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Glossary of Hang Gliding Terms

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See Part 103
In the USA, without prior authorization, Hang gliders are not allowed to fly in controlled airspace. All airspace at or above 18,000' MSL is controlled. When a pilot gets higher than this they will often say they got to 17999.


Absolute Altitude
This is a measurement of altitude above the ground as opposed to above sea level. See AGL.
Accelerated stall
A stall that occurs at a higher than normal speed. Situations where an accelerated stall can occur include turns, towing, and abrupt weight shifts.
Advanced Pilot Rating
see "H1, H2, H3, H4, H5"
A method of launching a hang glider. In this method, the pilot and glider are attached via a tow rope to the back of an ultralight aircraft. The ultralight tows the pilot into the sky and the pilot releases himself and his glider from the tow rope at a predetermined altitude or when given a visual signal from the pilot of the ultralight. This method is very advantageous as the pilot can release while he is in the middle of lift.
Above Ground Level. This is a measurement of altitude above the ground as opposed to above sea level. Same as Absolute Altitude.
Aviation Induced Divorce Syndrome. Bachelorhood that results from on obsession with flying.
Aircraft Approach
Landing pattern adopted from the Airfield Traffic Pattern. The three relevant parts are the Downwind, Base and Final legs, forming three sides of a rectangle. Also called a DBF pattern. A DBF pattern may be performed using either two left-hand or two right-hand 90 degree turns. If there's traffic near a LZ a common landing pattern helps keeping a safe distance. The means all pilots should perform the same left-hand or right-hand DBF approaches.
(See also Wikipedia)
The aerodynamic, lift producing, profile of any flying wing.
the rate at which the air flows over the wing. Having too slow an air speed can cause to glider to stall and dive. Not to be confused with ground speed
Instrument used to measure altitude over the ground and/or above sea level. Often incorporated into modern flight instruments.
Angle of Attack
The angle between the chord line of an airfoil and the direction of the on coming airflow. With a higher angle of attack a hang glider slows down, possibly stalling. With a lower angle of attack a hang glider speeds up while typically losing altitude.
Glide path taken on set-up for landing. Typically this involves a down wind, base (cross wind) and final (into the wind) heading, ending with a properly timed flair and gentle touch down.
Air Speed
Aspect Ratio
The ratio of wingspan to surface area of a wing. A high aspect ratio means that a wing is narrow from leading edge to trailing edge, and long from tip to tip. A high aspect ratio wing is more aerodynamically efficient than a low aspect ratio wing. This is due to the lesser amount of induced drag produced by high aspect ratio wings. High performance Hang Glider like the WillsWing T2 or the Moyes LiteSpeed RS have higher aspect ratios than beginner gliders like the WillsWing Falcon 3.


Back Up
Secondary hang strap used as a precaution against possible failure of the primary hang strap. Hang gliding harnesses are attached to the keel (frame member) of the hang glider by way of such hang straps.

See Paraglider
Base Leg
Second to last section (or leg) of a typical aircraft approach made by hang glider pilots while setting up to land. See also Approach. The base leg is typically flown across, or perpendicular to, the prevailing wind and takes place just before turning onto final which is into the wind.
See "control frame."
Thin, curved length of tubing inserted into a sail. Battens help create and define the airfoil of the hang glider sail. The typical hang glider has anywhere between 12 and 30 battens. Those gliders with more battens are typically of higher performance wings.
Beginner Pilot Rating
see "H1, H2, H3, H4, H5".
Betty Pfeiffer, former owner of High Energy Sports, maker of harnesses and teacher of parachute repack clinics.
Billow Shift
Sideways movement of a flexwing sail inside the airframe in flight, which aids in turning.
A pilot who flies both hang gliders and paragliders.
Blown out
Expression referring to not being able to fly due to overly strong winds.
"Blowing like stink"
Expression indicating really strong winds. If it is blowing like stink, you will definitely be blown out.
Blue hole
An area of the sky clear of clouds.
Blue Thermal
A thermal that is not marked by an often typical cumulus cloud.
A very strong thermal. A good boomer can take a hang glider pilot up as high as multiple thousands of feet.
Bunny hill
See "Training hill."


