Since the dawn of time,
man has looked up in awe
to watch the birds
soaring and dancing
on the wind...
he could emulate them...
by people such as Leonardo DiVinci, Otto
Lillienthal, the Wright Brothers, Octave Chanute, Sir George Cayley, and others, but until
recent years they have met with limited success. With modern materials and designs, now
soaring like a bird is a dream each one of us can easily attain.
Foot launched flight
came into its own in the early 1970s with the invention of the Rogallo wing. Prior to
this, "hang gliders" were homemade affairs that predominately looked like the
Wright Brothers' early craft.
Two Australians, Bill Moyes and Bill Bennett, were the first
to employ the Rogallo wing. They had been towing pentagonal flat kites behind boats for
water-ski shows and were looking for something that was easier and safer to tow when they
heard about Francis Rogallo's invention. Needless to say, it worked well and they did away
with the flat kites.
Moyes and Bennett's boat driver, Dave Kilbourne, had the idea that if he built a
slightly larger one he might be able to run it down the hill and get it airborne. His
first attempt at Coyote Hills here in the San Francisco Bay Area was successful and
because the Rogallo Wing was easy to build, transport and assemble to fly, soon people
were making their own, selling plans, kits, and finished gliders. The rest is history, as
they say, and modern hang gliders are capable of climbing thousands of feet in a single
thermal and in the hands of a skilled pilot going a hundred or more miles cross country.
By the late 1970s and early 1980s, hang gliding was well established around the
world. The traditional hang glider worked very well, but weighed 70 or more pounds, was
about 20 feet long and consequently required special racks for your car and a garage to
store it in. Some pilots in England and other parts of Europe weren't satisfied with this
and since man's very nature is always looking to improve things and make them easier, they
started to look for a better way. The answer came from the sports of sky diving and
parascending (towing a skydiving canopy aloft, then releasing and flying back down).
In the late 1970s three Frenchmen, Didier Favre, Laurent de Kalbermatten, and Freddie
Keller, were launching their skydiving canopies off the French Alps. Since it was easier
to learn, weighed only 15 lbs and fit into a backpack for transport and storage, the sport
grew even faster than hang gliding did in the early 1970s. Today there are dozens of
manufacturers and over 200,000 licensed pilots in Europe, over 50,000 pilots in Japan and
pilots flying paragliders in virtually every other country in the world.
While a paraglider is not quite as fast in top speed as a hang glider, it is capable of
soaring just as well and will usually outclimb a hang glider in thermal lift. Modern
paragliders have glide ratios of up to 11 to 1 and flights of up to 500 kilometers have been
made on them.
Those who experience
find that life will
never be the same again.
Daily life is just a process
they must go through
until they can be back
in the air again.
They walk around
constantly looking up
to find birds soaring...
and when they