We love walking along the Norfolk coast, enjoying
the scenery and the sound of the sea in this beautiful part of England.
And it’s an extra treat to see so many people paragliding along the coast too.
This looked like a perfect day for flying, with a moderate wind coming from the North
Sea. But how do these fragile-looking aircraft
work? Well, paragliders are lightweight, free-flying,
gliders. The pilot is suspended below a fabric wing
which contains a large number of interconnected air cells. The paraglider’s wing, or canopy, is known
as a “ram-air airfoil”. The shape of the canopy is maintained both
by the pressure of air entering vents in the front of the wing, which inflates the air
cells within the wing fabric, and also by the aerodynamic forces of the air flowing
over the outside. The wing produces lift as the aircraft flies
into the wind, and the canopy needs to be light and flexible enough to fold up and carry
between flights, so it’s made of polyester or nylon.
As with any aircraft, a paraglider’s wing has to be the right shape in order to generate
aerodynamic lift as it moves. The pilot sits in a harness underneath the
wing and is suspended from the canopy by a network of suspension lines.
The tension in these lines also maintains the canopy’s shape.
The pilot uses various control lines attached to the wing in order to adjust speed and to
steer the aircraft. The pilot can also shift his or her weight to control the aircraft’s direction. The speed range of paragliders is typically from 20 to 75 kilometres per hour. Despite not using an engine, paraglider flights can last for hours! Here at Mundesley in Norfolk, soaring flight is achieved by utilizing wind directed upwards by the coastal cliffs. The deflected air provides lift and enables
paraglider pilots to soar along this length of coast.
In other places pilots may use rising columns of warm air, known as “thermals”, to lift
the aircraft higher. Today was a fantastic day to watch paragliders
in action. We’ve never seen so many flying at once
and we were impressed by the skill of these flyers as they soared and glided up and down
the coast. No doubt we’ll be back soon to see them