How it started
In 1966, Canadian Domina Jalbert was granted a patent for a multi-cell wing type aerial device—“a wing having a flexible canopy constituting an upper skin and with a plurality of longitudinally extending ribs forming in effect a wing corresponding to an airplane wing airfoil … More particularly the invention contemplates the provision of a wing of rectangular or other shape having a canopy or top skin and a lower spaced apart bottom skin”, a governable gliding parachute with multi-cells and controls for glide.
DOMINA JALBERT AWARDED FAI GOLD AIR MEDAL FOR THE INVENTION OF THE MULTI-CELL RAM-AIR WING.
In 1954, Walter Neumark predicted (in an article in Flight magazine) a time when a glider pilot would be “able to launch himself by running over the edge of a cliff or down a slope … whether on a rock-climbing holiday in Skye or skiing in the Alps.”
In 1961, the French engineer Pierre Lemongine produced improved parachute designs that led to the Para-Commander (PC). The Para-Commander had cutouts at the rear and sides that enabled it to be towed into the air and steered, leading to parasailing/parascending.
Domina Jalbert invented the parafoil, which had sectioned cells in an aerofoil shape; an open leading edge and a closed trailing edge, inflated by passage through the air – the ram-air design. He filed US Patent 3131894 on January 10, 1963.
US Patent 3131894
About that time, David Barish was developing the sail wing (single-surface wing) for recovery of NASA space capsules—”slope soaring was a way of testing out … the Sail Wing.” After tests on Hunter Mountain, New York, in September 1965, he went on to promote slope soaring as a summer activity for ski resorts.
Author Walter Neumark wrote Operating Procedures for Ascending Parachutes, and in 1973 he and a group of enthusiasts with a passion for tow-launching PCs and ram-air parachutes broke away from the British Parachute Association to form the British Association of Parascending Clubs (which later became the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association). In 1997, Neumark was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Aero Club of the UK. Authors Patrick Gilligan (Canada) and Bertrand Dubuis (Switzerland) wrote the first flight manual, The Paragliding Manual in 1985, coining the word paragliding.
These developments were combined in June 1978 by three friends, Jean-Claude Bétemps, André Bohn and Gérard Bosson, from Mieussy, Haute-Savoie, France. After inspiration from an article on slope soaring in the Parachute Manual magazine by parachutist and publisher Dan Poynter, they calculated that on a suitable slope, a “square” ram-air parachute could be inflated by running down the slope; Bétemps launched from Pointe du Pertuiset, Mieussy, and flew 100 m. Bohn followed him and glided down to the football pitch in the valley 1000 metres below. Parapente (pente being French for ‘slope’) was born.
The Parachute Manual
From the 1980s, equipment has continued to improve, and the number of paragliding pilots and established sites has continued to increase. The first (unofficial) Paragliding World Championship was held in Verbier, Switzerland, in 1987, though the first officially sanctioned FAI World Paragliding Championship was held in Kössen, Austria, in 1989.
Europe has seen the greatest growth in paragliding, with France alone registering in 2011 over 25,000 active pilots.
In 2022, feasibility study of paragliding from above 8000 meter is in progress in Nepal in the Everest region. It would be the paragliding from highest altitude in the world.
Paragliding world championship