Paragliding and parachuting are two sporting activities that are relatively similar in principle. Both allow you to glide through the air, using devices fitted with fabric sails. However, there are also a number of differences. What are these differences? Talk to Adrénaline Parapente about the differences between paragliding and skydiving.
Paragliding vs parachuting: which equipment for which sport?
A paraglider is a flying device designed for gliding. Thanks to the larger surface area of the wing, you have plenty of lift. You also have a harness connected to the glider by the lines, not forgetting an integrated accelerator in the hands or feet.
There may also be a reserve parachute. Paragliding is a great way to practice free flight, but there are plenty of differences with hang-gliding. On the whole, it is a device designed for flight, with the possibility of manoeuvring different movements in the air.
Unlike a paraglider, a parachute is specifically designed for jumps in a vacuum. In practice, it is supposed to slow the fall and make it easier to return to the ground. Where a paraglider has a harness, a parachute has a harness and a bag containing two canopies (main and reserve). It also has a trigger system to automatically activate the reserve parachute when necessary.
What sort of conditions are required for what sort of experience?
For the best flying experience, paragliding enthusiasts have a clear preference for places with rising winds. They use what is known as the thermal flight technique. For winds that meet landforms, they use the dynamic flight technique. The most suitable places for paragliding are those with elevated areas and better wind variations. This is the case, for example, with mountainous areas and plains. Annecy or Chamonix (with its proximity to Mont Blanc) are among the most popular spots for paragliding.
While these areas are ideal for paragliding, they are also ideal for parachute jumping, although to a lesser extent. In fact, because of the "canopy flight" phase when you're parachuting, you can do without areas with slopes. On the other hand, for the experience and panorama alone, they remain among the favourite places for enthusiasts. Lake Annecy in particular is one of the most beautiful spots for both activities.
What's more, there are no major weather constraints. For paragliding, thermal ascents are essential, whereas this is not the case for parachuting. Apart from these aspects, it is possible to fly whatever the weather, as long as there are no very strong winds, rain or thunderstorms.
Paragliding vs parachuting: risks and safety
Although they give the impression of being safe enough not to put you at risk, paragliding and parachute jumping are not without danger.
Among the various risks involved in paragliding are turbulence, the weather situation and collisions with installations such as power lines or objects such as other aircraft.
The terrain also plays a very important role in paragliding, since it determines other factors such as the impact of the wind on your control of the aircraft. In unsuitable or extreme flying conditions, it can be very easy to make manoeuvring errors, which makes paragliding a bit risky, especially when you're still a beginner. You need to have a good command of take-off and landing. You also need to know how to fly in turbulence and manage trajectories and terrain.
On the other hand, while parachute jumping can be subject to the same risks, these are somewhat more mitigated, in particular because of the reserve parachute that allows you to compensate for any problems in flight. There are more risks on landing when parachuting. Apart from this aspect, this activity is less dangerous than paragliding, especially for beginners. For these activities, it's important to be accompanied by experienced instructors like those at Adrénaline Parapente. In fact, France has the best-trained instructors. The equipment used must also be well maintained. The aircraft carrying the parachutists must also have undergone a strict overhaul.
Which discipline should you choose?
Paragliding and parachuting are both aerial sports, popular with those who enjoy free flight. They help you experience movement in a vacuum.
While the parachute is suited to vertical movements, paragliding allows you to take a few liberties, which makes it a little more demanding. For beginners, it's best to start with a paraglider, which is a gentler option for a first flight.
If you're looking for something else to fly other than paragliding or parachuting, there's no shortage of alternatives. In fact, there are many other aerial disciplines that allow you to experience aerial flight, such as hang-gliding.