Can you imagine being caught in a thunderstorm and finding yourself 33,000 feet in the air? It was actually two clouds coming together. This happened to Ewa Wisnierska, a Polish paragliding champion who competed for Germany.
The first paraglider would have to be Icarus, who made wings out of feathers and wax, flew too close to the sun (not heeding his father’s warning), and crashed after the heart of the sun melted the wax. Many morals here!
A hang glider has a rigid frame. A paraglider is merely fabric. It began when a Canadian named Domina Jalbert patented a “gliding parachute” in 1952, controlled by lines handled by a person suspended from the fabric canopy. The paraglider launches by going to the top of a cliff and running and leaping off the edge into space.
The numbers of paragliders has grown exponentially around the world. The sport was part of the 2013 World Games but is not (yet) an Olympic event.
Ewa was one of a group of paragliders training for the 2007 Paragliding World Cup in New South Wales, Australia. The weather report was not good – thunderstorms – but Ewa decided to get training run in. When her paraglider was caught in an updraft, she found herself pulled up at speeds of almost 50 mph into bitter cold with little oxygen, literally inside a cumulo-nimbus cloud, with lightning flashing everywhere.
Miraculously, her paraglider was not destroyed and Ewa spent 3½ hours in the air before landing safely about 40 miles from her takeoff point. A French film company made a documentary about this, calling it Miracle in the Storm.