I'm currently working through my collection of Spike and Suzy albums, and in the album I'm currently reading, one of the main characters crashes with a hot air balloon near the wreckage of a hang glider without sail cloth. The main character, who is usually characterized as a somewhat smart man with skill in engineering, tore a large section from the balloon cloth, tied it to the hang glider wreckage and managed to make a functional hang glider that could even make a reasonable ascent in the Alps, near the Mont Blanc and catch up with his friends who were in other hot air balloons.

The hang glider looked like this (I couldn't find a bigger image, sorry):

makeshift hang glider

How would this type of makeshift hang glider work IRL? even though hang gliders and hot air balloons are made from the same kind of fabric (ripstop nylon), wouldn't the holes between the frame and the cloth totally ruin the thing?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'd at least fold the leading edge over the tube, the trailing edge isn't that important to be hole free $\endgroup$ May 21, 2014 at 22:28
  • $\begingroup$ I know we have some glider folks around who might be able to answer this - at a quick glance I think that hang glider would be a bit tough to fly (for the reasons @ratchetfreak mentioned), but on a theoretical level it's sound. Some of the early flexible wing hang gliders aren't much more than what's illustrated there. $\endgroup$
    – voretaq7
    May 22, 2014 at 2:01
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    $\begingroup$ I'd also be a bit worried with bare hands at 15,780 feet, and temperatures as low as -40° F/C. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    May 25, 2016 at 17:26
  • $\begingroup$ Has the hang glider actually been wrecked, or has the "sail" (cloth) simply rotted away or been removed? If the former, the tubing surely has several kinks and dents that render it completely compromised strength-wise, and therefore un-airworthy even for low ground-skimming flights-- (ps the illustrated shape of airframe (metal parts) has as almost nothing in common with shape of actual hang glider airframe!) $\endgroup$ Oct 2, 2022 at 18:29

1 Answer 1


To expand a bit on what @ratchetfreak said in a comment...

The leading edge on that glider is not secured properly. It would need to go around the bar all the way along the leading edge of the wing, otherwise the holes would make it so the airfoil doesn't function.

As it is right now, the air would hit those gaps and make the cloth flutter, which would break up the airflow over the glider itself. Thus you'd just have turbulence over the wing, which would make the wing stall.

So, yeah, in a nutshell, that wouldn't work as a glider as pictured above.

But, if he had found some string or wire from the wrecked balloon and properly secured some of the Hot Air Balloon cloth to the frame... There's no reason it shouldn't work. Hot Air Balloons are made out of fabric that is very very similar to what hang gliders are made from.


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