/ Paragliding

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SebCa - on 10 Feb 2019

There seems to be quite an uptake recently in paragliding from the mountain community.

I must admit it is something that has always interested me, I flew fixed wing gliders for a number of years but always fancied a go under a canopy!

I have looked into the training and although a reasonable outlay cost wise to start with its significantly cheaper than other forms of aviation and I quite like the idea of a school/professional instruction. I went through club instruction gliding and found it a very long process, but enjoyable.

So those who do or have...thoughts? Did you get instruction or just start running down the cliff after a few youtube videos (Ollie Torr Instagram is worth a watch), kit, and combining it with the mountains.

Please note I have no intention of running down a hill after watching some youtube videos...I also have a reasonable idea on lift, including wave, thermal and hill.

koolkat - on 10 Feb 2019
In reply to SebCa:

I've been flying over 25 years get the training get the kit and be prepared to sit on a hill waiting on weather , it does become all consuming and to be safe you have to be current , which means in UK if the weather is flyable fly over anything else 

richard_hopkins - on 10 Feb 2019
In reply to SebCa:

I've been flying for 19 years, as the other poster said, get the training! Check the BHPA site to find your nearest school. Having previous gliding experience will help in the long term but initially it's about learning glider control and assessing safe conditions in a controlled environment with progressive steps.

Don't try to teach yourself and don't get a wing from eBay. The odds are stacked against you, as you can easily discover from YouTube!

Blue Straggler - on 10 Feb 2019
In reply to SebCa:

> There seems to be quite an uptake recently in paragliding from the mountain community.

Yes as a sport I’ve observed that it’s really taken off

> Did you get instruction or just start running down the cliff after a few youtube videos 

It’s not something you just fall into...

Pan Ron - on 10 Feb 2019
In reply to SebCa:

As others have said, you definitely want to undertake proper training rather than self teach (though back in the day self-teaching was the norm).  Its a weird sport in that what will kill/maim you is virtually invisible, subtle and difficult to detect with the window of safe conditions in which you can fly exceptionally narrow.  Your first flight will make clear that what looks extremely sedate and calm from the ground is a full-on sensory motion experience in the air.  The difference between a joyous flight and finding yourself completely at the mercy of the elements with your wing folding up around you isn't much - I've watched one person plummet to their death, know a handful who are now in wheelchairs and can probably name half a dozen household names who were in the sport 5 years ago and are no longer with us today.  Don't take it lightly.  Spinal and other life-changing injuries are relatively common.

For the training, everyone has different suggestions.  I'd advise against training in the UK however.  The time spent grounded between flights makes it difficult to justify as the conditions you can fly in are even more limited than usual.  Also, while UK training is good for a lot of take-off and landing practice, scratching in weak lift and honing your slope landings, some of the most exhilarating flying takes place in the Alps where the alpine(forward) launch techniques and thermaling skills are necessary but not an area of skill amongst UK pilots or trained much in beginners courses.

I can suggest Passion Paragliding in Ager, Spain, or Fly4Seasons in Bulgaria as good choices.  Good instructors, very reliable conditions, nice cultural experience, and in 1-2 weeks you can get your basic CP qualification.

The kit these days is advancing.  Single skin gliders with the norm becoming very light weight harnesses and wings, sufficiently so to climb a hill/mountain and fly down at the end of the day.  Plus vol-biv (hike-and-fly), the X-Alps competition and mini-wings/speed wings.  But compared to sail planes be prepared for abysmal relative performance.  Our glide-ratios are still dire, though thermalling techniques from gliding definitely of use in PG.  Instrumentation is becoming comparable (eg. XCSoar or LK8000 + FLARM becoming norm).  The biggest win is that wherever you land, you can pack everything up in your rucksack, at a total weight of 10-12kg, and walk out, so outlandings are no longer a stress.

freeflyer - on 10 Feb 2019
In reply to SebCa:

Other posters have commented on safety, which is a difficult subject to get across without sounding either foolhardy or as if you will definitely die. In training, a lot of effort is put in by the instructors to keep you safe, given you have little or no idea of what you are doing. After that, you'll stay fairly safe if you take a conservative approach to deciding when to fly, have spent a great deal of time practising managing the glider on the ground, and are able to stay calm and do the right thing when it absolutely matters. 

All that said, there is absolutely nothing quite like it, even messing about in boats. It shouldn't be allowed, in fact.


SebCa - on 10 Feb 2019
In reply to all:

Some great responses there thanks and some sound words of advice! A course was my thought process but had not considered look abroad. Thank you..

Timmd on 13 Feb 2019
In reply to Pan Ron: What you say about the injuries is interesting, somebody known to my family founded Peak Air Sports in the Peak District, and injured his back while flying in Spain or France, when somebody flew across his path while he was approaching to land, causing him to drop from 30 feet. He was thankfully alright in the long term but I gather he is lucky to be. 

I'm intrigued by me not being able to get insurance to sky dive as a type 1 diabetic, but being able to for paragliding, I want to ask if I'm not allowed to have an emergency parachute if I ever go paragliding. ;-)

Post edited at 14:25
jkarran - on 13 Feb 2019
In reply to SebCa:

My partner and I did a one week paragliding training course in France with a British school (Sunsoar, Kirkby Stephen) a few years back, we both loved it. I'm a glider pilot, she'd never flown anything before, we both learned at about the same pace, it's a new skill learning to handle the wing safely.