The chordwise curvature of an airfoil.
The open and closable (locked) metal link used to secure a pilot's harness to the hang glider (keel) frame by way of two hang straps.
Cardinal Speeds
The most common hang glider speeds, used for reference: Minimum Sink (Vms), Best Glide (Vbg), Design Maneuvering Speed(Va), Velocity not to Exceed (Vne). More here: Velocities wiki
Cat flow
Slang for catabatic flow. See Catabatic Winds.
Catabatic Winds
a.k.a "Downslope Winds"--Winds sliding down a slope in the evening due to cooling.
Center of gravity. The point on a glider from which, were it suspended by that single point, it would be in perfect balance.
The straight line distance from the leading edge of a wing to the trailing edge.
Class A Airspace
Air between 18,000 and 60,000 feet, covering the entire US. Hang Gliders are not allowed in Class A Airspace
Class B Airspace
"Big City" Airspace, surrounding the nation's busiest airports and usually going as high as 10,000' MSL. Class B airspace has different radii at different altitudes, often looking like an "inverted wedding cake." Intruding into Class B airspace in a hang glider is a very serious matter, unless permission is obtained prior to entry.
Class B Airspace lines on a sectional are solid blue, with the tops and bottoms of the airspace's circles in listed inside (e.g. 90/40 means 9,000 feet is the top, 4,000 feet is the bottom)
Class C Airspace
"City" Airspace, surrounding airports in mid-sized cities, is shown on a sectional by solid magenta lines. The altitude limits are shown the same was as Class B airspace. Hang gliders may fly in Class C airspace only with prior permission, usually by phone, sometimes by radio.
Class D Airspace
"Diminutive" airports are surround by this class of airspace, shown on a sectional by dashed blue circles with the upper limit (divided by 100) altitude shown in a dashed blue box. Again, hang gliders may only fly in Class D airspace with prior permission. Since Class D airspace may be flown over without flying in it, it is recommended to give Air Traffic Control courtesy notice of such an overflight.
Class E Airspace
Class "Everywhere" airspace is airspace that is not Class A, B, C, D or G (or little cat Z). Its common lower limits are ground level, 700' AGL, 1200' AGL, and 14,500 MSL. The upper limits are the airspace floor above it. Non-standard class E floors are shown as a staggered blue line with the lower limit written next to it. Most of the country has Class E airspace with a 1200' AGL limit. Class E airspace with a 700' AGL limit is shown on a sectional by a broad magenta line with a fuzzy side on the 700' side. Class E airspace, where it is 14,500' MSL, is shown by a shaded blue line with the fuzzy side on the 1200' AGL side (sharper is higher).
Surface area Class E is shown by dashed magenta lines. Surface Class E extends from the surface to the top of the Class D airspace of the associated airport. For hang gliders, the rule says that they may not fly through this airspace at any altitude without permission from Air Traffic Control. What this means is that hang glider pilots should treat Class E surface airspace as though it were a solid column, extending from the surface to 18,000 MSL.
Class G Airspace
Class "Ground" airspace is the low lying airspace beginning at the surface and rising to the other classes of airspace. It is completely uncontrolled and where hang glider pilots fly most comfortably.
(Jam Cleat) A piece of sailboat hardware, used to lock a rope under tension at various settings. It is usually the device which will hold any desired VG setting, in flight.
Cliff Launch
A type of foot launch made from a cliff or steep drop-off.
Cloud Base
The altitude at which clouds begin to form. The altitude of the bottoms of such clouds.
Cloud suck
Cloud suck is a phenomenon where pilots can get sucked into clouds as the lift increases strongly near the cloud. Extending the concept, pilots joke around and talk about "tree suck," "ground suck," and all kinds of variants on the "suck" theme to explain their misfortunes.
Cocoon Harness
A harness that supports a pilot from the bottom and is open in the back. Imagine a custom fit cushioned hammock in which you lay stomach down and which uses lines to support it from above. A pilot gets into a cocoon harness by entering it from the back.

Control frame
The triangular frame that the pilot uses to control the glider is called the "control frame." It consists of two "downtubes" connected by a "basetube." The tops of the downtubes are bolted onto the "keel." During flight, the pilot holds onto the base tube, using it in much the same way as a bicycle rider uses the handlebars of the bike. See also: "Triangle control frame" (TCF) for more.
Controlled Airspace
Airspace where specific, sometimes restrictive, FAA regulations apply.
Coordinated Turn
Turn in which the pitch and roll (and in powered, three axis aircraft, yaw and speed) are set in a coordinated manner to maintain constant or minimum change in altitude during the turn.
Flying a hang glider at some angle to the prevailing wind. Crabbing can allow a pilot to stay in ridge lift, thusly flying parallel to the slope while not drifting either backward or forward in relation to the ground. Similar to how a surfer cuts across the up slope of a wave, while staying in the wave.
The "crossbars" form a triangle with the leading edges and keel to hold the wings (leading edges) apart.
Cross Control
Ineffective and improper method of turning a hang glider. The pilot properly moves their shoulders in the wanted turn direction while mistakingly swinging their hips and feet in the opposite direction. This effectively results in no true shift in weight - and little or no turn. See also Uncoordinated Flight
Cumulus clouds. Often associated with the presence of thermal lift.
A large, over developed cumulus cloud. Short for Cumulo-Nimbus. Also known as Anvil Head storm clouds. These are very dangerous and often produce serious thunder, lightening and/or rain and hail. They can and do produce lift so strong that a hang glider pilot can do nothing to counter it. On rare occation pilots have been drawn up into Cu-Nims and been killed by a combination of turbulence, exposure - and even lack of oxygen, due to extreme and uncontrolable altitude gains. The greatest danger of a Cu-Nim is, however, sudden increase in wind speed near ground at sometimes great distances to the cloud itself. Do not fly when you see such a cloud! Even if you think you are far enough away, there may be sever turbulences developing within seconds.
(See Wikipedia entry)


