Hang-gliding in the Sussex South Downs

learning to hang glide photo

Hang-gliding in the Sussex South Downs is a popular summer activity. Like pre-historic pterodactyls floating effortlessly above Ditchling Beacon, the enthusiasts seem adept at locating those warm up-drafts that enable them to fly for long periods in the early evening light.

Here, a novice has his first lesson with the South Downs hang-gliding club. Ground tethers provide security while he gains the necessary skills and develops confidence.

Wikipedia gives the following definition of this sport:

'Hang gliding is an air sport. It is both recreational and competitive. The sport is closely related to paragliding and gliding (flying sailplanes) but using a much simpler and less expensive craft 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.'

It is generally considered that there are three classes of hang glider:

  • Firstly, the flexible wing hang-glider,where the pilot manages to control his or her flight by the ways in which he shifts his weight - this, in turn, changes the shape of the wing, so enabling the pilot to alter course.
  • Secondly, there is the rigid wing form, in which flight is controlled by spoilers, usually on top of the wing.
  • The pilot hangs below the wings of both the above types.

  • Finally, the most expensive type incorporates the pilot into the wing. This type is considered to produce the finest performance.

  • The first hang glider Otto

    Arguably, the most significant contribution to the sport was made by a German, Otto Lilienthal, in the 1890s.

    He constructed 18 manned hang gliders, which ultimately made more that 2000 successful flights.

    Try hang-gliding at this great centre just outside Lewes.

    A para-gliding centre, 'Purple Haze' is based at Shoreham Airport and flies from various locations along the South Downs, in particular, from Devil's Dyke.

    Click her for the British Hang Gliding and Para-gliding Association

    Follows soon ...

    Maps and directions to some of the most popular hang-gliding sites in the South Downs.

    More relevant links.