Hang glider pilots, suspended from their gliders by a special harness, launch from hills facing into wind, from winches on flat ground or by being towed aloft from an airfield behind a microlight aircraft. The objective is always to stay airborne in lifting currents of air and - for many - to undertake long cross-country flights. The UK record for distance currently stands at over 250km, and for altitude at an astonishing 16,000ft.
Circling up to cloudbase on a summer's day and setting course on a long cross-country flight over patchwork fields is one of the wonders of the modern world. Landing out after a long flight using only the natural power of the atmosphere and your accumulated knowledge of the sky gives a hang glider pilot an unsurpassed feeling of accomplishment.
Hang gliding has joys in store outside of the challenge of cross-country flying. In the long summer evenings pilots often congregate after work to soar a nearby hill, united in the pursuit of an hour or two's soaring in the face life's pressures - and the setting sun. To be aloft on the breeze seems to them a rare privilege made more precious by the fact that so few of the teeming millions seem to know about it.
Pilots fly from hill and tow around the country normally in lowland locations. Competitions are held at club, national and international level and the 'Brits' have often led the way in competition at world level.
Alternatives include powered hang gliders that take-off and land on wheels, which are classed as microlights. Lightweight, foot-launched versions, powered by a small two-stroke engine, offer the pilot the ability to take-off from a relatively small, flat field and climb away to find the lifting thermals that all glider pilots rely on to make cross-country flights.
The National Governing Body for hang gliding is:
Factsheets on hang gliding
The following activity factsheets are relevant to this activity:
Rules on hang gliding
The following activity rules are relevant to this activity: