HelmetsAnything worth doing requires a helmet, right? So, obiviously hang gliding requires the use of some major head protection. Afterall, we are barreling head first into space, sometimes close to the terrain or other gliders. Helmets come in full-face protection designs and open face. Although some level of sight and sound may be restricted by a full-face helmet, the safety benefits probably out-weighs any slight lowering of situational awareness. Hang gliding helmets are designed to do one thing - absorb shock for the head to varying degrees. The ones in training are open face helmets which may be good to the extent they allow you to feel the wind in your face, the sound in your ears and other cues to safe flying speed. An ancillary purpose for helmets is to provide a platform for a speaker and mic for radio communication - in itself a safety function. This is especially important on the training hill. Although simple radios are provided in the lessons they are only capable of one way instructor to student communication when your hands are busy with flying. Being able to ask question of your instructor gives a higher quality lesson experience, so purchasing a full face helmet, with finger switch and radio is good first choice in equipment purchase. Helmets are only as good as their shock absorbtion capabilities. You can read more about the standards of helmets here
WheelsSometimes all the technique in the world, can't control the landing zone burble of air that messes up with our perfect no-step flare timing. Besides our egos, downtubes on the control frame suffer the most - along with out wallets in replacing them. Wheels can make what would otherwise be a financial and time expense into just another learning step along the way to perfect landings. The larger the wheel the better it will work. Considering we land on uneven cattle pastures and natural fields, a 5 inch wheel is a minimum and the 10 inch wheel very conservative. The 8 inch wheel is just about right for beginners.
RadiosPurchasing a radio that allows one to communicate with your instructor can make your lessons more efficient. Later, being able to communicate with other pilots is essential to getting advice and sharing the experience of flights. It is also a convienence and safety issue when having to land away from designated landing zone. Since hang gliding is the ultimate "learned" activity, communication is essential priority early in your training and latered mentored learning. Hang glider pilots use FM radios with FCC desginated FCC frequencies for businesses and organizations. There is a simple test and authorization that one must take to use these radios. Oregon Hang Gliding School can send you this test and authorize you. Our radios also have the capability of using the HAM frequencies. This takes some extensive study and taking an official proctored test and your local HAM club.
VariometersLearning how to soar is much easier and more fun when you know you are rising or falling or just maintaining. Knowing how high you can be very pertinent information in getting to the landing zone. The latest varios have GPS ability that is able to track your flight and then reproduce very accurately in Google Earth - a geographic information system. This is important for iron clad objective feedback in continued learning after official lessons. You are able to see where you sunk, where you went up and what you did. All in all, a vario makes flying safer, educational and more interesting.
Car Racks and StorageProtecting your investment from the rigors of transport with a proper vehicle rack is smart. A rack that allows other gliders to be transported also shows your willingness to rotate the responsibility of shuttling to and from the mountain launch sites. Since the point of most instructional programs is to make you an indepedent and self-reliant hang glider pilot, being able to take your instructor to escalating sites is important. As soon as or even before you purchase the glider (how will you transport it, once you've bought it?), create your custom car rack. Here are some ideas: http://www.hanggliding.org/wiki/Car_Rack Also, clear a 20 foot long space in one side of your garage.
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