Dry Adiabatic Lapse Rate.
Downwind, Base, and Final approach to a landing zone. See Aircraft Approach
Dennis Pagen
The author of many hang gliding books and articles. Known for his thoroughness.
Dense Pages
See Dennis Pagen
Dive Syndrome
The tendency for new pilots to fly too fast on early high flights, since the ground does not appear to be moving fast at higher altitudes.
Double Surface, D.S., DS
A glider that has fabric that covers both the upper surface of the airfoil and a large portion of the lower surface. This added surface creates a more efficient wing. While there are double surface gliders suitable for Novice rated pilots, most double surface gliders require Intermediate or Advanced level skills. Gliders for Novice rated pilots typically have 60 percent of their lower wing area covered by fabric, while gliders for expert pilots may have 80 percent or more. They are heavier, more complex, and more costly than single surface (SS, S.S.) gliders. They are also not suitable for beginning pilots.
See "control frame."


Altitude above or below sea level - on the ground or in the air.
A very nice, large, smooth thermal.
Environmental Lapse Rate.
Making a series of base legs, rather than a normal DBF approach; S-turns.


Foundation for Free Flight, new name for USHGF. FFF provides grant funding for site preservation, education and competition for foot-launched pilots. Tax-deductible charity supported by pilot contributions, headquartered in Dunlap, CA. The website can be found at
Final Glide
the last segment of a flight where the pilot uses all remaining altitude to extend as far as possible in distance over the ground. Also commonly used in reference to competition flying when a days task or round can be successfully completed because the pilot has the required amount of altitude necessary to achieve the designated target or goal.
the act of pitching the nose of the glider sharply up when landing after bleeding off the air speed in ground effect. A well timed flare produces a no step landing . A badly timed flare leads to a chorus of pilots yelling WHACK.

Flex Wing
Flex Wing - A hang glider as originally based on the designs of Francis Rogallo. A flex wing glider consists of an internal frame of aircraft aluminum alloy tubing, (held together by AN bolts, plates and stainless steel aircraft cables). The main parts of the frame include - two leading edge tubes (left and right), as well as two cross tubes, (sometimes also referred to as cross bars or cross spars) and a central keel tube. These structural members are sometimes located inside a very strong, yet flexible, Dacron® polyester or similar light weight composite fabric “sail”. Pilot input is given by way of a control bar located below the main airframe. Together, these components create a highly unique yet basic aircraft capable of being controlled simply by the shifting of the pilot’s weight from side to side, or front to back. The flexibility of the frame and sail combination allow for this simple mode of control. This, in turn, allows the pilot a very direct feel of, and connection with, the air through which she or he flies. Piloting a flexwing hang glider is probably the closest a person can come to actually being a bird.
Flike, fliking, fliker
To trip with alternate flying a hang glider and hiking episodes without use of cars, trucks, other aircraft, buses, or trains is to fly-hike or flike. A fliker carries items needed for intended faced conditions and durations. The term "flike" was first used in hang gliding in Low & Slow. A mismatch competing term is aerotrekking in the powered sector. Or bivouac. A fliker would pilot-energy wheel or carry his or her hang glider to launches from landing points; an advanced self-kiting launching to soaring could be used by flikers. Conceived cross-ocean (XO) flikers would hop across oceans with many launches off water without the use of other vehicles or aircraft beyond his or her integrated system.
Refers to hitting big sink and losing lots of altitude.
Flying Wires
The wires on the underside of the glider that give support and strength to the frame of the hang glider during normal flying conditions. This total system, of course, then supports the weight of the pilot during flight.
Foot Launch
A method of launching a hang glider. In this method, the pilot runs down a slope, usually near or at the top of a hill or mountain, until the glider has enough airspeed to lift him or her off the ground. This is a standard and very natural way of getting airborn.
Feet per minute. Generally used when referring to vertical speed such as "300 fpm climb".


The single greatest threat to a pilot's airtime, or, hopefully, a driver.
A wind effect where thermal winds blow up a cliff or mountain to provide smooth soaring above the ridge by riding this wind. Also known as a wonderwind.
Glide Angle
The angle between a glider's path and horizontal.
Glide Path
The vertical flight path of a glider.
Glide Ratio
Glide Ratio. The ratio of the distance traveled forward to the distance dropped.
Global Positioning System. The US government operates a number of satellites that send out signals, which, when read by a GPS receiver, allow the receiver to compute its whereabouts (in latitude and longitude) anywhere on our planet.
Ground Effect
The increase of aerodynamic efficiency of a wing near the ground (starts at a height of about two wing span's lengths). With the elevated wing efficiency the glider will seem to 'float' over the ground before reaching stall speed. Other factors may include the disturbance of heated air causing lift and the illusion of less drag due to the reduction of headwinds near the ground.
(see also Wikipedia entry, although the article is currently seriously flawed)
Ground Loop
When a wing touches the ground on landing and the glider loops around that wing.
Ground Speed
The velocity of a glider over the ground, irrespective of airspeed.
Ground Track
The track over the ground. The ground track and compass heading may not be the same in terms of the compass if crosswinds exist at the altitude of the glider.


