Phillip Pippenger Explains Getting Into Paragliding

For tech-based patent lawyer Phillip Pippenger, a hobby like paragliding is both fun and rewarding. The thrill of seeing the world the way birds do, from thousands of feet high, with almost nothing but air around you is difficult to describe. Paragliding brings a true sense of freedom and wonder, as well as an appreciation for how small we are. And despite the common initial fear effect of flying in the open at such heights, the sport is statistically about as safe as motorcycling (another favorite Pippenger pastime). It’s a truly great hobby for anyone interested in the outdoors, extreme sports and anything in between.

Like many fans of the hobby, Pippenger is intrigued as well by the sheer physical magic of paragliding — the way physics allows a 20 pound chute to carry a 250 pound person (and sometimes a 100 pound motor as well). Naturally, physics plays an important role in all areas of paragliding. From weight shifting to airfoil design, and from structural design to avoiding structural failure, physics is at the heart of the hobby. And that understanding makes it even more enjoyable for people interested and curious about the process.

“All of my hobbies sort of stem from physics,” Phillip Pippenger recently stated. “Not necessarily the ‘E equals mc squared’ kind of physics, but the physics of how everyday things work. As for paragliding, who wouldn’t be intrigued by the fact that something weighing 20 pounds is able to keep you in the air and allow you to fly so high. And after you land, you throw it in your trunk. It makes for an even more free-flying experience than traditional ultralight flying.”

Learning About Paragliding

For those who aren’t familiar with the sport, paragliding is an interesting sport with a rich history. Here are some fast facts:

· Paragliding is a sport primarily revolving around the concept of lightweight, free-flying gliding aircraft that are launched by foot. There is no primary structure to the glider, i.e., no cockpit, doors, etc.

· Glider pilots are supported by a harness with a large parachute-like wing carrying them through the air.

· Pilots typically launch into the air with an aircraft tow or by simply taking a running jump off the edge of a cliff, much like the related sport of hang gliding.

· Paragliding equipment typically has no motors or other means of propulsion. Despite this, these gliders can travel several hundred miles and remain in the air for extremely long periods by catching thermals and updrafts.

· A permutation of the sport involves strapping a light but powerful engine to one’s back, so that take-offs can be made from flat ground and the pilot can attain altitudes up to 18000 feet. This is the version of the sport that Phillip most often enjoys.

Addressing Safety Concerns

Like any other extreme sport, one of the most immediate concerns related to paragliding or powered paragliding (PPG) is safety. For people new to the sport, the concept of being so high and unprotected, at the mercy of the wind and weather, can seem extremely scary. And while experienced pilots often tell beginners there is nothing to fear, this assumption relies on proper training and good equipment. Like any sport, training is paramount to safety and enjoyment.

Effective training, education and practice all contribute to a relatively low injury and fatality rate in the sport. Conversely, failing to follow training or to be aware and exercise common sense could lead to disaster. Additionally, the sport supports numerous safety protocols to ensure proper operation of the craft. When these provisions are followed, paragliding remains a relatively safe, fun and rewarding hobby.

For people who enjoy seeing the world in a different light, paragliding is one of the most unique ways to do it. Phillip Pippenger wholeheartedly recommends the sport to anyone with the nerve and curiosity to see the world from an eagle’s point of view.

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