How to Discern What Is a Paraglider and What Is Not a Paraglider

Historically people have stepped through visual and sound cues to discern type of aircraft, especially during war. Others make a hobby of stepping through identification cues in discerning the species of birds. Well, there is confusion in aviation about just what a paraglider is or is not. Here we take steps to form a decision about what kind of hang glider we might see. Is what we see a paraglider or not? Incomplete and even false definitions about what is and is not a paraglider arrive from cult and commercial influences. Such is inadequate for a creative student of aviation, an inventor, a seeker of options in free-flight, an engineer, an author, a teacher, etc. What is wanted is a path to clarity about just what is and is not a paraglider apart from narrow interests. Of course, for the narrow interests, they know what they know. Let's go for more and for clarity.


  1. 1
    Locate the tethers. Does the aircraft have one or more tethers? At least one tether is needed.
  2. 2
    Find the wings. Does the aircraft have one or more wings? At least one wing is needed. It is narrow perspective and false to force soft canopy for the set of wings; certainly there are soft-canopy paragliders, but there are also stiff-framed paraglider; and fully solid wings may be the wing or wings of a paraglider.
  3. 3
    Find out how the aircraft deals with free falling mass. Does the aircraft have a freely falling mass at the lower end of the tether or tethers? Some mass is needed to be pulled by gravity at the end of the tether or tethers that go up to the wing or wings.
  4. 4
    Check to make sure the tether maintains tension. In flight, does the tether generally stay in tension because of the deflective actions of the coupled wing or wings with the mass at the lower end of the tether or tethers?
  5. 5
    If there are other objects in the aircraft that have the potential to propel the aircraft up or forward, then are those in "off" status? A paraglider is unpowered; if powered, then it becomes a powered paraglider.
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    When the aircraft is set into free-fall, does the aircraft glide even a small positive amount?
  7. 7
    With the above steps cleared, one probably has a paraglider in focus. You will notice that some "hang gliders" that are not regularly called paragliders are actually mechanically paragliders. You have done the steps of HOW TO discern an aircraft type. Congratulations!
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