I'm not convinced it's really much cheaper than flying sailplanes, especially if you end up routinely travelling to the weather. The upside of PG being you can do it alone opportunistically in the hills. I figure if I ever moved away from an active gliding club I'd probably finish the training and get myself a wing.

Wouldn't fancy teaching myself, I reckon you'd stumble into one of the pitfalls pretty quickly and brutally.


SebCa - on 13 Feb 2019
In reply to jkarran:

An ideal comparison there jk thanks very much! Interesting about the cost though, I know gliding isn't exactly the most expensive form of aviation but it can ramp up...still new challenge and all that! Glad you enjoyed it!

Pan Ron - on 14 Feb 2019
In reply to Timmd:

Most accidents don't involve any other pilots or the typical risks associated with airsports.  They come instead from flying under a soft canopy, often very near the top speed of the canopy.  If your angle of attack, either due to your inputs or turbulence, results in more pressure on top of the wing than below it, the whole thing crumples and may not un-crumple.  And it can happen very quickly and very violently - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yX76kZ9a3pkt=318 (the internet is awash with this sort of footage)

That said, they are pretty reliable and solid these days with good recovery characteristics.  But with a cruise speed of only 36 km/hr, and a top speed of about 45 (where you are exposed to more violent collapses), it isn't difficult to stumble into valley wind systems or aerology that is beyond what your wing can handle.

The first footage in the clip above (he survived largely unscathed, the accident was picked apart on PG discussion boards, and worth playing play with sound on for the full experience ;-)...) says much about the utility of reserve parachutes on paragliders BTW.  For acro two are typically carried and even then cut-away systems are now becoming the norm.  The fatality I witnessed saw someone fall into their wing, with their reserve ending up tangled in the lines, leaving them to plummet.  Survival statistics for anyone going in to water, even knee-deep water, without a good quality life jacket is in single-figure percentages.

I switched to paragliding not long after getting my A-license in skydiving. Skydiving feels substantially safer and is less scary in almost every respect.  Which is surprising as based in how it looks from the ground, I dismissed paragliding as being the epitome of boredom.  It's anything but and gives you moments like these



Post edited at 12:32
Pan Ron - on 14 Feb 2019
In reply to SebCa:

Basic costs are:

Annual BHPA membership - £130
Club membership (not mandatory) - anywhere from £20 to £200
Wing - £2k - £3k
Harness - £300 - £1000
Reserve - £700
Instruments - £50 - £700
Annual insurance covering PG and in search and rescue costs overseas: £250

Flying on your own, no additional costs other than getting to a hillside and figuring out transport.

A typical guided holiday week in Europe, which covers all transport, retrieves, etc - £500.  The same trips to Colombia or India about 3 times as much.

petemeads - on 14 Feb 2019
In reply to SebCa:

I flew gliders in the 80's, before family took precedence, up to assistant Instructor standard with several decent long cross-countries, both solo and dual. Loved it at the time because it suited shiftworking and being single. Hang-gliding appealed but a friend died on Mam Tor and I was on a chairlift in Cairngorm when a pilot died due to equipment failure, these incidents put me off somewhat. Parapente looked appealing but seemed either dangerous (in the mountains) or boring (beating up and down Stanage in light winds).

A couple of years ago we were sat in a beach bar in Tenerife when parachutes started landing almost at our feet - started quizzing the main man and ended up booking a tandem flight the next day. It was brilliant! Soaring from about 2000 ft up to cloudbase around 4000 ft ((really cold), pulling g to lose height near the beach and a spot landing - over 40 minutes for 90 euros. It nearly convinced me to take it up but I have not - yet, anyway. Several things against it - the weather in Britain, my osteopenia (weak bones) and advanced age - but the idea of learning and flying in Spain or similar does still appeal. I was slightly concerned, while I had control of the wing, that my pilot was getting concerned as it started to shudder a bit in a tight turn - too close to stall and collapse?  Wife had a flight at the same time, she did not enjoy it and felt ill, even though she was a solo glider pilot in the past. I would say you should get a tandem experience first, see what you think after that. I keep thinking about helicopter lessons...

Pan Ron - on 14 Feb 2019
In reply to petemeads:

Tandem flights are a good first step but do feel like being in a bus as opposed to a sports car.

Completely sympathise with the perception of it looking boring.  That was exactly my impression; gliders hanging in the wind, going nowhere, made it look more like hot air ballooning than any form of aviation I recognised.

However, flights of 100km or more are commonplace for anyone interested in XC flying.  Records stand in the region of 400km and in good conditions in the alps you can reasonably reliably fly 70-140km day after day with little effort.  Acrobatic performance is impressive and tight coring in booming thermals, while sitting in little more than a seat suspending by strings gives a level of exhilaration hard to find elsewhere. 

I have long been planning to fly from the south of France to Annecy, and then along the alps to Slovenia; a trip to be conducted entirely by foot or flight with no other type of transport and possibly over two weeks.  The world of paragliding has really opened up in the last decade and is far from the beating up and down Stanage that it has to be (though people clearly enjoy that - the bouldering equivalent of big-wall climbing).

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