Hang Gliding Vs Paragliding
We hear this question all the time, “What is the difference between a hang glider and a paraglider?” It is often said that the hang glider resembles a fixed-wing aircraft, incorporating rigid poles for support of the wing structure. On the other hand, a paraglider is a flexible canopy that resembles a skydiving or parasailing parachute. But the differences don’t end there because the way to transport and fly these gliders will vary greatly and some convenient options present themselves for the pilot who can fold his aircraft in order to fit it into a backpack!
In fact, this feature alone may account for the surge in popularity that Paragliding as a multifaceted activity has undergone; the convenience factor. Throughout history, aircraft have typically been complex machines housed in expensive hangars within airport facilities. Even as tiny foldable hang gliders became popular in civilian aviation, they were still ultimately an unwieldy collection of poles which limited launch and landing possibilities. The idea of hiking around with your aircraft was simply unheard of. There are even more conveniences for the sport of paragliding with the addition of ride services like Uber and Lyft. This is what it’s like:
- Hike up to a launch with your backpack aircraft - Fly for several hours with no fuel - Land anywhere you like that is suitable, even miles away - Call an Uber and get a cheap ride back to launch or home
But hang gliders are cool too! Not the kites they once were, they look more like precision instruments these days and to fly one is a feeling like no other. They can typically fly faster and glide a longer distance than a paraglider but consequently they usually require a more dedicated landing area. While airborne, the pilot has their belly to the ground in a prone position just like every creature of flight and the ability to dive without turning resembles the behavior of a traditional fixed-wing aircraft.
Both hang gliders and paragliders can be powered with engines, towed into the air, and flown with trikes attached. For free-flying (using only the air to fly), it really helps to be near an established flying site with transportation and an established community of pilots with access to flying areas not in conflict with landowners. Hang gliders are known to be more expensive but they can last for decades whereas a paraglider will be unusable after only a few years of use.
There are many other differences and similarities between the two aircrafts. Most pilots will choose to fly either a paraglider or a hang glider and the communities at some sites can be as divided as the most heated political debates. A few are “bi-wingwal” and enjoy both!