learning to paraglide

How to get started:

A paraglider is an aircraft. One cannot improvise. Paragliding, unlike say bungee jumping, requires certain skills which need to be taught by skilled instructors. It is an extreme sport that needs to be taken seriously. Furthermore, paragliding is an activity which it is difficult to undertake casually. It requires time commitment, and thus can have a profound impact on time allocation and therefore lifestyle.

What Is Paragliding? 滑翔傘是什麼?

Paragliding is a kind of flying, but instead of a wing made of metal, wood, fabric or plastic, it uses nylon or polyester fabric instead - the kind of thing windsurfer sails are made out of. Paragliders fly the same as any non-powered aircraft, and can glide quite a long way if you simply jump off a hill (for the technical, glide ratios of up to 9 or 10:1 are quite possible). The wing itself is made of two layers of fabric that form a wing-shaped bag with openings along the front. As the glider starts to move forward off a hill, the openings allow the wing to fill with air, pressurising it and making a standard aerofoil shape. The wing (often referred to as a canopy) is attached to a harness by a series of up to 30 thin but very strong lines, much like a parachute. The harness is where the pilot sits - and you'll be glad to hear it's much more comfortable than a parachute harness. You can even take sandwiches in them, as they have pockets for food, radios, water ballast or a camera, and anything else you want to take flying.

Steering is the simplest thing possible. The pilot holds a special line (called a brake line) in each hand, and if he/she wants to go left, they pull down on the left one. To turn right - pull on the right brake line. Pulling both slows the canopy to land, and most paragliders have an extra, speed-up control worked by their feet. That's it. Very simple, very controllable and yet capable of flying over 300km on a good day. But still small and light enough to be packed up and fitted in under the back seat of the car after you have landed.

滑翔傘是飛行的一種,它的翼不是木造,也不是金屬、塑膠翼,而是用尼龍或滌綸(聚酯纖維)造的翼,與風帆所用的物料相同。滑翔傘飛行像其他不用動力飛行器那樣飛行,如在山上向下起飛;可以滑翔頗遠的距離 (在技術上;滑降比率甚至可超越9或10:1) 。滑翔傘翼是用雙層物料縫成翼狀,開口在前方,當開始滑翔飛行時;空氣穿過開口,滑翔傘翼即充滿空氣,形成一個標準機翼的形狀,滑翔傘翼是連在一組由30條幼細而極堅固的線所組成的繫帶,就像降落傘的繫帶,但較之舒適,飛行員就坐在座帶上,那裡還有一些口袋可以裝食物、水、對講機和攝影機。駕駛滑翔傘很簡單,飛行員每隻手拿一條特別的線 (又稱為煞制線),若向左飛;將左手的特別帶向下拉,若向右飛;便將右方的煞制帶向下拉,拉動左右兩條煞制帶;滑翔傘便慢慢下降着陸。許多飛行員亦利用雙腳作起跑來增加速度,所以說滑翔傘飛行是很簡單和舒適的飛行運動。若天氣良好;可以飛行300公里。

Is It Safe? 是否安全?

Like driving a car and deep sea diving, paragliding is as safe as the person doing it. The big advantage is that it is probably the slowest form of aviation, so at least if you do crash you will hit the ground more gently than a fixed-wing aircraft! And remember that the canopy normally sits right above the pilot, so that when you are learning, all you need to do is put both brake lines up and you will immediately start flying normally - because the paraglider is probably the most inherently stable aircraft there is. In some circumstances the air can get squeezed out from between the two fabric layers, which stops it flying like a wing, but then it simply reverts to being a parachute until the pilot starts it flying again. High speed dives are virtually impossible in a paraglider. So unless the pilot does something to make it unsafe, a paraglider is safe.


How Did It Start? 滑翔傘飛行的起源?

Climbers in the Alps started jumping off mountains in order to get down quicker. At first they used simple parachutes, but they soon refined the designs, made more aerofoil cells, improved the wing sections, used sitting harnesses and thinner lines. All these things produced better handling, more manoeuvrable and safer paragliders until we arrived where we are today. Beginner level canopies are certified to recover from any mistake or problem within four seconds, with no pilot input at all. Advanced canopies can loop, spiral, wing over, stall and do some very impressive aerobatics in the right hands. And in Europe, there are hundreds of thousands of paraglider pilots flying regularly - mainly because the setup is so easy to carry up a mountain either on your back or on a chair-lift.


What Do I Need? 需要什麼?

Pilots normally wear tough warm clothes, in case they get very high in a thermal (up to 10,000ft is legal), and a helmet is required in case they stumble on landing or takeoff. Most also wear gloves and sun glasses. Standard outdoor boots, think trousers and a shirt will get you started. In terms of equipment, most instructors will supply suitable training canopies, harnesses, radios and helmets. Once you have your licence, you will probably want to buy your own gear, which you will be able to choose much better once you have finished your course. After you start flying regularly, you will also need a radio and a willing and helpful driver to fetch you after you have broken that long distance flying record.


Where Do I Learn? 如何學習?

There is a list of instructors on this website. Your instruction generally will take place off a hill or near the coast on a hillside. The instructor will take you through the first steps of learning to inflate the canopy, launching and landing, as well as basic flying controls within a couple of days. Generally you will be taught by use of ground to air radio instruction, and theory sessions to make sure you get the most from your new sport. Learning to fly a paraglider is not hard, mainly because they are light. So you don't need to be a muscle man to lift one. There are many sites in Hong Kong, and once you are qualified you are able to fly at these on your own, or with one of your new HKPA friends.


Who can do it? 誰可滑翔傘飛行?

Anybody with good eyesight, good balance, and a healthy outlook is a potential paraglider pilot. If you are short, tall, heavy, light, male, female, strong, weak or even slightly disabled, you can still fly a paraglider. It is probably the most relaxed way to get an adrenaline buzz there is, as you are sitting down all the time. Good hand/eye co-ordination is helpful, but most pilots find it takes some practice to become smooth at everything. In many ways it is much like learning to ride a bicycle. You will probably discover some muscles you didn't know you had whilst learning, but many of those will be thanks to the walk back up the training hill to launch. People like diabetics and epileptics may need to check with the doctor before they fly, but if you can swim, drive or ride a bike the chances are you will turn out to be a competent paraglider pilot.

Flying a paraglider is pleasurable thanks to its simplicity. So if you have a harness, a canopy and a helmet (plus a licence of course) you can fly with the best of them. With any luck, we may see you in the air some time.


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