I’m sure most of us would want to choose the ability of flying as a superpower. To live that dream, here are extreme activities to give you a glimpse of what it feels like to fly:

Paragliding

This competitive and recreational sport is for adventurers who want to fly with paragliders. Paragliders are launched by running until the vehicle totally pulls you to lift you off the ground. It is free-flying, which means that it doesn’t need a direct mechanism to make it fly. It mainly relies on the wind with its gigantic yet lightweight parachute-like material. The vehicle pulling you is just an external force to keep you flying. However, some experienced riders just launch themselves on a mountain. They just have to wait for the wind to catch up before launching.

The rider is secured with a harness hanging below the fabric wing. On the other hand, what makes a harness secured is the string of many baffled cells interconnected to the wing. The reasons why the fabric wing maintains one shape throughout the flight are suspension lines, aerodynamics and air pressure.

One of the most amazing things about paragliding is that the flight can last for several hours. You can also reach places, hundreds of kilometers away from your starting point.

Paramotoring

If you’re waiting for jetpacks to be finally available in the market, you can try paramotoring for now. Paramotoring is very similar to paragliding. The only difference is using a machine for a speedier flight. Paramotoring is also known as powered paragliding. The machine, also called as paramotor, is installed behind the rider. Because of this, the rider can just launch himself.

Interestingly, many countries don’t ask for license from people who want to do paramotoring. This extreme activity can be done low and slow with only a few equipment and cheaper cost for maintenance. The equipment can also be brought anywhere because of portability.

Wing Walking

Wing walking is one of the most extreme flying activities. There are only a few services granting this opportunity because of how dangerous and scary it is. Most people doing this are already professionals when it comes to stunts. The whole concept started with airshows back in the 1920s. Wing walkers moved on a flying airplane’s wings.

In the United Kingdom, IntotheBlue offers daredevils a ride of their life with wing walking. A biplane is used to let people stand on the wings in a more stable manner. The company makes sure to record the whole thing. Before wing walking, a training takes place for the aspiring wing walkers despite the ultra-secure harness firmly attached to the wings.

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Ultralight Flying

In this type of extreme activity, small planes that are simply composed of frames are used. These planes have no windshields, so you would really feel like flying. It is kind of difficult to find this type of plane. The only location I can think of is in Pampanga, Philippines. Specifically in Angeles City, extreme sports enthusiasts can fly their own plane. But obviously, they need to undergo training first and pay quite a huge sum of money to rent a plane.

Zipline

When I visited Philippines, I made sure to ride a zipline. My most favorite in particular is the zipline in Lake Sebu. You can ride it twice because the strong metallic ropes go across three mountains. One ride also takes longer than other ziplines located in other places in the country. It is also higher than most ziplines.

Some ziplines require you to sit or stand. But in Lake Sebu, you’ll be lying on your harness facedown. This is where you can really channel your dream to fly like a superhero. The whole thing looks scary because your harness is supported by a contraption which slides down metallic ropes. You would think “How about friction?” Don’t worry because the whole mechanism is totally secure because of strong and durable materials. The ride is totally worth it anyway. You would see a stunning view of the mountains, waterfalls and trees below.  Luckily for me, I even saw a rainbow.

Trapeze

This is more on swinging, not flying. But, you would still feel the wind all over your body as you swing back and forth. Besides, it is a unique extreme activity. Who would have thought that anybody can now experience what it’s like in the circus. You can also change in different positions as you swing, thanks to the training professionals give before the actual thing. Modern trapeze is also very secure because different parts of your body are securely connected to fixed objects in case of hand slips.

Giant Swing

There’s one epic scene in “Superman” comics and movies wherein the Man of Steel swoops down to save Lois Lane. You can experience almost the same thing with the extreme activity Giant Swing. A go-to location for this activity is at Wild Canyon. Called the Sling Swinger, you can go solo or with a companion to share the adrenaline with.

The Sling Swinger is safe because of high-quality equipment and comprehensive safety instructions for the riders. The first step of the activity is free fall. But after that, you would start swinging back and forth at 140 km/hr.

Wild Canyon

Skydiving or Parachuting

You might not know this yet – skydiving is also the same as parachuting. I also tag this as one of the most extreme and most dangerous recreational activities. Before the parachute is deployed, you would experience a staggering free-fall from a plane. Although the activity is very risky, fatalities are quite rare.

