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6.A. Introduction


This article is from the Hanggliding and Paragliding FAQ, by Joao Geada with numerous contributions by others.

6.A. Introduction

There are quite a few ways to fly a hangglider. One of them is
aerotowing, and it offers a unique, fun and rewarding way to begin a

A foot-launch free flyer is as free as a bird from the moment he
clears launch. That's why most of us pursue hanggliding - the
swooping, the soaring, the controlled carving of turns through unseen
powder-snow air molecules that give us the same giddy euphoria as our
childhood dreams of flight did.

Aerotowing, on the other hand, starts out a lot more like taking a dog
for a walk on a leash - wandering in different directions, the master
and obedient pooch who learns, sooner or later, that to "heel" or
"follow" is in Rover's best interest after all. But, that leash thing!
It's definitely something that takes getting used to. Fortunately,
it's well worth it. The leash is a small price to pay for a trip to
the park, especially since we know we can slip off the leash once we
get there.

Aerotowing has opened up new hanggliding opportunities that never
existed before, in parts of the country and in weather conditions that
are now much more rewarding to sport fliers than they ever
were. Experienced hangglider pilots get familiar with aerotowing after
brief training and earn an "AT" special skill sign off on their rating
cards. Many get spoiled by the convenience of the launch and landing
zones being one and the same.

Most hangglider pilots view aerotowing as just an alternative way to
get "up there" and, once up, use the same strategies they have always
used for soaring in available lifting air. Thermaling and ridge
soaring are easily accomplished if the tow aloft brings the pilot to a
thermal source or a soarable ridge. Aerotowing has an advantage over
automotive towing in that the hangglider can be taken to expected
sources of lift that are away from the launch area or runway. Part of
the fun of aerotowing is planning the tow portion of the flight: going
upwind or across the wind to known thermal sources and staying on tow
until a thermal is encountered. Releasing in a thermal is a wonderful

Novice pilots who are learning to aerotow benefit greatly from tandem
instruction. During a lesson plan of three to five hours of dual
airtime, a newcomer can learn how to be a good Rover on the way up and
how to pilot a free-flying hangglider on the way down. During 10 or
more half-hour flights with an instructor, the student learns to
coordinate with the aerotug through the launch sequence, then follows
on course behind the tug through air currents which inevitably have
their ups and downs. The student learns quickly about proper control
input and corrections in both speed and direction while on tow. After
the tow up and release, typical lesson plans include coordinated
turns, stalls and recovery, and landing approaches, all of which are
just like any other free-flight hanggliding curriculum. Usually the
landing is at the same spot as the launch, and repeat lessons and
flights on the same day are very convenient and productive. First solo
flights are usually performed in near calm conditions, with the
additional support of the instructor's reassuring voice on a two-way


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