How Long Does a Paraglider Last? – 9 Ways to Make Your Paraglider Last Longer!
You’ve passed the lessons and tests and now you’ve purchased your first paraglider. Now is a good time to learn a bit about paraglider care and how to make your paraglider last longer. I’ll go over a few tips I’ve learnt from years of paraglider ownership. Hopefully this will help you to get more return on your purchase and avoid things breaking while you’re in the sky!
The main reasons which paragliders wear and break are due to environmental and mechanical wear and tear. Some of these factors are unavoidable and will simply occur over time from use of your paraglider, others can be controlled and avoided. Making smart decisions in how and when you paraglide and how you care for your paraglider after flying can make a big difference in the lifespan of your paraglider wing and lines.
A paraglider wing which has been looked after, should last for about 300 hours. The following tips below will help you to achieve this level of duration and get the most value from your wing, as well as other key components such as your lines and risers.
Avoid Excessive Strong Sunlight
This is a hard one, as the activity of paragliding in itself will expose your paraglider to sunlight. Most wings, harnesses and lines are made from petrol-based synthetic materials. Thin paraglider wings are particularly susceptible to sunlight wear.
Unfortunately there’s not much you can do about sunlight. The main thing to remember is when you’ve finished your flight, either clean it or take it home, clean it and put it away once it’s dry. Don’t leave it sitting under a verandah where it might get sun at certain times of the day or in the back of your car or truck.
Those who do use their paragliders frequently may wish to consider avoiding a thin wing and purchase something a little thicker and durable. Many regular pilots love paragliding and simply accept that regular upgrading of their gear is part of the sport.
Don’t Let Moisture Built-Up
Paragliding in the rain isn’t great anyway, but avoid getting it wet. This can easily happen when laying a wing and lines out before launching or letting it sit on the ground after landing.
One thing pilots should avoid is packing and storing a paraglider when it’s wet or damp. Always completely dry your paraglider after each use.
If it gets wet, moisture can lead to mould growth, which can easily occur when the wing is packed away between flights. Moisture can cause dust and other particles to sink deep into the wing and cause wear and tear. Moisture can also cause lines to shrink.
If you paraglide at a beach, make sure any salt water which comes into contact is washed off with fresh water.
Avoid Ultra High Temperatures
Don’t worry we’re not going to recommend you stop paragliding on hot, sunny days! But when you land, don’t let the wing sit on the ground for too long and don’t leave it in the back of the car for hours. Extreme heat can cause plastics in the wing to become deformed.
Clean Your Paraglider Regularly
Spread your wing out and give it a gentle wipe for dirt, sand, dust, insects, grass or any other loose particles.
Avoid Abrasive Cleaning Products
When cleaning dirt, salt water or anything else off your paraglider, avoid soaps or any cleaning products. They’re not necessary and the chemicals can often penetrate the thin, delicate surface of the paraglider wing.
Also avoid using any hard scrubbing. Scrubbing hard may not cause visible damage straight away but it can speed up the rate of wear. A soft cloth or light sponge is all you should need. Also avoid having anything underneath the wing which may cause abrasion while you scrub it such as rocks or nail heads sticking up from outdoor decking.
Be Careful Where You Launch & Land
If you use a dedicated, managed launch site it’s likely that it will have clear grass areas to stretch out your wing and take off without getting it caught on sticks, rocks or other items which could tear the wing.
Landing is the same, if you’re able to plan and follow through on a smooth landing this will help. However if you need to land suddenly, you’re main priority should always be safety rather the longevity of your paraglider.
Also when landing, avoid letting your wing land on the leading edge, as this can break the wing cells.
Fold the Wing Cell-By-Cell
Keep the rigid parts of the wing parallel and without too much bending when rolling the wing. Don’t use the same central cell which you fold the other cells onto as this can cause the fabric to age from bending. Make sure you change the central cell each time you re-pack the paraglider.
Repairing Paraglider Wing Damage
Small rips less than 10cm (less than the palm of your hand) should be repaired before your next flight. Repair tape can be placed over the tear on both sides of the wing.
Bigger tears can be stiched up but if it gets much bigger it’s best to replace the wing. You need to consider your safety if the repair-work was to fall out mid-flight. The most dangerous part of the wing to suffer rips and damage is the top part near the leading edge. This area is subjected to significant aerodynamic force as it’s placed under high wing loadings. In most circumstances, damage to this part of the wing means the best option is replacement.
