My Personal Paragliding Journal

The first thing you need to know is, it’s awesome. If you’re someone who’s got issues with heights, I can assure you that once you’ve hurled yourself off the cliff/mountain/ledge and are airborne, it’s just about the most fun you’re likely to have.


Paragliding is truly a fun, exciting and relatively easy way to experience flight in its simplest and purest form. Being one of the safer and more inexpensive ways to learn to fly, all a person needs is an inflatable wing, a harness, and a good attitude before taking to the sky.


A paraglider is a motorless, inflatable wing, fixed with Kevlar lines that secure a pilot’s harness. The pilot sits in the harness and launches the vehicle by foot or by way of a towing winch. He or she steers the wing by weight shift and application of brakes that changes the shape of the rear edge of the wing.


Before I tried it, I thought paragliding was one of those things that only suicidal maniacs and adrenaline junkies attempted. I am neither. It’s actually one of the safest airborne sports. Firstly, you’re connected to the wing by at least 30 lines, any one of which is strong enough to support your weight. There is a risk of the wing deforming and/or collapsing while in flight, but this is rare and usually due to pilots unwisely deciding to fly in bad weather. If you’re at a sufficient altitude more than 700 feet or so, the reserve parachute most glider pilots wear will guide them safely to the ground. The danger is to be too close to the ground when performing some dangerous manoeuvre, in which case your parachute won’t have time to inflate properly before you splat back to earth.


It’s more comfy than the chair you’re sitting in right now. Well, probably. Unlike most harness-based activities, like rappelling and parachuting, the focus isn’t on a series of pinchy straps and clips around your legs and midsection. Modern paragliding harnesses connect you to something akin to a lounge chair, in which your reserve parachute and other goodies are stored, and some of them even feature lumbar support. After you leap from the precipice of choice and the glider inflates, you simply slide the “chair” under your bum, and ride your flying barcalounger wherever the wind takes you.


If you’re really, really good, that is. Most paraglider flights last between 15-25 minutes, depending on weather conditions. But pilots who are especially skilled at finding and exploiting thermal columns of rising air can use them to hop and skip their way across long distances, like paragliding champ Will Gadd, who holds the world record for longest paraglider flight, at 263 miles.


Oh, and by the way, Leonardo Da Vinci may have designed the first parachute, but NASA helped design, and name, the paraglider. In 1961, a French engineer named Pierre Lemoigne took the first steps by cutting strategically placed vents in a parachute which allowed it to ascend into the air and be steered, but it was NASA who developed what was known as a “sail wing,” for use in recovery of lunar capsules, into the paraglider.


Well, that is all guys. I hope with this, I was able to share with you my feelings of fun and excitement as well as some information’s about paragliding.

P4 Advanced Rating for Advanced Paragliding Skills

The pilot has the knowledge and skills to fly technically demanding sites in strong soaring conditions, and to judge when the site and conditions are within the pilot’s skill, knowledge, and experience level. The pilot understands the USHPA paragliding rating system and recommended operating limitations, and the FARs and other flying rules applicable to his/her flying. The pilot will fly using good judgment and have a level of maturity commensurate with the rating.

Logged Requirements

  • 250 flights.
  • Must have made 5 flights at each of 5 different sites in Intermediate level conditions, of which 3 were inland.
  • Must have logged a minimum of 80 flying days.
  • Must have at least three, 1-hour flights in thermal lift without sustaining ridge lift.
  • Must have at least one, 1-hour flight in ridge lift without sustaining thermal lift.
  • Must have logged a minimum of 75 hours total airtime, with no more than 25 of these hours to be tandem.
  • Must have flown a minimum of 5 different canopies.


Demonstrated Skills and Knowledge

  • Pre-flight of the harness, canopy, and backup reserve parachute.
  • Verbal analysis of conditions.
  • Flight plan.
  • With each flight, demonstrates a method of establishing that the pilot is properly connected to the glider, with cleared lines and risers just prior to launch.
  • All inflations/launches should be aggressive, confident, and with a smooth transition from running to flying. Flights with slow, unstable inflations/launches will not be considered adequate as witnessed tasks.
  • All landings must be safe, smooth, on the feet and in control.
  • Demonstrate ability to allow clearance when doing 360 degree turns by demonstrating figure eights
  • Demonstrate three consecutive spot landings within 10′ of a target after a flight which requires turns on approach.
  • Demonstrate smooth coordinated 360 degree turns in both directions, with reversal at various speeds and bank angles appropriate to the rating level.
  • Demonstrates significant asymmetric wing collapses (50% of the wing span) with directional control.
  • Demonstrates complete understanding of all Paragliding Tow Discussion Topics (for tow rated pilots only).
  • Must pass the USHPA Advanced Paragliding written exam.
  • Must convince the Instructor or Observer that he can check in and fly advanced rated sites without endangering spectators, other pilots, or jeopardizing the site.
  • Must agree to all the provisions of the USHPA standard waiver and assumption of risk agreement for the advanced rating and deliver an original signed copy to the USHPA office.


The next step: Acro Paragliding

Acro Paragliding is the practice of flying special manoeuvres with a paraglider. It is the performance of extraordinary feats of balance, agility, and motor coordination.


Before flying Acro pilots must go beyond the normal levels of paraglider wing control, learning to feel the paraglider fly overhead, build a tolerance to the high G forces that pilots experience during Acro moves, and also learning to recover a collapsed paraglider.


