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First Day Lesson

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Welcome to your first day of training to become a powered paraglider pilot!

Today, you will experience your first flight in a paraglider, with the entire layout, preflight, kiting, launch, flight and landing sequence done by you!

A few basics will help you understand more about flying these incredible wings.

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School Resources:

   First Day Lesson
   USPPA Syllabus
   Kiting Visualization
   Terminology
   Pilot Program
   FAA Regulations
   Reading Charts
   Top 10 Safety Tips
   Preflight Checkist
   Propeller Forces
   No-Wind Launches
   Reserve Parachute
   Power to the Thermals

What to Bring:
Your first day will be full of challenges and thrills. A little pre-planning will help ensure that your first lesson is enjoyable.

While overall paragliding is not a strenuous sport, your first day will involve some exercise as you learn to handle the glider on the ground and hike up to the lower levels of the hill for your first flights. So bring lots of water and some high-energy snacks to keep your endurance up.

The proper attire for your first lessons includes protective, comfortable clothing, including jeans, a long sleeve shirt, and ankle protection (hiking boots, etc.).

Bring a camera, bring a friend, and make this a day of adventure and memories!

Paragliding
A paraglider is an aircraft with no rigid structure. Its beauty is in its convenience and ease of flight. It can be carried in a backpack, set-up in moments and is capable of foot launching from a hillside and achieving soaring flight.

Paragliders fly because they glide through the air. Gravity means they are always gliding down. In perfectly still air the paraglider will descend at about 200 feet per minute. More importantly, they also glide forward through the air at about six feet for every foot of vertical drop (6:1 glide ratio).

The only way to stay aloft or ascend in a paraglider is to soar in air that is rising (thermal or ridge lift) faster than the paraglider is sinking, or to attach a paramotor to the glider.

The Paraglider
There are a number of proven paraglider designers/manufacturers in the world, each striving to combine in their gliders the highest levels of safety and performance. Their paragliders are certified in Germany and issued DHV ratings. These numbers indicate the level of pilot input that will be required to recover from collapses and stalls.

Unforunately, there are more and more individuals driven only by profit who are copying gliders and offering them for sale for less. A change in material or lines can completely change the way a glider reacts, compromising it's safety. Without a new DHV test, these gliders are not to be trusted with your life. Many of these do not even offer a recommended weight range! A certified glider will have a placard attached that includes the manufacturer, model, date of manufacture, DHV rating and the tested weight range. Look for a placard on your new wing!

A beginner wing (DHV 1) will offer the highest level of safety but will likely have a lower glide ratio and overall performance. An advanced wing (DHV 2/3 or 3) will require a great deal of pilot input to recover from collapses and stalls but will generally be faster, have a better glide ratio, and maneuver more quickly.

It is of the utmost importance to fly a wing that is within your skill range. Therefore, during your first few lessons with Fly Above All, you will fly a DHV 1 glider and when you are ready to move ahead, your instructor will have you demo a number of gliders from reputable dealers and help you choose the glider that is best for you. No matter what brand of paraglider you are flying, there are certain aspects that will remain the same. A familiarity with this equipment and terminology will be helpful for your first day of lessons.
 

  1. The Canopy is made of 2 layers of synthetic materials, designed to be lightweight yet maintain a low porosity for the life of the glider.
  2. The Upper Surface of the glider is the top surface during flight.
  3. The Under Surface of the glider is the attachment surface for the lines.
  4. The front of the wing is called the Leading Edge.
  5. The leading edge is made up of openings called Cells. Gliders have varying numbers of cells based on size and performance.
  6. Between the cells are Crossports - holes in the intercell walls that allow air to pressurize across the wing when inflating and during flight.
  7. The rear of the wing is called the Trailing Edge. This edge is sewn closed.
  8. Descending from the canopy, towards the harness are the Lines.
  9. The lines are attached to Risers, depending on their orientation on the wing.
    a. A Risers (the most forward set of risers) may be a single riser or split risers. They are connected to the lines that attach to the leading edge of the glider. The A risers and lines are used to accelerate the glider while kiting.
    b. B Risers (the middle set of risers) offer stability and form to the wing. They are also used in advanced maneuvers.
    c. Rear Risers gather the lines that are connected to the trailing half of the glider. They normally are the attachment point for the brake line and toggle as well. The Rear risers and lines are used to decelerate the glider when kiting.
  10. Toggles (often referred to as the brakes) when detached from the rear risers can be used to turn the glider as well as to decelerate the glider. The brake toggles are attached to the trailing edge of the wing. They are the primary means of directional control. When running forward or in flight gently pulling the left or right brake will turn the glider in that direction.
  11. The pilot attaches the risers to Carabiners on each side of the harness.
  12. The Harness consists of 2 leg straps and a chest strap that should be fastened securely.