H1, H2, H3, H4, H5 - or Hang Ratings
These are the common slang terms for pilot proficiency ratings for hang gliding. The formal rating terms are Beginner, Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, and Master. H1 (or Hang 1) is the Beginner rating, H2 is called Novice, H3 is Intermediate, H4 is Advanced, and H5 is Master. Practically (though loosely) speaking, H1 doesn't allow you to do very much, H2 means you can take high flights under supervision, H3 means you can fly almost anywhere you'd want to, and H4 is required for a very few sites. H5 is pretty much a badge of honor, and can only be attained by pilots who have done lots and lots of flying from lots of places.
Height Above Ground Level
Hang Check
The act of a pilot to check that one is properly connected to the hang glider before flight(and hanging at the correct distance above the base tube). This is accomplished by the pilot laying down in flight position to ensure all connections are properly made and putting pressure on that system.
Hang Gliding
An air sport, hobby, a vocation, passive experience, or even profession wherein humans pilot hang gliders. It can be done recreation ally or competitively. Although it started out as simply gliding down small hills on low performance kites, the activity has evolved to the point that it is possible to soar for hours, gain thousands of feet of altitude in thermal updrafts, perform aerobatics, and fly cross country over large distances. The sport is closely related to paragliding and gliding (flying sailplanes) but usually using a (much simpler and less expensive (out)) craft often consisting of an aluminum- or composite-framed fabric wing, with the pilot mounted on a harness hanging from the wing frame and exercising control by shifting body weight; there are alternatives to such arrangements and choices of materials. Sport categories have evolved where complex and expensive systems may also be used. Sport, hobby, and a vocational hang gliding may involve very low cost constructions or extremely expensive assemblies. See Comparison between Hang Gliding and Paragliding.
House Thermal
A fairly consistent location to find lift... not necessarily related to a physical house.


Indicated Air Speed (the aircraft itself can distort the indicator readings). See TAS.
Intermediate Pilot Rating
see "H1, H2, H3, H4, H5".
Induced Drag
Lift lost from a wing due to air escaping over the wingtips. This effect is lessened by ground effect. Induced Drag is the drag created by any object creating lift. Do not confuse this with the other major type of drag - parasitic drag.


Jam Cleat (sometimes Jamb Cleat)
A piece of sailboat hardware, used to lock a rope under tension at various settings. It is usually the device which will hold any desired VG setting, in flight.
Hang glider pilots don't do this. They launch. Parachutists jump. The closest hang glider pilots come to jumping, is when they launch from a cliff launch site. But even here the pilot always attains some forward speed before leaving the ground.
Jumping into the Glider
Improper footlaunch technique where the pilot tries to launch with insufficient airspeed by jumping into the air while running with the glider. If the pilot has almost enough speed to launch, the result will be the glider mushing close to the ground at a low rate of speed. If the glider is not moving fast enough to support the pilot, the glider will immediately land.


The "keel" is the main fore and aft support for the sail and also suspends the pilot.
King post or kingpost
Main structural member positioned above the hang glider sail to support the air frame (by way of cables) at those times when there is a negative, or downward force (or wind) encountering the wing. Typically such forces occur only while the glider is being assembled or moved while on the ground(see, ground handling).


Landing Wires
The wires on the upper side of the glider that support the weight of the glider while NOT in flight, during assembly and ground handling.
A type of reserve parachute, stands for Low Aspect Ratio Annular.
Launch (noun)
The location that gliders take-off from.
Launch (verb)
The act of leaving the ground. There are many types of launches. Foot launch, scooter tow, aerotow, static tow, truck tow.
Launch Potato
A pilot who sits on launch too long preventing other pilots from launching.
Leading Edge
The forepart of the airfoil and holds the sail tight from side to side.
Aerodynamic forces pulling an airfoil upward. The real reason an airfoil creates lift is that it deflects air flow downward, resulting in an reaction force that has an upward component.
Moving air masses that have an upward velocity component. If strong enough it can carry a hang glider up.
One of the several publications of World Hang Gliding Association.
Light and variable (L&V)
Winds that are typically less than a few knots and coming from lots of different directions.
Lift-to-Drag ratio. The combination of parasitic and induced drag define the minimum drag for the aircraft. The point where the sum of these two are at a minimum is the L/D Max. Since parasitic drag goes up with airspeed and induced drag goes down with airspeed the sum of these two curves create a third parabolic curve whose low point is the L/D max.
A term used to describe birds flying in the area. Locals make great thermal and lift indicators.
A turn, when towing, that is difficult to correct.
Luff Lines
Lines that run from the king post to to battens at the trailing edge. Their purpose is to maintain a positive pitch momentum at all flight configurations (like sprogs on topless hang gliders).
Landing zone.


