The Paragliding reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Paragliding is a recreation and competitive sport that is best described as a hybrid of hang gliding and parachuting. A paraglider is free-flying, unlike the parachutes used in parasailing, which is generally a passive amusement ride rather than an active sport.

Paragliding in the Austrian Alps, above Zell am SeeEnlarge

Paragliding in the Austrian Alps, above Zell am See

A paraglider closely resembles the modern parachutes used in parachuting competitions, but with a higher aspect ratio (to increase its glide angle) and a lighter construction (it does not have to deal with the sudden opening shock when deployed at terminal velocity). These paragliders have reasonable gliding characteristics and are quite controllable by use of cords which are held in the pilot's hand as he or she sits in the harness. Shifting one's weight also steers the paraglider. Typically, paragliders are launched from steep slopes at the summit of hills.

Paragliding offers many of the joys of hang gliding and parachuting in perhaps a less intimidating and more accessible package, avoiding the initial fright (but perhaps also some of the thrill) of the plane jump of parachuting, and giving much of the exhilaration of controllable gliding of hang gliding. There is a greater ease of control (due to the lower speeds, greater stability, lower stall speeds and lesser physical demands) but with correspondingly less acrobatic manoeuvrability and range. A paraglider can also be landed in a much smaller space than a glider or hang glider, and can easily be carried in a conventional car, unlike a glider, which requires a large trailer, or a hang glider, which requires a roofrack. It is also easy to climb a mountain carrying a paraglider and fly from the top down to the bottom.

Solo paragliders typically have an area of 25-30m2 and weigh 6-7kg. Glide angles range from 7:1 to 10:1 and top speeds from 45 to 65km/h. As of April 2004, the World record distance flown was 423.4km, set by Canadian William Gadd on 21/06/2002 from the town of Zapata in Texas, USA.

External links - most complete flying site database in German]