Layout
The glider will normally be stored in a backpack. Remove the glider from the backpack and place it on the ground. Unfold the glider so that:

  1. The upper surface is on the ground and the under surface and lines are facing up.
  2. The leading edge and cell openings are farthest from the incoming wind (normally uphill of the trailing edge).
  3. The trailing edge is closest to the incoming wind (normally downhill of the leading edge).
  4. Arrange the glider in a slight horseshoe shape. The center of the glider being the highest point. Laying the glider in a "horseshoe" shape will cause the center lines to load first, making the canopy more stable during inflation.
  5. Loosely extend the lines downhill, with the risers at the bottom. Do not tension the lines yet. Tension could leave the glider vulnerable to gusts of wind.
  6. Clear the lines. Again, try not to tension the lines during this process. If the lines seem tangled, ask an instructor for help. Lines will rarely become truly tangled on their own, but at first it can be very confusing and easy to turn a little knot into a big one.
  7. While facing the glider pick up one riser set. Align the risers so that they lay cleanly on top of each other (A's on top, then B's, then rear risers).
  8. Now lift the A riser independently of the others. Check to make certain that the A lines lead directly and freely to the leading edge of the wing. Then lift the B riser to check that the B lines lead cleanly to the center of the wing. Finally check the rear riser and lines in the same fashion. Repeat with the second riser set.
  9. Put on your Helmet! Don't forget to buckle it. Your helmet should always be on before you attach yourself to the glider.
  10. Get into your harness. Remember to buckle each of the leg straps and the chest strap.
  11. While facing the glider, clear both risers so you can see the "A" lines clearly all the way from the wing to the risers and the hook-in loop. Hold both risers flat in your hand next to each other straight from the wing. Fip both risers together in the direction you will turn to launch. Spread and bring each riser to the respective carabiner and hook in.
  12. You are now completely hooked into the glider. Be prepared to grab the rear risers and bring the wing down at anytime.

Setup & Preflight
Before you fly you will want to do a complete setup and preflight check. The reason we complete a thorough, methodical preflight before you launch is:

  1. To check for damage, wear, and the overall airworthiness of your glider
  2. To check that you've completed all necessary steps in setting up your glider and preparing yourself to fly, and
  3. Because finding and correcting a problem on the ground is much easier than doing so in the air.

Setup
In order to launch, we must first prepare ourselves for flight. Every pilot must first decide when to fly. The most important factor in pilot safety is not the level of pilot skill, knowledge or the quality of the pilot's equipment. It is the pilot's attitude.

You must be able to choose not to fly when the conditions are not right for you. As a student, both you and your instructor will make the decision that the conditions are favorable and it's time to fly. You must give the go ahead before you will fly.

Setup is done before your preflight, and includes many things that are reviewed before flight, such as,

  • Weather conditions and wind. Continue checking this important factor until launch. Is it really appropraite to fly?
  • Glider, riser and line inspection. Look at your gear every time you fly. Look for tears in the canopy, frayed or knotted lines, loose Carabiners on the risers where the lines attach, brake toggle knots, etc.
  • Zip up your zippers, check for loose straps and items. All instruments, radios, etc. on lanyards.
  • Check the trimmers position on your glider if it has them and adjust for high/low wind.
  • Turn on your instruments - Vario, GPS, Radio, Camera, etc. Check battery levels.
  • When you are using a reserve parachute, check that it is securely in place and the pin is installed correctly.
  • Check Weather again!
  • Launch path - Clear and unobstructed? Rotors? Traffic? Anything to avoid?


