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An umbrella term for the sports of hang gliding and paragliding, and nine other disciplines that are included in the portfolio of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI, established 1905 in France, based latterly in Lausanne, Switzerland). Hang gliding and paragliding became popular in the later 20th century, the first after US enthusiasts saw the potential of some wing technologies developed by scientists at the USA's space operations and research centre NASA (National Aeronautical and Space Administration). Paragliding took root in Europe but the two activities soon attracted worldwide participants. The two practices are serious commitments, and national associations do much in the way of training and health and safety preparation. Appealing to an age-old fantasy that humans might fly, they are also thoroughly modern activities in that their demands on time and money make them exclusive, undertaken in highly individualist and self-expressive fashion. The FAI also oversees aeromodelling, aerobatics, astronautic records, ballooning, general aviation, gliding, microlights, parachuting, and rotorcraft. In 2009, in Torino, Italy, the World Air Games generated a champion in each of these ten disciplines in what the governing body immodestly anticipated as the ‘largest and most prestigious aviation event on the planet’.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.

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