Are you an adrenaline junkie looking for your next thrill? Or perhaps you’re seeking a new way to experience the beauty of nature from above? Either way, you’ve come to the right place! As a para gliding and hang gliding expert, I’m here to give you the inside scoop on these two exhilarating activities.
So, what’s the difference between para gliding and hang gliding? Well, the answer is quite simple, yet nuanced. Para gliding involves a more laid-back, relaxed flight experience, while hang gliding is all about speed, agility, and control.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Throughout this article, I’ll delve deeper into the key differences between these two activities, including the level of physical demand, ease of learning, equipment costs, and more.
But before we get into the nitty-gritty details, let me leave you with a little teaser. Did you know that one of these activities has been around since the 1800s, while the other only gained popularity in the 1970s? Intrigued? Well, you’ll just have to keep reading to find out which is which!
People have been looking to the sky for a sense of freedom and adventure since ancient times. They wanted to fly like birds, so they built wings out of feathers and sticks, or strapped themselves onto kites in the hope that they might be able to soar into the air.
Some people even thought that if you wore too much clothing it would weigh you down and keep you from achieving flight. In fact, this idea is still prevalent today with many believing that wearing layers will help them reach new heights while flying paragliders!
But what about hang gliding? Do we know which one offers a better experience? Let’s take a look at these two types of high-flying adventures side by side, shall we?
|Aspect||Para Gliding||Hang Gliding|
|Launch Method||Foot launch||Tow launch or foot launch|
|Wing Shape||Flexible, inflatable wing||Rigid, triangular wing|
|Flight Experience||Relaxed, scenic flight||Fast-paced, maneuverable flight|
|Physical Demand||Low to moderate||High|
|Learning Curve||Easy to learn, quick to progress||Steep learning curve, requires more time to master|
|Equipment Cost||Moderate to high||High|
|Portability||Highly portable, can be packed into a backpack||Less portable, requires a trailer or roof rack|
|Weather Conditions||Can fly in light winds and thermals||Requires stronger winds and thermals|
|Safety||Generally safe, with proper training and equipment||Can be more dangerous, requires more skill and experience|
|Popularity||More popular, with a larger community||Less popular, with a smaller community|
Both of them will require a launching platform. The process of launch is also different. With a hang glider, you need a hill to take off from as it needs some updraft to help it get into the air. Once in the air, it can stay there for hours. Paragliders, on the other hand, can be launched from a standing or a running jump on almost any surface. They can even be launched from a flat area. Both, however, have their advantages and disadvantages.
Different flying styles
The two types of wings fly differently as well. A hang glider is heavier but more stable in flight which makes it very suitable for cruising or flying straight lines. A paraglider is also capable of flying straight but is much better at controlling turns and thermals.
The Weight of the Glider
The most important factor for hang gliders is the weight of the glider which changes according to wind speed and rider’s weight. A paraglider has a constant weight that is lighter than a hang glider, making it easier to fly in light wind or on a hot day.
In both cases, the glider is launched from the top of a hill. Hang gliders tend to be more stable and offer better views while paragliders can turn easily and go wherever there is a warm updraft. With this being said, hang gliding is aesthetically more beautiful as you glide across the sky with just one wing – not that we have anything against paragliding!
Cost of purchase
A new parachuting unit will cost anywhere from $4500 to $7200 in the U.S. A well-designed new hang glider without any damage will probably last eight-ten years before replacement because of the damage caused by UV ray damage. Generally speaking, secondhand paragliding wings will save some cash and can be used as wing training. New Hang gliders will be manufactured and I expect to pay about $5000-8000 USD. The lines typically outlast the wings except for competition lines which average about 100-50 hours flying time.
No big difference in the price of the hang gliding equipment and paragliding equipment. A hang glider wing costs more than a paraglider wing but it lasts longer in general even if it sometimes breaks on landing (whereas the paraglider wing doesn’t have this problem as it is flexible once the flight is over).
Beginner hang gliders can travel at speeds ranging from 14 mph to 45 mph, while advanced hang gliders can travel at speeds ranging from 16 mph to over 100 mph. On land, 100 mph is extremely fast; imagine what it would be like in the air with almost nothing encasing you! While hang gliders can travel at the same speed as a high-speed cop chase, paragliding is a bit more low-key. Beginner paragliders typically travel at speeds ranging from 13 to 22 miles per hour, while advanced paragliders travel at a faster rate.
