Paragliding has been a life-long dream for me. Flying free in the sky was something I really wanted to try. I don’t think I will ever work up the courage to jump from an air plane (except maybe the week before I get married – one fear conquering the other :-))
But paragliding is totally different from jumping out from an air plane. A para-glider is a free-flying, foot-launched aircraft. The instructor/pilot and his passenger (for a tandem) sits in a harness suspended below a fabric wing, whose shape is formed by its suspension lines and the pressure of air entering vents in the front of the wing.
I found a place in Mendoza offering tandem paragliding for about 50 $ which I think is very cheap and I decided that I definitely wanted to do it. We drove outside Mendoza to the mountains and waited for the wind to pick up.
We used a mix between a forward launch and a ‘reverse launch’. We were standing forward facing the wind and let the wind bring the parachute into the air after which we just took a few steps over the edge and we were flying.
Paragliding is often seen as a higher-risk sport more than it actually is. Nonetheless, there is great potential for injury for the reckless or ill-prepared.
The safety of the sport is directly influenced by the skill and sense of the pilot. It’s important to note that almost all paragliding accidents are the result of pilot error. Paragliding equipment is very well built and, if properly cared for, will almost never fail.
General safety precautions include pre-flight checks, helmets, harnesses with back protection (foam or air-bag), reserve parachutes, and careful pre-launch observation of other pilots in the air to evaluate conditions.
I had worried a bit about the safety before doing the jump – not because I was afraid of falling down, but because I had pain in my back and was thinking the landing might make it worse. There was no reason to worry. The landing was very soft. We ran forward for a little while in order for the parachute not to fall down in our head.
I thought it was an absolutely amazing experience and highly recommendable.
For more information about paragliding – go to: http://www.answers.com/topic/paragliding