now you’re paragliding!”

We soared above the edge of the mountain for about 30 minutes. I got to fly the glider a number of times but the wind was a bit choppy so he had to take over when we got into rough winds.

Like almost anything, I learned a few things that I will pass on for the benefit of any landlubbers planning to fly unpowered in the friendly skies.

  • Be prepared to wait. You’re at the mercy of the wind and it’s never totally predictable. I got there at 5:30pm and didn’t fly until around 7:30pm.
  • Make sure you wear something warm. It gets chilly up there and you won’t enjoy it if you’re cold. A windbreaker works wonders to keep you toasty while in flight.
  • Wear some sun glasses (with a strap) so you can see without having your eyes tear up because of the wind. It will also allow you to look at the other objects in the sky without having to put your hand over your eyes.
  • Be aware that you may get a bit airsick. Most people are not used to the sudden dives and lifts you experience in a small aircraft. They can make you feel a bit nauseous. Let’s just say that after 30 minutes in the rough wind, my stomach and I agreed that it would be best to feel solid ground beneath our feet.

Paragliding wasn’t as exciting as I had hoped but it was definitely not a disappointment. It’s possible that a hang glider would be more exciting since they are faster and more agile. I will probably take a hang glider training course to see what it’s like. You get to pilot your own glider about 5 feet off the ground, so I’ll see what it feels like to fly one. Who knows, after all these years of waiting to go, I may discover that I don’t like it. Whatever the result, I’ll still be glad I tried it.

Just in case you don’t know the difference, a paraglider is like a parachute that you can control while sitting in a harness. A hang glider has a rigid frame and the pilot is suspended horizontally in a cocoon-like harness.

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