One Final Thought – Handle With Care But Replace When Safety is Compromised
Some pilots who’ve been around the paragliding community for a number of years may have heard tales about the cowboy pilot who fixed their broken line by tying a knot in it. We’re not playing croquet here, this is a dangerous activity if you’ve got damaged equipment.
Broken lines, torn or worn out risers or speed system elements must be replaced.
Micro Paraglider/Hangliders are soo Cool!
Has anyone attempted to make either a scale micro ultralight, paraglider or hanglider?
The following photos are of some models I designed in the 90’s with the direction geared towards miniaturizing them further and using Infra Red and RC technology.
I had also built a micro paraglider with an electric fan, I will try to find those photos, its been a while, or simply build a new one and post photos as I go along.
In the 90’s, I had a hard time finding designs in kit form, as in the photos above, reason I decided to design them from scratch.
If anyone has something similar and unique, It would be interesting to see and discuss these unique models here.
I agree they are so cool.
Here is a photo of my smallest one. It has two B2 motors and pusher props and is setup as a v-tail. On breezy days, I can “surf” the breeze to conserve on power.
Model: MIA Lite Stick (Modified Lite Stick with MIA’s original design carbon rod frame)
Wingspan: 38 in.
Chord: 6.75 in.
Wing Area:256.5 sq. in. (1.78 sq. ft.)
Weight: 7 ounces with 7 cell 280 NMH
Wing Loading: 3.9 oz/sq. ft.
Drive System: GWS IPS A with EP1047 Prop
RC Components: 2 HS-50 servos, Wattage 5A ESC, Feather RX, Hitec 3 CH transmitter.
Either these types of aircraft are not popular or we have seldon seen then in flight to generate enough interest. They are unique aircraft.
I love the simplicity and ease of construction with a semi-scale look. This particular model took me 8 hours to complete simply by follwoing my previous design (first photo above) which was done in balsa and wooden dowels.
Flying wings, trikes, paraplanes and aultralight models look awsome in flight as their real counterparts do.
I can’t wait to get the tiny controls, RF receivers and LiPol cells installed and take it for its maiden flight.
Below, some new photos. What gives noticeable personality to a home? -Windows, a car? – wheels. An ultralight? see for yourself!.
The wheels on my ultralight are CNC foam painted identical to their model which were plastic from some toys I had laying around. This is a personal model not for sale, but if interest develops, I may offer a DIY plan as I did with my House FLY heli.
From the looks of it, I think I would be interested in that plan, What equipment do you plan on using? And what construction method did you use for the wing ribs? Looks very interesting.
Thanks, SLOW CRASH
Looks great. What kind of connectors are you using for the carbon rods?
The construction is very simple and straigh forward, I used the vinyl sheathing from servo wires for all the 90 degree connections and, in some, I drilled tiny holes through small strips of same sheathing to make for a multiple joint connection. I also used gussets made from thin carbon sheet. Medium CA for glue. I favor using servo wire plastic connectors instead of having to thread all joints, later is painstaking time comsuming and the weight difference in both methods is almost negligeable. The assembly goes fast with a model to reference from.
The equipment I plan opn using is the Dan’s RFFS-100 with Bob Selmans actuators, Perhaps even one of Nick L. systems. I have the receivers form Sky Hooks and riggin and also some home brewed one from various tiny RC toys in the market.
Actually I will use any electronics from anyone that is working on ultra micro proportional systems that is reading this and may want contribute to this project as well as my Nano/Pico heli work in progress.
Mario, glad to see your great jobs.
Mario, Very interesting indeed! I’m interested in a WIDE range of items, but I don’t have the cash flow to support anything yet (gotta focus on school when your career plans don’t fit into the category of “normal” (for most in my generation, anyhow). To put it lightly, a micro ultralight would be a rather amusing piece to have. It’s light weight and small size (with a possible pusher configuration) would greatly minimize any damage should an “accident” occur. It looks great so far! Keep it up! (Just noticed you lived in Mesa. Perhaps a flight in B.O.B. is in order? If I had anything to fly, I’d try and organize a large event and rent B.O.B. for an evening as an indoor field. But a semi-scale micro Ultralight ROGing off the diamond would take the cake!)
looks like everyone is from mesa on this thread. hey great job on the ultralights. i for one would be interested. some of the ultralight an hang-gliders out there would be neat to have in parkflyer form. i have thought for years about making an Easy Riser hang-glider/ultralight for years if you know that one. just no hours left at the end of the day anymore.
Thanks for your compliments. Let me share a little incident with the prop on your GWS IPS-A units that came with some Lite sticks I bought.
