Home (contents) Hang gliding Paragliding


Photo of a paraglider about to launch

Looking up

In this photo by Justin P, I am visually checking the wing before commencing launch at Monk’s Down in about 2001. The red streamer on the harness indicates that I had fewer than ten hours paragliding experience after I qualified in 2000.

As world record breaking hang glider pilot Larry Tudor stated, the paraglider is in many ways what the hang glider tried to be, but did quite make it: A minimal cost, portable and lightweight, quick rigging, safe and easy to fly high performance glider.


Barton-on-Sea, which to the east becomes Milford-on-Sea, is a popular cliff site. It is for experts only, so I have never flown there. However, it is a cycle ride from my home…

Aerial photo of the green at Barton-on-Sea

Balled up paragliders and their pilots cast evening shadows on the cliff top at Barton-on-Sea in Dorset, England. Photo by Steve A.

The glider fits in a big rucksack. To get ready to fly, you carry it up a hill facing the wind (in a car—no need for roof bars and other supports, on a bike, or even on horseback—it has been done) spread it out, strap in, and launch. OK, you carry out some preliminary safety checks along the way—and ground handling the things is a bit of an art—but that is about how simple it is.

Paragliders at Barton-on-Sea in about 2000

Paragliders at Barton-on-Sea in about 2000

Paragliders at Barton-on-Sea in about 2000

Over the cliff

Barton-on-Sea (Milford-on-Sea) is a public area.

Cafe at Barton-on-Sea in about 2000

After the day’s flying, pilots gather at the cafe


Bournemouth even more than Barton is a cliff site for experts only. (I have never flown there either.) Like Barton, it is a bicycle ride from my home…

Aerial photo of paragliders flying the Bournemouth cliffs

Luigi and Adrian coastal soaring. Photo by Steve A.

Paraglider soon after launching at Bournemouth in June 1997

After launching at Bournemouth in June 1997

That’s the Isle of Wight on the horizon with its rocks and lighthouse called the Needles.

Lone paraglider crossing the Bournemouth gap in 1997

Lone paraglider crossing the Bournemouth gap in 1997

Richard Westgate at Bournemouth in June 1997

Richard Westgate flying the Bournemouth cliffs in June 1997

Paraglider landing on Bournemouth beach in June 1997

Landing on the beach

Luigi carries his paraglider and gear back at Bournemouth beach

Luigi carries his wing and gear back to the top

Other sites

Photo of a two-place paraglider flying above a hillside

Gary P flies with a passenger or second pilot at Bell Hill in north Dorset, England, in August 2009

You can try paragliding by going up with a suitably qualified pilot in a dual rated wing with a dual harness.

Photo of paragliders flying above snowscape

Martin H and Nicole B at Monk's Down

In the mid 1970s (the early days of hang gliding) we used to fly standard Rogallos when the hill was covered in snow like this. (I even flew when it snowed; the low sun lighting the flakes coming at me was a memorable experience.)

Photo of two paragliders preparing to launch from snowy ground

Martin H and Nicole B prepare to launch at Monk's Down

However, the paraglider is much quicker to get ready for flight than even the simple early hang gliders, so preparation is less of a trial in cold weather. Having said that, the seated flying position exposes the pilot to the cold more than does the prone position of the hang glider pilot in his enclosed harness, so you get colder flying a paraglider than a hang glider, despite the lower airspeed of the paraglider.

Photo of a paraglider flying near a large house atop a coastal cliff

Martin H above the cliffs at Ringstead in Dorset, England

If I was this low in a hang glider I would be considering heading for the emergency landing field. However, the slow-flying paraglider has many more safe landing options including the beach.

Photo of a paraglider in flight over rugged terrain

Martin H again

Because paragliders fly and land much more slowly than hang gliders—and, unlike hang gliders, they remain eminently steerable at low airspeeds—you can fly them into places that would be dangerous for a hang glider to fly.

Photo of the X-38 touching down

The X-38 just before touchdown on a lakebed near the Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards California, at the end of a March 2000 test flight. Photo by Tom Tschida.

The X-38 was built to help develop technology for an emergency crew return vehicle from the international space station. The X-38 is manufactured by Scaled Composites, Inc., Mojave, California.

Photo of a paraglider pilot preparing to launch

A paraglider pilot prepares to launch at Bell Hill in August 2007

While paragliding equipment is very different from that of hang gliding, the basic flying skills the pilot develops are the same.

Photo of a paraglider in flight

Paraglider struggling for height at Bell Hill near Blandford, Dorset, in about 2001

Paragliders and a balloon at Combe Gibbet in May or June, 2004

Paragliders and a balloon at Combe Gibbet in May or June, 2004

Combe Gibbet LZ

Combe Gibbet LZ in June 2004 taken with my hand-held compact 35mm film camera

Internal link

Paragliding continued

External links

YouTube video by Jeremy C of paragliding and hang gliding at Barton-on-Sea in June 2010

NASA photo archive

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