Turning Engineering Dynamics to Flight

With my nephew, William having left the United Kingdom and now residing in South Africa, our relationship has changed somewhat. In days gone by he would spend his vacations helping me out with engineering of the mini locomotives. The two of us would spend hours on end together, puzzling over the intricate mechanical pieces of a replica steam locomotive, barely speaking a word to each other, both content in our silence. Now that William is living in Cape Town, we communicate far more than we ever did before when we were in each others company. Strange, isn’t it ? Anyways, whether we are discussing model locomotive engineering via whatsapp or sharing interesting articles on Facebook and other social media, William and I have taken our friendship to a new and deeper level.

So, William tells me that when in Cape Town, South Africa, you will notice that there are two different sports that people are doing on a daily basis. These are parasailing and paragliding. There are different reasons why people are doing this but the most common two is for the adrenalin rush and to see the beauty of Cape Town from a whole different angle. But the question that William asks me is what the difference between parasailing and paragliding is, and how does the engineering of the required equipment allow for better harnessing of the winds and thermals ? This is how I attempted to answer these questions for William during our recent dialogue.

flight engineering
When you do parasailing you will be connected to a canopy that looks like a parachute, this canopy is connected a motorboat. The motorboat will then drive into the sea and you will then be lifted into the air when the wind fills the canopy. You will have no control over the canopy because the boat controls the direction that you will go in. With parasailing you are not limited to a solo flight as some have a harness for two people, so you and your partner can enjoy the adrenalin rush together. There is not all that much mechanical engineering involved in parasailing, it’s pretty simple. The canopy fills up with air as you are being propelled forward by some form of motorized vehicle, and ultimately lift is achieved.
With parasailing the only safety condition that you need to go through is that you need to wear a safety jacket, a helmet and you need to be able to have some swimming abilities. Then one should never take of when the wind speed is more than 50mph (80km/h). One should always make sure that the weather is right when you want to do something like parasailing. The weather in Cape Town can change very fast so one should always be on the lookout for weather changes.
Parasailing will be great for people who love water and would like to “fly” over the water like a bird. You never know what creatures you will see when sailing up in the air over open seas. This could just be the adrenalin rush that you are looking for.
When you do paragliding Cape Town, you will notice that this is for the more extreme thrill seeking people. With paragliding you are also attached to a canopy, but the only difference is, you are the pilot of this canopy. You are the one that decides how high you want to fly and the direction that you want to fly in. Paragliding is a solo flight and you need to take of by yourself. The best place to take of is in an open field or from a high cliff. When you want to launch you will need to run down a slope with the canopy behind you. When the wind catches the canopy and fills it with air you will be able to take of from the ground.
The safety conditions with paragliding is that you need to have a few days training with an reputable paragliding school or company that have the right experience to train you how to paraglide. Wind speeds also play a very big role when paragliding. Never leave the ground when the wind exceeds 15mph (24km/h) and never fly in wind that exceeds 25-30mph (40-48km/h). You also cannot take of in wet weather conditions. The level of engineering that goes in to the equipment for this sport is far greater than parasailing. William has been doing his research on local companies that offer tandem paragliding Cape Town and seems to have settled on a well established local outfit called, Skywings Paragliding
Paragliding are for the people who want to be high enough in Cape Town to see the nature and the sea. From the air at that distance you will be able to so much more of Cape Town and it wonders.
Parasailing and paragliding sounds almost the same but in reality it is two total different sport types. When you look at the safety conditions of the two you can decide for yourself with which one you will be comfortable with. William has a saying which is “Try everything at least once.”

So with both these adrenaline fulled sports, the level of engineering required to manufacture and operate the equipment is by no means extremely sophisticated, however, paragliding by far requires a better level of understanding of the environment, winds and thermals in the area which contribute to either a successful or unsuccessful flight.