Hang gliding is a sport enjoyed by millions around the world. Perhaps its allure is due to the fact that it offers a momentary escape from gravity and the cares of the world, and leads to an exploration that is merged with the experience of being at one with the elements of nature. In this article, we are going to look at a short history of this fascinating sport, its requirements, dangers involved, and the pertinent statistics.
Hang gliding was developed in the 1960′s, and was the brainchild of NASA prodigy and Australian engineer John Dickenson. His first mission was to build a kite based on the NASA space capsule recovery wing. He then added a triangular control bar, and the modern hang glider was born. This rudimentary design was further improved upon by individuals such as Bill Moyes and Richard Miller.
Over the years, this popular past time has developed into a passion for both the young and old, with the acceptable hang gliding age ranging from a legal 14 to an impossible 70. The requirements put in place for this sport include being physically fit, possessing a license, and the required equipment. There are a few basic tools that any hang glider worth his mettle should have. These are:
- A beginner’s hang glider
- A harness
- A set of instruments, known to pilots as various
- A helmet
- A car rack, where you will position your hang glider before setting out on one of your adventures.
There is a common misconception that exists which purports that hang gliders jump off cliffs, before sailing into the skies. The truth is, before hang gliders even get off the cliff, they are already airborne thanks to an in-depth understanding of air drafts and currents. They use cliffs that face oceans or large bodies of water due to the buoyancy offered by air currents running across these bodies of water. Also, one is more likely to find good air currents which are conducive for the sport on top of cliffs thanks to their high altitude. Hang gliders depend on an environmental phenomenon called lift, which simply put, are air currents that are present at any given area of land thanks to environmental processes.
It is important to understand that like with any sport, there are certain risks associated with hang gliding. This is considered a social sport, so care should be taken to ensure that one flies with other pilots. Most of the accidents that take place in hang gliding happen during takeoff and landing, and they are more often than not associated with equipment malfunction.
According to statistics, the odds of dying due to hang-gliding are 1 in 116,000 flights. This makes hang-gliding a much safer sport compared to, say, running or cycling. The average speed that one can hope to achieve while in the air is a decent 20 mph, which provides the thrill without turning it into an extreme sport.
At the end of the day, hang gliding is a sport that can be learnt in a couple of weeks, and is a perfect way of spending long summer days in the vast expanse of skies above us.