Sailplane - Comparison of Gliders With Hang Gliders and Paragliders

Comparison of Gliders With Hang Gliders and Paragliders

There is sometimes confusion about gliders, hang gliders and paragliders. In particular paragliders and hang gliders are both foot-launched. The main differences between the types are:

Paragliders Hang gliders Gliders/Sailplanes
Undercarriage pilot's legs used for take-off and landing pilot's legs used for take-off and landing aircraft takes off and lands using a wheeled undercarriage or skids
Wing structure entirely flexible, with shape maintained purely by the pressure of air flowing into and over the wing in flight and the tension of the lines generally flexible but supported on a rigid frame which determines its shape (note that rigid-wing hang gliders also exist) rigid wing surface which totally encases wing structure
Pilot position sitting supine in a seated harness usually lying prone in a cocoon-like harness suspended from the wing; seated and supine are also possible sitting in a seat with a harness, surrounded by a crash-resistant structure
Speed range
(stall speed – max speed)
slower – typically 25 to 60km/h for recreational gliders (over 40km/h requires use of speed bar), hence easier to launch and fly in light winds; least wind penetration; pitch variation can be achieved with the controls faster maximum speed up to about 280 km/h (170 mph); stall speed typically 65 km/h (40mph); able to fly in windier turbulent conditions and can outrun bad weather; exceptional penetration into the wind
Maximum glide ratio about 10, relatively poor glide performance makes long distance flights more difficult; current (as of November 2010) world record was just above 500 kilometres (310 mi) open class sailplanes – typically around 60:1, but in more common 15–18 meter span aircraft, glide ratios are between 38:1 and 52:1; high glide performance enabling long distance flight, with 3,000 kilometres (1,900 mi) being current (as of November 2010) record
Turn radius tighter turn radius, allowing circling in the rapidly rising center of thermals somewhat larger turn radius, not allowing such a high rate of climb in thermals even greater turn radius but still able to circle tightly in thermals
Landing smaller space needed to land, offering more landing options from cross-country flights; also easier to carry to the nearest road longer approach and landing area required, but can reach more landing areas due to superior glide range specialized trailer needed to retrieve by road
Learning simplest and quickest to learn teaching is done in a two-seat glider with dual controls
Convenience packs smaller (easier to transport and store) more awkward to transport and store; longer to rig and de-rig; often transported on the roof of a car trailers are typically 10 m (30 ft) long; rigging & de-rigging takes about 20 minutes
Cost cost of new is €1500 and up, cheapest but shortest lasting (around 500 hours flying time, depending on treatment), active second-hand market cost of new glider very high but it's long lasting (up to several decades), so active second-hand market; typical cost is from €2,000 to €145,000

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