Preflight is as easy as 123-ABCD:

1 - Helmet strap buckled.
2 - Carabiners attached properly to risers.
3 - Harness straps attached and buckled.
A - Air conditions, weather check, wind check, no T-storms, appropriate conditions.
B - Being, check pilot's attitude, health, desire, denial.
C - Clear lines, glider laid out, brakes in proper hands,
D - Do a radio check (includes all instruments).

...we won't actually add these to the list, but they are worth reviewing:
E - Take a second or two to ENJOY the fact that you are about to take flight!
F - FLY!!!

The above preflight should take no more than 12 seconds, and should be done before each and every flight. If this preflight takes longer due to anything found and corrected, do it again from the beginning. Say while physically checking "1, 2, 3, A, B, C, D."

Forward Inflation
You will normally only use a forward inflation when launching in light winds or no wind. The drawback is that it is more difficult to inspect the glider for sticks and line tangles before committing to the launch.
 

  1. Find the wind direction by feeling the wind blow directly into your face. Align the glider so that it will pull up directly into the wind.
  2. Lay the glider in a "horseshoe" shape. This will cause the center lines to load first, making the canopy more stable during inflation.
  3. Hook-In - stand in-between your cleared riser sets, with your back to the wing. Lift one riser set, making certain that the A risers remain on top, the Bs in the center and the rear risers on the bottom. Bring the risers over your shoulder (simulating how they will hang when suspended from the flying paraglider). Turn the risers slightly sideways, with the A risers outermost from your body, and hook the riser set into the carabiner.
  4. Stand in front of your glider with the risers and lines evenly tensioned against the harness. Once you have found this position, take a step backwards to ease the tension on the lines.
  5. Lift one riser set. Observe that the brake line runs clearly from the rear riser to the wing and cleanly through the pulley on the rear riser. Remove that brake and hold onto it. Repeat with the second riser set.
  6. Reach under each of the riser sets and allow the risers to rest on your lower arms. Grasp the A riser, just below the lines attachment point in each hand. Lift the A risers and observe that the lines go directly from your hand to the wing with no other lines crossing over them.
  7. Yell "CLEAR" to announce that you are preparing to launch.
  8. Extend your arms behind you and prepare to run. As you run you will arc the A risers to an upright position over your shoulders. Don't stop running! When launching in light winds, if you stop running to look up at your wing, it could fly past you and collapse. It will also lose internal pressure and be hard to control. Always keep pressure from the harness to the risers by moving or leaning into the wind.
  9. When the glider is overhead, release the A's while still holding onto the brakes. Continue to run and look up at the glider with a sweeping head motion to make sure to make sure there are no sticks or knots in the lines and that everything is free and clear. If there is any problem immediately pull the brakes down as far as you can and stop running. This should bring the glider back to the ground.
  10. If everything is clear then keep running along your launch path. Use gentle downward pulls on the brakes and sidestepping to keep the paraglider overhead and steer its course.

Launching Tips:
In order to launch, you must run fast enough and down a steep enough slope to get the glider into flight. Running into the wind helps. The resulting ground speeds are lower, and safer close to the ground.

Also the headwind will help to inflate the glider.

If you run with the paraglider in no wind at 10 mph, the glider's airspeed and groundspeed is 10 mph. If there's a 5 mph headwind, and you run with the paraglider at 10 mph, the glider's airspeed increases to 15 mph while your groundspeed remains 10 mph.

When launching on a shallow slope use less brake, allowing for adequate running speed to inflate the glider. If you apply brake while running on a shallow slope, you will slow the glider down and cause it to fall behind you.

Make the transition from running to flying as smooth as possible. Run with your knees flexed and leaning forward, so that you have a better chance of maintaining contact with the ground.

A momentary gust or thermal updraft could lift you off the ground prematurely. This may cause your feet to be lifted off the ground and swung out from under you, resulting in a poor or aborted launch.