Master Pilot Rating
see "H1, H2, H3, H4, H5".
Minimum Sink Speed
Flying speed at which a hang glider and its pilot descends at the slowest rate through the air. Also known as Min Sink.
Military Operations Areas are shown on a sectional chart by a line of magenta hash marks with a sharp outer edge. Permission to fly in a MOA is not required, but current activity can be found out by calling 1-800-WXBRIEF.
Mean Sea Level. When we say 5000' MSL we mean 5000 feet above sea level.
Military Training Routes are shown as thin, gray lines on a sectional chart. Generally, they mean that a military aircraft may be traveling at high speed toward your slow-moving, thermalling ass.
Flying very close to stall speed.
Trade name of a smooth, durable plastic material, typically used in narrow sheets, to smooth airfoil contours in hang gliders. Also used as a part of composite sail materials.


Nose Plate
One or more aluminum plates at the center front of the hang glider frame. These plates create a mechanical connection between the two leading edge tubes and the keel tube. This nose plate arrangement allows the wing(s) to be easily folded and "broken down" for transport.
No Step landing
this is accomplished by the pilot timing and performing his/her flare so well that all forward momentum is stopped. Resulting in the pilot not have to take any steps when landing the glider.
Novice Pilot Rating
see "H1, H2, H3, H4, H5".
NOTice to AirMen. Alerts that may affect aviation. Hang Glider pilot are advised to call 1-800-WXBRIEF and ask for any "NOTAMS affecting flying under Part 103" in their area.
A nut (as in nut and bolt combination) that incorporates a nylon insert which prevents such a nut from loosening once installed on a bolt.


Over Develop, or O.D.
The condition where cumulus clouds grow to cover the whole sky, sometimes resulting in rain. Prior to causing rain, this condition stops the Sun's heating of the ground. It can quickly, or eventually, shut down thermal lift.
Oh shit
See Hang Check (failure to do so)


See Paraglider
Device invented solely to give Wingspan apoplectic fits.
Parasite Drag
See Parasitic Drag.
Parasitic Drag
Drag created by any part of the aircaft that does NOT produce lift. Also known as Parasite Drag.
Part 103
Code of Federal Regulations, Title 14, Part 103.
The section of the Federal Aviation Administration regulations that pertain to the operation of ultralight aircraft, including hang gliders.
A type of reserve parachute, stands for Pulled Down Apex.
Pilot Induced Oscillation. A glider can sometimes get into pitch or roll oscillations (roll is more common). More often than not, it is caused by the pilot over controlling the glider or holding on too tightly to the control frame. Relaxing, slowing down, or even letting go can quickly eliminate the condition.
Rotation about the lateral axis. In a Hang Glider this axis is approximately defined by the cross bar. Pitch is controlled by pushing away or pulling in on the base tube of the control frame.
Pod Harness
A harness that totally encloses a pilot and opens in the front. You get into this harness by slipping it on like a coat (with leg loops); then once in flight kicking your legs backward into it.
Preflight Inspection (or simple Preflight)
A complete visual and tactile check of one's glider before launch and the best way, save possibly a hang check, to ensure one's survival in flight.
Prohibited Area
A prohibited area on a sectional chart, clearly marked with the words "Prohibited Area" and outlined by a wide blue border with a sharp outer edge. No type of flight is allowed there without specific permission.
To be horizontal, face or belly down; the normal flying position.


Or just "Q" for the launching lineup waiting for a turn to launch or be towed. Queueing challenges have confronted some site mangers, competition managers, etc.


Ramp Suck
This phenomena usually occurs at a cliff launch or cliff like launches but is not unheard of on some ramp launches. The wind coming up over the lip of the cliff, spills over the lip of the cliff in a Clock Wise rotation. Which in turn lifts the glider up from the rear, pushing the glider and pilot towards the edge.
The angling upward of a wing's trailing edge. Reflex aids in stall recovery.
The reserve parachute, stored on a pilot's chest.
Restricted Area
An area on a sectional chart shown by a wide blue line of hash marks with a sharp outer edge. Flight in one is prohibited when activated. Permission should be obtained at other times. Charts show the altitude limits and controlling agency.
Rigid Wing
Rigid Wing – A high aspect ratio hang glider which, due to its more traditional aircraft-like rigid frame and airfoil, utilizes (more) conventional control surfaces to change its attitude and direction of flight. Rigid wing hang gliders offer significant advantages in performance over flex wings, and are much better at tasks such as cross country flying. However, they achieve these improvements at the cost of greater structural complexity, higher weight, and a less intuitive method of pilot control. They also cost noticeably more than flex wing hang gliders. Rigid wing hang gliders are, in a way, a bridge between flex wing hang gliders and traditional aviation’s sail planes. As such, they often attract, and are flown by, hang glider pilots who began flying general aviation aircraft and/or sail planes.
Rotation about the longitudinal axis. In a Hang Glider this axis is defined by the Keel and is controlled by pushing right or left on the control bar.
The center-most section of a wing. On a hang glider this occurs where the wing meets the keel.


