Introduction

Paragliding is a sport that is enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of pilots around the world. It is most popular in Europe where there is an estimated 400,000 pilots. In the United States, numbers are considerably less where the sport is increasing in popularity.

The paraglider is launched from a hillside or from being towed with a winch. It is kept aloft by a ram-air aerofoil canopy. It is steered by using vertical riser lines attached to the chute.

Origins of Paragliding


Photo Credit:
Adrian Pingstone
The origin of paragliding has roots in the sport of parachuting. In the early 1960’s, American parachutist Pierre Lemoigne was successful in cutting slots in the round parachute canopy to allow for air to flow through the canopy. This had a dramatic effect on the lift to drag ratio and allowed for the pilot to steer the chute in a predictable manner.

In 1962, Walter Newmark of England took note of Lemoigne’s design and modified it so the chute could be towed aloft. During the 60’s, parascending become a popular sport amongst the English. Newmark was responsible for the creation of the British Association of Parascending in the early 1970’s.

In 1964, Domina Jalbert of Florida invented a square canopy called the Ram Air Para Foil. The Ram Air worked by allowing air to pass through the double surface glider allowing for better maneuverability and increased lift. Walter Newmark soon adopted this canopy for his parascending activities.

Not until the 1970’s did the sport take off. The popularity of paragliding arose when pilots in the French town of Mieussy successfully launched the wing by running down the hillsides of the Alps.

Andre Bohn and Gerard Bosson were mostly responsible for developing the sport into how it is today. Bosson introduced paragliding at the 1979 World Hang Gliding Championships. It was not long until paragliding schools were opening up around the world.