Paragliding is a breathtaking experience, and it can also be an amazing way to view a new area or get a new perspective on a familiar place. However, although it’s often quite safe, especially with a skilled pilot, there are some risks involved with paragliding, and exceeding the weight limit can greatly increase these risks.
Is there a weight limit for paragliding?
There is no legal weight limit for paragliding. Instead, the weight limit for each flight is determined by the size and type of paraglider. The way the glider is built, the materials used in its construction, and how old it is can also affect the weight limit. In addition, more experienced paragliders might adjust the weight limit depending on different weather conditions.
Although there is no strict weight limit, most tandem paragliders have a weight limit between 110 and 120 kilograms or about 242 to 264 pounds. This weight limit includes the weight of both the pilot and the passenger and the weight of any equipment, cameras, or packs they carry with them. The weight of the harness should also be considered when thinking about weight limits.
For solo flying, the weight limit is usually about 120 kilograms, which is equal to just over 260 pounds.
Can you be too light for paragliding?
In general, it’s best not to come too close to the weight limit, particularly when the weather is acting up. However, flying too light can also be dangerous. Weight helps to stabilize the paraglider, but too little weight can make for an unbalanced ride. This can make the glider more prone to wing collapses.
Paragliders steer the glider by shifting their body weight, but if there isn’t enough weight, steering and controlling the glider can become very difficult. Additionally, a lighter weight means less force and speed during takeoff, and you’ll gather less speed while you’re in the air. This can also inhibit steering, and it can make landing quite tricky.
Wind and Air Time
Most paragliders do not have motors and are instead powered entirely by the wind and the force and weight of the person riding the glider. Even powered gliders are subject to wind and weather. Falling far below the weight limit can mean that even slight winds will move you around as you glide, making it much harder to control the craft.
If you’re too heavy, however, the wind might not be able to effectively hold you up. This can drastically shorten your gliding time, and it can mean that you might need to make an emergency landing in an undesired area. When the wind is high, most pilots feel more comfortable about reaching the weight limit, although it’s still not a good idea to exceed it. Flying close to the weight limit is also a better idea on warm days when the sun creates strong thermals.
Wind and the weight attached to the glider can also affect your launch. When you launch a paraglider, you need to run to build up speed and create lift. If the glider is too heavy, you might have to run for a much longer time. It can be a struggle to get up off the ground and into the air. The paraglider might also move up and down, causing the passengers to repeatedly lift slightly into the air before touching down.
A weight limit that has been exceeded can also cause false launches. When this occurs, the paraglider gets off the ground and seems to lift into the air. After a few seconds, however, the wind can no longer hold up the heavy load, and it will crash. As the paraglider can rise quite high in only a few seconds, this scenario can be incredibly dangerous.
During landing, pilots control their speed so that they and their passengers approach in a way that positions them nearly parallel to the ground. Your legs will be out as if you’re sitting. This helps to protect your ankles.
However, if the paraglider is weighed down too much, you might have too much speed as you come in to land. This makes it much more difficult to come in to the landing area in the correct position. You’re much more likely to approach in a more perpendicular position, as if you’re standing, which can make landings painful and even dangerous. This position, plus the speed of approach, is much more likely to result in sprained or broken ankles.
If you land with too much speed, it can also cause crashes. The landing will most likely be much rougher than normal, even if no crash occurs.
If you’re paragliding at a high altitude and you lose control, you have a few options for recovery. In an emergency, the pilot can stall the paraglider and then quickly reinflate the paraglider sail with air. This can help to right the craft and can allow pilots a few seconds to regain control.
If a glider is over the weight limit, however, getting the craft to stall can be far more difficult. The extra weight will cause the glider to drop much more quickly, which doesn’t allow for any time to reinflate the sail. In this situation, the pilot may not be able to regain control, and this can lead to a crash. Because loss of control often happens when the glider is high up, the loss of control of an overweight glider can be deadly.