Keep running with bent knees and even pressure until you are well into the air. The glider could set you down again. Steer the glider straight as you continue to run forward until you are completely airborne.

Flying
The speed at which a paraglider will tend to fly when no pilot input is given (brakes in the full up position) is called trim speed. This is the speed the glider is 'trimmed' at.

Pulling both of the brakes down together will slow the glider. Pulling one brake will turn the glider in that direction.

In turbulent air it is useful to keep a slight pressure on the brakes. However, whether turning or simply tensioning the brakes, do not pull the brakes down below the carabineers. This could result in the wing stalling and you falling.

A common mistake for students is to pull one brake down, complete the turn and forget to release the brake tension before they begin another turn. If this is continued through several turns, it could result in both brakes being pulled down to a position that could stall the glider. Therefore, consciously release the tension on your turning brake before you begin another turn.

Your first flights at the training hill will be radio controlled by your instructor. Listen carefully to the instructions. Your flight may be buoyant and you may need to make complete left and right turns to burn off altitude so you can land well within the landing zone.

Landing
Landing into the wind is a good idea because the head wind will result in slower ground speeds. Slower ground speeds at landing are safer and reduce the speed you have to run as you flare.

When on final landing approach, if you notice that you are traveling partly sideways to your right over the ground, you should steer left to bring your heading into the wind. If you are traveling sideways to the left, you should steer right to bring your heading into the wind.

When you are about your height above the ground you should be prepared to land. Stand upright with your landing gear down (legs). When landing (approximately 3 feet above the ground), you will flare the glider by pulling the brakes all the way down. Match speeds with the ground by running and holding the flare, letting the glider slow you down.

After landing, you must immobilize the canopy. Continue your flare as you slow to a walk and then stop completely facing into the wind. The wing should fall behind you. If there is strong wind, grab the rear risers and pull them towards you as you turn to face the glider.

Post-Landing
Once the paraglider is down, stow the brakes in their clips on the risers with lines clear. Do a Turn to the left, lifting the right riser set over your head. You should now be facing the glider with the lines crossed in front of you. Gather the canopy by placing all of the lines in your left hand, just above the risers. Slide down the lines with your right hand, fully extending your arms away from each other. Then bring your hands together, forming a loop of lines. Place this loop of lines in your left hand with the others.

Continue gathering the glider in this way, never letting go of the lines in your left hand. Lift gently as you approach the glider, until you have gathered right to the fabric. Now you can lift the glider, sling it over your shoulder, and walk with it without dragging or stepping on it.

Congratulations you have launched, flown and landed safely! Now that you know it's possible let's work on something more challenging!

Reverse Kiting
A Reverse Inflation will offer you several advantages over a forward inflation. A reverse inflation allows you to bring the wing overhead better in higher winds. It allows you to inspect the canopy and lines thoroughly before flying. It will also allow you to brace yourself against stronger winds that may pull you backwards during launch. The most dangerous thing about a reverse inflation is the potential to be pulled into the air while reversed in gusty winds.

Good kiting skills are necessary for reverse inflations, and will require a great deal of practice on your part. Lay out the glider and do a complete preflight and 6 point check. Then take the entire right riser set over your head while turning to the left (the "pirouette").

You will find yourself facing the glider with the risers crossed directly in front of you. Cross the risers close to your body. This will make it easier to see the risers you are looking for. Now take both rear risers (without the brake lines) in your left hand. Remember these are your decelerators. If at anytime you need the glider to stop moving, you can pull your left hand all the way to your belly button and the glider will be immobilized.

Now gather the A risers (the accelerators) in your right hand. Make sure the ends of the risers and the beginning of the lines are even. To build a wall in preparation for launching, extend your arms in front of you, holding the A risers over the rear risers. Step back to put a small amount of pressure against the glider. Raise your right arm, leading the wing up just off the ground. Then set it down again by relaxing the As and pulling the left hand and the rear risers into your belly button. You will know you have built a good wall if the cells along the leading edge are filled with air and sitting upward.

