The Purest Form of Human Flying

by Yasmina Platt
Published in Midwest Flyer – December 2019/January 2020 issue

In addition to its delicious culinary offerings, Lima, Perú is known for surfing and paragliding off the cliffs in Miraflores (a trendy and touristic neighborhooad). Paragliding is very close to actually flying like a bird. Did you know paragliding was invented by a Frenchman, Jean-Claude Bétemps, in June of 1978? I recently learned this while reading on a commercial flight.

I had only flown in a paraglider one other time, and enjoyed it, so I had to try it again. Miraflores has a nice “Parapuerto” (paragliding port) where one can always find people flying and giving rides, especially in the early afternoons when the wind from the coast seems to pick up, hitting the buildings and creating “dynamic forces” that enable and favor operations. They take passengers up for approximately 10 minutes on a first-come, first-serve basis for about $75 (includes a video of the entire flight). However, I was lucky enough to be able to do this on my birthday (since my flight back home was delayed by a day, thanks to Tropical Storm Imelda) at a discounted price of about $57.

Paragliding is fairly simple. The ingredients are walking/running feet to gain speed during takeoff, a fabric (often nylon) wing, which you unsheathe from its pack, and wind to fill your canopy with air and create lift. One can direct the glider by pulling on handles, one on either side above the shoulders. You want to turn left, you pull left… you want to turn right, you pull right. The more you pull, the steeper the rate of turn and the more likely you are of losing altitude as well. The canopy is also equipped with brakes. Pulling down on brake toggles causes the trailing edge to flare down, increasing the angle of attack and slowing the speed.

So, when we were ready to depart, my instructor inflated the canopy behind us. We checked it to make sure that the lines were all connected and attached correctly, and to see what the wind was doing. We then walked slightly back and then forward to gain momentum. No more than four fast steps forward (yes, with heels and all) and we were in the air!

It was fun to cruise up and down the city and coast, and it was as comfortable as sitting on a couch. We stayed above the height of the cliffs during most of the flight, and we got as high as the tallest building in the area, the JW Marriott hotel by the Larcomar shopping mall.

After peaking my curiosity, my research revealed that an average paraglider gets a lift-to-draft ratio of 7:1, meaning, in still air, the forward horizontal speed through the air is 20 mph and the vertical descent speed is 3 mph. It is honestly so relaxing one could even have a quick conversation with the pedestrians nearby.

Much like we do with aircraft, we did a non-standard (right) traffic pattern and came in for a controlled and smooth landing. I’m convinced I should learn how to do this on my own… It should not take more than a month at the right location (coastal areas or mountainous areas are best) and with the right weather (wind and/or thermal) conditions.

If the wind is too calm (which it does happen often…), you can try flying in a powered Paratrike. However, they operate from an aerodrome south of Lima. It is unclear to me which one they operate out of, but I would not be surprised if it is from San Bartolo.

To read other destination articles (including two others in Perú), visit www.airtrails.weebly.com.

Flying is freedom! Fly safe and fly often!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yasmina Platt has been with the international airport planning and development consulting firm AECOM since 2016. She also writes an aviation travel blog called “Air Trails” (www.airtrails.weebly.com), in addition to articles on pilot destinations for Midwest Flyer Magazine. Pilots can locate articles Yasmina Platt has written by going to www.MidwestFlyer.com and typing in her name in the search box.

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This entry was posted in Columns, Columns, Dec 2019/Jan 2020, Destinations and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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