Talking about paragliding and its first cousins

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Talking about paragliding and its first cousins

Paragliding is sport flying that offers the easiest and most fun way for almost anyone to mimic bird flight, simple and unrestricted.

The equipment is simple, lightweight, and relatively inexpensive compared to other aircraft types, and basic skills are easy to learn. Although more physically demanding than flying an airplane, paragliding is far less strenuous than many other sports, including its close relative, hang gliding. Paragliding is a form of hang gliding, but the difference in the equipment used makes a big difference in the ease of learning and the degree of physical exertion required to practice the sport of paragliding. Like hang gliding, paragliding is a free flight that is not restricted by a tow or connecting line.

Paragliding is not parasailing, in which one is towed behind a boat. Paragliders, like hang gliders, can be launched by tow when it is impossible to take off on foot from a hill or mountain, but they do not rely on a tow line to fly. Similarly, paragliding is not skydiving (where flight is achieved by jumping from an aircraft and freefall is the primary objective). However, paragliding itself (in appearance, but not in construction, structure, or capabilities) resembles the high-performance parachute from which it descends. Finally, paragliding is not base jumping, a form of skydiving in which the skydiver takes off from a ground object such as a bridge, building, or cliff. The paragliding pilot takes off by "inflating" the canopy of the glider overhead, then descends the side of a hill until the canopy lifts him off the surface of the earth. Like hang gliding, paragliding is a non-motorized flight without the complications that usually come with an engine.

When the air is smooth in the early morning or the still air of a sunset, a paragliding pilot can take a few steps from any hill or mountaintop as we do in Tenerife and glide smoothly and silently to soft landing hundreds or even thousands of meters below. But, like hang gliding and gliding, paragliding offers much more. In fact, in the more active midday air, a paragliding pilot with advanced knowledge and experience can switch to unpowered flight, where rising packets of sun-warmed air can carry the paraglider and pilot high, sometimes thousands of feet above the takeoff point, and allow sustained flights of up to several hours.

At the right site and in the right conditions, a pilot with the right skills and experience can fly across the field, jumping from one thermal lift to another and landing at a distant lot, miles away from the original takeoff site.