Hang Gliding, What's It Like?
Man's Oldest Dream - Now a Reality For You!
Man has dreamed of free, effortless flights for thousands of years. The early Greek myth of Icarus and Daedalus exemplified the desire to fly and soar above the earth. Leonardo da Vinci sketched many flying machines that he hoped would free him from the bounds of gravity. These dreams came to a sharper focus in the 1800's with the advancement of aerodynamics and pilot procedures developed by Octave Chanute and Otto Lilienthal. The Wright Brothers continued this evolution toward the realization of powered flight. Isolated experimenters continued with the dreams of powerless flight throughout the 1900's. The dream dramatically exploded to a reality in the early 1970's when a delta wing shaped glider developed for a NASA application by Francis Rogallo was published in Popular Mechanics. The century old dream became the high energy sport of hang gliding.
Now, the combination of advanced aerodynamics and improved materials makes it possible for almost anyone to fulfill this dream through hang gliding and paragliding. The gliders of today are sophisticated, stable aircraft providing pilots with flight distance limited by weather conditions and pilot skill. The Hang Glider Manufacturers Association (HGMA) in the US and their counter parts in other countries have continuously evolved glider designs and glider certification standards. The United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (USHPA), its members and chapters has continued to evolve the average pilot's flight skills. The result is a sport that brings the dream safely to most people. Gliders are safe, stable, easy handling, with a performance that allows a beginner to soar.
Hang Gliding is the exhilarating sport of pure flight. Through our sport, the thrilling sensation of gracefully soaring under your own outstretched wings is turned to a reality. For lessons and for flying, the Finger Lakes region is one of the best locations in the East. The sport is open to any mature person of reasonable physical fitness.
Learning to Fly in Rochester
The Rochester Area Flyers (RAF) has a safe, and exciting program that will making the dream of flight a reality for you! It is 2 months of flying without ever buying a glider.
The RAF Hang Gliding school begins Mid April with a three hour ground school session. The session deals with basic aspects of the sport such as aerodynamics, weather factors and safety. Attendance is required for the training program. Ground school is open to any prospective pilots at no charge. Students continuing from there are given instructional books, study materials and access to instructional videos.
On the Hill
On-the-hill training begins around the end of April and continues to the beginning of July. We teach 6 days a week, weather permitting. Our lessons are Saturday mornings from 9am until noon, and weekday evenings from 6pm until dusk. All lessons are under the supervision of a USHPA certified instructor with special emphasis on perfecting basic flying skills, developing good judgment and safe flying practices.
NEW in 2013 - Scooter Tow Training
Scooter towing is a ground based winch towing system for hang gliders that uses a simple scooter as the towing device. The scooter's rear wheel is converted to a spool that can hold a few thousand feet of rope and is anchored to the ground as a stationary winch. The Rochester Area Flyers use a turn around pulley that allows the student to be next to the winch operator and beginners can be gently pulled just a few feet off the ground as they learn how to control the speed and direction of the glider. The towline is attached to the student and the glider.
With a gentle twist of the throttle, a gentle pull allows the student to foot launch, fly along several feet above level ground, release the towline, float to the ground and land on the wheels initially then on their feet as training progresses. Beginners can use scooter towing for their first lesson, the altitude is controlled by instructor, and as students progress they can reach altitudes of 75 feet, releasing the line and flying back to a gentle landing. Altitudes can gradually be increased in a safe and controlled manner as skills develop. As you progress, your instructor will control your altitude. Mountain flying and aerotowing may be your next goal.
The lesson starts on flat ground and progresses to higher levels on the training hill. The rate of progression is highly individual dependent on the student's comfort level, demonstrated skills and safety judgments. On the ground, the students learn about glider hardware, assembly, acceleration and deceleration. The students actually feel the glider's lift, interplay with the wind, the power of wind, and even launch and landing technique before commitment to flying off the hill. At the base of the hill the same movement patterns reward the student with their 1st multi-seconds flight. Control and confidence are enhanced with each launch as flights become longer and boundaries of safe demonstrated flights are expanded. Soon, the student is at the top of our 100 ft. hill enjoying 20 second "sled rides". Later they are turning and maneuvering the glider to land at a spot and handle varied wind conditions.
It is work, but it's also fun. You will lose weight, you will sweat, your muscles will get sore at times and you will become physically stronger. You will also be enlightened with a heightened awareness of the sun, the clouds, and the wind. You will learn that running at top speed down a hillside will be rewarded by a launch that floats your body pleasantly over a grassy field, over cheering friends and deposits you on your feet in a cool swirl of air. What a flight!
The Hang Glider
A hang glider is a highly engineered aircraft that weighs between 45 and 75+ pounds, is launched by foot or towed and is controlled by altering its center of gravity. The pilot is suspended beneath the glider in a harness and initiates turns and controls airspeed solely by shifting their body. Experienced pilots can make use of rising pockets of air (thermals) to regularly attain altitudes of over 4,000 feet and stay aloft for hours.
Safety and Judgment
Like any form of aviation, hang gliding requires specific skills and good judgment in order to be enjoyed safely. The Western New York hang gliding community has an exceptionally safe record that spans 25 years of the sport. Insurance company statistics indicate that hang gliding is as safe as scuba diving, sail planes, and safer than general aviation or moto-cross on a participation basis. Never the less, aviation can be an unforgiving sport for those who take safety lightly. For this reason, beginning pilots are all strongly encouraged to develop their skills both through lessons and through the Pilot Proficiency Program; the official skills development and testing program of the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (USHPA). Good physical fitness is recommended to assure a rapid and injury free progression.
For More Information
The RAF lesson package is $695. This includes all the equipment you will need, a one year student membership in the USHPA, an instructional video and a one year subscription to Hang Gliding and Paragliding Magazine. Please call the RAF Training Coordinator, Katrin Parsiegla, at (585) 750-5886. She will be happy to talk about this thrilling sport of hang gliding! Or fill out the membership form (below) and indicate you are a prospective student. If you're too far from Rochester, NY don't despair- the USHPA has a listing of hang gliding and paragliding schools.