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6.B. Aerotowing


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

6.B. Aerotowing

To set up for a typical aerotow hanggliding flight, the tow rope is
stretched out on the ground between the aerotug and the hangglider,
and all are lined up into the wind. Any available headwind will make
the takeoff roll very short. The tug accelerates up the runway and
the hangglider follows. Most aerotow launches are made from a dolly or
launch cart, which makes for easy, no-running launches either for solo
or tandem lessons. The tug and the hangglider achieve takeoff speed at
roughly the same time. Once they leave the ground and throughout the
rest of the tow, the pilots must cooperate and coordinate their
altitude and airspeed. Rover has to stay just behind his Master and
try to keep a light but steady tension on the leash if this is going
to be a fun outing.

Usually the tug is the faster of the two, and the hangglider has to
speed up a bit to match speed. If he doesn't, he'll likely fly too
slowly and loft above the aerotug. A well-coordinate aerotow flight
usually involves the hangglider pilot pulling in and diving a bit at
various times during the flight in order to keep a horizontal
relationship with the tug. The tug pilot adjusts airspeed and altitude
too, while watching the rear-view mirror to keep the hangglider on the
horizon (see photo). If it's done right, the hangglider pilot will see
the aerotug right on the horizon in front of him, plus or minus 30
feet of altitude (see photos).

The glider pilot also has to keep his glider aligned with the tow. If
Rover makes a spontaneous turn right or left, within moments the two
aircraft will want to pull apart and break free. That isn't as
hazardous as it might sound, but near the ground it can be cause for
alarm. A hangglider pilot should have confident control of speed and
direction in order to aerotow. Typically, we stay on tow about five
minutes to 2,000 to 3,000 feet above the ground. The hang glider pilot
then triggers a release and flies free, and the tug brings the rope


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