Hang Gliding history has been traced back to Otto Lilienthal, who successfully made over Two hundred flights from a purpose built hill in Germany in the late nineteenth century.

After the 2nd World War, interest in ultra-light low-speed aircraft continued to grow when Professor Francis Rogallo, of the National Space Agency, in the USA, developed a flexible wing parachute for steering space re-entry vehicles back to Earth. The basic hang glider that most modern gliders are modeled on today was invented by an Australian engineer, John Dickenson, in 1963. The glider was based on a NASA Gemini space capsule recovery wing. Dickenson’s glider had all the basic features of a modern wing, including the triangular control bar.

Modern hang gliders have evolved from the old delta-wing style kite that made the sport popular, into 3 basic types. These are the flex wing, rigid wing gliders and ultra-light sailplanes. The flex wing gliders have a very basic tube frame and a flexible wing made of sail cloth, stiffened into an aerofoil shape by the frame. They are usually braced with wire and controlled by moving the pilot’s weight. Rigid wing gliders resemble airplanes without tails.

These gliders are built from carbon fiber and epoxy for strength and usually have a better performance than the flex wing gliders. Ultra-light sailplanes generally have a cockpit and engine installed onto a normal wing configuration. They land and take off like light aircraft and are fitted with wheels

Hang gliding, since its invention in the 1970’s, has developed into a practical and relatively safe sport. The sport uses simple yet sophisticated machines built of aluminum, carbon-fiber and high tech sail fabrics.

U.S. Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association.

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