Learning to fly a paraglider.
Paragliding is about patience and control... and a whole lot of FUN!
The information in this guide is of a general nature only. Paragliding is a
potentially dangerous sport. It is absolutely essential to get professionally qualified instruction before buying
any gear and flying. Your professional advice superceeds anything on this site.
Ill be bold and say that some extreme daredevils may find the paragliding course a little slow, while others
will find it confronting.
Is it worth it? Well YEAH! Can you imagine the feeling of soaring next to an eagle, harnessig the power of the
wind and weather to travel great distances and see the world with the breeze in your face like few others have ever
experienced. It is truly amazing.
A good paragliding school (or instructor) will communicate with their students to move at their preferred
pace(within safety limits)
How is a Paragliding course typically structured
The first stage of the course(after signing waivers etc) is usually equipment familiarisation.
The instructor should take you through the gear, and perhaps show a DVD of some paragliding action.
After weighing in(in order to slect the correct size glider for you), and some discussions about wind
conditions, the instructor may take you to an open level grassy field to have a first handle of the paraglider
This is a crucial stage. Students are now gaining an appreciation what its like to fly a 24(or
bigger) square metre KITE! These wings can easily pick you up off the ground. This activity is appropriately
called kiting or groundhandling.
After an hour or so of kiting (usually without harnesses) its back to the classroom. Kiting practice will likely
be a daily event. It can be quite tiring, so an hour or so is plenty until you get a good feel for the wing, all
the lines and techniques to bring the wing up, and control it in the air.
Back in the classroom its theory time. Learning about the limits of the paraglider. Appropriate weather
conditions for flying, an a large seent on Micro meteorology. For most people this information will be totally new,
and even for general aviation pilots like myself, the detailed knowledge of very local wind conditions that a
paragliding ppilot needs to know is astounding.
Terms such as Prevailing wind, seabreeze, Land breeze, anabatic and catabatic flows, thermals, lee side
turbulence, landform venturi effect valley breezes and much more will be explained.
A keen paraglider gets to know weather charts very well over time.
Back out to the turf for some groundhandling, but this time with harnesses, and perhaps on the side of a very
small gently sloping hill.
Part of the lesson will be reading wind conditions on the site, then into the gear for some practice raising and
lowering the paragliders.
There are several methods for launch depending on the wind conditions, so expect to practice each of those.
Next we get briefed on landing technique. Choice of landing site and what to look for. Notably avoid powerlines,
beware of prevailing wind and possible terrain features which could cause turbulence, and not to forget, never land
in a field with only one cow in it... its probably a Bull and you've probably got a red wing!
Once confident controlling the wings, its time to raise the wing and run like the wind until your feet leave the
ground. Usually for just a few metres and a few feet off the ground, but you are flying!
That is one of the most exhilerating feelings and a memory which will stay a long time!
Once you've done that once, do it again and again and again until youre sick of walking up the hill. Remember to
flare on landing(and avoid landing on a cow??).
Some time during the course you should be introduced to handling the paraglider in stronger wind conditions. I
gained a whole new respect for the power of the wind that day.
As your confidence grows, its time to head to a bigger hill.
Setup, briefing, preflight checks, radio on and off you go. The first time the hill seems to drop away from your
feet takes your breath away. You'll be quickly reminded to turn away from that tree by your instructor who will
talk you through the flight. Depending on your confidence and abilities, you may be asked to do some turns,
maybe a 360 degree turn, some figure 8's and an approach to landing.
I was surprised how softly we can land paragliders(and how hard if we dont flare properly, or inadvertenly land
A few more flights, some interesting manoevres, Big Ears, D riser steering, some include B line stalls, use of
the speed bar, weight shift steering etc. Some schools include an introduction to finding, identifying and
entering (and staying in)a thermal.
Time for the theory exam(in some countries), and once youve been through the required processes, you get your
restricted (or novice licence)
So you can fly solo, and its only now you start realising how much more there is to learn.
Flying a paraglider is easy. Flying it well takes dedication and practice.
I learned with a company in Australia called Poliglide. Andrew the owner and chief instructor is
a legend. He has a manner which makes everyone feel confortable. He is meticulous about safety, and teaches his
students in a manner which encourages people to make paragliding a long term sport, not just a few thrill rides for
a week or two.
If you live near Byron Bay in Australia, I throroughly recommend Poliglide
for your paraglider training.