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.
What to Bring:
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!
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.
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.
Setup & Preflight
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,
Preflight is as easy as 123-ABCD:
1 - Helmet strap buckled.
...we won't actually add these to the list, but they are worth reviewing:
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."
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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
Introducing the Motor
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.
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!
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).
Solo Flight Briefing
Keeping a Logbook