Paragliding history

To begin with, you should know that the paraglider, which allows you to take off and land using the pilot's muscular strength, is therefore part of the category of ultra light gliders (PUL).

The paraglider derives from the parachute, so we must start by talking about the invention of the parachute in coated linen canvas by Leonardo da Vinci, in 1485. Then the parachute evolved over the years from the 20th century, mainly at the beginning for military use and thanks also to NASA.

In 1948 Gertrude Rogallo and her husband Francis Rogallo, a NASA engineer, invented a self-inflating profile, which they called a Parawing, which later evolved into a flexible wing called Rogallo, which is still used as a parachute. airship relief. This invention will allow the development of the delta wing thereafter.

But the history of paragliding really begins in 1965 with the development of the Sailwing by Dave Barish. He calls this new discipline slope soaring.

Parallel to this invention in the same period, Domina Jalbert thinks of a box parachute which he sees as the replacement of the round parachute: the parafoil.
From there, skydiving evolves into free fall. This will then allow the paraglider to use the concepts of double surface and cells.

Between 1966 and 1968, Dave Barish and Dan Poynter demonstrated slope soaring on a ski jump, and presented their concept in ski resorts. Mountaineers see it as a benefit because it can be a quick and efficient way to descend after an ascent.
In 1971, Steve Snyder marketed the first cell wing in the United States under the name of Paraplane and it was in 1972 that the first wing of this type was found at the French Parachuting Championships. At the end of the 1970s there would only be this type of sail at these Championships.

Paragliding was born in 1978. The members of the Annemasse paraclub in Haute-Savoie decide to use their parachutes to take off from a mountain, the choice falls on the Perthuiset mountain in the town of Mieussy. André Bohn, a high-level Swiss competitive parachutist, organizes the first take-off. Jean-Claude Bétemps tests the take-off and immediately rests on the slope. André Bohn then decides to take off to land at the bottom of the valley on the Mieussy football field. This is the first flight in slope flight. Jean-Claude Betemps follows him and the next day and the following days, Gérard Bosson as well as several members of the Para-Club of Annemasse, Michel Didriche, Gérard Cantin, Marc Baruch, Daniel Marschal and a few others, in turn perform the historic flight .

On May 5, 1979, Gérard Bosson from Viuz en Sallaz, Georges Perret from Annecy and Michel Didriche from Mieussy created the first paragliding club in the world: "Les Choucas".
They quickly drag other skydivers with them to practice slope flying. The first training course is organized in Mieussy, it is supervised by Michel Sarthe and Michel Didriche, this course is open to experienced parachutists with the "wing" qualification FFP (French Parachuting Federation).

A little later, access to training will be authorized for “non-practitioners”. Marc Buffet and Jean-François Baudet de Mieussy will be the first two trained in this new discipline.

The main attraction of slope flying for skydivers of the time was that it allowed them to practice landing precision, without having to use the more expensive and less practical aircraft.

The help provided by the French Parachuting Federation made it possible to develop this activity during the first years, by organizing and regulating the practice.

The FFVL (Fédération Française de Vol Libre) will take over by becoming the delegated federation. It structured the paragliding activity within free flight parallel to the delta. This will subsequently allow national development and access to practice, thanks to its many delta schools converted to paragliding.

 From 1978, paragliding developed worldwide. Competitions, national and world championships, bring together the best pilots and prove the dynamism of this demanding but fascinating discipline.

In 1985, Laurent de Kalbermatten invented "La Randonneuse", the first wing designed specifically for paragliding. It is more efficient and easier to inflate than the parachutes used so far. Jean-Claude Bétemps said that it was only a copy of a 9-cell parachute, but the simple fact of changing the fabric so that it is non-porous and the material of the lines to remove the elasticity already allowed to gain a point of finesse (the finesse corresponds to the glide: distance in meters traveled horizontally when you lose one meter vertically). 

From there, paragliding will then continue to evolve, both in terms of equipment and in terms of practice. The first Paragliding World Championships took place in 1989 in Kössen, Austria.

First used mainly by mountaineers, paragliding became an aerial sport in its own right, with different disciplines: aerobatics, cross-country flight, precision landing, walking and flying.

In terms of performance, competition wings currently exceed 11 glide ratios, and distance flights are over 500km.