What is an ultra-light Glider

Historically, over the past few decades, there have been many innovations in the development of the ultra-light glider. To date, there have been at least 10 different models. The feature that characterises these machines today is that they are designed to be foot-launchable. 

This comes from their heritage as an evolution of the hang glider, and why the ultra-light glider is still classified by FAI within the free-flying (hang-gliding) domain. 

The adventure began in 1986 with the emergence of the Odyssey, a rigid-wing hang glider developed and built by three engineers: Brian Robbins, Craig Catto and Eric Beckman. Their aim was to build a rigid-wing hang glider from the lightest materials available at the time: fibre-glass, carbon fibre and Kevlar. 

However, at Stanford University a very similar project was under development at the same time, under the auspices of Professor Llan Kroo and his design team. A partnership was formed between the two projects, dubbed Bright-Star. By 1989, the first generation of the Swift ultra-light glider was born. 

Today, this has culminated in the models we fly today, a craft of about 70kg, namely the Swiftlight (built in Belgium by Aériane) and the Archaeopteryx (a Swiss design built by Ruppert). 

The flights we achieve today are typically longer than 300kmm and our best pilots are approaching 500km. 

To give some examples, Manfred Ruhmer, multiple world champion in both hang gliding and ultra-light gliders, Jacques Bott, also a many-times champion on a hang glider and the Swiftlight, Peter Eicher, flew close to 500km recently in Australia, plus Roger Ruppert and Philippe Bernard, Archaeopteryx pilots holding multiple world and continental records. 

Our sport is largely non-polluting, requiring only the sun’s energy to remain aloft, in the same way as classic gliders. Using the warm air masses we can soar majestically over great mountain ranges or across vast plains in many countries of the world. 

More details

Two types of Gliders in compétition