Hang gliders and paragliders
Australian inventor John Wallace Dickenson has been credited with the invention of the modern hang glider and was a recipient of the FAI Gold Air Medal, the highest award given by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the world governing body for air sports, aeronautics and astronautics world records.
Hang gliding first occurred in the early 1960s with kites being towed by boats. The first foot-launched hang glider flight took place in 1972. Since then, the design and materials used in hang gliders have evolved significantly. Modern hang gliders may use materials such as tubing frame and sail cloth wings, or carbon fibre and epoxy for lightweight strength.
Hang gliders are controlled by the pilot shifting their body weight either back, forwards or to the side.
Paragliding began in Australia in the early 1980s, with soaring parachutists launching from hills. Paragliding increased in popularity when purpose-built paragliders were introduced a few years later.
A paraglider consists of a canopy attached to a harness. The canopy is made of two layers of fabric that form an inflated wing. As the paraglider moves forward, openings at the front of the wing allow it to fill with air, pressurising it and making a standard aerofoil shape. To control the paraglider, the pilot holds a line in each hand and pulls the line depending on the direction they want to go.
Hang gliders and paragliders can also be operated under power. The engine on a powered paraglider can either be attached to a lightweight wheeled cart or strapped to the back of the operator. Powered paragliders can essentially be operated to the same rules as paragliders and hang gliders except that they can launch from flat terrain as opposed to launching from a mountain or being towed to altitude by some external means.
Powered paragliders are becoming increasingly popular because of their self-sufficiency in not being reliant on a tow plane or not having to launch from a mountain slope.
A self-administering organisation is responsible for administering operational and airworthiness standards and for issuing pilot certificates.
Find out more about self-administering organisations.
Find out more about being an informed participant in sport aviation.