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AirVenture 2021 Highlights: Hang Gliders
July 26, 2021 – Hang gliders are perhaps one of the most affordable and purest forms of flight, and contrary to popular opinion, they do not require mountains or cliffs to fly from!
What is hang gliding and how is it different from paragliding?
Hang gliding and paragliding are two forms of foot-launched ultralight flight. Typically, these craft are flown in the same places, but each has unique characteristics of transport, setup, and flight.
Hang gliders are made of aluminum or carbon fiber, stainless steel cable, and Dacron, and they weigh no more than 90 pounds. Gliders typically soar between 20 and 30 mph, although some can reach speeds in excess of 80 mph.
Paragliders on the other hand, weigh less — typically 25-50 pounds depending on gear — fit in a backpack, and usually take far less time than hang gliders to set up.
There are many different levels on which hang gliding and paragliding can be pursued. There are those who enjoy simple top of the hill to bottom of the hill sled rides. Some who enjoy soaring in smooth ridge lift. And others who want to gain thousands of feet of altitude and fly long distances. This is a sport of progressions — it is truly a lifelong pursuit with a lifetime of learning.
“EAA is about recreational flying, and hang gliding is one of the purest forms of recreational flying,” said Rick Larsen, EAA vice president of programs, chapters, education, and museum, who coordinates AirVenture features and attractions. “It’s affordable, and it’s accessible, whereas you might go up to warbirds and say, ‘This is awesome,’ but owning a P-51 for most people will never be in the cards. But you go to the other end of field, and you go, ‘I can do this. I can afford this.’ Another reason we are highlighting them this year at AirVenture is because a lot of people still think it’s flying off hills, mountains, cliffs, but you don’t have to have that. You can fly them off flat land with a tow. It’s a different way to experience flight, and we want to show people who want to fly that this is an option, too.”
Fun Fly Zone
At a 900-foot grass runway adjacent to the Ultralight Barn, you will find the mecca of all things related to hang gliding, and more. Attendees will have the opportunity to take a look at a classic vintage 1970s hang glider on display that Rick donated to the EAA Aviation Museum.
“Hang gliders have come a long way, and attendees will be able to take a look at what a typical hang glider looked like in the ’70s compared to now,” Rick said. “This old glider that we have here at the museum — a buddy and I owned it and flew it back in high school — it was a standard Rogallo wing glider, and it flies, but it’s very inefficient in terms of how it flies. You look at gliders today, and they have almost the same performance as a high-performance sailplane. It’s not uncommon in a new hang glider to fly for hours at a time, and that was certainly not possible in these old gliders, but it was certainly still a blast!”
While in the Fun Fly Zone, you’ll also have the opportunity to visit with Hang Glide Wisconsin, Kitty Hawk Kites, and The United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association — all of whom are conveniently located under one tent!
Hang Glide Wisconsin
Located in Whitewater, Wisconsin, HGW is the Midwest’s premier hang gliding destination that provides discovery flights and lessons with experienced and professional pilots. HGW will have a glider present at AirVenture and will do demo flights towing a hang glider with a Dragonfly, a two-seat ultralight-type aircraft.
Kitty Hawk Kites
Kitty Hawk Kites will also be present with two replica gliders that it displays at its home base in North Carolina: a 1902 Wright Glider and a replica of an 1890s Otto Lilienthal hang glider. KHK will be demonstrating ground tow demos using a winch.
The United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association
The USHPA is a nonprofit membership-based organization whose mission is to ensure the future of free flight. USHPA offers members helpful resources and advice, and when necessary advocates on behalf of the sport to preserve the future of flying. USHPA also offers pilot rating programs, structured instructor certification programs, and a training structure for tandem and aero towing.
Rick said he’s excited to showcase hang gliders at AirVenture this year, and to share his passion with other pilots and enthusiasts.
“To me, it’s one of those forms of flying that is about as bird-like as you can get,” Rick said. “You’re not flying in something that is large and heavy. This is something that you pick up, and in the right conditions, you take a few steps and you’re flying.”