The Accident Rate
This second point is probably one of the most important ones. It’s true that both types of wings are equipped with a reserve parachute but in case your main parachute fails, you have no way to steer away from trouble. If the paraglider gets caught in turbulence or bad weather, you can pull on your brake to avoid the worst. If you fall out of your hang glider, it’s much harder to control and land as efficiently as a paraglider does. That’s why paragliding has a lower accident rate than hang gliding – because if there is an issue during takeoff or landing, you can sort it out much more easily.
While paragliding is simpler to learn, hang gliding is thought to be safer for experienced pilots. The extra weight and rigid structure of a hang glider allow it to travel faster and be less susceptible to wind and weather conditions. This means that pilots are less likely to lose control of their aircraft or struggle with turbulence (particularly when taking off).
The paraglider folds and fits in a large backpack, which is not the case of the rigid frame of the hang glider, made of an alloy of steel and aluminium. This means that the glider can be stored just about anywhere and is easy to transport.
Once disassembled and stored in a bag, the hang glider’s structure still takes up a lot of space (about 5 meters long). So if you have to travel by plane or train, it is not so easy and even in the car, you will have to put the frame on the roof.
Paraglides are easy to transport and fit into backpacks, making them a more practical option for carrying. The hang glider, on the other hand, cannot fit in a backpack because of its metallic structure and cannot be folded, so those who own one usually strap it to their car’s roof racks.
Over time, these two sports have become very reliable in terms of safety (and there are very few reported accidents every passing year). Paragliding flight is slower than hang-gliding, so one might think that it is safer. Moreover, its shape can make us think of a parachute so we imagine that it is safer in case of a problem.
But it is not so simple. The faster the flight, the easier it will be to transform the stored kinetic energy (speed) and to recover altitude and thus, for example, to pass over an obstacle, which is an advantage for hang gliders. On the other hand, the speed increases the risks of collisions, an advantage for a paraglider.
In case of “canopy collapse” in paragliding (canopy deflating), if it is not caused voluntarily, it is often advised not to panic. You will lose altitude but will quickly regain stability and most of the time everything will return to normal without you having to move.
Most times, you just have to keep your course and your trajectory to regain control. If not, you have a reserve parachute so not much to worry. It is worthwhile to note hang gliders are also equipped with the same rescue parachutes as paragliders.
In any case, the equipment of paragliders and hang gliders have evolved a lot today so you can go with peace of mind, and ensure that during your first flight you are accompanied by a certified instructor.
Although paragliding is relatively an easier task, hanging gliding is enticing for good pilots. Adding weight and rigidity to any glider gives it a better speed and less impact against the wind. A more relaxed flying posture also reduces turbulence (especially during an emergency flight). Paraglider pilots are also more susceptible to knee and ankle injuries when landing as pilots often land on their feet. We are not saying that paragliding should be discouraged, we love paragliding!
With adequate training and respect for the weather conditions, There’s no comparison here, paragliding wins hands down!
Hang gliding is much faster and allows you to reach easily 100 km/h (against 20km/h for paragliding) and to do acrobatics with turns and aerial figures so it is not the same sensation in the air. Above all, the flight position in hang-gliding is horizontal: you fly lying down, which often makes people say that hang-gliding is the closest form of flight to a bird.
Paragliding is much calmer and quieter. Ideal for a ride with a breathtaking view for example. Hang gliding can of course be used in simpler mode as well but if you are fond of adrenaline, the choice is an easier one.
A paraglider is easier and less physically demanding. Hang gliding is a more physically demanding sport with a greater need to shift body weight while turning.
In hang-gliding, we are lying down with our heads forward. For that alone, we are closer to the flight of the bird. But in the long run, this position can be less comfortable than the sitting position of the paraglider.
Paragliders are privileged on this point because, after a few lessons, you can already make a long flight while it takes about ten to master the hang glider which requires more determination.
The equipment is also heavier for hang gliding so it is physically more demanding because, after each short flight, you have to walk back to the school slope.
To take off, both sports use the same technique which consists of running from launch point, or by winching on flat ground and dashing.