Practice this small movement over and over again until you feel very comfortable with it. Building a wall allows you to clearly see that the lines are clear, the wing is straight and will load evenly. You can now bring the glider further off the ground and overhead for kiting. In the air, while you are flying, gravity will always move you to be centered underneath the wing. On the ground you must do this yourself. You can do this by side stepping and steering the glider.

Moving yourself will always be easier than forcing the glider. Practice side stepping and pivoting your body while the glider is in the air. Moving yourself under the center of the wing and your back directly into the wind. An easy way to think about it is, whenever the glider is not straight overhead, move towards the side of the wing that is falling toward the ground.

To steer the glider, use your right hand and A risers to lead the wing into the air. Then use both the A risers and rear risers to control the glider, keeping in mind that the hands must be balanced over each other when the glider is in balance. It's as if you have your hands on the top and bottom of the steering wheel of your car. Turn the wheel to the left if the glider is falling to the right and to the right if the glider is falling to the left. When turning right, the upper hand should be to the right, and the lower hand pulling to the left.


Practice kiting in increments. In the beginning, quickly arrest any large misalignments by pulling the rear risers all the way into your bellybutton to bring the wing back to the ground. Then build the wall again. This will save you a lot of time and effort in rearranging the glider after you allow it to completely turn over on itself. As you get the hang of it, try to keep the glider overhead longer. Observe small glider shifts and correct them immediately, avoiding larger misalignments.

The most dangerous thing about a reverse inflation is the potential to be pulled into the air while reversed in gusty winds. This is a good reason to have the brakes in the proper hands while kiting on a slope.

Find your brakes by following the inside (facing your body) of the Carabiner down the spine of the risers to the brake handle. Remove the brake from the riser and check that the brake line is routed directly from the pulley to your hand. Now you can continue kiting with the brakes ready for launch. See our Reverse Kiting Visualization for more on kiting while facing the wing with the correct brakes in your hands.

Reverse Inflation/Forward Launch
As you become comfortable with kiting on flat ground, you will begin to think about flying again. When you and your instructor decide it is time to launch you will add one more step to your kiting. You must turn around!

This sounds easy enough. Your goal is to perfect your turn, making it so quick and so smooth that you go from reverse kiting to facing forward and controlling the wing as you run forward to launch without ever pausing or letting pressure off the wing. In your excitement don't forget everything you already learned about launching, flying, landing and gathering the wing.

Adding the Throttle
During your training, we will add a dummy throttle to one of your hands so you can get used to the feel of controlling motor speed and using the kill switch.

Introducing the Motor
The motor shall not be started until directed by instructor and only in the manner directed. The starting sequence will be different for each motor, so this will be shown on an individual basis. We will first start the motor on a flat, unobstructed surface where debris cannot be sucked into the prop.

We will then hang your motor in our simulator, and have you get into your harness and conduct your preflight. You will hang in the simulator to practice launch sequence and how to get back into your seat. Once you are used to the balance with the power off, you can now prepare to start the motor and practice the entire launch sequence. The preflight for engine starting varies, but shall include checking the throttle to ensure it is in the idle position (not stepped on or squeezed accidentally), engine switch is on, and choke/primed as required.

The preferred method for starting is electric start while on the pilot's back, next best is is to have someone else pull start while on pilot's back, next best is to secure the motor to something solid and last resort is to start alone while holding by the frame. Be prepared for the motor to go to full throttle. NEVER hold by the cage! Statistically, starting the motor is the riskiest thing that a paramotor pilot does.

Before getting in, make sure the throttle is out of the way. Never reach back towards cage.

Runup
Clear blast area, run up motor RPM to make sure full power is available, test kill switch.

We will practice getting into your harness seat with the motor running at high RPM repeatedly. If you have a foot stirrup, you will use this without letting go of the brake toggles. If you do not have a foot stirrup, or if the stirrup is difficult to find, we will practice releasing the brake toggles and reach down to the seat board.

Great caution must be used to remember to release the breake toggles smoothly and completely to be sure not to pull the brakes below the carabiner. Anytime the brakes are pulled beyond the carabiner, you risk a stall or spin of your paraglider.

