FAI Hang Gliding and Paragliding Commission
Hang gliders are not just aircraft; they are time machines. With them we can experience, at least in part, the thrill those early pioneers must have felt as they explored the unknown. They take us into a world driven not by the laws of man, but by the laws of nature. We hold this privilege in trust for future generations, even as we enjoy the legacy of those who came before.
Hang gliders (Class 1)
Hang gliders came first. From the early wing with slack sails, 100° nose angle and seated harnesses, the gliders have evolved into sleek – and safer - machines.
Slippery surfaces are used to build drum-tight sails; aspect ratios are increased as far as possible; the rigid ends of the leading edge tubes are replaced with flexible fibreglass rods; the tension of the sail can be altered in flight via the ‘VG’ (Variable Geometry) cord acting on the cross-tube junction; streamline-section control-frames are widely used; the keel has retreated back inside the wing, its deep pocket being replaced by a slim tunnel in which it can simply flex sideways.
The most recent gliders now have the cross-tubes replaced with a carbon-fibre beam. Reflex at the tips is maintained by a system of internal struts. The kingpost has disappeared.
Today, hang gliding competitions include cross-country and aerobatic championships.
Rigids (Class 2 and 5)
As technology evolved, so did the design. In the 90s, the leading edges made from D–section carbon-fibre spars gave a new life to Rigid gliders. The strength of such a structure made external wire bracing obsolete. However, these wings are virtually unable to flex, so moveable surfaces are required to control roll. Usually these take the form of spoilers mounted outboard on top of the wing, although some designs have ailerons. They are operated by wires from the control frame.
The Swift is an ultra-light sailplanes with a L:D ratio of around 25, but which nevertheless can be launched and landed according to hang-glider requirements. It’s an all composite-material tail-less sailplane with a cockpit and three-axis controls. There are large flaps and elevons, plus tip rudders, all of which contribute to its exceptional speed range and low-speed control.
Today, rigids compete in cross-country tasks only.