British Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association

British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association

Free Flight

Welcome to the fascinating world of free flight. Free flight is a catch-all term that has come to define the closely related sports of:

1970s Rogallo hang glider

Hang Gliding
Powered Hang Gliding
Human Powered Flight

Free flight has progressed considerably in the UK since 1971, when Geoff McBroom, Les Hockings, Steve Stanwick, Howard Holdie and Tony Gillette, constructed one of the first hang gliders in the country, with balloonist Don Cameron making the sail.

Hang Glider (Courtesy Mike Scholes)

Modern hang gliders and paragliders are sophisticated high-tech wings that have turned the dream of Icarus into reality.

The use of modern materials that combine strength with light weight have helped create personal flying machines that can be packed away quickly, and carried on your shoulder.

An aircraft that in expert hands can climb up to three miles high, and cover distances in excess of 260km, with no power save the movement of the atmosphere itself.

Modern hang gliders and paragliders can be launched by running off a hill, or by being towed into the air on a line attached to a winch on the ground.

The tow line is then released by the pilot when sufficient height has been gained.

Speed Wing (Courtesy Alan Clarke)

Hang gliders can also be launched by being towed into the air behind a microlight aircraft. This particular technique allows the line to be released at much higher altitudes.

But whatever the launch technique used, the goal is the same. To find that elusive thermal, a rising pocket of hot air, and circle in it to stay airborne and hopefully gain altitude.

If you wish, you can also "strap on" an engine and turn a hang glider into a powered hang glider, and a paraglider into a paramotor. You can then take off from a flat field, rather than a hill.

Human powered flight is another, more recent, branch of our sport.

Human powered flight has been out of public awareness since the English Channel was crossed nearly 30 years ago by Bryan Allen in the Gossamer Albatross.

The majority of young people in the UK are probably not even aware that it is possible to take off from level ground and fly with human power at all.

But it is, thanks to the work of the RAeS Human Powered Flight group, who are now part of the BHPA free flight community.

Airglow at Kemble (Human Powered Flight)

The British Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association (BHPA) is the UK governing body for all these different disciplines within our sport, and has a network of recreational clubs throughout the UK looking after the needs of qualified pilots and flying sites in their own area. But when first learning to fly, initial instruction must take place within the safe environment of a BHPA registered school.

For further information about taking up the sport and the various disciplines within it, please visit our learn to fly page.

Other Sources of advice and information

The following list is just a small selection of the numerous alternative sources of advice and information about our sport available on the internet. These Facebook pages and forums are completely independent and are not affiliated in any way to the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association:

Last updated: 28 February 2021



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