In hang gliding, the pilot lies with his face to the ground, a position called “pendulum” and it is the whole body that moves to control the trajectory. In paragliding, you are in a sitting and vertical position in a harness and you control the wing with handles. It is therefore not at all the same way of driving because one is inevitably less at ease when one is lying down.
However, hang gliding allows you to fly longer and therefore to go further. Its other advantage is that thanks to its higher flight speed, it can take off with winds up to 40 km/h while the paraglider stays on the ground if the wind exceeds 25 km/h.
Hang gliding has lost popularity in recent years in favour of paragliding, whose popularity has exploded, mainly because paragliding is easier to transport. Therefore, there are fewer people practising hang gliding and fewer schools.
It is, therefore, harder to find schools for hang gliding but there are still enough if you want to try the adventure. Both obey the same laws of nature and gravity but paragliding with its more secure side and its small size has seduced the general public.
There are obviously more spots to practice paragliding in the world because there are more schools, but as a general rule, a spot that is suitable for one of these two sports will be suitable for the other because they have the same constraints of takeoff and flight.
Complexity of Flight
Paragliders provide greater stability at lower speeds when compared to air gliders when the ride has less difficulty. Hang glide is very tough, as it aims at getting heavier during turns. Even Lady 74 was sped away for some air-gliding exercises. In an hour or more hang gliding is much easier for learners so getting confident will mean more learning. Some paragliders could be learning the technique within an hour. Hanging or paragliding is a fun learning activity that we strongly recommend continuing with professional pilots. Learn to fly in different weathers.
Paragliding pilots change direction and pitch by pulling (gently) on the cords that connect you to the canopy, changing the shape of the wing and thus how the wind interacts with it. While this may appear to be a daunting task, it is actually much simpler than it appears, and understanding how the glider will react to your input becomes second nature after a while. In contrast, pilots in hang-gliding have their bodies strapped into the craft and change direction by shifting their body weight.
Paragliding is more of a leisure type of flight while hang gliding offers more opportunity for aerial acrobatics and tricks. Paragliding provides quieter, slower ways of flying, more suited towards those seeking the peaceful scenery of a non-motorized flight.
Contrary to what popular thrill-seekers tell you, Actually, going more than 35mph is threatening for paragliders conditioned by the structure of the glider. As with hang gliding, one can reach incredible speeds, cover a vast amount of ground in a short period of time, and fly in adverse weather conditions. Light winds, on the other hand, are ideal for paragliding. As a result, it is clear from the start that hang-gliding is better suited to high-speed thrill seekers.
Hang gliders can have a sink rate from 199 to 210 FPM, and an experienced hang glider can have a sink rate from 150 to 170 FPM. Similarly, an inexperienced Paraglider can have a sink rate from 210 to 230 FPM. You will quickly notice that hang gliding sink rates are far better than the Paragliding sink rates
Hang Glide Information from True Hang Gliders
Unlike Paragliding, hang glider pilots must maintain airspeed and a minimum level of altitude in order to stay airborne. This can be a challenge, especially during turning manoeuvres. Because of this, pilots must constantly be aware of their altitude and airspeed, as well as the position of other aircraft in the area.
Hang glider Classification
They are classified into two categories: single-place and two-place. Single place hang gliders are just that, meant for a single person. They are the most common type of hang glider and can be used for both recreational and competitive flying. Two-place hang gliders are just what they sound like, meant for two people. They are larger and more complicated than single place gliders and are typically used for touring or competition flying.
Wing loading is the amount of weight carried by a particular wing area. The higher the wing loading, the more weight is placed on the wing, which can make take-off and landing more difficult. In addition, high wing loading can lead to greater drag and decreased performance. Most hang gliders have a wing loading of around 8
In practice, however, hang gliding is not easy at all as you need knowledge about winds and thermals to be able to launch properly whereas paragliding only takes some minutes to learn how to do it even by yourself. The speed difference between these two flying disciplines is also a big factor to consider.
In conclusion, although hang gliding might be more aesthetically pleasing, paragliding is a much more accessible and safer sport. With the exception of a few, almost anyone can do it with just a little training. So if you’re looking for a high-flying adventure, go paragliding!
So, what do you think? Is it time for you to strap on a pair of wings and take to the sky? Or are you happy just watching others fly by? Weigh in below in the comments!