After modifying one Lite Stick with a tricycle LG, as in above photos, I finally took it to the air in front of my cul-de-sac for the enjoyment of my son and neighbors, the model flew great on 8 cell 110 mah NiCAD Sanyo Green Cells. The prop was getting beat up from frought landings but holding nice and strong.
After about ten flights, I got bitten by the airplane bug and decided to build the Kestral from Dumas. I’ve had the kit in a box for some time but I needed some inspiration. Instead of coverig it with the supplied polyester and mylar wing covering material, I used my favorite, Reynolds yellow wrap using the contact cement that comes with the Lite Sticks. I use Reynolds wrap quite a bit in most of my lultralights. I love working with the material, for me it is faster and most easiest form of covering and if it tears beyond repair (never had the oportunity yet) simply re-cover. I will also add that the lite stick foam wings are very durable and have considered modifying them for a flying wing ( another project to come).
I installed the GWS IPS-A unit from another unbuilt Lite Stick and took it to the neareast school park. First flight a slight breeze brought it dow like a rock straight on the prop and nicked the tip on an angle , so not having another prop at hand and not wanting to go back home, I simply nicked the other end with a small pliers to match the end that broke and so I could at least get it balanced for another flight. Surprisingly, it flew even better. Considering the abuse I have purposely placed on the Lite stik and Kestral to determine their weak and strong points, the gear box has remained impressibly strong. GWS, I love your stuff!
Here is a photo of the prop the broke and got crudely modified by neccesity. I decided to keep it as in the photo since the model is flying great with such, as you see it. I know, flying with a broken prop is unorhtodox, but I will eventually replaced it with a new one but not until I break that one beyond repair, maybe it will never break
What is Paragliding?
What is paragliding? It’s one of the rawest and most pure forms of flight. It involves the use of a paraglider, where the pilot sits in a harness which is suspended by a large, curved fabric wing. There is no engine, pilots launch by running and obtaining lift. The curve in the wing enables a skilled pilot to glide over long distances and to climb to high altitudes. Steering is conducted by pulling handles which are located beside each shoulder.
Paragliding is one of the simplest forms of flight and easiest to get involved in. It’s a popular hobby for those who not only enjoy the skill and thrill of flight, but also enjoy the outdoors and the amazing overhead views obtainable.
However, like other forms of flight, paragliding takes time to learn and master. There are dangers involved and loss of control, sudden weather change, or mishandled equipment can result in death.
What is the History of Paragliding?
Paragliding has a relatively short history, involving many people across the United States and France. Early versions of paragliding were derived from the preexisting parachute, which was round in shape, and designed to descent safely.
The earliest known paragliding was performed by the US military in their parachute landing training. Repeatedly flying soldiers back into the air to jump out of a plane was time consuming. It was less costly, less time consuming and enabled more jumps to be performed in the day if soldiers made their own way into the air through paragliding.
The first recorded history dates back to 1952 where American Domina Jailbert successfully patented a gliding parachute with multi-cells and controls to enable lateral gliding. In 1963, Domina invented and patented the Parafoil. It’s ‘ram-air’ design contains many cells which collect air and once full, enable the pilot to take off. The shape had evolved from a round parachute to a rectangular, slightly curved wing.
Also in the 1960’s David Barish was working with NASA space capsules in the development of a sail wing as a recovery system to bring astronauts back to Earth. He created a rectangular shaped parachute. Barish took this idea to ski resorts throughout the United States, trying to get “slope soaring” to take off. At the time it was simply seen as a way to race down grassy ski slopes in the summer, skimming above the ground. There was no intention to leverage thermals or dynamic wind and glide high in the sky.
In 1961, French engineer Pierre Lemongine also made advancements to help enable the possibility of paragliding. He developed a parachute design which could be towed into the air and steered.
It wasn’t until 1978 when paragliding started to gain momentum. The defining moment was on June 25th, when two French skydivers Jean-Claud Betemps and Andre Bohn ran down the sleep mountain slope of Mont Pertuiset in France and launched into the air. Betemps and Bohn were training for the national skydiving championships in France and couldn’t afford to pay for fuel for a plane to take them up and down the mountains. At the time they were not aware of David Barish’s earlier work on the other side of the world, but asked scientists if their plans were possible, receiving a somewhat cautious “yes”.
Their paragliding was shown in the media, which encouraged others to try the sport and led to Betemps who was first to paraglide on the day, to become known as the inventor of paragliding.
From this moment on the popularity of paragliding steadily grew. In 1979 the first paragliding school was established, with Betemps as an instructor. The first paragliders become available for the public to buy in 1985. The wing fabric was stiffer than that of a parachute and the lines less elastic. This provided greater control and stability for the pilot.
