Hang gliding began as a sport way back in the 1970s and has continued to evolve and develop to the present day. Despite being one of the cheapest and most accessible forms of flying, it is still regarded by many as only for complete dare devils.
In reality it is a fairly safe sport, probably more so than the newer sport of Paragliding. Hang Gliders can fly faster and have better soaring performance for cross country flying, while the rigid wing makes them more tolerant to weather conditions as well as safer.
Paragliders are easier to learn to fly than thier rigid cousins however turbulent air can cause a paraglider canopy to collapse partially or fully. This can obviously lead to accidents and injury.
It is perhaps the fact that they are easier to learn to fly or because being derived from parachutes they appear safer that they are more popular.
As they are foot launched, literally you pick them up run into wind and take off, they have fewer regulations than gliders or microlights but they are subject to very strict air traffic control restrictions.
Otherwise you can enjoy all the advantages and challenges of other glider pilots, except that your aircraft fits in the car.
You can compete in competitions from club to world class level or just enjoy the serenity and freedom of flight without a noisy, smelly engine. Small engines are available so that you can self launch and power up to altitude to glide back. If you add a frame and wheels though it becomes a microlight and subject to further regulations.
The sport is regulated by the British Hangliding and Paragliding Association (BHPA). They have a list of approved training schools and clubs. You need to be reasonably fit but you do not require a medical certificate to fly.
If you have a run of decent weather you can learn to fly in about ten days There are shorter, more elementary courses and taster experiences available at most schools if you are not sure about taking the plunge.
A course to club pilot level which allows you to fly on your own will probably cost about one thousand pounds.
A wing can cost from about three thousand pounds new although the club or school may have pre owned wings for a lot less.
As is the case for most sports you can spend as much as you want on clothing and accessories but you may already have suitable outdoor clothing that you can use.
You will need a helmet, suitable gloves, ideally a warm wind proof flying suit and boots. Boots need to have no hook type eyelets as they can snag and cause you problems.
Once trained and equipped you can launch from a hill and ride the hill lift or spiral up in a thermal of warm air like the eagles to soar free over the countryside.
Suspended underneath the wing on a special harness, hang glider pilots fly facing down and forward giving probably the most bird like experience and unrestricted view anywhere.Hang gliding to home.
Pilots and enthusiasts like nothing better than a good yarn. Whether it is about a trip away from the local area, a near death experience or a funny comment over the radio. Let's hear your story and there will be a prize for the best one every month.