Greece has the ideal climate for gliding, hang gliding and parapente (paragliding) flights, since the drier the climate of a region or a country is, the better it is for the development of the above-mentioned sports, which utilize the upward currents in the atmosphere to help the glider, the kite-glider or the parapenter to fly for quite a while. The period between April and October is the best time to fly.
Gliding (also known as soaring) is a sports activity in which the pilot seeks to maintain or gain altitude in unpowered flight (aided by the rising air) by flying unpowered aircrafts – the gliders or sailplanes. When soaring conditions are good enough, experienced pilots can fly hundreds of kilometres before returning to their home airports. Gliding has been active in Greece since 1935, pioneered by the Athens Gliding Club under the auspices of the Hellenic Aero Club, while one of the oldest and more experienced is the Tripolis Air Sports Center that has been operating since 1956.
In hang gliding, the pilot “hangs” (tied in a special harness) underneath the glider (a flying machine consisting of Dacron fabric and aluminium tubes of aircraft alloy), in such a way that his/ her body hangs in the air like a pendulum. By shifting his/ her weight in the appropriate way and by taking advantage of the rising air currents, the pilot follows the desired direction moving along three axes: longitudinal, transversal and vertical. Depending on the degree of training, the pilot can reach a height of 5,000 metres and stay in the air for up to 10 hours.
The sport started in the ‘70s in the USA and Australia where it became quickly popular. In the years to follow, it became known all over the world; in Greece hang gliding first appeared in 1978 and in 1999 was incorporated into the Hellenic Air Sports Federation (HASF). The sport today is very popular, and the result is that many Greek clubs are now involved in training any and all interested parties.
Parapente (paragliding) acquired its name from the French words “parachute” and “pente” (mountainside), since it was established in the mid 1980’s in France.
This sport requires good physical condition, excellent technical, psychological and metal alertness, perceptiveness, as well as knowledge of meteorology and aerodynamics which are taught by special instructors. Taking into account weather conditions, the parapente can reach a height of 4,000 m and can travel a distance of 2.0-2.5 km. Flights may last several hours, with speeds ranging from 48 to 60 kph. It was introduced in Greece in the early 1990’s mainly by persons involved in hang gliding -flying by kite-, which was already quite popular as a sport.
The first competitions took place in Plataies in the beginning of the 1990’s. A national championship has been organized and a national team has been created, while local competitions are being held in many regions throughout Greece, organized by the Hellenic Paragliding Committee, which is part of the Hellenic Air Sports Federation
Parapente (paragliding) flights take place in Attica (Kandili, Megara), Viotia (Plataies Thivon), as well as in many other regions in Greece, such as Konitsa, Agrinio, Arta, Ioannina, Edessa, Thessaloniki, Patras and Crete). Training requires around 4-5 weekends and includes flight theory, meteorology lessons and a practical exercise. However, when flying, the beginner will be accompanied by an instructor for a period of time.