What Components Make Up a Paraglider?
The main part of the paraglider is called the wing. This looks similar to a parachute, however instead of being round, it’s rectangular in shape and curved. These wings have two layers of fabric, usually ripstop polyester or nylon, which are connected by cells. The curved shape of the wing and it’s cells enable it to collect and hold the wind on takeoff and in flight. This is known as the ram-air airfoil design. There are different types of paraglider wings to choose from, depending on the type of turbulence which may be expected, and the speed that the pilot desires.
The pilot sits in a harness that is suspended below the wing. These can vary from a basic harness setup which is little more than a series of straps, to something with significant protection, like a chair. These more advanced harnesses will hold a reserve parachute under the seat which can be quickly deployed by pulling a handle. These harnesses also provide benefits such as protection from cold air in high alpine altitudes, storage and foam or airbag protectors in the event of a failed takeoff or rough landing.
Nowadays most paragliding pilots fly with a reserve. However this should only be used in when the pilot is completely sure they cannot regain control of the paraglider. Opening a reserve presents new risks such as not being able to control where you land, as well as candlesticking (where the main wing and parachute come into contact and twist into each other). In the possible event of candlesticking, many competitive pilots carry two reserves. As a paraglider it’s best to ensure that you have adequate training and can handle difficult conditions or avoid them completely, rather than fly through anything in the knowledge that you have a reserve.
Paraglider Tech (Variometer, GPS, Radio, Compass)
A variometer is important for measuring your vertical speed, as well as other variables such as relative altitude, actual altitude, air temperature and air speed. Most variometers can give you audio warning tones and record data from your flight which can be downloaded to your computer.
Some variometers also contain a GPS, otherwise pilots will use a separate GPS unit. GPS systems are very useful for paragliders as when your a mile above the ground, it’s harder to notice if changing weather conditions are causing you to slow down or drift backwards. Those who fly in high alpine conditions will carry a digital compass incase they fly through cloud, where GPS units are not effective.
Helmet for the Unexpected
Good paragliding helmets are made of kevlar for light weight and strength. Accidents can cause head trauma from any angle, therefore helmets contain full protection to the head. A large faceguard is particularly useful in the event that a launch does not go to plan.
Footwear Suitable for Landing
Believe it or not, the ankle is the most commonly injured part of the body in paragliding. For many people hiking boots will suffice, but regular advanced users will wear a specialist boot with high sides to protect the ankle from trauma. Paragliding boots are also designed not to have external lacing clips as these can snap on your lines.
Flying, controlling and Landing a Paraglider
Launching a Paraglider
There are three main forms of paraglider take off, the forward launch, reverse launch and a towed launch. The forward launch involved the pilots wing being spread out on the ground with the pilot running forward. This is done in an airstream, often on higher ground. Some pilots prefer this as they only have to run forward, and get the thrill of takeoff. However the disadvantage of this is that the wing is behind you, making it harder to check for correct inflation and no tangling of lines.
In strong winds, particularly at high altitudes, a pilot may choose a reverse launch. Little running from the pilot is required and the pilot can also watch the wing and lines as they leave the ground. However, skill is required to execute this launch successfully, requiring the pilot to hold the brakes, turn to the side and avoid tangling the lines.
A towed launch can involve the aid of a stationary object such as a winch, car or boat. This can make it easier to paraglide from flat ground with little wind.
Controlling the Paraglider
Pilots can increase speed by using the speed bar, which can be controlled using their feet. This is connected through the harness and decreases the wing’s angle of attack. Braking is controlled by two controls, one on each side of the pilot. These are used to adjust speed and a pilot can also use them to manipulate steering by shifting their body weight at the same time.
A skilled pilot can also use lines and risers to control the wing. This can be useful for speeding up the approach to a landing, slowing down if the brakes fail, or for retaining control in sudden changes of wind.
For the most part, the pilot can let the paraglider glide itself. A common mistake by beginners is to spend too much time overcorrecting and braking.
It’s important that a paraglider landing is well planned and performed gradually. Hitting the brakes hard early in the landing often results in a harder landing and injury. Pilots are taught to resist a poor landing and take their time to land in ideal conditions where possible. Landing with the wind can assist in a smooth landing, landing without wind can require the pilot to exercise some skill and ‘flare’ at the end of the landing. This involves speeding up as you get close to the ground to flare the wing and reduce the chance of a hard impact. Once your close to the ground, legs are down, wing is flared, and your final checks tell you that the ground is safe to land on, you’re then ready to hit the brakes.
