Paragliding: hangin' with the birds
By Dave Philipps
Colorado Springs, Colo., glider pilot Mike Teger says there are few things more amazing than paragliding. "It's just you and the birds up there, right next to each other, riding the same air," he notes. Paragliders are sophisticated parachutes in that a broad swath of nylon, shaped like a wing, is tethered to a single pilot by dozens of thin cords, and inflated, can catch light winds and warm air gently rising from the ground and stay aloft for hours. After setting up their paragliders--it takes about10 minutes to unfurl their wings--glider pilots simply wait for the right conditions. New equipment can cost about $5,000 and a glider pilot can learn the basics of flying in a few days, making paragliding the cheapest and easiest aeronautics option. A glider pilot can carry the entire aircraft in a backpack to a launch point, such as a mountain overlook. The sport evolved from mountaineering; but it still has not caught on in the United States, where there are about 5,000 registered paragliders, according to Martin Palmaz with the U.S. Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association in Colorado Springs. "To launch an aircraft by foot, and be up there in the silence, with just the wind through the strings and the hawks looking you in the eye ? it's beautiful," adds Teger.
October 17, 2008