Hang gliders and paragliders
Hang gliders, paragliders and weightshift microlights
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 in the form of kites towed by boats, and then in 1972 the first foot-launched hang glider flight took place. Since then, the design of, and materials used in, hang gliders have evolved significantly. Contemporary 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 a wing-shaped bag. As the paraglider moves forward openings at the front of the bag 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 in which they want to go e.g. pulls the right line to go right.
You may see a paraglider with a fan/propeller. This powered paraglider allows a pilot to remain in the air for longer periods of time than a conventional paraglider.
The Hang Gliding Federation of Australia administers hang gliding, paragliding and weight shift microlight operations to standards approved by CASA and can provide further information on taking part in any of these activities.
Recreational Aviation Australia also administers weightshift microlights.