I know a friend who did this stunt and said that he would do it again. He said the best part was after the parachute got finally deployed because he felt like flying. He even explained that the training was very detailed and serious. Each of them also signed some sort of contract. I found it hilarious that despite the strong wind greeting him from head to toe, he said he was sweating like a pig during the whole thing.

Hang Gliding

This extreme recreational activity is the same as paragliding. But, the two differ with the equipment used. While paragliding uses a fabric wing, hang gliding requires a light metallic aircraft but still not motorized at all. Modern hang gliders are composed of aluminum alloy. Some are made of composite frame surrounded by synthetic sailcloth. Of course, the rider is secured with a harness. Unlike paragliding wherein the rider can do the sitting position, hang gliding usually requires the rider to pose horizontally facedown.

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Wingsuit Flying

Another insane reactional activity, wingsuit flying is also simply called wingsuiting. You have to channel your inner flying squirrel here because before deploying the parachute, you must go in a free-fall while spreading your body to utilize the wingsuit. Unlike skydiving, wingsuit flying is more suited to pros in extreme sports. This is a solo activity – you just have to rely on your wingsuit and parachute.

Final Thoughts

Science and technology literally make dreams come true. I’m still amazed at how possible flying is nowadays. Still, you’re no superhero. So, you should take these activities seriously to avoid accidents.

New aircraft models have noticeable design changes, especially when you look outside the window. The prominent bent tip of the wing actually has significance to the whole aerodynamics of the plane.

Winglets vs. Vortex Drag

Winglets are designed to give planes a faster and smoother flight. How? They minimize vortex drag. When planes fly, air flows above and below the wings. When this happens, a vortex forms at the back of wings’ tips. You can actually see a vortex sometimes when you look at the wing from the window, specifically during rainy weather. The vortex trails behind the wing.

A vortex seems to be an amazing spectacle. However, it makes the plane exert extra effort. It is the reason for a risky drag, which forces the plane to use more fuel for additional power.

Now, winglets help the wings avoid vortex drag. They enable less air to surround the wings, preventing the formation of swirls that lead to drag. Aside from a smoother flight, winglets also help for a smoother take off. They are actually inspired by the actual wings of a bird. The feathers on the wing normally become upturned while flying.

Winglets, starting from smaller sizes, became popular in the 1980s. But, as time progresses, winglets become larger, more bent and more complex. These aviation innovations are products of continuous aerodynamic research, which includes digital modelling and spending time in wind tunnels.

Types of Winglets

Winglets have different varieties for functional and aesthetic purposes:

Production-Standard

Among the major types of winglets, this one is the simplest. The tip just sharply bends upwards. The first aircraft that had these winglets is Bombardier’s Challenger 601 last 1987.

Blended

This follows a smooth big curve. It is made for long flights. Why? This type of winglet is the most effective in reducing drag. So, it gives the plane a reduction of 4% in burning fuel. An example is 737NG of Aviation Partners Boeing.

Sharklet

This winglet type is an upgrade from the simple blended design. It is big and has a curve like the original kind. But, it has sharper edges. It was first used for Airbus’s A320. The similar design to Aviation Partners’ blended type started a lawsuit.

Dual-Feather

Now, this one looks so feminine and elegant. The wingtip is bent into two directions: upward and downward. The upper part is larger than the lower one. This design idea aims to provide additional 1.5% reduction in burning fuel compared to the blended type. It was used originally by Boeing’s 737 MAX.

Split Scimitar

With the ongoing unwritten competition for the best wingtip design for fuel-burn reduction, Aviation Partners created an upgrade for the dual-feather type. The only difference is bigger and even pointier tips. The result resembles a bird’s claw. The design aims for another 2% saving in fuel.

Spiroid

Aviation Partners just keeps on moving forward with more complex innovations in wingtip technology. The Spiroid winglet is extremely bent to form a big hole. Its goal is a whopping 10% in fuel savings.

Final Thoughts

Air travel is considered to be safer than land transportation due to minimal cases of accidents. But, that became possible because of nonstop aviation research. All parts of an aircraft, even the simplest ones like the wingtip, are essential for a safe flight. One tiny flaw can lead to a disaster.