Paraglider limits

Every aircraft or machine has limits within which it needs to be operated. Your car can only travel on certain types of roads at certain speeds... otherwise something will break, or crash.

A paraglider is no different. Most of the training course when learning to fly a paraglider, is not devoted to controlling the wing, but understanding its limits. Fly outside the limits at risk of life and limb.

Within their limits paragliders are very safe.

This page is not a comprehensive or instructional guide, but a general guide so you may understand the sport better. Proper instruction is ESSENTIAL before flying.

  

So what are a paragliders limits: primarily 5 things.
(there are many other factors which will be covered in your course).

Pilot Skill, Speed , Wind strength , Turbulence and Pilot skill.

Speed: paragliders are designed to fly at somewhere between 20km/h and 45km/h (with high performance gliders up to 65 km/h)

Too slow and the glider ceases to fly. Thats not a big deal if you have a ridgid wing, but the soft wing of a paraglider does not like lack of airflow. Stall, spin, collapse etc can result. Not so bad of you are high up, because most modern gliders are designed to recover quickly, but dangerous if it occurs close to the ground. Paragliders dont fly too slow by themselves. They need to be forced to slow down, so the pilot is responsible for the speed (and is to blame if flying too slow near the ground).

Wind Strength: As a result of the available speed range, paragliders are sensitive to too much wind. Imagine if a pilot encounters a head wind faster than the maximum speed of the glider, they will fly backwards relative to the ground. Turn downwind, and the groundspeed will be dangerously fast. So in brief: Dont fly if its too windy!

Turbulence:  this is caused by wind travelling over obstacles(trees, houses, hills , mountains etc) on the ground or in the air(other aircraft). 

Turbulence is also caused by thermal activity when the sun heats pockets of air close to the ground. The warm air rises as an invisible bubble until it reaches(not always)dew point height and forms a cloud.

These bubbles of warm air cause turbulence. In its mild form it is used by paraglider pilots to gain altitude for cross country adventures. In severe form however it can destabilise the wing and cause wing collapses etc. This makes for uncomfortable flying conditions.

Again this is not a major problem for most wings as they are designed to recover quickly, but close to the ground it can be a problem. Solution: Dont take off in turbulent conditions, and learn to read the wind and assess a potential takeoff or landing site.

Inside or near to clouds is also a source of severe turbulence. Best to keep well clear.

 

Pilot Skill: This should really be first and last. We humans have an uncanny ability to make mistakes. We get distracted, get emotional and our judgement gets cloudy. Bottom line is this. Get proper training, practice regularly, get experienced advice about new flying sites, and never fly alone. Keep sall safety gear  in good condition, and your paraglider flying career will be long ,safe and the most fun you can have with your trousers on(did I just write that on  website).

 

The information in this guide is of a general nature only. Paragliding is a potentially dangerous sport. Get professionally qualified instruction before buying any gear and flying. Your professional advice superceeds anything on this site.