If a more rapid landing is necessary, an experienced pilot may be able to perform a spiral dive, b-line stall or big ears landing, depending on the conditions and space available.
What are the Types of Paragliding?
The are different forms of competitive paragliding, to suit those with different interests and abilities. Most fall into three main categories: cross-country flying, aerobic paragliding competitions, and hike and fly paragliding competitions.
Soaring is performed by using wind which is guided up by a large object like a mountain, cliff, ridge or large sand-dune. A constant and suitable level of wind is required to do this. If there’s not enough wind, the paraglider won’t make a clean takeoff. If there is too much wind, the paraglider can be blown back over the slope.
Thermal flying leverages the thermals which rise through the air from objects such as rocks which have been warmed in the sun. When pilots find a thermal, they will use a varioaltimeter or fly in a circle, to find the strongest part of the core of the thermal where the air is rising faster.
Cross-country paragliding involves gliding from one thermal to the next. Paragliders will glide towards land features which could generate thermals or look for cumulus clouds to fly under, as these are usually found at the top of a warm air thermal.
What Does Paragliding Feel Like?
Most people who have tried it will tell you that paragliding feels pretty amazing! Paragliding is flight in it’s rawest, simplest and most pure form. The limited structure and absence of walls and a floor enables you to feel at one with your surroundings. While it’s often lumped in the same category as extreme sports such as skydiving and bungee jumping, it’s actually much more relaxing and appeals to a wide variety of people. Paragliding is definitely not as scary!
If you’re scared of heights, you might still feel comfortable with paragliding. What scares most people about heights is being close to the edge, or jumping off (e.g. jumping off a platform when bungee jumping). Paragliding in this regards, is different. You gently take off and are lifted into the air. And if you’re a first-timer, you’ll probably start with tandem paragliding, where an experienced pilot will take control from takeoff to landing.
Who Does This and Where?
Paragliding has always been a popular pastime in the mountainous regions of Western Europe. There are a number of places in France such as Annecy, Chamonix, Plaine Joux and Dune of Pilat to name a few. Other popular places include Interlaken in Switzerland, Tyrol in Austria, Tuscany in Italy, Oludeniz in Turkey and Algodonales in the south of Spain. At these locations you’ll see experienced paraglider pilots as well as tourism operators offering short tandem paragliding adventures for first-timers.
Other popular paragliding locations around the world include:
However, there are many paragliding enthusiasts who have their own spots where they go to escape the crowds and not only enjoy the thrill of flight, but enjoy the serenity of peacefulness of nature too.
How to get into Paragliding?
It’s a good idea to go on a couple of tandem flights with someone experienced and see if paragliding is something you want to invest your time and money in. If you’re keen on learning to paraglide, most countries and popular paragliding locations have providers who offer training courses. In comparison to other forms of human flight such as skydiving, the barriers to entry are low. Some courses can be conducted in as little as 8 days, where you are then free to fly by yourself.
While we are not against these courses, in such a short timeframe you may not get much experience in the wide range of conditions could be encountered. It’s a good idea after your training to continue flying with some experienced paragliders. They can help recommend places to fly in your local area which are suitable for your ability.
Many countries have paragliding clubs and associations where you can meet experienced pilots who are willing to offer advice.
- The USHPA in the United States in Australia
- The British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association in the United Kingdom
It’s also a good idea to brush up on your meteorology knowledge. Learn about different clouds and their effects on thermals.
In most countries paragliding is considered a ‘self regulated sport’ with no licence required for solo flying. However, some clubs and associations may ask to see some form of certification stating that you have undertaken training before you can join.
You are also required to abide by the laws in your country regarding restricted airspaces such as flight paths, airports and military bases. Pilots should also avoid flying too low over buildings and roads.
How to Purchase a Paraglider
If your careful what you’re buying, there’s nothing wrong with buying a used paragliding wing, lines and harness, and navigational equipment. To be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to bring an experienced friend to view the equipment and check the wing, lines and harness for damage, or buy from someone reputable at your local association.
Two components which are worth purchasing brand new are the reserve parachute and the helmet. You’re life may depend on these at some point, it’s not worth purchasing damaged equipment to save a few dollars.
Paragliding wings are segmented into various EN ratings which act as a guide to help you purchase a paraglider which is suitable for your ability and type of flying you wish to perform. Those new to paragliding will start at the ‘first wings’ class (EN A rating) which are easier to manoeuvre and keep stable. The next level up from this is the ‘progression class which usually gets an EN B rating.
After this there are classes which offer high performance in certain characteristics such as: