There is no evidence to tell who was the first man to paraglide. Some
suggest that it was David Barish in 1963. But, of course, that is
Photos and videos show a group of skydivers in eastern Montana in
the late 70's. They were flying their parachutes off from the small
hills. In the French Alps, some climbers used small ram-air canopies
in order to make their descents from the peaks safer and more efficient.
These parachutes weighed only eight pounds, flew at 20 m/h., and lost
3 feet height per every one foot. Soon (by the mid-eighties), a new
challenge was found. Man had just found a way to prolong the distance
and duration of such flights. The secret was in the areas of rising
Many attempts were made in order to improve parachute glide performance,
for example, increasing the wingspan, using non-porous fabric, and
modifying the shape and trim of the airfoil. A new design meant changes
in the flight characteristics and new pilot skills and techniques
were needed. Designs that appeared to be successful were produced
in large numbers to meet the demands of the paraglider pilots, whose
number grew drastically. And so, by 1986 the sport was well established
Europe, Asia, and the US have developed a wide range of equipment
in the last several years. Manufacturers put their products thorough
number of tests to insure the pilots' safety. In the US, in the developing
and marketing paragliders were involved at least three manufacturers
of skydiving equipment. Their products were extremely safe and stable.
But, as a disadvantage, they lacked the performance of the European
designs. Fewer radical new designs emerged by the early nineties.
Production was concentrated on paragliders that had very stable handling
characteristics, and were suitable for the general flying population.
Step by step the wings were classified in different groups, according
to their usage. There were different canopies designed for student
pilots, intermediate (recreational) pilots, and competition pilots.
In France and Germany were established standardized procedures for
testing and certifying paragliders. Now this standard represents the
benchmark for all manufacturers around the world.
The development of the wings from a ram-air skydiving parachute technology,
the two sports led to the developing of to kinds of sports - skydiving
(parachuting) and paragliding. In fact, they become full-circle in
some regards. Presently, there are several sport-jumping-canopy designs.
Their wings are non-porous, elliptical shaped and with thin-profile
airfoils, which allow higher speeds, better glide performance, and
greater aerodynamic efficiency. These features, which were especially
developed for paragliders, are now being incorporated back into skydiving
parachutes. Of course, though some paragliding wings look at first
sight similar to some skydiving canopies, they have very different
flight characteristics that require completely different pilot technique.