See "speed to fly"
The flexible membrane (heavy duty material) that makes up the outer and effective airfoil of a flex wing hang glider. This sail is secured to and covers the inner frame of the hang glider. The sail material is made of many different combinations of materials, such as Dacron polyester, Mylar laminates and other composite fabrics. The materials making up a hang glider sail are extemely durable, very strong and can last for many 100's of hours of flying.
Scooter Tow
Method of launching a hang glider where a modified motor scooter is used as the winch. In scooter towing, the rear wheel of the scooter is exchanged for a drum that is used as the takeup reel for tow line. Tow line is routed from the glider through a pulley and back to the scooter. The scooter's operator then uses the engine's power to pull the glider aloft. Scooter towing can be used both as a tool for teaching beginners at a very low altitude, and for getting more experienced pilots several hundred feet into the air.
The act of trying to work your way up higher in light lift. Many times in light winds on a ridge or in light thermal conditions it will be difficult to get up higher. Being patient and "scratching" long enough may enable you to stay up long enough to find better lift and get higher.
Self-Soar Association
Founding hang gliding organization with "OTTO" membership designations. Ratings: "Hang glider pilot" and "Intrepid Aeronaut" with 100% pilot self-responsibility while having robust fellowship for sharing information and flying critique. Low & Slow. Hang Glider Magazine. Hang Glider Weekly. Hang Glider Business Weekly. Hang Glider Manufacturers Association. S-SA communicated robustly into 23 nations. S-SA had a stint of being incorporated in the state of California. Recently, the morph of S-SA are the two entities: World Hang Gliding Association (WHGA) and World ParaGliding Association (WPGA) where the first has a focus on frame-controlled hang gliders, while the WPGA has a focus on string-controlled hang gliders which are mostly today (but won't always be the case) the conventional canopy that has very little amount of compression material in the canopy assemblies. The pilot-market will shape what happens to any type of hang glider's popularity. Niche designers are welcome, regardless of classifications.
Speed gliding. A specialized mode of hang gliding in which high speed flying occurs, often down steep slopes and relatively close to the ground. Typically, this is done as a form of competion with the fastest time through a defined course resulting in a win.
A benevolent bastard, residing in the nicest city in the US, shunning the sun to code a top-notch hang gliding website.
Single Surface (SS, SSHG, SSPG, SSW)
A glider where the fabric forms the airfoil. Single surface gliders are typically, but not always, light-in-weight, easy-to-fly, lower-in-performance, and are suitable-for-all-pilots gliders. Technically, a wing that is of the thickness of just a single fabric layer has become known as SS; acturally there is still a top surface and an lower surface to that single fabric. The airfoil of a SS glider (HG or PG) is thus super thin. In distinction, when the airfoil is thicker, then the lower surface shape becomes distinct from the shape of the upper surface where double-surface (DS, DSHG, DSPG) is then a term used. Notice that a SSHG is potentially a high-performance machine requiring expert piloting for a minimum. SS gliders historically have ranged from safe to unsafe, from low cost to high cost. The 1972 Roy Haggard SS flexible-wing hang glider at the Turkey Fly was with a very taut sail, low wing loading, and perhaps no diver-recovery reflexing; such was in its moment a very excellent glider for guarded flying, but not suitable for just "most pilots." The Rogallo limp wing single-surface parawing and Barish Sailwing have been used for paragliding; the Domina Jalbert double-surface thick ram-air airfoil is the most popular DS wing used for paragliders. [Recall that in early 1960s "paraglider" was used for the framed flexible wing hang glider; but as the Barish leadership developed foot launch limp-wing compression-member-less canopy hang gliding, the term "paraglider" began to be reserved for the generally rigid-frame-less string-controlled hang glider; today, the bifurcation persists. Designers still recognize that a continuum potential exists from no compression members to fully solid forms; and a potential for mixed control patterns from string-only control through hybrids of string-and-frame control to frame-only control designs.] SS gliders may take airfoil shapes via various mechanisms: shaped leading edge members, shaped ribs, shaped battens, shaped appliques, holds from exterior wires. In some sport events SSHGs form a class with an implication that one is probably using a product from a manufacturer dubbed SS. Also single-surface wing (SSW) is sometimes used. Very-thin constant-thickness airfoils (though mechanically having a top surface and a lower surfaced) has been seen popularly as SS.
The opposite of lift. Downward wind, often next to thermals and constituting the air mass balance for them.
Sink Alarm
The sound made by a variometer to warn the pilot that he/she is flying in moderate to strongly sinking air. This tone is usually a solid and decsending one - as opposed to a series of higher and rising pitch beeps, which indicate when the glider is rising. This rising and "chirping" sound is a much happier one for the pilot.
Skyed out
1) Very high 2)a little speck in the sky 3)to feel really good as in: "I was really skyed out!" See also Specked Out
...or "sled ride" when you launch your glider and find no lift, sinking all the way to the ground. The term is used by participants in all forms of gliding, whether hang gliding, paragliding, or sail-plane gliding.
When a pilot loses excessive altitude in a turn, due to not pushing out while turning (i.e. doesn't "carve" the turn). Loss of altitude due to a poorly or purposefully uncoordinated turn.
A narrow area cleared of trees on an otherwise tree-covered mountain or ridge, allowing gliders to launch.
Specked Out
This is a term used to indicate that a glider got so high that they looked like a little speck.
Speed to Fly
This is a complicated subject, but there is an optimum speed to fly for any combination of sinking/lifting air and wind speed/direction. "Optimum" here means furthest glide over the ground. A sophisticated flight computer, with information from a GPS, can compute the wind speed. The flight computer itself measures the lift or sink. Knowing the glider's performance characteristics, the computer can tell the pilot what speed he should fly at to maximize his glide.
Devices to maintain a positive pitch momentum at all flight configurations. They are found on topless gliders that don't have a kingpost to attach luff lines to. Sprogs usually are rods that are connected to the leading edge tube and point back and slightly upward to limit the travel of the leading edge downward. Often sprogs can be adjusted and are part of tuning efforts.
Self-Soar Association, which see above.
Soaring Society of America
A combination of pitch angle and airspeed at which a glider can no longer continue flying. When a stall occurs, the glider will pitch down to recover airspeed.
Stuff the bar
To hold the Base tube as far back as possible, maybe even balling up with your legs tucked into your chest. This causes the glider to accelerate to higher, even maximum speeds. This then results in a steepening glide angle (dive) and faster loss of altitude.
The lift of ground air into clouds. Suck can be very dangerous.
Positioned horizontally, face or belly up. (Compare to prone. An alternate and less often-used position for flying a hang glider, with the pilot in a reclined seated position, feet forward, similar to a paraglider pilot position. The pilot is not truly horizontal as the name would suggest.


