Not everyone has the courage to try base jumping, skydiving or even bungee jumping. We can’t all be Felix Baumgartner. What should you do if you want to experience flying, but you’re not inured enough with heights to do the more extreme free fall pursuits? Hang gliding is the answer. It’s dangerous, but with the proper instruction, you’ll get the experience of soaring like a bird into the wind, and you won’t have to jump off a mountain, out of a plane, or off a bridge.
Step 1: Taking Flight
Make sure your nose angle is correct. The nose angle is where your hang glider is pointed. If you pull it too close, and it points upward, you’ll stall out before you even begin. Likewise, you’ll crash into the ground if your weight is too far forward. Rest your hands on the right and left risers of the triangle you’re dangled between in the glider’s hardness.
You have to make sure your foot speed and nose angle are aligned. Start walking, then jogging, then keep increasing your speed until the glider straps tighten on your body and the glider lifts off your shoulders. Suddenly, your feet will be begin to lift off the ground.
If you’re running and the glider isn’t lifting, then you’re doing something wrong, and you should go back to your starting place. Keep walking, jogging, or running until the glider is lifting you on its own. If the hang glider isn’t lifting you off your feet, jumping into the harness will cause you to crash. The glider can’t support itself and you, unless it’s already pulling you up. Remember, the glider will start to lift you on its own only when its aligned properly between angle of the nose and foot speed.
Once you’re being lifted, you’re going to move out of landing position where your hands are on the uprights or risers. As the glider lifts you up, move your hands to the bottom bar running parallel to the ground, or the “base tube.” This is the position where you’ll be doing most of your flying.
Step 2: Navigation And Control In The Air
Once you’ve successfully gotten off the ground, and aligned your hands correctly, you’re ready to actually control the glider in the air. Primarily you’ll be using a weight shift glider. All of your weight is being supported in your hips as they rest in the harness, and it goes all the way up to the CG of the glider, or the center of gravity.
The glider’s movements align with that CG, so your body’s weight resting in the harness controls where the glider goes. For speed purposes, you’re controlling how fast you dive or climb in the wind. To dive, and increase speed, move your weight forward in the harness and the nose will angle down. When you push your weight back, the nose of the glider moves up. Like the momentum in a skateboard after rolling downhill, it will pick up enough momentum to then climb once it’s on a inclined plane.
So when you shift your weight forward, you are angling the nose down and picking up speed. When you shift your weight back, you climb and use what momentum you gained from your dive to go higher in the air. If you get to the apogee of the climb, and you start to feel the glider slowing down, you’re getting close to a stall. You’re going to move your weight forward again, and level off at a new altitude.
In order to turn, it’s again about weight displacement. If you want to go left, you shift your weight left, to the left bar of the triangle. It will place more weight on the left wing, and your wing will then dip left as you head in that direction. But you’re going to want to pull your weight back or forward a little with your weight to bank into the turn one way or the other. You almost carve your turn, slicing an arc through the wind rather than into it.
Also, be careful about rotating within your harness. If you just point your body in the direction of the turn, the wing won’t dip and you won’t turn. Make sure you move your body’s center of gravity to the left bar when turn left, but remain facing in line with the nose of the glider. A tip for this is moving your feet the direction you want to go first, then move the center of your body’s mass to match your feet in a straight line on whichever side you’re turning.
Step 3: Landing
Landing is just like when you’re taking off, except in reverse. So when you’re approaching the ground, you’re going to switch your hand position one hand at a time. First one hand grabs the upright bar, then the other, on the opposite bar. Once you’ve grabbed the risers with your hands, you’ll get into an upright, perpendicular position with your feet pointing down, rather than out behind you in the horizontal flying position. Once you’re in the landing position, you drop any landing gear that might be attached, like wheels, and take a couple steps running as you come close to the ground.
Then you’re going to purposely stall out the glider, which means you’re going to shift your weight back, and stall it out, like you would if you kept climbing too long in the air, and lost all momentum. If you’ve ever seen a bird come to rest, they give a final flap of their wings, angle them up to slow their momentum and land in one spot.
Congratulations, you’ve just gone hang gliding. Maybe skydiving and bungee jumping don’t seem so scary now? We hope so. If man wasn’t supposed to fly, then the Wright Brothers never would have come along. So take flight, and experience the thrill of riding the wind!