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Mt. Kilimanjaro - 19,340 ft. (5,895m)

January 27 - February 16, 2013


Where Lucille has been for the past 24 hours.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Paragliding

A paraglider is actually a wing. It is made a special rip stop nylon type fabric. There is a top and a bottom. There are rows of lines - strings that keep the shape of the airfoil when we are flying. The lines all come together and attach to the harness that we sit in.
There are many many different gliders. First of all there are many different companies that make paragliders. Each company makes different classes of gliders from a beginner glider to an advanced and competition glider. The difference is like the difference between a station wagon and a sports car. A station wagon or beginner glider is generally easier to launch, goes slower and is vertually indestructible....meaning that it can only be flown when the wind is not too strong and that it can recover from any collapses without pilot input. There are usually about four levels. I fly a glider somewhere in the middle. Along with the different types of gliders they also come in 3-4 different sizes. Most companies also make a tandem glider, a larger glider that can take two people at the same time.
Then there is the harness, the part that we sit in and it is attached to the paraglider in such a way that we are suspended underneath it. There are many different types of harnesses that also come in different sizes. We all fly with a reserve parachute, that we can deploy if we have problems with our paraglider. We attach all our instruments to the harness or to ourselves. Pilots will fly with a varying amount of electronic devices.
First almost all pilots fly with some type a variometer. This device tells us our altitude but more importantly it tells us when we are going up and how quickly as well as telling us when we are going down and again how quickly that is happening. We get a visual as well as an audible signal that tells us this information. Most of us also fly with a GPS which we use to tell us our ground speed and our location, and more importantly so that we can tell our retrieve driver where to pick us up, this is done with a ham radio. Some also carry a SPOT so that we can not only be tracked but if we go down and we are unable to use our radio, then we can send a help message out.
The whole purpose of paragliding is free fight. We can walk or hike to a launch site, open it up and run off the hill until we are flying. We have two brake lines which is what we use to turn, by slowing down one side and moving our weight by leaning over we turn. The magic happens when we can stay in lifting or rising air by turning, thus going up. The challenge is to stay in this rising air, gain elevation then to fly to the next thermal or rising air and turn in that one and to keep on going. The current paragliding record is over 500 km!!! Amazing.
When I was a new paraglider pilot many years ago a female paraglider pilot came to South Africa and set the new open distance record. At that time it was well over 300km!!!!
This in a nutshell is paragliding....the technical part at least. The feeling is difficult to describe. The poem by Rene that I posted a few days ago will give you a bit of an idea. I will try to explain over the next few days.

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