A good launch will have the pilot demonstrate proper launch posture, keeping the legs down running for prop clearance, and waiting until well into the air before attempting to get back into the seat. We will practice this sequence repeatedly, paying attention to keeping smooth application of the throttle throughout. Caution must also be exercised not to accidentally apply the kill switch during this process.

There is also a risk of the brake toggles getting into the propeller, we will check to make sure the brake length is correct. You will practice getting out of your seat to prepare for landing. You will also practice finding and using the kill switch, and if possible, a secondary method to shut off motor. You will rehearse launch, climb, getting into seat, turns, approach, landing and flare with the motor running.

We will be using a radio during the simulator process to ensure that you can hear our instruction clearly even at high power. It is imperative that you are able to respond correctly to verbal communication with the motor running. If the radio fails, visual response to our signals may include: Yes or positive response - kicking legs like running; No or negative - crossing legs back and forth. Our signals may include: Hands up - ease the brakes up higher; One hand back and forth across neck - cut the power; Two hands vertical and parallel from instructor to student - come this way; Hands out to side - do landing sequence, come down!

Emergencies
We will rehearse recognizing parachutal stall (wing goes back and headwind dies off) and correcting (hands up, reduce power).

We will rehearse what to do in case of unexpected pendulum (nothing), and how doing nothing will allow it to dampen out on its own. While it is good to practice pendulum correction up high, it has proven beneficial to NOT have the student try correcting it during landing. The dampening action (pulling brake in the direction of swing’s start) is completely counterintuitive to a new pilot.

Rehearse reserve use (as installed): "Kill, Look, reach, pull, look, throw." Use dummy reserve if available.

Rehearse steering options in case of brake line or pulley failure: Rear riser turn, weight shift, differential trimmers.

Rehearse what to do in case of spin or riser twist (reduce power, hands up). Reemphasize that this can happen with too much or too quick brake.

Rehearse what to do in case of wing collapse (hands up, then SMOOTHLY control the direction).

Control
We will practice these aspects of glider and motor control:

  • Rehearse controlling pitch with brakes, emphasizing smooth application and maximum pull position.
  • Rehearse surging with power and go over wing reaction to power changes. Emphasize smooth application.
  • Point out torque effect and explain why to avoid turning against it.
  • Rehearse student reaction to commands (brakes, throttle and kill switch).
  • Brake position/pressures while in flight including maximum safe pull positions.
  • Flare and Landing.

Solo Flight Briefing
Student should know what to do for the entire flight in case radio communications break down. This is intended to be done immediately before the flight.

  • Flight Plan including when and how to get into the seat.
  • Establish how the Instructor will call an abort or go.
  • Have student show what the established visual signals are.
  • Have student explain and motion how to get into the seat (keeping hands up).
  • Have student explain and motion (as able) emergency procedures (Motor failure, Steering failure, Parachutal stall)
  • Have student explain the pattern and landing including when to shut of motor and when to get out of seat.

Solo Flight
This will be your first solo flight under power. Here is how we would like to sequence to progress:

  • Preflight and run up.
  • Inflation with good control of the wing - do not proceed if not under control.
  • Good launch sequence - smooth application of power, keep legs down until clear of ground, focus on runway.
  • After launch and at least 100’ of altitude gain, tell student to let go of brake (if required) before getting into seat THEN tell him to get into seat. If he is unable to get into the seat, direct him to land to avoid the legs going numb.
  • Climb to safe altitude (at least 300’ recommended).
  • Practice shallow turns as directed including at least one 360 (if able).
  • Throttle into level flight, descent and back into climb.
  • Direct the flight as necessary, call out when to shut off motor, when to get out of seat, when to flare.

Keeping a Logbook
It is expected that the student will keep a log that records at least the date, location, motor, wing, flights and maneuvers performed for each day of flying. During your training, we will record your information on our student sheet, and upon completion of certification, the logbook will be duplicated and given to student. We provide a sample log that can be copied for your use. Many pilots use an online service or database (Excel, D-Base) for their logbook. Make a habit of keeping your logbook current, as this will be used as a basis for advancing in the USHGA or USPPA rating system.

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