Hang Gliders really fly ... right up to the clouds in thermals and away on flights of several hours.
The graceful flight of a hang glider with the aerodynamic pilot position really is flying like the birds. Simply leaning the way you want to go the weight-shift control gives a wonderful natural feeling as you swoop and glide and is totally unique to hang gliding.
Hang Gliders have a fantastic glide performance and an impressive speed range. High performance hang gliders can reach 80mph!
Unlike paragliders they won't collapse in turbulent air but maintain shape by their internal airframe. The twist and sweepback of the wing provides a natural stability allowing hang gliders to endure the roughest of flight conditions!
This photo shows South Downs graduate Nick Charman flying
above Devil's Dyke near Brighton in Sussex.
Cumulus clouds in the background mark the tops of the thermals on this perfect gliding day.
Hang Gliding began in the early 70s evolving out of power-boat tow kites over water. The inherent stability of the Rogallo shape meant that with the pilot suspended from the correct position on the keel a balanced glide would result.
Early HG aviators would attempt to fly from higher and higher launches to prolong the flight.
The design rapidly improved over the next few years bringing the performance of glide ratios to near one in ten. The slow descent rate enabled soaring flight whereby the skilled pilot could remain aloft for hours riding the dynamic up-currents from wind and thermals.
Design improvement has continued ever since with the goal of better glide angles and ease of control.
Today the best flexwings can achieve a best glide of one in fifteen and the rigid wing hang gliders are very close to one in twenty!
Hang gliders have a delta wing shape supported by a rigid internal airframe made of aluminum and carbon. Hang Gliders have a fantastic glide performance and an impressive speed range, (20mph to 60mph), allowing flight in a range of wind speeds.
There are various types of hang glider: floater, intermediate, sport, advanced, and rigid wing. They provide a range of best glide angles from 1:8 for the floaters up to an impressive 1:20 for the rigid wings. Beginners start with a floater or an intermediate class machine.
The pilot flies supported by a harness in a prone, front down, position. This unique flight position realizes the dream to fly like the birds.The steering and speed are controlled by weight-shift. The pilot moves like the joystick of a conventional aircraft, forward and back for changing the airspeed, left and right for directional control.
All gliders slide down a slope created by the shape of their wings. Gravity being the driving force. The glide slope has to be steep enough to balance the drag of the air resistance. If the glide is held too shallow, (by holding the contol-frame out), the glider will slow to the point where the airflow separates over the wing. This is the "stall". The glider automatically nose-dives and regains flying speed. A relaxed hanging position, (no pressure of weight on the control-frame), results in a "trim speed" glide-slope at about 20mph. At this speed the glider descends the slowest and so gives the best lift when flying through rising air. By pulling in a slight amount on the control frame, (weight pulled towards the nose, an optimal glide slope can be achieved, (25/30mph), where the total drag is minimal. This is the best glide speed where from any given height the glider will fly the furthest. Pulling your weight still more forward, control-frame back, achieves higher forward speeds but at the expense of a poorer glide, it will fly down a steeper slope.
South Downs Hang Gliding
Farm, Firle, East Sussex. BN8 6NB
Tel. 07890 362648