Acro Paragliding tricks begin with 3 basic moves, the “SAT” the “Helicopter” and “Wing-over”. From these basic moves other more complex tricks like the “Misty-flip” and “Tumble” and “SAT-to-Heli” can be created. There begins the endless combinations of tricks to create and explore.


And that is all guys, the required witnessed task for the P4 Advanced Rating in Paragliding and the Acro Paragliding. Go and get on to the next level!

The Basics of Paragliding

Ever wonder about the basics of paragliding? Just what goes into the construction of a paraglider? Or how they manage to stay airborne? How paraglider wings work?


First of all, let’s clear up some confusion. Some people confuse paragliding with parasailing. After all, the 2 names seem somewhat similar. Others are a bit vague on the differences from hang gliding, if they are not aware of the shape of paragliders. What about parachuting? Yet more confusion, since everyone has seen video of these guys gliding in for a landing.


Paragliding a sport in which a wide canopy resembling a parachute is attached to a person’s body by a harness in order to allow them to glide through the air after jumping from or being lifted to a height.


The basics of paragliding aren’t that hard.


Now what? Ok, you just start kiting your wing up and up. At this point it’s behaving exactly as a kite. A huge, steerable one. Now it’s overhead, in all its pressurized glory. You turn around, facing the breeze, steering toggles in each hand, leaning into the wind and taking 1, 2, 3, wow, no more steps, you’re off the ground!


Drifting a little to the left, so you pull down the right hand toggle just a tad and that’s better, gliding straight down onto the beach now. As the sand gets really close, you pull down firmly on both toggles to slow the forward speed and descent rate of the paraglider, allowing a gentle drop at walking pace onto the sand.


Behind you, your wing deflates and flutters down in a heap. Time to pull it into a bundle and walk back to the sand dune for another ride! It’s easier for some than others, but practice makes perfect for anyone!


How a Paraglider Flies

Just like any other plane the paraglider uses the Wright brothers wing principle of fast air moving over the top surface on the wing to provide lift. The only difference in there is no structure, the air pressure rammed in providing the inflating power to keep the wing open.


How to Stay up

A Paraglider in perfectly still will air sink down to the ground as it glides around (just like a good paper airplane). But if you can find rising air to ride up, the sky is the limit.


The way we stay up for hours here at Torrey Pines Gliderport is by what we call “Ridge Lift” Basically whenever you have something big (like a clifff) being hit head on with wind, the wind must flow up and over the object creating an area of lifting air. See the video with animation above.


The more common way of staying in the air is by “thermaling” or turning circles in a rising column of air. These rising columns are generated by the suns heat warming the earth and that heat releasing upward into the sky. The animation above shows how we turn in the lifiting air to go up!


Now, are you inspired to try out paragliding? Don’t be scared! Trust me, it’s worth the try.

The Paragliding Fun

A rush, a thrill, a new hobby, a way to feel free and individual, it’s a way to meet like-minded people and fly to places only the birds would normally see. Once you are a qualified Pilot, you could be airborne within minutes of arriving at a flying site. Just don your flying suit & boots, carry your surprisingly light flying machine, in its own rucksack to where your friends are preparing to fly. After a few minutes inspecting your equipment, clothing and helmet you get yourself ready to fly, you look around, allow the wind to raise the canopy and launch off into the air. This is paragliding! Even when I was still student, my flying experience was still similar to this, but with under instruction.


It is developed from parachuting canopies, modern paragliders can be soared effortlessly on windward slopes and across country, in suitable weather conditions. Paragliding allows for the same freedom that hang-glider pilots experience, but a paraglider is more portable and relatively easier to learn to fly. They are more hampered by strong winds than hang gliders but are easier to land in small fields.


Here in UK, paragliding is a thriving sport. Paragliding, like any other adventurous sport, has its associated risks and dangers. The most important pre-requisites to learning to fly safely are: pilot attitude, competent instruction and safe equipment. If these conditions are met the slow speeds and inherent stability of paragliders can provide a safe and enjoyable way to fly.


You must be over 16 years to obtain a pilot rating, although you can start training from 14 years. There is no upper age limit although students and pilots need to be reasonably fit and have good vision. I was really glad that I am now able to paraglide. I get to experience it most often.


There are schools about paragliding that provides tandem flights (for all ages) where an instructor flies for you and you can sit back and take it all in. Some also provide training for people with more severe disabilities, with the help of the charity ‘Flyability’.


Many paraglider pilots strive to perfect their skills in cross-country flying. A summer sky filled with fluffy cumulus clouds provides abundant but invisible lifting currents which pilots then use to gain altitude. Setting off on such a day, either towards a pre-selected destination or just drifting where the wind takes you, is one of the most breath-taking experiences I always feel. Most pilots will talk of the sense of privilege that they feel when drifting from cloud to cloud, in almost total silence, watching the landscape unfold beneath them as they navigate across the sky.


Nonstop flights of over 200km have been made by paraglider pilots in this country. Overseas, specifically the Alpine regions, the potential is infinitely greater, and many British pilots take advantage of the paraglider’s portability to visit Europe, even more exotic locations


For those of a competitive kind, local, national and international competitions offer challenges to novice and experienced pilots alike.


Paragliding is truly a sport that is fun. It is also highly dependent on the weather, as flying is only possible in certain conditions. Try it!