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Conventional hang gliders and paragliders can be foot launched from hills or towed into the air. But as they are gliders, once airborne (or when the tow line has been released if a tow launch) the pilot must immediately seek out rising air to stay airborne.
If rising air (or lift) cannot be found, the glider will inevitably glide back down to the ground, albeit slowly thanks to modern efficient wing design. In favourable conditions this isn't usually a problem, and pilots quickly locate lift and are able to climb away from take-off, and in the right conditions fly across the country. But if conditions are marginal, staying aloft can be rather more challenging.
But there is an alternative.
Power units can be either two or four stroke, and for greater flexibility are usually attached to the hang gliding or paragliding harness. So if conditions are favourable and you don't want to fly under power you can simply use a conventional harness with your wing, giving you the best of both worlds.
Human powered flight is also possible using specially constructed lightweight aircraft with large wing spans. Whilst the window of opportunity for flying these aircraft is limited, and most flights currently take place early in the day before thermals kick in and the wind picks up, the RAeS Human Powered Flight group is keen to promote this activity as a sport and encourage wider participation.
One approach the RAeS Human Powered Flight group is pursuing is the organisation of flying competitions where pilots can compete against each other in the hope that competition drives development and so improves the breed.
Human Powered Flight is also now part of the BHPA free flight community, and by treating these aircraft as prototypes pilots of these aircraft can now become full members of the BHPA and benefit from the 3rd party insurance cover provided to all members of the Association.
For more information about any of these branches of powered flight, please select the wing type from those shown below.