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Hang-gliding: origins and history
  • 02/04/2020
  • Riccardo
  • Outdoor activities
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Hang-gliding: origins and history

The hang-gliding is a means designed to perform free flight, is used for so-called "sports flight" and has become a discipline halfway between hobby and sport.

The ancestor of hang gliding was created by Otto lilienthal, German pioneer of aviation, nicknamed "King of gliders". As a good inventor, in the second half of the 19th century he perfected his kites through more than 2000 pitches from the hills or the roofs of houses.
It was only in 1951, however, that a NACA aircraft engineer from Langley (the old NASA), an engineer named Francis Melvin Rogallo, patented a "flying wing" that took his name from him as Ala Rogallo. Initially designed to make light aircraft, the idea remained unused for 10 years, when it was carefully evaluated by NASA itself.
The objective was to equip the Gemini, that is the capsules of re-entry from the space flights, of an inflatable wing in substitution of the classic parachutes of re-entry. In this way the lightness of the parachute would have been achieved, together with the maneuverability typical of the other aircraft. Prototypes were made working in full scale and were tested, but stability problems with the inflatable wing emerged, so NASA eventually opted for more traditional and safer braking parachutes.

In the same period an Australian water ski instructor, Bill Moyes, built the first examples of Ala Rogallo that dragged on the water hooked to a speedboat, managing to lift the skier who was hanging there (a forerunner of the current kitesurfing...).

Hang-gliding: origins and history

Italy and Europe owe to Alfio Caronti (one of the founding members of the Italian Free Flight Federation), the beginning of the practice of hang gliding. Participating in fact as an athletic trainer of the Italian team at the World Water Ski Championships in September 1969, he met Bill Moyes in Copenhagen. During one of the daily shows, Moyes, landing badly on the beach, broke an arm and being compromised his tour in America decided to sell his kite to caronti, who bought it for 430,000 lire at the time. In its aid intervened Franco Carraro, then president of the Italian Federation Nautical Skiing.

On his return to Italy he began to make some towing flights with his brother Ivan. On November 4, 1971, with take-off at 1,400 meters above sea level on Lake Como, at the cost of the first self-launched flight ever made in Europe and one of the few in the world for that date. This is therefore the official date of the first free flight in Europe.

In the following years it was an intensification of flights and distance records, followed by a decade of structural evolution and relative explosion of the spread of the phenomenon.

In the mid 1980s, the paraglider arrived, which offered everyone the possibility to fly more easily, and the hang gliding began to be a predominantly competitive activity, while the number of amateur hang-gliders decreased significantly.

Now that you know the origin, you are ready to find out Where to experience the thrill of a hang gliding flight