What exactly is a Paraglider?
A paraglider may look vaguely like a parachute or commonly confused with a parasail or parasailing because this is where it has evolved. Paragliding is now at a very exciting stage in its development, from being just a fun method of decent from hills, paragliding now offers the pilot the sensation of true free flight for hours upon hours. Using modern high strength materials a canopy only weighs about 7kg and packs neatly into a rucksack. This makes this "aeroplane in a bag" totally portable and can complement other sports such as skiing and mountaineering.
The paraglider wing is an inflatable structure. It consists of a row of tubes open at the front and closed at the back joined together side by side. The wing moving through the air keeps these tubes (or cells, to give their correct name) inflated. The air goes in the front but can't get out the back. These cells are cut into the same cross sectional shape as an aeroplane wing and it is this "aerofoil" section that provides the lift to our wings. The pilot is supported underneath the wing from a web of lines, each one with the strength to support the pilot alone. These lines are then attached to risers, a strap like device that is then itself attached to the pilots harness.
The harnesses we use for training are very simple but the ones used by the experienced pilots can look like a bucket seat taken from a racing car. These incredibly comfortable harnesses can come with airbag back protection systems to protect the pilot from unplanned hard landings, built in reserve parachute systems and all sorts of electronic instrumentation ranging from digital altimeters to global positioning systems. Cross-country flyers can look more like astronauts than paraglider pilots! The pilot holds a control handle on each side to steer the glider into turns. The control lines run to the rear of the canopy from these handles and by pulling smoothly down on one line at a time, one side of the wing slows down there-by turning the glider. With these controls you can perform anything from a gentle turn, to a screaming spiral dive, slow the wing down for landing and damp out turbulent air.