What You Need to Know to Control a Paraglide
Controlling a paraglider with any skill requires knowledge of not only the equipment, but the weather and wind currents as well. Paragliders must understand when wind and weather conditions are suitable for paragliding and how to reap the benefits of certain types of currents and drafts. There are many different ways in which a paraglider [...]
Controlling a paraglider with any skill requires knowledge of not only the equipment, but the weather and wind currents as well. Paragliders must understand when wind and weather conditions are suitable for paragliding and how to reap the benefits of certain types of currents and drafts.
There are many different ways in which a paraglider can control his or her flight. The lines connecting the paragliding wing to the pilot's harness are used to steer the wing to the left or right. There are risers that connect the lines to the harness and they too can be manipulated in order to control flight. Paragliders have brake controls in each hand that are extremely useful for changing the speed and direction of flight. The brakes are very important to the pilot's safety, but even if they malfunction, the risers connecting to the rear of the wing can be used to steer and slow flight. Knowledge of thermal air columns and wind currents is of the utmost importance, as they are often used to launch the paraglider or keep it airborne.
There are various launching techniques that are utilized based on wind conditions and the terrain of the pilot's launching point. A standard, forward launch from flat terrain requires the pilot to lay out the paraglider wing so that it is perpendicular to the direction of the wind. After checking all of the lines, carabiners, electronic devices and helmet security, a paraglider can run forward, causing the wing to inflate with the air pressure generated by the pilot's movement. Reverse launches are also quite popular and often preferred, since the pilot can notice any tangles or snags before launching. Reverse launches tend to be used more in high-wind launches and to catch currents rising off ridges. In reverse launching, the pilot faces the wing with the opposite riser in each hand. The brakes should always be held in the appropriate, designated hand. The pilot then begins to pull on the lines and move backwards, causing the wing to inflate. Once the wing begins to move into the air, the pilot gently lets go of the front risers and turns around to face the direction of flight.
Once airborne, a pilot can use the aforementioned techniques to steer the paraglider and control the speed of flight. However, there are a myriad of other control methods practiced by expert paragliders. Coring is a term that refers to the core of a thermal air column. Coring occurs when a paraglider enters a thermal and flies in circles around it.
He or she turns in big circles when the lift is great and makes the turns tighter as the lift decreases. This method allows the paraglider to stay centered around the core of the thermal column. After using a thermal column to reach high altitudes, a paraglider can drift towards another thermal, and, by doing this continually, he or she can cross-country paraglide over great distances.
Ridge soaring is a paragliding technique that involves flying along the ridge of a mountain or large hill. The updraft created by the geological formation is well-suited for keeping a paraglider in the air. The wind conditions must be just right in order for ridge soaring to be practiced safely, because the rough terrain of ridges can be very dangerous if there is not enough wind present to keep the pilot airborne. Too much wind, however, can blow a paraglider over the ridge and cause them to lose the ridge lift. It's very important that pilots make turns while they are ascending during ridge soaring so that they do not fly at excessive speeds and run the risk of crashing into the ridge. When paragliders are flying close to the ridge, they should shift their weight away from the ridge. If one side of the wing should collapse, the pilot would then be more likely to head away from the ridge, allowing them enough time to recover and stabilize.
There are other tactics that pilots can use to drastically speed up, slow down or stall. Paragliders have a speedbar, which, when pushed out with the feet, pulls down the front edge of the wing, increasing the speed of flight. ‘Big ears' is a method whereby the pilot pulls in on the edges of the wing in order to decrease the drag and quickly descend. B-line stalls involve pulling on both of the B lines, which will cause a rapid loss in altitude.
Related Paragliding Video: Paragliders coast over the cliffs in Santa Barbara, California.B-line stalls can cause paragliders to drop at rates up to 1400 feet/minute. Spiral dives are a more dangerous yet more effective way of losing altitude. Spiral dives involve turning, shifting body-weight and applying the brakes in order to go into 360 degree spirals. Spiral dives can cause a paraglider to descend at a rate of 4000 feet/minute. B-line stalls and spiral dives are complex maneuvers that should only be used by expert paragliders or in the direst of circumstances.
Once a paraglider is finally ready to set foot on the ground, he or she has a choice to make. The two ways of landing are the classic aircraft approach and the figure-8 approach. In the classic aircraft approach the pilot steers the paraglider in a U-shaped flight pattern by heading downwind, then crosswind, and finally into the wind. The classic aircraft approach allows for soft, precise landings. The figure-8 approach is exactly what it sounds like. The pilot steers the paraglider in figure 8 formations until he or she has slowed down considerably and is hovering at a very low altitude. Once the paraglider is close enough to the landing area, the pilot simply drifts towards the ground and touches down.