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The glide ratio is one of the most important specifications of a glider that you need to be aware of. So what is the best glide ratio for hang gliding?
If you’re brand new to the sport, you might think that hang gliding is nothing more than launching from a hill or mountain and taking to the skies. In essence, sure, that’s about it. But there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes that will affect your experience and lead to a better flight. One of these details is the glide ratio, which is a technical detail of every manufactured glider out there. What’s the best glide ratio for hang gliding?
The best glide ratio for hang gliding is between 15:1 and 20:1, with rigid wing gliders typically having the highest ratios. This ratio means that you’ll move 15 to 20 feet horizontally for every one foot you lose in height. In essence, a higher glide ratio means you can stay in the air longer.
What is the best glide ratio for hang gliding? This is a question that many pilots ask themselves. The answer is not always straightforward, as there are many factors that come into play. In this article, we will discuss what glide ratio means while hang gliding, what the best glide ratio is, and when a higher or lower glide ratio might be preferable. We will also compare the glide ratios of different types of gliders other than hang gliders.
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What is Hang Gliding Glide Ratio?
Before getting into the best glide ratio for hang gliding, let's start by taking a look at what glide ratio even is. After all, it's a concept that you may or may not have really heard much of before, even if you're an experienced hang glider! While it's an important concept because it greatly affects the performance of the glider, many people don't really understand it. But thankfully it's pretty simple!
Glide ratio is simply the ratio of the horizontal distance that the glider travels to the vertical height that it loses. So, if a glider has a glide ratio of 15:1, for example, that means for every 15 feet (horizontal) that it moves forward, it will lose 1 foot (vertical). The larger the number is before the colon, the better, as that means the glider is losing less altitude for every horizontal foot that it moves. Thus, a glide ratio of 20:1 would be better than a glide ratio of 15:1, and so on.
As you can expect with this definition in mind, the glide ratio of a hang glider is important because it directly affects how far the glider can travel before it needs to land. Of course, there is much more nuance to flying than this as you can use the winds and thermals to catch more air and keep you up there longer, but the glide ratio is vital to know as it will help you pick out the perfect glider.
Now that we know what glide ratio is, let's take a look at what the best glide ratio is for hang gliding!
What’s the Best Glide Ratio for Hang Gliding?
The best glide ratio for hang gliding really depends on the situation that you're in. If you're trying to cover a lot of ground, then you're going to want a higher glide ratio so that you can travel further before needing to land. However, if you're flying in tight spaces or trying to land in a small area, then you might want a lower glide ratio so that you can lose altitude quickly.
That said, you typically want your hang glider to have a glide ratio of between 15:1 and 20:1. This will give you a good balance of being able to cover a lot of ground while still being able to lose altitude quickly when you need to. Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule and you might find that you need a higher or lower glide ratio depending on your flying style.
There are also trade-offs to consider. For example, higher glide ratios usually mean that the glider is bigger and heavier, which can make it more difficult to transport. Additionally, higher glide ratios often come at the expense of maneuverability, as the glider is less responsive to turns. So if you want to do some acrobatic flying, you might want to sacrifice some glide ratio in order to have a more nimble glider.
At the end of the day, it really depends on your needs and what you're looking for in a glider. The best way to figure out what's best for you is to talk to other pilots and see what they recommend, or even better, test out different gliders for yourself!
Is a Higher Glide Ratio Always Better?
Now that we know what the best glide ratio is for hang gliding, you might be wondering if a higher glide ratio is always better. After all, if 15:1 is good, then 20:1 must be better, right? Well, not necessarily.
While it's true that a higher glide ratio is usually better, there are some situations in which a lower glide ratio might be preferred. For example, as we mentioned before, if you're flying in tight spaces or trying to land in a small area, then you might want a lower glide ratio so that you can lose altitude quickly.
Additionally, as we mentioned above, higher glide ratios typically lead to a less responsive glider. Speaking of expense, a glider with a higher glide ratio will also usually cost a heck of a lot more than a glider with a lower glide ratio. So if you see a couple of gliders that seem similar to one another but one has a much higher price, check the glide ratio and you might see why!
Hang Gliding vs Paragliding Glide Ratio
Now that we know all about hang gliding glide ratio, let's compare it to the glide ratio of paragliders. For those who don't know, paragliders are very similar to hang gliders except they have an inflatable wing instead of a rigid one. Most of the focus at FlightNotch is on hang gliding, but we're huge fans of paragliding, too! Check out our full article on hang gliding vs paragliding for a bit more information.
One of the main differences between hang gliders and paragliders is the glide ratio. Hang gliders typically have a glide ratio of between 15:1 and 20:1 while paragliders have a glide ratio of around 9:1 to 11:1, with some of the best paragliders on the market having a glide ratio of 13:1.
So what does this mean? Well, it means that hang gliders can stay in the air longer and cover more ground than paragliders. In short, this means that you can get much more time in the air for a given launch height with a hang glider than you can with a paraglider. That doesn't mean hang gliding is inherently better than paragliding or anything, but it is worth noting if you're thinking about getting into these sports.
Hang Gliding vs Glider (Sailplane) Glide Ratio
Finally, let's compare the glide ratio of hang gliders to that of gliders (sailplanes). Gliders and sailplanes are a type of aircraft that is very similar to hang gliders. In fact, many hang glider pilots got their start flying gliders! However, there are some key differences between these two types of aircraft. Just like we did for paragliding, we also have a complete article comparing hang gliding vs sailplane gliding, so take a look at that if you want to know more about it!
One of the biggest differences between hang gliders and sailplanes is the glide ratio. Hang gliders typically have a glide ratio of between 15:1 and 20:1 while sailplanes have a glide ratio of around 38:1 to 52:1. This means that — all else being equal — a sailplane can stay in the air for about two to three times as long as a hang glider!
So if you're looking to cover long distances or stay in the air for a very long time, then a sailplane is probably a better choice for you. However, if you want something that's more maneuverable and easier to fly, then a hang glider (or a paraglider) is probably the way to go.
We hope you found this article on hang gliding glide ratio helpful, and now you know that you should look for a glider with a glide ratio between 15:1 and 20:1. If you want to learn more about hang gliding, be sure to check out the rest of our blog! Thanks for reading and happy flying!