How It's Done: Aerotowing Hang Gliders
Hang gliding has been around for decades, and in that time the sport as seen numerous advancements in aerodynamics, materials, and technology. Early methods of launching hang gliders involved cliffs, large hills, or towing up behind a boat, truck, or winch. Launching via aerotow is relatively new, and allows hang gliders to be flown anywhere in the world. It has revolutionized hang gliding instruction making it much more efficient and practical.
Aerotowing hang gliders has only been around since the 1980s. The Moyes-Bailey Dragonfly is a towplane that was designed specifically to tow hang gliders. With a stall speed of 17 knots and a fast climb rate it is the perfect vehicle to tow the small and slow hang gliders aloft.
Although Dragonflys look like an ultralight, legally they are not. Their heavier weight and commercial use requires the aircraft to be registered like any other larger airplane. But all the fun and simplicity of an ultralight is still there.
So what does it look like to tow a hang glider aloft with something that is essentially a lawn chair with wings? Check out the video below for a view of the action like never seen before. Paul at the Wallaby Ranch tows up a tandem hang glider with one of the gliderport's Dragonfly towplanes. Once the glider safely releases at 2000 feet it's a race back to the runway to get hooked up for the next tow.
Want to see it from the hang gliders perspective? Check out my story on Lisa's first hang glider flight.