A flight with a pilot and a student.
True Air Speed. The actual air-speed of the aircraft, with corrections made for the indicator errors induced by the aircraft itself.
A bubble or column of warm rising air. Pilots try to find these columns of rising air and stay within them to gain altitude.
A glider without a kingpost. Topless gliders are generally advanced level gliders used for competitions and aerobatics due to their high performance and low drag.
Toss your laundry
To deploy your reserve parachute.
Training hill
A small slope where beginners take their first, supervised flights, ranging from a few feet to hundreds. After a long layoff, any pilot is well advised to take a few runs down the training hill to recover basic launch and landing skills.
Triangle control frame (TCF)
The triangle control frame in some hang gliders consists of tow side beams approximately meeting at their upper ends near the wing's root chord or keel; the two side beams's lower ends usually hold between them a basebar (trapeze bar, control bar, speedbar, belly basebar, etc.). The two down beams (legs, downtubes, uptubes, queenposts, etc.)and the basebar form a geometric triangle roughly. The TCF generally needs staying its position by struts or cables that communicate with the hang glider's other airframe parts.
The TCF cable-stayed with hang glider pilot behind the TCF was photographed and fact in a hang glider within a Breslau territory gliding club in the year 1908. We still use such TCF in many hang gliders of today.
Just as a geometric triangle has its degenerate instances, so the TCF has known its degenerate instances; one important degenerate TCF is where the two downtubes meet so closely that they become one (while either the basebar or control bar becomes a tee formation in some aircraft or simply becomes a stub or even identical to the end of the downbeam; this format is the age-old control beam or control stick that exchanges strut staying or cable staying with rigid staying to the wing itself; see Benson gyrocopter hang glider for such instance; another before 1930 was the Spratt use of the cable-stayed TCF; another is in the Paresev 1961c hang gliders. A degenerated TCF was instructed in the 1887 Beeson US Patent hang glider.
When skilled designers began to explore power, the TCF structure and understood mechanics got morphed to holding takeoff and landing wheels while also acting as two queenposts in some instances. In hundreds of different aircraft before 1920, one can identify such mechanics regarding the TCF structure. Even the William Beeson 1887 preempted the Wanner and the NASA flexible wing hang glider flows. Spratt also used the known TCF arts. After 50 years of evident instructions on many formats of the TCF, one finds some mid-century use by NASA, Barry Hill Palmer, Mike Burns, and then later others like Dickenson who had experience directly already with the gyrocopter degenerate TCF from the Benson flow.
Actually, the mechanics of the TCF is found in the staying of pendulumed variable-positioned weights of the early 1800s Walker gliders. Wenham in the 1800s text and drawings indicated understanding of the TCF arts. Notes on TCF are welcome to be shared at [email protected] For instance, the hybrid hang glider by Tony Prentice at his age 13 years had a framed wing and cord-only control where the TCF was all cord format staying in tension during lift-off; see LIFT in 2010 for Tony's drawings and notes.


Uncoordinated Turn
Flight condition in a turn where yaw and bank do NOT agree. This uncoordination will produce a skidding or slipping turn condition.
United States Hang Glider Association. This organization had a brief life, as the owner then gave the name over via a non-competition agreement to the later being-born United States Hang Gliding Association, which see next:
The United States Hang Gliding Association. The name has changed to USHPA to include an emphasis on the string-controlled hang gliders recent decades called paragliders in addition to frame-controlled hang gliders often abbreviated to "hang gliders." Both the string-controlled and the frame-controlled hang glders are mechanically hang gliders. The FAI also respects that paragliders are a proper subset within the parent set of "hang gliders." Note too that the Paresev hang gliders with framed four-boom collapsibility in 1961 were indeed dubbed "paragliders" in contra-distinction to how that term has become identified with string-controlled limp wings with nearly no compression members in the wing canopy. There still is a chance that the market will one day move into robust stiffening of paraglider canopies by various means (beams, whiskers, inflated beams, smart-triggering limp-to-stiff-to-limp sails, etc. to fill out a near continuum of flexibility-stiffness for hang gliders.
United States Hang Gliding Foundation. Name now changed to Foundation for Free Flight (FFF).
The United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association. One of hang gliding's governing bodies, headquartered in Colorado Springs, CO. The USHPA's primary roles are to maintain pilot and instructor certifications and provide third-party liability insurance.


Variable Geometry
Higher-performing gliders have the capability for the pilot to change their geometry while in flight. The pilot pulls on a cord to tighten the sail, and releases it to loosen the sail. A tight sail makes for a better glide, but makes the glider harder to control. Therefore, (roughly speaking) we use a loose VG setting while working thermals, and a tight VG setting while crossing areas of sink in search of the next thermal.
A second region of variable geometry regards morphing wing shapes via variable extension, variable porosity, variable reefing, etc. Mid-1900s deployments of hang glider sails facing some of these morphing tactics. The future will see even more efforts in morphable wings for hang gliders.
Variometer (Vario)
Flight instrument most commonly used by Hang Glider pilots, designed to detect and signal changes in altitude (vertical position), including rate of the change. It is used to help find and stay in thermal lift. Most Varios also have altimeters and some include GPS.
Visual Approach Slope Indicator, a device that helps pilots maintain a proper approach angle to the LZ.
Variable Billow. See "variable geometry"
See "variable geometry"
Victor Airway
A special kind of Class E airspace, where flight is allowed, but traffic is heavy with other types of aviation. Shown on a sectional by a faint blue lines with a number starting with a V. They start at 1200' AGL and extend to 18,000 and are 8 miles wide.


Slang for "wingover"
refers to a wing built with a twist so the wing tips are at lower angles of attack than the root. This is usually done to prevent the wing tips from stalling before the root. All hang glider wings have washout.
Weak Link
A light loop, designed to fail if forces become too great when towing.
This is a less than perfect landing. A typical example includes the control frame hitting the ground promptly followed by the nose of the glider impacting the ground. The result can be a source of great entertainment if the pilot isn't hurt in the process. In a busy LZ you can typically hear a chorus of people yell "WHAAAACK!" after seeing a pilot perform such an ungraceful return to Earth.
The White Room
A cloud. You can knock on the door, but you can't go in.
An intermediate aerobatic maneuver. In a wingover, the pilot will gain airspeed and then pitch up and bank steeply so that he zooms upward while turning quickly. The wing will often approach or exceed 90 degrees of bank.
Wonder Wind
Wonder wind is when a valley that's been heating all day releases its hot air upwards, as cooler air from higher ground flows downwards. The resulting air is gently buoyant, and widespread areas of lift can support gliders until sunset and beyond.
A non-pilot. An ordinary person. The origin of the word is obscure, but it's thought to be a contraction of "what for." When non-pilots encounter pilots, they tend to ask a lot of questions: what for is this? what for is that? what for is the other? Wuffo's lead lives not worth living, because they have never experienced solo hang glider flight.


Cross Country. To fly a hang glider from a starting launch site, and once at proper altitude, (typically) continue flying with the wind some distance to a known or unknown final landing spot. Hang gliders are often flown X-C for distances over 100 miles, with the record now being over 400 miles.


Rotation about the vertical axis. In a Hang Glider this point is typically at the hang point or a line nearly defined by the King Post.


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